Message to Google: Don’t Be Lazy

Parenthetical EnclosuresIt started yesterday.

All of the YouTube embedded video code that I copied over had a extra closing parenthesis mark after it as follows. (It’s in red!)

<iframe width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”//youtube…”>&lt/iframe>)

Normally, I would have been concerned. But I have this problem of keeping 50 or more Chrome tabs open at all times. This often causes a number a bugs and so yesterday I found myself unable to run any YouTube videos in Chrome. But I didn’t want to have to deal with restarting Chrome and having to put 50 or more tabs back up. So I started to use Internet Explorer for all my videos. IE is clunky, but it is robust.

So when I started seeing this error, I figured it was an IE bug. But last night, my system forced a shutdown. I knew it was coming and I didn’t intercept it. It gave me a time limit, I missed it, the system rebooted. It happens. Thankfully, Chrome is really good at remembering where it was, even with six windows and, as I said, 50 or more tabs open. And when it came back up, Chrome was displaying videos properly, so I closed IE.

But the embed problem was still there! So I went over to Web Pro News and found an article, YouTube Embed Code Has a Weird Parenthesis at The End. There are a lot of people around who have noticed the problem. And Google has been alerted. But here we are after two complete days with no resolution.

Maybe we should change Google’s motto to be, “Don’t be lazy.”

Update (12 March 2014 10:44 pm)

I noticed that Digby’s videos today have that telltale ) after them. See, for example: Very Serious Clowns.

My Problem With Jack Kerouac

Jack KerouacOn this day in 1922, the great Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac was born. I am not a fan. In fact, I absolutely can’t stand to read him. Yet he was an extremely important writer. And (unfortunately) he inspired generations of bad writers. When I was young and foolish and went to poetry readings, half the writers (almost always men) wrote nothing more than bad Jack Kerouac.

I understand the appeal of this. Kerouac’s work seems real and filled with simple truth. And to some extent, I suppose it is. But it is Kerouac’s voice and it speaks of his experiences. If it is true of anyone since, then they are very boring people who have nothing to say that is worth listening to.

Wikipedia was kind enough to provide an excerpt from On the Road that pretty much sums up why I can’t read him:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh…

It’s probably the 1960s that destroyed Kerouac as a going artistic concern. I don’t doubt that future generations will be able to transcend this connection. But for me, I can’t read it without thinking of every idiot hippy I’ve ever seen.

Kerouac is more important in how he inspired Burroughs and Ginsberg, both of whom totally out distanced him. We will have to wait a hundred years to know for sure. But they are the Holy Trinity of the Beat Generation, and I admire them all.

Happy birthday Jack Kerouac!

The Crave Cat Food Challenge

NoiseMany songs haunt me for days on end. But they are not classics like “A Horse With No Name” and the wrongly maligned “MacArthur Park.” But if one of those songs haunts you for the rest of the evening: you’re welcome! I am different. I normally get television commercials stuck in my head. This makes perfect sense, of course. I suspect that I have heard certain commercial jingles far more than I’ve heard any proper song.

So this last day and a half, I have had the Crave cat food jingle going through my mind. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the entire song with the lyrics, “My kitty cat craves chicken; my kitty cat craves milk; my kitty cat craves tuna; so my kitty cat craves crave.” You have to be some kind of crazy to write lyrics like that. But it’s been over three decades and I still remember them. So it’s some kind of brilliant too.

Listen, if you dare!


For the truly brave, here’s “A Horse With No Name.” Note that Neil Young is not singing!

And “MacArthur Park” from the days when metaphor didn’t embarrass Americans:

And while I’m on the subject, the reason that “A Horse With No Name” sucks so badly is that it pretends to be a metaphor but is, in fact, just meaningless. Of course, that is just perfect for the band that toured apartheid South Africa because, “We have a lot of fans there.”

