Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Viva Steele!

No way could I let this story slip past the Dorkmonger. The "family values" Republican National Committee, headed by Chairman Michael Steele, spent nearly $2000 of donor money at a lesbian bondage-themed strip club in West Hollywood. Apparently, conservative Christians like to conduct business while naked women simulate sex in nets hung from above.

Hmm... but what do I title my blog post? Risque Business? Republinatrix? Balls of Steele? Beating the Party Whip? Oh hell, I can't compete with the Daily Show. Presenting 2 Girls 1 GOP:

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Although it's easy for Democrats to speculate whether Steele will be fired, we all know he's not the true RNC leader. He might make decisions about how to spend their donor money. He might push the party deeper into deficit spending with his lavish ways. But we have seen time and time again that the real leaders of the Republican party are Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Fox News. They decide the agenda and ignite their reactionary base.

The RNC won't fire Steele. They can't. Because in their minds, keeping him around proves that they aren't racists! Besides, to bloggers everywhere, Michael Steele is the gift that keeps on giving. So I say, "Viva Steele!"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Super Size Me

A new "study" claims that over the past 1000 years the size of food portions depicted in "Last Supper" paintings has steadily grown. A computer analysis used 52 images from the 2000 coffee table book "Last Supper." The researchers compared the size of the plates and the food servings on those plates using the apostles' head sizes to calibrate the measurements. Let's hope none of the painters were going through a Caricature Art phase... I'm not being completely facetious here.

As the Got Medieval blog points out, there's plenty of proportional wonkiness in medieval art. Realism wasn't the goal back then. In fact, the size of objects usually conveyed their symbolic importance. Furniture and architecture weren't considered interesting enough, and hands were disproportionately large because they needed to show gestures in order to tell a story.

Anyway, I'm not even sure what we were supposed to conclude from this study, but plenty of reporters have used it as another opportunity to remind us how fat we are.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Learnin' Channel

TLC has officially jumped the shark. Well, they were headed for the jump for a while. Kind of like KFC, their three letter acronym has no meaning now. They haven't had truly educational programming for years, and their current tagline is "life unscripted." In other words, reality TV.

And in case you haven't heard, the latest addition to their lineup is "Sarah Palin's Alaska." Good god. They should have called it Northern Overexposure or The Beverly Snowbillies.

But whatever they call it, you know this puts Sarah Palin appropriately in the same category as Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and that couple with too many kids: pompous, careerist, self promoting, attention whores...

Somebody must have advised Sarah that this would be a lucrative career move. Because I'm confident Mrs. Mooseburger doesn't care about "the story of Alaska," or conservationism. Remember "drill, baby, drill" and her many other anti-environmental stances?

"Sarah Palin's Alaska" will no doubt be another political platform for her violent, stupid, self-righteous babble. Another platform where she can freely use cross-hairs and hunting rhetoric to incite her sicko teabagger followers to do god-knows-what. Hey Sarah, just in case you didn't know, hicks aren't good with subtle imagery:
"The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons — your Big Guns — to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win." — Sarah Palin.
If you can even call that subtle.

I won't be watching "Sarah Palin's Alaska" unless there is an episode where her entire clan is eaten by a pack of wolves.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Screw the Pope

"A Vatican official was asked this week that if allowing priests to marry would solve the problem. He said, 'That’s ridiculous, you can’t marry an eight-year-old.'" — Bill Maher, March 26, 2010.

Now that Pope Benedict XVI has been directly linked to the cover-up of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, we can all act shocked. But is anybody honestly surprised? Anybody following the steady stream of abuse stories over the last decade should have concluded that the church was a bit evil, obviously hypocritical, and a major disgrace.

According to a comprehensive 2004 study of clerical sexual abuse in the United States, 10,667 individuals had made allegations of child sexual abuse between 1950 to 2002. The dioceses was able to substantiate 6,700 of those accusations.

In response, the Holy See argued that sexual abuse is not unique to the Catholic church. Well, that's no defense, and they're kind of missing the point!

