Monday, November 7, 2011

What the Hell Is Wrong With You Idiots? Didn't You Hear What Herman Cain Said?

Geez. Herman Cain continues to prove just how incredibly un-presidential he is. Rachel Maddow has talked extensively about just how silly a candidate Cain has been from the get-go. Cain is certainly a clown. But he's at the point where poll numbers say he must be taken seriously. And so we do.

But Cain doesn't want to be taken seriously. He wants to talk but he doesn't want to listen. It's rare to see a person so uninterested in actual discourse. Even schmucks like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner pretend that they're answering the question when they're completely avoiding it. (Check out the "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation" archives for numerous examples of "message control".) Cain just takes complete umbrage that the press would want to talk about anything other than his talking points. And if he's questioned he starts talking like everyone else is 14 and they just can't get it through their thick little skulls that Cain has it. Everything that comes out of his mouth has that "What the hell is wrong with you idiots?" tone to it. (Cain: "The sky is green." Reporter: "Mr. Cain, with all due respect, the sky is not and never has been green." Cain: "What the hell is wrong with you idiots? Didn't you just hear me say the sky is green? No more questions.")

So when the sexual harassment allegations came up (and, like Dahlia Lithwick, I'm willing to consider them allegations until we know more) Cain reacted predictably. "I already told you nothing happened. What the hell is wrong with you idiots?" My favorite part was his campaign manager (you know, the smoking guy) saying that if the allegations have merit the accusers should be willing to face Cain publicly. Of course, they signed non-disclosure agreements, so legally they can't say anything. How convenient.

So today's news is fun. Yet another accuser, and this one is going public. I have no idea whether what this woman is saying is true (although, credibility grows the more instances of something occur, so...) but I found Cain's official statement to be utterly hilarious.

Activist celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred is bringing forth more false accusations against the character of Republican front-runner Herman Cain,” the statement said. “All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone. Fortunately the American people will not allow Mr. Cain’s bold ’9-9-9 Plan’, clear foreign policy vision and plans for energy independence to be overshadowed by these bogus attacks.”

Where to begin... At the beginning, I reckon. Look at the first three words, referring to the accuser's legal counsel. Activist (bad). Celebrity (really bad). Lawyer (unbelievably bad, unless they're representing a corporation or corporate executive). So right off the bat we can't trust anything that comes out of this person's mouth. Even though Gloria Allred didn't make the statement. Guilt by association.

Next, the statement refers to "Republican front-runner Herman Cain". Ah yes, let's make sure that everyone knows he's the front-runner. This is important how? This is foreshadowing of the blatant campaigning to follow later in the statement. More on that in a bit.

Then we have a categorical statement. “All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false." Wow. So not one of them has even a shred of truth in it? Look, when someone says they are 100% innocent, odds are they are at least 75% guilty. And this doesn't leave them any wiggle room when they are proved even 25% guilty. This is typical Cain though. The truth takes a backseat to the message.

Last comes my favorite part. Now that we know that these ladies are full of it, we can get on to the campaign. And let's start by using that broad brush again by invoking "The American people", whom we know are never ever wrong. Unless they support taxing rich people. They will "not allow" Cain's policy proposals, conveniently mentioned by name in this statement, "to be overshadowed by these bogus attacks."


So in responding to serious allegations of inappropriate behavior, Cain makes a campaign speech. Classy.

This may or may not be the straw that breaks this camel's back. I mean, really, if there are still this many people out there who think this is a serious candidate then we're well beyond screwed already. And folks like that are already disinclined to let a little thing like reality change their minds about anything.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dumb Letters: It's Science If I Say It Is

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

The words "science", "reason" and "facts" apparently don't mean what we think they do.

Here's what some folks at the Creation Museum have to say about science and religion.

"Accepting the Bible as God’s literal truth doesn’t mean that we discount science. It does mean that we interpret scientific evidence from the biblical viewpoint. We evaluate the same evidence as evolutionists, but they interpret it from their viewpoint. Evidence isn’t labeled with dates and facts; we arrive at conclusions about the unobservable past based on our pre-existing beliefs. This exercise also involves reason."

It doesn't mean that you discount science? That's exactly what it means! Oy. If you arrive at conclusions based on your pre-existing beliefs then you, by definition, are anti-science. The letter writer seems to think that science means taking something you believe and making the facts fit it. Their "viewpoint" is no different from those of "evolutionists", even though the creationists are working backwards and the actual scientists are working forwards.

Science requires an open mind. And while this isn't always in complete evidence even in the best of us, a true scientist will throw out everything they think they know if the facts prove them wrong. These people won't. Ugh.

Believe what you want, people. But please don't bother trying to convince us that you're into science. It makes you look even sillier.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Have a Crumb Bean Sandwich

Wow. The list of things you can make money on just got a bit bigger. Apparently you can now be paid for not wearing clothes. I don't mean like being a stripper. I mean like not wearing specific clothes. This not-to-be-named dude from a not-to-be-named "reality" program has been offered money to not wear clothes from a not-to-be-named retailer. It seems their brand is being tarnished a bit, in their not-so-humble opinion.

So I reckon I need to get what amounts to a proposal together. Here's what I have so far. Tell me what you think.

Dear Slabbercrombie & Flinch,

First off, let me say how much I admire your catalogs. I enjoy "shopping" with them in my bathroom. You certainly seem to have developed quite the brand for yourself there. And the peeps out there sure are digging it too.

Although I have never purchased any of your products nor worn them in public, and I am not a public figure nor can reasonably hope to be one in the immediate future, I would like to let you know that I am hereby requesting compensation for preventing such a situation from ever occurring. I prefer to nip things in the bud. You can't unring a bell, as they say.

