Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stewie Likes Cool Whip

A priceless classic from Family Guy; I haven't been able to look at a container of Cool Whip without laughing for years because of this bit. Say whip:

Woods Pimps Self To Pine-Sol

In this refreshingly frank letter to Pine-Sol, Tiger Woods makes the strong case for why their company should be doing business with Tiger Woods. Here's a taste:

Call me crazy, but it looks like you're lacking a big-time celebrity endorser. Yes, you have that sassy fat black woman who appears in commercials and print ads, but she's hardly a celebrity. I'm talking about someone with name recognition. Maybe even someone who's won, say, 64 professional golf tournaments, 13 major championships, and has been named PGA Tour Player of the Year nine times? Your lady may be funny, but is she the most marketable athlete in the world with a supermodel wife, a new baby girl, millions in the bank, multiracial appeal, and a great goddamn smile?


From The Onion; absolutely hilarious.

In Lieu Of Original Thoughts

Check out this silent footage of a camouflaged octopus suddenly dropping it's disguise and swimming away; later when the video slows down and reverses, I could have sworn that it was CG the first time I saw it. This guy is something straight out of Predator:

Obama/Weiss '08

Everytime I observe an elderly person acting rude or curmudgingly or just plain being an asshole because they're old and they can get away with it, I try to remind myself that there are still cool, sharp grey hairs out there like Jean Weiss. I just hope to have half of her vitality and passion when I grow up:

Alabama And Gay PDA

In a follow-up to a segment that they produced a few years ago about PDA (public display of affection), ABC News decided to again test society's preferences by conducting the same experiment using two homosexual couples, male and female. Aside from the predictable cries about "the children", the reactions from passers by seemed fairly positive, with the obvious exception being the 911 call made concerning the kissing male couple in Birmingham, Alabama. American South, this is why the rest of the country continues to make fun of you; now please, cut this ignorant shit out and join the rest of us in the 21st century.

To Obama: Disown Wright Now

I've thus far refrained from commenting at length on the controversy surrounding the relationship between Barack Obama and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright for several reasons: the attacks on Wright were fairly typical of the right wing smear machine, many of his sermons, when read in context, were not nearly as inflammatory as they've been portrayed, it's fairly obvious from everything I've read and found out about Obama that he does not share any of Wright's more outrageous views, etc.

And we must remember that Obama's father left him at an early age, leaving him without a strong, respectable male role model to identify with and Wright seemed to fill that role for him as an at least slightly eccentric uncle; as someone who can relate to that situation of lacking a father figure that I could know intimately and revere, I can see why it has been so hard to actually make the decision to disown him in light of many of his past comments.

But Wright's interview before the National Press Club yesterday was what I consider to be beyond the pale. The unrepentant way in which he defended his 9/11 comments about America's chickens coming home to roost, the way he discussed the "Zionism" of modern-day Israel and the way he's using the old Boomer generation's (the Clinton's included) tactics of pitting Whites against Blacks are now too much for me to excuse (not that I excused any of his previous statements with which I disagreed, mind you). And the obvious departure of these new comments from the tone Obama has tried so hard to set thus far with the positivity of his campaign is glaring and irredeemable.

One reason I've held off on commenting about this issue is my deep regard for Obama and his overriding message, the way he has obviously endevoured to raise the bar of political discourse in this country and carry us past the divisive atmosphere of the Boomer years; with the happy effect of having the newest generations embrace this new philosophy of hope over the old politics-as-usual. This is one of the reasons I've let slide how uncomfortable Obama's embrace of religion in the public theatre has made me feel. Just as I've known many people, black and white, whom I've respected on an intellectual level and yet I couldn't square they're seemingly superstitious thoughts with common, everyday logic. Despite our differences I found more than enough similarities between us to look past what I considered the fairly kooky nature of their religious beliefs.

Another reason is that I feel that I just can't really grasp the depth and meaning of Obama's relationship to the man who is apparently responsible for converting him to Christianity. I've never had that kind of "religious" connection to another person, much less to someone I consider a personal mentor and advisor and I respect Obama enough to take his word that this connection is real. Plus, it's hard to dispute that these feelings actually exist considering the ephemeral nature of feelings themselves and our limited knowledge of the practical inner workings of the human brain. Are these religious feelings caused by magic? I highly doubt it. But do they seem and feel as if they are to the person supposedly experiencing them? Well, considering what we do know about the power of the human mind, I wouldn't doubt that it's possible.

The level of devisiveness and animosity contained in Wright's latest comments however, is too destructive to Obama and his campaign for him to let them go unanswered. In fact, it seems very appropriate for him to now disown Wright and his new found assault on the ideals of America and Obama's chances to attain the presidency; I actually find it hard to see how he has any choice in the matter. These comments are a direct attack against his message of inclusiveness and of finding a new direction for this country, and the American people will clearly see that. To back away from confronting them now will make him look weak, prejudiced and indecisive; three qualities that he can ill afford to have attributed to himself at this crucial juncture in the race.

Wright has taken advantage of the man who stood by him and defended him in the heat of the national spotlight that is the presidential race and is now using his newfound notoriety to become the next racial demagogue at Obama's expense, and Obama must recognize this fact; his continued silence now would be a tacit endorsement of Wright's new, more odious statements. White America is willing to look past many questionable things in the 21st century but outright hatred and obvious public animosity towards the American experiment by a close friend and spiritual advisor of a serious presidential hopeful are just too much to ask of them in any age.

I'm fairly certain that he has the mental wherewithall and political savvy to recognize this moment in time for what it is: a blatant opportunity to act like a responsible leader and to do the hard but obviously right thing. He must disown and denounce Wright and his divisive statements not just because it is politically expedient but because it is what history and America now require of him. Once again, it is time for him to square his shoulders and prove that he is the leader we've been waiting for. Now we can only wait, and hope.