The crimes are absolutely despicable. But now, the scandal is over the cover-up, the complicity, and the inexcusable failure to protect children while Catholic bishops only asked one question: "will this damage the church?"

So, in a recently revealed story more predictable than shocking, top Vatican officials -- including the future Pope Benedict -- allowed a priest, Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who molested as many as 200 deaf boys to walk free. Murphy was never put on trial, never defrocked, never disciplined, and instead, allowed to continue his work with children until he died.

In all the macabre fascination and angry hand-wringing over this story, I've only seen one writer attempt to explain the Catholic mindset behind this scandal. Andrew Sullivan explained the religious notion of child rape as a sin rather than a crime. He's not offering excuses, of course, but for the non-religious like me, it's an understandable explanation about why priests are so screwed up over sex:
So they use these children to express themselves sexually. They barely see these children as young and vulnerable human beings, incapable of true consent. Because they have never had a real sexual relationship, have never had to deal with the core issue of human equality and dignity in sex, they don't see the children as victims. Like the tortured gay man, Michael Jackson, they see them as friends. They are even gifted at interacting with them in non-sexual ways. One theme you find in many of these stories is that until these screwed up priests' abuse and molestation is revealed, they often have a great reputation as pastors. As emotionally developed as your average fourteen year old wanting to be loved, they sublimate a lot of their lives into clerical service. But they also act out sexually all the time.
However, I'm not convinced that an end to priestly celibacy will solve the problems of the Catholic church. But if you want to see the Pope "screwed," you can hope that he gets arrested. Some may still call him the "Vicar of Christ," but he is just a man. He does not define what's right and wrong. We do.

However, realistically, I think Pope Benedict will simply resign for his moral failings, and the Catholic church will continue on with business as usual.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No You Can't (Featuring John Boehner)

I saw this brilliant YouTube video on Countdown tonight, and I can't help but think John Boehner's three loud words will be the iconic soundbite representing every rightwinger who has stood in the way of progress. These are the words John Boehner will be remembered for:

(YouTube video)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Prom Has Changed

"Due to the distractions to the educational process," the administration at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi decided to cancel the entire prom rather than allow Constance McMillen to bring her same-sex date to the event.

These redneck school officials have a roundabout way of saying, "we like to exclude people who make us feel uncomfortable."

And though they should be looking out for the safety and well-being of all students, the administration has irresponsibly marked the young woman for retaliation by angry classmates who blame her for the cancellation.

Well, I don't think it's cool, neither does the ACLU, and neither does U.S. District Court Judge Glen Davidson. The federal judge ruled that the school board violated McMillen's rights. However, he did not order the district to reinstate the April 2 prom. So what kind of victory is that?

To add insult to injury, a private dance has been organized by students' parents, but McMillen hasn't been invited to that one either. Well, she should sue them too! I hate to be litigious, but it's really not so hard to have a prom that everybody can attend. Stop judging, don't make a fuss, and the students... well... they're young and hopefully a little cooler than their bigot parents and the bigot school board.

And though the dress pictured above has nothing to do with the story, I couldn't help but wonder if it would go over well at a Mississippi prom.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Abandoning the Debate

In the last four days there have been five separate attacks on Democratic party offices apparently by right wing extremists.

Since the 2008 election, when GOP rally audiences started yelling "kill him" at every mention of Barack Obama, I knew this was coming. These extremists are now abandoning the debate for violence. No doubt, this is terrorism. I'm not surprised, but I'm worried.

Click here for a detailed listing of major terrorist plots and racist rampages that have emerged from the American radical right since the Oklahoma City bombing, and now I'm going to outsource the rest of this blog post to Rachel Maddow:

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Death Tweeter

Gawker has the scoop on one of the dummies who tweeted Obama death threats last night. His name is Jay Martin and he sounds apologetic and slightly less angry than he did yesterday. This is the part of the interview that stood out to me:
GAWKER: So you were speaking out of anger. What prompted your anger I'm guessing the health care vote?
JAY: Yes. And my beliefs on it from what I have researched.
Well, there's the problem. If you research online and only find garbage about death panels and Nazis, you're going to be angry... and misinformed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Almost a Law

Over the past year I've had my doubts, but it finally happened. The House has narrowly approved the healthcare bill.

