Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mistakes I Can Eat 2010

I am feeling jolly. Maybe this Christmas season isn't as fun packed as last year's -- friends are out of work and on tight budgets -- but I still spent time with the people I care about and we stuck to the usual traditions.

But here is a holiday custom you'd think we'd be getting better at: our gingerbread creations. I usually sit down with my mom, my sister and her son, now seven years old, and decorate some pre-cut gingerbread treats. Our 2008 mini gingerbread village was memorable because we substituted broken gingerbread pieces with miniature Hershey bars:

In 2009 we thought gingerbread men would be a little easier -- no assembly required. Plus, you can put a lot of creativity into the little guys, and we did. The green skeleton was a hit:

This year, with 2008 memories fading, we attempted the mini village again. No broken pieces this time!

With my nephew being a little older now, we attempted a set of gingerbread ornaments too. Here is one that I decorated, and well, I had no intentions of making it look like a rotary phone... but oh well.

All in all, they still tasted good!

Merry Christmas everybody! I look forward to blogging in 2011!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Not To Get Me 2010

This post started as a list of ten dorky gifts under $10, but the truth is that I wouldn't want to receive most of this stuff, it's not all under $10, and I couldn't come up with ten things. But certainly giving any of these items to your loved ones will make it a Christmas to remember!

First up is this Buzz Light Year sippycup. My, doesn't he look confident? Maybe it's because he doesn't contain any cadmium... Or...

Next up is How to Live with a Huge Penis: Advice, Meditations, and Wisdom for Men Who Have Too Much. $10.36 from The taboos have all been shattered. Penis books are definitely HOT this year!

If that title is a little too suggestive, you might want to consider this gem: Obscene Interiors available at Dream in Plastic for $8.00. What could be obscene about interior decorating you might ask? Let me quote the publisher: "Artist/Author/Provocateur Justin Jorgensen provides incredible voyeuristic insight into interior decorating through the unlikely prism of online personal ads. The exhibitionistic men who originally appeared in these found images have been turned into anonymous silhouettes so that Jorgensen can critique the much-more-interesting bad decorating taking place in the background."

Enough already. This list is about more than wee-wee themed jokes. How about an inflatable banana protector for that special someone on your list? It's available from a UK company called Fruity Faces and will set you back a couple of British pounds. Honestly, I'm thinking about the children with this one. They need more fiber in their diets!

Also, bacon flavored popcorn for $4.99 from I'm not sure if anybody needs this in their diets, but thanks to Holy Juan's secret Santa who I stole this gift idea from.

Another fine culinary delight courtesy of is bleeding heart gummy candy! The world needs more bleeding hearts.

My final gift idea is for the skeptic on your list. In fact, frequent readers might have noticed how often I use the word "skeptical," so it's appropriate that science-themed ceramic jewelry (approx. price $18 - $38) gets the Dorkmonger gift-giving seal of approval this year.

And remember friends, this holiday season, don't drink and gift.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Our Sputnik Moment

Senator John Kerry was on Meet the Press with a message that all Democrats should be pushing every day in front of every camera:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Kerry pointed out the difference in the economic return of tax cuts versus unemployment insurance. Why hasn't this fact caught on with people? Because it's not being said loud enough.

But the next part about us, the U.S., not even being in the game with solar technology despite the fact that it was invented at Bell Labs 50 years ago is downright frightening. We're not even investing in green tech and China is. Where are our new jobs going to come from? You know, those high-tech, high-paying jobs that many people would like their children to have a shot at one day.

Sorry but the success of the iPad isn't going to fuel our economy.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Dirty Laundry

"In a free society we're supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it." — Ron Paul.
You won't see me quoting Texas Congressman Ron Paul very often, but I agree with him here.

He is of course talking about whistleblower site WikiLeaks, their release last week of 250,000 American diplomatic cables, and the subsequent criminal investigation of the WikiLeaks editor in chief, Julian Assange.

I'm confident the world won't be ending any time soon, but most of the media is acting like Assange is some kind of real life Dr. Evil... or the new Osama bin Laden. But I tend to see Assange as a little less sinister and a little more egotistical, ambitious, and naive. He thinks he's going to crush the American government? Jon Stewart has a message for Assange:
"I think you’re underestimating how cynical Americans are about our government already. We’ve engineered coups in Chile, Iran, Guatemala, et cetera. We sold arms to Iran and then used the money to fund Central American revolutionaries. We sell weapons to our enemy’s enemy, who somehow always then becomes our enemy and forces us to defend ourselves from our own weapons. That happens a lot. In fact, you know what we call that? The number 8."
And you can count me among the cynical Americans. Out of all the leaks I've read about, I already knew some of it, strongly suspected most of it, and was mildly intrigued by a few revelations. I have no idea how these leaks will impact other countries like Russia, but I'm sure they have a lot in common with us. As Anne Applebaum on Slate put it:
"In the absence of a political culture that abhors corruption, in the absence of prosecutors who pursue it, this is just another in a long series of sensational scandals. Berlusconi parties with Putin? So what, he parties with everyone."
The most I hope for is that future politicians might think ahead, just a bit, and consider the possible blowback when all their dirty laundry and egregious acts are leaked. Maybe they'll realize that the best approach is to be honest and transparent? Maybe I'm thinking like a radical again...

