Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Winter Olympics

There are a lot of things to like about the Winter Olympics (curling, curling commentator Colleen Jones - who didn't fall in love when she said "oopsy-daisy" when a stone missed its target) but I'm feeling curmudgeonly so here is what I hated.

Chris Collingsworth
He's ruined Sunday Night Football but I can turn down the sound and mostly ignore him there and it's only once a week. But Collinsworth was there daily during the Olympics. Worse, I had to see his smile, really more a psychopath's smirk. He wants to be cute (fail), he wants to be insightful (double-fail), and he insists on comparing every Olympic athlete to retired football players. Every Collinsworth piece was just his personal tribute to Chris Collinsworth.

Skaters Helmet Hair
For some reason women figure skaters insist on tying their hair back in the most severe buns this side of a prison matron and slicking what's left down with about two tons of axle grease. The result is that most women figure skaters look like department store mannequins with painted on hair. Fortunately, ice dancers have more taste.

Ice Dancing Ethnic Insult Night
Unfortunately, the ice dance committee that set the theme of the original dance lacked any taste at all. Without guidelines the “folk/country dance” theme degenerated into a parade of stereotypes. The worst of the lot was the Russian pair whose Aboriginal dance descended into racism.

Meg Whitman
She did a saturation ad buy during the Olympics and it had an effect. I wasn't going to vote for her before but I didn't really care about her either. Now I have an abiding, all consuming loathing for her. I don't just want her to lose the election she is determined to purchase outright, I want her go bankrupt and be personally humiliated doing it.

Parenthood, Marriage Ref, and Leno Promos
I like Lauren Graham and think Jerry Seinfeld is funny. After a couple trillion promos for their new series(es) I just want them to go away for, like, maybe, forever. As for Leno, I've managed to avoid him for decades and I wish NBC would respect that.

NBC's Jingoism
I'm used to it by now but that doesn't mean I have to like it. For NBC the Olympics are not a grand international sports congress but a US/Canada lovefest. When foreigns inject themselves into the proceedings by, for example, winning, they are treated as interlopers undeserving of the attention. Let's go interview the American losers.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

God Is the Biggest Terrorist

The Haiti earthquake has killed about a quarter of a million people. Over two million continue to be frightened and homeless.

The earthquake this morning in Chile was 100 times stronger than the Haitian quake. While it will probably kill fewer people that is only because its location was farther from population centers. Still, hundreds are likely dead, scores of thousands homeless, and the terror caused spreads across the Pacific with a potentially devastating tsunami.

Comparing these two Acts of God with everything that al Qaeda has attempted over the past two decades is like comparing an elephant to a flea. Think of this the next time fearful Republicans tells us we should trash the Constitution because of some deranged Arab.

Or, it could just be there is no petty God playing with humans like Lego toys. It could be we are all on a living, evolving planet that is as unfeeling towards the humans here as we are to the mites living in our eyelashes. Imagine how they feel whenever you blink.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jim Bunning Hates Everyone

On a scale of one to ten, one being a nice guy and ten being the biggest dickhead in the world, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) registers in the low hundreds.

Bunning's latest is filibustering an extension of unemployment benefits while the nation is struggling with unemployment over 10%. While doing so he is whining about missing a basketball game and throwing curses on the Senate floor.

Then there is the Jim Bunning Foundation whose biggest charity is giving money to Jim Bunning at a rate of $3500 an hour.

He joyfully, and wrongfully, predicted that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was going to die soon.

See also Brendan Calling and Unemployed Friends.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

Any place that's too high-falootin' for Rip is too fancy for me. ~ Twilight Zone, The Hunt
It seems American Christian
fundamentalists have declared that, come the Rapture, dogs will be left behind. There is a great debate over the question. Oddly, there is a greater debate over dog Rapture than child Rapture. Babies, even Buddhist babies, get snatched up; rebellious teens get left behind. Still, the consensus is that dogs are soulless and will be abandoned by God.