I would not want to be responsible for the further degradation of the brand that you have so skillfully cultivated. I'm considerably older than your target demographic. I'm balding on top and I'm just a bit paunchy. I also eat quite a bit of garlic, which affects both my breath and my perspiration, which tends to be voluminous when compared to that of the average person. And I have a tendency to declaim quite loudly and repeatedly to whomever is within earshot just where I purchased my daily outfit, which (I must say) does not get changed or washed with any frequency. Let me add here that I live in New York City and ride public transportation, so my audience tends to be large and diverse.

I'm certain that the last thing you want is for millions of New Yorkers to be referring to "that loud, smelly Slabbercrombie & Flinch guy" and have them showing me on the "Today" show. Can you imagine? I could be like the
Naked Cowboy. Tourists would have their picture taken with me. Well, maybe not with me. There is the smell. And the head lice. But near me. With me in the background. Like they do with Mount Rushmore. And your company stock, not to mention your cultural cachet, would take a beating the likes of which hasn't been seen in this country since "The Outlaw Josey Wales".

I'm not a greedy man. I'm only thinking $10-20,000 per week would be sufficient to keep me out of Slabbercrombie & Flinch couture. Just think of the upside. It's a tax write-off, if nothing else.

Please let me know at your earliest convenience when my first check will arrive. And thanks. Slabbercrombie & Flinch!

Your humble servant,

Monday, August 15, 2011

4,823 Iowans Can't Be Wrong, Can They?

So, The Stepford Wife wins the Ames Straw Poll. And now we're supposed to take her seriously. Let's put aside the fact that nobody in this pathetic race to the bottom deserves to be taken seriously. What does this "triumph" really mean?

Well, first let's think about what The Ames Straw Poll is and what it isn't. What is it? Well, according to Wikipedia (I already linked above; sorry, not doing it again):

"The poll takes place among attendees of a fundraising dinner benefiting the Iowa Republican Party. Before the vote, each candidate is given a chance to make a short speech to the attendees.

The poll has been described as a cross between a political convention and a county fair, where Iowa voters have a chance to mingle, eat barbecue and have a little fun. The party divides the venue into sections and auctions each to the candidates, who can then set up booths to present their case to the voters. The larger areas and those closest to the entrance often fetch the highest price. In 2011 bidding started at $15,000 and ranged to as high as $31,000 (bid by Ron Paul).

Non-Republicans are allowed to vote in the Ames Straw Poll. However, all voters must be at least 16 1/2 years of age, be legal residents of the state of Iowa or a student attending an Iowa university/college, and purchase a ticket priced at $30, however some campaigns pay the fee for their supporters."

And what isn't it? A primary or a caucus. That doesn't happen until next year when the vultures will descend anew on Iowa.

So, it's a fundraising event sponsored by a local branch of a national party that charges thirty bucks for the privilege of getting in and eating hot dogs and listening to Mike Huckabee play the bass at a tent bought by one of the candidates that allows people of non-voting age to participate. In a very small state. With a total of just over 16,000 people voting. Which is slightly more than the population of my hometown, which I can guarantee you was never asked its opinion on anything, let alone had said opinion be national news and the cause of a major candidate dropping out of a presidential race.

So out of the 16,000 Iowans (and students who just happen to be there) who paid thirty bucks to go into a tent, about one quarter of them chose The Stepford Wife. That's 4,823 Iowans, some of whom are, again, not of legal voting age. You may have heard that Ron Paul came in a close second. But you probably didn't. It was all Stepford Wife, all the time. And we are supposed to consider this a legitimizing event.

There's a reason that the two candidates who actually have a chance of winning the Republican nomination didn't bother to show up. It's a farce. And they would only cheapen themselves by participating in it. Which is undoubtedly the last positive thing I will say about either of them. Except maybe that they aren't quite as batshit crazy as The Stepford Wife.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Five Other Things to Watch For

The NYT has a little preview of tonight's "debate" in Iowa. They title it "Five Things to Watch for in Iowa Debate". I'm so fed up with these people and their downward spiral into turning the Republican Party into the largest fringe group in the United States. (Yes, this is a contradiction in terms. But this is what it feels like to watch the world around you go insane.)

Here are Five Other Things to Watch For in tonight's debate. And you won't have to look that hard, I promise you.*

1. Crazy

2. Really Crazy

3. Crazy Cleverly Disguised as Sane

4. Crazy Very Thinly Disguised as Sane

5. Absolutely Batshit Fucking Crazy

Oh, and also mean. Really really mean. That's six things, I know. Seven if you count stupid. Enjoy your evening.

* I apologize for the complete lack of insight in this post. Sometimes you just throw your hands up in the air because it does just as much good as arguing sensibly. Although, in my defense, Thing to Watch For #5 in the Times article is basically the same as mine.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dumb Letters: Who's Really in Charge Here

This is hilarious. It's from today's Boston Globe. I don't know if I can even respond to it, it's so wrongheaded in every respect.

I'll quote it in full.

"CALLING THE Tea Party movement “terrorists’’ is grossly misplaced. Indeed, the real domestic terrorism going on in our country is our socialist government’s confiscatory taxation, public education indoctrination, and economy-crushing regulations, and the extreme environmental movement raising the cost of living.

The spontaneous Tea Party movement is a reaction to the way many American voters feel about big, intrusive, out-of-control government. Demonizing the movement will only make it grow to be heard loud and clear in the 2012 elections and beyond, until the people and the states take America back.

