Friday, April 30, 2010

Separation of Oil and State

I'm sure Stephen Colbert wasn't the only one exercising his denial defense mechanisms after learning about the Earth Day oil spill:

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But now none of us can ignore this ecological catastrophe. It's time for us to grow up, see through the oil-industry propaganda, ignore the usual bunch of "drill baby, drill" shouters, and anticipate these inevitable disasters.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out on her show last night, a corporation's permission to drill should be tied to their ability to clean up their messes:
But even as drilling technology has advanced so we can do it in places that we couldn't do it before, it doesn't seem like we bothered to make sure we knew how to clean up in these places if we needed to. Am I being naive to think that the regulatory process, the approval process, should link those two things, that you shouldn't be approved to drill deeper than you know how to clean up?
Sierra Club's Michael Brune responded that, much like separation of church and state, we need to separate oil and state, and that the industry can't regulate itself, and there are "big problems that need to be resolved." Well, tell me something I don't know.

If we were really serious about the environment and energy independence, we'd be moving forward on more renewable energy projects like offshore wind farms rather than pursuing more offshore drilling. But I guess "blow baby, blow" doesn't make much of a bumper sticker.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

He'll Realize the Irony Soon

I happen to be a big fan of the Hitler Downfall parodies on YouTube -- much to the confusion of my Facebook friends who became awkwardly silent when I posted Hitler's Reaction to the Oasis Split. Maybe they don't like Oasis.

But you can't watch that particular parody video now. It's been DMCA'd -- taken down, along with many other Downfall parodies, by a copyright claim from Constantin Film. This is a real shame. There's something fun about watching the crazy-eyed murderous loon having a nervous collapse over modern trifles like balloon boy, Michael Jackson, and MySpace.

But all these parodies are clearly fair use and never should have been removed by YouTube. Luckily, Rocketboom has put together a video explaining how to dispute a YouTube content take down in six easy steps. Hitler will be relieved.

(YouTube video.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Unhappy Meals

"It's a great country, but it's a strange culture. ... This has got to be the only country in the world that could ever come up with a disease like bulimia; gotta be the only country in the world where some people have no food at all, and other people eat a nourishing meal and puke it up intentionally. This is a country where tobacco kills four hundred thousand people a year, so they ban artificial sweeteners! Because a rat died! You know what I mean? This is a place where gun store owners are given a list of stolen credit cards, but not a list of criminals and maniacs! And now, they're thinking about banning toy guns - and they're gonna keep the fucking real ones!" — George Carlin.
I wonder what Carlin would think about this: in Santa Clara County, California, my home-sweet-home, officials recently voted to ban toys and other promotions that restaurants offer with high-calorie children's meals.

So we ban the toys and keep the high-calorie meals? I've watched my nephew eat a Happy Meal, and the toy actually distracts him from eating the crap! Keep the toys!

Anyway, it's not the toys that bring the kids to the fast-food restaurants -- it's the parents. Of course, I don't think parents are irresponsible for getting their kid the occasional treat or quick, hassle-free meal. But we all know it shouldn't be a regular indulgence. It will make you fat.

Maybe a little truth in advertising is needed. Or better yet, no advertising directed at children at all. Apparently, it's psychological warfare with the psychologists on the side of the advertisers. Some psychologists actually lend a hand to marketers by revealing such tidbits as why 3- to 7-year-olds gravitate toward toys that transform themselves into something else and why 8- to 12-year-olds love to collect things.

Maybe parents do need an ally in this battle, but this new law treats one tiny symptom. Kids will still see the advertisements, scream for the toys, and their parents will drive outside the county to get them. Or they'll finally learn to say "no."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Memoirs of the Decider

George W. Bush's memoir, written in crayon I assume, will have the funny title Decision Points. Here's one famous decision point they should have used for the cover:

(Image via TBogg.)

Oh yes, we're going to be reminded once again how Bush made "tough decisions." But I guess nobody ever told him you only get the pat on the back when you make right decisions.

