Free Unlimited Music?

Or nearly free ?  If you have a smartphone, you should check this out.  In this WSJ article, you can read about five separate websites that offer  unlimited streaming and cached music services from the Internet, some for free, and some that have paid premium subscriptions.  The reviewer rates each of the different services, and for those of you with the handy devices, it’s probably taking a look at.  For those technological Luddites among us (like me), I’ll stick to my Victrola and 8-Tracks until I eventually cave in to the inevitable forces of technology and jump on board, just like I did with buying a laptop, just like I did with Facebook, just like I did with starting a blog.  In the meantime though, enjoy.

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When the Town Drunk Is Also Mayor

I remember going to historical sites like colonial Williamsburg or Fort Mackinack where they had actors in period costume playing different roles, from military commander, to housewife, to preacher and various craftsmen.  And there was inevitably a town criminal, usually in the stocks for doing something like drinking on the Sabbath.  I thought it was fascinating, I still do, and that may explain why I was as hard up for dates in high school as I was (among other reasons).

Well, at any rate, the Town Drunk, such as it were, is still with us today.  But not in the form of a vagabond being pilloried in the town square for gross indecency.  In the fair city of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, they elected their Town Drunk Mayor.  How innovative.

Apparently, this past Monday, Bob Ryan, Sheboygan mayor, was found to be the subject of a complaint call placed anonymously, claiming that he was a disturbance at a local bar.  In 2009, Mayor Ryan was featured on Youtube making raunchy comments about his sister-in-law while at another bar, and the HR director for the city of Sheboygan claimed he made unwanted sexual advances towards here, again in a bar.  Notice the recurring trend?  When Ryan misbehaves, it’s always when he’s out in public.  We’ve had lots of drunks as successful political leaders.  The thing about excess drinking and politics though, is that in order to be successful, you can’t do it too openly (like most anything fun).

My advice to Sheboygan: Don’t elect the Town Drunk to be your Mayor.  It’s entertaining, but it will eventually become problematic.  My advice to Ryan: stop getting plastered in public.  Drink where our committed alcoholics who are successful politicians have for years in safety: in your office or the confines of your home, not out at the local watering hole.  Unless your spouse hates you,  you’re not going to end up on Youtube that way.

Time to Hit the Panic Button

If there were a giant red button next to me marked ‘PANIC,’ I’d be looking towards it with increasing worry.  The impending debt fiasco, one, I might add, that’s totally, and completely preventable, is inching ever closer an economic drop dead date: August 2nd, 2011.  Five days from now.

So what’s going to happen?  We have two options, either default, or not.  It’s an either-or scenario, with no actual shades of gray in between the two possibilities.  However, we’ve been hearing, for months, that we’re going to reach a deal.  It will be done, leaders both political and commercial are assuring us.  We couldn’t possibly default on the federal debt.  It’s unthinkable.  It just simply will not happen.

A blind, unreasoning faith that everything will be alright, despite all indications to the contrary, is the underpinning of this stalemate, and one that’s the primary driving force that’s about to drive this country, and everyone in it, over a cliff.  We think that it’s going to work out alright?  No reason to alter our course.

The fact of the matter is this: a good dose of raw, unmitigated fear into the far right wing of the Republican party right now could be the best possible catalyst for a speedy resolution of this self-inflicted act of political theater/economic self mutilation.  An understanding that unless we act, decisively, pragmatically and quickly, we are going to all be in the collective poor house ten days from now is the best possible incentive to resolve this asinine debacle.  The only thing we have to fear at this point is an unwavering optimism that life is like Disney, and we get the happy ending.

Congressional Republicans: Grow up.  Life is not Disney.  Make a deal.  Hold your noses, and vote for the compromise that you’re going to have to eventually bless.  We Democrats have met, and continue to meet you, more than halfway.  This is not theory.  This is not a drill.  This is the economic well being of more than 300 million Americans, and your obsession with political purity is about to economically batter those aforementioned Americans, and billions of other people across the globe.

Why do high school freshmen have the reputation that they do?  Because they’re the most childlike, the ones furthest from adulthood in the bizarre pecking order that is high school.  Basically, they’re still kids.  House Republican freshman, all 87 of you: Please get out of the way and let the adults in the room please fix this.  It’s cute, your bit with the debt, and everything, but continuing your little tirade is not only tired, it’s about to screw us all.

Former Detroit Water Boss: Blame Kwame

Blaming former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is usually a pretty solid strategy.  The man was corrupt as hell, and chances are, if you’re blaming him, the charges have some merit.  But the entire idea to shift blame onto him works if, and only if, you had no direct link to the wrongdoing in question.

Enter Vincent Mercado.  He was the man that ran the municipal Detroit Water and Sewerage Department until he resigned in 2008 in order to avoid the maelstrom of allegations that was then beginning to envelop embattled Kilpatrick, who ultimately went to jail on corruption charges.  Mercado took another comparable job in Texas, one from which he has subsequently been fired following allegations of wrongdoing in Detroit.  He’s suing his former Texas employers for wrongful termination, claiming a year’s worth of salary.

