BuzzFeed has all ten but these three are my favorites:
Yes, pornography can be addictive and counter-productive to your life if used to excess, just like pretty much every other activity or substance in this world. But when used responsibly and in correct moderation it can also be extremely enjoyable and life-enhancing, just like pretty much every other activity or substance in this world. It's the people who are incapable of moderating or controlling their own actions and behaviour who are usually the ones leading the charge against pornography and other verboten activities.
If you don't like it then don't use it, but don't you dare tell me what to do with or how to live my own life. The anti-porn zealots have more in common with the radical Islamists we're at war with than the average American, and they have way too much political power and clout to boot. It's interesting how ideas like freedom of speech and the free market are suddenly not so popular when what they're promoting is something one does not personally agree with.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
BuzzFeed has all ten but these three are my favorites:
Saturday, May 30, 2009
"Many people incorrectly translate our name, “La Raza,” as “the race.” While it is true that one meaning of “raza” in Spanish is indeed “race,” in Spanish, as in English and any other language, words can and do have multiple meanings. As noted in several online dictionaries, “La Raza” means “the people” or “the community.” Translating our name as “the race” is not only inaccurate, it is factually incorrect. “Hispanic” is an ethnicity, not a race. As anyone who has ever met a Dominican American, Mexican American, or Spanish American can attest, Hispanics can be and are members of any and all races.
The term “La Raza” has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as “the people” or, according to some scholars, as “the Hispanic people of the New World.” The term was coined by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos to reflect the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world’s races, cultures, and religions. Mistranslating “La Raza” to mean “the race” implies that it is a term meant to exclude others. In fact, the full term coined by Vasconcelos, “La Raza Cósmica,” meaning the “cosmic people,” was developed to reflect not purity but the mixture inherent in the Hispanic people. This is an inclusive concept, meaning that Hispanics share with all other peoples of the world a common heritage and destiny." -From the La Raza website.
I post it in response to the conservative backlash against the nomination of Latina judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.
[Update: And then there's this follow-up commentary by Bob Cesca:
Yeah, but see, the people attacking the La Raza name are the same people who think the Earth is 6,000 years old; who think Iraq had WMD; who think President Obama is the first person to ever use a teleprompter; who think Dick Cheney is an honest man; who think burying someone alive isn't torture; who think George W. Bush made us safer; and who think fascism and communism are interchangeable.][Update II: Here's another discussion between Eric Boehlert, Rick Sanchez and Tom Tancredo on the same subject:
I'm personally of the opinion that Tom Tancredo should have a microphone in front of his mouth at all hours of the day. The racist stupid pays for itself.]
I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this news story:
Few places in Virginia are as draining to the soul and as numbing to the buttocks as the branch offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles. And yet, until recently, smiling was still permitted there.I can see the logic of this policy in trying to facilitate facial recognition software (although a part of me finds even that to be a bit fascist, but another part of me understands the need for increased security in this modern age) but I also find it to be just a wee bit soul-crushing. Of course, this same policy would not affect me as I never smile for my drivers license photos, and I think I look pretty good in them. My black friends know what I'm talking about here.
No more. As part of the DMV's effort to develop super-secure driver's licenses and foolproof identification cards, the agency has issued a smile ban, directing customers to adopt a "neutral expression" in their portraits, thereby extinguishing whatever happiness comes with finally hearing one's number called.
The driver's license photo, it seems, is destined to look like a mug shot.
DMV officials say the smile ban is for a good cause. The agency would like to develop a facial recognition system that could compare customers' photographs over time to prevent fraud and identity theft. "The technology works best when the images are similar," said DMV spokeswoman Pam Goheen. "To prepare for the possibility of future security enhancements, we're asking customers to maintain a neutral expression."
At a Manassas DMV branch yesterday, that translated to a simple directive: "Don't smile."
Friday, May 29, 2009
Radio personality Alex Jones breaks down some of the largest conspiracies looming over your precious little head every day:
I have to disagree with his assessment of the bear at the end there. I don't want to go all Colbert on everyone here but I'm convinced that Hallmark is in bed with the diamond industry by pimping Valentine's Day as if it were a hot, thousand dollar a night whore. How exactly does my love for my special lady translate into diamonds again? Jones has had the holiday wool pulled over his eyes and I don't care who knows that I'm saying it.
[Update: I've just been paid an unsettling visit by a couple of extremely well muscled and well armed men employed by the diamond industry. I hereby recant every negative thing I've ever said about that industry and it's subsidiary affiliates. Diamonds are the bomb and not at all superfluous in everyday society. I sprinkle them on my Corn Flakes every morning and you should too. Please tell my family that I love them.]
From my conservative counterpart Don Douglas' post entitled "Sotomayor's Skeletons". You see, one of her dark secrets is that she's murdered Impartial Justice because she's admitted that the influence of her gender, ethnicity and hard scrapping childhood, despite her best professional efforts to the contrary, may at times influence her decisions on the bench and her views of the world at large. In essence, she's admitted to being human and is now rightly being attacked for it relentlessly by the Republican party and their surrogates in the media. As always, a class act all the way.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Matt Steinglass asks it:
[H]ere’s my main question: what exactly is so hard about getting terrorists convicted in American courts? Under US law, even “providing material aid” to any “terrorist organization” is a felony...[A]re you seriously telling me that the Bush Administration’s torture regime has so thoroughly bolloxed the entirety of the evidence regarding detainees at Gitmo that we can no longer even prove they were doing anything to support any group on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations? Any such group whose actions have resulted in “the death of any person”? If we can’t prove that about these guys, what are they doing in prison?We've had some of these guys in custody for half a decade now and they still haven't been charged with a crime. Was the original point of the Guantanamo Bay facility merely to have a black hole to throw potential troublemakers into with no future plans for doing anything else with them, effectively erasing them from the battlefield and the world? If so, the Bush administration should have told the American people as much when they were in power.
