Sunday, February 28, 2010


With all the shit that's wrong with California, I'm thrilled to know our lawmakers are concentrating on what really matters:
The state Assembly passed a resolution Thursday that would establish the first week of March as "Cuss Free Week" throughout the state. If approved by the Senate next week, the measure would take effect immediately.

The resolution includes no enforcement mechanism and is simply meant to promote greater harmony and connectedness, said Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from La Canada Flintridge and co-author of the measure.
I'll try to work a few more swear words into my posts this week because nothing makes me say "what the fuck" more than somebody telling me not to say "what the fuck."

Friday, February 26, 2010


On Monday, Jay Leno will return to NBC's Tonight Show. Yawn! One of the booked guests for the first week is Sarah Palin.

Conan O'Brien has been relegated to Twitter, but it must be noted that after one single tweet, he got six times Leno's following.

Speaking of Conan, Team CoCo has "fixed" the Tonight Show commercial with a new song:

(YouTube video)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Socialized Book Care

At CPAC last week, Glenn Beck encouraged his followers to educate themselves at our nation's socialized book care centers:

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I'm not sure how people can watch Glenn Beck's mental patient impersonation for hours at a time, but apparently some people do, and they take him very seriously. If you caught the recent NYT article on the teabaggers, you probably noticed that Beck and his 9/12 project came up disturbingly often:
Most of the people there had paid only passing attention to national politics in years past. “I voted twice and I failed political science twice,” said Darin Stevens, leader of the Spokane 9/12 Project.
He sounds like a typical teabagger to me along with the 66 year old Mrs. Stout who is taking a Twitter class... I'm derailing a bit here, but I had no idea such a thing was needed or I would have hired myself out as a private Twitter tutor. Moreover, I think the existence of a Twitter class suggests that many people have been left behind as the world progresses without them. They probably feel insecure and rush to catch up, but their efforts include bogus classes and Glenn Beck books... which they'll have to buy at Borders once they figure out that the libraries are a socialist thing.

Anyway, George Packer explained it better. Mrs. Stout represents a certain type of person we've seen throughout US history:
There’s nothing new about Mrs. Stout. She’s a familiar figure in American life, always latent, but coming to the surface in national emergencies. Richard Hofstadter described her mental world in detail. In the seventeen-eighties she lived in Sheffield, Massachusetts, during a period of tight credit and land foreclosures and was sympathetic to the farmers’ uprising known as Shay’s Rebellion that began there. In the eighteen-fifties she was a non-voting constituent of Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. In the eighteen-nineties she was the wife of a Nebraska farmer who joined the People’s Party and voted for William Jennings Bryan and free silver. In the nineteen-thirties desperate poverty drove her to fall for the simple solutions of Huey Long’s left-wing demagoguery, or Father Coughlin’s right-wing demagoguery, which often sounded similar. In the nineteen-fifties she listened avidly to radio personalities like Fulton Lewis, Jr., and Walter Winchell, thought President Eisenhower was a knowing agent of the Communist Party, and was a passionate supporter of Senator Joe McCarthy. In 2001 she knew that the Bush Administration orchestrated 9/11. In 2008 she showed up at Sarah Palin rallies.
And that's the problem. Teabaggers think the answer to their discontent can be found in militias, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Petty Tyrants

"I was spied on by the Lower Merion School District, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

That's what students at Pennsylvania's Harriton High School should be saying after news that webcams on their assigned laptops were covertly activated by school administrators to spy on students.

Spying on students at school is bad enough, but intentionally installing webcam software that can be activated while the student is at home takes the arrogance of a petty tyrant.

You can read the class action complaint here. It alleges that the district was able "to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer."

The district says they only installed the software to track stolen laptops. But I'm skeptical of their intentions and their intelligence. Why did they turn around and stupidly use the captured images to discipline a student for improper behavior in his home? Did anybody in the school district look into wiretapping laws? And did anybody in the school district raise concerns about possible accusations of trafficking in child pornography?

I also wonder what the students are learning from this. Are they growing to accept a surveillance state like the Chinese? Or maybe they're becoming more subversive? Hey kids, a low-tech solution like a scrap of tape or a band-aid is all you need to block the camera.

Or maybe they'll become Luddites? Old-fashioned books never spied on anybody.

I always thought there was something creepy about my own webcam sitting on top of my stack of desk junk. I was so disturbed by that dark glassy lens staring back at me that I put a little Post-It note over the thing until one day the round little eyeball rolled off my desk like the meatball in that old song, and I've left it face-down on the floor to gather dust.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Republicans Say the Darndest Things

But unfortunately, they're not the least bit cute.