[Update: My satellite television is out again, so I just heard the news that Obama has indeed repudiated Wright and his comments at a press conference earlier today; it was finally the right time for him to disavow Wright the man and not just his more inflammatory ravings. It must have been a difficult thing to do considering their long friendship and the ugly, public way in which it was forced to come to an end. Money quote:

"Yesterday we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I’ve known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate..."
I know that it will take some more time for this story to play itself out but I really hope that soon we can start to get past this as a nation and move on to the more substantive issues in this campaign: the lack of universal healthcare, a seemingly endless war in Iraq, our gasping, flailing economy, etc. These are the matters that should be concerning all Americans right now and we've spent way too much time already focusing on the divisive and superficial distractions of the past.]

Monday, April 28, 2008

Laudo Pro Dies

"The American people did not support the goals of nation-building, peacemaking, law and order and certainly not warlord funding. For us to get into nation-building, law and order, etc, I think is a tragic and terrible mistake." -John McCain on Somalia, 1993. It seems that the narrative changes depending on the conflict and which president started it. How much of that 100 years do we have left?

The Freshmaker, En Masse

In an attempt to conduct one of the largest Mentos-centric science experiments in history, 1500 poncho adorned students in Leuven, Belgium similtaniously dropped tubes of the refreshing Dutch mints into bottles of Diet Coke to create this incredibly sticky, low calorie fountain display. The article only has still shots of the action but you can view some extremely well-coordinated demonstrations of the phenomenon here and here.

One Nation Under CCTV

Banksy does it again; from the graphic design blog katize:

Banksy has pulled off one of his most daring stunts to date - an enormous protest against Britain’s surveillance society painted just feet from a CCTV (Closed-circuit television) surveillance camera. Believed to be his biggest work yet in central London, the secretive graffiti artist managed to erect three storeys of scaffolding behind a security fence despite being watched by a CCTV camera.

The guerrilla artwork appeared on a wall above a Post Office yard off Oxford Street in central London on Monday morning. It features a boy in a red jacket painting the slogan “One Nation Under CCTV” in stark white capitals. His actions are filmed by a policeman next to a barking dog.

Frequently touching on political issues in his work, last month a Banksy-style painting depicting two children pledging allegiance to supermarket giant Tesco appeared on the wall of a north London pharmacy. It was interpreted as support for the growing campaign to ban free plastic bags.

For those not familiar with Banksy and his work, he is a well-known pseudo-anonymous English graffiti artist who's works are often satirical pieces of art that encompass topics such as politics, culture, and ethics; a subversive counter-culture commentator who doesn't sell photos of street graffiti or mount exhibitions of screen prints in commercial galleries. You can check out his official site here.

Transformers Go Hollywood

Here's some cartoon nostalgia for the guys under 40; if you haven't seen the live action movie it was pretty cool (for an action flick filled with talking, alien robots and strong moral overtones). Megatron's ringtone is the best but these guys make it very obvious why I would never be able to stand living in LA:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What They've Got

It's kind of hard to make supposed insults like "elitism" stick when you have the facts in front of you, huh? True, they're each millionaires but I'd say the disparity in net worth is quite telling. Yet you hardly hear anything about it in the mainstream media because they're too busy talking about flag lapel pins and whether a candidate's angry black pastor is patriotic enough; you know, the really important issues.

Supreme Argument

I've never seen an episode of Boston Legal but I have caught a few clips online and they're always powerful stuff, particularly the arguments from James Spader's character, Alan Shore. Here he dresses down the Supreme Court Justices in superb fashion for their obvious conflicts of interest and blatant politization of what was originally created to be a nonpartisan branch of government:
Tipping the highest court in the land decisively to the right may just be Bush's most enduring legacy after his disastrous presidency is finally over with.

You Speak Into Which End?

Check out this instructional film on how to use a telephone from the 1930's after switch board service was discontinued; oh, the wonders of high-technology. Hard to imagine why it took so long to come up with the idea for push buttons though:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Taking Your Health In Hand

A new study out of Australia shows that men who masturbate regularly can actually reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer. Speaking as someone who had a parent die from prostate cancer and also as the owner of a high-speed Internet connection, this is certainly good news; I suspected there was a reason my eyesight has never gone bad.

Splash Of Cold Water

Andrew Sullivan responds to a reader finding himself feeling the same doubts and worries I've had over the past few days:

The next generation, meanwhile, needs to get real. This was never going to be easy or simple. Real change never is. Abandoning the process in the face of raw cynicism is what the Clintons want. They have to freeze out the millions of new voters if they are to retain their grip over their party. But the truth remains: with these millions of new voters and new donors, they can be defeated - and have been defeated. Despite massive advantages, the Clintons have been singularly unable to close the deal that was theirs' for the asking only six months ago.

What they're doing now is trying to out-psyche us. It's all they have left. Don't let them get into your head!

Heard, and processed. I guess it did seem like everything was going a little too smoothly there for a while; there's a reason we don't see real change just happening spontaneously everyday. It seems I've made the fatal mistake of many in the past: I underestimated the power and resolve of the Clintons and their political machine. No longer. OK, I'm ready for the next round.

Battle Of The Bacon Dogs

Check out this video from Drew Carey and Reason.com about street vendors in LA and their constant struggle against The Man in their quest to provide the public with the salty nitrates they've been clamoring for:
Call me crazy but if you buy a hotdog from a street vendor, you get what you paid for. And if you buy a bacon-wrapped hotdog from a street vendor, you get what you paid for wrapped in bacon. The American people have to stop relying on the government to protect them from every little thing and just take some personal responsibility for their own gastronomical well being. And yes, I know the video obscures part of my oh-so pretty face; obviously the folks over at Reason.tv haven't jumped onto the Brain Rage-format bandwagon yet.

Did I say Fanboy?

OK, I bow down to the infinitely more committed comic fan. Your own personal feelings about comics aside, you have to admit that this is one bitchin' Spidey tat.

