All purpose vertically integrated publishing empire for cynicism, hopelessness and misanthropy. Mild nausea is common when using this product. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to: dizzyness, headache, homicidal rage and yellow discharge. Rarely, users may begin to hear voices urging them to kill. If this occurs, discontinue use and seek psychiatric attention. Do not read when pregnant or nursing; the author thinks that's gross.

Monday, December 8, 2008

American Automakers and the Left

Tiring ShitI am so damn sick of hearing all this pro-Detroit propaganda from the left in the lead-up to the (regrettably necessary) bailout of the pathetic American car industry.

Personally I think of it as a short-term jobs program; we're not paying 30+ billion (or 15 now, more later, or whatever they come up with) to make cars, we're paying 30+ billion to keep the biggest resevoir of old labor in work until the Obama admin is forced to nationalize the 'BIG 3' (god what an annoying nickname) and turn their companies toward making something... anything... that we actually need.

Trains? Buses? Actual fuel efficient vehicles? (the Volt doesn't count and is a myth, more on that later)

We retooled the auto industry before, in World War II. They made great planes, terrible tanks, but basically, they made what we (thought) we needed, and they made a lot of it in a hurry. Under competent leadership there's no reason they can't be expected to make a decent product again.

The issue here is management. Make absolutely no mistake; we cannot trust the current morons at the top of the BIG 3 to do anything right. They've been fighting higher CAFE standards for years, they've been preventing California from regulating carbon emissions (because the Bush administration won't), and most famously, they beat down California's desperate, literally gasping effort to force them to manufacture *any* decent, high-efficiency vehicles so that their citizens wouldn't have to choke to death on carbon emissions. (Naturally Bush lent a hand with that one too)

Destroying the EV-1 was just the icing on the cake. GM's head tool Wagoner claims he feels just awful about that now. Riiiight. That makes it all better. (though apparently he did accept that his own poor decisions are to blame for the lead the Japanese automakers have in actual hybrid technology.. why is he still employed, again?)

While the Japanese companies aren't free of sin on these matters either, note that they capitulate to the will of the people on things like CAFE, while our AMERICAN companies subverted democracy using the Bush junta and the courts to stay in the big SUV business as long as possible.

Obama, to his credit, got out in front of this issue long before he was the President-in-all-but-Name, though I disagree with his idea to, for example, let bigger vehicles slide a bit on fuel economy ratings (that would only encourage people to buy, well, overly large cars).

The institutional culture at the American automakers is *sick*. Profit at any cost, style entirely over substance, and when they cannot compete, they simply double down on bad ideas (SUVs, Hummers/H-2s, etc).

At no point does our national security concern them, nor our health and environment. Ultra-capitalists might respond, 'Why should it?' Well, for one thing, if their cars destroy our environment and ruin our health... we won't be around to purchase them in the future, will we?

The best response for this line of argument, though, is simply historical. The automakers won every battle on pollution and regulation; they got to destroy the EV-1, they got to sell as many fuel-guzzlers as they could make, they got to keep the ludicrously low CAFE standards, they had the full might of the federal government brought to bear to beat states that, in their naive embrace of democracy, sought a better future for their citizens... in short, they operated the full Ferengi business model for the last 30 years.

What did that get them? They were all going bankrupt BEFORE THE CURRENT CRISIS, that's what. Ford, GM and Chrysler, destroyed themselves with their own lack of foresight and terrible business decisionmaking.

It really isn't hard to understand the plight of the American automakers. They made lousy cars that fell apart and cost a fortune to maintain for thirty straight years. They responded slowly to market forces, lagging behind their competitors, especially wherever efficiency and reliability were concerned. They gorged at the glut of SUVs and H2s and super large trucks, a glut that relied on a temporary abundance of very cheap oil... which the automakers relied on to last forever.

As if oil is a renewable resource, or OPEC a bunch of powerless buffoons.

Ask yourself: who do you know who drives American cars and *likes* it?

My family always bought American cars, and they almost always came to regret it. My stepdad has had a series of GM cars over the last decade, and they always suffer from mysterious sensor failures that require them to spend extended periods in the shop, at great expense.

Nothing actually breaks, mind you; it's the sensor. (I wonder when GM will cut the randomness out of it and make the sensors activate according to their stock price; whenever they drop more than 5%, sensor-powers-activate! and thus the revenue kicks up)

My dad had a series of abysmal Dodge cars, particularly a Talon that was tiny, cramped, and riddled with engine troubles; I drove a used Chrysler that broke down 13 times in one year. Et Cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The best American car anyone in my family has ever owned is an old Dodge Caravan I still have as a used car. It's falling apart but refuses to die despite being over twenty years old... but even it was defective when it was driven off the lot, as they used bad primer on all the Caravans of that era (which led to a later recall that my grandfather, who originally drove this van, didn't take advantage of for some reason. You still see lots of dodge vans on the road with the same distinct pattern of paint peeling from that era to this day. An otherwise solid vehicle that will always suffer from a bad reputation as a result of cheap paint. Nice.)

There's a happy ending though; my father purchased a shiny new Prius a few years ago, and has had nothing but driving bliss ever since. He claims to get an average of 50 mpg, and can drive from his home in Indiana to Alabama for vacations on one tank of gas.

You see this same, sad story wherever you look. Automakers haven't just destroyed their brand; they stomped it into the ground, set it on fire, and pissed on the ashes.

Even in a friendly forum, you get this same litany of complaints. I was actually shocked, way back in November, to see how quickly the comments on a post about whether or not to save the auto industry, on a BIG 3 friendly liberal site, turned into a bitchfest about American cars.

But it did.

Even the author, who worked FOR the American automakers for years, won't drive American -- they love a particular Honda to death (like a classic romance, the very type of foreign car they were supposed to analyze so the Americans could copy and corrupt it).

It's like a comedy of errors, when even your natural allies can no longer overlook your decades of greed and excess.

Here, have some handy examples from Left Blogistan:

A man who found an American car he liked -- until they canceled the model (no worries though, he could always buy a big truck!)

Another person who drives German cars -- because they never break on him, not after years of driving.

A prominent writer for the site who hasn't driven American for 30 years because they suck -- and would only buy American as a masochistic last ditch to save the industry

On and on and on.

The question isn't how can we save the American auto industry. The question is; how can we save them from themselves?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

An Evening with Mr. Campbell

His Name is BruceWednesday night, the roomie and I went to see My Name is Bruce at the Sundance Cinema in yuppie Hilldale. Afterward, there was a Q&A session with Mr. Bruce Campbell himself, making it quite the special moviegoing occasion.

First, a little about the film: My Name is Bruce is a satirical horror-comedy, a style/genre that has gained a lot of visibility and credibility since the groundbreaking Shaun of the Dead. (Dark Reel, another great example of this trend, was the big winner at The Dark Carnival film festival this year.)

Of the three, Bruce is probably the lightest in tone and the least 'serious'. Semi-autobiographical, the film shows an exasperated and impoverished B-Movie star (Campbell) struggling to get through the days, succumbing to despair, debauchery and truly grotesque amounts of cheap whiskey, until a deseprate young fan unleashes an ancient Chinese war god on his town and seeks Campbell out to save everyone (just like he does in the movies).

The movie is quite snarky and biting when it comes to the issue of obsessive fans, which made it all the more interesting to be paired with a Q&A session sure to attract... lots of Bruce Campbell's more obsessive fans. The whole experience could get pretty 'meta', as the roommate would say (and did, if I recall correctly).

Besides Bruce Campbell, the movie is mostly full of new faces/unknowns, with the exception of Ted Raimi, who plays three different roles (including a potentially dicey Chinese-American stereotype by the name of Wing). Despite being a movie that gives the fans a hard time, it's loaded with fan-pleasing cameos from previous Bruce Campbell movies (and Sam Raimi pictures) in the Evil Dead trilogy, some of whose characters... explicitly talk about their previous roles in these other movies.

So you've got a bit of a snake eating its own tail thing.

Anyway, long story short, Bruce, in Bruce, has to get over his self-loathing and despondency to, in half-assed fashion, save a small town from an inept monster (Guan-Di, who is supposedly based on an actual Chinese war god/legend, who, and this is critical to the plot... was also the God of Bean Curd. Right.)

(Also of note is the movie's use of music; not unlike Dead and Breakfast, yet another great horror-comedy, Bruce features a number of plot-advancing songs and musical numbers where cast members directly address the audience.)

The end result is a hilarious, nonsensical, rambling, raving movie, bouncing from one scene to the next, never taking itself too seriously, and always giving you a chance to laugh. It's difficult to describe it any more precisely than that; this is what I sometimes call a 'cotton-candy' movie... it goes by so fast, and you enjoy it thoroughly, but it sort of melts/disappears into your memory after the fact.

(I will say that Mr. Campbell must be incredibly self-confident to make a movie so much at his own expense. Then again, this is a man who proudly refers to himself as a B-movie actor.)

After the movie, Campbell came out and took questions for quite a while, and he is incredibly funny and quick in person. Sometimes the questioners were pretty snarky themselves, and he always took it with humility, without ever being a pushover.

For instance, someone asked him about whether he was doing the Old Spice commercials just for the money (he said of course he was, that they paid very well and he'd rub 'that smelly crap' all over himself for the cash). Another person asked if there were any movies he wished he'd never done, which led Campbell to play a game with the audience, where he'd turn his back and people could yell out movies he'd acted in that they'd like refunds for.

He couldn't even get turned around before someone mentioned Congo.

Campbell readily admitted that Congo, as well as some of his other movies, were unwatchable; he noted that Congo had such an impressive pedigree that no one thought it would suck when he signed up though, featuring as it did many of Steven Spielberg's technical collaborators, based on a book by then-megahit author Michael Crichton, etc. "They just forgot to hire a director!" according to Campbell.

At the same time, when he felt that someone was being unfair (like when an audience rudely asked whether he did Burn Notice just for the money, a show that he's actually quite proud of), he was willing to fight back (that particular jerk got called, well... a 'jerk', by Mr. Campbell. Rightly so too. There's a thing called etiquette in these situations).

He talked at length about the process of making the movie (the entire fictional town was built as a backlot on his Oregon property), casting and directing a small budget film, (Ted Raimi is great because he works so cheap for example, or the horrors that can befall a small cast, say from poison oak in a hastily built mountain town), the difficulties of working in Hollywood, demand for making new versions/sequels of your past successes, and the like. At times it almost seemed like he had a rehearsed answer for everything (which led an audience member to ask if he in fact had any more ready made answers to common questions, which was a funny moment that didn't phase him in the least).