First up, Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (R) says disabled children are God's punishment to women who have had abortions: "The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children."

I'm curious where he gets his statistics, but I suspect he pulls them from his butt. That's the same place he gets his superstitious prejudices. And why isn't Sarah Palin taking these monumentally offensive statements as a personal attack? Maybe she's still dumbfounded by the witty response from the Family Guy actress who has Downs Syndrome? Or maybe it's because Palin is a callow and opportunistic careerist who won't dare confront a fellow Republican.

Next up, Iowa Representative Steve King (R) justifies the suicide attack on the IRS: "I don’t know if his grievances were legitimate, I’ve read part of the material. I can tell you I’ve been audited by the IRS and I’ve had the sense of ‘why is the IRS in my kitchen.’ Why do they have their thumb in the middle of my back. … It is intrusive and we can do a better job without them entirely." Hey King, the grieving family of Vernon Hunter (the IRS manager and Vietnam veteran who was killed in the domestic terrorist attack) wants you to know that Joe Stack is not a hero!

Third up, proving that if you harnessed all the brain-power at CPAC, you could maybe boil a cup of water, Eric Wargotz, Maryland’s Republican Senate candidate, says he does not believe Barack Obama was born in the United States. I don't know what grudge Wargotz has against Hawaii.

Lots of other wingnut pleasing garbage was said at CPAC, but this final quote is actually a screen-shot from the Republican subsidiary known as Fox News:

Maybe Fox has concluded that their viewers are illiterate anyway.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Anti-Tax Plane

As tax day approaches, many of us are on edge.

Tragically, a Texas man this morning set his house on fire and then intentionally flew a small airplane into the Austin Echelon Building which was home to IRS offices. The man is believed to be Andrew Joseph Stack. He is presumed dead. Thirteen others were hurt - two critically, and one person is missing.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said there is no reason to believe that terrorism is involved.

You can read Joe Stack's manifesto yourself. As far as manifestos go, I thought it was quite readable though full of contradictions. He's clearly against taxes, but ends with the communist creed.

As these events unfolded, I wasn't sure how the media would pigeonhole Stack, or who would own him or disown him. The man had quite a hodgepodge of political views, and he thought violence was the answer to bad government.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) is already implying that the attack was an example of voter frustration. Put that together with the fact that Stack is white and has an American sounding name, and well... I knew somebody would find a terrorist they could really relate to.

Don't try to tell me Joe Stack isn't a terrorist. He intentionally crashed his plane into a building! He attacked civilians, and his purpose was to make a political statement. That's terrorism.

It's also a weird story about a disturbed man. It won't do our country any good to bicker over which ideology he thought he was fighting for.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Forgot to Send a Card

Yesterday, North Korea celebrated one of the country's most important holidays: the birthday of their supreme leader, Kim Jong Il. The festivities included synchronized swimming.

In case you had any doubt just how frozen in time this despicable regime is, just take a look at this three part Vice Guide to North Korea. I thought such dystopian worlds only existed in novels like 1984 and Brave New World.

North Korea has brought Orwell's fiction into existence: a world of crumbling buildings and a dehumanized populace who are either imprisoned, fearful, or racists dwarfs.

Actually, I didn't want to send a card anyway.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Palins vs. Griffins

(Hulu video)

I'm not sure if it was this catchy little showtune or the subsequent date scene that caused the Palin family to go into their notorious Facebook rapid response mode:
People are asking me to comment on yesterday’s Fox show that felt like another kick in the gut. Bristol was one who asked what I thought of the show that mocked her baby brother, Trig (and/or others with special needs), in an episode yesterday. Instead of answering, I asked her what she thought. Here is her conscientious reply, which is a much more restrained and gracious statement than I want to make about an issue that begs the question, “when is enough, enough?”:

“When you’re the son or daughter of a public figure, you have to develop thick skin. My siblings and I all have that, but insults directed at our youngest brother hurt too much for us to remain silent. People with special needs face challenges that many of us will never confront, and yet they are some of the kindest and most loving people you’ll ever meet. Their lives are difficult enough as it is, so why would anyone want to make their lives more difficult by mocking them? As a culture, shouldn’t we be more compassionate to innocent people – especially those who are less fortunate? Shouldn’t we be willing to say that some things just are not funny? Are there any limits to what some people will do or say in regards to my little brother or others in the special needs community? If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed. All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks. - Bristol Palin”
So they think Family Guy mocked Trig? Let me recap the episode. Chris has a crush on a mentally disabled girl in his math class, and he asks her on a date. They go out together and over dinner the girl tells Chris, "My dad's an accountant, and my mom's the former governor of Alaska." That's the closest thing to a Palin family reference I could find.

