Saturday, November 27, 2010

worship the glitch

worship the glitch

peter "sleazy" christopherson passed away the other day. he was a founding member of not one, not two, but three pivotal industrial bands (throbbing gristle, psychic tv, and coil) and a member of/collaborator with several others. his work was a major influence on me—coil was one of my favorite bands of all time, and his other projects were up there, too—so i knew i needed to do something to commemorate his passing.

"worship the glitch" was the title of an album by ELpH vs coil (ELpH was a glitch music side project), so it seemed only natural to carry that over into a glitch art context.

this piece is also available on society6.

Monday, November 15, 2010

new stAllio! material!


earlier this year, i got an email from nerdcore rapper/producer th' mole, requesting a remix in my post-mashup style. so i downloaded a couple of his albums—including an advance copy of his brand-new-just-released album superman vs gremlins, and assembled this bad boy:

stAllio! ft. th' mole - a spell to kill dancefloors

th' mole is having a contest related to my remix, where you could win a copy of his new album. (my latest album, of course, is a free download.)

completists and audio collage fans will also want to get their hands on the new 50/50 compilation, curated by jon nelson of some assembly required. it's 50 tracks, each 50 seconds long, and features tracks by the bran flakes, silica-gel, orchid spangiafora, realistic, value village people, and many more! ...not to mention a track by stAllio!

Monday, October 18, 2010

video: stAllio! live at gli.tc/h

a couple weeks back i attended gli.tc/h, a glitch art festival/conference in chicago. i performed saturday night, with improvised video accompaniment by rosa menkman and vade. here's some video of that performace, shot by evan meaney:

Friday, October 08, 2010

advanced wordpad editing explained

so a couple weeks back i mentioned that i was experimenting with a new databending technique that i call advanced wordpad editing. but wtf does that mean, and what is going on in these images?

take that, homer

as i've discussed extensively in the past, when you open a bitmap image in microsoft wordpad and then re-save, it creates a distinctive warping effect i call the wordpad effect. wordpad, thinking the data is inappropriately formatted rich text, tries to "fix" the formatting of the file, corrupting the data in a recognizable (but often surprising) way. but what exactly is going on? pietjepuk666 was the first to solve that puzzle, in the comments:

I've found that Wordpad does at least two things to a binary file; it replaces byte 07 (ascii: BEEP) with a space , and it replaces every lonely 0A or 0D (line feed and carriage return respectively) and also 0B (vertical tab) with the bytes "0A 0D". So the rate of glitching is probably dependent on how dark the picture is, since low bytes like these give dark pixels (i suppose).

this is pretty much right, except in my experience the replacement value is actually 0D 0A, not 0A 0D. (not that it makes much difference here.)

the change from 07 to 20 (space) isn't very noticeable to the eye. it just replaces an almost-totally-black pixel with a slightly-less-black pixel. but every time wordpad replaces a 0A, 0B, or 0D with 0D 0A, it adds one byte to the file. these added bytes are ultimately what causes the wordpad effect—this is why wordpadded images always warp to the right, why the trick breaks fragile formats such as JPG, why darker (but not pitch black) images bend more than lighter ones, and so on.

knowing exactly how the wordpad effect works enables you to take control of the process by specially pre-treating the files before feeding them to wordpad, so that they bend in the way we want to. this can be achieved by altering the file with a hex editor before opening it in wordpad.

the first step—as well as the initial proof of concept—is to strip out any existing 0A, 0B, or 0D bytes from the file. i replace them all with 09, which is close enough that you can't spot it by eye, but you could use 0C, 0E, or whatever. this ensures that the file won't bend anywhere where you don't want it to. (don't delete these bytes; that would cause the image to warp in the opposite direction... a sort of anti-wordpad effect, if you will.)

the next step is to "add" 0A, 0B, or 0D bytes to the file in specific areas (really replacing bytes one at a time, not inserting them—the actual adding will come later when opening it in wordpad) so that it will bend where you want it to. this may sound simple, but it actually involves a lot of math. you need to calculate the y pixel range where you want the file to warp, and convert those to percentages in order to determine the byte range where you want to work. and if you're working with a multichannel non-interleave file, you need to do this for each color channel—not to mention calculating where each channel begins and ends. plus, you need to add lots of bytes to get any significant warping—hundreds if not thousands.

another aspect you may have noticed about my advanced wordpad work is the way it doesn't just warp, but also unwarps. the color channels warp out of phase with each other, but then they coalesce back together. this never happens with the standard wordpad effect, so how is it accomplished?

getting ahead of myself

since wordpad warping is caused by added bytes, the obvious way to undo the warping is by removing bytes. to get color channels back in phase, you need to remove (almost) exactly the same number of bytes as will be added to the file. yes, this means you need to track precisely how many 0A/0B/0D bytes are in the file, and delete exactly that many bytes. i typically do all this manually, one byte at a time, counting in my head as i go along. it's tedious, but it works. if you were a programmer, you could probably write scripts to help with this process.

once all this is done, finally the file is finally ready to be run through wordpad. if you did your math wrong, or miscounted, you may end up with something like this:

lily out of phase with herself

oops! i lost count there and my color channels didn't sync up right. (i was eventually able to fix this one.)

working this way raises a number of questions about matters such as whether a "glitch" can be controlled, and so forth. but the most obvious questions is probably what the hell is the point of using wordpad if you're also using a hex editor?
after all, you could just use the hex editor to insert bytes and forgo using wordpad at all.

so why still use wordpad? at first, i needed to do it that way to prove that i had unlocked the mysteries of wordpad, so to speak. i keep doing it that way because i like the romanticism of using such a thoroughly incorrect application, and because the term "advanced wordpad editing" has a nice ring to it—ironically overtechnical... as if there's anything advanced about microsoft wordpad.

Monday, September 27, 2010

advanced wordpad editing

maybe you've already noticed, but my latest databending experiments build on everything i've learned about the wordpad effect in order to actually control how and where images bend:

my mind is blown
getting ahead of myself
lily with wordpad warping


check out the whole set here. i'll probably add more gradually as i make new ones.

and don't forget, benders: gli.tc/h starts wednesday in chicago! i'll be there, and i'll have copies of my true data 12" for a special event-only price of $5 each. i hope to see you there!