Thank the gods that we have access to the antics of people as stupid as this:
This video is several years old, but worth sharing for those who haven't seen it. A CCTV camera captures the efforts of two young men, one of whom stands guard while the other tries to bust the window of a building with bricks.Dude, seriously. If you can't laugh at these two dumb-asses then you have no sense of humor at all. Just saying:
The audio would have to have been added to the video; whether the rest is somehow faked or not is uncertain; Snopes addresses a similar event, but doesn't seem to have an entry for this specific one. There may be some clues at the YouTube discussion, but I can't bring myself to wade through the drivel on such threads.
Can I get a "hell, yeah!"? Word.
A buddy asked me last night if I thought that President Obama would have a hard time getting Sonia Sotomayor confirmed to the Supreme Court and I truthfully answered that I did not. I haven't done a vast amount of research on this subject but from what I've heard and read over the last few news cycles I just really don't see the Republicans putting up much of a successful fight on this one.
She seems to be eminently qualified for the position and despite GOP whining to the contrary is also extremely intelligent (for a taste of the brain-donors they might want to compare her to check out these videos). You're going to hear a lot of noise about the Ricci v. DeStefano case (I'm frankly looking forward to the more racist members of the right making a big deal about this), she will be called a "race-monger" (I think I've made my own take on the opinions of this insipid jack-ass quite clear in the past) and even criticism about how she pronounces her last name but in the end I don't foresee her not becoming a Supreme. Her appointment to the circuit court had fairly sizable Republican support and at a time when the rational half of that party is trying to woo new members I just don't see opposing the first Hispanic nominee with a uniquely American life story to the high court as a winning strategy.
So that's it. I hereby predict that Sonia Sotomayor will be America's next Supreme Court justice. Plus an added benefit (and this is just my own take on the situation) is now that Obama has satisfied his supporters who were clamoring for a woman/ethnic minority to the court he is free to choose whomever he wants for his next nomination, and that's not even assuming that he'll get more than two during his almost inevitable eight year presidential run. But for now I'll just sit back and enjoy the fireworks as the right futilely screams themselves hoarse over the next month. Grab a beer and join me, won't you?
[Update: Kevin Drum sums up the current process in place for vetting a potential Supreme Court nominee:
We all know how this is going to play out. First, everyone is going to start looking for some dark secret in her background that will derail her nomination. That will probably fail. Then she'll testify before the Senate, and everyone will ask what she thinks of Roe and Casey and Kelo. She'll dutifully claim that she's never even heard of these cases, and on the off chance that any of them ring a bell, she'll sing the usual song about how it would be improper to say anything about any matter that might come before the court in the future. Which is everything. After a few weeks of this, all the Democrats and maybe a dozen or so Republicans will vote to confirm her and she'll join the court in time for the fall term.Agreed. Just as with Roberts and Alito from the last administration, these congressional question and answer sessions are a study in not answering any substantive question in any substantial way, and they're kept that way by both sides of the political aisle, despite the inherent merits or obvious shortcomings of the nominee. The best we can hope for (and I do) is that the president who nominates them knows enough about the nominee not to choose someone who is completely unqualified for the position (see: Miers, Harriet). Oh, snap.]
[Update II: Sullivan puts the quote from the Ricci case that has Republicans squealing bloody murder in proper context, but don't expect the squealing to decrease any time soon as a result. It's an autonomic response, quite free from any kind of conscious control or logic.]
Who are you going to listen to? An airman who served his country honorably for over a decade whilest specializing in interrogation techniques or a draft-dodging chicken hawk with a documented history of lying to the American people to serve his own ends? Not much of a choice at all, is it?:
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I guess the Frye's finally got a divorce:
Here's your chance to own a piece of cinematic history - the location where Ferris Bueller's pal Cameron accidentally sent his father's prized Ferrari plunging through a picturesque plate glass window into the ravine below.This place is a dump without the Ferrari. Just saying.
"The Ben Rose Home - site of the famous movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Cantilevered over the ravine, these two steel and glass buildings - which can never be duplicated - have incredible vistas of the surrounding woods. This is a unique property designed by A. James Speyer and David Haid, both notable architects of the 20th Century."
These magnificent examples of mid-century minimalism (that's an exterior shot of the garage on the left) can be yours for only $2,300,000, or $433.96 per square foot.
An electronic musical instrument anyone can play:
This visual musical synthesizer by Andre Michelle is one of the most awesome things I've ever encountered anywhere. It's incredibly simple, effective and provides instant positive feedback in that almost nothing you do will produce an awful bit of music. I want my entire house plastered in something that does this. It also wants me to spend an entire weekend on drugs, just fucking around with this thing.You can go here to play it but be careful: I just wasted 45 minutes goofing around on it without even realizing it.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
"I thought it was reprehensible, irresponsible and unpersuasive. If we’re going to regain the credibility of the American people, we’re going to have to stop with silly antics like that. It may get a snide chuckle inside the Beltway, but it offends most people. We have to get away from the politics of personal destruction," -freshman congressman Jason Chaffetz, of Utah, on the RNC's "Pussy Galore" video about Nancy Pelosi.
