Saturday, July 31, 2010

The War On Cannabis

And all of its attendant societal woes:


Picture Of The Day

Time magazine's latest cover is causing some controversy in the blogosphere:

Our cover image this week is powerful, shocking and disturbing. It is a portrait of Aisha, a shy 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban commander to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha posed for the picture and says she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan, many of whom have flourished in the past few years. Her picture is accompanied by a powerful story by our own Aryn Baker on how Afghan women have embraced the freedoms that have come from the defeat of the Taliban — and how they fear a Taliban revival.
Now of course this photo is meant to be emotionally manipulative: how could you not feel sorry for this woman? What was done to her was truly reprehensible and horrible and I don't mind admitting that I would be quite happy to see something equally as horrible happen to her attacker in return. This sort of thing happens to women far too often in that part of the world and our troops are doing good work by trying to prevent further violence being perpetrated upon innocents. That said: do you consider this to be a form of exploitation? In their defense of running the cover Time claims that they neither endorse nor oppose the war effort but as I said, it's clearly meant to support an agenda of remaining in Afghanistan and I think this claim of objectivity would seem equally transparent if the cover photo featured the dead mutilated corpse of an American soldier instead.

We've occupied Afghanistan for nearly a decade now. Credible military experts and historians agree almost universally that it will be several more decades before any sort of functional civilized government will be able to run the country and maintain some semblance of peace in the face of Taliban aggression. As I've said before I see only two options for us in this war: either get out now largely on our own terms or else wait until a lack of money, troops and equipment slowly drains us dry before forcing us to leave in defeat. I'm sympathetic to the plight of people like Aisha and I wish the United States could stop all suffering on the planet through shear force of will but that's obviously logistically unrealistic and economically unfeasible.

So, how do we define "victory" in Afghanistan? Should we remain there indefinitely until it is achieved? Should we spend an infinite amount of money to achieve it? What about all of the other countries whose people endure equally appalling levels of suffering and cruelty, should we commit ourselves just as fully to achieving "victory" in those places as well? Should we truly become Team America: World Police? I think the short and inevitable answer is that we simply cannot, and I believe that President Obama was mistaken in doubling our military down on the war in Afghanistan. Just as important as striving to win a war is being able to recognize when that cannot be done, even if doing so leads to an increase in human suffering. That's a hard truth for Americans to accept but we must do so if we wish to avoid bankrupting our nation and retain the ability to help people around the world like the poor girl pictured above.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stuff Hitting Other Stuff Very Slowly

A nice analog compliment to the digitally rendered physics fest from Monday:


Jon Stewart's Goatee

A lot of people are talking shit but I like it. Now maybe my perceptions are somewhat colored by the fact that I'm such a big fan of The Daily Show or because I myself am also beardily-challenged, hence leaving the goatee as my only outlet for facial hair expression (what I wouldn't give to be able to grow a pair of really kick-ass Wolverine mutton chops...) but I'm siding with Stewart on this one. It gives him a kind of elder statesman of the fake news vibe, plus I thought Wyatt Cenac's "Tony Stark" jab the other day was pure beardist gold.

Brain Rage Endorses Basil Marceaux.com

This post is to announce that Brain Rage officially endorses Republican Basil Marceaux.com for governor of the great state of Tennessee. This man should be given as many opportunities to speak in front of a microphone and/or camera as is humanly possible:

His website is a journey into another world. A bleak, rambling world. Here's his complete bid for governor (watch the reporters' faces because they know what's coming):


Foreskin Man!

Finally, a superhero for the truly complete fanboy. I doubt this one made it to Comic Con last week:

Frustrated by societys failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens, Foreskin Man has taken up the fight agains male genital mutilation.

Aided by the power of his technologically advanced plasma boots, Foreskin Man flies above the city to hunt down criminals who cut tthe genitals of innocent boys.

It is the dawn of a new era. Circumcisers, beware!
Scourge of the diabolical Mohel Decree, faster than a speeding scalpel and aided by his female sidekick Clitty Cat he pulls back the loose skin of society's archaic religious rituals to expose the slightly funky criminal underbelly of male genital mutilation! OK, I made that part up myself. I thought Heroes was getting pretty bad last year but I'd say this is definitive proof that we've finally run out of superhero ideas. Here's his official website. You can read my previous largely undecided take on male circumcision here.