Mercado’s argument: He wasn’t corrupt.  He was the only official in the municipal government who wasn’t treating the city coffers as a personal ATM, lining both his own pockets and those of his family.  His argument works, if, and only if you’re willing to totally suspend your ideas regarding logic and accountability.  Given the track record of public officials who headed governmental bodies in the city from the Kilpatrick era, finding one who wasn’t corrupt would be akin to finding a unicorn in the parking lot of Meijers.  It’s just not going to happen.  But, it’s interesting, that three years after the scandal took place, we’re still uncovering cases of corruption and fallout from Kilpatrick & Co.  I have no doubt that we’ll continue to uncover them for some time to come.

Six Times Larger Than An Aircraft Carrier

Shell Oil, one of the world’s largest oil companies, has unveiled plans to construct a new kind of oceangoing vessel for deep-water natural gas drilling and extraction.  The new ship will be the largest ever constructed, cost between $8 and $15 billion and will make the Sydney Opera house look miniscule by comparison.

It’s going to be built in Korea by Samsung Heavy Industries and will operate initially off the northwestern coast of Australia, extracting natural gas and liquefying it onboard, transferring it to massive tankers that will moor alongside the vessel on a weekly basis.  Each tanker will then return to a port with a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility, unloading enough natural gas to supply a city the size of London for an entire week.

The ship has a number of technical difficulties to work out, and there is the usual opposition from environmentalists, arguing that the risk from spills and leaks is still substantial and ought to bring greater scrutiny to the project.  The sheer size of the ship is absolutely staggering, and construction is set to begin shortly.  The expected beginning of operations is projected to be 2016.

I know that this is a rather obscure (geeky) topic, but I urge you to look at the article.  The graphics and the illustrations give you a much better idea as to the scale of this project, doing a much more justice to the topic than I can by just writing about it.

Lufthansa Goes Grun

That we live in a world in which we have to find alternatives to carbon emitting sources of energy is not new.  What is new, however, is Lufthansa’s new daily flights (four in total) from Hamburg to Frankfurt, will be using a new 50/50 mix of traditional jet fuel and biosynthesized kerosene.

This is the first time that an airliner has used anything other than a traditional jet fuel.  And for the time being, it’s extraordinarily expensive, about double what traditional fuels cost.  But, as the world continues to industrialize and develop economically, the demand for fossil fuels will continue to grow, forcing traditional fuel prices ever higher.  Consequently, in a decade or so, these biosynthesized fuels are going to appear cheap by comparison.  It’s good for the environment, and it’s good for business.  American airlines would do well to emulate their example.

Bachmann: The New Barry Goldwater

Yesterday, I wrote about Michele Bachmann’s newfound prowess in Iowa.  And while whoever wins Iowa is not always the nominee, it’s a strong position to occupy.  Well, another poll came out yesterday, this time from Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.  And it confirms what what we already suspected.  Bachmann is in the lead in Iowa, but not by the same margin as the last poll.  In the second poll, Romney was trailing Bachmann by much less than the poll released yesterday, he still probably enjoys a significant fundraising advantage, higher name recognition, but he’s still not where he wants to be, or should be, in Iowa.

This got me to thinking: What if Bachmann were to prevail over Romney and the entire field of other contenders to become the GOP nominee?  I think she’s basically a more refined version of Sarah Palin.  But where Sara Palin was just plain stupid, Michele Bachmann’s a total wacko.  More polished, much better spoken, more intellectual horsepower, so, in a way, you could argue that while she’s better situated to take the nomination, she’s horribly positioned to win in a general election.

In the 1972 Presidential contest, Nixon mopped the floor with McGovern, carrying every state except for Massachusetts.  In 1984, Reagan demolished Mondale by carrying every state except for Minnesota.  But where Democrats are known these days for losing in massive blowouts, that was once the case with the Republicans.  In 1964 LBJ shellacked Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater carried a few states in the deep South and Arizona.  There’s a lot of parallels between LBJ and Obama.  They’re both moderates that are legislatively accomplished, they’re much more moderate than the liberal movements over which they preside, and were Bachmann to face the President  in November of 2012, Obama would blow her out of the water in a landslide.  She’s like Goldwater.  A right wing ideological purist who runs on a platform based upon how she feels the world should be, not how it is.  And that, I can guarantee you, will scare the absolute bejesus out of middle America once they get to the polls in November of 2012.

So, Michele Bachmann makes not only for fun commentary, she’s be the best case scenario for the Democratic party to face off against.  My message to Republicans: Have at it an go for an ideologue purist.  Those ideological purists are precisely the candidates most likely to give my guy a second chance in the Oval Office.  They just don’t appeal to the vast center of the American electorate.  Democrats seem to realize this very well.  You play to the center.  You don’t win using just your party’s flanks.  Why don’t the Republicans?  Alas, their loss is my gain, so I’m not going to be too vocal on the issue.