Friday, February 26, 2010

Video of the day

Stargate Studios shows us just how much greenscreen has surreptitiously infiltrated even our most benign TV shows. That's right, greenscreen isn't just for creating Jar Jar Binks and tedious blue cat people you kind of want to sex up. No, it's for papering over the gaps because you don't want to fly Ugly Betty to New York.

Picture of the day

From the NASA Earth Observatory comes this look at two volcanoes, Bezymianny and Klyuchevskaya, erupting simultaneously in Kamchatka and spewing out 3.5 mile high smoke plumes.

Is the planet about to be covered in ash? Is Kamchatka? Are there even any people there? Where is Kamchatka? What's a volcano? These are all important questions that will need to be figured out in the upcoming days. For now it just seem s as if the double volcano thing is just a normal occurrence and life on this planet and in Kamchatka (Indonesia? India? Russia? I'm too lazy to look it up) will continue to go on as normal.

Click to embiggen.

Broken In Brief: Health Care Summit Exposes Coverage Gaps

WASHINGTON--Thursday's bipartisan health care reform summit, aimed at addressing impasses between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, has instead cast light on the myriad health problems brought about by actually watching the health care reform summit.

Compounding the issue is the fact that most health care plans consider Telekinetic Lobotomization, bleeding from the eyes or ears, and self-inflicted blunt force trauma to be pre-existing conditions and therefore not covered.

As one insurance industry spokesperson explained, on condition of anonymity, "The mere act of watching these proceedings constitutes wanton self-endangerment. Thus, any physical, psychological or spiritual injuries resulting from this incident are the responsibility of the individual."

While the structure and format of the summit were inherently laughable and therefore suspect, medical professionals are pointing to specific comments by certain lawmakers as the likely source of trauma.

"I'm looking at you, Lamar Alexander," said Dr. Gabriel Hawking, in reference to the Republican Senator from Tennessee. "When you told the president, 'We want you to succeed,' I personally saw four people take ball-peen hammers to their foreheads."

Added Hawking, "And when McCain started in on that 'We promised change' stuff? Or how about when Pelosi started yammering about how this overhaul is going to require 'Real courage'? I feel like my I.Q. shed 40 points just by talking about this. I think I need to go lie down."

Spokesman for the health insurance giants warned that any prolonged exposure to the political health care debate could result in permanent psychosis or attempted self-disembowelment, and warned that any evidence that citizens had paid attention to the health care summit would result in an immediate cancellation of their insurance policy.

"Have you ever priced putting someone's guts back in? It's just not cost-beneficial to us," observed one unnamed Wellpoint executive.

"Did you watch this interminable bullshit? If so, then you yourself are responsible for removing the chair leg you broke off and jammed into your sternum when you heard John Boehner speak."

Hobo life

We here at These Bastards are great chroniclers of hobo life. And why not? This is our inevitable future. The country and economy are failing, little is being done to stop it, and it's at least 2 or 3 weeks until society buckles under the weight of problems of our own making. So that's why we educate the masses on what their lives will soon be: bindles, beans, train-yards, sleeping in cardboard boxes 'neath the underpass, daily fights for survival, and the upcoming Hobo Wars as our great hobo underclass fights for territory and leadership supremacy on the Grand Hobo Council of Elders.

But some of our elected betters are wary of this future and are doing what they can to not only warn people about government hobo indoctrination, but actively trying to stop the hobo-ification of this country. How? By stopping the extension of unemployment benefits, naturally. Let Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) explain.
Heller said the current economic downturn and policies may bring back the hobos of the Great Depression, people who wandered the country taking odd jobs.
“I believe there should be a federal safety net,” Heller said, but he questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits yet again to a total of 24 months, which Congress is doing. “Is the government now creating hobos?” he asked.
He's for a social safety net, he just opposes any means to create or extend one.

But he does raise an interesting point: government created hobos. How will these professional, government trained hobos interact with the naturally formed hobos, bums, grifters, drifters, and tramps. Will they subjugate them with their superior hobo training, ruling them as kings, and ignoring the Democracy of the Council of Elders? Or will they teach us their ways, bettering hobo society as a whole and helping us through the unpleasant times shortly after the world falls into the dystopian nightmare, post-apocalypse period?

I guess we'll soon find out. I, for one, hope that these government hobos help us better our Hobotopia.

The perils of obstructionism

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning is mad as hell. He's mad at those people who want to use fanciful digital converters to see Hollywood homosexuals cavortin' and caperin' on the picture box and he's mad that all those goldbrickin' sons a bitches without jobs who can't throw a baseball like he used to throw a baseball want to partake in the socialist enterprise known as unemployment insurance. So that's why he, despite calls from even his own GOP leadership, refused to allow a vote on the bill that contained measures on both subjects.

When it was pointed out just what the extent of his blinkered opposition would do to people and how he should drop his objection, he casually blurted out "Tough shit" to those who would not see the wisdom in his ways. But then, in a moment of self reflection, Bunning took time to lament for those who had been unfairly harmed by his obstructionism.
And at one point during the debate, which dragged on till nearly midnight, Bunning complained of missing a basketball game.

"I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00," he said,
"and it's the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina since they're the only team that has beat Kentucky this year.
"Gentlemen, it seems I have been hoisted on my own petard. Will someone think of my suffering?"

But amidst this debate over extending unemployment benefits, one silver lining was revealed.
The unemployment rate in Kentucky is 10.7 percent.
I hope they're the first ones that go broke.

Thanks Jim, stay classy.


If there was one highlight to the entire overlong, health care puppet show, it was Sen. Dick Durbin making the point on why exactly it is we need health care and rubbing everyone's face it a steaming pile of hypocrisy.

He then picked up his mic, extended his arm, and dropped it on the floor dramatically before walking out of the room with his arms extended victoriously.

He then added his voice to the chorus promising that Democrats were finally going to get off their asses and finish this thing up. We'll believe it when we see it, Dick.

If you're interested, here are some of the other alleged highlights. It's about seven hours condensed into a measly 12 minutes. It was that kind of summit.

It's over, now we can go back to not having health care

Well the seven hour bipartisan health care summit is over. What did it accomplish? Well, it did make millions of Americans say to themselves "Isn't there a bronze medal women's hockey game that I could be watching instead of this?" Yes, America, yes there was. Finland 3 Sweden 2.

