"You could make the argument that this is the first election fully to bear the marks of a reality TV world, of Oprah and Survivor and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. And also the Olympics, at least as presented by NBC. We’re perhaps more accustomed than we ever have been to hearing Fascinating and Dramatic Life Stories, stories filled with Conflict and Tension and Obstacles Overcome, preferably in exotic settings — like, you know, Hawaii, or Alaska, or Vietnam, or Scranton. Biden has the bankrupted father, the upbringing in poverty, the stutter, the horrific accident that killed his wife and daughter; McCain has the . . . well, you know all about that; Obama has the — well, you totally know all about that; and now here comes Sarah Palin, just your typical snowmobile-racing, moose-hunting, basketball-playing, beauty-contest-entering-and-almost-winning member of the NRA and Feminists for Life with five kids, one of whom has Down’s syndrome. Other forms of reality TV will never catch up. Looks like the political is the personal — maybe from here on out." -Alan Jacobs, The American Scene
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Stephen is interviewing Lynn Westmoreland, Republican congressman from Georgia for his 435 part series, Better Know A District. In this clip he asks the congressman about the bill he sponsored which would require the House of Representatives to give preferred treatment to the rules of Christianity over all other religions. Hilarity ensues as Colbert hoists Westmoreland on his own petard:
"With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years. He's been able but undistinguished. I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done ... [Kaine] was mayor of the 105th largest city in America. And again, with all due respect to Richmond, Virginia, it's smaller than Chula Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Mesa, or Gilbert, Arizona; North Las Vegas, or Henderson, Nevada. It's not a big town." -Karl Rove
Palin has been the governor of Alaska for less than two years of a state with 600,000 people, compared to Virginia's 8 million. Before that, she was mayor of a town with 6,000 people, compared to Richmond's 200,000. When do you think he'll square this with his opinion of Sarah Palin? I'm not holding my breath. And yes, the picture's real and I absolutely love it.
Friday, August 29, 2008
John McCain has decided to select Sarah Palin, the first term governor of Alaska, as his running mate. Admittedly, I've never heard of her before (despite having several friends from that state and all of the corruption charges being bandied about up there) so I'm still reading up on her but I will admit that I'm impressed with this move. McCain has run his campaign thus far in what I would describe as a bungling attempt to sling copious amounts of mud at his opponent, never looking or thinking two steps ahead but this choice is definitely politically savvy.
For one, going with a younger woman from a relatively exotic locale achieves his goal of stealing some of Obama's thunder after an historic Democratic nomination, giving the pundits and talking heads plenty to discuss as we enter the weekend news break. She's also pro-life, pro-ANWAR drilling, the only one of the candidates with any executive experience and has actively opposed the corruption in her state's government (although she's had some problems of her own of late). On top of that, she's a former Miss Alaska contestant and I have to say that I dig the Tiny Fey glasses; hey, I find smart sexy. And Joe Biden's role as attack dog is now made that much harder as he doesn't want to come off as beating up on a woman.
On the minus side, she is a former mayor of a town of 6000 and is only in her second year as the governor of a state of 600,000 (roughly the population of the District of Columbia), so it's going to make those Republican accusations of inexperience about Barack Obama harder to stick considering that she'd be a heartbeat away from the presidency of a 72 year old. Her stance in favor of drilling in ANWAR goes against that of John McCain and she has gone on record as supporting the teaching of creationism in schools. Also, her foreign policy experience is exactly nil; in fact, I can't find one instance of her actually saying anything about issues overseas.
So while I think Palin is a good choice for a vice-presidential candidate by McCain as a very blatant bid to woo disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters (although her stance of completely outlawing abortion rights in any situation will definitely hurt her there), I don't see her being a very effective vice-president. Unfortunately, our modern political system seems to heavily favor those who are good at running for office over those who are good at running the country and I'm sure McCain's people realize and are counting on that fact. In short, I think McCain is taking a high risk/high reward gamble here that was necessitated by his poor odds of winning in the fall and it could very well pay off for him; I just hope that it's not at the expense of this country. Basically though, I just got a little more worried about Obama's chances.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
"The best line of the convention so far? Ted Strickland of Ohio, when he echoed the 1988 Democratic convention joke about George H.W. Bush, that he was born on third and thought he hit a triple. Strickland said of George W. Bush that he was born on third and then stole second." -Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal.com
Are you an agnostic/ atheist/ nonbeliever who likes to discuss and debate religious issues yet find yourself coming up against the same cliche lines and arguments in lieu of substantive discussions from your more "liberal" Christian friends? Well, now you can make a game out of your frustrations with the liberal Christian bingo card (click to enlarge). Enliven your next theological discussion by marking off "Jesus was a hippie" for the win.