The date goes downhill from there. The girl is way too bitchy and demanding for kind-hearted Chris.

It was inevitable that the dysfunctional Palin family would one day clash with the dysfunctional Griffin family, but this episode wasn't even about the Palin family! "My mom's the former governor of Alaska" is a throwaway joke. Maybe we're supposed to interpret that line as the girl making a sarcastic jab or an obvious fib. I never know how to interpret Family Guy's random pop culture references.

In fact, I don't really like Family Guy, but I completely approve of putting disabled characters in cartoons like South Park, for example. Remember Timmy? Whether in a rock band, traveling back in time, training a stunt turkey, or being chased by NAMBLA, he was always right there participating with his able-bodied peers. Most people with disabilities (I am one and I know quite a few others) wish the world was more like that... well, minus the NAMBLA part. My point is that the depiction of the mentally disabled high school student doing all the normal high school things is pleasingly progressive.

I'm tired of Sarah Palin using her son Trig as a political prop to attack all things she perceives as elitist and liberal. When she quit her job as the governor of Alaska, I naively hoped that she would use her celebrity status to advocate for the disabled, but the woman simply has no clue. All we've seen from her are fabrications about death panels and a new Republican form of political correctness.

Where is her outrage over the recent story of TSA screeners forcing a 4-year-old to remove his leg braces and walk through an airport security checkpoint unaided? Against the TSA's own rules! Hey Sarah, these are the real cruelties facing real children with disabilities.

Monday, February 15, 2010


"I was a big supporter of waterboarding." — Dick Cheney on This Week.

So who's keeping score? Dick Cheney has confessed to war crimes on national television at least twice since he left office.

Andrew Sullivan reported on these facts: "There is not a court in the United States or in the world that does not consider waterboarding torture. The Red Cross certainly does, and it's the governing body in international law. It is certainly torture according to the UN Convention on Torture and the Geneva Conventions. The British government, America's closest Western ally, certainly believes it is torture. No legal authority of any type in the US or the world has ever doubted that waterboarding is torture. To have subjected an individual to waterboarding once is torture under US and international law. To subject someone to it 183 times is so categorically torture is it almost absurd to even write this sentence. "

And it's absurd that a former U.S. Vice President would shamelessly boast that he set these war crimes in motion. There must be some kind of good Samaritan law that requires all of us to call the police and report Cheney's confessions to crimes? We are all witnesses, and I suppose that is why I write this while knowing that, for the foreseeable future, nobody will be prosecuted.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Somebody Needs a...

HugEGram? Only give this to your Valentine if he/she 1) enjoys ironic gifts, 2) is turned on by Mickey Mouse hands, and/or 3) you don't have arms:

(YouTube video)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let's Talk About the Weather

"Hey, so much for global warming -- look at all this snow! and so much for global globalness, look how flat it is out there!" — Stephen Colbert on Twitter.
TV's funny people are doing a pretty good job of mocking the moronic global warming deniers who point to snow falling in D.C. and say global warming is a crazy liberal myth:

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However, between jokes and interviews with random celebrities, could somebody in the media please put some scientists on? Because what really needs to be made clear is that the early warning signs of global warming include downpours, heavy snowfalls, and flooding:
An increase in global temperatures will lead to an intensification of the hydrological cycle. This is because an increase in surface air temperature causes an increase in evaporation and generally higher levels of water vapor in the atmosphere. In addition, a warmer atmosphere is capable of holding more water vapor. The excess water vapor will in turn lead to more frequent heavy precipitation when atmospheric instability is sufficient to trigger precipitation events. Intense precipitation can result in flooding, soil erosion, landslides, and damage to structures and crops.

Parallel to the likely increase in heavy precipitation events in winter, increased temperatures will also amplify the drying out of soils and vegetation due to increased evaporation in the summer. This is likely to result in more severe and widespread droughts where and when atmospheric conditions do not favor precipitation (see Droughts and Wildfires).
These predictions are consistent with current U.S. weather phenomena. Notice I said "weather" and not "climate"? Weather is not climate. A single weather event does not tell us much about global climate. Just as the above Daily Show video lampooned the debate, both sides tend to make this same mistake.