Still, even for topics that he could never have anticipated (like a lunatic woman who thinks that Madison in the summer is as hot as Miami, or a man who repeatedly tried to pick a fight between Campbell and Ron Perlman, who is replacing him as the lead in a Bubba Ho-Tep sequel), he was never rattled or distracted, and showed a great deal of patience. It was one of the best personal appearances I've ever seen, and all the more noteworthy because he had originally only been scheduled to do one session that evening, but had his schedule literally quadrupled after they added shows to meet demand. (It must be nice to be popular though, and Campbell thought it was hilarious that My Name is Bruce beat the pants off of Clint Eastwood's high-brow Changeling movie, starring Angelina Jolie, in per-screen take thanks to his fans).

All in all it was a great evening, and shocking in that the theatre didn't charge one thin dime extra for the special, sold-out shows with Q&A sessions either. Thus, their normally somewhat elevated ticket prices became a fantastic bargain; I honestly expected, for the privilege of being in a small theatre, seeing the local premiere of a movie with the star/director doing a talk afterward, that there'd be some sort of surcharge, if not a hefty fee. I appreciate the lack of venality on Sundance's part, and it garners a lot of good will from me.

(Which could be the goal, for all I know. If so, it's smart business; there are a lot of indie theatres in this town, but Sundance is really starting to stand out with its customer friendly atmosphere.)

I heartily recommend that people see My Name is Bruce, either on DVD or in the theatre if they can. It joins an impressive list of movies that, whether on their own or through venues like The Dark Carnival, show us that horror movies don't have to be restricted to big budget cruelty porn ala Hostel, or low-IQ direct to dvd slasher/rubber suit flicks.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

Who knows; maybe his next movie can show at The Dark Carnival itself. I can dream, at any rate. (Don't fuck this up if you get the chance, Dr. Calamari, you squid bastard)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stupid on the Radio

Advertising Your DesperationSo, ever since I moved to Madison I listen to a lot of Progressive Talk Radio. Hence, I get to hear a lot of radio advertising. At the same time, I haven't had television in three or four months now, so I've pretty much completely gone through detox when it comes to television ads. I can't say for sure if that influences me or not, but radio advertising strikes me as... profoundly weird.

Weird, and largely stupid.

First, the weird and good: the local casino-running, Whitey-fleecing Native American tribe, the Ho-Chunk, they advertise on liberal radio a lot. The way they do it is really cute: they produce faux news, or perhaps, depending on your perspective, real-news, segments, in the style of the CNN Radio updates that run at the top of the hour, and put them on the air as the Ho-Chunk Radio News Network or something like that. They do one segment a week, promoting some activity, new business, or cause, always of course in a pro-Ho-Chunk light. It's slick but not overproduced, and actually fun to listen to, even though their projects have nothing to do with my life per se. They never push their gambling/entertainment directly, it's always something greenie or lefty friendly, like how they're remodeling a building to use less power, or how on their latest, ahem, entertainment venue (conveniently up near the Canadian border so that they can fleece International Whitey I suppose), they took pains to preserve the wetlands surrounding the new site. Sometimes it's about a chariable effort or something else along those lines as well. You get the idea.

Almost everything else is... sad. Local ads tend to be folksy and ridiculously homespun. I love the ads for a local clothing retailer, Fair Indigo, that go on and on about how wonderfully worker-friendly and blah blah blah they are... but the store is situated in the Hilldale outdoor shopping complex, a soulless, completely yuppie, ultra-high end, ultra-pricey district, one of those monstrous planned retail abominations.

(Though the roomie and I will be going there tonight, as their seemingly soulless indie theatre is hosting Bruce Campbell and his latest flick. They're expensive for a theatre, and way too shiny, but if they're willing to rein in the ostentatiousness and lure Mr. Campbell into town, perhaps they at least aren't mercenary yuppies to the core. Though you should see the mall they're located in, oy.)

At any rate, the local places are all very pricey, very yuppie joints. Three thousand dollar mattresses are a regular item, as are futons that cost more than a good used car, or jewelry that promises to assuage your guilt by selling 'non-conflict' diamonds (there's no such thing, as diamonds are basically untraceable and fungible; it's like saying there's non-conflict oil).

Then you have the various liberal hosts whoring their sponsor's products, which leads to some rather embarassing commercials, where female hosts have to peddle 'age-defying' cream, or ridiculous psuedo-hybrid cars from GM, or spam marketing software for small business, etc. Products that are, in short, insulting to their audience or compromise their objectivity and ideological views. Icky.

The worst though, the *worst*, are the commericals on the radio for radio itself. There's one that the station runs as part of some radio solidarity deal, with lines rhapsodizing about how 'if radio is heard here, radio is heard everywhere' and the like. My favorite is one with a line about a girl 'longing to hear that beautiful song' or something like that. The other day I couldn't take it and started yelling 'SHE SHOULD BUY AN MP3 PLAYER SO SHE CAN LISTEN TO IT NOW!'

The ultimate atrocity are the ads for HD Radio though. HD Radio, for those who haven't heard, is a wedge issue devised by Clear Channel to attempt to kill their Satellite Radio competitor, Sirus/XM, amongst other things.

Not that Sirus/XM needs help with that one.

Any way, these commercials actively suggest you buy your relatives and friends HD radios for Christmas, which it admits they do not want, instead of buying them gifts they might want, or putting any thought into an original gift of your own. There's one where it says that some relative who's a cat lover should get an HD radio, not the cat stuff she wants, because, well, she has too much cat stuff already.

The best is one that says that you have a sister or something who reads. Instead of getting her another gift certificate for a bookstore (or heaven forfend, a book yourself), buy her an HD radio! People who like books LOVE the radio, they say; "It's a medical fact."

Argh. Soulless hypercommercialism, insultingly packaged, ineptly delivered, polluting what is supposed to be an oasis against the stupid outside.

Well done.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


A New TraditionInspired by Jeffrey Rowland, of Overcompensating (see comics here, here, and here, as well as the current frontpage comic (for Thursday, Nov. 27th)) this year the roommate and I created our own turkey-day celebration.

Our holiday differs from the traditional Thanksgiving in two important respects: One: it's actually fun (as opposed to something most people dread), and Two: It doesn't attempt to whitewash one of the world's most successful genocides.

The fact that we have to face as a society is that Thanksgiving, as a holiday, is really fucked up. The core story has been turned into a legendary symbol of peace and tolerance, and is used as an annual ritual, both to assuage white guilt and forcibly bond families together over gluttony. This is a holiday based on excessive eating, on gratuitous travel, and on the fetishization of the family.

Don't misunderstand; I'm not saying everyone who travels to see their families on Thanksgiving is a self-deluded glutton suffering from white guilt. But collectively, it's a fair description. Millions of Americans travel hundreds of millions of miles to see people they don't particularly care for once a year, eat food they don't particularly like, recall a hagiographic version of a long ago historical event of dubious import as a more pleasant symbol of what really happened in the history of this nation, and then go home. As a bonus, they might spend hours on the couch, watching football, or a parade featuring corporate advertisements blown up to the size of a Japanese movie monster.

Some quick historical correction:

--The Pilgrims were a cult with missionary ambitions. Their leaders were also corrupt schemers and cheats.
--Squanto, the friendly Indian guide who conveniently knew English? It's true, he did speak the language... because he had been captured as a slave years before and taken to Europe.
--The friend Indians they settled near? The Wampanoag? They were less friendly and more decimated by plague and unable to resist -- most likely that old friend of the Native American, and ally to white european conquest, Smallpox.

Though, for what it's worth, the Pilgrims did negotiate for their land, and apparently, according to the History Channel, they did have a celebratory meal. So, there you go. One good day in the history of the conquest of North America.

Hence, Thankstaking, a new, inclusive holiday, with new traditions drawn from a healthy fear and respect for Whitey, plus the desire to have actual fun.

Thankstaking Day Celebration
First, Thankstaking is held the day before Thanksgiving. This is to throw Whitey off the scent, so that, if he does find out about your gathering, he will show up too late to steal it. (Future Thankstakings may have to be rotated to different days on or around Thanksgiving -- Whitey is crafty and may figure out the deception eventually.)

For Thankstaking, you only invite people you actually want to spend time with. There is no obligation to spend all day hanging out with your crazy bible-thumping relatives.

Thankstaking day is casual dress. You don't have to wear that itchy sweater that your Grandmother gave you last year, just to keep the peace. Thankstaking day is a low-stress holiday.

On Thankstaking, you may prepare a turkey meal, or any other sort of food you wish, but gluttony is right out. Make a comfortable amount of food for the people you wish to serve; the idea that you have to cook an enormous bird so that you can have two weeks of unhygienic leftovers sitting in the fridge? Leave that to Whitey.

Thankstaking is a secular holiday. No need to worry about saying grace, or finding a common religious ground to organize the meal around. This is about having fun, not starting interfaith warfare. (We can invent another holiday for that)

Finally, Thankstaking entertainment. Skip the football, the parades, the boring, hypercommercial stuff. Instead, for Thankstaking, select the movie in your library that contains the most dead Whitey. Our selection this year was Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (unrated director's cut too, extra gory). Bonus with this film: Whitey die of a horrible plague.

Extra bonus for me: It takes place largely in Wisconsin.

This is merely a suggested movie, there are a number of good choices. The important thing is, for one day at least, let some fictional Whitey receive their karmic just desserts, in a friendly atmosphere that everyone can enjoy.

Now you know how to celebrate Thankstaking. Enjoy!

(PS: I know I shouldn't use wikipedia so much, but this information is already common knowledge, and I read most of it already in a hardcopy of National Geographic that I still have lying around somewhere. In future I will work harder to avoid The Wiki Cult)

Time Keeps Slipping

OopsI meant to start daily posting at the start of the month, again, but things kept getting in the way. I suppose if I really intend to use this space for writing I need to make a rule that I put up at least one post a day.

So that's going to be the plan. I'm putting this down in writing to try and shame myself into actually doing it from now on.

Heh. Guilt trip.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tonight, Tonight

Believe! I wouldn't have thought I could be this happy about an Obama victory, to be honest. I never liked him much. He was my third choice in the primaries... a distant third.

Quite frankly, his optimism and enthusiasm doesn't jibe well with a hardcore cynic like myself. Humanists rarely have the luxury of hope, I think; when the human race is all you have, disappointment is your constant companion.

But, tonight? At least a little bit? It's hard not to feel what the Obama people are feeling. It's kind of nice. Tomorrow is the first day of a long four years, a constant battle to stop Republican dirty tricks and backsliding.

But tonight? I keep coming back to the same Smashing Pumpkins song (hence the title).

Time is never time at all
You can never ever leave....without leaving a piece of youth
And our lives are forever changed
We will never be the same
The more you change the less you feel

Believe, believe in me, believe
Believe that life can change
That you're not stuck in vain
We're not the same, we're different tonight
Tonight, so bright

And you know you're never sure
But you're sure you could be right
If you held yourself up to the light
And the embers never fade in your city by the lake
The place where you were born

Believe, believe in me, believe
Believe in the resolute urgency of now
And if you believe there's not a chance tonight
Tonight, so bright

We'll crucify the insincere tonight
We'll make things right, we'll feel it all tonight
We'll find a way to offer up the night (Tonight)
The indescribable moments of your life (Tonight)
The impossible is possible tonight
Believe in me as I believe in you

Friday, August 1, 2008

Last Minute Updates

Could Be A WhileBasically, we're in the process of the eternal move that wouldn't die, and we're heading from the extended stay hotel we've been residing in to a 'Luxury Corporate Apartment'.