I posted a few days ago about Michelle Obama's impressive speech concerning her and Barack's family life as the best part of the first day of the Democratic National Convention but apparently I made the mistake of judging her speech solely by the words she spoke; it turns out that it's the words she didn't say that prove what a disloyal communist and angry black woman she really is. Stephen Colbert reviews the incriminating video:
Yes, it seems that according to FOX News' Megan Kelly it is fair game to replace the words of public figures with words of our choice and then judge their motives and inner thoughts based on these new quotations. Now knowing these new rules of professional political journalism, I give you the real John McCain in his own words (replaced by several words of my own choosing) in the intro to an actual speech (can you believe he really said these things?) delivered to the Virginia Military Academy last year:
"Thank you. I know that seated in the front of this hall are VMI cadets who have repeatedly pissed on this country's greatness. I am grateful for your straining bladders, honored by your shitty attitudes, and mindful that I speak to an audience that can discern urine from feces in a politician's appraisal of the war this country was so cleverly tricked into (heh, heh). You know, better than most, whether our cause is futile, extraordinarily futile and "Brian's trying so hard to fuck Lois on Family Guy but it just ain't ever gonna happen" futile. You haven't risked a goddamn thing here in your little neoconfederate, backwoods pseudo-college to make it so. Fuck you. I'd also like to salute a few old comrades of mine, Adolph Hitler, Darth Vader and Prescott Bush, whose example of repeatedly doing business with the Nazi's during World War II helped to sustain the Bush family legacy long enough for his jackass of a grandson to set this country on the path to everlasting war, drain it's coffers off to his father's contracting buddies and turn us into a laughingstock around the globe that the next president (and let's face it, that dirty negro is gonna feed me my lunch in November) will spend several years just trying to repair the damage."Can you believe he actually might have said and meant those things if he had actually said them at some point? Wow, this guy really hates his country (yet really loves Family Guy; weird). Also, and in all seriousness, that shit about Bush's grandpa is true. Now I'm not saying that he was a Nazi, just that he knowingly did business with one of the most insidious and destructive regimes on the planet while his own country was at war with them and also while millions of people were wiped out in the most infamous saga of genocide and human suffering in modern history. Bush: vote for him a third time, for the first time.
Some of you may remember a post from last week in which I dissected the brilliant move of James Dobson's Focus on the Family group to request that their followers pray for a torrential downpour during Barack Obama's presidential nomination acceptance speech at Invesco Field on Thursday. Well, it seems that someone was indeed listening:
DENVER - A sprinkler system partially flooded part of the Pepsi Center Monday morning.So the theocons prayed for it to rain on Obama and FOX News got drenched. Now I don't care if this was divine intervention or universal karma or Scott Baio's character from Zapped!, all I know is that it's damn funny.
The Denver Fire Department, which has a crew stationed at the center all week, was able to respond quickly before 5 a.m. when the sprinkler went off.
The sprinkler was located on the club level in a skybox which had recently been renovated to host a news crew. It appears the skybox belongs to Fox.
After going off, the sprinkler released 50 to 100 gallons of water per minute and 9NEWS crews estimate it was on for around 5 minutes.
The cause of the sprinkler is under investigation but early reports indicate it was likely bumped or the heat sensor may have been affected by equipment in the room.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
This is the first time I've ever seen or even heard of these scary looking creatures; apparently they live near the ocean bottom and are rarely seen although their numbers are known to be plentiful enough that they are not considered endangered in any way. And curiously: up to 25% of their body weight is from their livers; scientists have no idea what they need these giant livers for but I'm guessing beer pong. Check out the video from Japan:
First read this quote from Barack Obama from a speech last May in which he explains his perspective on global diplomacy:
"Strong countries and strong Presidents talk to their adversaries. That's what Kennedy did with Khrushchev. That's what Reagan did with Gorbachev. That's what Nixon did with Mao. I mean, think about it: Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, 'We're going to wipe you off the planet.' And ultimately, that direct engagement led to a series of measures that helped prevent nuclear war and over time allowed the kind of opening that brought down the Berlin Wall."Now watch John McCain's newest political ad trying to play on the fears and insecurities of the American electorate; see if you can't spot the quotes from above obviously and deliberately taken out of context:
Obama only said that Iran was "tiny" and that they "don't pose a threat to us" in comparison to the former Soviet Union, a point that the McCain campaign staff surely knew when they mined this quote for the ad. This has become a disturbing and frankly insulting pattern with his campaign of late but hey, it worked for Rove and Bush so why not try it and see what happens; right now all McCain has to run on is trying to make Obama look like the Devil.
While I'm still looking forward to the coming debates I'm completely bored with the Democratic Convention (and I have no reason to think that I won't feel the same about the Republicans') and I'm starting to get really tired of the fearmongering and character assassinations. Truthfully, I'm already ready for this thing to be over so that this country can move on to more important and pressing matters.
A drinking game for the Democratic National Convention:
Take a drink of champagne when you're filled with excitement as you realize, "Oh my god, this can really happen. A black man named Barack Obama might be elected president."Some of these are pretty funny but I'm sure I would have been dead from alcohol poisoning the first night, especially with rules like this:
Take a shot of whiskey when that feeling is swiftly followed by dread as you think, "There's no way this is gonna happen."
In honor of Ted Kennedy, take a million drinks.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Normally I view the national conventions of both parties as pretty big wastes of time and this year is no exception: millions of dollars are spent on lavish parties and to produce media spectacles that don't provide much of anything new to politically informed folks like myself. I do see their purpose however when it comes to informing the average voter who usually waits for these events to really start paying attention and learning about the candidates and there are usually a few good speeches that are worth listening to, Michelle Obama's being one of those.
Monday night she delivered a short but well-written speech about her family and the importance of making this country a better place. It was both hopeful and sincere and in my opinion a great way to introduce her to the American people. This is not the radical, angry woman the right has tried to portray her as but rather a devoted wife and loving mother who speaks about her family in a way that most Americans can identify with. I also would imagine that black Americans in particular will find it inspiring to see a whole, well-functioning black family being celebrated on a national stage; this is truly a historic moment in American politics. Here's the speech:
"Last night was John McCain's thirteenth appearance on the Tonight Show. More than Arnold. His peers in that elevated celebrity zone? Pamela Anderson, Dr. Phil, Larry the Cable Guy, Simon Cowell, and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Obama? He's been on once." -Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish
Remind me again, who's the supposed celebrity in this election?