These leaks could be healthy for us, or they could be used to justify more censorship, new espionage laws, and more vilification of the truth tellers.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Survivor: Kindergarten

I had almost forgotten about the World's Worst Teacher. Back in 2008, kindergarten teacher Wendy Portillo at Morningside Elementary in Port St. Lucie, Fla., let her students cruelly vote an autistic child out of the class. Who lets kindergartners vote on anything? But as you might expect, the boy, Alex Barton, then 5 years old, was traumatized by the mockery and exclusion.

His mother sued St. Lucie County, and recently reached a $350,000 settlement. No doubt that money will help Alex in his care and education, but I always cringe a little when schools operating on tight budgets have to pay out large sums in lawsuits like these. It ends up hurting everybody except the person who should be hurting...

Portillo was suspended for a mere year, and has now returned to teaching in the same county with her tenure reinstated. This lack of accountability is what really hurts students.

Last night Stephen Colbert interviewed Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the D.C Public Schools. She believes that the problem with America's schools is that there is no organized interest group that represents children:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michelle Rhee
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

When were we ever number one? Well, it wasn't in my lifetime. Rhee points out that in the 1950's, the U.S. was number one in high school graduation rates, rates of going to college, and general proficiency rates. Of course, at that time, most of Europe was still recovering from WWII and rebuilding infrastructure... but it sure made us look good, didn't it?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'm thankful for my family, friends, food, peaceful life, and the internet -- because it brings me stuff like this:

(YouTube video.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Slogan

Who caught a glimpse of the new Fox News slogan on The Simpsons last night?

"Fox News: Not Racists, But #1 With Racists." Okay, so it's not really their new slogan. I don't know how a cartoon airing on Fox gets away with mocking the "news" channel owned by Fox, but maybe that's how they imagine themselves as "fair and balanced." There might be some puppet mastery going on at that network -- which Jon Stewart tried to diagram last week.

Anyway, watch that Simpsons episode if you haven't already. Dick Cheney makes an appearance in Simpsons form and reminds the television viewing public that he's evil and "likes to stack men, naked."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A View to a Screen

I've been waiting 13 years for this.

It was 1997 when a friend and I went to a newly remodeled AMC theater. Got our tickets, found our theater, chose our seats... well... there really wasn't much choice. As a wheelchair user, this was basically my option:

Stadium-style seating was here and AMC clearly didn't give a rat's ass about the "viewing experience" of their disabled customers.

These seating arrangements place most seats higher than the seats immediately in front of them which means each higher row is up one step. Without giving a damn about the part of the ADA that requires wheelchair accessible seats to have a "comparable" line of sight to non-accessible seats, AMC smacked a few wheelchair spaces in the front row. Or, in even worse cases, they placed the accessible locations about three rows back and placed the seats in front at equal height guaranteeing an obstructed view if those seats were taken.

However, during any movie showing on any particular day, the audience avoids those front rows because they're crap:

AMC was 'changing the way the world sees movies' but all I was getting was a pain in the neck with slight nausea.

In 1999, The Justice Department sued AMC for not providing stadium-style seating to individuals who use wheelchairs.

Ahh... I remember 1999. Clinton was president and the economy was good. I also remember that this suit was often misconstrued as the disabled demanding that all seats be made wheelchair accessible or that stadium-style seating be outlawed. That's B.S. Just give me a clear view from a comfortable distance where I can enjoy the show with my friends.

It has always baffled me that AMC completely ignored a demographic that could have been their most loyal customers. Honestly, there's not a whole lot I can do with my friends. "Hey Kristen, you want to go skiing?" Umm no. "Hey Kristen, you want to go bike riding?" Umm no. "Hey Kristen, you want to go bungee jumping?" Umm no. "Hey Kristen, you want to go to the movies?" I'm there!

But not at AMC. I've avoided this lousy chain as much as possible. But it's been a sore spot. I'm disabled 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 in leap years!). Getting a bad seat isn't the same as an able-bodied person occasionally getting a bad seat. At an AMC theater, I (and my companions) will always get bad seats. And I will sit there, without protest, but my blood boils, my anger foments, and my fists clench.

In court documents, AMC admitted that "seats in the front of a movie theater are the “least desirable," and that seating in the rear portion of most theaters provides lines of sight that are the "most favored" and the "best in the house."

I had given up on seeing any progress in this ongoing case, but today, I saw the headline Cinema giant AMC settles Disabilities Act lawsuit with Justice Department. Finally.

But I have to laugh at the AMC spokesperson's PR platitude: "We are happy to settle this lawsuit in a cooperative manner and will be undertaking the required modifications to our theaters in the near future." Well, if it makes you so bloody happy, you could have made the changes 13 years ago.

I wonder how much longer I have to wait for the modifications.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Deciderer

Oh, so it's out? Decision Points by George W. Bush is not only on the shelves but also a best seller on Bush's memoir is described as a "candid and gripping account" of the "critical decisions that shaped his presidency and personal life." That's funny because when I first heard the title, I assumed it would explain who the hell decided to make him president.