The problem, as relates to the blog, is that the new apartment does not, as it turns out, have working air conditioning.

Which was a surprise for us.

See, it's a two bedroom, two bathroom 'duplex', but the place has precisely one window AC unit in the ground floor living room. Which makes it rather hopelessly overworked.

Now, my PC runs too hot as it is, so, most likely, I won't be able to set it up in the new place, or if I can set it up in the aforementioned living room, may not be able to use it for much of the day.

So I'm going to make a couple of last minute additions to the blog before what will probably be another hiatus.

First, the graphical tweaking of the site continues. On advice from the great and powerful Roommate/Oz, I've moved the site off the white background to a more eye relaxing gray scheme, with a Mars-friendly color scheme for the text.

I'm not completely happy with it yet, because I'm a perfectionist, but it's coming along.

Secondly, and I meant to mention this earlier in the week, I discovered the answer to the Pius XI shirt mystery: it's from a local Catholic school!

Seriously. There's a Catholic school in Milwaukee named after the Fascist Pope. Granted, it was originally named in 1929, when his disastrous dealmaking had yet to bring shame to the church and death to so many, but still. You'd think the school would have the decency to change the name, so as to cease honoring such a... dubious... historical figure.

Alas, it appears not.

There has been a lot of interesting sciency news this week. Water on Mars, Ethane on Titan (a huge lake of it in fact), all very promising.

New research into a magic pill to make you healthy with no hard work; apparently it may work utilizing some of the same chemical pathways as resveratrol.

Toby Keith, the famed country singer who hates him some arabs, has revealed that he loves him some lynching. I'm not shocked.

Dick Cheney apparently plotted to have US soldiers shot at to start a war with Iran under false pretenses.

What a whacko this man is.

Speaking of whackos, the Pentagon is using a multimillion dollar mobile theme park, aimed and marketed at children, in an attempt to recruit future soldiers.

Until recent protests, they were targeting boys as young as 13.

Gee, maybe we can just go back to Civil War standards, give them a drum kit and fake their age. After all, cannon fodder is cannon fodder, right?

Amoral scum. The ACLU is on the case, pointing out that this scheme violates a 2002 treaty on child soldiers that we ratified.

Ha! Silly international law, getting in the way of our bloodletting..

That's about it for now. More when, and if, I can get the PC going in the new place.

Failing that, see you in a month or so.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Advancing the Frontiers of Free Speech

A Lengthy Battle Against SavagesThis is an odd saga, to say the least.

It begins with an apparently faithful Catholic student by the name of Webster Cook, attending school at the University of Central Florida. Webster, it seems, wanted to show a (presumably) Non-Catholic friend a communion wafer, so he took it home to show a friend rather than eating it immediately.
Cook claims he planned to consume it, but first wanted to show it to a fellow student senator he brought to Mass who was curious about the Catholic faith.

"When I received the Eucharist, my intention was to bring it back to my seat to show him," Cook said. "I took about three steps from the woman distributing the Eucharist and someone grabbed the inside of my elbow and blocked the path in front of me. At that point I put it in my mouth so they'd leave me alone and I went back to my seat and I removed it from my mouth."

The story seems a bit odd, as he was apparently caught trying to take it out of the service and was confronted (he complains about physical force being used against him). A local tv station (in an admittedly inflammatory and biased article) suggests that he may have been protesting the fact that (and I thought this was odd) his PUBLIC UNIVERSITY has a CATHOLIC CHURCH on campus -- and uses public funds to support it.
A church leader was watching, confronted Cook and tried to recover the sacred bread. Cook said she crossed the line and that's why he brought it home with him.

"She came up behind me, grabbed my wrist with her right hand, with her left hand grabbed my fingers and was trying to pry them open to get the Eucharist out of my hand," Cook said, adding she wouldn't immediately take her hands off him despite several requests.

Diocese of Orlando spokeswoman Carol Brinati said she was not aware of anyone touching Cook. She released a statement Thursday: "... a Catholic Campus Ministry student representative filed a complaint with the Student Union regarding the behavior of the two young men. A Student Government Representative called Catholic Campus Ministry to apologize for this disruption."

Cook filed an official abuse complaint with UCF's student conduct court regarding the alleged physical force. Following that complaint, Brinati said church members filed their own official complaints of disruptive conduct. Punishment for either offense could result in suspension or expulsion.

"The church feels that I'm the problem here," Cook said. "The problem is actually that this is a publicly-funded religious institution. Through student government here, we fund them through an activity and service, so they're receiving student money."

Cook is upset more than $40,000 in student fees have been allocated to support religious organizations on campus for the 2008-2009 school year, according to student government records. He denied he is holding the Eucharist hostage to protest that support.
Source: WTFV

Because, as we all know, the Vatican is completely destitute.

At any rate, he managed to leave with the communion wafer/cracker though, and that, to my mind, would be that. If the church doesn't want him back, they always had the option of banning him. Big deal.

Well, to the good, faithful, and apparently radical Catholics of both the University and the United States, that most certainly was *not* that.

The Church decided to get in on the act, inflaming their local followers (knowing perfectly well the inevitable results):
Regardless of the reason, the Diocese says its main concern is to get the Eucharist back so it can be taken care of properly and with respect. Cook has been keeping the Eucharist stored in a plastic bag since last Sunday.

"It is hurtful," said Father Migeul Gonzalez with the Diocese. "Imagine if they kidnapped somebody and you make a plea for that individual to please return that loved one to the family."

Gonzalez said the Diocese is willing to meet with Cook and help him understand the importance of the Eucharist in hopes of him returning it. The Diocese is dispatching a nun to UCF's campus to oversee the next mass, protect the Eucharist and in hopes Cook will return it.

Cook said he'd consider returning the Eucharist if he gets an apology and a meeting with the Bishop's office to discuss the Diocese's policy on physical force.

Gonzalez said intentionally abusing the Eucharist is classified as a mortal sin in the Catholic church, the most severe possible. If it's not returned, the community of faith will have to ask for forgiveness.

"We have to make acts of reparation," Gonzalez said. "The whole community is going to turn to prayer. We'll ask the Lord for pardon, forgiveness, peace, not only for the whole community affected by it, but also for [Cook], we offer prayers for him as well."
Source: WFTV

And thus, wrath was rained down upon this poor schmuck, with the full blessing of the local religious establishment.

They accused him of committing a 'hate crime'. They harassed him. They compared taking the cracker to torture, and kidnapping!They threatened his life... repeatedly. The ultra-right wing Catholic League hate group led a national campaign against this poor student. Here's Donohue trying to ruin the kid's life:
For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage--regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance--is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.
That's right, if you disagree with someone, forget reason, forget discussion, forget the law: just terrorize them.

Webster just wants all of this to go away. Especially now that he feels his life is in danger.
Source: Pharyngula

All because he didn't chew... a wafer.

Well, after a few days of terror and threats, the poor, humbled student returned his cracker, and begged for his life/forgiveness.
"I am returning the Eucharist to you in response to the e-mails I have received from Catholics in the UCF community," Cook wrote in a letter to the church. "I still want the community to understand that the use physical force is wrong, especially when based on assumptions. However, I feel it is unnecessary to cause pain for those who are not at fault in this situation."

Cook said some threatened to break into his dorm room to rescue the Eucharist. Brinati said the Diocese of Orlando didn't condone those threats, but was happy Cook had a change of heart and returned it.
Source: WFTV They didn't 'condone' those threats - but they sure didn't put a stop to them either.


The oh-so-forgiving christian community continued with plans to ruin his life, but put the 'killing him' thing on the backburner, and the story started to die down. The University, for its part, started supplying ARMED GUARDS (presumably also at taxpayer expense) to the Church, to protect the poor, victimized wafer community.

Enter PZ Myers, well-known atheist/science blogger, who was shocked and disgusted at the raving mob trying to destroy, and possibly murder, this poor student. Whether a noisy protestor or apparently ignorant lapsed Catholic, his education, career, even life were now in the hands of the lunatic fringe. Myers thought this was outrageous.

So he came up with a simple plan:
So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There's no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I'm sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won't be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart.
Source: Pharyngula Yes, Myers determined that he would do to the wafer what this poor student never had: he would obtain one, maliciously, and desecrate it.

Needless to say, all hell broke loose. Again.
All of the regular readers have seen it — thousands of mindless comments by Catholics, demanding that no harm come to a cracker. My email is melting down with swarms of insults, threats, pleas, and promises of prayers because I threatened to violate one of their holy crackers. In my years of loud and often inflammatory blogging, it is the most impressive demonstration of mass lunacy I have ever seen.
Never mind that the Catholic League demands that I be fired, thousands of Catholics write to me demanding I be kicked out of the university immediately, and that they send me death threats, both the explicit kind and the vaguely menacing kind. Let's not forget Webster Cook, who started this all by simply walking back to his seat with a cracker, and now faces censure and possible expulsion from his university. Oh, those Catholics sure are forbearing and tolerant.

And since I mentioned yesterday that I was taking my oldest son to the movies, these good Catholics have leapt to the opportunity. Since I'm not demonstrating any fear over their threats against me, well hey, let's try a new target! KJ Atkins of Bellarmine University thinks cowardly warnings against my family might be effective.

"You fool, the vengeance for your sacrilege will not be . exhausted against you, but it will be carried out on your child. Wait and see."
Source: Pharyngula

Well, apparently Myers finally got his hands on a wafer/cracker, and did, in fact, carry out his 'threat' against an inanimate object. Despite stalkings, death threats against himself and his family, and, yes, another hate campaign from the Catholic League:
OK, time for the anticlimax. I know some of you have proposed intricate plans for how to do horrible things to these crackers, but I repeat…it's just a cracker. I wasn't going to make any major investment of time, money, or effort in treating these dabs of unpleasantness as they deserve, because all they deserve is casual disposal. However, inspired by an old woodcut of Jews stabbing the host, I thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus's tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffeegrounds and a banana peel. My apologies to those who hoped for more, but the worst I can do is show my unconcerned contempt.
Source: Pharyngula

Will this be the end of the saga?

Doubt it. Myers implores his readers, and the world, to exercise a bit of their own independent judgment and reason:
By the way, I didn't want to single out just the cracker, so I nailed it to a few ripped-out pages from the Qur'an and The God Delusion. They are just paper. Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.
Source: Ibid

When I first read about this mess, back when Myers made his original 'threat', I thought it might be a bit over the top. Not all Catholics are jerks, I thought; I wouldn't take quite the same tack.