The first time I saw this trailer and I didn't know what it was, I was really empathizing with the protagonist as his old man bitched him out; as I've said before, I'd have a beer with him but he was obviously not qualified to be president:
Monday, August 25, 2008
Andrew Sullivan is hosting a contest over at The Daily Dish to produce the most over the top, obviously biased yet factual and effective presidential election ad in order to beat both of the major party campaigns to the punch and this one has been my favorite thus far; not only is it an accurate portrayal of the man but it's also pretty funny. This is the kind of thing campaigns would churn out if they just stopped pretending to be offended at every little gaffe made by their opponent, as if they aren't proposing and discussing things ten times worse in private meetings. This is politics, it's ugly. I don't like it but it is what it is; that's why I'm voting for someone who says that he wants to at least try to change the worst things about this process. Don't hate the player; hate the game:
This exhibition match between Andre Agassi and Roger Federer on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab tower in Dubai City is just one of 15 images that prove what a crazy and magical world we live in (and yes, I chose this image from all the others not just because it looks really cool but because of my recent obsession with all things Dubai).
Sunday, August 24, 2008
"Is a man who is just discovering the Internet qualified to lead a restoration of America’s economic and educational infrastructures? Is the leader of a virtually all-white political party America’s best salesman and moral avatar in the age of globalization? Does a bellicose Vietnam veteran who rushed to hitch his star to the self-immolating overreaches of Ahmad Chalabi, Pervez Musharraf and Mikheil and Saakashvili have the judgment to keep America safe?" -Frank Rich, The New York Times
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I hope so or else I'll be laughing my ass off if this happens to you too:
Bangladesh police say a crocodile killed and ate a 25-year-old after he waded into a pond next to a shrine in an attempt to receive the animal’s blessing, news.com.au reported Friday.The sad thing is that this will probably do nothing to deter the next person from walking into that same pond. Religion cracks me up.
Inspector Humayun Kabir said Rubel Sheikh and his mother traveled to the Muslim Khan Jahan Ali shrine, where hundreds of people visit every day to offer hens and goats to the crocodiles living there.
Part of the shrine ritual involves bathing in the water with the crocodiles, but devotees are very rarely approached by the animals, according to Kabir.
"He went into the pond hoping to be blessed when a crocodile attacked him and dragged him into the deep part of the pond,'' Kabir told the Australian Associated Press.
"This is a very unusual incident. Normally, the crocodiles are very friendly and do not harm people.''
About 25 people dove into the pond to try and rescue Sheikh, but could not find his body. It washed ashore Thursday and had been largely eaten, Kabir said.
(hat tip: Doug E)
I just got the text from the Obama campaign a few minutes ago: Barack Obama has chosen Joe Biden, Senator from Delaware, as his Vice-Presidential nominee and running mate. Biden is the man I was hoping Obama would tap for the job; he has done several stints as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, just recently going to Georgia at the behest of it's president because of their recent troubles with Russia. He has major blue-collar appeal, coming up from a scrappy childhood in Scranton, Ohio and is a life-long Catholic, a group Obama has traditionally scored poorly with in the polls.
He's smart, tough, knows foreign policy like few others and has over three and a half decades of experience in Washington. More to the point, he knows John McCain and his record in the Senate, something that will help the Obama team in the heat of the general election battle. I think Obama has made an excellent choice here and definitely increased his chances of winning the presidency in November. OK, I'm now officially looking forward to the Democratic National Convention starting on Monday.
Friday, August 22, 2008
A good point that I think has been long overdue for the Obama campaign to make:
Yeah I know, pretty much everybody who's become president lately has been a millionaire but saying that about Obama when discussing McCain's fortune is like me saying I can swim during a discussion about Michael Phelp's eight gold medals: both statements are factually true but the comparisons are also leagues apart. Obama is indeed rich, but John McCain is wealthy and it's a message the Obama campaign needs to hammer home to working and middle-class Americans during these times of economic woe and want. Thus this ad, called "Seven":
Senator John McCain said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.
"I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you."
The correct answer is at least four, located in Arizona, California and Virginia, according to his staff. Newsweek estimated this summer that the couple owns at least seven properties.
[Update: Andrew Sullivan has the final tally at eight:
That's how many houses McCain actually has, although because they're all part of Cindy's massive fortune, it's understandable he can't quite keep track of how immensely wealthy he is and has been for a very long time.][Update II: A YouTube chronicling the man's many casas:]
[Update III: The Washington Post offers an inventoried list of the properties:
Those real estate holdings include a Sedona ranch with three dwellings, worth $1.1 million; a Phoenix condominium suite that had originally been two units, worth $4.7 million; an $847,800 three-bedroom high-rise condo in Arlington; an oceanfront condo in La Jolla, Calif.; a half-million-dollar loft in Phoenix purchased for their daughter Meghan; another Phoenix condo, worth $830,000; and two beachfront condos in Coronado, Calif, one of which is valued at $2.7 million. The other was purchased just this year, as McCain was lamenting the difficulties that struggling Americans were facing just to make their mortgage payments. Cindy McCain told Vogue magazine the family needed the second condo because the first was getting too crowded as their family grew.]
Entertaining video of British Olympic swimmer Steve Parry being swarmed by snapshot taking Chinese as he carries a cardboard cutout of Michael Phelps:
Steve Perry? From Journey?! Oh, Steve Parry from Great Britain. Never mind.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The picture above (click image to enlarge) of downtown Dubai City features the Burj Dubai (Arabic: "Dubai Tower"), a building that while still under construction has already become the largest free-standing structure on the planet. The projected final height is being kept secret due to competition from other buildings currently under construction or proposed but estimates say that it will be around 162 floors and 2684 feet; that's over half a mile tall. Personally, I find this rapidly growing area of the world beautiful and fascinating, as per my previous posts here and here.