[Update: Welcome to all of my fellow Daily Dish readers! Please feel free to have a look around Brain Rage; and thanks, Andrew.]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sucker Punch Trailer

I have no idea what this movie is about but I'm fairly certain that I'm going to end up seeing it:


Something Someone Else Said

"Pick something that you pay no attention to. For my dad, I always suggest NASCAR. My dad has read a sports page every day since he was a little kid; he still gets (as do I) a real, honest-to-goodness local newspaper on his front porch every morning. He must have seen the names of NASCAR drivers thousands of times, but odds are he's only stopped to read a story if it had something in the headline that really caught his attention (someone from the Bronx, or Jewish, or both, might do it). If you asked him to name a NASCAR driver he'd probably look at you as if you were nuts...but if you named some of them, he'd probably recognize the names. The idea is that lots and lots of people have about that level of knowledge about most of what happens in politics. It's just background noise. We, the people who write and read political blogs, and watch debates, and pay attention to politics even in the off season --we're the minority." -Jonathan Bernstein, A plain blog about politics.

The analogy of NASCAR drivers is an apt one for me. Even when I got a paper back in the day I always found the sports section extremely boring and rarely read it but because of SportsCenter on ESPN my knowledge level of NASCAR is similar to that of Bernstein's father. I have to say that if the average American's knowledge of politics is indeed comparable to my own ignorance about NASCAR then it's no wonder we wallow in this perpetual cycle of electing corrupt politicians to a bloated inefficient bureaucracy. I mean, George W. Bush actually got reelected after all of the stupid shit he did during his first term in office. If that doesn't indicate that most Americans aren't paying attention to the actions of their elected officials then I don't know what does. It's lines of thought like this that scare me into considering the possibility that Sarah Palin just might be able to win the presidency someday: because lazy, ignorant people vote. Busch/Earnhardt Jr. in 2012!


Monday, July 26, 2010

The Beauty Of Physics

Seen through advanced computer rendering:


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Palin's 2012 Presidential Bid In Taiwanese CGI

Finally, a news organization has captured the essence of Sarah Palin's charisma and the dignity of the American political process:

The good people at NMA News, the Taiwanese news service that made a name for itself with its bizarre computer animated coverage of, among other things, the Al Gore scandal and January’s Late Night Wars, is back with a vengeance, and this time they’ve set their eyes on Sarah Palin’s 2012 prospects.

Well, at least that’s what we assume this video is about from its title, “Is Sarah Palin Gunning for 2012?” In terms of the actual content, it’s mostly Palin pole dancing in a bikini, shooting moose with a machine gun from a helicopter and parachuting herself into a “teabagger rally.” There is also a rendition of “Keeping Up with the Palins” (presumably a Wasilla-based reality TV show) depicting the Palin family smoking illicit substances and yelling at each other, and a dramatization of the suffering of William Shakespeare’s ghost as he watches Palin “refudiate” the Ground Zero mosque.

What, too real?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Something Insightful Someone Else Said

"There have been three big conservative outrages that have choked the airwaves over the past couple of weeks. #1 was about a bunch of scary black men, the New Black Panther Party. #2 was about a bunch of scary Muslims who want to build a triumphal mosque on the sacred soil of Ground Zero. #3 was about a vindictive black woman who works for the government and screws the white people she deals with. The running theme here is not just a coincidence." -Kevin Drum, Mother Jones.

Serenity Now Trailer

The comedy was just a cover for the deep-seated pain and anguish lurking just below the surface:


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Capitalism On Crack

An art project:

Fabian Brunsing’s public art installation “Pay & Sit: The Private Bench” imagines a dystopian tomorrow in which even the most quotidian of conveniences — resting a moment on a park bench — have become soulless objects of enterprise.

Park benches that everyone can sit on for free? That's socialist bullshit, man (at least that's what I've gathered from listening to political discussions lately).