Though, if you could get a hold of a communion wafer from that SPECIFIC Church, the one that tried to rouse a violent mob to terrify someone into obeying them (or failing that, have the person killed).... well, that would be a very different story.

That particular church had it coming, I thought.

Having seen the sheer volume of hate, venom, and terror that people like Bill Donohue spew at Myers, the threats against his family, the attempts to run him out of public life on a rail because he protests the victimization of a college student, at a public university, by the most powerful church in the world...

Well, it's hard not to root for Myers after all. If it comes down to defending a loudmouth or a violent, disgusting thug like Donohue, I'll side with the loudmouth anytime, anywhere.

PS: One last note: the student who started this whole mess? He's still going through a living hell.
The University of Central Florida's student Senate voted to impeach one of its own late Thursday night -- the student who sparked a firestorm of controvery after taking off from a Catholic Mass on campus with a sacred Communion wafer in his pocket.

All but two of the 35 senators present voted to impeach Webster Cook, but the action did not result in his automatic removal from office.


Although the Senate could kick Cook off the student government's legislative body, it does not have the authority to suspend or expel Cook from the university. That could happen only if he's found to have violated serious conduct code violations in student court. UCF is barred by federal law from confirming whether any complaints have been filed against Cook. But the statements included in the affidavit refer to a formal complaint against Cook by the campus ministry for disrupting the service.
Source: Orlando Blog

That'll teach him to mistake a public university for an institution of higher learning and intellectual freedom.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

McCain Atlas!

Much has been made of John McCain's geographic knowledge, but how does Grampy McSame really see the world?Much has been made of John McCain's geographic knowledge, but how does Grampy McSame really see the world?

Luckily for my non-existent loyal readers, I have a source* deep within the McCain campaign, who sent me this page out of a top-secret foreign policy document, the John McCain Atlas of the World (2008 Edition).

Now you too can be a globe-straddling master of geopolitics, just like Senator John McCain.

(Click either thumbnail for full-size image)

*Also non-existent

Random Observation

T-Shirt EditionSo I was coming up from the laundry room in our hotel this morning, and I saw one of the gaggle of kids who currently inhabit the place coming down in the elevator, wearing a tie-dye t-shirt that said 'Pius XI'.

I'm no Catholic, but even I could recognize the format for the name of a Pope, and further, this particular papal name stuck in my head for some reason, so I decided to look it up once I got back to my room. After all, if they're making t-shirts for kids featuring the guy, someone thinks he's pretty important, right?

Hitting the Wikipedia, I remembered where I knew the name: Pius XI was the Fascist Pope!

Pius XI was the pope who traded the Church's credibility and moral authority to first Mussolini (in exchange for land, statehood for the Vatican, and a theocratic Italian state), and then HITLER (again, for various special favors!) Quoth the Wikipedia:
Pius XI aimed to end the long breach between the papacy and the Italian government and to gain recognition once more of the sovereign independence of the Holy See. This goal led to one of his signature achievements, the signing in 1929 of the Lateran Treaty with the Italian government and the establishment of an independent Vatican City State.

Most of the Papal States had been seized by the forces of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy (1861 – 1878) in 1860 at the foundation of the modern unified Italian state, and the rest, including Rome, in 1870. The Papacy and the Italian Government had been at loggerheads ever since: the Popes had refused to recognise the Italian state's seizure of the Papal States, instead withdrawing to become prisoners in the Vatican, and the Italian government's policies had always been anti-clerical. Now Pius XI thought a compromise would be the best solution.

To bolster his own new regime, Mussolini was also eager for an agreement. After years of negotiation, in 1929, the Pope supervised the signing of the Lateran Treaties with the Italian government. According to the terms of the first treaty, Vatican City was given sovereignty as an enclave of the city of Rome in return for the Vatican relinquishing its claim to the former territories of the Papal States. Pius XI thus became a head of state (albeit the smallest state in the world), the first Pope who could be termed as such since the Papal States fell after the unification of Italy in the 19th century. A second treaty, the concordat with Italy, recognised Roman Catholicism as the official state religion of Italy, gave the Church power over marriage law in Italy (ensuring the illegality of divorce), and restored Catholic religious teaching in all schools. In return, the clergy would not take part in politics. A third treaty provided financial compensation to the Vatican for the loss of the Papal States.
Source: Wikipedia (article on Pius XI)

That's not all, of course. Mussolini wasn't the only waste of human skin that Pius XI was willing to sell the soul of the church to for money and political power:
Pius XI was eager to negotiate concordats with any country that was willing to do so, thinking that written treaties were the best way to protect the Church's rights against governments increasingly inclined to interfere in such matters. Twelve concordats were signed during his reign with various types of governments, including some German state governments, and with Austria. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933 and asked for a concordat, Pius XI accepted. Negotiations were conducted on his behalf by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII (1939 – 1958). The Reichskonkordat was signed by Pacelli and by the German government in June 1933, and included guarantees of liberty for the Church, independence for Catholic organisations and youth groups, and religious teaching in schools.
Source: Wikipedia (Pius XI article, subarticle on German relations)

Good old Pius XI came to regret these treaties later, when the Fascists showed less inclination to follow some clauses than others. Apparently he was also unhappy with the whole 'wipe out the Jews' aspect to the Fascist worldview.

Not unhappy enough to give back the money, land, or political independence he obtained by aiding the Fascist ascendency to power, of course. In fact, even after the shame of World War II, his successor (remember, the man who actually negotiated with the Nazis) got the gifts from Mussolini written into the new Italian constitution... including the official theocracy clause!
The Lateran Agreements were incorporated into the Constitution of the Italian Republic in 1947.

In 1984 an agreement was signed, revising the concordat. Among other things, it ended the Church's position as the state-supported religion of Italy.
Source: Wikipedia (Lateran Treaties)

That's right. These odious agreements with a bloodthirsty madman were dragged into the modern era by the Church, which, it seems, still hadn't learned when to quit. For my part I can't believe Italy was an official theocracy until the 80s, but hey. They are pretty backward by European standards (just look at their government).

So there you have it. Pius XI, Fascist loving Nazi-enabler, is somehow deemed, in 2008, to be worthy of immortalization. On t-shirts for children.

What's next, Torquemada bibs and pacifiers?


Sunday, July 27, 2008


A Night at the TheatreSo the roommate and I went to the inaugural performance of the shiny new Epic Theatre Company here in Madison on Saturday night, where they were performing "The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon", and had a pretty good time, I must say.

First, the venue: the play was held in local software giant Epic's large convention building (nerdily named Voyager Hall -- everything there is nerdily named though), set up in a flexible hallway space rather than one of their theatre/convention halls, interestingly enough. Set design was extremely sparse and consisted of a small stage, black backdrop curtains and a sound booth in the rear. The audience sat on about 100, 150 portable chairs, comfortable models though, not the lousy wooden folding chairs you often get at community/school/church functions.

Secondly, the work: The Spectaculathon is a humorous mish-mash/retelling of (some) of the (apparently) 209 separate fairy tales collected by The Brothers Grimm. No wonder Fables never runs out of material...

The play tries to cover all the highlights, along with a mixture of the lesser known works, often contrasting the original versions of the stories both with their better known pop-culture derivatives (i.e., Disney) and with modern storytelling sensibilities as well (Why is Little Red Riding Hood so stupid anyway? And why do people keep going into the dark, dangerous, monster infested woods?).

The cast and crew were, according to the playbill as well as personal observation, a group of talented amateurs rather than professionals, which often made the resulting entertainment more rather than less impressive. In particular, the actor who played one of two Narrators, as well as two separate Grandmothers, is a man named Sean Mikles, whose bio indicates he was last seen on stage as an eight-year old.

Another of the male leads, who plays several incarnations of Prince Charming and, at one point, the entire principal cast of Cinderella (seriously), was also very quick-witted and memorable. I'd have his name here as well, but the playbill lists everyone other than the narrators as playing 'Various', which doesn't help to narrow it down (tsk tsk).

Spectaculathon was presented as a two-act event, and so, with a short intermission the entire thing was over in about two hours. This first play was free, proving that the Epic Theatre people intend to use the time-honored marketing strategy of drug dealers everywhere... usually a smart move.

I look forward to their next project.

A note on the audience, however: we went to the evening show on Saturday, in no small part, to attempt to avoid the matinee experience, but alas it was in vain. Small children were brought, audience members loudly nattered on during the show, and those of us in the back had to strain to hear during some of the first act over one child in particular who Just. Would. Not. Shut. Up.


Going out to public events is seemingly less enjoyable every year. I can't begin to describe the number of events I've had ruined by these people, almost all families with small children, who insist on dragging their brats along to every function, no matter the time of day or appropriateness of the subject matter. Society just doesn't impose any limits on these people and their spawn, and it's getting to the point where, honestly, you'd have more fun staying at home.

Which is a shame, because then we'd all have to miss out on things like the Epic Theatre Company. Just to satisfy the whims of a selfish few who insist on 'having it all'.

As a civilization, we really have to do something about that. If all culture and entertainment is destined to be reduced to a chatoic mass of screaming, wailing, sour-milk-smelling children, I suggest we just spike the communal Kool-Aid and get it over with now.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

With Friends Like These (Part I)...

Honestly, I don't know why we bother.I've been listening to a lot of the local 'Progressive' radio station since we moved up here to Madison. Partially this is due to my insatiable craving for political news and information, but it's just as largely being driven by the fact that Madison lacks a single listenable contemporary radio station (or even, from what I can tell, a better-than-average classic rock station). Seriously. It's pretty awful up here. I thought I had it bad in Indiana.... oy.

But what Madison lacks in music, it seemed to make up for in talk radio; we have a dedicated left-wing talk station. That should kill a lot of drive-time, right?

Actually, yes. In particular I love the Stephanie Miller show, which is on in the mornings when I drive the roommate to work, or ride with her so I can take the car for the day. It's good enough I actually listen to it outside of the car, something I never do with radio. Rachel Maddow's show in the evenings is solid, but it's just a good lefty news program, and not on at a time that I'm typically in the car, so I rarely catch it.

The other stuff though...

I keep having to give up on these guys for being, well, colossal morons. First up is Thom Hartmann, who has a show that airs here in Madison in the late afternoon. Hartmann is almost a bad caricature of the mild-spoken ex-Hippy. Every show seems to revolve around some kooky, feel-good alternative social theory and how it applies to the world today, and how, naturally enough, it's better than the existing models and, if implemented, would lead to sunshine, lollipops, happiness, rainbows and the like.

Seems harmless enough, right?

I put the radio on as I went to pick up the roommate on Wednesday, and good old mild-mannered Thom was having an actual argument with a right-wing troll who had called in to attempt to pigeonhole him on immigration issues. The right-winger had the usual 'I hate Brown People' approach to the topic, as you might expect, and was trying to cast Thom as an irredeemable leftist.