Paul Ryan’s Racist Dog Whistle

Paul Ryan - Reagan 2.0Digby posted a Quote of the Day that made me burst out laughing. It isn’t actually the quote that was funny. It is how she juxtaposed it with Lee Atwater’s infamous “nigger, nigger, nigger” quote. For those that don’t know it, Atwater gave an interview back in 1981 where he discussed the evolution of racial politics. He said, “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff…”

Well, as we all know, Paul Ryan now “cares” deeply about the poor. He put out his 204-page poverty report and openly campaigned against those evil liberals who want to fill children’s stomachs with food and thus deprive them of a top rate soul. But this morning on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, Ryan said:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

This reminds me of the new The Young Turks segment, Is It Racist? In a word: yes!

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s just finish Mr Atwater’s quote:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is: blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

It is much more abstract! It just isn’t any less racist.

I actually think that Paul Ryan is actively a racist. He seems like an Ayn Rand true believer. Yet he doesn’t make the Ayn Rand argument: selfishness is good and all that crap. Instead, he makes the argument that is coded to sound okay to moderates but which simultaneously pushes all those tribal and racist buttons. So I don’t think he necessarily holds the “screw the poor” opinions because of any personal racial animus. But he sure is willing to knowingly use coded racist rhetoric to reach his preferred Ayn Rand dystopian future. And that is racist.

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We Are No Better Than the Sumerians

Legacy: A Search for the Origins of CivilizationI have a long running obsession with the Sumerians. They were, after all, the people who invented writing. Of course, we aren’t talking great works of art like The Iliad, Don Quixote, and SpongeBob SquarePants. The purpose they put that writing to was just what you would think. “Larsa owes Sippar one goat”! Still goat accounting is important. Actually, the writing of numbers goes back even further, but you can see the accounting problems with an entry like, “One.” Obviously, it means one goat, but beyond that, one can’t say. I’m just kidding about the goats, but there is no doubt that the Sumerians domesticated goats and other animals. These are the kinds of things you can do when you settle down and create that other great Sumerian invention: cities.

The first city we know about is Eridu, which is located in what is now southern Iraq. It first became a village around 7,000 years ago, but it was not at that time what we would call a city. That took another 1,500 years. It and the many city states in the region that followed it is why Iraq is called the cradle of civilization. For good and for bad, this is where it all started. And in my search for more information, I came upon Michael Wood’s 1992 documentary series Legacy: A Search for the Origins of Civilization. Here is the first episode, which is about the Sumerians:

I had no problem watching all six hours of the series over the past couple of days. But Legacy doesn’t seem to have been one of Wood’s more popular series. And I can see why. It’s kind of a downer. It seems to have been Wood’s response to the Persian Gulf War, which took place almost exactly on the ruins of Eridu. The whole point of the series seems to be, “Look how far we have not come!”

This last weekend, I had dinner with my father and I brought up a dangerous topic: human progress. My father, like most Americans, is absolutely certain that civilization will just get better and better. But I was in such a mood as to push back a little on that. I make no claims about the future. But looking at the past, I don’t see any real progress. The Sumerians were pretty much constantly at war. And we are pretty much constantly at war. I’m willing to admit that we may have a tad more empathy than the difficult lives of ancient people allowed them. But it is just a tad and humans seem quite willing to let their emotions carry them away. For example, I doubt if many Americans would have complained had we decided to burn Osama bin Laden to death. And we are far more cruel to our farm animals than the Sumerians were to theirs.

The biggest problem with Legacy is that Wood seems reluctant to come right out and say what he thinks. But it is pretty clear if you are paying attention. Every civilization has aspects that are great. But they are countered by aspects that are bad. Here in America, we are very good at innovating and producing. But we are sadly deficient in long-range thinking and we have no spiritual life to speak of. The problem is that we are so powerful that we have managed to foist our civilization—for good and bad—on the rest of the world.