Full disclosure: I'm no big fan of Nancy Pelosi, nor of her Democratic counterpart in the Senate Harry Reid. To me they both pretty much personify what's been wrong in Washington for so long and in the Democratic Party in particular. Of course I wasn't particularly offended by the Republican ad in question because it wasn't particularly offensive, rather merely petty and juvenile. And per the Republican congressman's remarks above, I'm OK with that because it only makes their party come off as equally petty and juvenile to the average American.
Not that I'm condoning petty and juvenile acts within our political system but watching the Republicans flail around in the wilderness they've exiled themselves to is just too entertaining, and quite frankly I truly believe that they deserve to be where they are right now. So keep making your Pussy Galore commercials and singing "Barack the Magic Negro", Republicans. And move further and further to the right on as many issues as you can. On January 20th, 2013 you can tell me and the other godless liberals how that all worked out for you.
Monday, May 25, 2009
If you're spending your Memorial Day barbecuing in the back yard or the park you might want to familiarize yourself with this Venn diagram of plastic cutlery. And if you're ever unsure about which utensil to use, always start with the knork farthest to the left.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
NASA International Space Station Science Officer Don Pettit demonstrates how a spinning CD acts as a stabilizing gyroscope in microgravity. When two and three CD players are combined in perpendicular planes, they provide a relatively stable platform.Something for the science nerds:
Now my question: Why the hell does NASA have three CD players on the International Space Station? It's 2009; get those boys some iPods, for Christ's sake.
Last week Rachel Maddow got to the bottom of why President Obama has suddenly lost the support of Congress for closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay:
The Democrats can be such pussies sometimes. You can watch the entire fear-mongering Republican ad here.
[Update: Dan Froomkin describes the right/left dynamic on this issue admittedly a bit more eloquently than just calling one side "pussies":
Here's one thing that hasn't changed in the Obama era: Republicans are still able to come up with scare tactics that turn Senate Democrats into a terrified and incoherent bunch of mewling babies.
It's hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than the suggestion that bringing some of the terror suspects currently incarcerated in Guantanamo to high-security prisons in America will pose a threat to local communities.
It is nothing more than a bogeyman argument, easily refuted with a little common sense. (Isn't that what prisons are for?) But that's assuming you don't spend your every moment living in fear of Republican attack ads questioning your devotion to the security of the country. Or that you have a modicum of respect for the intelligence of the American public.
Ah well. Old habits die hard, I guess. And Senate Democrats apparently remain an easily frightened bunch, after eight years of faint-hearted submission.]
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
"I'm betting the woman is a registered Democrat and voted for Barack Obama." -my conservative, and seemingly evermore ridiculous, counterpart Donald Douglas, American Power, commenting on this tragic and completely non-political story about an Albuquerque mother who suffocated her three-year-old son, then revived him, then suffocated him again before finally burying his dead body in a neighborhood playground.
Irrational dumb assery like this is why I can't even talk to the man anymore. Long Beach City College must be very proud.
...because he's black. Yeah, black folks sure do get all the breaks around here, don't they? Attack, attack, attack. It's all they have now:
Days after announcing an "aggressive new approach" in confronting President Obama, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Friday that the president hadn't been properly vetted because he is black.Yes, from his incredibly reclusive position as the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review to his secretive, nationally broadcast keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention to him stealthily laying low as a United States senator, this guy just came right out of nowhere. Nobody saw him coming. And aside from the two books that he wrote about himself and the millions of hours of media coverage that has delved into every aspect of his life and family from even before his birth to the present, we know absolutely nothing about the guy. He's a cypher, an historical ghost.
"The problem that we have with this president is we don't know him. He was not vetted, folks. He came out of nowhere," Steele told listeners to Bill Bennett's radio show Friday morning. "….We don't know his political background, we don't know his political philosophy, the ideology that shapes his thinking on policy. "
He was not vetted, because the press fell in love with the black man running for the office. 'Oh gee, wouldn't it be neat to do that? Gee, wouldn't it make all of our liberal guilt just go away? We could continue to ride around in our limousines and feel so lucky be alive and in an America with a black president,'" said Steele.
And I'm sure I can speak for the more than sixty-nine million other people who also voted for the man that we do indeed all feel better about not ever having owned a slave when we're all tooling around in the backs of our stretch limos (if your limo ain't stretch then it ain't shit). Michael Steele certainly does have his finger on the pulse of the nation while not trying to pander to the worst elements of his own base at all, and that's why I predict nothing but stunning victories for the Republican party in the next election and the many others that follow.
What a douche...