ATLANTA - Turns out Bigfoot was just a rubber suit. Two researchers on a quest to prove the existence of Bigfoot say that the carcass encased in a block of ice — handed over to them for an undisclosed sum by two men who claimed to have found it — was slowly thawed out, and discovered to be a rubber gorilla outfit.On a more entertaining note, the two idiots who lied about this, saying that it was just a joke, are being sued for the money they received as an advance for their story and the one who was a police officer has now been fired for making false public statements. Thus closes another unfulfilling chapter in the exciting field of cryptozoology.
...Steve Kulls, executive director of squatchdetective.com and host of Squatchdetective Radio, says in a posting on a Web site run by Bigfoot researcher Tom Biscardi that as the "evidence" was thawed, the claim began to unravel as a giant hoax.
First, the hair sample was burned and "melted into a ball uncharacteristic of hair," Kulls said in the posting.
The thawing process was sped up and the exposed head was found to be "unusually hollow in one small section." An hour of thawing later and the feet were exposed — and they were found to be made of rubber.
Monday night, Fox News Channel aired the first of two presidential candidate documentaries called "Character and Conduct." First up: Barack Obama, whose documentary pretends really hard that it's not full of stereotypes and insinuations! Couldn't stomach it Monday evening? We've got it for you in a minute.It's totally biased of course but I was actually expecting much worse; I guess they have to at least give the appearance of journalistic integrity:
If someone could just do this for every piece of substandard and misleading journalism, I could free up several hours every day; I may have just found my newest business model.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
"Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn. Biological imperatives trump laws. American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die," -Orson Scott Card, Mormon Times
You can read my take on the hysterical right's movement to deny gay people the right to marry here and here.
Every credible source I can find says that the New York Times bestseller "The Obama Nation" is filled with half-truths and libel while being utterly devoid of due diligence but what would you expect from the same author who swift boated John Kerry's distinguished military service four years ago; of course, as the bestseller status attests that won't stop the fringe right in this country from buying it en masse. On a related note (at least as far as this cartoon goes), I haven't been able to find any follow-up stories on the supposed freezer Bigfoot discovery. I know, I know, it's almost assuredly false but I'd at least like to see some scientific parsing of the evidence before this tale fades into oblivion.
"George Bush's record as a student, military man, businessman and leader of the free world is one of constant failure. And the part that troubles me most is he seems content with himself. He will leave office with the country $10 trillion in debt, fighting two wars, our international reputation in shambles, our government cloaked in secrecy and suspicion that his entire presidency has been a litany of broken laws and promises, our citizens' faith in our own country ripped to shreds. Yet Bush goes bumbling along, grinning and spewing moronic one-liners, as though nobody understands what a colossal failure he has been.
I fear to the depth of my being that John McCain is just like him," -Jack Cafferty, CNN
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Johnson & Johnson have come out with a new product that I think will really toughen up my nieces and nephew:
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—After decades of coddling young children, Johnson & Johnson unveiled its new "Nothing But Tears" shampoo this week, an aggressive bath-time product the company says will help to prepare meek and fragile newborns for the real world.The last time I was at my sister's place her children were running around like a bunch of little kids without a care in the world, playing with toys and eating animal crackers; we're in two goddamn wars right now, people! The days of finger painting and crapping your pants are long gone. Looks like Uncle James just found what they're getting for Christmas this year; I'm sure they'll thank me when they're older.
A radical departure for the health goods manufacturer, the new shampoo features an all-alcohol-based formula, has never once been approved by leading dermatologists, and is as gentle on a baby's skin as "having to grow up and fend for your goddamn self."..."You'll notice a difference after just one use," said Michelle Baker, head of new product development. "Whether it's your newborn's more hardened appearance, the way he now approaches people with guarded skepticism, or just that look on his face that says, 'Oh wait, maybe life isn't all hugs and kisses and rainbows. Maybe I need to get my fucking act together.'"
Added Baker, "Johnson & Johnson will kick your baby's ass into gear."
"The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous," -the McCain campaign, responding to supposed allegations, virtually impossible to prove either way, that McCain might not have followed the rules during their recent campaign event.
For those who haven't been following the race closely, this past weekend Barack Obama and John McCain agreed to televised, hour long interviews by mega-pastor Rick Warren on faith and other issues. Personally, I have a big problem with the first real, substantive discussions with the two presidential candidates being held in a church with a preacher but I realize that this is the direction of the prevailing political winds so, c'est la vie. The interviews were conducted one at a time (order decided by a coin flip) with the agreement that whoever went second would be secluded in a "cone of silence" (just a supervised room without radios or TVs) so that they would not have advance knowledge of the questions that were to be asked (each candidate was asked the same questions). When questioned about whether McCain might have been able to hear Obama's interview and therefore gain an advantage, Warren assured everyone that he was within the "cone" and that he was sure that McCain could not have done so.
The problem? McCain spent the first half of Obama's interview en route to the station in a motorcade replete with radios and cell phones (the event was broadcast live). Now, am I insinuating that McCain cheated, as his campaign is blatantly accusing the Obama camp of doing? No, I have absolutely no evidence to back up that claim and, absent that evidence, McCain deserves the benefit of the doubt. Did McCain have the opportunity to cheat? Absolutely; which is exactly why the rules were agreed upon before the event, to prevent any appearance of impropriety. But again, I'm neither accusing nor even intimating that he did anything wrong.