But other than that, nothing happened. It was essentially seven hours of people demanding the right to give a prepared speech. Those speeches had two themes. The Republican's speeches usually include an egregious lie about health care, a "sky is falling" cry that Democrats must not subject the country to the tyranny of majority rule in the Senate, and a paean to start over. The Democrat's speeches usually involved some veiled shot at GOP obstructionism, some forced praise of this bill as a shining blinding light of goodness, and the promise that if Republicans fucked with them 30 or 40 more times, that they'd totally go and pass this bill by themselves.

Almost every one of our elected betters also regaled the country with some horror story of the grievous personal injury or illness of Mr. or Mrs. Regular American with he point being that we should either do something to help them or in the GOP's case, theoretically do something, but not what Democrats propose. All in all it was a massive waste of time and a test of this county's ability to withstand nonstop political bullshit.

But at the end of all this nonsense the Democrats had one abiding message: they're totally finally going to do something, probably.
President Obama challenged Republicans to do some "soul searching" on whether they will support the Democratic health care plan, using the final moments of his health care summit to ask them to put up or shut up. If they don't want to cooperate, the two parties can battle it out at the polls this November, the president said.

Obama's statement and Democratic reactions after the summit were the clearest signal yet that the majority party is charging ahead and abandoning attempts at bipartisanship.
"We are going to move forward, the ball is in everybody's court," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters after the summit.
"Time is of the essence ... it's time we did something and we're going to do it," Reid said.
Really? You don't want to give the Republicans a thousandth chance to come on board in the name of bipartisanship? You're finally convinced that you'll have to do this alone? You're going to considering doing the minor clean-up work it would take to finalize the massive bills you already passed? It's about fucking time.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cheap Blogging Crutch - 2.25.10

My new favorite legal defense: "Toyota did it"
When Koua Fong Lee's Camry shot up an interstate off-ramp and caused a crash that claimed three lives in 1996, the jury refused to believe his preposterous tale about the car accelerating on its own and he was sentenced to eight years in PMITA Prison. Yeah, they might have to revisit this one. And a few others.

Zombie lawsuit rises from the judicial grave

More mystery and intrigue from Minnesota as the U.S. Court of Appeals rules in favor of seven zombified consumerism protesters who are seeking damages from their detention by Minneapolis police in 2006. No word yet on whether the protest in question also satirized misogyny, racism, small-group dynamics and/or the military industrial complex.

The Senate's got 290 problems, but a bitch ain't one
For all the grief rightly directed at Congress on this blog, we have to give credit to the House where credit is due. During this legislative session, the House has passed 290 bills that have yet to make it through the Senate. In fairness, some of these are rubber-stamp horseshit measures of the highest order. Others are silly things like The TARP Reform and Accountability Act, the TAA Authorization Act and The Wounded Veteran Job Security Act. No big deal, really.

Jeb Bush has no sense of irony

In an interview with Newsmax, former Florida governor Jeb Bush said of Sarah Palin, “I don’t know what her deal is. My belief is in 2010 and 2012 public leaders need to have intellectual curiosity." That this was being said by a lifelong Republican and brother of the least intellectually curious president since James Buchanan does not seem to have been mentioned in the interview. But that's why you have us.

A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt
To finish on a lighter note, here is a collection of headline fails put together by the Huffington Post. Happily, the collection includes perhaps the greatest headline ever: Skywalkers in Korea Cross Han Solo.

Picture of the day

As you may or may not know, they have not only recently installed a new cupola window on the International Space Station, but now the astronauts have web access there too. One of the astronauts making use of this is Japanese spaceman Soichi Noguchi, who also took up a 800mm lens camera onto the ISS with him.

With his giant camera, new window, and new internet access he has done what any serious scientist would have done: he took pictures of stuff and posted them to Twitter!

You can follow Astro_Soichi here or take a gander at the dozens of photos he has posted here. They shots of his life on the ISS, shuttle reentries, and cities around the world.

Buenos Ares

Mahajamba, Madagascar



Evidence of the Muslim conspiracy

What's this, you say? Some would claim it's just the new logo redesign for the US Missile Defense Agency juxtaposed next to the old logo. Most people would be fine with that because ROCKETS BOOM KAPOW PEWPEWPEW WHOOSH BOOOM!

But others, namely Frank Gaffney, see it as something far more nefarious, something far more insidious, and something that gravely endangers America... as we know it.
A just-unveiled symbolic action suggests, however, that something even more nefarious is afoot… Team Obama’s anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte. They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah… the new MDA shield appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo… Watch this space as we identify and consider various, ominous and far more clear-cut acts of submission to Shariah by President Obama and his team.
Well, obviously.

It must be of crushing disappointment to Obama to see his plans for US Shariah exposed so quickly. He's spent all these past decades forging his own birth certificate, hiding his Muslim heritage, infiltrating himself into American society, amassing power, and then tricking the masses so that he might control our government. He must be heartbroken that it's all going to come crashing down just because he decided to explicitly explain his plans for the Muslim overthrow of our country in a logo redesign.

You tripped up, Obama. We're on to you and there's nothing you can do to silence us. No Shariah in the US!

TheseBastards Endorsement: Admiral Akbar

The brave students of Ole Miss have been tasked with selecting a mascot to replace Colonel Reb, the former Rebels' luckbringer. The early frontrunner is famous trap-detector and hero of the Battle of Endor, Admiral Akbar.

Venture to to lend support.

Governmental hilarity

Missed amongst all the the summit coverage is the simple fact that none of it would be necessary if the Democrats could, how should I phrase it... get of their fat lazy fucking asses and pass small tweaks to the bills they already fucking passed.

This fact does not seem to be lost on Nancy Pelosi, who has to pass the Senate bill, and Senator Kent Conrad, Chairman of the Budget Committee who is going to have to handle the reconciliation part of the tweaks the Senate is going to have to pass. But you see *laughs* there's just a *laughs* hilarious mix-em-up that's preventing it all from happening.
Democrats finally seem ready to act on health care reform, and for perhaps the first time in the entire year-long health care reform debate, they're speaking--openly--about the likelihood that they'll invoke the budget reconciliation process to make some tweaks to the Senate's health care bill. But there remains no clear path forward, with the House and Senate still jockeying over who will make the first move, and even Senate Democrats divided on how the process should work in their chamber and who among them gets to decide on it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she won't pass the Senate bill until the reconciliation process is complete. And Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) says the Senate can't do reconciliation until after the House acts on the Senate bill.
I imagine the conversation goes some thing like..... "You got legislative peanut butter in my chocolate!" "No, you got legislative chocolate in my peanut butter!", then they both try to speak at the same time, do that whole "You speak" "No, you speak" thing for a few minutes, both end up speaking at the same time again, give up, then both attempt to walk away..... except they both step in the same direction, almost bump into each other, get stuck doing the whole "After you" "No, after you" thing, until hours later staffers have to come and physically remove them from the scene as they've devolved into simpering, weeping messes.