But it's no wonder the conversation is muddled. We have energy industry lobbyists writing EPA amendments, astroturf groups funded by ExxonMobil, and some pretty janky logic from global warming deniers.

The deniers must know they won't win the argument on scientific merits, so they prefer a faith-based argument. The dumbest one goes something like "it is the height of hubris and arrogance to say that man's pitiful technology could affect the world."

Luckily, the reality-based community remembers a whole slew of man-made eco-disasters: rainforest destruction, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Chernobyl, the Bhopal pesticide factory leak, the Love Canal toxic landfill, the Pacific garbage patch, herbicidal warfare in Vietnam, the shrinking Aral Sea, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What thinking person could seriously claim we don't impact our environment?

But Republicans and Fox News pundits don't need science and logic. Like rabid Punxsutawney Phils, they stick their heads out, see it's snowing, scream some shit about Al Gore, and then stick their little heads right back up their asses. We can laugh now, but our future generations will suffer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You Say You Want a Revolution

"I'm sorry, but revolutions start with young people, not 65 year old people talking about literacy tests and people who can't say the word 'vote' in English." — Meghan McCain on The View.
That's my favorite quote this week. For one thing, and I hate to say this, the old people have been getting on my nerves lately.

I was having lunch with my mom last week, and out of the blue she tells me that one of her friends, an author of children's books and a Mormon, gave $10,000 of her own money to support Prop 8 -- that's the California ballot initiative that banned gay marriage. I tried to control myself, but my refrained response was basically "how much do you have to hate somebody to spend that much money to stop them from doing something that doesn't harm you in any way? How spiteful do you have to be to use your freedom to take away somebody else's freedom?"

My mom didn't have much of a reply, because I know darn well she voted for Prop 8 just like all of her gray-haired little-old-lady friends, but she did say that maybe that chunk of money would have been better donated to cancer research or something more helpful to everybody...

See, my mom is not totally dumb or cold-hearted, but she's certainly not versed in the subject of civil rights. I wouldn't be surprised if she supports the idea of a voter literacy test. Rachel Maddow recently did a thorough report on the history of such tests. I recommend you take a look at that video, but the major point is that those tests were only given to minorities and the questions were so ridiculously difficult that I'm not even sure a professor of political science could pass the quiz.

Also, those literacy tests are not our ancient history. They are our recent history. They were still being used when my parents were old enough to vote. Old people should know that these tests were discredited because they were racist tools of disenfranchisement.

About a year ago, I heard my dad espousing Ann Coulter's idiotic idea to take away women's right to vote... if you can even call that an "idea." Coulter's argument goes, "if we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president."

And that's the whole idea. Eliminate voters who vote differently than the white landed gentry. Go back to the way it used to be, because things were just so bloody good back then for YOU... as long as YOU weren't black, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, female, gay, or disabled.

It's a resurrection of the intolerant past, and the old people want to call that a revolution.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Late Night Wars

A stack of unused jokes was one of the last artifacts remaining on The Tonight Show set.

I really didn't have much more to say on the topic of NBC's late shift, except now I notice that NBC's effort to erase all things Conan is affecting my own blog. At least one Tonight Show video I had embedded has now "expired," which of course means "deleted."

While this isn't on par with the destruction of the great library of Alexandria, I still think it's lousy of NBC to remove these videos.

One of my Google Gadget thingies is reminding me that tonight is my last chance to watch Jay Leno without a desk in front of him. No thanks. I'll continue not watching Leno just like everybody else.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Palm Reading

Some call it her telepalmer. Others call it her palm pilot. I call Sarah Palin's reliance on tiny talking points scrawled on the palm of her hand simply pathetic.

I know she has trouble keeping facts straight, and I was not surprised that she literally depended on the "first dude" for governing Alaska, but cheat sheets are for dumb high school kids! Did Palin really think she was going to get away with this? That nobody would notice this?

Oddly, her crib notes consisted of her core beliefs -- the revealed phrases were "Energy," "Tax," and "Lift American Spirits" -- but why would she even need these reminders for a fluffy Q&A session at the tea baggers' convention?

Actually, I don't care what her excuse is, because her interview on Fox News Sunday was even more disturbing. Chris Wallace, winner of The Dorkmonger's prestigious Porkpuller Prize for weakest effort in journalism, asked Palin "How hard do you think President Obama would be to defeat in 2012?"
PALIN: It depends on a few things, say he played — I got this from Buchanan — say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decide to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel–which I would like him to do. That changes the dynamics of what we can assume will happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today, Obama would not be elected.