Another book you should probably avoid is Laura Bush's memoir, Spoken from the Heart.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's a Dry Fascism

Arizona’s SB1070 has been rightfully dubbed the "show me your papers" immigration law. The law, which was signed Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer, requires law enforcement to question people about their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion."

Which, of course, raises the question "what the hell is reasonable suspicion?" Besides seeing somebody sneaking over the border, there's not much you can observe that is illegal immigrant behavior... unless you think speaking Spanish is suspicious. Or being brown. Supporters of the law will say you have nothing to worry about, as long as you carry your birth certificate with you.

Are birth certificates some kind of wingnut fetish lately? I'm not sure I want to touch that issue right now.

But what we do know is that many Latino and black Americans see this as a civil rights issue and are mobilizing against this draconian law. That can't be good news for Republicans.

Also, you'd think the common "tough on crime" stance would win over law enforcement officials. Well, more bad news, not this time:
Mr. Ramakrishnan says police departments don’t like SB1070 for two reasons.

One, it distracts police from their energies put into other crime and law and order. Two, immigrants are subsequently less likely to report crimes or serve as witnesses if their legal status is going to be questioned.

“The biggest trend in policing in the past two decades has been community policing in which cops walk the local beat and spend much time gaining the trust of the people,” says Ramakrishnan. “This puts that trend entirely in jeopardy – it is a very big deal for them, indeed.”
And that two decade policing trend has brought a 19 percent drop in the violent crime rate in Arizona! See, the truth is that immigrants do not bring an epidemic of murder and mayhem with them. However, shifting the role of police officers may backfire and reverse this positive change.

And since people seem to enjoy the chalkboard word games of Glenn Beck, let me close with one of my own: you can't spell "Arizona" without "Nazi."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How to Wuss Out

Angry celebrities, violent ginger kids, and Mecha Streisand are about to destroy South Park and all anyone wants to know is, "Who is Eric Cartman's father?" That's how Comedy Central hyped South Park's two-part 200th show celebration.

But when I tuned in last night to watch the conclusion of this monumental event, all I saw was a repeat of "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs."

Well, let's backup to last week's part one, which aired uncensored. The plot was truly aimed at the die-hard fans. Every celebrity who the people of South Park ever ridiculed over the last 14 seasons were coming together for a class action lawsuit (led by fudge-packer Tom Cruise).

Of course, any South Park retrospective has to incorporate The Super Best Friends, an episode which featured major religious figures including Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Joseph Smith, Krishna, Lao Tzu, Muhammad and Sea Man defending the world against evil. This cartoon alliance didn't cause a stir back when it originally aired in July 2001.

But sometime after the attacks on September 11, 2001, an era of media self-censorship began, and the myth of the prohibition on the pictorial representation of the Prophet Mohammad became an extremist rallying point:
Even a tradition as seemingly deeply set and unyielding as the one at the heart of the controversy over the Danish cartoons – the prohibition on the pictorial representation of the Prophet Mohammed – is in truth neither deeply set nor unyielding. Far from Islam having always forbidden representations of the Prophet, it was common to portray him until comparatively recently. The prohibition against such depictions only emerged in the 17th century. Even over the past 400 years, a number of Islamic, especially Shiite, traditions have accepted the pictorial representation of Muhammed. The Edinburgh University Library in Scotland, the Bibliotheque National in Paris, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, all contain dozens of Persian, Ottoman and Afghan manuscripts depicting the Prophet. His face can be seen in many mosques too – even in Iran. A seventeenth-century mural on the Iman Zahdah Chah Zaid Mosque in the Iranian town of Isfahan, for instance, shows a Mohammed whose facial features are clearly visible.

Even today, few Muslims have a problem in seeing the Prophet's face. Shortly after Jyllands Posten published the cartoons, the Egyptian newspaper Al Fagr reprinted them. They were accompanied by a critical commentary, but Al Fagr did not think it necessary to blank out Mohammad's face, and faced no opprobrium for not doing so. Egypt's religious and political authorities, even as they were demanding an apology from the Danish Prime Minister, raised no objections to Al Fagr's full frontal photos.
The Danish cartoons they're referring to are the 12 editorial cartoons, most depicting Mohammad, which resulted in widespread demonstrations, arson, and death threats in 2005.