It would all be hilarious if it didn't effect tens of millions of people without health care, the hundreds of millions that need better access and cheaper prices, and a massive chunk of our economy.

So that's why Democrats can't move forward on health care. There's a charmingly befuddled argument over turf, who moves first, and whether Kent Conrad likes Nancy Pelosi or likes likes her. This is important shit people. Until they work out their sexual tension and basic fucking legislative procedure, you're just going to have to will yourself better or hope that money you buried in the back yard sprouts a money tree with which you can use to actually pay your skyrocketing premiums.

This Blog Does Not Exist

Let's hop in the WABAC Machine and turn the dial to February 1995. Austria, Finland and Sweden have just joined the European Union. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are about to take The Turner Diaries way, way too seriously. And in roughly eight months, OJ Simpson will give us all a refresher on how the American justice system really works.

Also, a certain global system of interconnected computer networks is about to revolutionize virtually every facet of modern life. Or is it? Some, especially Newsweek prognosticator Clifford Stoll, are not convinced.
Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.

Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.
This companion piece to Stoll's Silicon Snake Oil is a must-read, if only because so rarely do we see someone get it so completely wrong. The most recent example probably occurred sometime in late 2002/early 2003.

Fuck you, consumers!

With the country solely focused on bullshit political theatre and ginning up it's Finland hate as a test run for hopefully a nationalist anti-Canada fervor on Sunday, some would say now is the best time to drop a disappointing bombshell about the upcoming massively disappointing financial legislation. So, take it away Barry!
The Obama administration is no longer insisting on the creation of a stand-alone consumer protection agency as a central element of the plan to remake regulation of the financial system.

In hopes of quick congressional approval of a reform bill, White House officials are opening the door to compromise with lawmakers concerned about creating a new bureaucracy, according to congressional and some administration sources.

President Obama's economic team is now open to housing the consumer regulator inside another agency, such as the Treasury Department, though they still prefer a stand-alone agency.
The administration may also have to compromise on Obama's recent proposal for a rule to limit risky activities at banks by prohibiting them from engaging in many kinds of speculative investments.
What better way to have a agency that protects consumers than by housing it inside government organizations that unwaveringly cater to the interests of the financial sector and have made it a point of pride to ignore consumer interests? But, the Obama Administration still really, really wants a CFPA, they just aren't willing to spend one drop of sweat fighting for it and jettison it the first second some "lawmakers concerned about creating a new bureaucracy" (read: wholly owned subsidiaries of the financial industry) speaks up. If I recall correctly, that's the same strategy they had for the public option, which they totally still support. How'd that work out?

What's that you have to say about the CFPA, smart lady Elizabeth Warren?
"The CFPA is the heart of what makes regulatory reform work... We just can't pass a regulatory reform bill that acquiesces to the industry on every front... It's not ok to weaken the agency so much that, while everyone can vote yes and pretend to support consumers' right to a fair deal, nothing really changes."
Sorry, wasn't paying attention. Could you repeat that? Ahh, it probably wasn't important anyway.

Nice to see that they're also willing to compromise on Obama's plan to limit banks from acting as gambling casino type establishments. What did that plan last, a week?

I just think it's good to see that despite pulling down the world economy on top of itself in a orgy of bad decisions, then having to be kept from total eradication through government intervention with trillions of taxpayer dollars, and entirely jettisoning their credibility as experts or as people who aren't retarded, that the financial sector and banks can still lead our government around by the nose and get what it wants from our elected betters.

I'm sure listening to the idiots that caused this mess by weakening and cheapening every attempt made to regulate and improve the status quo while deciding to pussy out on actually protecting the people that just were simultaneously economically ruined by the financial sector and then had to bail them out is a smart way forward. I'm sure that nothing bad will ever come of it.

Years from now we'll look back, bedecked in our tattered rags, pausing for a moment in repose while blood is cleaned from the abandoned spillway where we've all gathered to watch the bloodsport that entertains us in the post-apocalyptic nightmare of a future we inhabit, and we'll say "Boy, I'm glad we listened to the people that shitted the economy." And then the alarms will sound and we'll all have to run, because the underground hobos will have risen from the sewers to make an attack on our grain silo. Thanks, Democrats!

The only thing you need to watch on the health care summit


The all important health reform summit is ongoing RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE. This is the meeting to end all meetings, the meeting to solve all health care problems, and what America hopes will be a somewhat interesting diversion until Olympic coverage starts up again for the day.

I am actually making a large assumption that this health care summit is actually going to get out of preliminary opening speeches. After all, I have no idea if the White House was able to obey all the GOP's demands for this summit. You know, all important stuff like the use of a podium, table shape, seating and camera arrangements, and namecard design. Sure sure, we all want to come together to find a plan to fix this giant health care mess, but I'll be damned if anyone from the Republican Party is going to do it at a round table! So if the GOP is happy with the seating arrangements and Obama agrees to their other all-important demands, like the wearing of green socks and a non-threatening cornflower blue tie, blue binders to hold talking points, Harry Reid has to alternately lift his right and left feet with every word he says, and Jay Rockefeller has to be escorted to and from the proceedings in a wheelbarrow pushed by Dick Durbin, then we can finally get down to the business of fixing health care. Until the lunch break. By God the Democrats better hope they don't fuck up the lunch order or the GOP will walk away just like that.

Over the course of the six hour summit.... six hours? What the fuck? This seems less a serious effort to reform our health system than and attempt to test America's endurance for cheap political theatre. Man John Boehner is really going to have to come up with a whole hell of a lot of ways to say "While we agree with the need to reform the system, we disagree with everyone of your proposals and commit to supporting none of them", while Obama is really going to have to rephrase the sentence "Wonderful proposal you have there... was it written completely by a insurance executive? I'll have my people look over it and pretend we didn't reject it over the past few years we were working on this because that idea didn't help anyone, cut costs, or improve our health system." Ought to be an entertaining six hours.

So what is the point of this whole summit? Who knows. Republicans have already committed to opposing everything Democrats want, so I'm not sure a six hour talk is going to make them start understanding logic or caring about the health problems of people in this country. Plus, they already made the demand that unless Democrats scrap the entire plan and start over, they won't be helping in the slightest. Democrats will in no way listen to Republican ideas to scale back the entire focus of the bill and ignore things like full coverage, rate jacks, and pre-existing conditions.