WALLACE: You’re not suggesting that Obama would cynically play the war card?

PALIN: I’m not suggesting that, I’m saying if he did, things would dramatically change if he decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and secure our allies. I think people would shift their thinking a bit.
So Sarah Palin, the loser and the quitter, who is not in the military nor holds any public office, gets Fox air-time to openly discuss which country we should bomb next for political gain?

I get a sick feeling in my gut. As the NIAC blog put it, this is deja-vu all over again. We're hearing a warmonger ratcheting up the rhetoric to attack a country that has not attacked us. Such an attack would actually stir up Iranian nationalism and benefit their hard-line government.

Also, it would kill lots of innocent people including children. Is this the kind of divine intervention you're seeking, Mrs. Mooseburger?

Sarah Palin thinks she's earning her foreign policy cred. Never mind the mere detail that the president cannot declare war -- this is not good policy. This is Bush's old doctrine of preventive war. It will not help us. It will not make us more secure physically or financially. This is the sickest, most morally corrupt form of politics.

I wish I could blow this all off and truly believe that this dangerous dingbat will not be elected president one day. I wish I could believe that the American public is not thirsty for more war. However, a recent poll by the Daily Kos is not reassuring: 53% of self-identified Republicans think Sarah Palin is more qualified than President Obama.

There is, though, one sure-fire way that Obama could lose all my support: he could start taking advice from Sarah Palin.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

An Even-Tempered Apology

I guess 50% calm and 50% furious makes him "even-tempered." This is what the real Rahm Emanual should be saying:

It also goes to show that with a bit of creativity, we can avoid the offensive r-word. Babies? Turncoats? Harpies? Hilarious!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Remember My Name

Glenn Beck is the #1 most loathsome American according to The Beast. Maybe I shouldn't pick on low-hanging fruit for quick laughs? Let me ponder that for 0.3 milliseconds. Nope, I'm still going to pick on him.

His latest tirade is awesomely kooky. It doesn't quite top his "oligarhy" sermon from last year, but it's funny... until you remember that millions of full-grown adults actually take him seriously:

(Media Matters video)

Here's the text so you can read it and weep (for our nation):
BECK: He chose to use his name, Barack, for a reason. To identify, not with America -- you don't take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical? Really? Searching for something to give him any kind of meaning, just as he was searching later in life for religion.
So Beck is engaging in some very nutty speculations, but this is my first question: Didn't we already debate this? Yes! I remember, it was during the 2008 election! Pundits were screaming "Barack Hussein Obama has a funny name," along with much worse accusations. But what was the outcome? Oh, yeah... we elected him! Most Americans got over the foreign sounding name and elected Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States!

But now, Glenn Beck wants to cast suspicion over Obama's name change -- when he went from his nickname "Barry" to his real name Barack during his college years. Never mind that Obama already explained it to Newsweek: "It was not some assertion of my African roots … not a racial assertion. It was much more of an assertion that I was coming of age. An assertion of being comfortable with the fact that I was different and that I didn't need to try to fit in in a certain way."

Now imagine what Glenn Beck would be saying if Barack was still going as "Barry." He'd accuse the President of hiding his heritage, being false and ashamed. It's bad enough Beck and other wingnuts shout Obama's middle name as if they're uncovering something big -- like Monicagate all over again.
"What's in a name? That is what we ask ourselves in childhood when we write the name that we are told is ours." — James Joyce.
I know Republicans are really into these purity tests, but my own name is Norwegian, both my sisters' names are English, and my brothers' are Germanic and Hebrew. What were my Republican parents thinking? But I guess conservatives only find African and Arabic names terrifying.

Or maybe they don't realize that what they assume is American isn't always American. Take the name America for example. It came from the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. That's right. Our country has a foreign name just like our President. Get over it Beck.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Baa Baa Demon Sheep

So here I am blogging about campy sci-fi filmmaking twice in one week, but this time the film comes from Carly Fiorina who is campaigning against Tom Campbell for Barbara Boxer's long-time Senate seat. I'm not certain, but I'm assuming Fiorina wants to be taken seriously with this attack ad:

(YouTube video)

Were you completely mesmerized as that confusing thing spiraled into insanity? My favorite part was when the phallic symbol sprang up with the sheep on it. And then of course it fell, because I guess things fall from high places after being struck by lightening. But I had no idea if I was supposed to cheer or cry?

Of course, the demon sheep eyes will haunt me for many nights, and I might have to see a doctor about my newly discovered ovinophobia. (Doctor, will I ever be able to play Farmville again?)