My incredulity results from the implication that because McCain was a prisoner of war he is automatically immune from ever lying, cheating or stealing for the rest of his life and that if someone makes any kind of allegation even hinting at this they are denigrating his character and his service to his country. Yeah, we know he was a former POW; it's in every one of his goddamn campaign speeches and many of his commercials (the ones not attacking Obama for being *gasp* popular)!
I heard this same line of bullshit the other day on Hannity and Colmes; they were discussing John Edward's recent marital infidelities (actually, all of FOX News was discussing it for days) and Alan Colmes brought up John McCain's own cheating on his first wife. If you haven't heard (relatively few have), while McCain was in the Hanoi Hilton, his first wife was a former model who was in a tragic car accident that left her crippled and deformed, hobbling around on crutches for the rest of her life. Upon returning to the states, he cheated on her and divorced her only to marry a former beauty pageant queen who also just happened to be the heiress to a multi-multi-million dollar brewery fortune a month later. Anyway, after Sean Hannity had hammered away on Edwards for his own stupid behavior Colmes brought up McCain's cheating ways, only to be yelled at repeatedly by Hannity, "He spent five years in a POW camp! Five years in a POW camp!"
Again, I'm not trying to disparage John McCain or his service to his country but hypocrisy is hypocrisy. You can't slam Edwards for cheating on his cancer-ridden wife and than completely absolve McCain of any wrongdoing for his philandering by merely stating that he was a prisoner of war. I realize that being captured and tortured for several years is a horrible thing for a human being to be subjected to (this is why I am so vehemently opposed to the actions of the Bush administration in their supposed "war on terror") but it neither absolves nor precludes anyone from ever doing anything wrong afterwards. McCain knows this, his campaign staff knows this and for them to act like his war time incarceration makes him some kind of super-moral human being is not just disingenuous, it's extremely deceitful and blatantly untrue. Is this who you want to vote for this November?
Monday, August 18, 2008
"The pursuit of freedom, as defined in an age of consumerism, has induced a condition of dependence on imported goods, on imported oil, and on credit. The chief desire of the American people is that nothing should disrupt their access to these goods, that oil, and that credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part of through the distribution of largesse here at home, and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad," -Andrew Bacevich, in his new book, "The Limits Of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism."
I've had several conversations with friends about this lately; it's becoming increasingly obvious that maintaining our lifestyles at our current level of consumption is the driving force behind both our domestic and foreign policy decisions of late, and there are few indications that this will change at all in the near future. This sense of perpetual entitlement has now become ingrained within our culture over several generations; as a people we Americans are disturbingly self-absorbed, only taking the time to learn about world events or political goings on when they directly affect our wallets or prevent us from living above our means. And our engagement on the domestic front is similarly narcissistic; what do we care about education or energy policy or the environment, so long as we can drive our gas guzzlers, drink our grande lattes and download Internet porn? (granted, the porn is a necessity)
Neither of our major political parties is blameless as to this situation either. The "distribution of largesse" Bacevich writes about is self-evident in the Democrats' promises of universal health care (which I do support in some of it's incarnations) and wide ranging social programs that tend to put a band-aid on a hemorrhaging wound rather than effectively addressing and treating it's causes; the Republican party is similarly identified through their "pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad", a clear reference to the Neoconservative drive to perpetuate the business of war and the ravenous harvesting of the world's resources while abandoning any semblance of fiscal conservatism or societal accountability. As a result, I personally do not support or contribute to either of these parties, both of which I consider to be guilty of the same counterproductive, back scratching and business-as-usual, merely with different names. My personal outspoken support for Barack Obama is based solely on the man, his message and what good I think he can do for this country; I certainly don't consider him a savior or saint but he is definitely better than John McCain and most of the other choices provided by each of their respective parties. However I digress.
The Bush administration is also not free of some peripheral blame in this matter. The president may consider himself the "decider" but he's also supposed to be a leader, choosing the correct path for the country to follow during the best and worst of circumstances; the average American should be able to look to him for strength and wisdom in troubled times and as an example of competence and patriotism when the country is flush. And yet seven years ago in a speech delivered one week after a literally earth-shattering attack against our nation, amidst all of the tough guy rhetoric and inspirational loin-girding speechifying, what critical message did our Commander-in-Chief make sure to innocuously but definitely include? Go shopping. Keep spending. He blatantly asked the American public for our cooperation to assure the world at large of our "continued participation and confidence in the American economy".
And that is our obvious weakness as a people: we're materialistic junkies, addicted to that sweet, sweet money and all of it's pecuniary trappings. George W. Bush didn't create our addiction, he's just exploited it over the course of his two terms to generate profits for all of his wealthy friends, or "his base" as he calls them. Neither did our enemies create it, they're simply biding their time as a significant portion of our oil and consumer dollars are filtered out to various terrorist organizations around the world through the many nefarious, human rights violating regimes we force ourselves to befriend in order to feed our habit; many of these same regimes incidentally are holding the bank notes on our heretofore unimaginable debt while at the same time buying up vast swathes of the United States right out from under us.
And don't expect either of the presumptive presidential candidates to do anything aside from trying to appeal to the basest urgings of our acquisitive natures; they know what we're jonesing for and are each proudly promoting budget busting spending plans intended to keep us both blissful and restrained once they're in office. One of the most important political debates of the modern era is over the unfortunate yet necessary trade off between the increased safety and security of our nation versus the abdication of the personal privacy and constitutionally guaranteed civil rights of it's people, yet the depressing truth is that we seem to be quite content to relinquish both of these important ideals in order to maintain our materialistic culture and lavish lifestyles. There is an Italian proverb that says, "Wealth conquered Rome after Rome had conquered the world". That civilization fell into decline as a result of it's decadence, avarice and complacency; one of my great fears is that our own hold on empire is becoming increasingly tenuous as well, and that we're just too frightened and weak-willed to admit it.