But whatever. I don't think I'm going to read it -- not even the free Kindle sample. I've had enough of this guy, so I will settle for scathing reviews, video mashups, and exclusive interviews (if they include a handy transcript I can easily skim):

LAUER: Did you ever ask yourself the question, "What more could I have done," to prevent this from happening?

BUSH: Well, we just didn't have any solid intelligence that gave us a warning on this. We didn't have any clear intelligence that said you know, "Get ready. They're gonna fly airplanes into New York buildings."

Wow. He's still spreading that horseshit that there was just no way he could have known? Despite the fact that he had been presented with 36 Presidential Daily Briefs that year that related to Bin Ladin or al Qaeda, and that 36th one was actually titled 'Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US.' What more did he want? Bin Ladin to personally pencil in the attack date in his day planner?

But wait, there's more crazy:

LAUER: Here's something else from the book: “I could never forget what happened to America that day. I would pour my heart and soul into protecting this country, whatever it took." It took two wars. It took thousands of lives, American lives. Billions of dollars. You could say it taking Guantanamo and Abu Gharib and government eavesdropping and waterboarding. Did it take too much?

BUSH: We didn't have an attack. 3,000 people died on September the 11th and I vowed that I would do my duty to protect the American people.

We didn't have an attack? WTF? The Republicans are trying to rewrite history again and nobody is objecting?

Finally, here is the heart of the interview, but it's no surprise. In fact, it's Bush's most famous talking point -- you know, the one where he claims he kept us safe:

BUSH: We believe America's going to be attacked again. There's all kinds of intelligence comin' in. And-- and-- one of the high value al Qaeda operatives was Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the chief operating officer of al Qaeda… ordered the attack on 9/11. And they say, "He's got information." I said, "Find out what he knows.” And so I said to our team, "Are the techniques legal?" He says, "Yes, they are." And I said, "Use 'em."

LAUER: Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?

BUSH: Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I'm not a lawyer., but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do.

LAUER: You say it's legal. "And the lawyers told me."

BUSH: Yeah.

LAUER: Critics say that you got the Justice Department to give you the legal guidance and the legal memos that you wanted.

BUSH: Well—

LAUER: Tom Kean, who a former Republican co-chair of the 9/11 commission said they got legal opinions they wanted from their own people.

BUSH: He obviously doesn't know. I hope Mr. Kean reads the book. That's why I've written the book. He can, they can draw whatever conclusion they want. But I will tell you this. Using those techniques saved lives. My job is to protect America and I did.

No, torture didn't keep us safe. Bush and Cheney decided to torture for political gain, torture results in false intelligence, and the fact that we torture was used as a powerful recruiting tool for al Qaeda.

Torture is also abhorrent and illegal, despite what Bush's lawyers thought.

But now we have Bush's memoirs which should have been titled "I Approved Waterboarding," and might as well be used as a signed confession if anybody has the balls to prosecute.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Duh: Cigarettes Are Addictive

You know you're old if you ever made an ashtray in elementary school art class. When smoking was commonplace, every kid had a parent or grandparent who would appreciate a misshapen ashtray handcrafted out of clay. And so what if junior was living in a smoke filled house and doing his part to enable the toxic activity?

In 1950 it was estimated that more than half of the United States' population smoked, and smoking was permitted just about everywhere. Hell, they even handed out free cigarettes at medical health meetings!

It took us quite a while to agree that tobacco was bad -- very bad. But the 1965 Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act requiring the famous Surgeon General's Warnings heralded a 40 year decline in smoking. Now, only about 21% of the U.S. adult population smokes. But that decline has leveled off in the last 5 years.

Time to bring out the big guns. The FDA has decided that cigarettes should come wrapped in gruesome medical photos. Check them out for yourself: rotten teeth, gravestones, tracheotomies, body tags, and heart attacks in action. I don't know what to think. They are attention getting for sure. But isn't it already general knowledge that smoking is dangerous? If I were a smoker, I think I'd be so distressed at those grim images that I'd need another smoke!

And what about the coolness in the gruesomeness? I'm afraid the pictures may take on a "collect them all" kind of challenge to the too-hip-to-care crowd, otherwise known as teenagers.

But according to ABC News, "previous studies suggest that graphic health warnings displayed in other countries worked better than text warnings to motivate smokers to quit, and nonsmokers not to start."

I hope they are right. I honestly wish there was something that could convince that remaining 21% to cease smoking and the next generation to never start the nasty habit.
"Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing an estimated 438,000 deaths - or about 1 out of every 5 - each year." — National Cancer Institute.
Three months ago a distant cousin, age 40 and a 2-1/2 pack-a-day smoker, died of throat cancer. Once he was diagnosed, he was given a year to live, but died within a month. Rest in peace, Glenn. I wish I knew you better.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The March of Tyranny

What does the march of tyranny sound like? Left! Right! Left! Right! Left! Right!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Mission Impossible

I always thought the whole "master of disguise" plot device was unrealistic, cheap, and best suited for Scooby Doo mysteries.

But now Canadian authorities are detaining a young Asian man who boarded an Air Canada flight wearing a high-quality head and neck mask which disguised him as an elderly white man. For whatever reason, he decided to take off the disguise mid-flight.

