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Steven Adler is Dead

1401x788-GettyImages-86138225You may have heard that Guns N’ Roses is reuniting. Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan are all on record promising to play a handful of shows, starting on my birthday in Las Vegas, then headlining Coachella, then Mexico City, ramping up to a 46-month tour of South America and points beyond.

Anyone who knows enough about Guns N’ Roses to care about this news also knows that there are a couple of names missing from the reunion call sheet: Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler.

Izzy is easy to explain but hard to understand. If Slash’s and Duff’s autobiographies are to be believed, Izzy left the band voluntarily because a) he had turned into a junkie and wanted to clean up and b) he was sick of Axl’s bullshit. Everybody knows Axl developed a punctuality problem as the band got bigger, but he also started spending money — the band’s money — like the worst kind of star-tripping asshole: huge opulent themed backstage parties that he didn’t even attend, private jets, adding horn players and backup singers and a fucking white grand piano to the live show, and worst of all incurring countless curfew fines because a show that starts two hours late ends two hours late.

Or as Izzy put it shortly after he bailed: “I had a bus, and they had a plane, and I beat them to the gigs.

Between that basic personality conflict with the giant machine that GNR became and will certainly be again, it’s understandable that Izzy wants to keep his distance. Rumor has it that he will appear on a few of the shows, or a few of the songs at every show, or a few of the songs at a few of the shows. He has supposedly written new material with them, and the played with Axl Rose Presents Axl Rose’s Guns N’ Roses Featuring Axl Rose for a few shows in 2014. He does not appear to have any hard feelings, he just doesn’t like all the to-do, and you have to kind of respect him for that. It will be a bummer if Izzy is not a part of the reunion, but if he isn’t it’s because he doesn’t want to be, not because they’re shutting him out.

Steven Adler is another story.

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Ted Cruz Still Can’t Win

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After roughly 622 months of primary campaigning, including 12,035 stump speeches and 1,271 debates, our distinguished field of presidential hopefuls finally faced the voters of Iowa this week, and the results sadly did little to sharpen the picture of who will be taking the oath of office next January.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders split the vote — actually a caucus, whatever that means — almost literally 50/50, with Clinton taking 49.8% and Sanders 49.6%. (Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley had the remaining 0.6% for about half an hour before a seventh grader took it from him, along with his lunch money.)

There was a bit of a surprise on the Republican end of things: billionaire and sentient lump of spray-tanned cotton candy Donald Trump, who has led the field since the moment he descended his gold-plated escalator and became the first presidential hopeful to announce his candidacy while talking out of his ass, came in second place.

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The Manson Family of Oregon

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So the guys up in Oregon — you know, the guys holed up in the government building with all the guns and dildos? After a three week occupation, they finally got what they wanted: a shootout with the cops and the FBI. One of their guys is dead and another is wounded, and Ammon Bundy, the leader of the protest, or occupation, or whatever you want to call it is in custody with five of his comrades. Not comrades, that’s suggests communists, which these dudes emphatically are NOT. Brothers in arms, let’s go with that. Anyway, they’re in jail.

A lot of people are saying that this protest was pointless, that it accomplished nothing, that its stated goal — getting the federal government to surrender all public lands back to “the people,” whatever that means — was wildly unrealistic and never remotely achievable, and certainly not by occupying a building in the middle of nowhere.

They did succeed, of course, in stirring up a lot of weird, unfocused negative sentiment against the government in comments sections around the Internet, but fell short of their real goal: to provoke the government into provoking an anti-government uprising.

For a day or two, only the broadest strokes of the story were known: after a traffic stop of the vehicle Bundy was riding in — you get to take breaks from occupying a building? — brought Bundy and a few of his people into the custody of the FBI, LaVoy Finicum, one of Bundy’s lieutenants driving a second vehicle, was shot and killed. The Twitter account of the Bundy ranch was quick to comment:

Though eyewitnesses, including one of the other people in the Bundy caravan, leaked word to the press that Finicum had tried to evade a roadblock and was shot while charging the cops, those inclined toward Liberty called that another lie and insisted that Finicum was shot with his hands in the air.