That was all part of the usual song and dance; hardly surprising. What was surprising was Hartmann's response; the problem with immigration, in fact, IS that the lousy brown people are taking all of our jobs!

Seriously. First, Hartmann went off on a fairly deranged rant about how the 'Visa Program' was letting a bunch of 'Philipino nurses' and 'Indian engineers' into the country, where they took skilled American jobs.

Hartmann thinks this is unforgivable, and he has a simple solution: Don't let them in. Slash the program (btw, he's referring to the H1-B skilled guest worker program; he didn't seem to know the name of the type of Visa he hates so while on the air) and build a bunch of colleges!

Ok.... at this point, you might well be asking yourself if Thom Hartmann is aware of how long it takes to establish a college, erect the structures, employ the staff, recruit the students, and then, of course, educate them in a full course of study. It takes an already established university *years* to get a new degree granting program underway -- it's a complete mystery how Hartmann thinks a slew of all-new, dedicated colleges will be formed, overnight, to service the fields he leaves drastically short of workers (or so he believes -- see actual figures on H1-B Visas below). Even if the schools did open in a day, there would still be the matter of recruiting a student body, educating them, and placing them in jobs, which will take further years, assuming, of course, that American students even want to earn these degrees, take these jobs, etc.

Hartmann estimates, furiously, that 'a million' people a year enter America a year to steal the high-skilled jobs from poor, long-suffering Americans. A million!

Well... not so much.
The Department of Homeland Security approved about 132,000 H-1B visas in 2004 and 117,000 in 2005.
Source: Wikipedia

Ok, so Hartmann has exaggerated the scope of the 'problem'... by an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE. Still, 100k jobs, that's a lot of work going to foreigners, right?

Not so much.
These days, the economy must add from 150,000 to 200,000 jobs every month to keep the unemployment rate from rising, economists say.
Source: The New York Times (2003)

So, he's talking about fewer jobs being taken, in total, *annually*, than the number of new jobs that have to be created, in a single month, just to keep pace with the number of additional people entering the job market.

This is an urgent problem for Mr. Hartmann. I wonder why...

Let's return to the groups isolated for derision by Mr. Hartmann: Indian engineers and Philippino nurses.

In fact, while people from India do make up 25% of the H1-B Visa population, Europeans make up 27%. The Phillipines, as a country, aren't even in the top ten. India is number 1, sure. Who's Number 2? The United Kingdom. Number 3? Canada!

Source: Wikipedia (from Yearbook of US Immigration Statistics, 2005, Department of Homeland Security)

Funny how Thom doesn't pick on those pesky Eurotrash and Maple-huggers taking our jobs, isn't it. Instead, he focuses on... dark-skinned brown people.


It gets better though; he has a plan to deal with the illegal immigration issue too.

See, when Thom lived in Germany, he had to go through a draconian process to become a legal guest worker. It took, he said, three months, and without the state-issued ID it was more or less impossible to get a job in Germany.

Hartmann wants to do the same thing for America... to prevent those illegals from taking our jobs.

Think about it. Hartmann's solution to illegal immigration is to put all undocumented immigrants out of work.

Sigh. Where to begin with this crap...

There are millions of illegal immigrants in this country. How many is, of course, impossible to precisely pin down. Estimates range from 8-20 million; middle of the road figures peg it at about 12 million.
The Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, estimates 11.5 million to 12 million "unauthorized migrants" live in the US today. It bases its numbers on the "Current Population Survey," a monthly assessment of about 50,000 households jointly conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.
Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Thom Hartmann wants to make this entire population unemployable, forever. Presumably this means he wants to throw them out of the country; either that, or make them into Soylent Green.

But, you say, wouldn't throwing illegal immigrants out of the country en masse cause massive human suffering and economic devastation?

Yes. Yes it would.
The tiny northeast town was home to the nation's largest kosher meatpacker, which recently lost nearly half of its work force after a huge raid by immigration officials. The raid sent shockwaves through the town, which has served as a multicultural model.

Aaron Rubashkin, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, founded Agriprocessors in the town 20 years ago. The plant was turning out about half of the nation's kosher beef and chicken.

Slaughter operations are now down to one shift instead of three as the company scrambles for replacement workers. It is expected that many of them will be Mexican-Americans from Texas.

The plant brought diversity and prosperity to a town with three central streets and no stoplights. But after the raid, many here are wondering if the future of the town is in jeopardy. Some 2,300 people lived in Postville before the raid; about half of them were Hispanic
Source: NPR

This was one single raid. How many illegal immigrants did they detain for deportation based on this devastated town?


389 out of 12 million. What did that look like, that drop out of the bucket, that teaspoon out of the ocean?
Washington, D.C. - Sister Kathy Thill of Waterloo said she feels like a stranger in her own country in the wake of a May 12 immigration raid in tiny Postville.

The Catholic nun has assisted immigrant families there following the detainment of 389 workers at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant.

She is a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas who works with Latino families in Iowa.

"I am also a United States citizen who grew up believing that this is a democratic country in which the dignity of all people is respected and their rights protected," she said Tuesday at a news conference here, surrounded by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

"This is not the country I experienced this past week."


The tension spreads beyond the Hispanic communities, she said.

Driving to Postville on Friday with a car full of donations, she said she got a call warning of possible checkpoints between Waterloo and Postville, and she wondered what might happen to her for delivering supplies.

"I suddenly felt like I was in a strange country," she said. "I didn't feel free."

The future of America, as presented by one Thom Hartmann.

389 down; 11,999,611 to go.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Outdated Links


This is Another TestThis is A Test As Well

Monday, June 9, 2008

Testing something.


Sunday, May 11, 2008



It's been a while since I've posted anything here. Huh.

I meant to put something up a while ago; suffice it to say, things are very busy here at the Resistance, and between the ongoing move to the blasted dairy heath that is Wisconsin, teaching the roommate how to drive (something that, oddly enough, 95% of the people on the road never bothered to learn), packing, sorting, packing, sorting, tending to the seasonal needs of my army of plants, etc, it's been crazy.

So the blog is on hiatus. While it's off the accursed roommate is going to help with a shiny new art style, recoded template, and the like.

I also plan to start a blog for a certain comic eventually. Plus we're working on a secret project that will bring Western Civilization to its knees.

Keep an eye out for that one. It'll be hilarious.

In the meantime, I might make a sporadic post here or there. Who knows?

Until then.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Science Update

I Have Nothing Interesting To Say Here

Ancient Swede
So there's a new World's Oldest Tree, which has taken the throne from those uppity Bristlecone Pines in America.

The world's oldest living tree on record is a nearly 10,000 year-old spruce that has been discovered in central Sweden, Umeaa University said on Thursday.

Researchers had discovered a spruce with genetic material dating back 9,550 years in the Fulu mountain in Dalarna, according to Leif Kullmann, a professor of Physical Geography at the university in northwestern Sweden.

That would mean it had taken root in roughly the year 7,542 BC.

"It was a big surprise because we thought until (now) that this kind of spruce grew much later in those regions," he said.
That is oooooooooooooold.

Don't expect intelligent commentary here. I just got up from a nap.

Apparently this tree is way older than they thought they had arrived here, and the article mentions something about them being climate change bellwethers, so I'm guessing what they mean is that the last ice age in Sweden ended earlier than they thought, or something. It's sparse on the details. Ancient history seems to be impacted by this lonely survivor, regardless.

Source: Raw Story

The coldest star ever found has been located. It's only 660 degrees at the surface -- cooler than Venus.
April 11, 2008 -- A dim, lonely, weakling star with the lowest stellar temperature yet recorded has been found just 40 light-years from Earth.

The brown dwarf star is between 15 and 30 times the mass of Jupiter and has a surface temperature of a mild 660 degrees Fahrenheit (350 Celsius) -- about the surface temperature of the planet Mercury at the equator and much cooler than the surface of Venus.

The spectacularly unspectacular object is of special interest because it falls right smack in the middle of the final frontier that divides mega-planets from the puniest stars. Stars in that realm theoretically qualify as an entirely new stellar type -- what's called a Y class dwarf.
The article mentions the possibility of even colder stars, stars perhaps cool enough to have liquid water in their atmospheres.
It's likely, says Burgasser, that as more of these even cooler dwarfs are found, there likely will be some that are a couple of hundred degrees cooler than CFBDS0059. That means any water in there atmospheres will condense into droplets of water vapor, which would make these dwarfs dramatically different than their L and T dwarf brothers.

In brown dwarf atmospheres, water is generally in gaseous state, while in giant planets it condenses into water ice. So an even cooler dwarf would truly be on the verge of being more of a hot, giant Jupiter than a star.
That's amazingly odd. Imagine if there is a star out there somewhere just warm enough to keep water liquid. You could have life as we know it living on a *star*.


Source: Discovery Channel News

So an engineer who suffered through radiation therapy thought he had a better way to do it -- and it seems like he was on to something.
A promising new cancer treatment that may one day replace radiation and chemotherapy is edging closer to human trials.

Kanzius RF therapy attaches microscopic nanoparticles to cancer cells and then "cooks" tumors inside the body with harmless radio waves.

Based on technology developed by Pennsylvania inventor John Kanzius, a retired radio and TV engineer, the treatment has proven 100 percent effective at killing cancer cells while leaving neighboring healthy cells unharmed. It is currently being tested at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

“I don’t want to give people false hope,” said Dr. Steve Curley, the professor leading the tests, “but this has the potential to treat a wide variety of cancers.”

Modern cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy have proven remarkably effective at treating many cancers, especially in combination, but are plagued with toxic side effects. These treatments kill healthy cells as well as cancerous ones.

Kanzius RF therapy is noninvasive, and uses nontoxic radio waves combined with gold or carbon nanoparticles, which have a long history of medical use.
Essentially, you take nano-particles of gold, coat them in a chemical that only cancer cells absorb, then inject it. The cancer takes up the chemically coated gold. Then you blast the area of the body with a radio source.. the gold absorbs the radio waves, heats up, and kills whatever cells it's in. But if you had the right chemical, it's only inside cancer. Voila! Perfectly targeted radiation therapy.

Very nice.

Source: Wired

I'd heard about a technique like this to create genetically modified animals but I guess this is the first time someone's thought about using it as a backdoor to cloning without Dolly-esque age symptoms.
The mice were made by inserting skin cells of an adult animal into early embryos produced by in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Some of the resulting offspring were partial clones but some were full clones – just like Dolly.

Unlike the Dolly technique, however, the procedure is so simple and efficient that it has raised fears that it will be seized on by IVF doctors to help infertile couples who are eager to have their own biological children.


The experiments on mice demonstrated that it is now possible in principle to take a human skin cell, reprogramme it back to its embryonic state and then insert it into an early human embryo. The resulting child would share some of the genes of the person who supplied the skin tissue, as well as the genes of the embryo's two parents.