(CNN video.)

Well, there goes one argument for racial profiling. A high-grade silicone mask is all it takes to change your race or age and avert TSA scrutiny. But I'm sure our Homeland Security is already dreaming up countermeasures. Maybe in addition to the new freaky groin and breast pat-downs, TSA can also try to peal off your face!

As many others have said before, all this airport hassle and humiliation is not making us safer. We already took the most important measure which was reinforcing cockpit doors. Passengers are also very alert now and will not let some idiot with a knife commandeer a flight. All this other expensive security theater can be bypassed by anybody who is marginally smart and highly determined.

Speaking of airport humiliation, EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to suspend the deployment of body scanners at US airports, pending an independent review. They allege that the naked scans these machines produce violate the Fourth Amendment, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act.

Yep, our government is no better than a pervert with a web cam.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Election Hangover

The election -- I don't want to talk about it.

But I will say that at least in California we avoided that bored millionaire running for governor, but we didn't pass Prop 19. There was only one funny moment last night that made me smile. A local news reporter was trying to explain why the disappointed Prop 19 supporters weren't allowing the media into their post-election party, and he implied, through hand gestures, that they were all smoking doobies in there.

Funny how they cut that out of their online video.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Scary Names

"Hi, I'm Larry, this is my brother Mohammed, and this is my other brother Mohammed!" — Lost episode of Newhart. Or not.
So Bill Maher is alarmed that "Mohammed" is the most popular name for baby boys in Britain. "And it’s not because of the race," says Maher, "it’s ’cause of the religion. I don’t have to apologize, do I, for not wanting the Western world to be taken over by Islam in 300 years?"

I seem to remember the last time I blogged about what's in a name I was laughing at Glenn Beck for casting suspicion over the name Barack! Remember the whole insinuation that The President was less American or trying to identify with radical Kenyans or whatever because of his name?

Well, I like Bill Maher much more than I like Glenn Beck, but he doesn't get a free pass here. It's not the same issue exactly, but Maher is expressing the same fear that my Republican chain-letter forwarding parents have: that Muslims are out-procreating us white people.

But I'll tell Maher the same thing I tell my parents: start your research at There are some wild population predictions going around that are based on impossible levels of Muslim fertility.

And another thing to consider is that maybe Muslim parents are picking names from a smaller pool of possibilities. So even though the UK is only about 4.6 percent Muslim, if they're all picking the same name, it's going to top the charts.

However, these answers don't tackle the much bigger problem that Beck and Maher (and my parents) seem to have: denying the existence of a moderate Muslim majority and regarding Islam as a problem for the world.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Signs of Sanity

"BREAKING: Comedy Central estimating the attendance at the #rallyforsanity to be somewhere between 1,500 and 4 billion." — Fake_Dispatch on Twitter.

I wish I could have been at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear yesterday, but I live all the way over in California. At least the best "protest" signs are on the internet. Oh, and of course, I was able to watch the rally on Comedy Central.

Which brings me to a rather cynical thought I need to get out of the way: it was sure nice of Viacom to allow this rally to happen. Come on, I doubt anybody is truly naive enough to believe that the rally was a grassroots phenomenon. It was not. And I'm sure that ultimately Viacom will benefit from this ratings boost.

But this doesn't negate the message. On the surface it was a mock debate of sanity vs. fear. However, the real message was largely a criticism of America's "
24-hour-politico-pundit-perpetual panic-conflictinator." Those are Jon Stewart's words not mine. And I doubt any team of Viacom executives were lurking in the room when this rather serious speech criticizing political and media establishments was conceived:

It's hard to believe that anybody can associate that message with a radical far-left agenda. And it's even stranger still that the far left cheers for such a staunchly moderate message.

However, I find it quite reassuring to know that Stewart and Colbert's mild-mannered crowd way outnumbered Beck's: an estimated 215,000 "restoring sanity" versus 87,000 "restoring honor" attendees.

These are "hard times, not end times." If we can all remember that, we'll be okay.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Do not let your mild disappointments with President Obama keep you from voting next week.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Prop on Pot

Here in California, ballot propositions grow like weeds. You may remember our infamous "stop the gays from marrying" prop from 2008. If you love something or hate something, you can try to legalize it, outlaw it, regulate it, or tax it with a proposition. Over 90 were filed with California election officials or proposed in the State Legislature for 2010. Nine will be on the November 2 ballot.

Of course, before I vote, I always do my homework. I study the pros and cons and try to read the actual bill if it's not too daunting. But the one proposition I'm already schooled in is Proposition 19: The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.
Official summary:

Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Maintains current prohibitions against driving while impaired.

Summary of estimated fiscal impact:

Savings of up to several tens of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments on the costs of incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Unknown but potentially major tax, fee, and benefit assessment revenues to state and local government related to the production and sale of marijuana products.
The list of people and organizations endorsing prop 19 is quite diverse, and don't forget about the Facebook billionaire who donated $50,000 in support.