A push from two-thirds of the states for a constitutional convention to propose amendments is long overdue. A balanced budget amendment with teeth should be first on the agenda."

Oh my god. Does this person actually believe that our government is socialist? We have the least socialistic government in the free world. By far.

And is there really an "extreme environmental movement"? And what would be their goals? Really really clean air? Incredibly pure water? Oh no! How nefarious! And we all know how powerful they are. (Check out the pictures in those links and ask yourself how much "economy-crushing" regulations we think we need. I'm thinking more than we have.)

And does he really believe that the Tea Party "movement" was spontaneous, and not created by Dick Armey in order to capitalize on racism and grievance? Everyone all just had the same idea at the same time? Okay, if you say so. Everybody likes to think that they're "grass roots".

And what exactly are we taking America back from? The corporations that dominate it? The Tea Party is doing nothing if not ensuring further and greater domination by an economic elite, all in the name of populism. The irony would be rip-snortingly funny if it weren't doing such incredible damage to our nation. These people have no idea how much they're helping to perpetuate the status quo.

The sad truth is that the country has not changed much since Barack Obama took office. At least not in how it's governed and in who really controls things. The only difference is in perception, which has been mercilessly fueled by the right-wing media.

I'd love to take America back too. From ignorance.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dumb Letters: Privatize Yourself

This is a whopper from some knucklehead from the Cascade Policy Institute. (I'm not linking to them. You can Google them if you want. Basically they worship at the altar of Milton Friedman.)

The issue seems to be that U.S. National Parks aren't serving their "customers" the way some people think they should be. The letter writer seems to think that the issue is the "bureaucratic mentality" at the Parks Service. I always love this idea. Free-market ideologues always love to complain about "bureaucracy" in government, as if there were absolutely no bureaucracies in corporations.

"Instead of remaining a lumbering Leviathan, the Park Service should embrace market principles and privatize the parks. ... Since these privately managed parks wouldn’t have the luxury of using other people’s money, they would need to accommodate consumer demand. The solution? Privatize them, of course."

Of course. Consumer demand? Really? I thought that the Parks Service was about keeping lands pure so they wouldn't be overrun by sprawl, industry and advertising. Privatizing them would lead to exactly the kind of "progress" that the National Parks were supposed to forestall.

Of course, if they were using private money, those people supplying the money would naturally be expecting a return on their investment. And how would they be getting that? Trees don't generate a lot of revenue, unless you're cutting them down. I'm thinking it would be along the lines of turning all of our parks into Disney World, with fee-based attractions and miles and miles of advertising. A significant improvement over all of those boring trees, I'm sure.

"In addition, since these lands would be managed by environmentalists in the private sector, there would be little risk of regulatory capture by special interests, which was all too common in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations."

What environmentalists in the private sector? I also love how "special interests" means people looking out for the public welfare and not, oh, the oil industry, which looks out for the profits of a very few people.

The comments section shows a wealth of wisdom in knocking this lunatic down. I wish the WaPo would have given the responses to this letter equal placement. This guy is ludicrous.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vive la Similarité/Différence (your choice)

Joyeux le quatorze juillet! It's Bastille Day again. What does that mean for us here in America?

Well, it means that we should celebrate the fact that we're just like France. Thanks, David McCullough, for explaining it for us.

Except, wait. He's full of crap. We're nothing like France. So sayeth Edward Glaeser.

Mon dieux!

Monday, July 11, 2011

When Is a Person Not a Person?

Jesus, Mitch McConnell is odious. Just freaking odious.

Here's a very short Salon item about something stupid McConnell said recently. But Salon got the emphasis wrong in this one. It was entirely inappropriate to bring up the Casey Anthony case when discussing trials for suspected terrorists. But McConnell's real ignorance was shown in this gem.

"I don't think a foreigner is entitled to all the protection in the Bill of Rights."

Really, Mitch? You don't think? Do you need to research that? 'Cause I can help you there.

Our constitution, which conservatives have pretended to revere so much recently, not only does not support this, it directly contradicts it. Here's what it says about the matter. It's Amendment V, which has only been on the books for 220 years or so, so I can see how Mitch might have missed the news.

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

See, it says "no citizen shall be..." What? It doesn't say "citizen"? It says "person"? Oh. That stinks. That covers, like, everybody. What kind of country is this, anyway?

Monday, June 27, 2011

SCOTUS Finds R Rating Unconstitutional!

I'm having a rough time with the logic behind this one.

I'm as behind free expression as anyone on this planet. I don't think there should be censorship of any kind. If you want to make something, make it. If you want to say something, say it. If it's profane or shocking or just plain stupid, so be it.

The SCOTUS decision today uses this kind of free speech absolutism to justify getting rid of California's ban on the sale of violent video games to children. Here's what Justice Scalia had to say about this.

“Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world),” Justice Scalia wrote. “That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”

I'm totally with him as far as that statement goes. Fist Amendment protection all the way. But here's the problem. California wasn't banning this type of expression. At all. It was only saying that you couldn't sell violent games to minors. That is a completely different thing. It's not even a First Amendment issue.

I don't see how this is any different than not letting kids into R-rated movies. Or (and you knew this was coming) giving them access to porn. Really. If we follow the logic here, and not very far at that, then no one in government has any right to say that children shouldn't have unfettered access to all of the porn they can consume.

Here's Scalia again.

Justice Scalia acknowledged that Justice Alito had identified some disturbing images. “But disgust,” Justice Scalia wrote, “is not a valid basis for restricting expression.”

Again, this ban did not restrict expression. It did not tell video game makers what kinds of games they could make. It simply said they couldn't sell them to minors. Just like porn. Or violent movies.