These offspring are chimeras – a genetic mix of two or more individuals – because some of their cells derive from the embryo and some from the skin cell. Technically, such a child would have three biological parents. Human chimeras occur naturally when two embryos fuse in the womb and such people are often normal and healthy. Dr Lanza says there is no reason to believe that a human chimera created by the new technique would be unhealthy.

Furthermore, studies on mice have shown that it is possible to produce fully cloned offspring that are 100 per cent genetically identical to the adult. This was achieved by using a type of defective mouse embryo with four sets of chromosomes instead of the normal two.

This "tetraploid" embryo only developed into the placenta of the foetus and when it was injected with a reprogrammed skin cell, the rest of the foetus developed from this single cell to become a full clone of the adult animal whose skin was used.
I fail to see the horror here. The clone would be genetically identical to their parent, or whoever donated the cells. So... what, exactly? Granted, you'll probably get some creepy Jim Jones/Koresh type making his own little Clone Army, but is that really substantially worse than the current situation, where they just marry a couple dozen 10-14 year old girls?

From a safety perspective I oppose using a technique like this on people until we have all the bugs worked out, of course. But I can't find any ethical reason per se to hate *the clones*. They'll just be additional people. Despite what sci-fi movies might say, they won't be any more soulless or murderous than the rest of us, or at least, their donor-parent.

Source: The Independent

Apparently the new CEO of Virgin Media doesn't understand either the law, or the proper method to do business.
Neil Berkett, the new CEO of Virgin Media (my ISP at home in London, along with BT) has announced that he considers Net Neutrality to be "a load of bollocks" and he's promised to put any website or service that won't pay Virgin a premium to reach its customers into the "Internet bus lane."
Cory Doctorow has started a campaign to switch from Verizon in response. Normally I think he's had a bit too much dandelion tea, but he's right on this issue. I'm just not sure it goes far enough.

See, telecoms are protected from being sued for what they host/serve on the basis of what's known as the Common Carrier provision. Essentially, the Supreme Court decided back in the days of big railroad that you were protected from lawsuits and a lot of regulation as to what you carried, as long as you carried cargo more or less impartially to all who asked and paid. This concept of an undiscerning, very low-barrier to entry transportation entity has been carried over to the telecoms, who can't be sued for, say, a mobster ordering a hit via cell phone, or a hacker using the net to breach a hospital's mainframe, just because they provide the service over which it was done.

Truthfully, until very recently, it was impossible to track that volume of information, so without common carrier it would have been legally impossible to run a telecom.

But here we have the big telcos who want to have it both ways; they want to be legally protected from their customers' actions, and they want to be able to regulate them too. That's just not kosher; you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you're in the business of regulating your customers and what they can access, then you should be liable for their crimes, infringement, what have you. Every mp3 downloaded, every stolen program or game, all of it, your liability.

I think the EFF or ACLU should sue any telco that steps over the line for any and all illegal activity on their network. If we bloody their noses, maybe they'll realize that the old way really is the best.

Sources: Boing Boing

Another plant I want to own someday: the Upas tree.
Antiaris toxicaria (Upas or Ipoh) is an evergreen tree in the family Moraceae, native to southeastern Asia, from India and Sri Lanka east to southern China, the Philippines and Fiji; closely related species also occur in eastern Africa. It produces a highly poisonous latex, known in Java as "Upas", from the Javanese word for "poison".


The name of the upas tree became legendary from the mendacious account (professedly by one Foersch, who was a surgeon at Semarang in 1773) published in the London Magazine, December 1783, and popularized by Erasmus Darwin in Loves of the Plants (The Botanic Garden, pt. ii.). The tree was said to destroy all animal life within a radius of 15 miles or more.
Sadly it's apparently a large tree, so this will have to wait until my compound is complete.

Source: Wikipedia

This story's been going around, it even made it into Atomic Age humor last night.
EUGENE, Ore. -- A 12-foot snake attacked a female employee of a pet store, prompting assistance from police, firefighters and emergency personnel Thursday.

Sergeant Ryan Nelson had never tangled with a snake larger than a garter snake before Thursday.

All that changed, however, when he responded to a 911 call at 3:41 p.m. to find a woman in a Eugene pet store completely wrapped by a 12-foot Burmese python that was slowly constricting around her, police said.

Nelson saw the woman was in grave danger and feared for her life. But as he pulled out his knife in
preparation to save the woman, matters got more difficult.

She pleaded with Nelson not to injure the snake.
Long story short, everybody lives, though the snake loses a few teeth when they had to pry it off. This is very odd behavior for a constrictor -- they generally are very docile sorts, and don't even consider attacking anything too big to consume. The only way they have to attack something is to grapple with it, as seen here, and if that something is too big, it could easily, say, rip them to shreds. The woman could have killed the snake herself, no problem, but didn't want to. Evolutionarily, hyperaggressive constrictor snakes are a bad move. So I sort of wonder what happened to get this poor snake so angry.

Source: Fox 12 Oregon

London Smells
Apparently all of London smells like crap.
LONDON, England (CNN) -- A foul smell permeating London and parts of England over the past two days is due to farmers on the European continent spreading manure in their fields, forecasters and British farmers said Saturday.

The agricultural odor is inescapable in central London and smells vaguely of farmland or even garbage.

Forecasters said a stiff breeze from the east is carrying the smell across the North Sea from Belgium, the Netherlands and even Germany. They said the smell is likely to hang around through the weekend as the easterly wind continues.

"You can't say it's going to smell for two days, but the wind is coming in from the same direction," said Chris Almond, a forecaster with the Met Office, Britain's weather service.

"It's not really until Monday, Tuesday that we'll see a change in the wind direction, with a more marked improvement in air quality."

He said the smell had probably been stagnating in those countries for a few days, resulting in a more pungent aroma once the winds brought it to England.
There's even a monstrously boring political sideline to this story, but I can't bring myself to care, beyond the hilarity that an entire city reeks of cow crap.

Well, it's hilarious because I don't have to live there.


Cold Storage
Another one of those stories about how people can survive long durations without oxygen if you get them really, really cold.
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- A gust of wind blew a 2-year-old in a stroller into Lake Michigan, where the boy remained submerged for at least 15 minutes before being pulled out unconscious but alive.

The child's grandfather, who had been pushing the stroller on the lakeside Friday afternoon, jumped into the harbor to try to save the boy, the Chicago Fire Department said.


The toddler was strapped in the three-wheeled jogging stroller about 10 feet below the surface of the 42-degree water before rescue divers pulled him out.
They should be thankful it was so cold. If the water had been warm and he'd been without O2 for that long he'd be a corpse.

But thanks to the miracles of hypothermia, his brain may well have survived, on ice so to speak, without the lack of oxygen killing all his neurons. That sort of thing happens with these exposure cases sometimes. Hopefully it will here too.

Man strollers are windy death traps though. Mythbusters had the same thing come up in a test of whether trains could blow/suck people on to the tracks. The stroller + dummy combo just went sailing down the rails after the train.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mainstream Media Megapost

Heads in the Sand

How's that Surge Working Out?
The news media hates to cover the war they helped sell, but you'd think this sort of story would be significant.

BAGHDAD — A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias.

The retreat left a crucial stretch of road on the front lines undefended for hours and led to a tense series of exchanges between American soldiers and about 50 Iraqi troops who were fleeing.


Tuesday’s desertions in Sadr City, although involving a particularly hesitant Iraqi unit, left many of the Americans soldiers wondering about the tenacity of their Iraqi allies.

“It bugs the hell out of me,” said Sgt. George Lewis, Captain Veath’s platoon sergeant in Company B, Third Platoon, First Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. “We don’t see any progress being made at all. We hear these guys in firefights. We know if we are not up there helping these guys out we are making very little progress.”

Company B moved into Sadr City at the end of March as part of a broader effort to secure the southernmost portion of the densely populated Sadr City.

That area has been used by militias to fire 107-millimeter rockets toward the Green Zone. The Americans’ mission is to stop the rocket firings and help the Iraqi government establish a modicum of control.

Some Iraqi soldiers have fought hard. American soldiers have been regularly coaching them on how to protect their patrol bases, conserve ammunition and evacuate their wounded.

One big problem is that the Iraqi troops have responded to militia gunfire with such intense fusillades that the soldiers have endangered civilians, American soldiers and even their own forces. The barrage of Iraqi Army fire has become such a regular occurrence that some American soldiers are worried that militia fighters have tried to insert themselves between nearby Iraqi units to induce the Iraqi soldiers to fire on one another.


The Iraqi convoy drove off, and the Americans began to scramble to find a new Iraqi unit to plug the gap. Senior Iraqi commanders hurried to the scene and a special Iraqi reconnaissance unit was ordered to advance up the road. With the help of an American bomb-clearing unit, Stryker vehicles and attack helicopters, the Iraqis rumbled north, spraying rounds as they went. According to the last reports monitored by Company B, the Iraqis were stopped short by several roadside bombs, and planned to resume the push in daylight.

The furious Iraqi fire on their drive toward the abandoned base endangered the American soldiers who were bringing supplies to one of their platoons, and an American officer issued a plea over the tactical radio.

“They are lighting up everything,” he said. “Tell them to knock it off.”
So the 'elite' Iraqi unit that we had to scramble to find to plug the hole left by the deserters was also completely out of control.

This after mass defection and desertion during the Siege of Basra (which we lost, btw, not that the American media reports our military defeats).

Oh yeah, they're standing up so we can stand down, or whatever the new buzzphrase is.

Source: The New York Times

The big fake 'bash the Democrat' story of the week this week is the intense, almost Talmudic parsing of the exact words Obama used to describe the frustration that working class people feel, and the ways in which conservative splinter factions divide and conquer the resulting electorate.
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama on Saturday defended labelling struggling working-class voters "bitter," insisting they have every reason to be frustrated.

"I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana ... who are bitter," he said at a rally Saturday.

"They are angry. They feel like they've been left behind," he said of those hit by tough economic times. "That's a natural, natural response."


"So it's not surprising then that 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," Obama said, according to a transcript published by
Gee, you think?

You think that small town people with no hope and no future might be easy prey for opportunistic churches, lobby groups, what have you?


Senator Clinton, of course, always looking for a chance to kneecap Obama even if it puts McCain in the White House, jumped on this in the usual unseemly manner.
Clinton jumped on his statement as condescending.

"I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America," she said at a rally in Indiana Saturday.

"Senator Obama's remarks are elitist and are out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans. Certainly not the Americans that I know."
Speaking of McCain...
De facto Republican nominee John McCain's campaign also hit out at Obama's remarks.

"It shows an elitism and condescension toward hard-working Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking," McCain advisor Steve Schmidt told The New York Times.

"It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."
Honestly, does she use the same speechwriters as McCain?

Obama, and this is to his credit, refused to retract the statement.
But Friday, Obama said he knew very well the struggles of middle-class voters.