Monday, September 20, 2010

stAllio! @ gli.tc/h conference chicago, oct 2

i can finally announce that i will perform october 2 at the nightingale theatre in chicago as part of the gli.tc/h conference!

here's the lineup for the show:

Jeronimo Barbosa (Recife, Brazil)
Andrew Bucksbarg (Bloomington, Indiana)
Ben Baker-Smith (Chicago) w/ Evan K├╝hl (Madison, WI)
stAllio! (Indianapolis, IN)
Anton Marini & Aerostatic (New York, NY)

check out the gli.tc/h schedule for more info on gli.tc/h events! (the preliminary schedule is up now; hopefully more details will be filled in soon.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

google street view glitches revisited

google keeps its street view reasonably up-to-date by refreshing it periodically, sending around new trucks with new and different cameras. this means that the street view glitches i found back in 2007 have long since disappeared.

but new trucks means new opportunities for glitches, as i discovered while digitally wandering the streets of indianapolis.

cintas_van-streetview_glitch

these glitches seem to involve a stitching error between the cameras at eye level and those pointed at the ground. if something happens to be physically close enough to the camera at near-ground level, it can end up pretty distorted:

smear_graycar-streetview

bluesmear-streetview

red_blurcar-streetview

a similar effect can be seen higher up—between the eye-level cameras and the ones pointed toward the sky—though it's less likely there'll be anything up there:

guilford-streetview

this last one's a real chance moment—a leaf fell on the camera:

leafy-streetview



update: click through the images to go to flickr... i've added street view links for most of them so you can see the glitches in their "natural" environment.

also, here's one more fun one:

van_and_smudge-streetview

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

a huge smash is out now!


now is the moment you've been waiting for! the new stAllio! album a huge smash—the long-awaited full-length follow-up to mash smarter not harder—is now available for free download!

a huge smash is 11 tracks of glitchy post-mashup madness. it picks up directly where mash smarter left off, as i smash pop music into increasingly smaller pieces and then weld them back together in new and innovative ways.

this is a completely free download—it's not on itunes and there's no "pay what you want" feature. all i ask is that if you enjoy the album, please share it with your friends. post it on your facebooks, your twitters and reddits, or whatever it is kids do these days. i'm giving this to you for free, and all i'm asking is that you copy and paste the link a few times. that's a price you can't beat!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

the wordpad effect and pixel brightness

i got a new computer in the past few months and was looking for an excuse to confirm whether the wordpad effect still works in windows 7 (it does, if slowly). so i figured i'd do a quick experiment to test a hypothesis discussed in the comments of part 1 of my databending primer—that the amount of warping caused by the wordpad effect is dependent on the relative brightness (or darkness) of the source image.

for my source image, i used variations of the same image: text on a solid background. i tried both white text on black background and vice versa, with the text at 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% opacity. the black text on a white background showed no warping at all, regardless of opacity. this was consistent with similar experiments i've tried in the past, but still a bit puzzling.

the images with white text on a black background did warp, and hinted at a pattern. [all originals were saved in photoshop raw format, non-interleaved. all images are hosted on flickr; click to go there.]

100% opacity:
wordpad-100w

wordpad-100w-raw


75% opacity:
wordpad-75w

wordpad-75w-raw


50% opacity:
wordpad-50w

wordpad-50w-raw


25% opacity:
wordpad-25w

wordpad-25w-raw


pure white (100%) on black warped, but just a little. reducing the text whiteness to 75% produced considerably more warping, and reducing to 25% produced more still. this would suggest a pattern of the text warping more the darker it gets, but that wouldn't explain the result for 50% opacity, which is less warped than 75% or 25%.

since the black-on-white experiment was a bust, i figured i'd try a couple more, this time with solid black text on a gray background.

75% white:
wordpad100b75w

wordpad100b75w-raw


50% white:
wordpad100b50w

wordpad100b50w-raw


25% white:
wordpad100b25w

wordpad100b25w-raw


the results are roughly analogous to those from the white-on-black images: 75% white warps more than 50%, whereas 25% warps most of all.

clearly, it would seem that the source image brightness has an impact on warping, but it's not as simple as darkening an image to make it warp more.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

greatest orchestra hits

here it is: the premiere of the new video from a huge smash!


a huge smash will be released for free download on september 14 at badtaste4life.com.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

a huge smash is coming september 14


it's a moment years in the making: a huge smash, the full-length follow-up to mash smarter not harder, will be released for free download on september 14!

as i wrote in the original announcement:

a huge smash picks up where mash smarter left off, and from there the samples get shorter, the edits come quicker, and the sound gets distinctively glitchier. this will be the most ambitious stAllio! release ever, and the musical culmination of everything i've been working on for the past several years, as the seeds that i planted in mash smarter come into full bloom.

also, look out for the first (and perhaps only) video from a huge smash, coming in early september!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

re-affirming our constitutional principles

shorter gary welsh: the first amendment doesn't apply to muslims, because they are evil and want to destroy america.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

incapable of shame

the other day, andrew breitbart posted a highly edited, out-of-context video (discussed here yesterday) which he said proved that USDA official shirley sherrod was a racist, and that, by extension, so was her audience—the NAACP. the video spread like wildfire around right-wing sites and sherrod was soon forced to resign.

but then the full, unedited video came to light, and it vindicates sherrod. virtually everyone now concedes that the original clip was a vicious smear. through deceptive editing, it turned reality on its head, transforming sherrod's tale of redemption—of how she came to overcome racist impulses, 24 years ago, long before she worked for the USDA—into a tale of vindictive oppression against an innocent, helpless white man. even breitbart now admits sherrod was wronged, though he's still highly disingenuous about his role in the scandal and why he posted the video in the first place.

virtually everyone, that is... but not gary welsh. gary's credulous post on the subject remains on his site, with no updates or corrections. as recently as 5:22 last night, longer after he should've known better, he was leaving comments defending his assertions that sherrod and her audience were racists.

will gary welsh post a retraction?

personally, i'm certain he won't. and the reason why i know he won't is because gary has never once posted a retraction of any significance. yes, once or twice he's posted minor corrections, like when he gets the spelling of someone's name or their party affiliation wrong. but despite the many laughably false things that gary has posted over the years, he has never retracted a single one, and i doubt he ever will. i doubt he's even capable of it.

despite what he may claim, gary is completely incapable of admitting a mistake and utterly unable to handle even mild criticism. anyone who criticizes him is assumed to be a dishonest political operator, and ends up on his personal enemies list (which is getting pretty long). i don't know if the problem is that he can't realize when he's wrong, or if he's just too proud to admit it, but either way, the end result is the same: the lies just get bigger and bigger.

update: did i call it or what? far from being able to admit he was wrong, gary doubles down on the insanity.