Killing The "Ground Zero" Mosque

Unsurprisingly, it seems that my conservative counterpart Donald Douglas of American Power is against the so-called Ground Zero Mosque in New York City. He makes a comparison to the protests over another mosque being built in Temecula, California:

This Temecula case doesn't seem to be anything like the opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque, which is clearly an example of Islamic Jihad's imperial conquest. New York Muslims will literally be praying on a battle zone where bodies are still being recovered.
Now that's clearly an example of hyperbolic paranoia but one of Don's readers and regular commenter Stogie (you might remember him) had a decidedly stronger reaction that I can only describe as wholly un-American:
I've thought about this quite a bit, and I don't think the 1st Amendment should protect Islam. It is not just harmless worship, but a totalitarian ideology that seeks to violently overthrow our Constitution and democracy and replace them with Sharia law. The extensive cultural disruption and non-assimilable nature of Islam in Europe has already been clearly noted. Do we want the same problems over here? I think not.

The Constitution, as someone has said, is not a suicide pact. In the 1950s, when we were being undermined by communists "boring from within," would we have allowed communist training centers throughout America? And if they had called themselves "a religion," would that have made it all okay?
So this guy thinks that the First Amendment, you know, the part of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of both religion and speech, should not apply to whichever religions he personally dislikes and the adherents of those religions should be censored by the government for speech he similarly finds objectionable. Interesting that tea party types who believe that the federal government is actively working to curtail our freedoms under an Obama administration are actually quite comfortable letting that government curtail the freedoms of those Americans they personally disagree with. I seem to remember a similar mindset on the political right in this country when the Bush administration asserted its supposed right to disappear American citizens... I mean "detain evil terrorists" indefinitely in former Soviet black sites to be tortured with neither a trial nor due process. And while Don was quite happy at the time to endorse this government torture of US citizens he is at least showing some modicum of level-headedness as it pertains to our First Amendment:
I'm not personally thrilled about Ground Zero, and I join those in protesting it. Seems a slap in the face to those who died and to the living who are still mourning and recovering the dead. I won't personally go so far as banning Islam in America, however, which is what...Stogie [is] supporting, basically. I'm not sure how we're going to do it, but we've got to find a way to separate jihadi Muslims from those of the faith who reject the Islam's fundamentalist literalism in favor of liberalized version of the religion. (And I'm skeptical that's possible, given my knowledge of Islam as a religion of victory and conquest.)
Although he does unapologetically post this incendiary and misleading anti-Muslim ad that's been making its way around the blogosphere lately:

Little Green Footballs adds some pertinent information that one would assume those supporting this ad are quite and/or willfully ignorant of:
It should be pointed out (again) that the “Ground Zero mosque” these idiots are ranting about is actually a proposed community center with an auditorium, swimming pool, and restaurants, in addition to a mosque. It would be housed in an existing 13-story building that’s two blocks away from Ground Zero and has no view of the area; there are two very big buildings in between the proposed community center and Ground Zero. Here is an embedded Google Map in which you can clearly see that the idea of this being a “Ground Zero mosque” is a ridiculous paranoid fantasy.

Suppose the community center was five blocks away instead of two blocks away.

Would that be OK?

How about if it was in midtown?

Far enough?

Maybe it needs to be in Queens?

If you want a special exception to America’s religious tolerance, where are you going to draw the line?
That last question is the one I would ask of religious and cultural bigots like Stogie, along with a few others: What are these people so scared of that they would undermine our Constitutional protections in so eager and flippant a manner? Why do they imagine American institutions and the American people to be so weak and fragile as to not be able to counter or stand up against any opinions or beliefs that differ from the majority of our citizens? And most importantly, who the fuck are they to decide for the rest of us what the extent of our religious freedoms should be? I obviously don't expect honest answers to these questions but I'd certainly be willing to listen if Stogie wants to refudiate any of these points.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Something Someone Else Said

"The GOP’s basic problem is that many Republicans equate Christianity, or at least Judeo-Christianity, with Americanism. They do not believe it’s possible to truly uphold American ideals unless you identify with the religious traditions that supposedly underlie those ideals. In a country with a growing Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Mormon and atheist population, that’s a significant source of political bigotry. Is it good that the South Carolina GOP has embraced a South Asian woman? Of course. When that woman can practice whatever religion she wants, without fear that it will wreck her political career, then Republicans will truly deserve to crow." -Peter Beinart, The Daily Beast.