Supporters of the Bundy cause still holed up at the refuge seemed to believe that an attack by the government was imminent, and called for ex-military members to come and “fight for your country… if they stop you from getting here, KILL THEM!”

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Bowie, Lemmy, and Frey: The Autobituary

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We are at the beginning of an epidemic.

The rock stars of our youth are dying. We’re getting old, and they’re even older. They’re not going to OD or choke on vomit, they’re going to get prostate cancer and conjunctive colitis. David Bowie and Lemmy and Glenn Frey are only the beginning.

It is morbid, it is unpleasant, but it is true. All these guys are pushing 70 — some of them are pushing 80! Mick Jagger is 72. Neil Young is 70. Patti Smith is 69. Time is not on their side. At some point soon all the rock stars of the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s — the people who made us — are going to start dying off. In much bigger groups than threes. And I’m not sure as a blogger that I will be able to keep up with all of the eulogizing that I am morally, spiritually, and as it turns out legally obligated to do.

So I’ve found a workaround: using sophisticated software that uses complicated algorithms to construct complex written narratives based on a range of responses, I have been able to write all three obituaries for this week’s fallen luminaries at once.

Using a generic story template, the algorithm is able to take the basic known facts of a person’s biography — entered by the user by answering a series of questions — and construct a highly readable narrative. You’d be surprised how much like a human you can make an algorithm write. write. write. write. write. write

So without further preamble, here is my three-in-one “Autobituary” for David Bowie, Lemmy, and Glenn Frey.

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The GOP Doesn’t Want It

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There was an amazing thing on CNN last week: President Obama went into a place full of people hostile to his policies in general and on gun control in particular, and took their questions for two hours. He was not given the questions in advance; CNN proudly stated at the outset that the Town Hall Meeting was a 100% CNN production, with no input from the White House other than what time Obama would be there.

CNN has a bad reputation in the red states as the Communist News Network, hopelessly slanted toward Obama and the Democrats and generally unwatchable. For the most part, I happen to think they’re half right: CNN is unwatchable, but it’s not because of any particular liberal bias. CNN’s bias is toward the splashiest, trashiest clickbait stories, and they don’t care where they come from, just so long as they’re salacious. (It just so happens that Republicans are generally better at providing those.) I watched a few weeks ago as a reporter “covering” the San Bernardino shootings stuck a microphone in a man’s face as he tried to call his missing son’s cell phone, pushing in slowly for a closeup of whatever reaction he might have to whatever came on the line, or didn’t. That was totally nonpartisan, garden-variety ambulance chasing. CNN are a bunch of vultures and they suck at TV is what I’m saying.

For a while, though, Guns in America came off better than just about anything I’ve seen on CNN since the first Gulf War. There were none of the technical miscues that typically mar any CNN broadcast, and host Anderson Cooper, also hated by the right as a socialist elitist communist mouthpiece, did a surprisingly good job of presenting the anti-gun control argument and pressing Obama for details and voicing the widespread skepticism to Obama’s stated positions on the matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HrBR_kXIHw

For his part, Obama was relaxed, focused, passionate, and engaging on the issue. He didn’t shrink from his desire to expand background checks, but he stated firmly, and I thought plausibly, his understanding of and respect for rural gun culture and the Second Amendment. The dialogue was genuine, his answers were often more respectful than the questions, and he didn’t pander to the audience; he acknowledged their suspicion even as he mocked the idea that he’d planned to put Texas under martial law using tunnels under Wal-Marts, and quite sensibly pointed out that if he intended to come for anyone’s guns, surely he would have begun such a project sooner than seven years into an eight-year presidency. In short, he was like a human being, and I came away impressed with how directly he engaged with such a tough issue.