If Democrats Were Republicans

Jon Stewart explains Clinton's evolving, hypothetical math and why the actual votes cast by the American people are now merely one important part of this complicated, democratic process:

Laudo Pro Dies

"For all of Hillary's brand recognition, institutional advantages (including the ferocious support of a former president), fund-raising head start and inherent appeal to the party's core constituency (working class white women), she finds herself on the ropes, in debt and having to go hugely negative just to stay alive. Does any sane Democrat really think that this is a viable alternative to Obama?" -commenter at The New Republic, on Clinton's new message of how Obama can't "close the deal". In this seemingly endless primary season, perspective does indeed help.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Incredible Macro Photos

OK, had to post one more thing tonight: this gorgeous photo appears to be from the underwater kingdom in Lucas' Phantom Menace but it's actually an extreme close-up (click image to enlarge) of a common wet leaf. It's just one of the 10 finalists from Wired Magazine's Macro Photo contest. My other favorite is the ice cube in a glass of Coke; amazing worlds right before our eyes. Nature is so incredibly beautiful.

Physics? What Physics?

Hey all, had a date with a real cutie tonight so I don't have much time to blog but I wanted to post something for the loyal readers. As a tech geek, physics nerd and comic Fanboy (it's amazing that I can still get dates, huh?), I came across this article at Wired.com by James Kakalios of the University of Minnesota about the real world applications and constraints of Iron Man's armored suit. As an aside, if you're into discussions about theoretical physics and possible super powers, I highly recommend his book, The Physics of Superheroes; of course, if you're into getting laid then maybe you should just skip it. Fair warning.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How Hillary Can Still Win

This made me laugh after a crappy primary night, partly because it's funny but mostly because it's true:
Still, the 11 States of America doesn't quite roll off the tongue.

Laudo Pro Dies

"We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." -Richard Dawkins

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'm Too Old For This Shit

Clinton pulled off a 10 9.2 point win in Pennsylvania today, just barely hitting the mark that all the pundits predicted she would need to remain a viable candidate; of course those same pundits also knew that she would still have the gall to continue even if her margin of victory was several points less. She will now frame this as a decisive victory against a powerful opponent who outspent her 3-1, trying once again to play the underdog despite the notable advantages of an electorate that voted decisively for her along gender, age and racial lines and having a 20-25 point lead in the state before either candidate even started campaigning there.

Even so, this win today changes very little as far as the hard math is concerned: Obama still leads in delegates by 138, in the popular vote by about 500,000 and in campaign cash by tens of millions of dollars. What she really won today is something much harder to quantify: perception. She will now still be perceived as having a chance at the nomination; she will be perceived as being able to win the big swing states in the general election; she will be perceived as being unstoppable and the media will see to it that all of this comes to pass because the media positively thrives on the winner-take-all horserace aspect of our election process.

Now we move on down the seemingly endless primary road once again, merely drawing out a process that is increasingly becoming more and more painful to stomach. All signs indicate that Obama will be the Democratic nominee this fall; practically nobody disputes that this race is surely his to lose. Nobody except, of course... I've made this point before, haven't I? I'm not exactly sure what mysterious, freakishly strong fuel powers the Clinton marriage/partnership and I might jokingly suggest that we should attempt to harness it as a fuel supply were it not appallingly apparent by now what kind of pollution it produces and the effect that pollution has had on our political system.

So tonight brought nothing unexpected as the people of Pennsylvania voted exactly as predicted and both candidates reacted exactly as expected. All the numbers say that this will still be decided before the convention; Obama has huge winning potential in both North Carolina and Oregon and a very good shot at keeping Indiana at least close. He also has enough cash on hand to start working on those wins today, while Clinton will be forced to use the fundraising boost she receives tonight in order to pay her outstanding debts before anything else. Here's hoping that an Obama victory in one of these states should be decisive enough to start a superdelegate stampede in his direction and bring an air of decisiveness to this whole thing. I'm tired.

Test Tube Meat

In their ongoing quest to protect animals by any means necessary, the animal rights organization PETA is offering a one million dollar prize to the first scientist who can produce lab-grown meat in bulk; a sort of Ansari X-prize for the biotechnology sector. Saving animal lives and preventing the suffering that they go through at the hands of the food production industry is their officially stated goal (one that has virtually divided the organization in half since many members find the injestion of flesh, animal or not, anathema) but the reduction of environmental pollution and the ability to produce cheaper sources of protein for the Third-World are the larger gains in the eyes of the scientific world.

I'm well versed in the sometimes extremely inhumane practices employed by factory farms and the like but my appetite for meat in practically all of it's forms has continued to make me a hypocrite on this issue. I've tried tofu burgers, veggie burgers, etc. and they just aren't the same; the current look, taste and texture of faux meat can't fool the millions of years of evolution that led to the formation of my taste buds. If and when lab-grown meat is widely available and suitably appetizing I won't hesitate to eat it, but until then I'll stick with deliciously greasy platefuls like the one pictured above. Bon appetit.

Earth Day

I assume by the IP addresses on my tracking site that most of the visitors to this blog are from this planet, so a happy Earth Day to you all. And to those who aren't: what's the deal with all the anal probing? Do proctologists eventually become the dominant life form in the galaxy or something? Just saying. All those who are non-rectalphiles can click here to see some beautiful space shots of the Blue Marble.

Paul Goes CG

Here's the new 60-second spot from the Ron Paul Campaign. This guy was never taken seriously by the media and therefore never had a chance, despite his considerable fund raising record and the fierce loyalty he engendered amongst his supporters, but he definitely made the primary season more interesting:

Monday, April 21, 2008

John McCain: Older Than Dirt

In all of the excitement/exhaustion of the Democratic primary, the only time John McCain's name seems to come up lately is when he gets asked a question about all of the excitement/exhaustion of the Democratic primary. I admit that I used to have an affinity for McCain (based more on his character than his actual policy stances) but that has slowly disappeared over time as he has predictably sold his integrity to the religious right and various other factions to secure the Republican nomination.

One of the issues he can't seem to get away from in this election cycle is his age; if he does win this election he will be 72 at the time of his inauguration, older than any other U.S. president in history. He has lately taken to making jokes about this supposed handicap, which I guess is better than his campaign's earlier strategy: dusting off his 95 year old mother and wheeling her out in front of the cameras with him, trying to create a sort of "relative youthfulness" as it were.