Per a comment by the now apparent ex-Deranged Leftwing Baker is this highly debatable point as to whether KSM could escape a SuperMax prison based on the wholly fictional escape committed by Magneto in the first X-Men film:
A while ago, in response to conservative fearmongering over holding Guantanamo inmates on American soil, Atrios pointed out that terrorists aren't "actual supervillains with special powers." The fact is that Congress has a Constitutionally mandated responsibility to consider the possibility that terrorists are supervillains with actual powers. Today, Glenn Greenwald makes a completely incorrect assertion:Now we can ignore the fact that the Magneto escape happened in the films and not within the actual comic canon but even then, comparing Magneto's escape to Green Arrow's failed attempt is like comparing Marvel apples to DC oranges. While I truly love Green Arrow he's obviously no Batman, who has infiltrated and also escaped from Gotham's Blackgate prison a number of times, not to mention the time Superman did the same from Metropolis' own SuperMax facility in the guise of Clark Kent whilest interviewing Lex Luthor.Take note, Chris Cillizza and friends: while it's true that "not a single prisoner has escaped from Gitmo since it was created," it's also true that no Muslim Terrorists have escaped from American prisons and our SuperMax prison "has had no escapes or serious attempts to escape." Actually, the only person to even make an escape attempt from a SuperMax is Green Arrow, who hasn't succeeded despite the help of Joker and Lex Luthor.Greenwald clearly doesn't remember the Magneto incident of 2003, in which the mutant supervillain escaped from his glass prison facility after Mystique increased the iron content in his guard's blood, which Magneto extracted using his ferrokinetic powers and then used to destroy his cell. Obviously, we need to discover if Gitmo inmates do have mutant abilities, which will undoubtedly require more waterboarding, and this has to be done before the administration gets a dime to close Guantanamo. In fact, I'm pretty sure Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the subject in 2002.
When you add these previous successful attempts to Magneto's own documented cinematic yet dramatic escape one can only draw the obvious conclusion that absent superhuman abilities or a lifetime of training and knowledge in the escaping arts terror suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be utterly powerless to liberate themselves or any others from America's most inescapable facilities. And as I've said more than once, these guys aren't Houdini-esque escape artists or even highly trained super soldiers, they're a bunch of thugs and religious nuts...a well trained American marine could beat the shit out of a couple of these guys at once.
A criminal the likes of Magneto would rightly scare me, as would that the likes of Superman, Batman and even Green Arrow. Those are the types of individuals, if realistic, actual, and evil, we should fear as a people and a society. The two hundred and forty or so potential douchebags we have imprisoned in Gitmo, I take a bit more lightly. When one of them starts to manifest ferrokinetic abilities, you go ahead and let me know. Until then, they're pretty much just a bunch of assholes who've trained on a jungle gym in the middle of the Afghani desert for pr films. You'll excuse me if I don't, as opposed to the current leaders of the Republican party, shit my pants in fear at the prospect of their incarceration on American soil.
I was watching Greta Van Susteren on the Fox News channel a few days ago as they cut to the next show (Bill O'Reilly, I think) and they asked the question: Who's funnier: Jon Stewart or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? If you ever needed an online poll to prove to you that online polls are extraordinarily and utterly useless, here it is:
Really? Really!? Now you can see why it's so futile to try and reason with these people. The phrase "living in their own world" doesn't quite cover it.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Because of spoiled little cunts like this:
Oh, I'm sorry. Are you upset that I used the verboten word "cunt" in referring to this adolescent waste of space? Well, too fucking bad. I calls 'em as I sees 'em, and this little bitch is a spoiled cunt. USA, USA, right? Right!? Jesus...
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
A buddy turned me on to Doug Stanhope's comedy last night and I ran across this short bit from a sports talk radio show that I loved not only because it's funny and true but also because I hate baseball as well:
"I'll put it to you this way: I'd rather have a thousand Monica's, than all these 9/11's and the terrorists." -Jesse "The Mind" Ventura, on George W. Bush's legacy to President Obama's administration, versus that left to Bush's by President Clinton.
Monday, May 18, 2009
The latest news in the search for the fate of our prehistoric cousins:
One of science's most puzzling mysteries - the disappearance of the Neanderthals - may have been solved. Modern humans ate them, says a leading fossil expert.It's long been postulated that the Neanderthal extinction was caused at least in part by modern humans either through competition for food resources and/or by more brutal means as suggested above, and while this new piece of evidence is revelatory I'm reserving judgement until more examples can be found. And of course as we've seen before, cannibalism is fairly common amongst humans despite Western society's anathema to the practice. I'm not suggesting that it's a practice we should embrace but only rather that we must acknowledge who we were and where we've come from before we can understand who we will become and where we're going as a species.
The controversial suggestion follows publication of a study in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences about a Neanderthal jawbone apparently butchered by modern humans. Now the leader of the research team says he believes the flesh had been eaten by humans, while its teeth may have been used to make a necklace.
Fernando Rozzi, of Paris's Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique, said the jawbone had probably been cut into to remove flesh, including the tongue. Crucially, the butchery was similar to that used by humans to cut up deer carcass in the early Stone Age. "Neanderthals met a violent end at our hands and in some cases we ate them," Rozzi said.
The idea will provoke considerable opposition from scientists who believe Neanderthals disappeared for reasons that did not involve violence. Neanderthals were a sturdy species who evolved in Europe 300,000 years ago, made complex stone tools and survived several ice ages before they disappeared 30,000 years ago - just as modern human beings arrived in Europe from Africa.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The space shuttle Atlantis and the Hubble space telescope silhouetted against the sun. Amazing:
The exceptionally gifted astrophotographer Thierry Legault captured this stunning tableau just minutes before the crew of Atlantis caught up with and captured Hubble for its very last servicing mission on May 13, 2009. This shot has never been accomplished before, and it's magnificent. He used a 13 cm telescope, and camera that took a series of 16 images of 1/8000th of second each.This is the kind of sweet shit Superman gets to see every day.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I realize that I'm a few days late on this one, especially considering my education in archaeology, but late is still preferable to never, ya?:
A remarkable ivory carving is arguably the oldest sculpture of a human figure yet found, scientists say.These types of Venus fertility goddesses are fairly prolific throughout ancient history, as were various phallic representations as well. Our ancient ancestors thankfully did not share our repressed, Puritanical mindset concerning sex and the beauty of the human body.