And then it was over, and the Communist News Network tossed coverage to its eleventeen pundits, nearly all of whom declared the whole event a deception, professed disbelief at Obama’s wanton contempt for responsible gun owners, his hatred of the Constitution and America itself. (So much for that liberal bias you hear so much about.) The moves Obama is proposing fall miles short of anything the gun control advocates want to see — they’re little more than a rededication to enforcing existing laws, in accordance with the loudest mantra of the anti-reform crowd — but they were being portrayed like a totalitarian coup and the wholesale revocation of the Second Amendment. The disconnect was striking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKLrBnsrwrk

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Conservatism’s Weird Blind Spot

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Watching the fifth Republican debate the other night, as the nine candidates — six of whom were all wearing the exact same suit, shirt, and tie, incidentally — accused each other of being insufficiently resolute about carpetbombing ISIS, killing ISIS’ friends and families, toppling Syria’s government, shoring up the failed Iraqi government, and abandoning diplomatic efforts with Iran, something struck me kind of funny.

I happen to know more than a few die-hard Republican voters, by virtue of having been born into a gun-loving Midwestern family, and that being the case, I try a little harder than a lot of my left-leaning friends to understand exactly what makes someone vote for a party that seems to be so diametrically opposed from my own beliefs. A lot of lefty types like to point the finger and assume that a Republican voter hates gays, hates women, hates minorities, hates the poor, and above all hates doing anything to assist any of the above.

While I’m sure that there are segments of the GOP electorate that fit that description, the Republicans I know don’t care about abortion or gay marriage or affirmative action. They don’t hate minorities and aren’t particularly hostile to the notion of helping those in need.

What they are is deeply, deeply skeptical of the ability of the government to successfully run a program like, say, food stamps without huge inefficiency, huge fraud, and huge waste of taxpayer dollars.  To some extent, this kind of cynicism is warranted; it doesn’t take more than a visit to the post office or the DMV to see where they’re coming from. During his unsuccessful 1976 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan was fod of telling the story of a woman in Chicago who was living on food stamps and driving a Cadillac, and the legend of the Welfare Queen — the symbol of the inefficiency and waste and fraud that inevitably follows any kind of effort to help the less fortunate — was born and persists to this day.

I can’t say I agree with this point of view, but at least there is a little bit of logic behind it. Cynicism about the effectiveness of large institutions is easier to understand than just cold-hearted indifference to the plight of your fellow man. And the people who feel this way are remarkably consistent in applying the same logic to nearly any spending initiative, no matter how well intentioned, that the government might propose: food stamps, healthcare, early education, higher education, gun control, you name it.

Which is why I find it so strange that this cynicism seems to evaporate like the morning dew any time the conversation turns to military adventure.

Nothing could be a bigger, more difficult endeavor with more moving parts or opportunities for failure than taking over another country, or removing a foreign leader, or swinging an election. It requires, above all, solid, reliable intelligence: the exact locations of enemy leaders, insight into their plans and strategies, accurate accounting of their weapons and assets. And yet despite the fact that the Unites States has an absolutely miserable track record in this area, starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor and including virtually every foreign military effort we have conducted since then. Either through corruption or plain old incompetence, nearly everything we have done overseas has either failed or made things demonstrably worse. Korea, Iran (’53), Cuba, Vietnam, Iran (’79), Afghanistan (’79), Grenada, Nicaragua, Iran-Contra, Iraq (’91), Afghanistan (’01), Iraq (’03)… failure after bungle after failure. (For far, far, far more depth and detail on each and every one of these debacles, I highly recommend Tim Weiner’s “Legacy of Ashes,” a comprehensive history of the CIA from its post-WWII formation up to 2005.)

So one story about a “welfare queen” means that government efforts to ease the burden on the less fortunate are so manifestly doomed to fail as to be not even worth attempting, but decades of abject failure abroad just means we need to throw more blood and more treasure at the problem.

Understand, I am not saying that ISIS is not a problem that needs to be solved by the military. I am not suggesting that we stick our head in the sand and just hope it all goes away. If our ratio of intelligence failures to successes was a little better than 20-to-1 over the last 50 years, I would be right there with all these Republicans urging Obama to dump 500,000 troops in there and get it sorted out before the start of Spring Training.