So, with so many voices agreeing with my own pro-legalization views, why do I still feel so anti-establishment? Because marijuana will still be illegal by federal law. And Attorney General Eric Holder doesn't want us to forget that:
We will vigorously enforce the CSA against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law.
I get it. Holder is committed to the enforcement of federal laws. And maybe some people will be impressed that the administration is preemptively acting tough and warning the liberal entrepreneurs to not get brazen when setting up shop. But if he thinks he's going to send in loads more DEA goons to pick up the slack in enforcement, well... I don't think sensational raids and photo-ops will impress anybody.

I'm voting yes on Prop 19. We'll see what happens. Simple possession of marijuana in California is now only a $100 infraction thanks to the governator, but we still need to take a bolder step. Maybe other states will follow? Maybe this ill-conceived war on drugs will finally end.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Buying a Clue

It's time for the Wheel of Fortune host to buy a clue. First let me say I had no idea Pat Sajak had added conservative blogging to his resume. But go read it if you dare. His latest idea is that public employees shouldn't be allowed to vote on the same things as everybody else:
I’m not suggesting that public employees should be denied the right to vote, but that there are certain cases in which their stake in the matter may be too great. Of course we all have a stake in one way or another in most elections, and many of us tend to vote in favor of our own interests. However, if, for example, a ballot initiative appears that might cap the benefits of a certain group of state workers, should those workers be able to vote on the matter?
Yes, Pat, because otherwise you wouldn't have a democracy. And of course, in a democracy, people very often, when given correct information, will vote in their own best interest. Voters have no duty to be impartial.

But let's follow Pat's modest proposal. Let's assume that only people who don't have "great stakes" in an issue can cast a vote. Only young, healthy people could vote on cuts to social security. Only shut-ins could vote on road repairs. Only childless people could vote on education initiatives. Only the unemployed could vote on income tax laws. And certainly nobody related to a politician would be allowed to vote in an election.

Also, we'll have to come up with quite a system of data mining and voter tracking to make sure people only vote on the issues that don't affect them.

Pat, your real problem is that you're a smug, privileged rich man who honestly believes that other smug, privileged rich men are the de-facto standard for freedom and rights. Everybody else is chattel and can be stripped of their rights if it protects your fortune. Buy a clue, Pat.

And while you're at it, get up and turn your own lousy letters.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Libertarian Utopia

Apparently Tennessee is the Libertarian promised land. South Fulton firefighters stood by and watched an Orion County home burn down because the owners had not paid their $75 fire protection subscription fee. The homeowners offered to pay on the spot, but were refused. The family’s three dogs and a cat died.

Mayor David Crocker said, "if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck."

Or we're all out of luck. Because if one house is on fire, the whole neighborhood is at risk. Fires are tricky devils and don't check policies or town hall records before igniting home after home. People who don't pay or can't pay -- for whatever reason -- endanger themselves, their neighbors, and even the firefighters -- it's easier to put out one small house fire than a neighborhood ablaze.

Likewise for highly contagious diseases. We can't protect ourselves piecemeal. We have to protect the entire herd equally.

Call it socialism if you want, but socialized fire care is an idea whose time has come... or came, actually, in the 19th century. The U.S. had private fire companies back then, and that system didn't work for shit. Time was wasted summoning the correct company, or none at all, and fires would spread. The public demanded some kind of central command of fire companies. Of course, I don't think anybody screamed "socialism" back then. It was just good common sense that taxes in a civilized society should go towards services for the public.

But thanks to the teabaggers and Glenn Beck, these matters are now some kind of modern debate in which compassion and the common good are open to ridicule and mockery.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Failed Punk

"My name is James, I work in video activism and journalism. I've been approached by CNN for an interview where I know what their angle is: they want to portray me and my friends as crazies, as non-journalists, as unprofessional and likely as homophobes, racists or bigots of some sort. Abby, who works for Anderson Cooper of CNN, a network notorious for journalistic malpractice, wants to lull me into thinking she's my friend so she can us me to hurt my career.

Instead, I've decided to have a little fun. Instead of giving her a serious interview, I'm going to punk CNN. Abbie has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I'm going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video. This bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she'll get seduced on camera and you'll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath. Please sit back and enjoy the show." [Excerpt from document obtained by CNN.]
I thought we had heard the last of the creepy, conservative costume fetishist, but James O'Keefe is back with a dildo boat and a story that could have been ripped straight from a rejected 80's teen flick script.

His recent undercover video scheme was to "embarrass a CNN correspondent by recording a meeting on hidden cameras aboard a floating "palace of pleasure" and making sexually suggestive comments."

The juvenile lameness of this plan is one thing -- that little twit honestly thinks he can seduce anybody? I puke at the thought.

But the horrific misogyny is beyond belief. A 'fake' kidnapping and rape is a clever little prank in his mind? As Cord Jefferson wrote in his blog:

Being males, they didn’t think about how scared Boudreau might be while stuck alone at sea and surrounded by strange men showing her pornography. Being white, they didn’t consider—as I had—the justice system’s especially rigid intolerance for crimes involving white women and black men. They simply went for it—and it’s no surprise their plans were thwarted by a woman.