So instead we'll get six hours of our elected betters coming up with circular ways of saying "Fuck you" and "No, fuck you." Which is entertaining, I guess. But that pretty much describes the entire pathetic state of our government: they can only come together to give money away to large corporations or engage in large scale theatrical bullshit that will have no effect on policy or legislation. And we wonder why our country is in dire straights. Ah well, hopefully someone says something embarrassing, passes out, or cold cocks Eric Cantor. At least then this diversion will have been useful.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Broken in Brief: Westminster Kennel Club Judge "Can't Tell These Fuckin' Dogs Apart"

NEW YORK—Nearly a week after the 134th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, a frustrated and distraught show judge has revealed that he has very little understanding of the differences between the breeds of dogs that he was supposed to be evaluating.

“I have no idea what I am doing or how I ascended to this position. I cannot tell these fuckin’ dogs apart,” revealed head judge for the prestigious event, Dr. David Winsleydale, at his summer home.

“What is a terrier? What classifies a dog into the sporting group? How can I tell how good a retriever is if it’s just standing there, not retrieving? My God, I am at a loss. I just picked a friendly one that kind of looked like the dog my grandkids got and hurried out before anyone could ask me questions.”

The dog in question, a Scottish Terrier by the name of Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot, was said to perplex Dr. Winsleydale on several fronts, notably the fact that it had never been to Scotland. But the Doctor noted that he was comforted by the fact that the dog seemed to be confused as he was as to its purpose for being there, which endeared it to him.

“I figured we were in the same boat,” said the Doctor while he stared perplexingly at the family Labrador. “I mean I was just classifying them as ‘longs’, ‘talls’, ‘shorts’, ‘wides’, and ‘thins’ and handing out awards based on which dog was the tallest or fattest. But then in later rounds they were all in the same groups and I had no idea what to do. I just gave it to a dog that cocked its head quizzically at me.”

“A Scottish Terrier? I don’t even begin to know what that is or what makes a good one.”

It is unclear what will happen to Dr. Winsleydale now that this revelation has come forth, but the Westminster Kennel Club has said they will take action just as soon as they grapple with the quandary of how one can even begin to separate and compare qualities of excellence between multitudes of differing breeds.

Things that are both surprising and unsurprising

From Avert's comprehensive country-by-country (and US state-by-state) listing of the age of consent laws and anti-gay laws.
Vatican State: 12 years old
There are also no known laws or ages of consent for man on man sex or woman on woman sex.

The jokes kind of write themselves.

Video of the day

A video from NASA on climate change and what they've observed is happening to make the globe get warmer. It's part of a larger effort they just launched called A Warming World, their effort to join the global scientific conspiracy to bilk humanity into believing the myth of climate change in order to rake in all the trillions of dollars that will only roll in once they've gotten people to fall for the hoax. Or something.

In any event, it's a useful repository of the data, pictures, video, graphs, and charts that they've compiled over the last few decades of doing science and stuff with satellites and shit measuring all kinds of junk on the earth. Sorry for all the technical jargon I used.

Picture of the day

Via Popular Science and the Google with the maps comes this look at the world's largest airplane graveyard... from space. And they still didn't get every plane in the shot.

5,000 aerospace vehicles; B-52s, B-1s and F-111s F-14 Tomcats, F-15s, F-16s, C-130s, KC-135 refueling tankers, A-10sF-4 Phantoms, Century Series jets, and numerous paper airplanes made out of notebook and corrasable bond typing paper.

Just think of how many IRS offices we could teach a lesson. How dare they audit me!
/Steve Kingin'

Click to embiggen.

Stay classy, Miss Beverly Hills

You know what makes our country great? That even low level beauty queens get a chance to partake in our national dialogue on gay rights in the most hateful and violence advocating ways possible.

I'm sorry, I meant to write "You know what makes our country awful?" I don't know what has come over me, that's been happening a lot recently.

Anyway, let's hear from Miss Beverly Hills 2010 Lauren Ashley, who is vying to become the next Carrie Prejean, in both right wing circles and on the pageant circuit. Only hopefully without so much lying, nudity, and lying about nudity, and much more Christian fundamentalism and Old Testament violence.
“The Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman. In Leviticus it says, ‘If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.’ The Bible is pretty black and white,” Ashley told Pop Tarts.

“I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone. If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that’s a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life.”
First off, thanks to the magazine Pop Tarts for getting into the down and dirty, nitty gritty of the fundamentalist religious beliefs of our rich, white beauty queens. No one believed me when I told them you were America's finest journalistic institution, but you've done good work here.

And just in case anyone is wondering; like everyone else who says offensive shit about gays, she totally has gay friends and they're totally cool with the fact that she thinks they all need to die because they're gay.

But she's right. God's like not only an awesome author (He's like two or three Dan Brown's put together), He's totally like the foremost scientist in the world about life. So even though Leviticus says a lot of shit that no one takes seriously or listens to, along with other things the Bible says about women and sex and marriage, we really need to single out the gay stuff, because eww. Expertly argued. A graduate level religion thesis.

At the very least, when you don't win the Miss California pageant this will set you up nicely for a cash-in tour among evangelicals, conservatives, and Fox News, where you can decry the gay influence and how it kept you from your divine right to become a beauty queen and maybe hook-up with a failed, former first round Ravens QB. Isn't that what faith, God, and religion are all about?

I'm on a boat

What with this country still in the throes of the horrific financial apocalypse, many of our local and state governments are in dire financial straights. In fact, that was one of the main goals of the stimulus: to paper over state budgetary holes and prevent them from drastically cutting services and jobs. But as time goes on and budgets must be passed and horrible financial reality must be observed, states are being forced to come up with new ways to deal with those budget shortfalls.

Like taxing the rich. Just kidding. The standard operating procedure of this country in times of economic hardship remains 'do not tax the rich in any way'. No, what I meant to type up above was 'continue to put the screws to the poor'. You know, like Missouri Missourah does.
Cash-strapped legislators have recommended spending cuts for Missouri schools and shelters for battered women, but so far the yachting class can enjoy another season of clear sailing.

Thanks to a longstanding tax exemption, Missouri’s marina set can opt to pay a small fee in lieu of sales taxes and shave as much as $30,000 off the purchase of a $500,000 boat.

That tax exemption alone is depriving state and local coffers of more than $6 million a year, according to some estimates.
For now, however, yachts are treated like baby formula for the poor, tickets to the state fair and even newsprint —all are exempt from state and local sales taxes.
You'll be glad to know that if you buy a regular boat in Missourah you still have to pay full freight. It's only the luxury yachts that get the tax break. Because if during these harsh economic times our economic betters have to pay tax on the luxury boats that they purchase for their leisure time, well then by God, the terrorists, socialists, and all manner of evil creatures will have won.