Unless you've been living under a rock this past week you've probably been following or have at least heard about Michael Phelps' history making run at the Beijing Olympic games. He won eight gold medals and set seven world records, establishing himself as the greatest medal-winner at a single Games in the 112-year history of the modern Olympics. Combined with his six golds and two bronzes from previous Games and the fact that he plans to compete again both four and eight years from now, it's a pretty good bet that he will some day be known as an Olympic legend.
Even more prolific than his penchant for winning gold however is his appetite: the 23-year-old consumes a staggering 12,000 calories a day, over five times what an average adult male should be getting. Check out this menu from a typical training day:
Phelps lends a new spin to the phrase "Breakfast of Champions" by starting off his day by eating three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise.I'm a fairly slow eater myself but even if I wasn't I don't think I could find the time to put all of that away every day. And I imagine that he must have many days just like the one below (you can see that the Emmy's are well deserved):
He follows that up with two cups of coffee, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes.
At lunch, Phelps gobbles up a pound of enriched pasta and two large ham and cheese sandwiches slathered with mayo on white bread - capping off the meal by chugging about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.
For dinner, Phelps really loads up on the carbs - what he needs to give him plenty of energy for his five-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week regimen - with a pound of pasta and an entire pizza.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I completely agree with the premise of this video that corn-based ethanol is a waste of food and bad for the environment; I'm against tax payer funded ethanol subsidies (or any farm subsidies, really) and it's become fairly clear that the only people who support them are the ethanol producers themselves and the politicians from corn growing states. Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie lays out the facts:
"No genocide has ever been so thoroughly documented while it was taking place. There were certainly no independent film-makers in Auschwitz in 1942, and the best-known Holocaust memoirs did not achieve a wide audience until years after the war. The world more or less looked the other way as genocide unfolded in Cambodia during the 1970s, and the slaughter in Rwanda happened so quickly--a mere hundred days--that by the time the public grasped the extent of the horror, the killing was done. But here is Darfur, whose torments are known to all. The sheer volume of historical, anthropological, and narrative detail available to the public about the genocide is staggering. In the case of the genocide in Darfur, ignorance has never been possible. But the genocide continues. We document what we do not stop. The truth does not set anybody free." -Richard Just, The New Republic
For those who have never heard of him, Jack Cafferty is a crusty old codger on CNN who comes off as someone who should be yelling at kids to get off of his lawn but is in fact a fairly progressive and intelligent commentator who seems to genuinely care about this country and the direction it's moving in. With the track record of the media being one marked by their coddling of John McCain, it's refreshing to see someone on TV, much less of McCain's generation, doing their job and calling him on his shit:
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Apparently, Obama's hillbilly half-brother is threatening to derail his campaign:
Barack Obama's once-commanding lead in the polls slipped to two points Monday, continuing a month-long slide that many credit to the recent appearance of the Democratic candidate's heretofore unknown half-brother, Cooter Obama.Maybe he should employ the same strategy that he did with Sharpton and Jackson. You just gotta love that picture though; Obama's definitely earning some Dirty South cred.
Long kept a family secret, the overalls-clad, straw-chewing Kentuckian first entered the public spotlight in July, when he drove his 1982 Ford flatbed pickup through the press corps at an Obama rally in order to inform his brother that he caught the skunk that had been living under his front porch. According to witnesses, Cooter's skunk proceeded to spray Washington Post political reporter Michael D. Shear in the face."Sorry 'bout that, mister! Some tomater juice'll take care of the stank," Cooter said as his mortified younger brother led him off the stage. "Shoot, Barack, you didn't tell me you was runnin' for president!"
A moving video about the obstacles placed in the way of gay Americans who's only desire is to make an honorable commitment to spend the rest of their lives with the person they love:
To me the war against gay marriage is about denying a specific minority of people a basic human right, reminiscent of the racist anti-miscegenation laws in our nation's relatively recent past. Christianists and conservatives are pulling out all the stops here in California to try to change the law and take this right away from other free Americans this November. If passed, the ballot measure known as the California Marriage Protection Act would ostensibly be protecting marriage by not letting people get married; again, kind of like protecting our lunch counters and water fountains by denying their use to other Americans. I encourage all readers of this blog residing within the Golden State to vote "no" on this initiative come the fall; it's the human (and Christian, if I've understood Jesus correctly) thing to do.
"McCain isn't confident that conservative policies and personal experience can win, given the ruinous state of the nation after eight years of Bush. So he has made a fateful decision: he has personally impugned Obama's patriotism and allows his surrogates to continue to do that. By doing so, he has allied himself with those who smeared him, his wife, his daughter Bridget, in 2000. Those tactics won George Bush a primary--and a nomination. But they proved a form of slow-acting spiritual poison, rotting the core of the Bush presidency. We'll see if the public decides to acquiesce in sleaze in 2008, and what sort of presidency--what sort of country--that will produce." -Joe Klein, Time magazine
Friday, August 15, 2008
Some of you may remember the first one from the Democratic primaries (the Youtube video has since been removed); Obama has the added benefit of not being the underdog this time but the shots he's taking are still just as cheap:
Here's Obama's latest ad; I like it but I think he should spend more time letting people know that his tax cuts will affect the middle class while the hikes only affect those at the upper end of the income scale (contrary to what McCain's ads claim):
Thursday, August 14, 2008
OK, they actually found him in northern Georgia (ours, not Asia's) but yeah, we finally found one of the elusive sons of bitches:
Two Bigfoot hunters claim they have the body of one and plan to release a photo and what they claim is DNA evidence at a news conference in Palo Alto on Friday.Is this going to turn out to be real? I don't know but I hope so; if true, this discovery would turn the field of Anthropology on it's ear. The skeptic in me is leaning heavily towards the "not real" side but I guess we'll find out tomorrow. You have to admit that this is a pretty cool picture regardless.