A very basic definition of privilege is being able to do things without considering the consequences. And like natural gas, one of privilege's most dangerous qualities is that it's easy to miss, even if it surrounds you. James O’Keefe does what he wants every day, and yet he still works to destroy organizations like ACORN—which tried to empower minority voters—because they’re “cheating,” and it’s not fair.

What would be fair is if the MSM stopped treating O'Keefe as if he has any credibility. I would think that after the revelations about spliced ACORN tapes and the bungled Watergate reenactment everybody would realize that James O'Keefe is truly a failed punk.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yahoo Paranoia

"I'm anti-spending and anti-government," crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. "The welfare state is out of control."

"OK," I say. "And what do you do for a living?"

"Me?" he says proudly. "Oh, I'm a property appraiser. Have been my whole life."

I frown. "Are either of you on Medicare?"

Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!

"Let me get this straight," I say to David. "You've been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?"

"Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."

"But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"

"Yeah," he says, "but I don't make very much."

— From Tea & Crackers: How corporate interests and Republican insiders built the Tea Party monster by Matt Taibbi.

This Rolling Stone article -- I wish I could quote the entire thing -- is a must read. It's not only a lengthy study of the narcissism and delusional thinking of the teabaggers, but also an illumination of the Rand Paul phase of this whole tea party aka GOP thing.

Rand Paul is, of course, the political neophyte son of Republican Congressman Ron Paul. Last May, Rand won the Republican Senatorial primary race in Kentucky. One thing I cannot ignore about this man is his position on the 20-year-old American's with Disabilities Act. He wants to gut it, and as I stated four months ago, "I feel threatened every time some politician feels more empathetic toward the 'free speech' of a business owner versus the basic rights of the disabled. I know it's hard for libertarians to understand, but in 1990, a federal law increased my rights."

And yet at a recent Sarah Palin rally, Matt Taibbi observed, "every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters."

fail owned pwned pictures
(Grandma's new wheelchair under a Tea Party government.)

Do these elderly white people never think about consequences? Not only are they fighting to get functional government programs cut, but they're supporting the people who will take away their basic rights. So even if Janice gets a free scooter from the government, she won't be able to take it anywhere! No ADA means no curb cuts, no ramps, and any theater, restaurant or business can slam the door in her face.

On the other hand, at least they'll find out what it really means to be an oppressed minority.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Booty Snatchers

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." — Carl Sagan.

Wired has a new feature called Tinfoil Tuesdays. Okay, I'll put my hat on.

This week's story is UFOs Neutered Nukes, Officers Claim. Seven retired Air Force officers called a news conference to say they encountered UFOs that rendered U.S. nukes temporarily inoperable during the Cold War.

Obviously, these extraterrestrials are concerned about the survival of the human race and want us to abandon our nuclear arsenals... or so it would seem.

Every generation tries to imagine the motives of other-worldly beings. I recently read The Eerie Silence, and author Paul Davies points out that each generation projects their own fears and priorities onto the invading aliens. H.G Wells popularized the notion that aliens would value real-estate and mineral resources; wealth in Victorian times meant physical stuff. But a century later, we found ourselves in the middle of "the information age," so we reasoned that aliens would place no value on gold and diamonds, but instead their source of wealth would be knowledge.

Unsurprisingly, our benevolent Cold War visitors wanted us to disarm, but I have to wonder what the concerns of year 2010 aliens would be? If they're still worried about nuclear missiles, they might want to invade Iran or North Korea and save us the work. Better yet, use that nuke neutering device to permanently switch off all nukes, not just a handful.

Or maybe a modern alien fable would be about taxes. Imagine the aliens as teabaggers -- scary thought.

Or maybe the alien civilization would be organized as a giant corporation looking to suppress individual freedoms, bribe politicians, and get billion dollar bailouts...

Space aliens should be the least of our worries right now.
"Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering." — Arthur C. Clarke.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend Update

I'm trying to think of something good to say about the month of September, but basically the weather is unbearably hot and I have at least five birthday presents to buy for family and friends. However, September also means new episodes of Saturday Night Live.

I admit I've had a grievance with SNL for about two years now. I thought their portrayal of NY governor David Paterson as a hapless blind buffoon was cheap and beneath them. The fact that some of my favorite cast members participated in the mockery griped me even more. This was my original rant from December 2008:
I usually don't torture myself with morning radio shows. Listening to morning "zoo crews" or whatever they call themselves now is like reading the dumbest YouTube comments but without the "thumbs down" button.

But you've probably guessed why I'm writing this. I did listen to a morning radio show this morning... for a few moments... before I hit the off button.

The topic was Governor David Paterson's comments about this Saturday Night Live Weekend Update skit that mocked his blindness. The first predictable and juvenile joke the deejays made was along the lines of "oh my god, he's blind! He can't even watch the show!" The genius morning hosts, not catching the irony, proceeded to play the the SNL skit for their listeners... on the radio. They played the SNL skit on the radio -- that primitive device without pictures.

Then they went on with some other blunt ignorance scratching their empty skulls pondering why blind people would even rent DVDs or go to the movies.

But I think the attitude that annoys me the most is the idea that nobody should be offended by the SNL piece because "it's just a joke." The reality, however, is that comedy is part of our discourse now more than ever largely due to shows like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. These shows, through humor, change attitudes, and that's truly awesome.