So thank you to Missourah for showing us the way during these troubled times. Fuck the poor, cut schools, keep them women battered, and don't let anyone even think of making sure sales tax is payed on a luxury yacht. Your state serves as a lesson to us all.

Chart of the day

Click to embiggen

The good people at, uh, Good and Column Five have put together a chart, uh, charting the distribution of income amongst the various religions within these United States based on this Pew survey. What are the money religions? Where should you place your faith to get the most bang from your buck? Who does the baby Jesus prefer to reward with riches or curse with poverty completely irrespective of whether or not they believe in him?

Well, clocking it at 46% and 43% of member of their faith taking in $100k+ are Judaism and Hinduism, besting the national average of 18% *cough*stereotypesareaccurate*cough* Also doing well spiritually and financially are Christians (Mainline) at 21%, Christian (Other) at 23%, Orthodox at 28%, and Buddhists at 22%. Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and Godless savages are all at the national average, while Jesus has punished Evangelicals, Black Churches, and Jehovah's Witnesses with lower rates of return on their spiritual investment.

Hindus also show higher than average placements within the $75k+ bracket, while also showing, along with the Jews, lower than average numbers in the $50k and below, poverty stricken wretch category. So I think the message is clear: Shiva and Abraham for your financial and spiritual well being.

Laugh now Jews and Hindus, you may beat us Catholics in the percentages and percentiles, but we smash you in raw numbers and overall money pile size. Plus our church is way richer than yours. Have you seen how decked out the Pope is? This all proves that Catholicism is better than Hinduism and that our improving of the Torah was a prudent financial plan. Because isn't that the best way to measure religions: by fat stacks of cash? I think that's what God would have wanted were He still alive.

He's gonna take our guns!

Gun rights advocates are always in a state of perpetual fear. You would think the copious amounts of firearms they possess would make them feel safe, but somehow that just isn't the case. No, everyone, everywhere, at all times is looking to take their guns, so they must be ever vigilant to make sure that they ram through all sorts of new laws so that there is nowhere where they can't wield or purchase a loaded firearm with minimum background checks or public safety protocols.

When Republicans are in power it's the UN that's going to come in and confiscate everyone's guns in the name of the new world order. When Democrats are in power it's the liberal menace taking guns as a first step to a socialist/fascist overthrow of the American way of life and oh, by the way, didjaknowthat'showHitlerstartedhistakeoverI'mjustsaying. Well now they gun lobby is totally sure that Obama is just mere seconds away from stealing everyone's gun in the name of Karl Marx and steps must be taken to loosen our ultra-loose gun laws in order to prevent that aggression from standing, man. Gun ownership ain't a privilege, it's a right!
When President Obama took office, gun rights advocates sounded the alarm, warning that he intended to strip them of their arms and ammunition.

And yet the opposite is happening. Mr. Obama has been largely silent on the issue while states are engaged in a new and largely successful push for expanded gun rights, even passing measures that have been rejected in the past.
“The watchword for gun owners is stay ready,” said Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association. “We have had some successes, but we know that the first chance Obama gets, he will pounce on us.”
In Virginia you can now carry a concealed weapon into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, while they repealed the state's "one gun a month" purchase law and rejected a law that called for background checks for purchases at gun shows.... and this is after the Virginia Tech shootings. Arizona and Wyoming are considering letting people carry concealed firearms without a permit. Montana and Tennessee passed laws that got the damn gubbmint and their federal laws out of regulatin' their in-state arms and ammo sales. This in addition to federal laws passed last year that allow people to finally wield loaded guns on trains and in national parks.

And yet the black helicopters on the horizon and the national gun confiscation squads have yet to materialize. Guns are not yet outlawed so outlaws aren't the only ones with guns. Oh, but it's coming, the NRA swears it. So if you don't mind giving them a donation or two or three or dozen, they'll be able to stave off the complete repeal of the second amendment that would happen the second the stop being eternally vigilant and the second Obama thinks no one is watching. You know, even though he doesn't seem eager to pass or sign any new gun laws except ones that broaden the scope of places where you can purchase or carry loaded weapons.

America must never be burdened with the cumbersome load of background checks at gunshows or an inability to buy a Jeep mounted .50 cal machine gun. Be afraid, buy more guns. Before they (which is now plausibly the blacks) take them. The gun ban is coming, it's always coming.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Video of the day

Bill Nye the Science Guy slowly bludgeons Joe Bastardi to death with facts, common sense, and science on the subject of global warming. Some might call Bill the winner of this debate because he calmly and rationally debated the facts while an agitated midget kept trying to talk over him. Other wags might declare Nye the loser because he even deigned to debate the subjects of truth and science with a braying jackass on the show of another, larger braying jackass on Fox News.

But no, we're the loser because we treat this shit like there's an actual debate and getting Bill Nye on TV to offer a counterpoint to nonsense is actually a massive leap forward for the standard of debate within our newsmedia. Do you think this goes on in Sweden or the UK? No, America is the loser.

Broken News: Inspiring Athlete From Somewhere or Another Inspires Inspirationally

VANCOUVER—Today the sporting world and television audiences worldwide sat rapt in awe at the admirable story of an athlete in some kind of sport and of indeterminate gender somehow overcame a not small form of hardship and/or difficulty in order to compete in the Olympics.

“I am astounded by this man or woman and the immense personal, professional, social, or health struggles he or she has gone through just to be here and compete at the top of some field,” a smiling Bob Costas exclaimed, his eyes welling up with tears and his soul filling up with wonderment.

“I think the American people, nay the world, or at least the audience within the broadcast scope of NBC/Universal and its cable partners, should be made aware of this stunning insight into the drives and desires within the indefatigable human spirit to almost the same degree with which we cover their sport.”

Other broadcasters, newsmen, and network heads covering the games were in agreement.

“This athlete here,” said Ivan Fecan, CEO of Canadian broadcaster CTV, waving his hand generally at the Olympic village, “has shown us how to overcome perhaps an illness, an illness to a close family member or friend, an injury, either random or as a result of training, maybe the low sponsorship and monetary opportunities available in their sport of choice, the extreme poverty or societal hardships within their own country or the country they claim nationality in while they train in Europe or North America, age, gender, or perhaps a complete unfamiliarity with the sport that they have inexplicably qualified for.”

“We are certain of one thing: this person is probably not an American,” Fecan finished.