But no amount of jokes or familial comparisons can change the simple fact that this guy is old; how old, you ask? Here's a few more relative comparisons by the folks at YoungerThanMcCain.com:

Aryan Outfitters

Meet the Ku Klux Klan's seamstress. From Mother Jones.com:

Coming from five generations of Ku Klux Klan members, 58-year-old "Ms. Ruth" sews hoods and robes for Klan members seven days a week, blessing each one when it's done. A red satin outfit for an Exalted Cyclops, the head of a local chapter, costs about $140. She uses the earnings to help care for her 40-year-old quadriplegic daughter, "Lilbit," who was injured in a car accident 10 years ago.
I sympathize with the challenge of having to provide for and give care to an incapacitated family member but to do so through an enterprise that lends support to a horrible, hate-filled organization like the KKK is almost unforgivable. When I was younger and more naive I wondered how so much animosity and racism could still exist in our society at the close of the 20th century; the "five generations" part of this story answers my juvenile self. Hate isn't innate to the human condition, it's ingrained into children by those who raise them.
Kids are great, Apu. You teach them to hate the same things you hate and they practically raise themselves.
-Homer Simpson

[Update: I posted this without even realizing that I had posted the South Park KKK video a day or so earlier; don't worry, this isn't going to become a trend or anything.]

Sudsy Logos Take To The Sky

The icons in the picture above are not the gods coming down decisively on the side of corporate America, although that would fit in neatly with many Republican talking points. They're Flogos, soap bubble formations filled with helium that float your logo around like a balloon, and the next step in the pollution of the natural world with insidious corporate advertising. They can be made 2, 3 or 4 feet wide by a modified artificial snow machine at a rate of 4 per minute, with colored versions available sometime next year. The machines cost $2500 a day to rent but that's a small price to pay to float your product across the world's largest billboard. At this point I predict that we're only a couple of decades away from seeing a massive set of golden arches burned directly into the surface of the moon.

Obama/Jay-Z Mash-up

I warned you they were coming. This is just one of dozens floating around the Internets today. Incidentally, I came across this comment-on-a-comment in a discussion thread about Obama's shoulder brushing and I just couldn't stop laughing:

Are we electing a President or a cool older brother?

When we look at Obama, we see who we want to be.

When we look at Clinton, we see who we are.
And we're douchebags.

On a similar note, I see this as a metaphor for what the general election will be like in the fall: new vs. old, change vs. status quo, Obama invoking Jay-Z while McCain sings the Beach Boys. Stark contrasts. It certainly appears that the Boomers are on their way out of power and not a moment too soon. Tell 'em Jay:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dude, You're Not Helping...

The picture above was taken at a pro-Tibet rally in San Francisco. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with protesters: I frequently agree with their motivations and I really do appreciate that they're out there calling attention to just causes that need media exposure, while at the same time I imagine that they must be some of the most annoying, self-righteous jerks on the face of the planet. Plus many of them are stinky, self-styled hippies, which just compounds my frustration with the whole issue.

Now I am no fan of Communist China; I personally find their history of human rights abuses, especially where Tibet is concerned, abhorant and disgusting and I had serious reservations when I heard that they were granted the right to host the 2008 Olympic games. On the other hand, what good does it do the Free Tibet movement to have idiots like the guy who made this sign out there making everyone else look like ignorant fools?

I equate actions like this to all of those morons at anti-war rallies advertising for Mercedes-Benz instead of waving peace signs, which only gives right-wing hatemongers like the woman I just linked to more ammunition against them on these important issues. There are some people that you just don't want on your side because their actions will only hurt your cause; I have a feeling that Jimbo knows exactly how I feel:

Are You Too Trusting?

If so, then this is the door chain lock for you. The Lebedev Defendius Door Chain is made from 100% Titanium Alloy Construction, has been tested to handle 700 lbs. of force and guarantees you a minimum of 10 extra seconds to decide if that's really the pizza delivery guy on the other side of the door or a blood thirsty terrorist. Designed for a post-9/11 world where no one can be trusted, not even ourselves.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


This video of Barack Obama as Rocky is made all the more entertaining by Hillary Clinton's recent, ham-handed attempt to cast herself as the underdog in this fight. He faces off against the Black Knight in Pennsylvania 3 days from now. Ding, ding:

Hillary Is The Black Knight

I'd originally heard this comparison being made by former comedian Dennis Miller but it seems to have become de rigeur as the primary season has progressed. It appears that no matter what setbacks she is faced with, Senator Clinton just refuses to go down; even in the face of stark reality:

Become One, With The Network

Never let it be said that your religion shouldn't influence your choice of cell phones; case in point: the Buddha Phone, enlightening pointless conversation from here to New Delhi. It incorporates 24 carat gold plating over stainless steel, uses Jade for the main video button and is apparently covered with accurate Buddhist symbols. The price is not available at this time but one would assume that it won't cost you your soul. Namaste.

Laudo Pro Dies

"A true patriot is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins." -Frederick Douglas

Friday, April 18, 2008

Like Hope, But Different

John McCain has hitched his campaign star to the continuation of Bush's Iraq war since he has very few other policy positions the base of the Republican party will support him on. Here's hoping that the solid majority of Americans who are now against this war realize what a McCain victory would mean for this country:
You can find the post featuring the original pro-Obama video that inspired this parody here.

Frank's PUMRAA Bill

Since April 20th falls on a Sunday, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) introduced his marijuana decriminalization bill today. The Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008 would eliminate federal criminal penalties for possession of up to 100 grams (about three and a half ounces) of marijuana and the nonprofit transfer of up to an ounce. The lone co-sponsor is Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), which explains why Frank sounds so much like a libertarian in this statement:

"To those who say that the government should not be encouraging the smoking of marijuana, my response is that I completely agree. But it is a great mistake to divide all human activity into two categories: those that are criminally prohibited, and those that are encouraged. In a free society, there must be a very considerable zone of activity between those two poles in which people are allowed to make their own choices as long as they are not impinging on the rights, freedom, or property of others. I believe it is important with regard to tobacco, marijuana and alcohol, among other things, that we strictly regulate the age at which people may use these substances. And, enforcement of age restrictions should be firm. But, criminalizing choices that adults make because we think they are unwise ones, when the choices involved have no negative effect on the rights of others, is not appropriate in a free society."
Now I have no illusions about the possibility of this bill passing; most lawmakers know the facts support legalization but they're too gutless and scared of the conservative elements in their constituencies making their political lives a living hell to vote intelligently on the subject. Even Frank admits that he hasn't tried to pass a bill like this until now because he was worried about harming his career, which says more about the ignorance and prejudices of certain segments of the American public than anything else. However this turns out though, I applaud Frank and Paul for following their consciences on this important issue.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Knowing Is Half The Battle

Snake Eyes was always one of my favorite G.I. Joe characters when I was a kid; my only complaint was that he never got enough speaking lines. The picture above is of Ray Park (Darth Maul from Phantom Menace) looking like a total bad-ass for the new live action film coming out next year. Is it just me or does he look like he graduated from the Blade school of fashion design?