2nd update: can you believe gary is still going on about what a horrible racist shirley sherrod is? we're beyond satire at this point, folks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

on refuting, refudiating, and repudiating racism

last week, delegates for the NAACP passed a resolution calling on the tea party to repudiate racism. the resolution doesn't accuse all tea partiers of racism, as some would have you believe; it simply points out the well-documented history of racists showing up at tea party events, and asks tea partiers to "make clear there is no place for racism & anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry in their movement."

now, when someone asks you to repudiate racism, the correct response is... to repudiate racism. it's pretty simple. tea party leaders could've simply issued a response like this:

we absolutely repudiate racism and other forms of bigotry, and if bigots do turn up at our events, know that they do not speak for us and we don't share their views.

easy, right? had the tea party done this, the story would've been gone in a day, plus the tea party would be insulated against any future accusations of racism—we repudiated racism months ago!

but this being the tea party, they instead went berserk. they accused the NAACP of hypocrisy. they claimed that the "real racists" were the NAACP, not them. and in a development that was probably inevitable, some responded to accusations of racism by becoming even more racist!

that's what happened to mark williams, spokesman for the tea party express. williams first responded by saying that the NAACP makes "more money off of race than any slave trader, ever" and belongs "in the trash heap [...] along with all the other vile, racist groups that emerged in our history."

then, apparently unsatisfied, williams penned possibly the most racist blog post ever, in which he mocked the NAACP for having the word "colored" in their name, then went on to adopt the persona of "tom's nephew", using plainly offensive language to repeat all sorts of horrible stereotypes about african-americans.

the post was so beyond-the-pale, over-the-top offensive that williams was soon forced to take it down, but the damage was already done. williams was demoted; his group was expelled from the tea party federation and denounced by other tea party groups.

so in the end, the NAACP resolution was a partial success: it resulted in the tea party denouncing one of its own leaders.

still, many wingnuts continue to ignore the williams debacle, pretending that there are no racists in the tea party movement and that the NAACP is full of hateful hypocrites. melyssa "miss ann" donaghy—who you'll be either pleased or bemused to learn recently resurrected her blog—tried to pretend that all the racists at tea party events are leftist "infiltrators" sent "to pose as racists". she also suggested that the NAACP were hypocrites because they didn't speak up when a black conservative got beat up this one time, stating that "I hope it is ok by the NAACP to be black and conservative in America!"

apparently to melyssa, the NAACP are hypocrites if they don't specifically and individually denounce every incidence of racism ever, even if they've never heard of it. of course, given the opportunity, they would gladly denounce racist violence against kenneth gladley or anyone else, just as benjamin jealous had no problem denouncing the new black panther party on this week's meet the press. (also, note to melyssa: michael steele, RNC chair, is a longtime NAACP member.)

at least melyssa admits that racists have attended tea party events. gary welsh couldn't even bring himself to do that. first he tried to pin the resolution on michelle obama, simply because she was present at the meeting. (she was actually there to discuss childhood obesity.)

he also trotted out an out-of-context video that's been making the rounds of a black USDA official confessing to having stuggled with racism while performing her job, citing it as proof that the NAACP, not tea partiers, are the real racists. (the NAACP quickly condemned the official, but naturally that's not good enough for gary, who's just looking for an excuse call andre carson a liar.)

gary, and people like him, have a shockingly naive view of racism and bigotry. he has no trouble identifying bigotry when directed at People Like Him by People Not Like Him (though he seems to have completely stopped discussing homophobia—supposedly one of his blog's signature issues), yet he seemingly defines white racism as dressing up in a sheet and lynching folks. and since he and his fellow right-wingers aren't out burning crosses (well... most of them aren't), they therefore aren't racists and their actions are thus not racist. this is why gary doesn't understand when others call him out for racist attitudes in his blog. he assumes that he isn't a racist and is thus incapable of racist thought, so when others point out problematic content, he assumes they must be political opponents who are trying to discredit him. he never bothers to analyze what he's written and why it might be offensive—and perhaps he never will.

of course, everyone has racist or bigoted thoughts from time to time. the key to overcoming bigotry is to recognize these thoughts for what they are and act accordingly.



update: unsurprisingly, the USDA official's story becomes a lot less damning when viewed in context.

2nd update: NAACP has issued a new statement:

With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias.


Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.

The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm.

Moreover, this incident and the lesson it prompted occurred more that 20 years before she went to work for USDA.

Finally, she was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption. In the full video, Ms.Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about "haves and have nots." "It's not just about black people, it's about poor people," says Sherrod in the speech. "We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn't matter."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

fight violence with violence, or indianapolis blame expo

shorter abdul hakim-shabazz: you know who i blame for last night's expo shootings? al sharpton! stuff like this proves that black kids deserve to get the crap beaten out of them sometimes. in fact, i'd like to beat some up myself.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

hot streak!!!!!!!!!!!

from the journal-constitution:

Indiana among hardest hit by job losses, report says

Indiana has had one of the steepest declines in employment since the recession began, according to new rankings from an economic policy group.

The share of the state's population that's employed dropped more than in all but five other states between November 2007 and May 2010, according to the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project.

The share of Hoosiers employed dropped from 63.5 percent in November 2007 to 57.2 percent in May 2010.

Indiana's 6.3 percentage point drop was even bigger than the 5.6 percentage point decline in Michigan, which has had the highest unemployment rate among states for most of the recession but which also got hit earlier than other states.

good thing we have a financial genius like mitch daniels in the governor's office!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

because it's easier to be unfair

shorter indiana supreme court: yes, the fact that absentee voters don't need to show ID is unfair, and essentially defeats the whole point of the voter ID law, but that's okay because checking absentee voters' IDs would be difficult.

[see masson's blog and indiana law blog for more]

Friday, June 18, 2010

perfecting the paranoid style

shorter advance indiana: i believe every anti-obama conspiracy theory. obama hates jews and wants to destroy israel! he's a secret muslim! he wasn't born in this country! he has coked-up gay sex with shady characters! you name it, i believe it... and i have links to crank right-wing web sites that prove it all!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

a new design, and some old ones

my latest glitch illustration is now up for voting at threadless—it's a glitch rainbow! if that sounds cool then you'll probably like it; if not then maybe you won't:

glitchbow - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

in related news, i just set up an account at society6.com. society6 is a site where artists can upload their portfolios, collaborate with each other (and with vendors), and sell gallery-quality prints, t-shirts, and laptop or iphone skins. i have a couple shirts for sale as well as art prints of some of my best illustrations from the past year. enjoy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

we're #28! (according to charity navigator)

charity navigator, a site that researches the finances of various charities, has just released its 2010 metro market study. i wanted to be sure i posted about the study, because its findings contradict the beliefs of a certain right-wing blogger who routinely criticizes local charities despite having no comprehension of how the nonprofit sector works.

in the study of the nation's 30 largest metro areas, indy ranked 28th (up from #29 last year). we ranked below average in every category except administrative expenses, working capital ratio, total expenses, and total net assets. even worse, indy ranked dead last in the categories of fundraising expenses, program expenses, and program expense growth.

our relatively high ranking for administrative expenses (#10) is the opposite of what you might expect if you've been relying on the opinion of said blogger, who regularly claims that indy's charities are bastions of corruption and waste. overall, our charities are actually quite good in this regard. another category i want to point out is indy's low ranking in terms of CEO compensation. yes, despite what some would have you believe, many local charities actually pay their executives too little, and suffer for it. the indy star explains:

In the increasingly complex work of fundraising, the ability to solicit a lot of cash at a minimum cost is paramount. That requires savvy leaders with business and social skills, perhaps honed in the private sector. And it requires someone who won't hesitate to scrap time-consuming, money-wasting donation methods, such as phone solicitations.

Attracting such leaders takes money that some Indianapolis charities have been unwilling to pay.

"Indianapolis has consistently ranked low in CEO compensation," Minuitti said. "These organizations are really multimillion-dollar operations, and that requires a certain level of compensation to attract and retain top talent."

in short, you can't hire just anyone, pay them peanuts, and expect them to do quality work. if you want talented executives, you have to pay them what they're worth—a concept that you'd think right-wingers would understand.

other factors dragging down our rating include the fact that we have a lot of human services charities—which "tend to be hit hard" during recessions—and a reliance on inefficient means of fundraising such as telemarketing, direct mail, and expensive fundraiser events.

of course, the charity navigator study has its flaws. first and foremost, it's lacking in context and can be difficult for the layperson to understand. also, the site's analysis centers on finances, which isn't necessarily the best measure of how a charity is doing—in some fields, it would be better to focus on results. it doesn't matter how efficient your fundraising is if you're not getting good results, and likewise, a bit of inefficiency is fine if you're doing great work.

Monday, June 14, 2010

holding their feet to the fire

shorter gary welsh, this morning: indianapolis star political reporters are just stenographers, uncritically repeating what the city's elite tell them to without researching anything on their own. disgraceful!

shorter gary welsh, last night: police sources tell me that the kid who got beaten up by police deserved to get his ass kicked, but the officer who got fired for kicking his ass didn't deserve to get fired.

Monday, June 07, 2010

allegedly in need of a beatdown

shorter abdul hakim-shabazz, black republican: police are justified in beating the crap out of kids if they suspect one of the kids may have committed a crime.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

everybody draw moe howard day

today is everybody draw moe howard day! here's my contribution:

moe howard


draw your own and add a link in the comments!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the problem with machine-generated directions

bad directions

for some reason, i don't trust these directions google gave me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

a quick question

how crazy do you have to be to freak out over the fact that this year's miss USA is muslim?

keep in mind that this woman is not only willing to appear on tv in a bikini or a bustier and fishnets, but is also pro-birth control... so she's not exactly an advocate for sharia law.

update: truly, it requires a mind skilled at doublethink to simultaneously believe this woman is both an islamist threat to our freedom and a pole-dancing stripper slut.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

get ready for a huge smash!

a huge smash (front)


as previously announced on the stAllio! facebook page, a huge smash—the full-length follow-up to mash smarter not harder—will be released in summer or fall of 2010.

for a while, i toyed with the idea of shopping this release out to one of the "big-name" audio collage labels (as if there were more than one!). but for a number of reasons—first and foremost that the thing is already way behind schedule—i will be releasing it for free download from bad taste.

when i first started developing this new post-mashup style of music, i was so excited about it that i couldn't wait to share it with the world. so i rushed out the first four tracks (and a remix by drbmd) as an EP: mash smarter not harder. the point of that EP was simply to introduce certain musical ideas that i intended to explore more fully over the coming years, much as you might take a pre-calculus class before moving on to studying calculus. hence the title of the first track, "introducing the new style".

the original plan was to rapidly follow up mash smarter either with a full-length or with a series of EP releases. i expected that to happen in 2009, but i ended up getting sidetracked and spent much of '09 working on visual art, design, and illustration. now, two full years later, the time is finally approaching...

a huge smash picks up where mash smarter left off, and from there the samples get shorter, the edits come quicker, and the sound gets distinctively glitchier. this will be the most ambitious stAllio! release ever, and musical culmination of everything i've been working on for the past several years, as the seeds that i planted in mash smarter come into full bloom.

all that, for free download, later this year. stay tuned.

Friday, April 30, 2010

is this the worst idea that democrats have ever had?

i applaud congressional democrats' initiative for wanting to "reform" the immigration "problem" this year, especially in light of the anti-immigrant bill that was just passed in arizona. but my god, if this is their idea of reform...

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.

The proposal is one of the biggest differences between the newest immigration reform proposal and legislation crafted by late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.

It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.

"The cardholder's identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer," states the Democratic legislative proposal.

they literally want to fingerprint every worker in america. this is like some insane caricature of a proposal, the stuff of conspiracy theories. i almost can't believe it's real. are they trying to drive voters away?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

cause & effect redux

i always knew indygo—indianapolis's public transit system—was bad. there are too few buses, the route map is a mess, buses come infrequently, and fares are relatively expensive. but i didn't know until a couple weeks ago that indygo is one of the worst in the country. (a recent analysis found our bus fleet tied for last place with eugene, oregon... a town 1/5 our size!)

so how do you become worse than the worst? it sounds like a zen koan, but we're going to find out the answer!

IndyGo is counting itself as the next victim of the state's property tax caps and dwindling funding.

On Tuesday, Indianapolis' municipal bus agency said it is considering cutting service and jobs to make up for a $3 million shortfall this year.

Those cuts could include eliminating some bus routes and curtailing door-to-door paratransit service for people with disabilities.

yes, the system that has too few routes already may be forced to cut more routes! this is thanks in large part to property tax caps, which were instituted a couple years back after proto-teabagger stormed the streets demanding them, despite the objections of those of us who knew the cuts would wreck local government budgets throughout the state.

but the caps aren't the only cause of indygo's woes. fundamentally, the city has never truly embraced indygo or given it the funding it needs. comparable cities tend to devote much more to transit, often with dedicated taxes. (st louis's transit budget is almost six times ours.) the system has been neglected for years; its failure goes back several administrations.

mayor ballard hopes to improve the city's transit system. i sincerely hope he can. (he surely can't make it much worse.) but i don't have much hope, considering the kinds of solutions he's come up with so far. after all, ballard was a leading proponent of the property tax caps that have gutted his budget. and his proposal to fix the city's water and sewers has extra crap tagged on that means rates won't be as low as they could be; in exchange he gets a one-time cash infusion that he can pretend he didn't raise taxes for. (never mind that it would have the city sell off the city's water system outright; even the governor's controversial "major moves" deal would give the state our toll road back after 75 years.)

the last time i rode an indianapolis bus was when i was too young to drive. this is because the system is such a pain to use—there are few places i could even reach by bus without going downtown first, and most buses only come once an hour at best. but i've ridden public transit in other cities, so i know it doesn't have to be like this.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

but it's so easy to get an ID!

whenever anyone complains that indiana's voter ID law is too strict, proponents get bent out of shape. "everything else in our society requires ID, so why not voting?" they say. "besides, it's not that hard to get ID."

meet brent jones, profiled in tully's latest column (which ran in sunday's paper but was embargoed online until today). when brent was a baby, his troubled mother would often leave him with a local child care center, sometimes for days at a time. eventually, she disappeared entirely. the people who ran the child care effectively adopted brent, but no paperwork. 17 years later, brent was preparing to graduate high school, but had no birth certificate, no legal record of his identity. as such, he was unable to get a license, a college scholarship, or full-time work. and of course, unable to vote in indiana.