And although I've watched Schoolhouse Rocks a hundred times, I'm kind of fuzzy on the next step in this process. The Senate still must vote on a reconciliation package. Then comes the part where President Obama signs the bill. Then I guess we celebrate... in 2014, when most of the legislation kicks in. Some of the bill's benefits, though, will be immediate.

Of course, not everybody will be celebrating. The racist, bigoted, xenophobic teabaggers have gone (even more) batshit insane at the top of their lungs this week. I think it's now obvious to everybody (except Fox News) that teabagger anger has nothing to do with healthcare or even taxes. Teabaggers would rather die than live in a country that provides any kind of welfare to blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the disabled or anybody they deem inferior to their ignorant white asses. Makes me embarrassed to be white.

And yet the strangest twist in the last year has to be the confederate flag toting teabaggers equating President Obama to Hitler. Well, maybe it's not strange. Comparing your political rivals to Nazis is completely predictable, but the wingnuts don't know history so well. The Nazis aren't really remembered for healthcare, you know.

I could almost laugh except these paranoid teabaggers did influence the debate... in the worst way possible. Republicans brought no viable alternatives to this piece of legislation because, well, they couldn't be seen making deals with people who wanted to kill grandmothers. What would Rush Limbaugh have said?

But in the end, all that angry shouting proved ineffectual. The bill passed. Teabaggers feel defeated and impotent. Now they are making blatant threats of violence as they become even more unhinged.

Kind of ruins that hopefulness we should all be feeling right now.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Criminal Mastermind Fail

"Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead." - Benjamin Franklin.
And one could keep a secret, if he's not a cocky idiot. Virginia recently executed a killer who sent a prosecutor a taunting, profanity-filled letter admitting to a brutal rape and murder after he assumed that he could not be tried again for the crime after a reversal. In his letter, the killer explained explicit details that the investigators didn't know:
"Since I have already been indicted on first degree murder and the Va. Supreme Court said that I can't be charged with capital murder again, I figured I would tell you the rest of what happened on Jan. 29, 1999, to show you how stupid all of y'all ... are," wrote Powell, who is white.
"I guess I forgot to mention these events when I was being questioned. Ha Ha!" he wrote in 2001. "Do you just hate yourself for being so stupid ... and saving me?"
Note to would-be murderers: please take a moment to understand double jeopardy in your country.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's Ugly Out There

I wish this was a post about the weather, but it's more like a post about the atmosphere... the ugly atmosphere surrounding health care reform:

(YouTube Video)

Gang mentality is a horrible thing to watch, but the ignorant-assed teabaggers have gone too far this time mocking and throwing money at a man sitting on the ground holding a sign saying he has Parkinson's disease. These teabaggers are disgusting and stupid. Do they really think this man is stealing their money? Why don't they get mad at Wall Street and war profiteers instead? And who would take a baby to one of these shoutfests?

I cannot rationalize the behavior in that video and I will not listen to anybody who tries.

Even the people who the narrator commended for "thoughtful, reasoned opinions" were ignorant. One woman was repeating the tired Fox spiel about the bill being jammed down our throats and how nobody really knows what's in the bill. Well, you can read the damn thing online, and since we've been debating all aspects for a year now, I hardly say it was jammed... more like spoon fed in itty-bitty baby bites.

Maybe if the above video goes viral we'll find out who those jerks are. But the cynic in me knows that once those teabaggers are identified, they'll then be glorified by the wingnuts. Joe the Plumber meet Bob the Bigot. That's the way it is today.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Welfare Queens and Cadillacs

This is not what I think of when I think of hunger in America:
"At first, I thought, 'Why should I be on food stamps?'" said Magida, digging into her dinner. "Here I am, this educated person who went to art school..."
Yeah, art school. Part of me wants to be snarky -- I thought art school grads lived off their parents? But I do realize that young, educated, single people are among the poor, and of course, we shouldn't starve the poor.