I think I may agree with Clarence Thomas here for the first time ever.

“ ‘The freedom of speech,’ as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors’ parents or guardians,” Justice Thomas wrote.

Scalia responds:

“He cites no case, state or federal, supporting this view, and to our knowledge there is none,” Justice Scalia wrote of Justice Thomas.

Okay. I'll be happy to approach any one of Scalia's underage relatives and begin a conversation with them about how much sex I'd like to have with them. Then I'll show them some nice hardcore porn. And a Takashi Miike film fest. And maybe "Triumph of the Will". I'm sure he'll find absolutely nothing wrong with that. After all, they should be exposed to new ideas. To hell with their parents.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chris Christie Plays the Victim

I never really bought Chris Christie's schtick about being an honest guy with whom you may not agree but who will always tell you the truth. He lost me for all time today on "Meet the Press".

The transcript is not yet available, so I can't yet quote what I'd like to in this space. But you can watch the whole segment, if you can stomach it. Most of it is Republican boilerplate that I'm not on board with but I can't claim is fundamentally dishonest like almost everything that comes out of Mitch McConnell's mouth.

The part that got me going was the bit close to the end of the segment, about 13 minutes in, when David Gregory shows a clip of Christie on another show being questioned about sending his kids to private school as he slashes funding for public schools.

It seemed like a reasonable question to me. The questioner probably sends her kids to public school and she wants to know why he's reserving privilege for his own kids while telling the rest of the state's parents who can't afford private school that they're SOL.

So does Christie answer the question? No, but he does take victimhood to a new level. Really, you need to watch this. It's shocking. Rather than discuss the public schools, he acts as if the questioner is calling him a bad parent. I was shocked at how awful his initial response was. I was even more shocked at how he expanded on it to David Gregory. Apparently, this is something that no one has a right to talk about. If you bring up public schools you're just insulting Chris Christie. He even managed to defend himself with the "This is who I am" bit.

Okay, Governor, it is who you are. And you're an asshole. You managed to fill another five minutes pretending that your rights as a parent were being questioned and your privacy was being violated somehow. But you never addressed what the questioner actually wanted to know, which was how you could so cavalierly leave the rest of the state's parents out to dry. You made it all about you, which is really distressing. You basically told her and everyone else in New Jersey to fuck off. Oh, and fuck your fucking kids too, NJ parents.

Until today I thought that maybe this guy was a bit less disgraceful than the average Republican. He's not. He's a disgusting hypocritical creep.

UPDATE: And I forgot to say "narcissistic".

Sunday, May 29, 2011

It's Only Fraud If You're the One Doing It

So, if you watch Fox News or generally subscribe to the Republican party line you surely know for a fact that voter fraud is a grave and very real threat to our fragile democracy. So you certainly must support all of the efforts being put in place by multiple states to ensure the integrity of our votes.

Of course, in the real world, voter fraud is about as much of a threat to democracy as the infield fly rule.

Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.

Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.

In Miami, an assistant United States attorney said many cases there involved what were apparently mistakes by immigrants, not fraud.
So, because after five years of the Bush administration investigating and finding nothing of any real impact going on, the natural response of the Republican Party is to push harder to eliminate the scourge that their own president's administration found to be virtually non-existent. They would have done it sooner but they needed to take over a mess of state legislatures first. Which they now have.

Is there a single honest person alive who doesn't know what this is really about? The people least likely to have photo IDs, which is the new standard that the Repubs are pushing, are (and this is entirely coincidental, I'm sure) the same folks who are most likely to vote for Democrats. That is, poor people, black people, young people, poor black young people and the elderly, who are turning on the GOP like German Shepherds over the Paul Ryan gang's efforts to kill Medicare.

So the voter fraud issue needs to be revived in order to a) deflect attention from the actual problems we have right now, and b) help to ensure that fewer people who might vote against them next year and in years beyond are actually able to do so.

This is gutter politics. This is gross. This is much more of a threat to democracy than the supposed voter fraud going on. Tens of thousands of voters will be turned away or have their votes not counted. And I think we know who's going to benefit from all of this.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Easiest job in the world? I'm guessing copy editor at Here's the Boston Bruins current roster.

The B's apparently have not one, not two, but three players from a country that hasn't existed since 1992. I suppose that it was technically their birthplace, as they were all born before the split. But still...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dumb Letters: The Narcissist

I reckon we see what we want to see. I'm loving this letter to the WaPo about The Prez's announcement of an assassination you may have heard about.

When the happy announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed was made, it was disappointing to hear the president report the event by drawing so much attention to himself. He practically made it seem as if he had been there and pulled the trigger. Even if credit is due to him, it was immodest at best not to give all the attention to the men and women of the intelligence and Special Operations services who ushered bin Laden out of the world.

So much of contemporary life is sullied by politicians seeking advantage from situations largely outside their control. The country needs good news more than it needs the president’s preening.

Really? Do I even need to comment on this? He neither said nor implied that he did it. Or anything even close to it. He said "The United States" has done this. And then he went to New York City and didn't say a freaking word. Contrast.

I suppose the president, commander-in-chief of our military and supposed leader of all of us, was supposed to have one of the Navy SEALs do the talking. Because he shouldn't seem immodest. The dude gave a speech and announced what the hell happened. Get over yourself and your fantasies about the guy.

Crikey, this is about as preen-free a president as you can get.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

He Couldn't Get Any Lower

Or could he? I had to read the article to be sure.

Because what said happened to Lawrence Taylor could be taken in more than one way.