The distorted object, which portrays a woman with huge breasts, big buttocks and exaggerated genitals, is thought to be at least 35,000 years old.
The 6cm-tall figurine, reported in the journal Nature, is the latest find to come from Hohle Fels Cave in Germany.
Previous discoveries have included exquisite carvings of animals, and an object that could be a stone "sex toy".
Professor Nicholas Conard, from the department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, at Tübingen University, said is was understandable that many would also view the new discovery in a pornographic light, but he cautioned against jumping too quickly to a particular interpretation.
On a completely unrelated note, I've been fairly busy of late with real-world concerns and the volume of new posts has quite obviously suffered as a result. I'd like to say that this is only a temporary speed bump but as I do not derive any income from this endeavour I don't want to lie to you. That said, I will make every effort to return my output to it's previous levels as soon as it is humanly possible. As always, thanks for taking the time to read my stuff.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Pop Crunch assembles the list with The Turner Diaries at #2:
The Turner Diaries is a racist, antisemitic novel written by William Luther Pierce, the crazy ass former leader of the white Nationalist organization “National Alliance”. It depicts a racist’s wet dream consisting of a violent revolution in the United States that leads to the overthrow of the US government and the extermination of all non-whites and Jewish people. To Pierce, Hitler’s problem was clearly that he didn’t go far enough. The rest of the plot is too crazy to even go into (let’s just say it’s about as well written and realistic as you’d expect a book like this to be), but the book gets bumped up a few notches on our list due to the fact that Timothy McVeigh was a big promoter of the book, and may have used a scene in the book as inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing.This is one of the five books on the list that I've read myself (Cormac McCarthy's The Road was particularly depressing) and this description leaves out most of the worst of it (one of the major plot points was that the government was rounding up guns from all of the good, God fearing white people while installing the dirty, uneducated black people into positions of authority). I can't remember if the president of the United States was black in the book or not but regardless, a lot of the hate-filled rhetoric and fear-mongering being spewed forth by the right-wing blogs and talk radio lately is starting to sound eerily familiar.
And the not at all scary thing is that this is still being sold at gun shows all over the US. Sleep tight!
[Update: Just came across a trailer for The Road. It doesn't look any cheerier than the book:
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I stopped by my conservative counterpart Donald Douglas' blog American Power this morning to see if he could provide me with a laugh or two to start my day and instead I found (sandwiched of course between two posts about what a super-brave, Christian patriot beauty queen Carrie Prejean is for wanting to deny gay people the right to marry each other because she totally read that gay people are bad in some old book once) this libertarian-esque take on personal freedoms:
There's been a lot of debate on health care the last few days. Check out this morning's Wall Street Journal, for example, "Soda Tax Weighed to Pay for Health Care" (via Memeorandum).The rest of the post is just a cut and paste job from another conservative blogger complaining about health care and socialized medicine so don't bother reading it but it was Don's thoughts on limiting human freedom as it pertains to ingesting certain "vice" substances for the benefit of the "public good" that caught my eye in general, and his opinion that "it's the Democrats who're always doing it" in particular, because I remembered reading something rather similar he wrote about cannabis legalization last month:
A "soda tax" is a "vice tax", like cigarette taxes, that gouges people for making personal choices that may have negaative externalities for the economy. The upshot, of course, is that limiting human freedom is taken as beneficial to the "public good." And it's the Democrats who're always doing it.
This is a response to Will Wilkinson's essay, "I smoke pot, and I like it."Now I don't drink soda (although I do like it) and I don't smoke cigarettes, and I don't like them. Not only that, I don't like what they both do to people. 33% of American adults are obese and obesity-related deaths have climbed to more than 300,000 a year, second only to tobacco-related deaths which number 440,000 a year. I don't have any sons (that I know of, *wink*wink*) but if I did I would worry that they would come under the influence of bad people who drink soda, smoke cigarettes, and Zeus knows what else.
Fine. Good for you.
But I don't smoke pot, and I don't like it. Not only that, I don't like what it does to people, including people I know, and especially people I used to know, before they they fatally OD'd; and I worry that my sons will come under the influence of bad people who smoke pot, snort coke, and God knows what else; and my boys will be too inexperienced in the ways of the drug culture to know that what they're being turned on to could kill them.
Come to think of it, I would worry that my fictional sons would come under the influence of bad people who do anything, be it doing their laundry, visiting their local library or even praying to a god of their own choosing, because they're bad people. I guess the difference between Don and myself is that I have the ability to realize that doing those things, or even doing harmful things like drinking soda and smoking cigarettes, doesn't necessarily make someone a bad person. And I apply this same logic to those who recreationally and/or medicinally use cannabis.