Indeed, several journalists who were covering the story of this inspirationally inspirational competitor were almost certain that it wasn’t an American. Probably.

“Oh, I’m pretty sure an accent was involved,” observed long-time reporter for the London Times, Roger Atkinson. “I can almost assure you that the dialect being spoken involved an accent that practically assured the remarkable individual in question was from a poverty-stricken nation, possibly Africa, which all but makes it certain that this story is about overcoming poverty, lack of winter weather, and no viable economy, much less the infrastructure required to train properly.”

During the accolades, Atkinson did offer a caveat: ”Unless it was one of those rich kids who learned to ski while their diplomat father was stationed at a Swiss ski chalet. But even then, we just play up the Africa or poor Eastern Europe thing and it’s still golden, unlike this person’s inevitable finish, which will almost assuredly be in or around last place.”

The world renowned journalist was quick to concede that he wasn’t good with dialects and admitted that everyone could well be talking about an American Southerner.

Still, other maintain that by virtue of having been born in the southern United States, the athlete most likely overcame intellectual poverty, or at least four severe bouts with over-the-counter medication. Given that these hearty lessons might as well be on the table, many of the narratives focus on teaching the youth of the world about the dangers of drugs.

“Ooh, it could be an inner city ghetto youth,” one journalist was heard to joyously exclaim. “Then poverty and unfamiliarity with the sport is back in play!”

Still, privately most were hoping the sportsperson that had so inspired the world possessed some kind of weepy story to tell about overcoming some minor form of cancer or a best friend or parent that had recently died of a debilitating disease, spurring said athlete on to train harder by teaching them the value and preciousness of life and the time they have left on earth.

“The pre-event personal interest story just writes itself,” one television executive said. "We have to hump something between all those Geico commercials."

In any event, whoever this person is or was, whatever their gender is, wherever they come from, or whatever event it is they will attempt to participate in, one thing is clear: that human has moved us all.

Picture of the day

Via Wired Science comes a look at current and former Olympic venues.... from space. A Common feature? Most of them are empty and unlikely to be unused. I'm sure Vancouver will get decades of use out of their two ski jumps though.


Torino. I'm not sure there's even civilization down there, let alone a cross country course

The Beijing Happy Ice and Snow Season Bird's Nest

What bankrupted Greece

Why couldn't this be the Boehner that went missing in Vancouver?

Of all the complaints about the health care bill (socialism~!, it'll murder the fuck out of my grandma, liberal tyranny) one of my favorites was "this bill is just too long, too incomprehensibly long." Because what is a more valid complaint against health reform and for continued inaction than that? Bills comprised of laws, rules, regulations, and new agencies governing the health care for Americans should be short! Why all the unneeded complexity when dealing with the entirety of the health care system? Shouldn't a simple problem like our broken health care system have a solution that is one, maybe two pages tops?

It's logical. And boy was that health care bill long. So yesterday when Obama released his 11 page health care plan, you'd think conservatives would be jumping for joy, right? I think you know where this is going.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner today ridiculed President Obama's health care proposal because it's too short.

"The White House's 'plan' consists of an 11-page outline, which has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office or posted online as legislative text. So they want to reorganize one-sixth of the United States' economy with a document shorter than a comic book, and they're complaining that they can't find our plan on their own website? C'mon," said the spokesman, Michael Steel, in an email to reporters.
C'mon, this is serious business! Something as important and all encompassing as health care shouldn't be relegated to a minuscule 11 pages. Try taking government seriously for once, Barry. Serious governance involves no more than 230 pages, no less than seven uses of the phrase "fuckin' liberals", includes two plugs for, refers negatively to either the "shambling golem of European socialism" or "the icy black hand of government sponsored kill squads", and doesn't in any way address the health care needs of Americans.

Sure, the Obama "plan" wasn't so much a plan as it was several, easy tweaks to the Senate bill to improve it, but.... shortness... bad! Longness... also bad! Goldilocks would not eat this health care porridge, for it is not just right and she is in imminent danger of bear attack.

So thank you Boehner, for proving once again that there is literally no way any Democrat can ever win with you. Thank God that health care summit is still on, because I'm sure you have lots of useful ideas on page length, margins, double spacing, and font choice that are absolutely integral to this health reform debate.

Festval of Whites

The Daily Show looks at the recently completed national convention of pissed off old white males that is otherwise known as CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Stay classy, Stevesy

Steve King (R-IA), sometimes know as the House GOP's other crazy congressman named King, hates his ass some IRS. And who could disagree with him. I mean they just take our money and give it to the government to spend on things like roads, defense, and other such things a government does. Who came up with this idea? The IRS sucks! Also the DMV is slow and why can't the airlines give us a bigger bag of peanuts, amirite?

But considering that whole thing where a fringe lunatic rammed his airplane into an IRS building in a bloody, fiery explosion of short-sighted, petty, and murderous spite, you'd think that maybe a certain IRS hating congressman would want to tone down his rhetoric just a tad. Well, that's why you don't have the smarts to get elected in Iowa's 5th District.
KING: I think if we’d abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn’t have a target for his airplane. ... It’s sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it’s going to be a happy day for America.

TP: So some of his grievances were legitimate?

KING: I don’t know if his grievances were legitimate, I’ve read part of the material. I can tell you I’ve been audited by the IRS and I’ve had the sense of ‘why is the IRS in my kitchen.’ Why do they have their thumb in the middle of my back.
It's sad and all, but he sympathizes with a terrorist. The IRS, who do they think they are investigating discrepancies in tax filings?

But while someone might think that saying something like that while bodies and a building are still smoldering is a touch indelicate, isn't smart, and that staffers somewhere would be imminently yelling at their boss to just shut the fuck up already, well, again, that's why he's in the House and you're sitting there in your house.
During his closing remarks [at CPAC], King veered into a complaint about high taxes, and said he could "empathize" with the man who flew a plane into an IRS building last week.

During the question and answer session, the Media Matters staffer asked King to clarify his comment, reminding him of his sworn duty to protect the American people from all sworn enemies, foreign and domestic. In response, said the staffer, King gave a long and convoluted answer about having been personally audited by the IRS, and ended by saying he intended to hold a fundraiser to help people "implode" their local IRS office.
Don't you understand that this man was audited! Audited! A US Congressman, one of the most honest subset of people of earth. On earth! That's why we need to implode the IRS. Implode, which I'll note is a totally classy suggestion and not at all as offensive as using the word explode.