"People don't understand how ridiculous this is," Brent said. "It's crazy. No matter how much you try to explain, people say, 'There has to be a way.' No. I've tried everything."

As frustrating as Brent's case is, Marion County juvenile court Judge Marilyn Moores said it isn't unique. She comes across a handful of such cases each year. As with Brent, the story often begins with a birth parent handing a child off to a friend without taking the legal steps required.

"All of the systems of government have to become more sensitive to this issue," she said. "You can't tell these children they don't exist as far as our system is concerned. You can't penalize the child for the sins of the parent."

[...]

Brent was allowed to enroll at the schools because students who are unable to prove their identity aren't turned away. Nonetheless, the system did fail him. Many school workers knew his story, but nobody made the effort to help resolve his lack of legal documentation.

getting ID might not be so hard for those of us priveleged enough to come from stable homes, who were fortunate enough not to have our paper records destroyed by fire or tornado. but not everyone is so fortunate. it's easy to pretend that people like brent don't exist, or that they don't matter, but these people are real. they exist, and they are marginalized by bureaucracy.

in the end, brent's story has a happy ending. tully and the star's research department scoured public databased and made a lot of phone calls, and eventually were able to locate brent's mother, who was fortunately still alive and doing well. but again, this is sheer luck. brent had the good fortune to meet a newspaper columnist who happened to be writing a series of columns about manual high school, where brent had happened to transfer recently. surely, not everyone who lacks a birth certificate will meet a matt tully, and even if they did, tully and the star surely don't have time to locate them all.

there are others out there like brent: legally ghosts, with no tangible identity. these are people who've been treated like numbers, and their numbers got skipped.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

more award-winning journalism from abdul

abdul hakim shabazz apparently won a journalism award last week... and immediately used the opportunity to take a cheap shot at his critics (then escalating a few days later after one of his critics fired back). if you burst out laughing at the idea of abdul's site being the "best journalism website" in indiana, then you're probably familiar with abdul's work: it's vapid, petty, and what passes for news analysis is usually poorly thought out if not downright disingenuous.

for example, let's take his latest post, about indiana ending its pursuit of "race to the top" funds.

you're probably heard of "he said, she said" journalism, where journalists print quotes from both sides of a dispute and make no attempt to ascertain which side is correct (if either). abdul practices a simpler form—you could call it "he said" journalism—in which he gets quotes from one person and repeats them as unmitigated truth.

behold: here is his post in its entirety:

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett told me this morning that the state is ending its pursuit for "Race to the Top" funds. "Race to the Top" is a federal program that provides up to $4 billion for states that implement reforms in their education system.

Bennett says there was not enough support from the Indiana Teachers Unions for the state to take a second shot at the funds. Lack of union support was the one of the original reasons Indiana lost out on the first round of "Race to the Top" funds.

Bennett told me this morning he made an offer to the Unions to meet him next Tuesday to work out a deal, however they turned him down.

Had Indiana been a "Race to the Top" participant, it would have received hundreds of millions of dollars for education. Bennett says, for him, Race to the Top was more about reforming schools than money.

However, I can't help but think of the irony in all this that the teachers unions whine and complain about more money for schools and as soon as they get an opportunity to get more money they turn it down. Hmmm, it must be that whole accountability thing again.

man, union people sure are a bunch of assholes! i sure am glad abdul made no attempt to get their side of the story, aren't you?

in contrast, here's a taste of how the indianapolis star covered this story last week:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said he is passionately making a case for reforms he considers crucial to improve the well-being of the state's children.

The presidents of the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Indiana Federation of Teachers say Bennett is trying to steamroll teachers in the process and is using unfair tactics. Both have increased their own rhetoric against and criticism of the state.

The debate has come to a head over whether the unions will sign on to the state's second attempt to win stimulus funds.

Bennett has advocated tying job reviews for teachers to their students' test scores, and he has advanced policies that would allow teachers to be paid or dismissed based on job performance rather than years of experience.

wait, so the two sides had a disagreement over some kind of issue? well surely the unions are just being unreasonable...

Bennett held several meetings with union leaders but declined to allow them to see the proposal for the federal grant, saying that other states might steal the more innovative ideas. Both unions were then asked to write letters of support -- for a proposal they had not seen.

emphasis mine. the real story is that the unions were unwilling to sign onto bennett's plan sight unseen. so, rather than share his "innovative" ideas with the unions, bennett decided to not apply for the grant at all.

as doug pointed out last week, perhaps this dispute could've been resolved had the two sides been more willing to work together rather than fire off angry press releases. in the end, both sides lost this one. but surely nobody comes off looking more foolish than abdul, who published an embarrassingly one-sided post that was lacking some crucial details.

the question is: did abdul not know this information, or did he simply choose not to share it with his audience? either one is a glaring journalistic failure, but the former would be merely incompetent, whereas the latter would be downright mendacious. both possibilities are troubling—i'm just not sure which is worse.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

handicap rec 001 - act like you understand 12"

i just got my copies of this 12", the debut release from france's handicap records:

Handicap Rec 001 - Act Like You Understand
A1 - Doormouse - Final Eye of the European Breakcore Burnout
A2 - Handbag/Abba - Ruffest Gunark
A3 - stAllio! - Rockin the Pop Charts
A4 - Roundop Ready vs Rektal Distortion - Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas
B1 - Killjoy - Muffhawk Smack Down
B2 - Handbag/Abba - Overnight Celebrity
B3 - Valav - Xhailn

contact me if you're interested in a copy... i'm thinking around $7 each sounds about right.

handicap rec 001

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

housin'

as some of you have already heard, virago & i just bought a new house in the "south broad ripple" area. (close enough to broad ripple to call it sobro, but far enough south as to require the use of scare quotes.) we'd been living in apartments for the past couple years, so it's great to be back in a place that we own, that we can decorate and modify at will. not to mention, it's larger than our apartments and the mortgage is less than we were paying in rent.

the previous owners were rehabbers who bought the place for cheap and fixed it up. the outside is unassuming, but the interior is beautiful—if a bit amateurishly done. (the cable installer had to laugh at the unprofessional exterior cable hookup, and our frankenstein's monster of a furnace, with its labyrinthine ductwork and hobbled-together appearance, elicited a similar reaction from the HVAC guy.)

possibly the best part is the basement, which means we no longer need to live among piles of clutter—the clutter all goes in the basement, where we don't have to look at it! this also allows us to get better furniture. for example, virago wanted to get a better storage solution for our vinyl record collections, so we picked up some of these bad boys:

LP bins

it's like having a record store right in my own house!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

cause and effect

cause: indiana property taxes are capped, taking away a crucial source of revenue for local governments.

effect: painful local service cuts. the most recent example is the marion county public library:

The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library could close as many as six branches this year.

Closing those branches and laying off workers would turn a budget deficit into a slight surplus, according to a report presented on Thursday to a committee of the library board.