Dirt Off Your Shoulder

Obama brushes 'em off, using the gotcha tactics and rank amature journalism from last night's debate to emphasize why he's putting himself through all of this in the first place. He maintains his message of positivity and hope when most politicians would be out for blood by this point; it's why people are so enthusiastic about his campaign and why we need him to win this nomination:

[Update: It seems Matt Yglesias at The Atlantic had the same thought I did, adding the Jay-Z hook just for good measure. Prepare yourselves for the mash-ups that follow from this.]

In Lieu Of Original Thoughts

A trippy-ass, anti-drug commercial from New Zealand. Extremely dodgy, yet somewhat macabrely intriguing:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Debate #21

Sorry, I just couldn't bring myself to watch the debate from Philadelphia tonight and I'm one of the few people I know that actually enjoys watching these things. It seems the consensus amongst those who think themselves in the know (and I agree with this assessment) is that Obama has the nomination pretty much locked up at this point, barring any unforeseen meltdowns on his part. Clinton's negatives in the polls only seem to rise, even as the news cycle is continuously focusing on Obama's weaknesses and recent mistakes; there doesn't seem to be anything she can proactively do to take this thing and it's really looking like it's his to lose. There is even talk amongst the superdelegates now of holding their own mini-convention in June, as per Howard Dean's plan to have a presumptive nominee chosen by July 1st.

As to the debate, I did check in with several sites that were live blogging the event and it seems that my instincts were right not to have bothered. It appears that this was the least journalisticly professional or news-worthy debate of the season, and ABC apparently got many thousands of angry comments on their website before finally shutting down the comment section altogether. The first half of the evening was filled with pointless, niggling questions about out of context sound-bites, faux-patriotism and speaking gaffes without including a single relevant question on policy. It was as if Clinton and FOX News got together to choose the most inane, trivial bullshit to try and nail Obama with. It was so bad that when they finally did get to an actual question on the war almost an hour into the broadcast, Dave Weigel at Reason exclaimed:

8:52: What the hell is this question about Iraq doing here? I want to know what angle Barack Obama salutes at!
Even after the questions became more substantial however, the debate continued to merely limp along. Both candidates seemed very tired and worn down by the long months of campaigning but Obama especially seemed as if he'd been taking a beating lately; his answers lacked their usual sharpness and intellect and it seemed as if he was relying heavily on talking points, leading many across the blogosphere to conclude that his dismal performance here will hurt him more than the ad hominem attacks from the first half of the night. Clinton seemed cooler and more in control but then she's used to this kind of mud-slinging, hardball politicking, plus her remarks have been all talking points for quite a while now. Andrew Sullivan sums up the appalling lack of quality questioning from the moderators:

9.32 pm. No questions on the environment, none on terror, none on interrogation, none on torture, none on education, none on spending, none on healthcare, none on Iran ... but four separate questions in the first hour about a lapel-pin, Bitter-gate, Wright-gate and Ayers. I'm all for keeping candidates on their toes. But this was ridiculous. And now we have affirmative action? Again, it's not illegitimate as such - but the only reason it is asked is to try and trip these people up and make Gibson and Stephanopoulos look smart.

So it seems that the cable news networks (as lame as they are at times) have the upper hand when it comes to running a competent, substantive debate. ABC News embarrassed themselves tonight with one of the worst media performances in recent memory; Charlie Gibson was even getting booed by the crowd near the end. And it now comes to light that George Stephanopoulos was coached by Sean Hannity; so a former Clinton staffer was indeed asking Obama questions devised by FOX News. On that note, Obama gave probably his worst television performance yet while Clinton seemed to hold it together despite the level of discourse. And the real winner of course, was John McCain and the Republican party; there's nothing like watching your two possible opponents bloody each other up in the ring while you sit back, observe and lay out a future plan of attack.

Still if the numbers are to be believed, this debacle and much of what has been circulating for the past few weeks shouldn't hurt Obama too badly; every time Clinton tries to capitalize on his misfortunes it seems to blow back in her face and she ends up looking even more desperate and petty for her efforts. She needs to win Pennsylvania by at least double digits in order to make the claim that she has scored a decisive victory. Unfortunately for her, Obama has cut that lead down to five points and either way, such a narrow lead coupled with the nature of the primary will most likely end up dividing the delegates fairly evenly.

If you're planning on voting for the Democrat this November, I know you must be just as tired of this whole primary process as I am. Of course, whenever I say that we need to just choose a candidate and move on to the task of winning the general election, someone always reminds me that this is the process we have and that we should just let it work itself out. Bullshit. This interminable wait, the constant in-fighting and the convoluted selection methods in place just underscore the fact that the entire primary process needs a complete overhaul to make it more transparent, more democratic and more responsive to the will of the people; the party insiders and power brokers have been controlling and manipulating this system for far too long now.

It seems like everyone with any kind of stake in the Democratic party has figured out by now that this whole thing needs to be brought to a swift ending before any permanent damage is done to whichever candidate wins out; everyone except for the Clintons, of course. Their determination to either secure the nomination or destroy their party trying is sure to have a negative effect on the Democrats' chances in November. The party leadership needs to realize that the problems of this country and the complete disaster of the last presidency mean that keeping the Republicans out of office next year is much more important than Hillary Clinton's massive ego or her inherent sense of entitlement. Let's designate a winner already and unify this party so we can win this contest and start earnestly trying to change this country for the better.