That's low, man.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Uninterested? Only If You're Disinterested

I'm a bit of a language geek. Which is not to say that I always write or speak in perfect English. If I did, that last sentence would have been part of the first sentence.

But I have my bugaboos. So does Ben Yagoda over at Slate.

Yes, I know that language changes over time and some things that we consider perfectly acceptable would have left folks in prior centuries aghast. My main concern is the same as Yagoda's, the few words for which we have no proper substitute.

"Literally", of course, is the granddaddy of them. To me, anyway. Yagoda avoids its discussion. Maybe it's too obvious. Or too painful.

As Yagoda points out when discussing "disinterested", there is no exact synonym for that word. (Oddly enough, in a prior paragraph, he points out that "impartial" means roughly the same thing.) But this is even more true for "literally". Please try to name a synonym for it. Once it loses its meaning, we have no single word left to express this concept. This is where language's evolution becomes devolution.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wipe Your Butt With Our New Poll

If you know me, you know how much I love polls/surveys. Not taking polls, but dissecting them. This one isn't even worth dissecting. It's idiotic on its face.

Polls are supposed to be information-gathering devices. This information can be used for marketing, customer service evaluation, testing political winds, etc. Sometimes a poll that's taken for a legitimate purpose is still illegitimate. Check these out if you want to know what I think about polls/surveys that do this.

But Charmin's poll is clearly not intended to gather useful information. It's only purpose is to get people who just love to have their opinions heard to click on an advertisement. It's so transparent that I can't imagine anyone clicking on it. I'd be curious to see the numbers on how many who saw the ad just couldn't resist pulling the trigger. And what they clicked. "Ooh, is Charmin extremely new and different or just very new and different? It wipes my butt in such new and different ways. But just how new and different? I'm torn."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Slime Machine

Okay, so one of the dangers of Netflix streaming movies is that you have no risk but your time when you decide to watch something. Before, when you put a disc in your queue you were at least committing to having a physical object in your house. If you couldn't choke it down, you put it in the red envelope and had to spend a few days waiting in shame for its replacement, preferably something of greater cultural value than "Dude, Where's My Car?"

With the streaming thing, the threshold for a queue add has been drastically reduced. Hey, I'll just watch it for a few minutes. If it's really that awful, I'll just turn it off and go on to the next thing. Instantly!

This is fine in theory, but when you have certain obsessive-compulsive tendencies it can be a trap. Some of us absolutely cannot watch a movie or TV show in which we have even the slightest interest if it has already begun. (Yes, just like Alvy Singer.) And we do not begin to watch or read something that we do not eventually finish. I once slogged through 600-odd painful pages of "The Alienist". Hey, maybe it'll get better. (It didn't.)

Which brings us to "Hot Tub Time Machine". (You can follow the link if you want a full synopsis. Not bothering here.)

I'm about the target demographic for this film. The soundtrack was the soundtrack of my teenage years. If nothing else, I figured I'd chuckle a few times and enjoy the soundtrack. Which I sorta did. Not just the obvious choices (Men Without Hats, Spandau Ballet, Serious Moonlight-era Bowie) but the few inspired oddities, both truly awesome (The Replacements!) and awesomely cheesy (Nu Shooz!).

It's a total guy movie, which is not really my thing. But I can enjoy it if it's funny enough. In that department, it's a coin toss. I'm not quite sure if I wasted an hour-forty or if the few chuckles and titties made it a better bet at the time than another episode of "Torchwood" (which is still there waiting patiently for me, thank goodness).

But what really concerns me here are the morals we're meant (or not) to take away from this cinematic enterprise. And at this point we'll give the obligatory HERE BE SPOILERS!

The film, to its credit, doesn't cast its main characters in a flattering light. We pity them but we don't really like them. But that's what made it harder for me to swallow the ending, which we'll get to in a second.

Early in the film, John Cusack laments that all they had in the 80s was "Reagan and AIDS", the two plagues that were at their grossest back then but continue to pollute our lives today. So one might reasonably expect that, if we were to deconstruct the thing, we might find at least a mild indictment of the values we had back then. The Gordon Gekko "greed is good" era was as slick, empty and one-dimensional as Oliver Stone's screenplays condemning it.

Well, here's what happens at the end. After spending most of the 80s flashback trying to do everything that they did the first time around in a perhaps-vain attempt to avoid the Butterfly Effect, they end by saying "fuck it" and doing whatever the heck they want. Rob Corddry's character even stays behind when the others return to the present in order to take advantage of his knowledge of the future.

I found this a bit depressing. Once the three other principals made their way back to 2010, things were quite different. For all of them. But not because, as in "A Christmas Carol" or even "Back to the Future", they did things better or were kinder people or worked harder as a result of reliving the past. They didn't have epiphanies. Their lives were better because they cheated. And the movie is okay with this. It actually celebrates it.

Rob Corddry is filthy stinking rich because he knew about Google and Twitter and Motley Crue before everyone else. Craig Robinson is well-off because he pre-empted his wife from cheating on him in the future and wowed an audience by teaching his band a Black Eyed Peas song from the future instead of lamely crooning "Careless Whisper", as he did the first time around. John Cusack meets a music journalist that he ends up with instead of brooding over the girl who stabbed him in the eye (and, as he learns, would have stabbed him in the eye either way).

To boil this down to one sentence, "Hot Tub Time Machine" teaches us that the road to happiness and wealth is insider trading. It isn't a repudiation of the 80s. It's a celebration of its worst aspects, which just happen to have exploded again in this decade. Rob Corddry's character is a dick at the beginning of the movie and he's a dick at the end. But now he's a rich dick. And he isn't rich because he earned it. We're supposed to feel good?