The American food stamp program has had a few overhauls since it began in 1962. For example, the program no longer uses stamps. Instead it uses a specialized debit-card system. The eligibility requirements have also changed recently. As part of last year's stimulus package, more able-bodied adults without dependents qualify for the program.

And they're using it... maybe not as sustenance but as a supplement. The hipsters are buying Japanese eggplant, mint chutney, fresh turmeric... suddenly I don't feel like much of an elitist. I survive on macaroni and cheese (but the really good kind of macaroni and cheese).

I think this is the type of news story that's going to outrage many talk radio hosts for hour upon bloviating hour. But here's the dilemma I see: If recipients buy gourmet ingredients, the food is viewed as a luxury. If they spend their allotment on Hot Pockets and Pringles, they're part of the obesity epidemic and will likely contribute to higher health care costs down the road. It's a catch-22 for the Millennial generation.

But it might just replace the old Republican story of the Cadillac driving welfare queen.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Is Our Children Learning?

"Hey everybody! It's Leif Erikson Day!" That's how my nephew suddenly interrupted the dinner conversation the other night. Well, the outburst got our attention. It wasn't Leif Erikson Day though, but apparently my nephew had been informed by this Spongebob episode:

(YouTube video)

Now that the six-year-old had everybody's attention, his grandpa asked him if he knew who Leif Erikson was.

"A viking!" my nephew exclaimed!

"And how long ago did he live," grandpa asked.

"Oh, about 100 years ago," the kid said with a thoughtful expression.

"Try about 1000 years ago," cranky grandpa said.

"And his real name was CHARLIE!" my nephew added with quite a bit of confidence.

"That's not even a Nordic name!" Grandpa was now officially arguing with a six-year-old.

I leaned over to my nephew (he is my favorite nephew), and I said, "We can fix that. I'll teach you how to edit Wikipedia."

That's a joke, of course. But I think in Texas, they actually get their history curriculum from Conservapedia. Much like Conservapedia's ill-conceived project to correct the Bible, the Texas Board of Education wants to put a conservative spin on history, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government, justifying McCarthyism, and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

This radical right-wing rewrite is insane, but what I find most frightening is throwing Thomas Jefferson down the memory hole. As you should know, Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and he is generally attributed with the phrase "separation of church and state."

Conservatives are so irked by that phrase that the Texas BOE refused to require that students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others! The "party of God" is probably still upset over some landmark rulings regarding public schools and religion.

But that metaphorical "wall of separation" protects both the church and the government. The founding fathers were a mixture of deists, Christians, and possibly one atheist, but they were all too familiar with the problems of state sponsored religion in Europe.

But the Texas BOE needs an education... and don't even get me started on their views on evolution. Modern science and the principals of democracy are both too complicated for the clowns in charge.

Usually here is where I'd conclude with some witty comparison between the Texas BOE and Spongebob, but I don't want to insult Spongebob.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Theodore C. Olbermann, 1929-2010

Keith Olbermann's father died today.

I guess this won't seem like much of a blog post, but it felt necessary. I have been following Keith's comments about his ailing father, and his reports have always been intertwined with his passionate call for health care reform. I thank Keith for sharing his personal story, because every struggle was a reminder how, even with health insurance, one illness can be a hardship. Without health insurance, it could break a family. Keith was lucky enough to have the resources to take care of his parents, but he never lost sight of the many who can't afford basic care.

Last week, as his father lay unconscious in the hospital, Keith presented a much needed lesson on living wills. Such clarity has been missing in the recent hyperbole over "death panels."

Keith, you have my condolences. Rest in peace Theodore.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I did something I haven't done in a few years: changed my blog layout. Take a quick look if you've been reading by RSS feed.

It's not like I fell out of bed and suddenly had mad web design skills. Nope. Actually, Blogger/BlogSpot finally unleashed their new template designer. It's easy to use, and thankfully, it doesn't overwhelm with a million features. What it does add, though, is very useful.