Bosnia And Back Again

Hopefully not coming soon to a White House near you:

Why Superman Will Always Suck

I wouldn't say that I'm a man of steel hater or anything but a lot of these sentiments really do ring true. Something for the Fanboys.

Maher Interviews Dawkins

In a previous post, I declared that I had changed my stance on life, the universe and everything from agnosticism to atheism, after which I was subsequently met by a couple of surprised reactions from friends and family; specifically, I was asked what it was that had caused me to make what at the time seemed like a significant change to my world view. And the only answer I could muster was to embarrassingly admit, "Hey, I was confused."

I, like many other people looking for some type of meaning in their lives, was under the mistaken impression that declaring yourself an atheist meant also declaring with absolute, unequivocal certainty that there is no God, something I was loath to do for the simple fact that I had absolutely no way of knowing if that statement was true or not. After doing some research and reading numerous papers on the subject by individuals who are much more knowledgeable than myself, I found that it was perfectly acceptable from a scientific point of view to acknowledge this ignorance and still profess atheistic beliefs; in fact, the tenets of good science encourage it.

I realized that by saying I was agnostic I was merely parsing language when it turned out that I had held atheistic beliefs for quite some time, something I had suspected on some level but was never comfortable stating because of the totality I mistakenly thought that it implied. So while I can never say with total certainty that there are no magical deities or superheroes out there, as a rational human being I'll continue to live my life as if this is the case until I witness (if ever) at least a shred of credible, scientific evidence to the contrary.

Of course, all of this is just preamble to this video of Richard Dawkins conveying these same thoughts to Bill Maher last week, albeit in a much more learned and eloquent manner:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bailing Out The Sub-Primes

I personally objected to the government approved Bear Sterns bailout some weeks back; it just seemed like a slap in the face to the average American tax payer as our government once again put the interests of corporate America first ostensibly to "steady" our economy, although it's widely accepted wisdom in all financial circles that the deal will end up costing us millions anyway.

And now we're hearing people say that we need another government-financed bailout for the millions of people who signed adjustable rate mortgages that they knew they couldn't afford. If this bailout does happen and depending on how it is instituted, I might start to feel like I'm being punished for not being irresponsible and deciding to rent an affordable condo instead. I knew the extent of my finances at the time and I chose not to gamble on a market that everyone was going all-in on; shouldn't that kind of prudence be rewarded in some relative manner?

I do have sympathy for those who were legitamately duped into committing to more than they could handle or were even just a little too excited at the prospect of becoming a home owner (my California friends are feeling it a bit more acutely than those folks I know back in Texas) but rather than just throwing more money at the predicament, I feel like this situation makes a legitimate argument for more government regulation of business lenders (the banking industry is at fault here as well) while at the same time, more personal responsibility on the part of the American people. Government safety nets should be reserved for giving people a leg up, not for correcting their every mistake.

This video makes the same case simply and powerfully:

The Tax Man Cometh

It's tax day again; hope you're all getting big refunds this year. In case you've been wondering what the government is doing with all of your hard-earned dough, you can click on the image above to view a break down of the discretionary allocation process. It's data from 2004 but still quite telling as far as relative percentages are concerned; think of all the great things we could do with just a fraction of that military budget (which doesn't include any of the costs for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, conveniently enough). Death and taxes, indeed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Obama, Elitism And Bitter Politics

Unless you're politically tone deaf or you just don't read the news (which would certainly describe a significant portion of Americans, although not the well informed readers of this blog of course), you've heard all of the noise being made lately by Hillary Clinton, John McCain and every one of their surrogates in the national media about some comments made by Barack Obama at a San Francisco fundraiser last week. Specifically this:

"But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Now you would think that any responsible news organization would take a little time to listen to the entire speech in order to put his remarks into context but I think most of us are well aware by now of how most news organizations have devolved to the point where the quest for ratings and lazily playing sound-bites are standard operating procedures. If you did listen to the entire thing you would see that he was speaking about folks who have fallen upon hard times over the last several years and even decades, people who feel betrayed by their government and who, when they hear someone talking about government in a non-cynical way, immediately feel resentment and mistrust. His point was that when we do get the chance to institute real change in this country, these people who are going to need our help the most are the same ones who will need the most convincing of our sincerity to deliver that change and who will need to hear specific, concrete ideas for the future that will positively affect their lives and the lives of their families for the better.

A major talking point being pounded upon by the anti-Obama forces is his declarative use of the word "bitter" to describe these specific people. As Joe or Jill Public, if you or I said something like this no one would bat an eyelash because (mercifully) we don't live under the constant microscope of someone who is running for the presidency. Unfortunately, if you're Barack Obama and you say something to the effect of "people who have lost their jobs to economic stress are bitter" there is an immediate and disproportionate backlash: you're against poor, working-class people, you're a smug elitist out of touch with blue-collar America, here's one person we found who lost his job and he's not bitter so now you're a dirty liar as well, etc. These cries are in turn amplified and taken advantage of by his opponents and every other opportunist who has something to gain from attacking him and harming his reputation. Case in point: Hillary Clinton was shamelessly handing out "I'm Not Bitter" buttons to voters at an Indiana campaign event in a desperate attempt to capitalize on this supposed controversy.

Another meme from this story is his use of the word "cling" in reference to people's feelings about guns, religion, distrust of the other, etc. This line was immediately spun and distorted thusly by the rival political camps: Barack Obama wants to abolish the 2nd amendment and take away your guns, Obama doesn't respect your religious beliefs, Obama wants to open our borders to illegal immigrants who will take away even more of your jobs. Of course, anyone who has read the man's books or listened to his speeches can tell you that he has never intimated anything like this and that what he was speaking of is exactly what those on the right (and now the left as well, unfortunately) have been doing for years and are callously doing yet again: using incendiary, hot-button social issues to drive a wedge between the American people and to use this distraction to convince the electorate to consistently vote against their own well being and economic self interests. The public "clings" to issues such as gun rights and religion because these things are familiar and comforting and, unlike the national or world economies, people feel like they can exert some measure of control in these matters.