[...]

The cuts would also cost 55 library workers their jobs, and remaining employees would see their work weeks cut to 37.5 hours.

Reduced property tax revenues, caused by changes in state tax law, will lead to $3.2 million in cuts. About 80 percent of the library's budget comes from property taxes.


glancing at a map of the proposed closures shows that they're nearly all in the inner city, in lower-income areas with a lot of minority residents:


View Marion County Library Closings in a larger map

the people in these areas are the ones who need libraries the most. many people depend on public libraries for internet access. closing these branches will make it even harder for these people to find jobs.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

abdul's most despicable ever?

right-wing blogger/radio host abdul hakim shabazz has a history of saying heartless and hateful things about the city's homeless, from his notorious comment (coincidentally from two years ago today) that "Someone whould get a giant broom and sweep them all away!" to his suggestion last month that the city should forceably commit the city's homeless to mental institutions against their consent.

i didn't think abdul could get any worse than that, but his post from this morning is so appalling that i'd think it an april fool's joke if i didn't know better.

the "shorter" version of his post is that the city should've somehow gotten rid of all the city's homeless and panhandlers before the ncaa final four. "I don’t care if they use spray or a hose," he writes, "but these guys need to go and go now."

abdul laments that he was recently asked for money more than once, and that "while walking over to meet my friends I had to deal with people sitting on the sidewalk, leaning against buildings and some even asleep on the street." then, astonishingly, he claims that he's not talking about the homeless, because "Ask any expert and they will tell you that homelessness and panhandling are two different things."

even ignoring the fact (which i've pointed out repeatedly) that studies show that the majority of panhandlers are indeed homeless, abdul apparently thinks that people who sleep on the street are panhandlers, but not homeless! imagine if all you had to do to panhandle sucessfully was take a nap next to your collection plate, maybe with a sign that says "sleepy, please give." the mind boggles at the very concept!

in the course of his dehumanization, abdul calls these people "dirty laundry", "trash", "nuisances", and "eye sores". and those are just the names he's willing to call them on his blog. i can only imagine the horrible things he says in private.

truly, i ask you, is there a more misguided, misinformed, and misanthropic blogger in all of indianapolis?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

if it's anti-andre carson, this must be AI

advance indiana's gary welsh was away from the blogging scene for weeks while he struggled with a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. fortunately, he's back now... and making the same old mistakes.

gary has earned of a reputation as a carson-hater. he's demonstrated time and again that he'll eagerly print just about anything critical of the carson clan, with little regard for whether it's true. so when someone on the right-wing american thinker blog posted an entry claiming that andre carson had made up the story about tea partiers yelling racial slurs at him last week, it was destined to show up at advance indiana.

this "thoughtful" analysis consisted of watching at least four youtube videos and reading at least two or three blog posts. but surprisingly, this turned out to be an insufficient amount of research, leading to some major factual errors that gary unthinkingly repeats.

when rep carson was being heckled, he was walking next to his fellow black congressman john lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement. but because initial reports on the incident didn't include a full quote from lewis, this is taken to mean that lewis never confirmed that it happened. inconveniently, lewis made this statement to the hill:

Asked if racial epithets were yelled at him, Lewis responded, "Yes, but it's OK. I've heard this before in the '60s. A lot of this is just downright hate."

likewise, reps james clyburn and emanuel cleaver were involved in a second incident, where cleaver was allegedly spat at by a protester. initial reports only had quotes from cleaver, not clyburn. therefore, according to gary, "Lewis and Clyburn never made no claims of the N-word being uttered." however, it turns out that clyburn did make yes claims... to the wrong blog! stupid clyburn!

But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.

"It was absolutely shocking to me," Clyburn said, in response to a question from the Huffington Post. "Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday... I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit ins... And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus."

in short, all four men—two of whom were civil rights leaders in the '60s—are judged to be liars. why? because in 2010, folks just don't use racial slurs like that anymore! no, seriously, that is the conclusion of the american thinker piece, which gary approvingly quotes. indeed, the very thought that someone might yell the n-word at a congressman "is so at odds with the reality of America circa 2010 that it undermines the credibility of any media person who reported it with a straight face"!

poor gary. he's only recently returned to blogging, and he's already reporting clearly false information. this was bad enough that i actually tried leaving a comment on his blog, though we'll have to see if my comment ever makes it out of moderation. (he also has a reputation for being unable to tolerate criticism.)

update: i knew it was a waste of time leaving at comment at AI, and sure enough, my comment hasn't been approved. but the comment thread is still worth a read, thanks to gary's comments about representative carson being "raised to hate white peope" and melyssa's rejoinder that "I do believe Andre Carson is as racist as they come."

Monday, March 22, 2010

health care passes house

i got a little despondent a couple months ago when it looked like health care reform was going to fail again. at the time, it was clear that democrats had the power to pass reform; they just seemed to lack the will to do it, which was seriously depressing.

but eventually, they got their acts together, and now health care reform is on its way to becoming law. the house has passed the senate bill, and the senate looks certain to pass a reconciliation bill fixing some of the flaws in the senate bill. the final reform package isn't perfect, but there's a lot of good stuff in there.

like millions of americans, this isn't some abstract policy debate for me. my wife has a pre-existing condition. as such, we've always known that if disaster struck and she found herself unemployed for more than a few weeks, she would lose her health insurance and would be unable to buy more. now, we can sleep a little easier. (we have to make it four more years before those provisions kick in, but that's still a major improvement.)

with the passage of health care reform, congressional democrats may have saved themselves from annihilation. yes, they'll probably lose a few seats come november, but things will likely work out much better than they would've otherwise. people will come to forget the acrimony of this debate, but they'll remember the results: democrats passed major legislation that ensures people who need it will get health care.

it may be raining outside, but the future looks a little brighter.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

teabaggers yell racial slurs at andre carson

welcome to post-racial america!

Tea partiers and other anti-health care activists are known to get rowdy, but today's protest on Capitol Hill--the day before the House is set to vote on historic health care legislation--went beyond the usual chanting and controversial signs, and veered into ugly bigotry and intimidation.

Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming "kill the bill"... and punctuating their chants with the word "nigger."

Standing next to Lewis, emerging from a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, Carson said people in the crowd yelled, "kill the bill and then the N-word" several times, while he and Lewis were exiting the Canon House office building.

"People have been just downright mean," Lewis added.