And why isn't Fiorina's face anywhere in the ad? The last few seconds eerily remind me of a particular Twilight Zone episode. This can't be good.

But they must be serious. There is a web site where you can report any sitings of demon sheep! Be sure to fill out that form a couple of times a day. I have no idea what happens actually... They send out sheep busters? Maybe you're entered to win a DVD of the 2006 film Black Sheep, or maybe you're simply placed on a government list of paranoid people. Let me know.

Meanwhile, I'm going to tell the Crab Island director that he should try his hand at political propaganda ads. If anything, there's money to be made.

By the way, I'll be voting for Tom Campbell because he doesn't insult my intelligence.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Triumph of Our Values

Turns out we don't have to torture and beat terror suspects to get them to cooperate. Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab, aka the failed Underpants Bomber, has been cooperating with authorities and sharing intelligence since last Thursday. The information he is providing has been described as "fresh and actionable."

This news is further evidence that standard law enforcement techniques (even with Miranda Rights!) are much more reliable and productive than torture which can actually impair a person's ability to tell the truth.

Furthermore, when our justice system is respected, we're more likely to get cooperation, like in Abdulmuttalab's case where his family has been answering questions from the FBI:

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

Of course, Republicans think this is a sign of weakness -- a dangerous new direction even -- despite the glaring fact that the Bush Administration handled the Shoe Bomber the exact same way. In fact, since September 11, 2001, there have been 593 indictments on terrorism resolved in civilian courts. Of those cases, 88% resulted in convictions.

But when the Obama Adminstration recognizes that the justice system is a security tool, they're a bunch of pussies... according to Republicans who want to put a halt to everything... especially all that "lawyering up." By the way, I'm so sick of the dismissive phrase "lawyering up." It's dumbing us down.

I'm hoping that we're smart enough to realize that victory means defeating terrorists without damaging our fundamental principles. Republicans just want to play politics.

The Day the Music Died

But February made me shiver,
With every paper I'd deliver,
Bad news on the doorstep...
I couldn't take one more step.
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside,
The day the music died.
American Pie by Don McLean
When I first heard that song as a kid, the words seemed like a dark puzzle to me. I had no idea what it all meant, and yet I was compelled to memorize it. A decade or so later, I came across the famous Usenet annotation and I was finally enlightened.

Recently, that song, out of nowhere, got locked in my head again. Like anything that pops into my brain, I Googled it, and then I was reminded that today, February 3rd, marks the 51st anniversary of The Day the Music Died.

On this day in 1959, a small-plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, killed three legendary American rock and roll musicians: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

And that's where those mysterious lyrics come in. "American Pie" was recorded in 1971 by Don McClean as a tribute to Buddy Holly and a commentary on how rock and roll changed and became less danceable in the years after the deaths of the three young idols. Here is a live performance of the song:

(YouTube video)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Trillion Is the New Billion

The New York Times has a nifty treemap to help us visualize Obama's 2011 budget proposal. I can't seem to hack that app onto my own blog, so you'll have to click that link to get a look at it. Green squares indicate an increase in spending for a function. Orange squares indicate a decrease in spending.

The 2011 budget is only $100 billion more than Bush's final budget. But here's the crazy thing I'm hearing from analysts: Obama's budget includes Iraq and Afghanistan war funding. Bush's budget did not. How the hell did Bush get away with that? Not including funding for wars that he knew would continue for another 5 or 10 years?

Bush funded the wars, as well as the prescription drug program, through $8 trillion in supplementals. These accounting tricks are not subject to the congressional oversight process. The Bush Administration claimed this was necessary because they could not predict the costs of a protracted war on terror. However, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) noted that "both the Korean and the Vietnam Wars were almost entirely financed through the regular appropriations process - not emergency supplementals."

On the campaign trail, Obama said he would end the abuse of supplemental budgets for war, and he is keeping that promise.

Anyway, back to the chart on NYT, did you notice what kind of funding has been decreased? Unemployment insurance programs, education for the disadvantaged, school improvement, Indian education, railroads, mass transit, Corps of Engineers, Federal Housing Administration loan programs, civil and criminal prosecution and representation, and space operations to name a few. It takes a mighty leap of logic to say President Obama is a socialist creating a welfare state.

Looks more like the US is equal parts welfare and warfare. We need to keep our debt in perspective. Some of our allies are in even worse debt traps. It's been going on for a long time. So when Republicans open their mouths to complain about this budget, we must realize it's all choreographed knee-jerking.

Monday, February 01, 2010