No. This left a very bad taste in my mouth. And it wasn't because of Salt-n-Pepa. It's a total glorification of corruption. And really, not funny enough to mask that fact. The characters in "The Producers" were much funnier and much more sympathetic. And they ended up in jail.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I'm not a big fan of taunting. I'm talking specifically about sports fans taunting opposing players, coaches and, worst of all, fans. Although I do tend to frown upon taunting in regular life too. ("You call yourself a cabby? Any idiot knows you take 10th Avenue. STUCK in TRAFF-ic!" [Clap. Clap. Clapclapclap.] "STUCK in TRAFF-ic!" [Clap. Clap. Clapclapclap.])

I think it shows an ugly side of human nature that people would take more pleasure in the downfall of another than they would take pleasure in the achievement of their own team. As a born-and-bred New Englander and longstanding member of Red Sox Nation, I hate the Yankees as much as the next guy. But when the Sox beat the Yanks, I'm happy that the Sox beat the Yanks. I'm happy for the Sox. I'm not as concerned that the guy wearing pinstripes feels personal shame and humiliation.

So, I'm not really into the chants of "Yankees suck". Partly because it's so patently untrue that the whole enterprise smacks of wishful thinking and is therefore more than a little bit pathetic. The Yankees are, historically and currently, the least sucky team in the history of professional sports. Why else would we bother hating them? And "Jeter swallows" is downright offensive. I will say no more on it, lest it be dignified. (As if such a thing is possible.) I'd rather cheer my team on than attempt to degrade another, no matter how much I don't care for them.

Which brings me to today's real point of contention, chanting "o-ver-rat-ed" at a team that is being vanquished by another, presumably underrated, team. This is taunting, of course. But, even more than chanting "[the other team] sucks", it paints the chanter as a bit ignorant and as someone who is actually dissing his/her own team.

Listen. If the other team is overrated, that means that they're not really as good as the conventional wisdom holds. Which means that when you're chanting that the other team is overrated, you're really demeaning your own team. "Hey, those guys really aren't all that good!" So, now you're crowing that your team just survived a squeaker with a team that isn't very good? What does that say about your guys?

Wouldn't it be more uplifting to say, "You guys are a very talented assemblage of physical prowess and game management. And the team for whom we cheer has defeated you, making them even more awesome and reflecting their glory on us who wear the same colors as we cheer!"

I reckon that doesn't make much of a chant.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Smart Letters: The Cost of Energy

Free-marketeers who poo-poo renewable energy never ever ever discuss the costs to society that are never borne by the energy industry. Kenneth Miller of New York City lays them out succinctly. (It's the last letter on the page.) This is why subsidizing the oil industry is sheer madness and subsidizing renewable energy is sound policy. Vitally important, in fact.

The recent argument for nuclear power has been that it is the only large-scale energy source that is economically competitive with fossil fuels and that won’t contribute to global warming. But as the horrible disaster in Japan is making clear, nuclear energy comes with many hidden costs.

These are already manifest in the government insurance that is necessary to raise capital to build reactors and in the government responsibility for nuclear waste disposal. Add to this the government responsibility for the costs of disaster management and recovery and for decommissioning ruined reactors, not to mention whatever dollar amount you want to assign to the lives lost or ruined in disasters, and the real costs soar.

Fossil fuels also have the hidden costs of climate change, which will likely dwarf those of nuclear power, as well as the costs of oil spills and other disasters and myriad government subsidies.

If all of these hidden costs were factored in, we might find that renewables are by far the cheapest source of energy. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Information Exploitation

It's too soon. We can't talk about it. No, it's still too soon. We can't talk about it. No, no. Come back to me in a little while. Yes, later. Much later. When you've calmed down a bit. I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

Jonah Goldberg seems to think that we shouldn't be referring to the recent and still unfolding nuclear disaster(s) in Japan as reasons why nuclear power may not be such a great idea. It's a tragedy. (Can't argue with that.) But it's still happening right now so we shouldn't "exploit" it for some sneaky awful political agenda. Like saving lives.

This happens all the time. Something awful happens, usually because of something the energy industry did. Some of us meekly raise our hands and say, "Um, excuse me, but doesn't this prove what we've been saying all along? That what we're doing here is inherently dangerous and harmful to the environment?" Then the captains of industry come rushing in to say, "No no, it's perfectly safe.*" *"As long as there are never any natural disasters or the hint of human error. Or terrorism."

And people like Jonah Goldberg are right there to back them up by claiming that anyone merely pointing out the fact of the disaster is using it for their own political agenda and therefore disrespecting the thousands/millions affected by said disaster. I guess if our agenda is something like "Nuclear power is bad because terrible shit happens so we maybe shouldn't use it so much" then it's considered tacky to say so when terrible shit actually happens.

But wait, Jonah says. You said yourself that shit happens. Shit happens! We can't stop doing everything because something bad might happen, right? So a few hundred people get their faces melted off. Hey, it could have been a few thousand. The system works! (Jonah actually makes this point, if a bit less in extremis. It's in the third-to-last paragraph.) Let's congratulate ourselves and build a few more nuclear plants. We're going to need them now that those other ones have melted down. But we'll need to build them somewhere else. Too much radiation already in that place.

Sorry, Jonah. But when we have preventable catastrophes like this it is the perfect time to bring up the folly of raping the earth for short-term gain. The truth does not take a vacation because it's inconvenient for you to look at it. We are not "thirst[y] to confirm...[our]...preferred policies". We are pained that we have to go through this again and again and again while people like you refuse to listen as more and more people die.