So congrats to Iowa's Steve King. You took a right wing terrorist attack against the government that resulted in dead Americans and tried to spin it into right wing street cred by repeatedly announcing your empathy for a terrorist, announcing how you sympathized with his motives (I still can't get over the fucking gall of that audit), and noting how you wanted to organize citizens to take further action against the IRS, though probably not with airplane attacks. How nicely offensive of you. The IRS sucks, don't let any terrorist attack, basic human decency, tact, or common sense momentarily sway you from that crusade. Stay classy.

Messing with Texas

There are certain things we like to do on this blog: mock the dead almost as soon as they die, make cheap dick jokes, whine, bitch about religion, and deride Texas. It is because all of these things are easy and several of them involve bitter meanspiritedness. Especially mocking Texas.

What have they done this time? Oh nothing on the level of their previous exploits of taking climate change denial to the courts or using their education board to push right wing conservative dogma and rewrite history. No, it's what they believe. 60%, more or less, of them believe that it was possible that the Flintstones was a documentary, among other things. ....Yeah.
A new University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey shows just how destructive a politicized right-wing curriculum can be. A large number of Texans polled said they still don’t believe in evolution and are convinced that humans and dinosaurs co-existed:

– 51 percent disagree with the statement, “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

– 38 percent agree with the statement, “God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago.”

– 30 percent agree with the statement, “Humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.” Another 30 percent said they “don’t know” whether the statement is true.
That be hilarious if they weren't in he process of basically rewriting the nation's textbooks. God love 'em. No, seriously, God loves them. That is science fact.

Now I'm all for mixing cement in a pelican and the green car movement of Bedrock, but I'm fairly sure Fred and Barney riding on dinosaurs was a creative flourish. But it shows that with a little creative ripping off of the Honeymooners, slapping the words 'rock' or 'granite' into every name, bright colors, and a snappy theme tune can make a cartoon more credible to Texans than the Origin of the Species, carbon dating, and other such methods of witchcraft scientific measurement.

So not only didn't we descend from no monkey, the earth is so young that there was a period of time where prehistoric (but not all that prehistoric) man strapped a saddle to a triceratops before he rode it to his job at the quarry before all the dinosaurs were killed off because God didn't tell Noah to take a multitude of thunder-lizards on his ark. Because the tyrannosaurus rejected the word of God or something.

That all seems plausible, I can see why Texans believe it in frightening numbers. It certainly makes more sense than listening to the collected ramblings thousands of scientists who have observed and studied the fossil record over hundreds of years. Those people aren't God and their books don't involve giants, men with powerful hair, and spontaneous booze transmogrification. You know, like real science books (of God) have. I think Texas has it all figured out. Thank God we have them to show us the way.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Movies that need to come out already

Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, based on the comic of the same name.

In this scene Nicholas Cage shoots a little girl. Ticket sold.

Picture of the day

The Big Picture blog takes a look at the first half of the Winter Olympics. The agony, the ecstasy, victory, loss, and ugly, ogreish, shoot first, Russian wingers. They cover it all.

Some highlights. Click to embiggen.

Video of the day

Peter Sinclair tries to explain to you just how electric cars work, why they work, why they're cleaner, and how they improve the electrical grid.

Plus: lamentations on the loss of flying cars, creepy puppets, and because you demanded it: Finnish subtitles.

Broken In Brief: Canadian Heard to Say "Fuck"

MOOSE KNUCKLE, SASKATCHEWAN--Canadians across the nation recoiled in abject disgust as word spread that local resident Frank Morrison, 51, was observed screaming "Fuck" during last night's Men's Olympic Hockey game against the US team.

While the first Canadian Olympic hockey loss to the US since the 1960 games in Squaw Valley left the host country deflated, most post-game attention was focused on Morrison's obscenity, believed to be the first dropping of an F-bomb in anger since Quebec's last secession attempt in 1997.

"I've always been so proud to be a Canadian," said Marie Lockland, a Canadian. "I just hope the rest of the world doesn't assume all of us are such nasty pottymouths."

In a hastily written statement, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the incident, calling it "The most vulgar and disgusting Canadian action in decades." Harper assured fellow Canadians, and indeed the world at-large, that disciplinary legal action would be "both swift and, unlike Mr. Morrison, appropriate."

The Canadian legal system is loath to punish anyone beyond giving them "a stern talking to," as is prescribed in their constitution. However, with the world's focus trained on their country for the Olympic games, more punitive measures are under consideration.

These range from adding 20 hours of community service to the 100 hours a month that Morrison, as a Canadian, already does; washing his mouth out with maple syrup; two stern talking-tos; and a blanket ban on attending live curling events for a period not to exceed one week.

Sources close to the Prime Minister suggested the situation would be addressed immediately following Tuesday's qualifying game against Germany.

He's a peach, isn't he?

John Yoo is a busy man these days, what with his course load of classes to teach at Cal, writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer, not being in prison, and providing tenuous legal justification for crimes and massive ethical breaches the whole world 'round. It must be exhausting.

But we're not here to talk about what lack of prosecution from the Justice Department is allowing John Yoo to do now, we're here to talk about what John Yoo did. Classic Yoo. Just the greatest hits. You know, stuff that makes internal watchdog's and review panels at the Justice Department conclude that he committed "intentional professional misconduct" and should be referred to their state bar organizations for disciplinary proceedings, at the least.
The chief author of the Bush administration's "torture memo" told Justice Department investigators that the president's war-making authority was so broad that he had the constitutional power to order a village to be "massacred," according to a report released Friday night by the Office of Professional Responsibility.
"What about ordering a village of resistants to be massacred? ... Is that a power that the president could legally—"

"Yeah," Yoo replied, according to a partial transcript included in the report. "Although, let me say this: So, certainly, that would fall within the commander-in-chief's power over tactical decisions."

"To order a village of civilians to be [exterminated]?" the OPR investigator asked again.

"Sure," said Yoo.
Classy. Yoo also advocated, along with David Addington, that the President is a God-King with no restraints on his power and the ability to override and invalidate laws. I don't think they used those exact terms though. There's also the reveal that people in the Bush JD were so worried about prosecutions, you know, for the stuff they all say is totally legal, that John Ashcroft wanted to issue "advance pardons" for people who participated in torture. Apparently they couldn't find any shady legal precedent for that and it was scrapped.

So a round of applause for the great human being and wonderful addition to the legal and war-making history of this country, John Yoo. He apparently sleeps soundly at night. I don't think you realize how incredibly difficult that is.

Oh, I forgot the best part of this story: senior JD lawyer David Margolis has overruled the OPR findings that Yoo, among others, should be trussed up in a burlap sack and beaten with sticks... or professionally reprimanded. One of those. So nothing will end up happening to Yoo. See! Justice does work!