But Don lacks that ability (in addition to apparently lacking the ability to talk to and educate his own sons about drug use) because he proceeds from a number of false assumptions that he holds either out of prejudice, ignorance or both. One is that cannabis and other recreational drugs are inherently bad in and of themselves, and that it therefore follows that anyone who uses these substances, regardless of their personal level of responsibility or lack of abuse, is a bad person. Another is that since all recreational drugs are bad and therefore rightly illegal, all recreational drugs are also categorized exactly the same and pose the same societal and health risks regardless of their strength or effects on the human body. In other words:
M'kay? Oh, and of course Don has never known anyone who has "fatally OD'd" smoking cannabis because that is physically impossible; it's never happened even once in all of recorded human history. That's right: 740,000 deaths in America every year from completely legal obesity and tobacco, not one death worldwide from illegal cannabis use ever. Later in the same post after relating a story about one of his former students who was arrested for drug possession with intent to distribute Don again applies the Mr. Mackey argument against drug legalization:
Do not tell me, Will Wilkinson, that "Marijuana is neither evil nor dangerous." Fancy-talking libertarians like you have the luxury of expounding on the "failed" war on drugs while kicking back in cozy offices at the Cato Intstitute, or some other free-market think tank. I mean, look at this blather: "the stigma of responsible drug use has got to end."You see cannabis is obviously evil and dangerous because someone Don knows was arrested trying to sell it and rather than promote responsible drug use by consenting adults he would prefer that it remain stigmatized instead, allowing hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding Americans to suffer incarceration or worse at the hands of America's "failed" war on drugs. And also rather than employing scientific data and rational points of thought to prove his case he instead deftly applies the standard Glenn Beck/Cheech and Chong argument at the end there because since drugs are bad there's no point in taking any other argument to the contrary seriously, right?
Hey, man, can I borrow your Visine?
To return to my original point, this entire worldview smacks of rank hypocrisy. In the world Don lives in the government and everything it says or does is part of an elaborate ploy to take away your rights and freedoms by controlling and taxing everything you personally choose to put into your own body in the name of the "public good", and this is of course all the fault of and only done by oppressive and socialistic Democrats. But at the same time of course recreational drugs like cannabis are so incredibly dangerous and just plain evil that no intelligent adult should ever be allowed to use them and it's entirely necessary for the government to spend $50 billion a year to protect free Americans from their own actions by fining and/or imprisoning them in the name of the "public good". This is a phenomenon known as "cognitive dissonance" and it makes it very hard for many people to think and debate honestly and logically.
You want to drink soda and smoke cigarettes, Don? Fine, good for you; feel entirely free to get as fat and cancer-ridden as you'd like. I would never suggest that you or any other adult should be denied the right to do pretty much anything you want to your own body, as long as it does not directly harm anyone else's. But by the same token, do not presume to tell me or anyone else what to do to our's because you somehow think you know what's best for us. Conservatives like you constantly bitch and moan about the reviled "nanny state" within our government yet seem to have no apparent quarrels with it when it serves your own purposes and agenda. In a free America we call that hypocrisy, and we call people like you hypocrites of the first order.
"The rise of Idiot America, though, is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of the intellectual elites that Richard Hofstader teased out of the national DNA, although both of these things are part of it. The rise of Idiot America today reflects — for profit, mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power — the breakdown of the consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people we should trust the least are the people who know the best what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a scientist, or a preacher, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.
This is how Idiot America engages itself. It decides, en masse, with a million keystrokes and clicks of the remote control, that because there are two sides to every question, they both must be right, or at least not wrong. And the words of an obscure biologist carry no more weight on the subject of biology than do the thunderations of some turkeyneck preacher out of Christ's Own Parking Structure in DeLand, Florida. Less weight, in fact, because our scientist is an "expert" and therefore, an "elitist." Nobody buys his books. Nobody puts him on cable. He's brilliant, surely, but no different from the rest of us, poor fool." -Charles Pierce, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
You can read my own take on the benefits of elitism at this post.
One would assume that this woman had to have actually passed a written and driving test to eventually find herself in this situation but how is that possible? Just one more example of technology hampering Darwinian natural selection. If she somehow figures out the mechanics of copulation and breeding we're in big trouble as a society.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The shot was taken by shutting off all the lights in the room for 30 minutes and taking a long exposure of the path the Roomba took while cleaning up.I used to have one of these things. When I first bought it it was great: I turned it on and it would emerge from it's charger under my couch and start cleaning. I left the house and when I got home my living room was completely vacuumed while the robot had returned automatically to it's docking station to recharge. Then after a while it started getting stuck under furniture and eventually broke about a year after I got it. I love the idea of robots cleaning my house while I'm away but the technology will need to improve vastly before I buy another one.
For a guy who is often described as too stoic and serious I feel that he really let loose here (and yes, I realize that most of these jokes were probably written for him) but to see him go so un-pc so often made me quite proud:
Did you catch Belzer in there? Who'd he get his ticket from?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
No time for blogging today. My current employment in the service industry ensures that I'll be pulling a 12-14 hour double shift today but I have already verified that my own momma got her two dozen roses on Friday because I love her that much. Yes, I am a momma's boy, in the Southern sense of that expression. Regular blogging will recommence tomorrow.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Here's the latest fear-mongering attempt by the Republican right:
I don't like to quote myself but I don't think what I've said on this subject can be rephrased any more succinctly:
I'm tired of hearing all of these Republican congressmen and governors crying about how dangerous it's going to be having the 245 Guantanamo detainees imprisoned here in the United States after that prison is closed in Cuba. These guys aren't Houdini-esque escape artists or even highly trained super soldiers, they're a bunch of thugs and religious nuts (except for the ones who haven't done anything but were caught up in our security net anyway); a well trained American marine could beat the shit out of a couple of these guys at once. We incarcerate vicious gang members and psychopathic serial killers in prisons all across the country, I think we can handle a few hundred terror suspects. Am I wrong?I have yet to find anyone who can sufficiently answer this question in the negative.