But it is not that black and white. You need to speak the language, you need to know the culture, you need to understand the history, you need reliable intelligence sources if you want to go into another country; if you don’t, you’ll only make it worse.

For example, during the debate, Ted Cruz promised to carpetbomb Raqqa, the city that ISIS has taken as its home base. When Wolf Blitzer pointed out that Raqqa is 90% civilians, unaffiliated with ISIS or terrorism, Cruz blithely promised that his carpetbombing campaign would kill only “the right people,” either unaware or unconcerned that the very definition of “carpetbombing” is to drop bombs all over, without regard to casualties. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that when you bomb a city where 90% of the people are civilians, 90% of the casualties are going to be civilians, and you are going to create as many or more new terrorists as you just killed.

I would hope that any commander-in-chief would follow the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm — in this case, do no harm to the delicate balance of power. Obama gets this, which is why although he has already ordered 9,000 airstrikes on ISIS targets, he is holding back on committing ground troops or toppling any foreign leaders. He’s showing that he understands the limits of our government’s power. I think they used to call that kind of thinking “conservative.”

The 2015 EnoughAlready Holiday Gift Guide!

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Call it weariness, call it lack of preparation, call it plain old laziness, but I have had an unusually difficult time getting my head into the Christmas game this year. In years past I have prided myself on how thoughtfully and, as importantly, how efficiently I plan and execute my Christmas shopping, but this year is different.

I won’t get into it, but I’ve had a lot going on and a lot on my mind the last few months. It’s been very difficult to focus on buying gifts. Normally what I like to do is think about each member of my family — my wife, my son, my brother and his wife and two kids, and my mom and dad — and think of something they would like. I’m proud that I have rarely had to resort to googling “gift ideas for dad” in order to come up with something thoughtful. But this year I’ve had some trouble getting the engine to turn over, and I had to search for outside inspiration to come up with great gifts.

The good news is, I pretty much nailed it. So if you’re in a similar quandary, having a hard time getting your head in the game, here are a few suggestions for great Christmas gifts for the people in your life that I found:

For the Perfect Wife: NFL Team Logo Wine Shoes

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Add a touch of class to your Sundays! Everyone knows wine is the classiest of all ways to get hammered, and everyone knows that high heels are the classiest shoes. There’s no classier place to keep your wine than in your shoe — everybody knows that. The NFL logo of your choice, embossed in leather and adorned with rare North Georgia Rhinestones® is just the cherry on the classy sundae! ($57.99)

For the ’90s Hip Hop Fan Who Has Everything: The Wu-Tang Clan, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin

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In a move as original and uncompromising as it was dumb and pointless, the Wu-Tang Clan reunited in 2014 to record their long-awaited reunion album, but then announced that only one copy would be created, and that copy would cost $2 million. So if someone you love likes Wu-Tang and you have $2 million dollars and a totally deranged sense of priorities, this is the kind of gift that really makes a statement. Oh wait, that asshole that jacked the price of AIDS drugs 2,000,000 percent already bought it. Although, there is a chance he won’t have it for long. ($2 million)

For the Fine-Motor-Skill-Impaired: Self-Twirling Spaghetti Fork

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We all have that person in the family who can’t seem to twirl their spaghetti without dropping the fork on the edge of their plate. (Full disclosure: Growing up, I was that person.) It makes an awful sound and the merciless teasing that fork-droppers suffer at the hands of their immediate families can scar them for decades, I bet. Spare everyone the therapy bills and get the Self-Twirling Spaghetti Fork; 100% twirling fun guaranteed!* ($9.95; 2 AA batteries not included.)