And have you ever noticed that when Republicans introduce federal legislation to outlaw abortion/gay marriage or to ban flag burning or to build a wall to keep the brown people from crossing our border that it only occurs in years ending with an even number/election years? They even propose outrageously unpopular constitutional amendments that they know will have no chance of being ratified so that they can look like they're fighting the good and moral fight for their conservatively religious base, then when they win another election cycle it's back to business as usual with corporate America for another year not evenly divisible by 2. What, you want us to raise the minimum wage and institute affordable health care? We tried to smack down the Mexicans and the gays for you but those evil, liberal Democrats wouldn't let us; isn't that doing enough? Tell you what: reelect us again next year and we promise to try it all again. In the meantime, your baby's cough sounds really bad; maybe you should take him to a doctor or something.

But if you listen very carefully to the steady drum beat behind the cacophony of the daily news cycle you will notice the new bogey-word that Obama's enemies are now falling all over themselves to apply to him: elitist. It's purposeful misuse in our political discourse has had a carefully crafted effect upon the voting public; the mere utterance of the word immediately brings to mind images of fat, pampered royalty ruling an underclass of downtrodden peasants, of efete, Ivy league eggheads in ivory towers spouting ambitious ideas and grand theories too complex to be comprehended by the undereducated masses, of corrupt politicians and slimey corporate executives lining their own pockets with lucre culled from business empires built on the back of the little guy. In short, people who think they're better than us.

And that's the message every Obama hater is crowing right now at the top of their lungs all across the Midwest: this guy thinks he's better than you! This wealthy, Harvard educated politician who uses big words when he speaks wants to become your president so he can make the rules, raise your taxes and tell you how to live your life, because he thinks you're too poor, stupid and incompetent to do that on your own. They then subtly weave this snobbish image together with the classic "uppity negro" persona still recognizable to many older, working-class white voters and it becomes a fairly effective method to prey on the insecurities and weaknesses of the Pennsylvania rust belt; a classic Karl Rove political strategy and one that typifies precisely the type of dirty tricks and political maneuvering that Barack Obama has striven so hard to transcend with his campaign.

At the outset of this post, I had planned on writing a lengthy treatise on the virtues of elitism and the tragedy of it's conspicuous absence amongst those who would endeavor to lead us but when I went back and reviewed this vintage clip of Bill Maher which had originally inspired me to do so, I realized that there wasn't much more I could add that he hadn't already stated in his sometimes eloquent, and oftentimes caustic, style. So I'll just let my fellow Libertarian-Socialist (and intellectual elitist) take it from here:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Who's Up For Some Horse?

This guy would so kick my butt before he even had an H:

And Ladies: He's Single!

Pope Benedict XVI is making his first visit to America next week, so parent's: lock up your alter boys. I'm just kidding Catholics, there's no evidence that the pope ever molested children. Of course, in his previous Vatican job as John Paul II's right hand man he did write a letter instructing every Catholic bishop to keep the sex abuse of minors secret until the Statute of Limitations ran out but hey, it made good business sense, right?

As anyone who reads this blog regularly might guess, I couldn't really give two shits about his visit here. Except for this one hilariously fun fact: the Bush administration is holding a dinner in honor of his visit to the U.S. and guess who has declined to attend? That's right: Benny Sixteen. Apparently there are no competing events listed on his schedule and the White House can't give a reason for his absence. There is a certain amount of speculation that it's because he plans to have some frank discussions with W at an Oval Office meeting before the dinner, specifically about "the false notion that might makes right" and "the culture of fear" in the United States.

While I have many bones to pick with the Catholic Church besides their institutional practice of child molestation (their policy of noninterference during the Holocaust and their silent consent to the slave trade are two that come to mind), I love the audacity and St. Peter's Cathedral-sized balls it takes to completely and publicly diss the President of the United States. I suppose the pontiff's dissing abilities shouldn't surprise me though; I haven't seen crucifix bling like that since I worked in downtown Oakland. And have you checked the Prada kicks? Tight.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wired's Geekster Handbook

What kind of nerd are you? I openly and proudly admit to being a Fanboy, and every one of us knows that Batman would totally kick Boba Fett's bounty-hunting ass. Welcome to the underground.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Go FOX Yourself

The Daily Show's John Oliver examines the rise of FOX News to cable dominance and their "fair and balanced" formula for success:

ZKO Roller Coaster

Strap yourself in and ride the scales in this advertisement for the Zurich Chamber Orchestra:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Failure Piles In Sadness Bowls

Comedian Patton Oswalt bemoans the popularity of KFC Famous Bowls and I agree wholeheartedly. As a fried chicken aficionado, I'm sick of the endless parade of bastardized fast-food creations like the Famous Bowls; just make my damn chicken, Colonel! That's what got you where you are today. Stop trying to make up new and interesting products just to increase your already substantial market share. Hell, if you're going to do something different, try making some decent fried catfish because the brain donors over at Popeye's can't seem to figure it out.

I'm talking to you too, domestic beer manufacturers! I know it's the same piss in a bottle you've been selling for decades and so do you, so stop telling me how much better it is because it's cold brewed/shipped cold/has a born-on date/has a special lining in the bottle, etc. It's fucking beer! Does it impair my judgement and give me an inflated sense of self worth? Yeah? Sold! Now start making some decent micro-brews and we'll talk. Take it, Patton:

[Update: If I hear the corporately approved, weak-assed piano version of "Sweet Home Alabama" one more time, I'm going to kill a random Yankee. I'm totally fucking serious about this, ya'll.

Death Bling

You just knew in a post-9/11 world that this was coming, and frankly I'm surprised it took 7 years. Diddo Velema, Gucci and Louis Vuitton have collaborated on a line of high-fashioned monogrammed and diamond encrusted gas-masks which debuted at the 2008 Luxury Show in Bucharest, Romania. Their one design flaw? They only protect you from mustard gas if it's made from Grey Poupon.

McLoathing, With A Side Of Discrimination

Via Dispatches From the Culture War we get this reaction from a couple of open-minded Christians to the McDonald's corporation having an executive on the board of a gay business group:

My son and I often stop by McDonald's for a bite to eat after homeschool bowling on Fridays. But not today...