"No, I'm in touch. I know exactly what's going on ... People are fed-up," he said.

"They're angry and they're frustrated and they're bitter. And they want to see a change in Washington and that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America."
So that's the state of that one. The polling after what the American press is 'cleverly' calling Bitter-Gate shows that Obama hasn't taken a hit for this at all. Perhaps because people realize that he's telling the truth. More likely because they're apathetic and divided to begin with.

Source: Raw Story

The Hits Keep On Coming
Of course, not content with the failure of their non-story to grow legs, the media kept finding new ways to flog it.
In his New York Times column today, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol claimed that Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) now-infamous “bitter” remarks sound like Karl Marx’s “famous statement about religion.” On the Brian and the Judge radio show today, Fox News’ senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano asked Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) if Obama is “a Marxist as Bill Kristol says might be the case?”

“I must say that’s a good question,” replied Lieberman, before stepping back to say that he would “hesitate to say he’s a Marxist”
Ahh, Short Bus Lieberman, the man who ran against a Democrat and lost in the primary, so he cheated his way through a general election (with 300k in bribes still unaccounted for), then extorted chairmanships of important committees to keep the Dems in the majority on paper in the Senate, then refused to do any actual work in this committees so that his buddies in the Bush administration could rest easy.

THAT Lieberman. I'd forgotten that asshole.

Then we have Karl Rove going on Fox to abuse the English language.
Yesterday, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol claimed that Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) now-infamous “bitter” remarks were Marxist in nature. On Fox News’s Hannity And Colmes last night, former Bush adviser Karl Rove echoed Kristol’s over-the-top characterization, saying “it was almost Marxian“:

ROVE: I don’t find a lot of people in rural America, I certainly don’t find the dominant view to be — “I’m so bitter that I’m going to hold on to my gun or I’m gonna” — You know, it was almost Marxian in this they cling to their religion. I mean, you know, it’s sort of like it’s the opiate of the masses.
Hey, you braindead bucket of pus, it's 'Marxist'. 'Marxian' isn't a word, though it might be the title of a videogame from the 80s.

CNN Headline news continues of course to be a class act on the issue as well.
Even before Obama’s poorly worded comments last week, many on the right have been making a concerted effort to cast Obama as a socialist and a Marxist. For months now, right-wing talker Glenn Beck, who also hosts a show on CNN Headline News, has been referring to Obama as a “socialist“:

I hope it doesn’t matter to Barack. But he has heard the message of Jesus that shared prosperity is the thing to do. Hope, change, Marxism. This guy is a socialist and all you have to do is listen to his words.
So you see. Obama's a Marxist, for daring to note that people either a: want hope and change and are optimists or b: are frustrated and pessimistic.

What a dilemma, American press!

Sources: Think Progress (Marxist)
Think Progress (Marxian)

Math is Hard, Let's Vote McCain!
The press as a whole might as well wear his damn campaign buttons on air.
Summary: On MSNBC Live, Mika Brzezinski said that Sen. John McCain "wants to eliminate the federal gas tax -- that's about 20 percent of the cost." Later, Monica Novotny said McCain is "proposing suspending the federal gas tax for the summer, potentially cutting prices by nearly 20 percent." In fact, the federal gas tax -- 18.4 cents per gallon -- comprises only 5.4 percent of the current average cost of regular gasoline.
Yeah, I know when I gas up the car and pay 3.45 a gallon, it's not the first 3 dollars and twenty-seven cents that makes me cringe, it's that last 18. BECAUSE I AM A MORON, DUR

I honestly think part of the problem here is that these people are so out of touch they haven't had to gas up their own cars in a few years, and so can't honestly remember whether gas is 1 dollar a gallon or 3 half the time.

Source: Media Matters

Southern-Style Bigot
Hey I know, here's a story we can avoid: a Southern (ok, Kentuckian, but they want to be Southern) bigot called Senator Obama 'boy' at a fundraiser!

No reason to report on that! Everyone knows racism in America is dead.
Rep. Geoff Davis was speaking to about 400 donors at a fundraiser in Kentucky, when he said of Obama, "That boy's finger does not need to be on the button."
It gets better, because he was talking out of school about a classified exercise!
It also appears Davis may have released classified information in the exchange.
He said in his remarks at the GOP dinner that he also recently participated in a "highly classified, national security simulation" with Obama. "I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button," Davis said. "He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country."
Now, I know Republicans tend to be retards, so I'll spell this out for him.


You just have to know how to talk to these guys.

Source: Raw Story

Amazingly, the same week that saw Obama called a Marxist, 'boy', and an elitist snob also saw him compared to Osama Bin Laden.

So much for the liberal media.

John McCain and Barack Obama both appeared before the nation's newspaper editors yesterday. The putative Republican presidential nominee was given a box of doughnuts and a standing ovation. The likely Democratic nominee was likened to a terrorist.

At a luncheon for the editors hosted by the Associated Press, AP Chairman Dean Singleton quizzed Obama about whether he would send more troops to Afghanistan, where "Obama bin Laden is still at large?"

"I think that was Osama bin Laden," the candidate answered.

"If I did that, I'm so sorry!" Singleton said.

"This," Obama told the editors, is "part of the exercise that I've been going through over the last 15 months."
Of course, Milbank then goes on to the BItter-Gate thing because he thinks it's clever. Still, at least he covered what should be, in an rational world, a scandal of epic proportions. So-called 'journalists' sucking up to a Presidential candidate in the most screaming fangirl way imaginable, short of actually asking him to sign their bodies with a marker.
McCain's moderators, the AP's Ron Fournier and Liz Sidoti, greeted McCain with a box of Dunkin' Donuts. "We spend quite a bit of time with you on the back of the Straight Talk Express asking you questions, and what we've decided to do today was invite everyone else along on the ride," Sidoti explained. "We even brought you your favorite treat."

McCain opened the offering. "Oh, yes, with sprinkles!" he said.

Sidoti passed him a cup. "A little coffee with a little cream and a little sugar," she said.
Hey, lady. You can stop trying so hard. We know McCain is an adulterer, he'll surely fuck you after the press event.


Source: The Washington Post

Of course this time around the press is being solidly lambasted for being so obviously in the tank for McCain, and they're getting sort of defensive about it. Note the tone here.
Both Democratic presidential candidates on Sunday night appeared at a CNN "Compassion Forum" at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania.

Messiah College describes itself as embracing an "evangelical spirit rooted in the Anabaptist, Pietist and Wesleyan traditions of the Christian Church."

As such, its "community covenant" states that members of the Messiah College community "avoid such sinful practices as drunkenness, stealing, dishonesty, profanity, occult practices, sexual intercourse outside of marriage, homosexual behavior, and sexually exploitative or abusive behavior."

In the past, Republican presidential candidates have been criticized for speaking at universities where certain religious beliefs are considered bigoted, most notoriously when then-Gov. George W. Bush in 2000 spoke at Bob Jones University, where anti-Catholic dogma was taught and inter-racial dating banned.

Messiah counsels its gay and lesbian students to seek the help of controversial organizations that use Scripture and behavioral exercises to coach them to stop acting on gay feelings and impulses.

It's not difficult to imagine a big outcry among liberal activists if, say, Republican presidential candidates attended such a forum hosted by, say, Fox News at such a university.
You're quite right, it's not hard to imagine. Unfortunately, when McCain goes to speak at one of these odious 'colleges' like Bob Jones, you people studiously refuse to cover it. When he courts the endorsement of Hagee, a whacko anti-Catholic bigot who wants to bring about the End Times by destroying Israel, you studiously ignore it.

You will, however, write a speculative piece on how liberals must be hypocrites, then bookened it with an anonymous letter from a reader taring into the liberals for not being upset.

Anonymous smears? Faux outrage? Defensive, passive-aggressive reporting?

Yes, it is indeed the Mainstream Media.

Source: 'Political Punch' at ABC News

Of course, Jake Tapper has more fake scandals to peddle.
In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Johnson says that former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro was right.

If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she said, just before the resulting firestorm forced her to step down as an adviser to Obama rival Hillary Clinton.

"What I believe Geraldine Ferraro meant (is) if you take a freshman senator from Illinois called 'Jerry Smith' and he says I'm going to run for president, would he start off with 90 percent of the black vote? And the answer is, probably not. Would he also start out with the excitement of starting out as something completely different? Probably not. He would just be a freshmen senator ...
But of course, that's not the whole story on Ferraro, who has a history of bashing black candidates, and said Obama was 'lucky' to be black, which is a whole different story.

Tapper undoubtedly knows this and doesn't correct it. I'm not sure why, but doing his job is probably too much to ask at any rate.

Source: 'Political Punch' again

Hunger for the Trivial
If you ever have any doubt that our press hungers, thirsts, lives and dies for the trivial and the stupid, steadfastly refusing to inform people or do any real work, then this should put that doubt to bed forever.
Last August, I ran into Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, outside the Senate chamber in the Capitol.

This was before the Obama surge, before he had omnipresent Secret Service agents, back when you might see him strolling solo.

We chatted for a second, mainly about the Pakistan speech he'd recently given and about how the media had covered it. He was in good spirits.

As any close friend or family member can attest, I have an unusually keen sense of smell and immediately I smelled cigarette smoke on Obama. Frankly, he reeked of cigarettes.
Yes, that's right, Jake Tapper, bloodhound-human hybrid, is on the case!
Obama ran off before I could ask him if he'd just snuck a smoke, so I called his campaign.

They denied it. He'd quit months before, in February, they insisted. He chewed nicorette.

But I knew what I'd smelled and I asked his campaign to double-check and to ask him if he'd had a cigarette.

They reported back that he had told them he hadn't had a cigarette since he quit.

And maybe that was true. Maybe I imagined the cigarette smoke. My olfactory nerve somehow misfired.

Except….last night on MSNBC's Hardball, Obama admitted that his attempt to wean himself from the vile tobacco weed had not been entirely successful.

“I fell off the wagon a couple times during the course of it, and then was able to get back on," he said. "But it is a struggle like everything else.”

Now I wonder about last August.
Oh yes, this is a conspiracy right up there with Iran-Contra, Watergate, the Gulf of Tonkin and the right-wing coup against FDR. Please, Tapper, continue!
It's not a big deal in the scheme of things -- the war on Iraq, a major economic crisis -- indeed, it's miniscule. Hardly worth mentioning.

Except that I don't like feeling that I wasn't being dealt with honestly. And as much as citizens who are suspect of the media might scoff at such a notion, many of us consider ourselves to be your representatives to help make sure our leaders are telling us the truth, and leading the country down a path we as a nation are confident is the right one. (Corny, I know.)
Not corny so much as self-serving, egotistical, arrogant and wrongheaded. But thank goodness we have you to make sure the path our politicans lead us on is the 'right one'.


Source: Same as above. Home of the Idiot.