The Bigfoot is claimed to have been found in the woods of northern Georgia by Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, and the claim is being supported by a Bay Area Bigfoot researcher Tom Biscardi, a multiple local Democratic candidate.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"On January 20th 2009, either the president of the United States will be a man who used to snort coke to ease his blues, or the First Lady will be a former drug addict who stole from charity to get her next fix. In this presidential campaign, there are dozens of issues that have failed to flicker into the debate, but the most striking is the failing, flailing 'War on Drugs.' Isn't it a sign of how unwinnable this 'war' is that, if it was actually enforced evenly, either Barack Obama or Cindy McCain would have to skip the inauguration -- because they'd be in jail?
At least their time in the slammer would feature some familiar faces: they could share a cell with Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and some 46 percent of the US population." -Johann Hari at The Huffington Post
I've made my views on the drug war fairly clear here, here and here so I won't go into the specifics again except to just say that while I understand most of the forces that are at work keeping this whole farce alive I still feel almost surreal when I think about how negatively the drug war is affecting our society along with the almost complete indifference of the American people and their elected leaders.
To his credit, Barack Obama has publicly stated that he wants to decriminalize cannabis and that he will not let the Justice Department prosecute medicinal cannabis users who are abiding by local and state laws. Predictably, John McCain has changed his position on medical cannabis from one of support for patient's and state's rights to one of outright criminalization and federal prosecution. I don't see Obama legalizing cannabis or any other now illicit drugs (I'm realistic on this point) but a ceasing of the excessively destructive federal raids on medical dispensaries and the relentless prosecution of millions of Americans for a victimless, nonviolent crime would be a welcome change; a change that the "Maverick" will almost certainly be too chickenshit and beholden to special interests to even consider.
As you can see in the column to the right, your votes for "personal commentary" and "long, train of thought rants" beat out "humorous videos" and "political posts" quite handily. Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in the process; I hear what you're saying and I'll be happy to try focusing more on these areas. To be honest, I prefer writing the longer screeds (I've gotten several compliments on this post in particular) to just putting up stuff by others that I find funny or interesting but it takes a lot longer to create those posts so the frequency of updates may start to decrease as a result. Regardless, the people have spoken.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
"How can someone being portrayed as "the biggest celebrity in the world" also be painted as radical and out of the mainstream? Either Obama is like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton: a fluffy, substanceless, mass-consumed but empty celebrity-for-celebrity’s sake, or he is an unfamiliar and dangerous other with a hidden anti-American agenda." -Sean, a blogger at 538
The Christianist leader James Dobson's Focus on the Family group is encouraging their followers to pray for torrential rain on the day of Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, and I completely agree with them. In fact, I think that everyone who is against Obama should spend as much time as they can praying that he doesn't win the presidency: instead of making phone calls to voters for John McCain (or against Obama, which has basically become the same thing), pray that Obama loses. Instead of canvasing neighborhoods or making campaign donations or even voting against him, just spend as much of your free time as you can praying that he loses. Then later when Obama does win the presidency, explain to me how that's not your god endorsing the man despite your weeks and weeks of solid prayer time:
“All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light. Save it for 2050. ... Every speech should contain the line you were born in the middle of America American to the middle class in the middle of the last century. And talk about the basic bargain as about the deeply American values you grew up with, learned as a child and that drive you today. Values of fairness, compassion, responsibility, giving back.
Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches and the values. He doesn’t. Make this a new American Century, the American Strategic Energy Fund. Let’s use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds." -Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist for her 2008 Democratic primary campaign on how to run against Barack Obama; John McCain seems to be reading his playbook
Monday, August 11, 2008
Some of you might remember this t-shirt design from a few days previous but I feel that this one from Redstate really accurately depicts the level of political discourse coming from the McCain campaign, and the religious right in general, during this election. When you don't have anything more than smears and fear-mongering in your holster, what else can you do?
For those of you who haven't watched the news for the last five days, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has admitted to having an affair with a woman who worked for his campaign. I haven't commented on it until now because I really don't care outside of it's implications for hurting Barack Obama's presidential chances (which I think are minimal) and frankly, I'm just sick of hearing about it. Then I read this post over at Crooks and Liars about the media's roll in this election cycle and I found myself yelling, "Yes! These are the lack of priorities that are really pissing me off!" or something to that effect. Tell me if you don't agree:
From the email inbox:A good friend asked me the other day if I could tell him about "the liberal media" and who they were because he'd heard a lot about it from conservative talk radio and from his Republican relatives. I had to tell him the truth: there is no liberal media. Yes, it makes for great talking points when vilifying anyone in the media that doesn't parrot your conservative narrative and it's a convenient cudgel for politicians to use when they're revealed to be less than virtuous but despite it's repeated use by the right in this country, this meme just does not hold water.