So, rather predictably, a radical Islamic site issued threats (and denied they were threats) before last night's episode of South Park could air:
We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.
Theo Van Gogh was the Dutch film director who was murdered by an Islamic extremist for making a documentary critical of the treatment of women in Islam.

Now, Matt and Trey, the producers of South Park, are smart people, and clearly they planned for a bit more controversy than usual. They knew they could get away with showing Buddha snorting coke and Jesus viewing porn, but simply showing Mohammad would be the touchy issue. So part of episode 200 dealt with the South Park kids figuring out how to disguise Mohammad. One hilarious ruse involved Mohammad wearing a bear suit.

Keep in mind, they never even utilized the original cartoon version of Mohammad from 2001. Comedy Central and Viacom were probably too wussy for that, but Matt and Trey were making a larger point -- a point about fear and intimidation.

So what did Comedy Central and Viacom do? They succumbed to fear and intimidation. They bleeped out every mention of the prophet -- and then refused to repeat the episode anyway. That's the way to totally wuss out.

It's easy to think it was all some kind of meta-joke, but Matt and Trey issued a statement regarding this ridiculous censorship:
In the 14 years we've been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn't stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn't some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn't mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we'll see what happens to it.
Comedy Central airs some of my favorite shows, but I don't respect this bowing to Islamic extremists. Nobody wants a repeat of the 2005 violence, but this paranoia puts our art, our entertainment, and our culture in the hands of a few religious nuts. There's nothing funny about that.

If the media keeps wussing out like this, then (I hate to drag out this old line) "the terrorists have already won."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tiger Chooses Nickelback Over Family

Hello there, I'm Mike. I'm a guest blogger today.

So, I saw this headline. Tiger Chooses Nickelback Over Family, which in turn really made me feel down. This is addressing something to do with a golf guy named Tiger, etc. However, what makes me sad is the fact that anyone could choose Nickleback over their family. I couldn't choose Nickleback over a slap in the face. But then I had a bit more think about it, and looked at the title again, and thought it could make a really heart warming story. Such as...

Tiger Chooses Nickelback Over Family

A starving Tiger in a local Canadian zoo broke free today. When forced with the option of eating his cubs to survive, or a mediocre rock band, he went with eating the band. After consuming the band, Tiger spoke about the incident.

"Well I was starving, and I couldn't bear the thought of eating my kids. I had heard quite a bit about Nickleback, and thought it may be a fulfilling endeavor. I found out after eating the band that I was left a bit empty. Instead of being a full satisfying meal, I found myself eating a bland, tepid, rather generic run of the mill slop. It's like someone took a pile of grey matter, and sprinkled some black and gold flakes on it, to make it look more impressive. In the end, it was completely unsatisfying."

Reading that story following the headline makes me feel a bit better.

- Mike

Monday, April 19, 2010

On the Anniversary of OKC

(The Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, photographed by Dustin M. Ramsey.)

Fifteen years have passed since the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City which claimed the lives of 168 men, women and children. Nine years have passed since Timothy McVeigh was executed for the crime.

Tonight I watched The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist on MSNBC. I wasn't sure what to expect. The "state-of-the-art computer re-creations" were annoying and creepy, but the documentary as a whole was a rather dry textbook time line of the events plus stories of the survivors.

As the special was advertised in the previous week, I was a little worried that MSNBC might inadvertently glorify the anti-government fanatic McVeigh -- that's the last thing this country needs right now -- but I should have realized that Rachel Maddow, as the narrator, would never allow such "hatriot" propaganda. Instead, the tapes revealed McVeigh as a killer without much insight, compassion, or charisma. Years ago I used to wonder if McVeigh's dreams were haunted by the children he killed, but all he had to say to their surviving families was "get over it."

Besides that shocking callousness, I didn't learn anything new about McVeigh or his motivation. He said some stuff about Waco and Ruby Ridge. These catalysts have been discussed many times over the years, and they're probably the closest thing to an explanation that we're ever going to get. Yet I could never understand how McVeigh could be so damn vengeful over those tragic deaths and yet not give a shit about the children he murdered.

And here we are again all these years later. This time we're faced with new fringe hate groups and their incoherent threats of violence over all the things they're misinformed about. Of course, one of those things is health care. They're angry because people less fortunate than themselves might get health care. Yep, the callousness is still there along with the violent rhetoric.

Today former President Bill Clinton wrote about the lessons learned from Oklahoma City:
Americans have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any other nation in the world, including the capacity to criticize their government and their elected officials. But we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way. Our founders constructed a system of government so that reason could prevail over fear. Oklahoma City proved once again that without the law there is no freedom.
Well, only some of us learned those lessons, and we're the same ones who remember just how dangerous an angry few can be.

The inscription that accompanies the Survivor Tree reads, "The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us."

Mount What's-Its-Name

(More pictures available at The Boston Globe.)

Eyjafjallajökull. Legend has it that the erupting Icelandic volcano will only cease its wrath of lava, ash, lightning, and European flight delays when somebody pronounces its name correctly.

I wonder if Bobby Jindal still giggles at the thought of volcano monitoring?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Peek-a-Boo High

Here's a little update on those infamous Pennsylvania school officials who really should have known better.

As you might recall, earlier this year, students at Pennsylvania's Harriton High filed a class action complaint alleging that Lower Merion School District administrators were spying on students in their homes by activating the webcams on school-issued laptops. Stryde Hax's blog has thorough technical details on the software, hardware, tools and tricks used in this digital panopticon.

But more details are emerging as key players are brought in for deposition in the federal invasion-of-privacy lawsuit brought by Blake Robbins, a Harriton High School sophomore.

The school had originally stated that they only used the built-in webcams to secretly photograph students 42 times. Yeah, only 42 times! But if that wasn't enough to make you scream, try this: there were actually 42 instances where the school remotely enabled intense surveillance which activated tracking software which would snap a new picture every 15 minutes until the laptop was turned off.

As any intelligent person would guess, this surveillance resulted in thousands of pictures of students at home -- sometimes catching the teens partially undressed. Did these district employees think? Did they realize this was wrong? Did they realize this was an invasion of privacy? Did they realize that photographing minors in various states of undress was likely illegal? Well, apparently they thought their new super-powers were pretty cool:
Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into "a little LMSD soap opera," a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

"I know, I love it," she is quoted as having replied.
If Carol Cafiero wasn't constitutionally savvy back then, she certainly is now. She's invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to every question at the deposition. Of course, in her unfortunate position, as one of only two school district officials authorized to remotely activate the cameras, this is probably the smart thing to do. Too bad she became smart too late.

I hope LMSD officials eventually face a judge and jury with zero tolerance for wiretapping.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Party Ghost

And now it's time for a story. It's kind of like "The Night Before Christmas," but for tax day. From the creative mind of P.J. O'Rourke:
He stood on the stage bathing in the adulation of the assembled dignitaries. The Nobel Prize! At last, his body of work had been given the honor it deserved. As the standing ovation went on he thought of his critics. He knew they were watching. Did this great hall look like the rubber room where they said he’d spend the rest of his days bouncing? Ha! His struggle had been so worth the effort…

Glenn Beck was awakened from his dream of adequacy by the sound of a man clearing his throat. He sat up and, as his eyes adjusted, saw a glowing white Colonial ghost standing beside his bed.

“Who are you?”

“My friends call me Ben. We have been watching you for some time, and see how loyal you are to our cause. I have been sent to grant you the privilege of attending the real Boston Tea Party, that you may then be able to advance our cause with more familiarity and fervor. We haven’t much time. Touch my sleeve and join the cause.”

I hope this story becomes a tradition.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Teabagg'n Again

A year ago I wrote my first post about teabaggers. It was also the first post where I used "LOL," which I hope was forgivable given the absurdity of the carnival-like protests. But I guess I was assuming the teabaggers and their "parties" would have faded into history by now. I assumed these people would have moved on after getting their tax cuts, but I overestimated their logic skills.

However, many of us cynics realized the "tea party express" was a marketing gimmick and money making tool of the Republican establishment, and well -- yeah, we were right:

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

But what was not outwardly clear was that teabaggers are, according to a new New York Times/CBS News poll, "wealthier and more well-educated than the general public." In other words, they are elitists looking for wealth-care and not health-care.

Do I believe it? Maybe. It actually fits with the few teabagger types I know: white, married, own a McMansion with an SUV parked out front. They went to college and earned some kind of degree but never cared to be educated outside their narrow vocational focus. They go to tanning salons often, and wouldn't have gotten through college if I didn't help them with their math classes. (Ok, I admit I'm thinking of one friend in particular.)

The poll results also show that their beliefs are very different than non-teabaggers: Only 26% of all responders think Sarah Palin would be an effective President, but 40% of teabaggers do. 27% of all responders have a favorable view of George W. Bush, but 57% of teabaggers like him. Only 18% of all responders have a favorable view of Glenn Beck. Unsurprisingly, 59% of teabaggers like him.

The numbers also show teabaggers have very conservative views on social and economic issues. But here's the funniest statistic: 78% of self-identified tea party supporters have never attended a tea party rally or meeting nor donated to the cause. So really, that 78% is just the same GOP we've always known.

And what about the angry ones attending the rallies with their hilariously misspelled signs? They must be the unemployed and undereducated portion of this sham of a "movement." Which makes sense -- conservative lawyers, bankers, and executives always leave the dirty work to the peasants.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Loose Nukes

"We have to recognize that terrorists networks have relationships with terrorist states that have weapons of mass destruction, and that they inevitably are going to get their hands on them and they would not hesitate one minute to use them." — Donald Rumsfeld, 2002.
So I've been kind of hoping for the last eight years that somebody would do something about the loose nuke problem. I'm glad it's finally reached the top of the todo list.

At the unprecedented 47-nation nuclear security summit held earlier this week in Washington D.C., world leaders pledged to secure all vulnerable nuclear material within four years. Russia and the US also signed an agreement to dispose of 68 tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. Incidentally, Russian President Medvedev made some sly comments about how nice it was to work with a US president who "thinks when he speaks."

Sam Nunn, a former senator and former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was quick to defend President Obama’s weapons reduction strategy:
"What is the mission that you can’t accomplish with 1,500 warheads?" Nunn asked with a derisive laugh in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast. "There was a recent report in Scientific American that 100 warheads used by India and Pakistan against each other would kill 20 million people immediately, and would cause so much blockage of the sun with the debris in the atmosphere that over a period of several years, there would be as many as a billion people starving to death."
Of course. But wait. Why would anybody have to defend this policy? I mean, who would be against a revived commitment to nonproliferation? Well, round-up the usual bunch of hyperventilating idiots: Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin.

Daily Kos has already tackled the list of nuke policy myths you're going to hear, and The Federation of American Scientists has written a careful report on the Nuclear Posture Review. Unsurprisingly, it's a bit more complicated than Sarah Palin's dimwitted playground metaphor, yet not impossible for the average American to understand.

Some facts: the new treaty does not limit US missile defense systems, the US will still consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstance, and President Obama does indeed have support of top military brass.

Finally, reducing our arsenal does not make us more vulnerable.

However, if you're one of the frivolous few who LOVE nuclear warfare, then relax. Nuclear warheads will be around for a long, long time, and who knows? One day McCain's dream may come true and we'll bomb Iran.

The Doomsday Clock is still ticking.

Monday, April 12, 2010

She's Not Even Acting

I posted about one former SNL cast member today, so I might as well post about another. Except this one was never funny or talented, and every time she played the part of the dingbat, she wasn't even acting:

(YouTube video)

That's Victoria Jackson shouting "whether he has a birth certificate or not, he's not an American!" Okay Victoria, don't let the facts of reality land get in the way of your little tea party.

Recently Jackson was a guest on Fox News in a segment discussing how the MSM has unfairly discredited the tea party movement. Well, Jackson disproved that theory by discrediting the TP movement without any help at all. It would be funny if it wasn't so stupid and dangerous.

That's So Palin

It was great seeing Tina Fey hosting Saturday Night Live again. She had a lot of catching up to do -- with Sarah Palin jokes:

Friday, April 09, 2010

Happy Appomattox Day

If SpongeBob SquarePants has taught me anything, it's that I can celebrate any holiday I want.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) has gone a step further though. With his authority he has proclaimed April to be Confederate History Month in the state of Virginia. But somehow, in the excitement of the festivities, he forgot to mention slavery. Actually, he didn't forget, but he didn't think slavery was "significant" enough. Huh?

It's a grave distortion of the past to recognize Confederate history without mentioning slavery. Let's just make this clear: the American Civil War was about slavery. Just take a moment to read the Declarations of Secession of Southern States:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”

South Carolina:

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.


The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic.


Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy.
Yes Virginia, the American Civil War was about slavery. Don't let Gov. McDonnell and his white supremacist friends tell you it was about independence, taxes, or the other common canard, "states' rights." Confederates supported fugitive slave laws requiring the federal government to assist in the capture and return of runaway slaves in all states. To hell with states' rights, right?

The Confederate States of America was formed to defend an ideology and an economy built around owning black people. And as you all know, the Confederate States lost.
The Appomattox Campaign was a series of battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865, in Virginia that culminated in the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and the effective end of the American Civil War.
Hey McDonnell, I would be fine letting the events of 145 years ago remain in the past, but you guys keep bringing them up as a point of pride. How can you be proud of what the Confederacy stood for? Whether you're honestly proud or not, it's pathetically clear that you are pandering to a racist constituency.

So let me just say, "I'm glad your side lost." Oh, and happy Appomattox Day. The Union kicked your ass.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Pixel Invasion

It won't be Scrabble that brings the apocalypse. It will be the attack of the pixels!

(YouTube video)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Game Changer

Most of my friends know I'm a formidable Scrabble opponent. One of my friends used to take me out for pizza every week bringing along his travel Scrabble board hoping to beat me. After many months he finally succeeded. Then his handy Scrabble set was conveniently "lost" and I couldn't challenge him to a rematch. Until, of course, Facebook came along with its temperamental Scrabble app.

But this blog post isn't about glitchy Facebook apps. It's about the rules of the 58 year-old board game. Last night Stephen Colbert reported that the Scrabble rules are changing to allow proper names including people, places, companies and brands. This is a sure sign of the apocalypse:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Scrabble Allows Proper Names
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

Oh sure, on occasion I've wished I could use Pokemon names... I have the letters for "Zubat" more often than you would imagine... but doesn't this completely change the game? Is nothing sacred? Must we dumb down everything?

Well, apparently the rules are only changing if you buy the newer, focus-group tested, UK only variation, Scrabble Trickster.

Warning to my friends: don't bring that Trickster board within 30 feet of me.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Second Class Prom

I usually don't believe conspiracy theories. But then there's this:
To avoid Constance McMillen bringing a female date to her prom, the teen was sent to a "fake prom" while the rest of her class partied at a secret location at an event organized by parents.

McMillen tells The Advocate that a parent-organized prom happened behind her back — she and her date were sent to a Friday night event at a country club in Fulton, Miss., that attracted only five other students. Her school principal and teachers served as chaperones, but clearly there wasn't much to keep an eye on.
Wow. A whole lot of hate and hard work went into planning two proms while keeping one a secret from a select group of outcasts. The conspirators are a sad, spiteful bunch of parents, teachers, and students. And I take back what I previously said about maybe the students are cooler than their bigot parents. They're not. Maybe one day they'll grow up and understand the hurt they have caused.

However, I think my intuition was accurate when I commented that the Mississippi school maliciously wanted to exclude everybody who made them feel uncomfortable:
Two students with learning difficulties were among the seven people at the country club event, McMillen recalls. "They had the time of their lives," McMillen says. "That's the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn't have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom]."
I wonder who the other second class students were? Atheists? Jews? Salsa dancers? Check out the pictures of the "real" prom. No minorities or disabled students present:

That's the clean-cut look of small-town bigotry... but wait? Two chicks kissing? Isn't that a "distraction to the educational process"? I guess it's all cool as long as they weren't... you know... on a date!

Itawamba County sounds like a real shithole. I hope Constance gets out of there quick.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Northern Overexposure

How's that fair and balancey thing workin' out for you, Sarah?

Not too well apparently. Sarah Palin's Fox News show, with the gag-inducing title "Real American Stories," debuted on April Fool's day appropriately enough. The ratings though were the real punchline:
Sarah Palin’s much-hyped LL Cool J-less Fox News special last night didn’t bring in the huge ratings some (ok, we) predicted. Greta Van Susteren’s On The Record which normally airs at 10pmET beat the program the previous three nights in the A25-54 demographic and two out of three nights in total viewers. The show also lost viewers from the first quarter hour to the final quarter hour by double digits.
"Real American Stories" delivered a little over 2 million total viewers. Maybe America isn't that into her any more? Recently David Frum put audience numbers in perspective. Though he was referring to Rush Limbaugh, I think this applies to Sarah Palin too:

(YouTube video)

A daily audience of 3, 4, maybe 5 million people maybe qualifies you to be the Green Party candidate for President. Ha!

Which brings me to the topic of Palin's other show -- the one on TLC. The people at Defenders of Wildlife think giving Palin a nature show is thoroughly insulting. They are urging Discovery Communications to drop "Sarah Palin's Alaska." I'm hoping that when those ratings come in, they won't need much more urging.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Peeps

The Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest is the best Easter tradition going. This year's entries didn't disappoint. Be sure to check them out, but here is one of my favorites:

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Devoted

Across the US, on this Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the devoted gathered for the... iPad.

You've probably noticed the amount of free press Apple got this week. I'm certainly no Apple fanboy, but I am a gadget lover. However, if I can't easily blog on their shiny new tech toy, and I can't play the Sims, and I can't carry the jumbo thing in my purse, and if I can buy a netbook for cheaper, and I can multitask but the iPad cannot, then please tell me what's the point? Other than to look hip? Maybe I'm not cool enough to appreciate this thing? Maybe everybody else is feigning enthusiasm?

One of my brothers was over for a visit today, and he wasn't understanding the hype either. My parents reminded us -- in one of those stories that starts out "back when I was a kid..." -- that they weren't allowed to use ballpoint pens in school. The "tech" was considered unreliable and prone to skipping. I'm sure they thought fountain pens were here to stay.

My brother and I, of course, laughed at the old people. But then my brother asked me when was the last time I had even seen a television ad for a ballpoint pen. I had to think and think. I finally came up with the kind of funny Pilot Pen baby commercial from just a few years ago. But certainly, you don't see pen commercials like you did in the 70's and 80's. Here's a good one from the 1950's:

(YouTube video)

They certainly presented it as a finely crafted instrument, but I wonder if anybody lined up overnight to buy one?

Oh, and if anybody would like to buy me an iPad, please disregard my criticisms, and put it in the mail. There's always a chance I can be converted.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Don't Take the Bait

It's THAT day again. You can't trust anything you read. Not that I do anyway. Here are some stories I read with skepticism today: Island Nation to Adopt Na’vi Language, "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" Tour to Compete with Conan O'Brien, CEOs See Pay Fall Again, and Woman Convicted and Forced to Wear Ankle Monitor For Selling a Single Goldfish.

I'm pretty sure two of those stories are legitimate, but it's hard to tell. Keep in mind that last story actually involved a sting operation where the authorities sent in a 14-year-old boy to buy a goldfish from a pet store.

Next year, somebody needs to remind me that this day is coming.