Minorities like the blind and the disabled also try to change attitudes. A spokesperson for Paterson said, "this particular 'Saturday Night Live' skit unfortunately chose to ridicule people with physical disabilities and imply that disabled people are incapable of having jobs with serious responsibilities." People with disabilities struggle every day to create a new consensus that they are capable, smart, and ready to work.

The SNL skit failed because it reinforced the old hindering consensus -- the blind are hapless, clumsy, disoriented. The comedian portraying Paterson repeatedly wandered in front of the camera. The real David Paterson, however, is described as "rarely out of step with his surroundings and seems comfortable in virtually every setting."

I think the best humor is not merely comic relief. The best humor changes the way we view our world, breaks the established order of things, forces you to question your habits and prejudices. Nothing was daring about the SNL skit. It was a lazy reinforcement of the Mr. Magoo stereotype.

I'm sad that Amy Poehler's goodbye message was combined with this lousy humor. I'd like to see the real David Paterson on SNL's Weekend Update. He can at least show them that no matter what way you hold the charts, the economy still looks like crap.
Well, I see they took my advice! On Saturday night, Paterson made a guest appearance on Weekend Update to set the record straight:

And Amy Poehler was there too to say she was sorry. I guess you can call that closure.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rally To Restore Sanity

Leave it to The Daily Show to give us exactly what we need exactly when we need it. I nearly jumped out of my chair (that would be quite a feat for me) when Jon Stewart announced the Rally to Restore Sanity.

And yes, it's an actual Washington D.C. rally to be held on October 30, 2010 and ending around 6pm because people have other things to do. If I could make it, my correctly spelled sign would say "I don't quite agree with what you say, but I don't believe you're Hitler." It's so kind of the people at TDS to design these signs for us.

The video announcing the rally isn't up on the official site yet, but it's something you certainly want to watch. Meanwhile, you can watch the full Bill Clinton interview where Bill talks about how to get the economy going again.

But that rally is going to be cool. Oh, and I bet the geese fly in v-formation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Sweeter Name

The Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the U.S. FDA to rename "high-fructose corn syrup." The new image-enhancing name, if the FDA approves, will be "corn sugar."

As if sugar doesn't have its own image problem. You'd think the corn refiners would be a little more savvy. They should go for a name like "awesome veggie sweetener" or something.

However, while the FDA is open for suggestions, I'd like to propose "subsidized addictive corn syrup."

I'm going to stop short of jumping on the bandwagon proclaiming "if only we could rid ourselves of the evil HFCS then our obesity problems would be gone!" I'm not that simple-minded, and I'm not that good at chemistry either. I can't really sort through the science behind the whole HFCS-vs-sugar debate. There are too many junk studies with inconsistent results.

The politics though are another thing. High-fructose corn syrup, derived from corn, is more economical in the U.S. because corn production is heavily subsidized. The FDA recognized HFCS as safe in 1976. Soft drink makers in the U.S. switched to using HFCS in 1984.

I remember it was around 1985 that I saw the first bucket-sized serving of cola. I naively thought it was family size and honestly wondered how difficult it would be to pour it into smaller cups for serving. Oh well.

It's common now. Any kid can pick up a 64oz serving of liquid candy before school, gulp down 800 calories before the final bell rings, and then stop on the way home for a refill costing less than $1.

It's cheap and full of calories, and the numbers show we're consuming more glucose-fructose mixtures.

(Image via Wikipedia.)

The little downward dip at the end there is promising. Are we wising up? Learning moderation is the key? Is this why the corn refiners want an image change? I don't think the new name is going to change anything.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years Have Come and Gone

Nine years have come and gone since September 11, 2001. I thought things were getting better. I mean, despite the senseless wars, I thought we were losing some of that irrational fear that gripped us in the days following the terrorist attacks.

But now I believe that fear and bigotry were laying dormant in some Americans as we were preoccupied with oil spills and unemployment.

In the last few months we've seen some crazy fear-mongering over the so-called "Ground Zero mosque," which was quickly followed by some idiotic hillbilly pastor organizing "burn a Quran day." I can only conclude that many misguided Americans honestly believe that we are at war with the Islamic faith. It makes me literally sick to see religious intolerance becoming part of our mainstream political discourse.

We are just as irrational as ever.
The story of how one lone idiot, pimping an 18th-century brand of community terrorism, held the media hostage and forced some of this nation's most powerful people to their knees to fitfully beg an end to his wackdoodlery is an extraordinary one.
I suppose that quote from Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post would make one think first of Osama bin Laden, but Linkins is of course referring to the aforementioned hillbilly pastor, Terry Jones.

Terry Jones has certainly found a way to make himself famous. Pat Robertson is surely jealous that some novice nobody trumped him on anti-Muslim rhetoric?

But what I've found most dangerous about the media's elevation of this story is the ability of one little fanatic in the U.S. to engage and enrage fanatics on the other side of the world -- bypassing all statesman, military Generals, and responsible adults. Consequently, the Secretary of Defense had to call this nimrod and tell him to shut up!