Wood focuses on medieval Baghdad, when the Muslim rulers (distinct from their modern counterparts) embraced multiculturalism. He quotes an unnamed Muslim scholar who said, “If one could combine Arabic faith and Jewish intelligence, with an Iraqi education, Christian conduct, Greek knowledge, Indian mysticism, and a Sufi way of life, this would be the perfection of humanity.” Of course, here in the west, we give lip service to multiculturalism. But what we really mean is that we want the traditional dress for parades, and we want there to be billionaires of all races and creeds. In the end, the west wants what the west wants: the rape of the earth and each other for the sake of ever higher profits.

I am extremely skeptical that a truly diverse civilization that takes the best of all cultures can exist. And I know that there is no apatite for such in modern America. Look what’s happened to religion in this country: Christianity has been so distorted that I now see Christ described less as the Prince of Peace and more like Rambo on the Cross. I hear damned little of “blessed are the meek” and more “Jesus wants you to be rich!” Just as some Muslim’s use their religion to justify murder, mainstream American Christian uses their religion to justify the worship of Money and Power.

In the end, I suppose we will muddle on. We aren’t any better than the Sumerians, but we’re also no worse. There is no Star Trek in our future, but their may be Mad Max. Or nothing at all.

Rich Scramble to Destroy Economy

Happy Labor Day

I am fond of quoting the opening of A Tale of Two Cities to note that it is always the best and worst of times. But there is one way that I am particularly focused on that modern America is the worst of times. That is the overwhelming influence of the power elite on economic policy. Right now, there is a huge push to tighten the money supply. The net result of this will be to stop even the modest economic recovery we have going. And why do we supposedly need to do this? Because the inflation rate might—Might!—tick up a bit past two percent.

Consider Evan Soltas. In Bloomberg View a couple of days ago, he argued that the economy is nearly at full employment. “The strongest piece of evidence is that far too many people are choosing to leave their jobs in search of better ones—what economists dryly call ‘quits’—for there to be much slack left in the economy and, in particular, in the labor market.” But Dean Baker countered this last night, Getting to Full Employment By Lowering the Goalpost. He noted that although the “quit rate” is up a bit, it is still well below the rate at the bottom of the last recession.

The point here is that the power elites are running around looking for any reason at all to raise interest rates. They’ve never cared about high levels of unemployment. But as long as inflation was running at under two percent, they couldn’t really get away with calling for higher interest rates. Not that many didn’t do just that, but it wasn’t mainstream. Now we have a situation where people are looking at the “quit rate” and screaming inflation, despite the fact that the employment situation looks like this:

Employment to Population Ratio - 25-54 ages - 2005-2014

This morning, Paul Krugman countered a different attack, Wages of Fear. In this case, the folks who are worried about inflation rising to a reasonable level are arguing that wages are rising and that spells disaster. But as Krugman notes: we are barely seeing any rise in wages and what we are seeing is only quite recent. But more to the point:

[W]hat’s so bad about rising wages? Wage increases are running far below their pre-crisis levels, and everything we’ve learned in this crisis—basically about the dangers of the two zeroes—says that pre-crisis wage increases, and inflation in general, was too low. And to get wage gains up to where they should be, we need a period of overfull employment.

Sadly, I have an answer for Krugman. For the people trying to sell the “overheating economy” line, nothing is wrong with rising wages. It is just another plausible sounding argument to justify doing what they want: keeping inflation low. Remember, this is the rentier class. Inflation can’t get too low. The lower the inflation rate, the more their current rents are worth. These people aren’t concerned about the economy generally—only how it affects their particular form of wealth.

Notice that these people can go around and lobby for bad economic policy and no one raises an eyebrow. But the moment the working classes complain about a lack of jobs and income inequality, well, that’s class warfare. It’s maddening. A good economy helps everyone. A bad economy only helps the already rich. This really shouldn’t be a difficult choice. But the fact that even council members of small towns are dependent upon rich benefactors means that their interests take precedence over everything else. And that is class warfare. They’re killing the rest of us.