And that wasn't an isolated incident. Early this afternoon, standing outside a Democratic whip meeting in the Longworth House office building, I watched Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed "Barney, you faggot"--a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter.

keep it classy, tea party!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

looking for news? keep on looking.

starting today, the indianapolis star is crippling its web site. the new policy: front-page stories will be embargoed from the web site for 48 hours, as will the columnists. that's right: if you go to indystar.com, you won't be shown the news that the star deems most important. (this week, it's yet another story about hazing at carmel high school and yet another tully column about manual high school. yay, high school!)

if you've been paying attention to the star in the past few years, you'll know that the print edition has been getting progressively crappier, with a shrinking trim size and shorter page count (the only thing that's gotten bigger is the font size). in contrast, the star has routinely been putting "extra" content online that wouldn't fit in between the ads on the print edition.

so why would anyone want to subscribe? apparently this is a question the management has been struggling with for a while, and the answer they came up with is that readers should be forced to subscribe (to the print edition!) if they want timely content.

in the age of blogs and the 24-hour news cycle, this is absurd. people want fast, easy access to the news. they want to be able to share news articles with their friends. and yes, they want to be able to leave offensive racist, sexist, and homophobic comments on stories about how minorities are ruining america, liberals are idiotic scum, and so forth. they can do those things easily with a web site. not so much with a printed newspaper that comes to their door only once a day.

someone in management decided that subscription revenue was more important than web traffic or online revenue. i can appreciate their conundrum—newspaper revenues are dropping and the parent company demands unreasonable profits. but i'll be shocked if this results in a significant increase in subscribers. i sure as hell won't be subscribing.

so the hunt is on: we need better online sources for local news! i'll admit; i've been lazy when it comes to finding other feeds to follow. not anymore!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

does this count as a tax increase?

are you unhappy that the propsed deal to sell the city's water and sewer utilities would allow citizens energy group to raise rates with no oversight from the city?

if so, you should talk to mayor ballard, because to him that's the whole point:

There are those who believe one reason Indianapolis is selling its water and sewer systems to Citizens Energy Group is so the utility can do something that elected officials have often lacked the courage to do: raise rates.

To those folks, Mayor Greg Ballard has a message: You're pretty much right -- and it's the right thing to do.

Ballard officially announced Wednesday the city is selling the utilities to Citizens for $1.9 billion.

What that means for ratepayers is that Citizens' board of directors -- and not local elected officials accountable to Indianapolis voters -- will make decisions on when to seek rate hikes from the state and by how much.

first off, it sure is odd that a mayor who campaigned on transparency and accountability would deliberately want to make the city's utilities less accountable... and do so in a closed-door deal, no less!

second, if the mayor thinks this will give him political cover when rates go up, he's sorely mistaken. voters will remember who was responsible for selling these utilities and stripping away the city's oversight. in 2007, candidate ballard would've called this a tax increase, and so will ballard's opponents come 2011.

ballard's argument is that politicians are too cowardly to raise rates as much as they need to be raised. of course, the brave thing to do would be to suck it up and raise rates yourself. then he could say, "i did what needed to be done; i did what past administrations were too afraid to do." instead, when rates go up, the mayor will just shrug his shoulders and say, "i didn't do it!"

but hey, at least we can fix some potholes, am i right?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

phase one complete

hoo boy... i predicted that the layout would get wonky but forgot that all relative links would break (including my stylesheet and all background images!) so the blog was nigh-illegible for an hour or so there.

migration is now complete, and the blog is up & running at the new URL: blog.animalswithinanimals.com. the layout will change again as i try to build a modified version of this design using the new blogger layouts. in the end (fingers crossed) everything should look much the same as it did, only the sidebar will likely be significantly rearranged.

update: all comments seem to have disappeared and some comment pages appear to have been broken during migration. don't take it personally. there's not much i can do about that; here's hoping blogger identifies and fixes the problem.

2nd update: comments appear to be back online.

this blog may break

as you may have heard, blogger is eliminating support for ftp publishing. since stAllio!'s way is currently published via blogger ftp, that means i need to change my setup.

you may be thinking that this is perfect opportunity to switch to a different blog provider, and you'd have a point. however, over the years i've built multiple web sites for other people using blogger ftp, so i need to know the new blogger systems work for their benefit.

as such, stAllio!'s way will soon migrate to blogger hosting, most likely in the new few hours. as such, you may notice the following changes:
  • the URLs for the blog and its feed will both change—a redirect will be posted but you'll want to change your bookmarks.
  • the blog layout may get all wonky as i switch over the new blogger layouts. (this isn't required, but if i'm migrating anyway then what the hell, right?)
  • i may get inspired and design all new blog graphics. (this will happen eventually, but as i have other ongoing projects, i'll probably wait a bit.)
  • some links may break, though they should redirect to the new location.

i've already migrated the AWIA news blog (and updated its graphics), which was relatively painless, so i predict this will go smoothly. but, you know, do not adjust your set. we control the horizontal and the vertical, and all that.

transparency in local government?

when mayor ballard talked about transparency in local government, he must've been referring to the powerpoints he'd use to present his closed-door dealings:

The city is close to selling its water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy Group in a $1.9 billion deal that leaders say would minimize future rate increases and bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to improve roads, bridges and sidewalks.

Today, Indianapolis officials will give details of a nonbinding agreement between the city and Citizens, a public charitable trust that provides gas, steam and chilled water. Under the proposed terms, Citizens would pay Indianapolis nearly $2 billion for the two utilities, which now are owned by the city and run by private operators.

Citizens would acquire Indianapolis' water and sewer utilities and have full control over their operations. It also would become responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in capital improvement projects to be completed in coming years.

City officials touted the benefits of the plan, but some are concerned about the arrangement, which would limit the city's oversight of two integral utilities.

Under the new setup, no local elected officials or their appointees would be responsible for approving or suggesting rate increases. Instead, it would be left up to Citizens' board of directors, who are not accountable to Indianapolis voters, to decide when to seek rate increases and how big they should be. Final say on rate increases would be in the hands of state utility regulators who are appointed by the governor.

so he wants to sell our water & sewers to a utility company, giving up any semblance of oversight, and in exchange we'll get to fill some potholes.

it should be noted that when democrats on the city-county council asked about rumors of a water deal, they were repeatedly told no deal was in the works. transparency!

Friday, March 05, 2010

a little too prescient?

when i predicted that the new let's-all-bring-weapons-to-work bill would lead to an increase in workplace shootings, even i didn't think it would start happening quite so soon... the governor hasn't even signed the bill into law yet!

PORTAGE, Ind. -- Police say an Indiana Department of Workforce Development auditor who had just received a poor job review shot at co-workers at the agency's office in Portage.

No one was hurt.

Police in Portage, about 10 miles east of Gary, aren't identifying the worker until formal charges are filed.

Sgt. Keith Hughes says the 60-year-old man became upset during his job review and told his supervisor he needed to go to his car. After he retrieved a shotgun, a manager locked the front door and ordered the other 15 employees to the rear of the office.

Police say the man fired one shot at the front door and another inside the office as his co-workers fled. They say he surrendered at gunpoint to officers while trying to reload.

now if you'll excuse me, i'm going to rush off to vegas while i'm on a roll...

shoot-your-boss bill passes

i don't often agree with chambers of commerce, be they US, indiana, or wherever. seeing as how their primary purpose is to support big business over the interests of the little guy, i generally find them to be horribly, even selfishly wrong on most issues. in fact, you could even say that on a typical day, i'd probably be pleased to hear that the state legislature was willing to openly defy the indiana chamber.

but dear god, why would they pick this issue?