And though the Quran burning was canceled, I think the damage is done. Religious fanatics have been provoked into another round of hatred and intolerance. Haven't we learned anything?

President Obama wants us to know that "This is a difficult time for our country. And it's often in such moments that some try to stoke bitterness -- to divide us based on our differences, to blind us to what we have in common. But on this day, we are reminded that at our best, we do not give in to this temptation."

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Gates of Hell

First they said it was a plane crash. Now they're sure it was a high pressure gas line.

I started to see the live news coverage around 6:45pm. A residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California was on fire, and it is still on fire as I type this. Dozens of homes were incinerated tonight. I suppose for some it happened in an instant. I can't speculate on what the death toll will be, but I know it will be bad.

I've been glued to the TV. Our local CBS station has done a commendable job. Not once did I hear the word "terrorism" though I admit it went through my mind. It probably went through everybody's mind. The San Bruno neighborhood is a few miles from the San Francisco International Airport -- so the logical explanation was an aircraft.

But it was a gas line. I've heard some horrific eyewitness reports which I won't go into. I keep thinking about people sitting down for dinner and never knowing what hit them.

When you think about that, it's kind of hard to feel safe anywhere, you know?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Has Our Honor Been Restored Yet?

I simply didn't have the stamina to watch that bizarre Glenn Beck civil rights pantomime over the weekend. I've been out of it for a week, and I'm still under the influence of narcotics (see post below) and my prescription label says, "do not drive, operate heavy machinery, or watch Beck rallies." I'm sure some of you must have seen parts of it though?

So I ask you, did he cry? Did he tell us how much he loves his country? Did the Mormon shock-jock call for some kind of vague Christian revival? Was it self-indulgent? Was it pitiful?

I heard about the geese flying in a v-formation over the reflecting pool. I'm concluding from the many awe-struck replies on this YouTube video that most of Beck's fans flunked science, so let me share the secret: that's the way migrating geese fly! Shh!

And here's another little factoid: interpreting the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds is a pagan practice called augury. I think Beck's crowd reached a new level of confused religiosity.

Anyway, if there was a god who busies himself organizing geese, then those birds would have shat on Beck's head.

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This whole self-anointed messiah act is exhausting. I try not to react to every idiot comment coming from Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, etc., but liberals cannot ignore these people into irrelevance. They preach to the choir and their choir is devout.

A recent article by Matt Taibbi articulated the dangers of ignoring the media hate-fest:
In fact if you follow Fox News and the Limbaugh/Hannity afternoon radio crew, this summer’s blowout has almost seemed like an intentional echo of the notorious Radio Rwanda broadcasts “warning” Hutus that they were about to be attacked and killed by conspiring Tutsis, broadcasts that led to massacres of Tutsis by Hutus acting in “self-defense.” A sample of some of the stuff we’ve seen and heard on the air this year:
  • On July 12, Glenn Beck implied that the Obama government was going to aid the New Black Panther Party in starting a race war, with the ultimate aim of killing white babies. "They want a race war. We must be peaceful people. They are going to poke, and poke, and poke, and our government is going to stand by and let them do it." He also said that "we must take the role of Martin Luther King, because I do not believe that Martin Luther King believed in, 'Kill all white babies.'"
  • CNN contributor and writer Erick Erickson, on the Panther mess: "Republican candidates nationwide should seize on this issue. The Democrats are giving a pass to radicals who advocate killing white kids in the name of racial justice and who try to block voters from the polls."
  • On July 6, the Washington Times columnist J. Christian Adams wrote an editorial insisting that "top [Obama] appointees have allowed and even encouraged race-based enforcement as either tacit or open policy," marking one of what would become many assertions by commentators that the Obama administration was no longer interested in protecting the rights of white people. "The Bush Civil Rights Division was willing to protect all Americans from racial discrimination,” Adams wrote. “During the Obama years, the Holder years, only some Americans will be protected."
  • July 12: Rush Limbaugh says Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder “protect and represent” the New Black Panther party.
  • July 28: Rush says Supreme Court decision on 1070 strips Arizonans of their rights to defend themselves against an “invasion”: "I guess the judge is saying it's not in the public interest for Arizona to try to defend itself from an invasion. I don't know how you look at this with any sort of common sense and come to the ruling this woman came to.” That same day, Rush says this: "Muslim terrorists are going to have a field day in Arizona. You cannot ask them where they're from. You cannot even act like we know where they're from. You cannot ask them for their papers. We can ask you for yours. Not them."
  • July 29: The Washington Times asks “Should Arizona Secede?” and says the Supreme Court "is unilaterally disarming the people of Arizona in the face of a dangerous enemy” with the aim of creating a “socialist superstate.” The paper writes: "The choice is becoming starkly apparent: devolution or dissolution."
  • July 29, Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy continues the Radio Rwanda theme, saying, "If the feds won't protect the people and Governor Brewer can't protect her citizens, what are the people of Arizona supposed to do?"
Taibbi concludes that conservatives really don't want a race war, but driving frustrated/broke white suburbanites into a race-hatred frenzy happens to be good business.

So -- though I'm still unsure what "restoring honor" means -- I'm guessing the restoration is not complete... because then Beck's gig would be up.