Monday, March 14, 2011

God Told Me That You're a Dick

Why is it that anytime anything awful happens some fucknut says it's God telling us something? Of course, exactly what God is trying to tell us is open to interpretation. But it's usually about gay people, atheists, liberals, New Yorkers, or gay atheist liberal New Yorkers. (Is there any other kind?)

This stupid little girl is just exultant over the incredible horror in Japan. Apparently, this was a message to atheists. I hadn't realized that every single person on the east coast of Japan was an atheist. But thanks for playing, girlie. I hope you don't have any atheists in a 150-mile radius of your house. Because when God comes a-calling for them, you and your Barbies are getting sucked into the maelstrom with them.

I'll give her a pass, though, because she's just a tot. Once she's all growed up and spewing the same nonsense (and -- I hate to be so pessimistic, but -- I'm fairly confident she will be) then we can hold her in something that doesn't resemble pity so much as contempt. Especially if she gets her own radio and/or TV show.

Like this shithead. Mr. Beck uses the old I'm-not-really-saying-what-I'm-saying bit, which I love. It absolves people -- at least in their own minds, and possibly the law's, in certain states -- of guilt. "I didn't really say that the people in Japan had it coming! (But I just did.)"

See if you can look in the mirror and say the following two things without telling yourself that at least one of them can't possibly be true.

  1. "I'm not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes,"
  2. "[T]here's a message being sent. And that is, 'Hey, you know that stuff we're doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.' I'm just saying."

So, God didn't cause the earthquake, but the earthquake that just happened is a message. But not from God. The message is presumably from the Avon Lady.

Oh, and of course Glenn Beck knows exactly what the message is. All that stuff you're doing is bad! Well, we're doing an awful lot of stuff down here, Glenn. Which of it exactly is the problem? I'm thinking that watching your batshit crazy show would be pretty high up, if I were God.

And is just Japan doing it or is it us too? Because if it's us, God missed by about 6,000 miles. Our god is an awesomely stupid god, apparently. One who has a lot of incredibly stupid and hateful followers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Look Out for That Clock!

Every year, twice a year, we go through the whole Daylight Savings Time thing. And every year, twice a year, we hear people complaining about "losing an hour of sleep" (or gaining it) and how the time change screws up their delicately balanced internal clock. Hogwash. Really. It's complete nonsense.

Major changes in your sleep cycle can certainly wreak havoc on you. This is what jet lag is. Ask anyone who's flown to Europe or Asia. Or Hawaii. Or even coast-to-coast. But when we change the clocks twice a year we're only talking about one hour. Just one hour. "Oh, MAB," I can hear you saying, "That's still a time change! It messed me up!" Yeah? Okay, here's a question for you. What time do you get up to go to work on a normal weekday? For some, it's 6:00. For some it's 7:00.

Okay, now what time do you get up on a normal weekend day? I guarantee you it isn't 6 or 7 for the vast majority. It's probably closer to 9 or 10. ("It's Saturday! I get to sleep in!") So, unless you go to bed and wake up at exactly the same time every day, you are screwing with your sleep cycle far more drastically than this measly hour that switches but twice a year. And you're doing it every week.

That messed-up feeling you're having is entirely in your head. It's fed, of course, by perceived wisdom and even our media. I've seen "reports" on local and even national news warning people to be careful when driving after time changes. 'Cause you're so messed up. You'll definitely be groggy. So thanks for feeding the nonsense, American media.

So you didn't "lose an hour of sleep" last night. You probably slept as much as you would have anyway. This is why they do this on a weekend, when you mess with your internal clock all the time anyway. You lost an hour of watching TV, or reading cranky blog posts.

I have nothing to say on the merits of Daylight Savings Time. I don't care one way or the other what time we all agree it is. We can argue over whether it's better to have it lighter in the morning or in the evening. Go to it. But the discussion and accompanying grief about "gaining" or "losing" sleep is just plain silly.

It's just an hour, people. Get over it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

That Was One Hell of a Hockey Game

I like how the Boston Globe shows us the scores of the most recent games played by the local boys and their next opponent. It allows us to recap the recent history of rivalries and jog our fond memories of the last time, say, the Celtics played the Grizzlies. Good times.

Remember that freaking awesome B's-Canadiens game last time out? That was a statbuster.

I remember they pulled both goalies early in the first period. Everyone on both teams got hat tricks. It was a major boost to the local millinery economy. Let's do it again, B's!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Porn in the USA

This story from NPR caught my ear the other day.

It shouldn't be news that there are certain aspects of our society that are distasteful to religious conservatives. Gay people, the First Amendment, science... Porn is also on the list. It doesn't even have to be gay porn. It's all bad. So I wasn't surprised to hear a story on NPR about how religious groups are dealing with this particular scourge.

What I didn't expect was the tone of the piece. Porn was treated as a disease, akin to gambling or alcoholism, by the religious groups in question. That's to be expected. But the NPR piece never once questioned this. The entire piece takes porn on exactly the terms laid out by the religious groups. It's a given that porn is a disease that must be overcome. No questions asked.

I can see how people can be addicted to porn and how it may interfere with their lives. (Just like non-porn web surfing or any other form of procrastination.) But this isn't discussed. It isn't the addiction, if that even exists, that's the problem. It's porn in general. There are no gray areas. Porn is taken to be a societal problem on its face and thank the Big Guy that these guys are here to help. You can be cured of the porn just like you can be cured of the gay.

Still think NPR is some crazy liberal media outlet?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Don't Beg Your Pardon

Need a laugh? Read this.