Not today, in light of reports that McDonald's has decided, apparently, to declare war on my family. And to declare war on the civilization of liberty, independence, creativity, and humanity under God that my Dad fought for in World War II.

The rest of the post is worth reading merely for it's sheer comedic value. I know that when I hear tell of a responsibly cohesive and loving gay family unit that I can't help but feel that the future heterosexually-based family I expect to one day head is directly threatened by their high levels of fascist gayosity, combined with a subtle hint of Nazi cocksuckery.

Now I am by no means a defender of the McDonald's corporation; I hate their food (breakfasts aside) and I hold them at least tacitly responsible for the unfavorable body image the US population represents to the rest of the world. Still, I applaud their progressive outreach to the gay community despite the damage it might cause to their well-cultivated image amongst their core blue-collar and urban demographics. In short, when it comes down to politics vs. profits, I'm lovin' it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Truth, Power And Iran

After reading this piece by Trudy Rubin in The Philadelphia Inquirer, wherein she states that Iran will play a necessary and integral roll in the outcome of the Iraq war, I came across Andrew Sullivan giving one of the clearest and most concise declarations I've heard yet as to how the next administration will have to face the realities in Iraq and finally decide just how to handle Iran:

Distinguishing between what we can affect and what we cannot is the key. Iran has leverage whatever happens, whether we leave or stay and regardless of how we stay. They know it; we know it; at some point, someone will have to talk - and talk big - with power brokers in Tehran. That will be partly what this election will be about; and what it should be about.

By spouting terms such as "enriched uranium" and "Axis of Evil" loudly enough and long enough while at the same time refusing to engage in diplomatic talks with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, George W. Bush has managed to escape having to actually do anything about Iran aside from instituting economic sanctions and issuing transparent, and largely impotent, threats of military action. He and his neocon confederates have made news and looked tough with talk of "bunker busters" and "pre-emptive strikes" but there is no way we can attack Iran and despite all of their inane posturing and rhetoric, they know it. Even worse, Iran knows it and worse still, Iran knows that we know it.

Many of their strategic installations are buried in secret locations under the desert of the 18th largest country on the planet holding a population triple that of Iraq, which means that with all the forces and equipment we currently have at our disposal we couldn't effectively bomb or occupy that country even if future events necessitated it. Oh, and they're able to buy and sell us many times over as their considerable oil and natural gas reserves are still measured using our thoroughly weakened dollar.

When Bush rashly decided to remove Saddam Hussein from power without planning for what would happen even five minutes after the fact it created a gaping power vacuum in the Middle East, which is now teetering on the verge of going completely to shit with Iran looking to come out the big winner when all is said and done. He broke it but we're the ones who have to buy it, and by "we" I mean the next several generations of Americans. The can just gets kicked further on down the road; it's impossible to say just yet who the buck will stop with next January but you can bet that it ain't gonna be stopping with W.

We now find ourselves as a nation in a no-win scenario; a sort of Persian Kobayashi Maru and the the sooner the rabid, pro-war cheerleaders finally accept this fact the better. Iraq is just going to continue to suck for America no matter what the next president decides to do; any option we consider is a bad one. Every day it becomes more and more obvious that we will have to leave at some point and it's inevitable that the country will then eventually tear itself apart, with Iran waiting on the periphery to take advantage of the situation at every opportunity.

What we have to do now is honestly admit to ourselves that we can't "win" by any acceptable definition of that word and start actually discussing where we go from here. When we've decided which of our options stinks the least we'll hold our noses and try to do what's best for ourselves and the Iraqi people. Our obligation towards their eventual safety and well-being will have to be carefully weighed against the cost of this war in both American lives and treasure. These are the difficult choices that we must force ourselves to make in the near future.

Even as General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week about the progress of the surge in Iraq, the administration's surrogates continue to make the hollow case for armed conflict with Iran; conflict that we as a nation can ill afford. Since this wars inception Bush has made the seminal mistake of avoiding taking any real action with regards to Iran in the guise of some type of "time-out" punishment, to his peril and ours as well. Here's hoping the next president will have the pragmatism and the courage required to be what George W. Bush never could: a true leader.

Ill. Rep. Davis: Atheism "Dangerous"

Some of you may have heard about this story out of the Illinois General Assembly last week. Outspoken atheist Rob Sherman was speaking before the chamber against a million dollar grant to a Baptist church when State Representative Monique Davis burst into a rant decrying Sherman's world view as "dangerous" to children and against the morals and founding of the entire state.

I think that last sentence bears repeating: a democratically elected official went on public record as stating that an American citizen's right to have and freely express his own religious beliefs is "dangerous" because they do not agree with her own. If the rolls were reversed and a lawmaker had told a Christian or Jew that their religious views were dangerous for children to know about and that they had no right to be speaking before their state assembly for that reason, the religious right in this country would be calling for that person's head as if they were John the Baptist.

Fortunately, Sherman is only an atheist and therefore doesn't deserve the same respect from his elected officials as someone who believes in magical water walkers and invisible sky gods. If only there was some kind of change made to the Constitution that protected his right as a citizen to believe whatever he wanted; an "amendment", if you will, that would guaranty some sort of "freedom" as far as "religion" is concerned.

Yesterday, Rep. Davis found herself in good company as Keith Olbermann nominated her for "Worst Person in the World":

[Update: Rep. Davis has apologized to Sherman, and he has accepted. Good. Apparently she was upset over yet another Chicago school shooting and said that she just took her frustrations out on him. It doesn't excuse her actions but at least she had enough class to take responsibility for them.]

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Colbert Bump: Believe It

Stephen Colbert has made great mention of what he calls the "Colbert Bump", wherein actors, authors and politicians experience a surge of popularity immediately following their appearance on The Report with him. Now a just completed University of California, San Diego study has scientifically documented the effects of the Bump on political campaigns:

Fowler examined the rate and amount of fundraising done by House candidates who appeared on Colbert's show for his "Better Know a District" segment. Democrats who appear on the show raise 44 percent more money in the 30 days after appearing on the show than Dems that don't appear.
Colbert is taking his show on the road for the Pennsylvania primaries; we'll see if Obama or Clinton decide to avail themselves of his fiery sword of endorsement.