There is extensive discussion over what to do about this. One way is to have a Goth teenage daughter. When Bible-beating mom and dad disappear one day little Rachel will still be there to feed Fluffy. An atheist entrepreneur has signed up hundreds of worried Christians to his Rapture-sitting service for pets. There is also a wonderful website to help their post-Rapture pet planning.

This all reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode.
An old hillbilly named Hyder and his hound dog Rip return from coon hunting to find out they died. Wandering along a dirt road they come upon a beautiful gate on a side road. The Gatekeeper, dressed in white, tells Hyder that this is the gate to Heaven. Hyder starts to enter but the dog sets to howling. The Gatekeeper tells Hyder that dogs are not allowed in Heaven and he has to leave Rip behind. Hyder refuses to enter and won't listen to the Gatekeeper's promises. He had never abandoned Rip in life, he won't abandon Rip in death.

Hyder and Rip continue walking down the dirt road, sad about not going to Heaven but content he and Rip will spend eternity together. Farther down the road they meet a young man who says he has been sent to take Hyder to Heaven. Hyder refuses, telling the youth about his meeting with the Gatekeeper. Why, the youth tells Hyder, that there was the gate to Hell. Dogs, the youth says, can smell the brimstone fires of Hell and that is why are not allowed past the gate. The youth leads Hyder and Rip to a simple break in the fence - the passage to Heaven.
I suspect all of those Rapture fanatics are going to be in for a mighty big surprise when they reach that big, beautiful pearly gate through which dogs cannot pass.
If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. ~ James Harriot

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. ~ Will Rogers

The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's. ~ Mark Twain
Also, this from Earl Hamner who wrote the Twilight Zone screenplay.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Love Utah

Bright in our banner's blue,
Among her sisters true,

She proudly comes to view,
Utah, we love thee!
~ Utah State Song
I love Utah. Some states are prettier (Hawaii), some dumber (Texas), but no state is as dedicated to preserving its historical traditions of ignorance and misogyny than Utah.

Don't Need No Larnin'
Utah leaders believe you need enough education to be able to read the Bible but not so much that you might question the more bizarre Mormon beliefs. One of the stranger is that Mormons can marry dead people (sealing by proxy). Consistent with that dedication to ignorance a Utah legislator has proposed eliminating 12th grade. Can't have Utah's children growing up to become educated elites now, can we?

A Handmaid's Tale
Utah is one signature away from making miscarriages illegal. Since the bill outlaws accidental miscarriages as well as induced miscarriages and since 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage Utah is about to criminalize hundreds of thousands of women. Nothing oppresses a class of people more effectively than make their own biology illegal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Remember What Mercenaries Are

"Military contractor" is really just a euphemism for mercenary. "Mercenary," in turn, is just a euphemism for pirate.

Companies like Blackwater (now Xe) are not motivated by patriotism or duty or honor. They practice war for money and money alone. As long as the United States is the highest bidder we can count on what passes for loyalty in their black hearts. But if drug warlords in Afghanistan can outbid the United States, as is apparently what has happened, then Blackwater mercs have no qualms switching sides for greater profit.

However, given military contractors have been accused of murder, rape, running drugs and guns, and prostitution I think it is safe to say that these mercs don't have any qualms about anything whatsoever.

Mother Jones put it all together a couple of years ago.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Big Brother Is Now

Big Brother Goes to School
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. ~ 1984
A Pennsylvania school district issued laptop webcams to their students. Those webcams could be activated remotely so school officials could watch the students while they were at home and discipline students for inappropriate conduct what at home.
It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized. ~ 1984
Apple Is Their Ad
Remember that Apple ad that was a takeoff on 1984. Well Apple is getting there. The have applied for a patent on a system that would require customers to watch advertising over, say, the iPad. If people don't watch and don't respond correctly proving that they are watching the product would cease working until the ad is properly viewed. The system will punish people who are not sufficiently responsive.
These tests “can be made progressively more aggressive if the user has failed a previous test,” the application says. One option makes the response box smaller and smaller, requiring more concentration to find and banish. Or the system can require that the user press varying keyboard combinations, the current date, or the name of the advertiser upon command, again demonstrating “the presence of an attentive user.” ~ New York Times
Apple Is Watching.