You can finally pick how many columns you want independent of other layout choices. You can also easily change the widths of columns. This is what my old layout desperately needed. I was constantly resizing videos so they wouldn't break my columns. I guess I can finally say goodbye to my old friend Aspect Ratio Calculator.

I picked a very simple layout. I like simple. I stuck with the same color scheme. My profile icon matches nicely.

You can now pick a background image from iStockphoto. I tried a cool orange bubbly image, and it looked lovely in preview, but when I saved the changes and tested my blog, the scroll lag was awful! The text scrolled while my gadgets and videos lagged behind on the screen. Ick. Well I got rid of that real quick. I went back to the default solid background. I doubt the problem is Blogger's fault. It's more of a web browser limitation. Background images probably work fine on a blog that doesn't have as many embedded videos as The Dorkmonger.

Anyway, I assume most of my readers follow by RSS, but I hope the new design gives a better first impression.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Exhuming McCarthy

"Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" Those are the famous words of Joseph N. Welch in response to Joseph McCarthy at the infamous Army-McCarthy Hearings of 1954.

I'd like to repeat those questions to Liz Cheney and William Kristol. Apparently they think it's good politics to vilify Department of Justice lawyers who have defended alleged terrorists. But it's not good politics. Cheney and Kristol look like a pair of McCarthy-era commie-hunting idiots.

Our entire system of justice is based on both sides having good, strong legal representation. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) has joined a list of distinguished lawyers and policy experts denouncing the recent attack ads:
"I've been a military lawyer for almost 30 years, I represented people as a defense attorney in the military that were charged with some pretty horrific acts, and I gave them my all," said Graham. "This system of justice that we're so proud of in America requires the unpopular to have an advocate and every time a defense lawyer fights to make the government do their job, that defense lawyer has made us all safer."
Ken Starr has also loudly rebuked Cheney and Kristol on this important issue. But the "department of Jihad" slur will still catch on with some people. Those people don't understand justice, but they also lack a conscious, empathy, and imagination. Do you ever imagine yourself on the unpopular side of a court case?

Hey Liz, let me help you picture what could happen in your fantasy world where no lawyer will defend a man who everybody assumes is guilty:

(Image via Crooks and Liars)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Hybrid from Hell

On a California interstate highway yesterday, a Toyota Prius with a "stuck" accelerator hit 94mph before the driver could bring it to a stop with the help of the California Highway Patrol. Good job CHP! The vehicle had traveled 20 miles while the driver struggled to stop it.

I haven't paid much attention to the Prius death trap recall and subsequent congressional hearings. But like everybody, I knew the whole floor mat excuse was an arrogant joke and a frustrating whitewash -- kind of like calling tech support and getting the public relations department.

This Toyota video is a glossy example of PR which should not soothe anybody's fears:

(YouTube video)

Maybe there's some good information in there, but she conveniently forgot the step where you panic and scream, "Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!"

At this point, I don't know why anybody would still want to drive a Prius. These cars are endangering everybody, not just their passengers!

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Splice Job

This is why I read blogs. They relentlessly set the record straight when mainstream news outlets will not.

A few months ago, the MSM and the blogosphere alike were frenzied over the story of the undercover pimp and whore team seemingly getting ill-conceived advice from ACORN on how to setup a brothel. The pimp was played by James O'Keefe, and the whore was played by Hannah Giles, and their infamous tapes were mostly horseshit -- highly doctored and overdubbed horseshit. In fact, O'Keefe had a history of out-of-context edits in his horseshit "documentaries."

But what made the story so sensational was the absurd 70's-era pimp costume. How could low-level ACORN employees be so gullible? Well, The Brad Blog has been uncovering the truth for the last few weeks: O'Keefe never dressed as a pimp in the offices of ACORN. He wore a dress shirt and khaki pants.

Everybody was duped including Congress which temporarily cut funding for ACORN.

Giles wants to call the pimp costume footage b-roll, but the pure fiction was promulgated over and over again for months by the mainstream news outlets and O'Keefe himself.