For the Untrustworthy Strumpet: GPS Lingerie

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Saddled with the kind of woman that refuses to tell you exactly what she’s doing and who she’s with every second of every day? Let her know you care a little too much with a fun, flirty lingerie set with red detailing and a mock negligée with a fully functioning GPS unit. It’s the gift that keeps on giving… her exact coordinates. ($800)

For the Good Guy With A Gun: Gun and Target Recordable Alarm Clock

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We all know the day is coming when we’ll all have to be ready to wake up shooting, and the Gun and Target Recordable Alarm Clock is a great way to prepare for that inevitable, eagerly awaited breakdown of society. Wake to whatever sound you choose to record into the target — maybe a frenzied cry of “Jihad,” the faint sound of your China cabinet being ransacked, or just the local NPR station — and fire a shot into the bullseye to turn off the alarm. The gun has recoil and sound effects for extra realism, as well as an option to play the anguished cries of an accidentally wounded family member when your shots go astray, to keep you vigilant. ($20.47)

For your creepy Uncle/Cousin/Nephew/Son/Father/Husband: The Fleshlight Lanchpad

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6WBBXxScrk

Everyone knows how difficult it can be to hold your iPad and be intimate with yourself at the same time, right? Well, the geniuses at Fleshlight — the same people who invented the flashlight that feels like a lady — have solved that problem by making it possible to live the best of all possible worlds and just be intimate with your iPad! ($24.95, fake ladypart sold seperately)

For Everyone Reading This And Everyone In Your Immediate and Extended Families: “Relatively Merry” iTunes single

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuC9ql0P4pc

I mean, come on. It’s a dollar. Not even a dollar. You don’t have a dollar? You have a dollar. Buy the song on iTunes, willya? ($0.99)

Merry Christmas!

*Not guaranteed

Terrorism-ism

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In what’s fast becoming a more terrifying holiday tradition than the Elf on the Shelf, we rang in the Christmas season with a mass shooting — this one at a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs — and then another at a holiday party in a social services facility in San Bernardino. It would be crazy at this point to say with any confidence that there won’t be another, or two or three or four, before the ball drops.

These came just two weeks after a coordinated massacre in Paris, in which three teams of ISIS assholes killed 128 people and wounded hundreds more.

Over the last, I don’t know, half dozen? of these incidents, we seem to have added a new wrinkle to our well-rehearsed post-shooting routine: after we offer thoughts and prayers, and before we start the next go-round of the endless, pointless debate over gun laws that to date has changed exactly zero minds ever, we start to speculate over whether the latest wholesale slaughter was or was not “terrorism.”

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Guns N’ Roses Reunion: Audience Rider

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11/16/2015

Dear Axl and Slash,

I hear you two have finally buried the hatchet. That’s nice. It’s not good to hold grudges against old friends, particularly friends that have accomplished so much together. So congratulations on letting bygones be bygones and reconnecting. Did you hug it out? I bet that smelled weird.

I also hear that now that you’re pals again, you’ve decided to get Guns N’ Roses back together for a world tour that will presumably make all the money (adjusted for inflation). That sounds interesting at first blush, but it also raises a lot of questions. As declining attendance and brutal reviews for recent “Guns N’ Roses” shows suggests, even the hugest GNR fans — of whom I was certainly one back in the day — don’t want to go to just anything labeled “Guns N’ Roses.”

If the legendary excess of the 1991 Use Your Illusion tour (which I saw in both D.C. and Philadelphia) is any indication, I assume that the rider for this tour will be roughly the size of a phone book, and given that you’ll be earning the GDP of a midsize industrialized nation, that is to be expected. But there are a few things we will need in order to fulfill our side of the contract, so before you announce the tour you’ll want to take a look at our rider:

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The Media’s Ben Carson Bias

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Presidential candidate, retired brain surgeon, and champion squinter Ben Carson has had a big couple of weeks. Now the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, he’s facing a level of scrutiny he had apparently not previously imagined, which suggests that this isn’t just the first presidential campaign he’s ever run, it’s the first one he has ever seen.

The coordinated media conspiracy to discredit Carson began when they fact-checked his autobiography, a totally unprecedented, shockingly underhanded attack. CNN found that Carson’s tales of a violent youth spent trying to murder his immediate family — presumably played up to set his the triumph of his religious conversion into sharper relief — were not entirely true, and Politico found his tale of being offered a scholarship to West Point by General William Westmoreland in Ronald Reagan’s living room while Barry Goldwater played the piano while Ayn Rand sang “Silent Night” did not strictly actually literally happen.

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