This type of religious intolerance seems to be endemic to the GOP with the Democratic party being more inclusive of various religious beliefs, and certainly not anti-religion as many on the right consistently charge. In fact, that's one thing the two major political parties do seem to agree on: an endorsement of candidates for whom religious belief is a prerequisite. Muslims and Sikhs may find it difficult to win elections in certain parts of this country but atheists are discriminated against almost uniformly on this count. To succeed in American politics it doesn't matter so much which kind of magic you believe in, just so long as you believe in some type of magic. Republicans merely have their favorite.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

19 Things You Didn't Know About Star Wars

I'm not trying to brag or anything (because I know how much this would impress some people) but I actually knew (or had at least heard of) 14 of these. You must learn the ways of the Force, if you're to come with me to Alderaan:
19 Things You Didn't Know about Star Wars
I always wondered what had happened to Hamill's face. Oh, and that Han Solo graphic reminded me of one of my favorite Patton Oswalt bits:


Friday, July 16, 2010

Ferris Club

Was Ferris just a manifestation of Cameron's impotent subconscious, brought to the fore by his inability to find meaning or joy within our morally bankrupt society? This mash up trailer makes the case:


Something Terrifying Someone Else Said

"I'm putting my money on the Palin-ization of politics. Partly this is because the mainstream press is dying anyway, and partly it's because Palin and others are demonstrating that you really don't need conventional press coverage to win. In fact, as Rand Paul and Sharron Angle can testify, it's a real risk. Between YouTube and Twitter and Facebook and blogs and friendly talk radio hosts — as well as more conventional things like TV ads and database-driven phone outreach — who needs the New York Times? Increasingly, I'll bet the answer is, no one." -Kevin Drum, Mother Jones.

I really hope Drum's wrong about this but the technological and cultural trends of late would seem to bear out his hypothesis. The communication tools prospective politicians and their campaigns have access to right now are cheaper, easier to use and reach more people than at any other point in history. Plus a campaign run in this manner would be tailor-made for a Palin candidacy: pithy little sound bites laden with folksy focus grouped talking points written in her name by her staff, punctuated by her occasional foray onto FOX News or conservative talk radio whilst assiduously avoiding any type of actual debate format. I've laughed off the idea of this type of candidacy so far because I've always assumed that the American people wouldn't be fooled by it and that the press wouldn't let her or anyone else get away with it. Of course, both of those groups of people have consistently disappointed me in the past.


Obscenity vs Freedom Of Expression

A video made by Reason.tv found at my conservative counterpart Donald Douglas' site American Power, posted without commentary because Don supposedly hates the encroachment of government into our personal lives (like any good tea partier) yet also thinks there are things it should protect adults from for our own good (like any good Republican), hence the lack of a stated opinion either way. Regardless though what's happening to John Stagliano in America today is a crime not only against personal liberty but also against free speech rights. Yes, pornography is a form of expression protected by the First Amendment. I don't know about you but I'm having a hard time hearing the shouts of outrage from anti-government, personal freedom loving tea party types when it comes to protecting the civil liberties of people like this man:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Something Someone Else Said

"The more fundamental difference between the Obama era and its New Deal and Great Society predecessors is this: Back then, progressives did not define the left end of the political spectrum. In the 1930s and 1960s, America featured honest-to-goodness alternatives to capitalism, home-grown radical movements that scared the crap out of the American establishment and sent some of its denizens scurrying into arms of reformers like FDR and LBJ. Because our entire ideological spectrum has shifted right since communism’s collapse, reforms that once looked like centrist compromises now look like the brainchild of Chairman Mao." -Peter Beinart, The Daily Beast.

And so through historical ignorance and naked partisanship a conservative moderate is now referred to with a straight face by the political right as the most liberal president in our history. And I suppose some people always just need someone to hate.


Debunking The Jones Act Talking Points

Some journalists still know how to do that job well:


Monday, July 12, 2010

Something Familiar Someone Else Said

"All of this knowledge is giving me a raging brainer!" -Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Futurama.

My new favorite phrase. I like to judge a cartoon based on the number of science jokes it contains. One of the nerdiest shows on television is back, baby.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Star Wars TomTom GPS Recordings

*waives hand all Jedi mind-trick like* You will buy a TomTom GPS device:

Seriously, buy one:


Something Someone Else Said

"The greatest threat to the United States today, the greatest threat to our liberty, the greatest threat to the Constitution of the United States, the greatest threat to our way of life; everything we believe in. The greatest threat to the country that our founding fathers put together is the man that's sitting in the White House today," -former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo.