Not that ABC is alone in refusing to cover important stories in favor of trivial nonsense, of course.

Even the New York Times gets in on that sweet ignoring history action.
Meanwhile, Fair reports on the NYT's excuse for failing to cover the hearings.
New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt has offered a response to media activists who wrote to the paper about its non-coverage of last month's Winter Soldier hearings. Hoyt's explanation is that reporters at the Times had "not been aware of the group or its meeting," but likely wouldn't have covered it if they had been aware of the event.

The idea that the Times was unaware of Winter Soldier is remarkable; the paper's D.C. reporters were repeatedly sent press releases about the events, the same ones that other media outlets received that did manage to cover the event, ranging from Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! to the New York Times' corporate sibling the Boston Globe.
Yes, who needs to cover a major meeting of Iraq war vets discussing at length the atrocities they and others committed in the name of our country's imperial ambition?

Atrocities like these:
Soldiers and vets told how superior officers instructed them on the official ways to torment and beat detainees. Andrew Duffy, a medic who served on the trauma team at the Abu Ghraib military prison, put it this way, "You can't spell abuse without 'Abu.'" They were told to use the term "detainee" because, unlike "prisoner of war," there are no laws protecting detainees. While he rocked back and forth in his seat nervously, Mathew Childess, a Marine infantryman who served two tours in Iraq, referred to beating detainees and "breaking fingers." When a particular detainee begged for food and water, he took the man's hat, wiped himself with it, and stuffed it into the man's mouth.
Breaking fingers? Denying food and water?

Nah! Total non-story! Quick, did Obama say anything we can label elitist today?

Source: The Impolitic

Eye in the Sky
Speaking of stories that the press would never even consider covering in depth, El Presidente is prepping a new spy satellite network solely dedicated to watching what American citizens do on American soil.
The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities -- such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps.


But Congress delayed launch of the new office last October. Critics cited its potential to expand the role of military assets in domestic law enforcement, to turn new or as-yet-undeveloped technologies against Americans without adequate public debate, and to divert the existing civilian and scientific focus of some satellite work to security uses.

Democrats say Chertoff has not spelled out what federal laws govern the NAO, whose funding and size are classified. Congress barred Homeland Security from funding the office until its investigators could review the office's operating procedures and safeguards. The department submitted answers on Thursday, but some lawmakers promptly said the response was inadequate.

"I have had a firsthand experience with the trust-me theory of law from this administration," said Harman, citing the 2005 disclosure of the National Security Agency's domestic spying program, which included warrantless eavesdropping on calls and e-mails between people in the United States and overseas. "I won't make the same mistake. . . . I want to see the legal underpinnings for the whole program."
Pfft, Harman, calm down. It's not like the Bush administration would ever LIE to us or violate our rights in secret!

Source: The Washington Post

It wouldn't be a post on the near-total wasteland that is the American press if it didn't mention the 'Democratic' debate from Wednesday. A debate that focused, not on issues like the economy, the housing collapse, the failing infrastructure or the war in Iraq, but rather on whether Obama was patriotic enough, whether his pastor (a former Marine) was patriotic enough, and whether, gasp, someone might raise the capital gains tax back up to approximately the level that actual working people pay on THEIR taxes.

A shocking concept.

Basically, the debate went 56 long minutes before a single policy question, and then only asked one more over the rest of the two hours of time suck. They found time for every petty, pointless issue, every campaign 'gaffe', to grill Obama over what, exactly, 'bitter' means, and the like. But no time for the housing fiasco, no time for Afghanistan, no time for our bridges that are literally falling down or our planes that are being grounded en masse for safety violations. Nothing. We got one question on Iraq and one question on.....gas prices. Which really are one issue. There was saber rattling on Iran, but no serious discussion of how, say, we've screwed up that country, and any action we take toward them now will only be seen as aggression by the world community, or how they're a complete non-threat, and the like.

Yeesh. What a mess. By the end the audience was booing the moderators, and with good reason.

Source: The Philadelphia Daily News (Attytood blog)

Charlie Gibson was particularly upset about the capital gains tax during the debate, and it's easy to see why; he's rich, and must not like paying taxes so that the rabble can have their social programs, education, and so forth.

What's even more interesting is that he labors under the misapprehension that ordinary Americans are rich as well. From back in January:
Summary: During the ABC News-Facebook debate, moderator Charlie Gibson suggested that the Democratic presidential candidates' proposals to roll back or let some of President Bush's tax cuts expire would affect middle-class families, adding, "If you take a family of two professors here at St. Anselm, they're going to be in the $200,000 category that you're talking about lifting the taxes on." According to the U.S. Census, however, the median income for a U.S. household is $48,451, and the mean household income is $65,527; and only 3.4 percent of U.S. households have an income of $200,000 or more.
The man is completely out of touch. It's similar to how nobody on tv seemed to know how much a gallon of gas cost these days; they also have no idea what the 'little people' make in a year.

Which might go a long way to explaining how wrong-headed they are on every meaningful economic policy.

Meanwhile, Ezra Klein provides a helpful graph showing just how, in fact, completely out of touch Charlie is with his hypothetical 'middle class' family scenario.

These people are shockingly ignorant.

Sources: Media Matters
Ezra Klein

The Media's Greatest Hit(Job)s
Just in case anyone was wondering if Republicans and Democrats face differing standards in the American media, I thought a couple of examples of great distortions from our recent past by the corporate press would prove illuminating.

First, a small taste of the sort of press abuse that helped turn Hillary Clinton into what she is today: a hyperaggressive, defensive and self-destructive Presidential candidate.

The gist of this is the following: in the 90s, when Hillary was considering a move to New York, she was labeled a phony for declaring herself a Yankees fan. The press hopped all over her, and repeated accusations that she was lying, without proof, ad nauseam.
In June 1999, the New York Yankees were coming to the White House to be feted for the previous year’s World Series win. On the Today show, Hillary Clinton told Katie Couric that she had been a fan of the Yankees along with the Cubs when she grew up in Chicago.

To this day, there is no reason to doubt this statement. In 1993 and 1994, in fact, the Washington Post had published two separate profiles which alluded to Clinton’s youthful love for the Yankees. “I needed an American League team,” Clinton told Couric. “Because when you're from Chicago, you cannot root for both the Cubs and the Sox.” None of this was ever worth talking about. But the pre-existing evidence plainly suggests that what Clinton said was accurate.

None of this was worth talking about—except within the “press corps.”

You see, in June 1999, the press corps was busy reinventing Al Gore as the world’s biggest liar. They hated Hillary Clinton’s husband—he had gotten ten blow jobs; they hadn’t—and they were now directing their fury at everyone found in his court. Two Post profiles plainly suggested that Clinton had been a Yankees fan. But the insider press corps was up for some fun. It started in the new York Times, with this report by Katherine “Kit” Seelye:

SEELYE (6/11/99): “The fact is, I've always been a Yankees fan,” the First Lady, who was born and bred in Chicago, asserted this morning to Katie Couric on NBC's "Today Show" in anticipation of the championship team's visit to the White House this evening. When the puzzled Ms. Couric said she thought Mrs. Clinton was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, the First Lady, in a classic Clintonian gesture, quickly claimed loyalty to the Cubs, too.
It goes on and on and on from there. They spilled gallon upon gallon of ink coming up with new 'creative' ways to label her a liar, when the evidence suggests that she, in fact, always was a Yankees fan.
By now, it was a Clintonian lie. “Talk about building a mountain out of a molehill, Sam Donaldson said, interrupting Will—though he himself plainly implied that what Clinton had said was a stretcher. Moments later, Roberts put her cosmic inanity on full display. She explained who it was she most pitied:

ROBERTS: I must say the part that made me sad was Joe Torre standing there [at the White House]. I'm a great admirer of Joe Torre and for him to be used in this way, it was a little—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think you'll see her sitting at court side between Spike Lee and Matt Dillon in the Knicks playoffs coming up. But her much bigger problem is the news in the, the New York Times, this morning, whether or not Ken Starr is going to be issuing some sort of a scathing report. I think—

WILL: I'm sorry, that's part of the same thing. This is not a mountain out of a molehill. They can't tell the truth!

“They can’t tell the truth,” Will said—as his panel kept failing to tell the truth. (This is a very familiar pattern from this lunatic era.) But you know what this was really about. At the end, a tut-tutting Cokie was required by law to go there:

ROBERTS: Yes, you should stick with your team. It's one of those loyalty issues.

WILL: And your state.

ROBERTS: Well, and then there's husbands. Well, Sam and I will be back in a moment.

Hiss! Hiss-spit! Hiss-spit! Mee-ow!! And don’t worry—the gasbag gang was just getting started.
Ha! See, you can't trust Hillary, because she exercised different judgment than Cokie Roberts would have in her own marriage.

And everyone knows, Cokie is God.

Unfortunately for America, the press had bigger fish to fry, and moved on from calling Clinton a liar to calling Al Gore one, in order to sink his Presidential ambitions.

Their all-time greatest example of his 'lies'?

That he said he 'invented the internet'.
Internet of Lies

Claim: Vice-President Al Gore claimed that he "invented" the Internet.

Status: False.

Origins: Despite the derisive references that continue even today, Al Gore did not claim he "invented" the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way. The "Al Gore said he 'invented' the Internet" put-downs were misleading, out-of-context distortions of something he said during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition" program on 9 March 1999. When asked to describe what distinguished him from his challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, Gore replied (in part):
During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.
Clearly, although Gore's phrasing might have been a bit clumsy (and perhaps self-serving), he was not claiming that he "invented" the Internet (in the sense of having designed or implemented it), but that he was responsible, in an economic and legislative sense, for fostering the development the technology that we now know as the Internet.
Ah, but was he in fact responsible for doing so?

Sadly, Yes!
It is true, though, that Gore was popularizing the term "information superhighway" in the early 1990s (although he did not, as is often claimed by others, coin the phrase himself) when few people outside academia or the computer/defense industries had heard of the Internet, and he sponsored the 1988 National High-Performance Computer Act (which established a national computing plan and helped link universities and libraries via a shared network) and cosponsored the Information Infrastructure and Technology Act of 1992 (which opened the Internet to commercial traffic).
So Al Gore sponsored the bill that linked universities and libraries to the proto-Net, and cosponsored the bill that opened the Net to commercial traffic.

But he had nothing to do with it and is a big fat liar, of course.

This sort of thing will always happen to Democratic candidates for President. Our press is made up of a bunch of self-entitled elitists who resent, to the point of pathological loathing, someone from their class who votes against their interests. Witness the disgusting spectacle Wednesday night where the CAPITAL GAINS TAX got time in the Democratic debate but not the mortgage crisis, the environment, or healthcare.

Because the moderators are themselves very, very wealthy, and as very wealthy people, the capital gains tax is important to them. And important to keep low.

Repugnant fools.

Sources: The Daily Howler