David Gregory just said young people were inspired by him and are let down…and questioned whether it will have “broader implications for the party.” during the election. This week, Ron Suskind’s book revealed the Bush team knew Iraq didn’t have WMD, forged letters, paid hush money, and lied us into war. (Chirp, chirp…) Any broader implications for the Republican party there? How about instead of us buying into all the clamoring to analyze Edwards betrayal (wait, no, BETRAYAL!) we analyze the absurdity of a media culture where THIS is what passes for holding politicians accountable.
Broader implication for the party. OK, let’s talk party.
McClellan said that FOX News got talking points from the White House
Bush authorized rendition.
Bush authorized torture. Yes, that means waterboarding.
Bush authorized a war based on lies resulting in millions of innocent Iraqi and Afghani civilian deaths as well as an ethnic cleansing.
Thousands of our troops have been killed or seriously injured.
The US dollar is in the tank.
The housing/mortgage crisis has almost caused a depression.
How about the trampling of our Constitution with warrantless wiretapping?
Laptops are being confiscated at airports and the border.
Under Bush, oil companies are raking in record profits while Americans suffer.
The US attorney scandal.
A health care epidemic.
A standing ovation in Congress for David Vitter’s return.
Military TV Analysts/Generals scandal.
Larry Craig’s bathroom adventure.
And many, many more.
Would any of this have “broader implications” to the Republican party during the election if the media did its job?
Sure, surveys show that the majority of actors and writers in Hollywood (although not really the media I'm referring to here) have liberal beliefs but those same surveys show that the big wigs and fat cats (studio execs and presidents) are decidedly Republican. The same goes for the news media: the majority of reporters and news writers are liberal but when you look at the political leanings of news executives, editors-in-chief, studio presidents and corporate media owners, you can see who's really in charge of the political narrative in this country.
Now, am I making the exact opposite argument as the right wingers, that there is a conservative bias to the media? No, and it's not because I don't think it's possible or that there aren't many, many conservatives out there that would like to do that; I just think that there's a simpler answer for the actions of the media than just a pervasive ideology of liberalism or conservatism: money. Yeah, I know you're surprised. Of course despite my earlier protestations, I do think that the corporations in charge of the media will put the pressure on to spin things in a positive manner for themselves and these large entities are aligned with the pro-business Republican party in this government (OK, the more pro-business than the Democrats party). But news stories fuel ratings and ratings bring in the dollars and dollars are what matter to the types of multi-national conglomerates that control the vast majority of what we watch, listen to and read every day. In the media jungle, the bottom line is the Lion King.
So, are liberals trying to force their godless ways on the rest of America by making us all watch shows about marital infidelity, out and proud gays and vacuous celebrities? No, that's just what we the people have signaled to the networks that we'd like to see, so they're providing more of the same. And are conservatives trying to turn the rest of the country into mindless, flag waving warmongers who don't give a shit about the less fortunate amongst us? Well, I kind of think that they are but if pressed on the matter I'd have to say no, it's just that a sizable majority of Americans are easily led automatons who respond with well-conditioned vigor whenever the call of jingoism goes out across this great land (see: the Iraq war).
With that said, think now about what kind of person you are: do you seek out alternative sources of news and information that don't necessarily conform to or confirm your already held thoughts and beliefs or do you turn to the established staples of the American media that can be counted on to deliver just the right message for either side in the ideological struggle that now defines the partisan landscape of American politics? Or even worse, do you just not care at all and are content to let the powers that be go about their business of lying to the American people? Seeing the complete abdication of it's oversight responsibilities by the media, I honestly have a hard time begrudging anyone any of these alternatives. Finding the truth in 21st century America is decidedly hard, and the collective media are not making it any easier. But to be completely frank the truth doesn't really affect their bottom line, so why should we expect them to?
"McCain was a child of immense privilege, a son and grandson of admirals, given a prized education at the Naval Academy which he threw away - a performance he now touts in his favor. He dumped his first wife in favor of a fantastically wealthy heiress. He has had more money for a longer time than Obama has ever dreamed of. Obama, meanwhile, grew up on food stamps, was reared by a single mother and grandparents and by dint of sheer talent and hard work got to be the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He was given very little and made the most of it; McCain was given so much and began his life, as he concedes, by taking it all for granted." -Andrew Sullivan, commenting on John McCain's narrative of Barack Obama being an "elitist" and "out of touch with average Americans"
It was only a matter of time until I posted one and I'm glad I waited for an Obama roll to appear:
For the less Internet savvy, you can read about the phenomenon here. And yes, it's going to be an all-Obama day; prepare yourselves.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Isaac Hayes was found dead in his Memphis, Tennessee home this morning at the age of 65. The police do not suspect any foul play. Hayes was best known by people over 40 for his sweet-ass rendition of the theme song to the 1971 blaxploitation film Shaft, for which he earned an Academy Award for Best Original Song (the first Academy Award received by an African-American in a non-acting category) and two Grammys. He was best known to people under 40 as the voice of Chef on South Park.
For anyone who doesn't watch the show, South Park regularly and unapologetically skewers various aspects and institutions of culture, with religion being no exception. They've made fun of Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Mormonism and Hayes seemed to have no problem contributing to those shows but when they went after the relatively secretive Church of Scientology (making sure to tell the viewers in frequent captions that "This is what Scientologists actually believe") Hayes decided to quit the show. I have to say that as much as liked Isaac Hayes and his work I found this to be highly hypocritical; it was as if he was saying that there should be a different set of free speech standards when it comes to his religion and I highly disagree. Unfortunately, this seems to be a running theme in Scientology.
That aside, I do love the theme to Shaft and I miss his character on South Park. Matt Stone and Trey Parker commented on the departure of Hayes from their show in the episode The Return of Chef, so I'll let Kyle deliver the eulogy: