Thursday, November 25, 2010


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

(YouTube video.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Slogan

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

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

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A View to a Screen

I've been waiting 13 years for this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Deciderer

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

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

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

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

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

But wait, there's more crazy:

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

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

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

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

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

LAUER: Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?

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

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

BUSH: Yeah.

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

BUSH: Well—

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Duh: Cigarettes Are Addictive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The March of Tyranny

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

Friday, November 05, 2010

Mission Impossible

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

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

(CNN video.)

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Election Hangover

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

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

Funny how they cut that out of their online video.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Scary Names

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

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

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

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

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

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