Most Hoosiers could take a gun to work as long as the weapon is stored out of sight in a locked vehicle, under legislation enacted Thursday to the delight of gun-rights advocates and the alarm of Indiana businesses.

At least 12 other states, including Kentucky, have passed similar legislation.

House Bill 1065, which passed the House 74-20 and the Senate 41-9, now goes to Gov. Mitch Daniels for his signature.

the business community unanimously and vigorously opposed this bill because like me, they know it will only be a matter of time before someone gets killed, and they don't want their asses to get shot up. i don't want them to get their asses shot up either, which makes this a rare issue we agree on.

workplace shootings happen. just three weeks ago, a university of alabama professor killed three of her colleagues after being denied tenure. two months ago, an employee at a st louis power plant went on a shooting spree, killing three and wounding five before turning his guns on himself. in 2008, a man in henderson kentucky (just miles from the indiana state line) killed himself and five others after an argument with his boss. but rather than pass a bill that might protect hoosiers from being slaughtered at work, the legislature has passed a bill that will make going on a murderous rampage easier. how could they think this is a good idea?

there's still a chance the governor could veto the bill, but don't hold your breath on that one. so it looks like our only hope to stop the madness is the inevitable court challenge by local businesses that don't want to get shot by their employees. it's sad that it has to come to this, but at least it's better than the alternative.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

ballard's continuing war against the city's homeless

at first, we were told it was just about panhandlers. mayor ballard announced that he wanted "to get them out of Downtown so that citizens and visitors don't have to look at it." when criticized for this dehumanizing attitude toward the homeless, ballard scoffed and said panhandling was a "scam". (never mind the studies showing that most panhandlers are indeed homeless.) eventually, the mayor got what he wanted: a "pahandling bill" that made it illegal to stand near a street corner while holding a sign. how's that bill working out, anyway?

but the city's homeless came back into the news recently, as word spread of a homeless camp under the davidson street bridge downtown. the mayor sprung into action:

Mayor Greg Ballard took a look at the shantytown under a bridge on Davidson Street on Friday, and a decision followed.

Get them out and lock the place up.

ah, the return of the i-don't-want-to-look-at-them policy. homeless people are upsetting the neighbors? then get them outta there! problem solved.

of course, if the goal was to get those people help, then closing the camp was a clear failure:

Shiny metal fence posts have replaced dome-shaped tents at a former homeless encampment on the fringe of Downtown.

Now the question remains: Where have the homeless gone?
Advertisement

Agencies and social service teams asked by the city to reach out to the so-called "bridge people" who had taken up residence under the Davidson Street railroad bridge could not persuade the homeless to move into shelters.

"Not a single one of those individuals went into shelters Monday night," said Michael Hurst, program director for the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention.

Hurst said all of them went to a "safe place," such as a viaduct on Pine Street, which is a few blocks from Davidson Street, or to other alleyways and doorways in the city.

"They all kind of scattered and went," Hurst said.

so we spent $10 grand on a fence, and in return all we get is a more-spread-out homeless population?

the ballard administration immediately disavowed all responsibility for their failure:

"If an individual makes a choice to sleep on the street despite all the help the city and homeless shelters and advocacy groups have offered to them, there's little the city can do," said Robert Vane, Ballard's chief of staff. "All we can do is offer."

well, that and bust up their camps so the streets are so inhospitable that they all hop a bus to cincinnati, that is.

but it could be worse. for one thing, the city could go with abdul's hare-brained idea to just throw the city's homeless into the nuthouse. i didn't think it was possible to top abdul's previous statement that "Someone whould get a giant broom and sweep them all away! [sic]" in terms of heartlessness or thoughtlessness (how are we going to pay for 3,000 new mental patients?), but there you go. it's funny how the people who talk most loudly about individual freedom and personal responsibility are often the ones who are most upset when the homeless decide that living on the streets is more comfortable than living in a shelter.

as the saying goes, the law forbids the poor and rich alike from sleeping under bridges.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

fool me once, shame on you. fool me 17 times...

how many times do your projections need to be off before you realize that you're doing it wrong?

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana's budget situation worsened again in February when tax receipts fell below expectations for the 17th consecutive month.

State revenue is now $895 million less through the first eight months of the fiscal year than lawmakers thought when they wrote the two-year spending plan. It's also 10.5 percent below the same period last year, a time when lawmakers hoped the numbers couldn't worsen.

the cynic in me wonders whether projections have been intentionally too high, in order to make the governor look better: mitch balanced the budget somehow—what a genius! what a bold leader he is, managing us so well in these hard times!

it would seem the state's monthly tax projections are as untrustworthy as our list of economic successes.

Monday, March 01, 2010

"in real life" t-shirt now on sale!

it took a while, but my first printed threadless design is now on sale!

In Real Life - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

this one was actually a collaboration with a finnish artist named marika mattila. when i came up with the idea, i knew it needed to be done right in order to work. the art style needed to be fairly realistic, but i didn't want it to just be a shopped photo, because stuff like that often doesn't score well on threadless.

realism isn't exactly my strong point, so i started looking for someone to collaborate with, and marika volunteered. i checked out her past stuff and could tell right away that she had the drawing chops necessary to pull off the concept. a few drafts later and the rest is history!

i used a bit of the prize money to buy myself a little something—a wacom tablet! i've been using the tablet for a few days now, and already i can spot a big difference in my illustration. plus, it's fun!

my next goal is to get a solo print, but i'll probably still do collaborations from time to time, when i have an idea that i feel could be better executed by someone else.

Monday, February 22, 2010

a real american hero, joe stack was there

you probably heard about this story from last week: a texas man named joe stack was angry at the IRS, so he (allegedly) burned his house down and then crashed a small plane into a nearby IRS building.

but you may not have heard about the movement to declare him a hero:

"Finally an American man took a stand against our tyrannical government that no longer follows the Constitution," wrote Emily Walters of Louisville, Ky.

According to The New York Daily News, Walters was one of the many people on the social networking circuit who founded Joe Stack fan pages to honor the kamikaze pilot.

People were also sounding off via Twitter.

"Joe Stack, you are a true American Hero and we need more of you to make a stand," tweeted Greg Lenihan of San Diego, according to the paper.

now, some may disagree about stack's heroic flight. like doghouse, you may be wondering why the people who soiled themselves thinking about the christmas eve underpants bomber aren't so skeered of joe stack, or why flying a plane into a government building is "terrorism" when al-qaeda does it but "heroism" when joe stack does it.

of course, if you're confused in this way, it's probably because you didn't check the chart:

Terror Attack or Just Some Guy with a Grudge?

now that's much more clear, isn't it?