[Update: Regular commenter Deranged Leftwing Baker calls attention to this rebuttal to right-wing fear-mongering:
I just got the hiccups for about ten minutes whilest drunkenly practicing my juggling (don't ask) and tried several methods for ridding them before I found the advice on this website. Needless to say, they are now gone. I strongly endorse following this advice whenever you are in hiccup peril from now on. It works.
Friday, May 8, 2009
This is the only picture of Air Force One released by the Obama administration from their ill-informed pr attempt at a flyover of New York City photo op. The White House aide who authorized the event has now resigned. With the proliferation of graphic design programs like Photoshop Republicans were right to call this whole thing stupid and wasteful but let's not pretend that the last administration was any more restrained or frugal. Mission accomplished, anyone?
I wish these were real Star Wars movie outtakes of Admiral Ackbar, but they're not. "It's a trap!" That does not however decrease my love for them in any way:
And of course the joke wouldn't be quite so funny without the ubiquitous breakfast cereal cameo:
Thursday, May 7, 2009
So I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine today and I have to say that I think it kicked ass with an adamantium-laced boot. Spoiler alert!: I will be discussing both plot points and character development below that will probably not bother those who are relatively uninitiated within the X-Men universe beyond the movie franchise but may very well ruin many interesting revelations for those who are. All comic-fanboys like myself would do well for themselves to stop reading here and just go see the flick, and then of course come back here later to read my stunningly analytical and profoundly accurate review
While I won't run down a plot-point for plot-point retelling of the movie here is the basic premise: it details Wolverine's life from his birth in the mid 1830's to about a decade before the events that took place in the first X-Men movie. The opening scene with his sickly appearance and revelatory yet iconic bone claws was taken pretty much straight from the Origins comic arc, although the inclusion of Victor Creed as his brother deviates from the comic lore (yet I thought that it worked really well for the character development in this telling).
We then jump to an opening montage of Logan and Creed fighting in multiple wars from America's past, including every major conflict from the Civil War up through the Vietnam Conflict where they are then discovered and recruited by one Major Stryker. The montage itself is both brutal and beautiful, giving the uninitiated a sense that both characters are virtually invulnerable to injury without explicitly stating so (I personally found it very reminiscent of many scenes from the Highlander television series).
I thought the film progressed fairly well from this point except when Logan decides that he's had enough of government ordered killing and leaves the special forces mutant unit Stryker has assembled. I personally felt that the background and character development was a bit tedious for a while but I had to keep telling myself that not everyone in the theatre had read countless accounts of his past in graphic novel form. And my buddy Intrepid Californio (not a fanboy like myself) made the remark that a lot of information and background was relayed to the uninitiated viewer in a fairly succinct fashion, so maybe I was just a little anxious to get to the obligatory *snikt*ing.
OK, enough of relaying the plot; let's discuss the obsessive details: I thought that Sabretooth could have been a little bigger (I had the same complaint, although much more warranted I think, about Juggernaut in the third X-Men flick) but I would rather have a great performance from an average sized actor (and it was just so) than a mediocre one from some hairy professional wrestler as in the first flick (and mediocre is being overly generous). And not to nitpick, but Jackman is way too tall to play Wolverine although it's a shortcoming I've been happy to overlook in the past because his portrayal is just so spot on. I also thought that Sabretooth wasn't quite brutal enough in his predilections for gory violence but they were adequately referenced numerous times by other characters, and one must remember that anything more than a PG rating would be anathema to a summer blockbuster such as this.
Speaking of those other characters: Scott Summers' relative helplessness to his powerful and dangerous mutant abilities was depicted quite well; Emma Frost retained her diamond form but apparently did not possess psychic abilities or was unable to use them at the time; I thought that it was a fairly interesting take on The Blob. I've never been a fan of his character, probably because he just seemed like a couch potato version of the Juggernaut, but I thought it a curious revelation that his mutant abilities were in no way attached to or influenced by his eventual weight gain. And Gambit was all kinds of Southern cool but I felt that he was a bit too powerful considering the abilities that he is purported to possess, and this seemed to be a running theme with many of the characters in the flick but I excuse it because I realize that movies are a much different dynamic than comics and must therefore be a bit over the top in their portrayal of action sequences.
The one character I was happy to see included yet who's evolution I was also disappointed to witness was Wade Wilson, aka the merc with a mouth, aka Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds was the obvious casting choice for the sarcastic, fourth-wall breaking mercenary (especially since he has even been mentioned by name in describing the character in the comic series) and I loved the few scenes he was in before his first apparent death. I however hated that he became the seemingly all-powerful Weapon XI at the end. An enhanced healing factor, solar-powered optic blasts, teleportation, and how the hell does he scratch his own ass with an inflexible, full length katana blade sheathed up each arm? It's a logical yet confounding question Deadpool himself would ask, and rightly so. I realize that the movie needed a climactic battle scene with a seemingly undefeatable foe at the end but being too bad ass makes for an extremely uninteresting character (see = Superman, and Sylar from Heroes just before his second season fall), plus just having his head lopped off was so reminiscent of Darth Maul's own equally punk ass exit at Obi Wan Kenobi's hand.