Fight Back Dems!

There is a jobs bill in the Senate and "Democrats are hoping they can get a few Republican votes for cloture." Hoping!? Here's how to do it.
  • Make the cloture vote an event. Democratic senators should wear big buttons that read "Jobs Now!" and "Don't Fiddle, Act!!"
  • Dare, I say DARE, Republicans to vote against Americans having jobs. State it clearly: "A vote against cloture is a vote against jobs."
  • Attack, crucify, anyone voting "No" as hating regular Americans who just want to "Work hard and play by the rules to build a better life."
  • Denounce as whiney ass titty babies (or the politically correct alternative) Republicans who moan about "the process." They want Americans to suffer for their bruised egos.
  • Repeat as necessary.
It's called Playing Hardball. Harry Truman called it Giving Hell. Unfortunately, Harry Reid is so used to being punked he reflexively grabs his ankles when votes are called.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Racist Signs

Following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court in 1954 these billboard sprang up in the South and John Birch Society strongholds like San Diego.
Today, the grandchild of this sign is visible in Wisconsin.
I can't see a blessed difference between them. Can you?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Goldman Sachs and the Law

Let's assume, just for the sake of argument, that Goldman Sachs is a criminal enterprise. Let's assume that they have illegally manipulated markets. Let's assume that they have used secret currency swaps to hide Greek debt. Let's assume that they then shorted Greek debt to profit from their insider knowledge of those secrets. Let's even assume that Goldman Sachs employees are arming themselves like they were Bugsy Siegel.

Let's assume, just for the sake of argument mind you, that Goldman Sachs is a criminal cartel so massive they make the Mafia look like a street corner pot dealer. What law could possible bring them to justice?

In the United States Goldman Sachs owns the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. They have successfully infiltrated the top echelons of government. Quite literally, Goldman Sachs owns the cops on the beat.

How about the European Union? Couldn't they do something? There is talk of banning Goldman from working in Europe. However, the Euro is in danger of collapsing and Goldman might threaten worse if they are banned. Think of it as a horse's head in the bed.

We talk about banks that are To Big To Fail. Goldman Sachs is a bank that is To Big To Control. Of course, this is all just wild speculation. Goldman Sachs is really just a puppy dog, Ben Bernanke tells me so.
Not Goldman Sachs business attire.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Rape of Persephone

Dear old Goldman Sachs is at it again. They are destroying another country's economy, perhaps an entire continent, because, aw heck, it's just so much fun.

As is the Devil's practice, Goldman seduced the Greek government into sin. By devising ways for Greece to hide its national debt Goldman led Greece to its fall and to an economic crisis that may bring down the entire European Union. And Goldman Sachs profited mightily from it.

It's a story as old as Greek mythology. A powerful and lustful god kidnaps and rapes an innocent girl. Who is more powerful, more godlike, in today's world than that ruler of the Underworld, Goldman Sachs?

Statue is The Rape of Persephone by Bernini.

Standard Disclaimer to Goldman Sachs lawyers: My worship of Goldman Sachs' malevolent mastery continues to grow. Forget the altar, I'm going to build an entire temple. Please don't sue me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Snow in Washington

So Republicans are all over the snow in Washington D.C. as proof there is no such thing as global warming.
  • So far there has been only one foot of snow in Toronto all winter. Washington D.C. has had 4.5 feet. The snow has just moved because a warmer Pacific Ocean has shifted the jet stream.
  • The iconic Elfstedentocht, the Super Bowl of Dutch ice skating, is an 11-city, 200 kilometer, one-day race over the Netherland's frozen canals. It has not been run since 1997 because the weather has been too warm and the canals aren't freezing. There is hope that this year there will be enough ice to race.
  • Dogsled races are being canceled in Alaska due to a lack of snow.
  • It is too warm in Vancouver for snow for the Winter Olympics.
When they speak of Global Climate Change they are talking about the entire Earth, not just Sean Hannity's driveway.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Advice for President Obama

Continuing my thesis that all human wisdom can be found in popular music I offer the best advise President Obama will ever get.
It's all right now,
I learned my lesson well.

You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself

~ Ricky Nelson, Garden Party, 1972
The President is going to be accused of being a socialist and terrorist sympathizer no matter what he does so he might as well stop trying to play nice with Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner and get about doing what he thinks is best for the country. He should do what he can through Executive Order and use the "bully pulpit" to pillory, to light up, the Republicans every time they block something in Congress.
Don't take the fire from your eyes
Must make them feel the heat

They build castles underground for the rich and politic elite

~ Men at Work, Underground, 1983
As for the like of Ben Nelson and the handful of congressional Democrats playing both sides, forget about them.
Losing friends
You got nothing to lose,

You don't lose when you lose fake friends

~ Joan Jett, Fake Friends, 1983

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Limits of Cute

I have been staying away from Sarah Palin because I find just about any other topic more entertaining (Root canal, anyone?).

Palin's popularity is based upon her being a MILF (Mother I'd Like to ...engage in sexual intercourse with). She knows it and as her photo spread in Runner's World and her cover on Vogue prove she plays it for all its worth.

An important aspect of MILFdom is being cute in the "insufferably precious" definition of the word. Hence we had The Wink.
You remember The Wink? During the Biden-Palin debate she threw a big old streetwalker come hither wink at the camera. It had the men at the National Review publicly orgasmic. Amazingly, she performed six of those sexual come-ons during the debate. She sprinkles all sorts of cutesy words like "hopey, changey stuff" into her speeches. That's a lot less Winston Churchill and more Jenna Jameson.

Just this last week she went to the cute well again. She was caught using crib notes scribbled on her hand
and that led to lots of jokes about her being an ignorant slut who can't even remember six talking points without cribbing. So, this week while pimping for Texas governor Rick Perry she flashed a "Hi Mom!" scribbled on her palm.

Of course, Palinites are all over how that was the most brilliant move in the history of speech giving since Teddy Roosevelt finished a speech with a bullet lodged in his chest.

We can hope that Sister Sarah has reached the limits of cute. The most recent poll shows 71% believe she is unqualified to be president.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Whatever Happened to Stealthful Military Planning?

O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible. ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The Marines are going to attack the Taliban in Helmand, Afghanistan and they are going around with big brass bands and multiple press conferences announcing it. The are about as invisible as Lindsey Lohan on a Saturday night and about as inaudible as Spinal Tap.

Here's a hint. By the time the Marines get to Helmand the Taliban will have long since faded into the mountains. The Taliban actually know the art of stealth.

The Price of Failure

Headline: Anthem Blue Cross Increases Premiums by 39%. With health care reform now dead health insurance companies are free to squeeze every drop of blood out of their customers victims. Thanks Republicans.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Obama's Small Circle

An oddity of politics is that one has to be open and encompassing, quite literally have a million close friends, in order to get elected. Once elected, the cacophony of all those friends mixes with the complexity of the job to make a totally unbearable mishmash. It doesn't matter if you are a small town councilman or President of the United States, the natural reaction is to try to shut out as much of the noise as possible. Since you can't make the job less complex you start limiting the number of voices you hear.

It is perfectly natural and also incredibly stupid.

Also natural is that your closest aides will encourage you in this self-destructive behavior because they realize that their personal power over you is inversely related to how many people have your ear. If your inner circle is five close advisors and you suddenly decided to increase that circle to 25 then their power diminishes greatly. Your inner circle will naturally fight like rabid animals to keep that circle as small as possible.

Such is the case with President Barack Obama. In my lifetime I don't recall any president who successfully bucked the inertia of their aides to cut them off from their greater network of friends. My gut tells me that Eisenhower and FDR managed it - Ike because he had long experience with headstrong assholes during WWII and Roosevelt because his personality was too strong to be locked away either by polio or advisors. My gut says this but I can't be certain. All the presidents of my lifetime (Clinton, Bush I & II, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, Johnson) ignored their cabinets and allowed access to only a very small circle of advisors.

More recent presidents have had the likes of Rahm Emanuel and Karl Rove. These aides set themselves up as high priests, the only ones allowed direct access to the President. All the others must submit their petitions through the priesthood. It's a bad way to run a life and a worse way to run a country. Still, I understand why it happens. It's human nature.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Tea Party Racism

There are few humans on the face of the Earth more terrified of people with Hispanic surnames than Tom Tancredo. On setting foot in Miami and finding people fluent in Spanish he declared the city "Third World."
It has become a Third World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you’re in the United States of America. You would certainly say you’re in a Third World country. ~ Tom Tancredo
Ironically, his name can be freely translated to mean "extreme belief."

Tancredo's latest venture into the obscene is to call for a revival of Jim Crow Laws to oppress Hispanics. Specifically, he wants a "literacy test before people can vote in this country." Of course, anyone with minimal intelligence (I know that excludes Tancredo) knows that this country used literacy testing for decades to disenfranchise black voters.

Then again, Tancredo's goal is the total disenfranchisement of Hispanic-Americans. In his perfect United States, people with Hispanic surnames would have to pass impossible hurdles to be considered citizens. People born in this country, people who can trace their linage as Americans back several generations, if they have brown skin and Hispanic names are the target of Tancredo's unremitting hatred.

And note. Tancredo is a beloved of the Tea Party crowd.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Future of a Republican America

Can be found today in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is Reagan Country. In 2008, El Paso County gave John McCain a 59%-40% edge. Twenty-two percent of the region believes that Barack Obama was born in Kenya (or the planet Zork). It is 80% white with a lot of those retired military. There are five military bases surrounding Colorado Springs including the Cheyenne Mountain headquarters of Stargate Command. The economy is based on military spending ("War...War...War...Doesn't matter what it's for") and tourism.

And Colorado Springites believe that taxes are the Devil's dues. Last years they rejected by a 2-1 margin a tax increase necessary to prevent a wholesale shutdown of city services. The result is:
  • Citizens are being urged to mow public parks with their own lawn mowers as the city can't afford to.
  • They won't need to mow the grass for long because park irrigation is ending and the city's green spaces will quickly turn brown.
  • Trash collection is ending in the parks too so the long, brown grass won't be visible beneath the piles of garbage.
  • But with the street lights turned out it is going to be hard to find the brown, trash strewn parks.
  • With cuts in police services no one but fools or criminals will be going to those dark parks anyhow.
  • The street repair budget is being zeroed out meaning an economic boon for local tire shops.
  • Museums, rec centers, and swimming pools are all being closed giving tourists no places to go except the aforementioned parks.
This is just the top of a long spiral down. The city relies on sales taxes for most of its revenue and tourists for the sales taxes. What sort of tourists will be attracted to brownscaped parks, shuttered museums, and third-world sized potholes?

Colorado Springs is not some Rust Belt town trying to survive a decades-long depression. It is a well-off ($80,000 median household income) community of Republicans who brag about having the "largest independent gun dealer in Colorado." It is the evangelical mega-church capital of the world (James Dobson and Ted Haggard). The area is chock-a-block with gated communities that don't give a fuck about their neighbors.

The four things (guns, evangelical Christians, Republicans, and gated communities) fit together to form a city that is a blueprint for post-Tea Party America.

Hat tip to Sadly No.