The result of these lies and video edits was a successful piece of propaganda to discredit and vilify a community organization that helps poor people by advocating for affordable housing, affordable healthcare, higher minimum wages, and better schools.

The New York Times has been particularly bull-headed in their refusal to retract their multiple erroneous reports on the subject. In a letter to a Brad Blog reader, Times' Sr. Editor Greg Brock wrote, "If there is a correction to be made, it seems it would start with Mr. O'Keefe himself. We believe him. Therefore there is nothing for us to correct."

Which leaves me pondering, who should get my coveted Porkpuller Prize for weakest effort in journalism? The New York Times? Or James O'Keefe for his blatant and unethical splice job?

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Pimp My Ride

Health care reform won't be worth crap if it doesn't cover a steampunked chair with vodka and cranberry juice pumps. Seriously, I have to call Kaiser and see if they'll cover this:

(YouTube video)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

RNC Playbook

Remember that Brady Bunch episode where Marcia's boyfriend from a rival school steals Greg's football playbook? Yeah, well, these things happen.

But this time it's the RNC's strategy guide uncovered by Politico, and the plays are cynical and offensive even by Republican standards:

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

So the Republican party officially uses the idiotic extremist posters and slogans of the teabaggers while labeling that part of their base as "reactionary." And they call this "strategy"?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Killer Whale Kills

"Also in the category of obvious but still shocking, an animal called a killer whale killed someone who was trying to play with it. Now, no one knows exactly what enraged the whale, but earlier in the week, it had been thrown off a flight by Southwest Airlines." — Bill Maher.
No doubt it's a terrible way to die, but I understand Bill Maher's nonchalance towards the recent Seaworld whale attack. But here's a disturbing revelation about the story: OSHA warned that the whale would kill, and Seaworld convinced OSHA to rewrite the report!

(CNN video)

I don't know whether to rant about the eroding of the social contract that allows government to govern for us, or the fact that crappy little SEAWORLD has that much influence!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Vulture Culture

Tonight I watched a BBC News report about ruthless American financiers known as "vulture funds" who prey on Liberia's debt. The greed is unfuckingbelievable.

Liberia, as you might know, is an impoverished country on the west coast of Africa. Liberia's economy was devastated after a 1980 military coup which was followed by two decades of civil war which left hundreds of thousands of people dead. The little corner of hell is trying to recover.

But there are these things called "vulture funds" which give real vultures a bad name because instead of carrying off the carcasses of dead animals, they unconscionably rape a helpless country. Here's how:
Liberia received debt relief worth $4bn from the international community in 2007 under the heavily indebted poor countries initiative, including $2bn from private-sector bondholders. Insiders to negotiations allege that two US financiers, Eric Hermann and Michael Straus, allowed other creditors to accept a low payout from Liberia, then quietly transferred their holdings to two other firms, which then sued in Britain for the debt in full.
These firms are Hamsah Investments and Wall Capital Ltd, and the world's poorest people are being asked to award these millionaire (billionaire?) investors. We've seen something vaguely similar in the US -- it's called Wall Street's bailout hustle.

Last Friday, British Parliament voted to bar such vulture funds from using the British courts. Now the president of Liberia is asking the US to do the same because it's the right thing to do. But I'm not sure our politicians will accept any sort of ethical argument to clip the vulture's wings.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Dino and Jesus

Finally, proof that evolution isn't real (with a lot of help from The Wired Conspiracy Generator):
Are you kidding me? Evolution was a total sham! Think about it! Everyone knows that the Flintstones owned a dinosaur. And have you noticed that the liberal blogosphere has started to act very strangely? They obviously don’t want this story getting out. I mean, what would happen if people began asking why do some guys still drag their knuckles? Well, they may be able to fool the sheeple, but the members of Sarah Palin's Facebook group aren't swallowing their story. Look, don’t take it from me; Pat Robertson is convinced as well. But we have to act fast, because those freedom hating scientists could be on PBS. I just wanted you to be aware of this, in case I disappear.