One more complaint: I'm just not sure if I buy the whole "the adamantium bullet wipes out all of his memories" plot point. The human brain is a bit more complex than that and when you consider that Wolverine has (one would assume, given his prolific battlefield experience) suffered innumerable brain injuries in the past with no long lasting ill-effects, it just seems like another tired, Hollywood amnesia plot device. Yes, his memories are stolen from him at some point in the comic narrative but I just think that the process would be a bit more complex than a bullet wound. Oh, and we see that he has obviously gained weight from the skeletal adamantium bonding process when he sits on the bike yet he is able to swim in two subsequent scenes. In the comics he is 5' 3" and weighs 300 pounds with his enhanced skeleton; where I come from that means you sink like an adamantium-laced stone, yo.
Having bitched about all of that, I have to say that I was quite happy that they decided to drop the ridiculous, pointy Elvis bouffant hairstyle from the other X-Men flicks for something a bit more relaxed and stylish. I also loved that one of his new found mutant abilities was that of looking like a totally nonchalant bad ass whilest walking away from extraordinarily crazy explosions over and over again. He did seem to be a bit of a goody two shoes for a kick ass anti-hero who constantly wrestles with the savage animal within himself by applying lethal force to almost any situation but the Superman III-esque ballet he constantly danced with Sabretooth throughout the film filled that bill quite nicely whilest leaving him with the relatively squeaky clean hero persona most studio execs and movie goers are expecting.
After all is said and done, I would have to rate this movie pretty high on the kick ass action scale whilest giving it fairly good marks on the hyper-critical, "Hollywood better not fuck up one of the best comic book characters ever conceived" fanboy scale. In short, go see Wolverine and expect to have a hell of a good time. It's the best movie there is at what it does, and while what it does isn't very nice, it's highly cinematic and extremely entertaining.
I've been an outspoken opponent of a cappella music ever since I got into a knock-down, drag-out bar fight with Bobby McFerrin back in the late-eighties (no that never really happened, although I have found that people who are big fans of a cappella do generally tend to be fairly annoying on many other fronts) but this all vocal version of The Simpsons theme is quite accurate and impressive:
Not being a Democrat I'll admit that I'm no advocate of one-party rule but I have to say that seeing the obstructionist card being erased from the Senate is a welcome sight, especially with my man Al Franken waiting in the wings up in Minnesota. Here's hoping that the Democratic Party doesn't eventually fuck it all up. Keep 'em crossed.
And I become just a bit more cynical. I'll explain after the link:
PARIS (AFP) — The bust of Queen Nefertiti housed in a Berlin museum and believed to be 3,400 years old in fact is a copy dating from 1912 that was made to test pigments used by the ancient Egyptians, according to Swiss art historian Henri Stierlin.I studied archaeology in college and while I didn't specialize in ancient Egypt (I'm a much bigger fan of the Roman Empire) I've always found it to be an equally mysterious and fascinating culture. So I spent the summer of 2003 backpacking across Europe where I visited about a dozen countries, Germany being one of them and Berlin being one of the cities I spent some time in there.
Stierlin, author of a dozen works on Egypt, the Middle East and ancient Islam, says in a just-released book that the bust currently in Berlin's Altes Museum was made at the order of German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt by an artist named Gerardt Marks.
"It seems increasingly improbable that the bust is an original," Stierlin told AFP.
The historian said the archaeologist had hoped to produce a new portrait of the queen wearing a necklace he knew she had owned, and was also looking to carry out a colour test with ancient pigments found at the digs.
But on December 6, 1912, the copy was admired as an original work by a German prince and the archaeologist "couldn't sum up the courage to ridicule" his guest, Stierlin said.
Long story short: I visited this museum (amongst dozens of others that year) and I viewed this specific bust. More to the point, the museum was fairly crowded that day and when I walked into a small side room with this bust set on a pedestal in its middle and encased in a square glass cover it was surrounded by about 10-12 noisy and fairly annoying people. Just as I was lamenting the fact that I had to share the space with so many others (which I almost always do when I'm in a museum; if you have the same problem do what I did: become a museum member and donor. It's a completely different experience walking through silent and deserted galleries alone at night) everyone suddenly cleared out and moved on to the next exhibit.
And there I was, suddenly all alone in silence and face to face with this exceptionally gorgeous and ancient work of art. Now I'm not saying that I felt an explicit kinship with Nefertiti at that moment or that I suddenly channeled a past life as a pyramid builder in ancient Egypt or anything like that, but merely that in those few fleeting moments I felt a very real yet also surreal calm and enjoyment as I privately looked into the face of this beautiful woman who ruled over an entire kingdom thousands of years before I was born. It was a feeling that I still remember quite vividly, so much so that it is one of the more lucid and cherished memories of my trip.
And now I just found out that it's a fake. And while the moment and the feelings that it elicited are still and will always be with me, I must admit that the entire experience now feels slightly cheapened by this recent revelation. And I become just a bit more cynical. And I subsequently open my second bottle of Chardonnay of the night...
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
"No, I think that it's not time for that, but I think it's time for a debate. And I think that we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what affect it had on those countries, and are they happy with that decision." -California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, when asked at a press conference if the current economic crisis means that it's finally time to legalize cannabis.
A reasoned debate amongst responsible adults would be a good first step, and much more preferable to the alternative.
[Update: This account from a former budtender in one of Oakland's "Oaksterdam" dispensaries closely mirrors my own experiences working there.]