Apparently, Tom Campbell thinks it would be a great idea to pardon Tom DeLay. Can't say I agree. Surprised?

We went through this type of thing a few years ago with Scooter Libby. Someone does something wrong, gets busted, and then someone else says "Oh, he's a good guy. He did it all for the right reasons. Just pardon him." You won't hear that kind of talk about folks in the hood who swiped food for their families to eat. But you hear it quite a bit when people in power abuse that power and are forced to pay for it, even a little. They become the wronged party.

Campbell's arguments are disjointed, unoriginal and woefully unconvincing. First he says he isn't a big Tom DeLay fan. This establishes his "impartiality". Then he compares DeLay with Charlie Rangel, noting that Rangel got off relatively easy, in his opinion. Then he says that three years in the slammer is unfair. (Compared to what? One year?) Then he says DeLay's motives were pure and that he didn't stand to gain personally. (This shouldn't matter. But, for the record, he did benefit quite a bit, personally and politically. Campbell is engaging in sophistry. There were indeed "no personal slush funds" [that we know of] but there were plenty of other goodies.) Then we get a lecture on civility. (Huh?) And then a caution against descending into "politics as blood sport" (as if DeLay wasn't engaging in that himself), followed by the tried-and-true "hasn't he suffered enough?" line. Then, inexplicably, the Tucson shooting gets hauled in.

After all of the usual nonsense, Campbell boils it down to "Think about the children!" Oy. This is not a person who feels he's laid out an airtight case.

This following bit is great.

In many countries, it is not enough to defeat opponents. Politics is a blood sport in which you must destroy them if you can. Do we wish to descend to that level? I don't think so.

That is why DeLay should be allowed to retire to private life with what he has left. He has been punished enough. He lost his position as majority leader and his congressional seat. He lost his place on the national stage. Prison will satisfy the vindictive desires of some but will trigger in others a desire for revenge.

Oh, okay. So maybe we should pardon every fucking criminal in the country. Because undoubtedly revenge is the only possible outcome. Prison is always vindictive. It's never deserved.

See, it isn't about Tom DeLay and the illegal shit he did. It's about satisfying someone else's bloodlust. And I think that Campbell's comment about DeLay's lost place on the national stage means that he desperately wants us to forget this gem.

Apart from all of this nonsense is the idea of what a pardon really is. It isn't, and was never meant to be, a method to ensure that guilty people never did their time. It was supposed to be a way for guilty, contrite people who did their time to be forgiven due to the fact that they had learned from their mistakes and had begun to make themselves into decent members of society.

The most horrible precedent was set by Chevy Chase in 1974. In that one, there wasn't even a trial, let alone a verdict or a sentence. They skipped right to the pardon. So now any time anyone in a leadership position gets convicted, we're supposed to just forget about it because one of their buddies vouches for them. Because really, they shouldn't have to serve as much time as the guy who gets busted for swiping a few videotapes. Now that was a bad guy. Lock him up.

Most importantly, acceptance of a pardon is supposed to be an admission of guilt. You will never get that from Tom DeLay. In fact he's appealing the court's decision. How can you pardon someone who's appealing the decision?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Taxation for Representation

I'm not sure why Michele Bachmann gets so much press.

Okay, scratch that. I do know why. Because she says dumb shit, just like someone else we know and love or hate depending on where we sit and how much grey matter we're sporting.

She's now riding this wave of neo-constitutionalism that has a stubborn tendency to ignore the parts of the constitution that contradict their goals. This is remarkably similar to the tendency of many, who are (perhaps not coincidentally) on the same side of the political fence, to ignore the parts of their other sacred document that don't support their views.

Although the teabaggers like to flout their reverence for the Founding Fathers (a phrase, by the way, coined by one of our most corrupt leaders), the U.S. Constitution was left intentionally open to interpretation. (And change. Amendments, anyone?) What does "general welfare" mean to you? How about "common defense"? A "well-regulated militia", maybe? They're all covered. And they're all pretty damn vague.

I just looked at Article 1 - Section 8, the section that is perhaps most frequently ignored by the teabaggers. Here's what it says.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Wanna do some "interpretation" with me? Cool.

I'm sure that people like Steve Forbes would argue that "uniform" means a flat tax. But what this really means is that no one state should be taxed more than another. That is, that the federal income tax rates should be the same for individuals living in every state. My federal tax can't be 10% in New York, but 15% in Alabama.

But take a leap with me for a moment. Could this possibly mean that each state should bear the same total burden? If we need to collect $1 trillion dollars, do we get 1/50 of it from each state? That would be "uniform", right? "No!", you scream. There are way more people in New York than in Wyoming. And way more money there. They should pay more. (These complaints would come from Wyoming far more than from New York.)

But ask those same folks in Wyoming how they feel about the Senate and it's a different story. They get two senators, New York gets two senators. So our constitution demands that each state get equal representation in one of our two houses of legislation. So howzabout they pony up for that? Equal representation, equal tax burden.

Maybe the federal tax rate should be adjusted for the amount of representation you get in congress. Toss the House into the mix, if you want. That'll level things a bit. But not entirely. Wyoming has 3 legislators in D.C., one for every 188,000 residents. New york has 31 legislators, one for every 625,000 residents. Maybe Wyoming should pay a bit more for that extra representation. More than three times as much, by my cheap calculation. Don't want to pay more? Okay, send one or two of those folks home.

And while we're at it, we can stop taxing the folks in D.C. at all.

Of course, I don't mean any of this. Except the last bit about the D.C. taxes. That I mean. But really, is it any crazier than some of the crap the teabaggers are tossing at us?