This guy was one of the Republicans running for their presidential nomination in the last election, he was in the actual debates. He's a big name in the mainstream Republican party, he says shit like this and yet he's still taken seriously by the "liberal" media. War, terrorists, plague: apparently none of these compares to the threat posed by this black man with a foreign sounding name who is (maliciously or ignorantly, depending upon whether this weeks narrative is that he's evil or stupid) systematically destroying the United States of America from within. Where do they go from here? How much more hyperbolically deranged can this political party possibly become in its attempts to demonize Obama? If the saner heads amongst them don't prevail at some point, I'm afraid we'll get to find out. Their 2012 presidential nomination will be the canary in the reality coal mine; Sarah Palin would be the deadly gas.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Bienvenidos a Miami, Lebron...

Finally. OK ESPN, could you please find something else to talk about now? This entire process has been epically boring and the salaries these guys are pulling in are just ridiculous. When does NFL training camp start already?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Electoral Sour Grapes Of The Day

Found at my conservative counterpart Donald Douglas' site American Power, just for the laughs. Now obviously the items on this list are mostly the product of fevered neocon dreams and callous fear-mongering but it was the declaration "59 Million Americans Didn't Vote for This" that struck me. Even if this were a list of Obama's political ambitions, who the fuck cares what those 59 million people voted for? They lost! Yet we're told to believe that this is how democracy is now supposed to work: the side that loses the election gets to set the agenda for the next four years (although to be fair, Obama and the Democrats have caved on a number of issues only to get a "bi-partisan" middle finger from Republicans time and again).

Well I'm one of the 69 million people who voted for Obama and and I think I speak for most of us when I say that we're quite happy to let him continue running the country. Here's a reminder for everyone else:

TDS: Wish You Weren't Here

Jon Stewart beaks down why President Obama wants those dirty Muslims ("non-Christians", if you're scoring at home) to rule space and build mosques next door to you:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Assembling The International Space Station

I remember when the idea of this thing was just that, and look at it now. The assembly happens over the first 1:30 and then the rest details the individual sections (if that turns you on):

(hat tip: Reza)

Do I Have Writer's Block?

If you haven't noticed I've been neglecting this blog a bit, sometimes out of necessity as I've been fairly busy of late but also at times out of indifference as well. I just haven't felt like writing anything recently. I still have opinions, I still get mad at many things throughout my day, I'm still constantly amazed/amused by things in this world yet lately I find myself not really having much to say about them, or not really wanting to say much about them here. I hope this apparent malaise doesn't last much longer but my apologies in advance if it does.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The 100 Greatest Movie Insults Of All Time

"Your mom goes to college..." is probably my favorite because it's so innocuous:

(hat tip: one L bill)

Happy 4th Of July

I've decided that I'm going to make posting this picture on July 4th my own little blogging tradition (plus I like how it always makes me feel patriotic... in my pants). I hope everyone has a good time barbecuing or blowing shit up or whatever other red-blooded American things you plan on doing during my favorite country's birthday today.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Picture Of The Day

How cool is this?

This isn't our Sun. This other sun is 470 light-years away from our home. Its name is 1RXS J160929.1-210524, and the orange sphere near it has been confirmed today as an orbiting planet. The first photo of an extra-solar planet.

The photo was originally taken in 2008 by David Lafreniere and collaborators working at the Gemini Observatory. Scientists weren't sure about it being an orbiting planet until now, however. New observations have shown that the planet follows an orbit around the star 300 times larger than Earth's orbit.

The planet has eight times the mass of Jupiter, and has a much higher temperature: 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit as opposed to the minus 166 degrees of the biggest planet in our solar system. Scientists believe this temperature is a product of the age of this star system, much younger than ours.

Far from throwing any light in planetary theories, this discovery challenges the current model. Lafreniere and his colleagues think the orbit is too large for the planet to form by core accretion. If that was the case, then the star system could be much older than is actual age.

The only thing that worries me about this: what if the inhabitants of that planet saw the flash from our camera? Now I'm not saying that we're due for an alien invasion or anything like that but we do have a black president: isn't that always when shit goes down?