Inspiring facts about government

Though no official study has taken place, scienticians and fungineers estimate that any action taken by the US Congress will have a one in a thousand chance of benefiting the basic gruel eating American underclass more than it benefits a corporation or lobbying group. In fact, a wizened panel of Nobel laureates, Buddhist scholars, and ex-diplomats once mused that most legislation wouldn't pass unless it included "a hardcore buttfuckin' of the American people." Their words, not mine.

The point is we know this and realize our job as citizens is to adopt a siege mentality that eventually morphs into Stockholm Syndrome as we keep re-elected 95% of the same people and hoping that they do something different if we ask them in a stern tone. So I don't know why we needed OpenSecrets to rub our noses in it how little our voices are heard over the din of cash registers.
As the Center for Responsive Politics reported last week, federal lobbying soared to record levels last year, as lawmakers clocked long hours and worked at a pace to be, in the opinion of one congressional scholar, the most productive Congress in decades.

This translates to about $1.3 million spent on lobbying for every hour that Congress was in session in 2009, the Center for Responsive Politics has found.

Lawmakers in both chambers met for a total of 2,668 hours, according congressional records. The U.S. Senate was open for business on 191 days, while the U.S. House convened on 159 days.

Federal lobbying records show clients spent $3.47 billion on lobbying Congress, the White House and other federal agencies.
CHA-FUCKING-CHING!! $1.3 million per hour. That doesn't even get into the money they spend in donations, fundraisers, ads, and PAC's. It's just going to get better too, now that the Supreme Court says that corporations have unfettered spending rights in elections.

The most money was spent by the health, finance, and energy sectors. Just coincidentally the three major areas that were going to be addressed in this Congress. And in yet another coincidence, not only have none of them passed, but all three have been severely weakened and are rife with industry concessions and sweetheart deals in the unlikely event they do pass. I wonder how that happened.

You just keep telling yourself that your one vote, one voice thing matters. It's cute.

Art of the Day: Jeff McMillan

"Pepto Dismal" by Los Angeles-based Jeff McMillan:

Website HERE.

Blog HERE.

One more health care jerk around

The President today finally announced his health care plan. Why? Who the fuck knows. Sadly the plan wasn't "the House passes the Senate bill, the Senate passes the conference committee fixes through reconciliation." No, this is what the White House is calling the "opening bid for the health meeting". You know the one: where Democrats play school marm scold telling Republicans that they really, really need to help out on a health care bill for the good of the country and the Republicans tell the Democrats to cram it with walnuts, ugly. Except on TV this time, while they're all in the same room. You know, productive shit.

What is his "bill"? Well, it's not so much a bill as it is 11 pages of fixes to the Senate and House bills largely built on the framework of the Senate bill. The only new thing, I think, is a proposal federal oversight on the amount of money insurance companies can jack people for in rate hikes. It's all part of the plan.
"This package is designed to help us [use reconciliation] if the Republican party decides to filibuster health care reform," said White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. "That was certainly a factor that went in to how we put this proposal together."

Pfeiffer said the White House views this as "the opening bid," for the bipartisan health care summit scheduled for this Thursday. The hope--a long shot--is that one or more Republicans can agree to support this proposal, allowing Dems to pass it via more standard legislative channels. But if that fails, reconciliation can be used as a backstop.

"The president expects, and thinks the American people deserve, an up or down vote on health care reform," Pfeiffer said.
I don't want to claim to be able to read minds or see the future (not over the internet without you being able to see my professional tarot setup and crystal ball), but I don't think the Republicans are going to sign on. I think they're going to filibuster. You know, like they do on everything. I think you're going to have to get the House to pass the Senate bill, and have the Senate pass these fixes, some other fixes, that "no seriously, we'll do a public option through reconciliation" thing that I know is just going to be a big, fuck-off joke, or kidnap the family members of the GOP leadership and force them to conduct themselves as responsible leaders.

You might know this as stuff that people have been screaming at you to do since you all decided you had a 41-59 minority. So why do we have to go through this pathetic theater to come to an obvious conclusion everyone saw coming over a year ago? Why couldn't this have happened a month ago? Ah yes, there was that jobs bill to get to that still hasn't been passed and your frantic search for spines. Oh well.

So, the Democrats have a plan of action. The country just has to wait until the meaningless summit where nothing will be accomplished happens. But they have a plan and Harry Reid is promising reconciliation action within 60 days. It's time to get your minuscule hopes for timidly moderate reforms up. I'll see you again when 10 Democrats decide that they aren't able to support the drastic, unprecedented action of using reconciliation and vote to kill the bill. You all know that's where this is going, right?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Things you should read

I have some demands. Why? Because I like the mental fiction of having a supposed willing audience with which I can makes orders and demands that are carried out with brutal efficiency. What are these commands? Well, I was going to ask that someone fly a plane into an IRS building, but since someone already did that, it's just going to be reading related.

Content and demands, on a Sunday. I'm too good to you. How is this different from the Cheap Blogging Crutch? Well, it's on a weekend and this comprises articles I couldn't find a way to tack cheap dick jokes onto. More serious stuff, I guess. Onward.

For Scots, a Scourge Unleashed by a Bottle

A story of Scotland, “Wreck the Hoose Juice”, and a nation trying to come to grips with entrenched alcoholism and the specific beverage that they seem to want to blame for it: Buckfast. It may not have made me feel sympathy for Scotland, but I do want to buy a case of Buckfast.

The Substitute
Brad Plumer looks at the fading possibilities for climate change reform and how successful the EPA can be trying to regulate pollution and emissions now that it is likely to be the only entity capable of doing so, what with the Senate deciding to become irrelevant. Now you know what those lawsuits from Texas and Virginia are meant to do: pretty much make sure we don't do anything to avoid catching our death of heat and flooding.

Sticker Shock
John Cohn looks at the methods and madness of health insurance companies and why they jack rates. In addition he lays out why this means reform needs to be passed (as if you already didn't understand that) and further explains why piecemeal legislation will not work to reform the problem and stop the rate jacking.

After Summer Olympics, Empty Shells in Beijing
The New York Times looks at Beijing and the massive Olympic structures they built for the 2008 games. The verdict? They pretty much got used that week and haven't been touched since. Most striking is the status of the Bird's Nest stadium. It has no tenant, no real future events scheduled, and is right now a de facto gift shop and is packed with snow so children can sled down the aisles. The 2004 Athens games probably bankrupted Greece. I'm sure that bodes well for Vancouver, London, Sochi, and Rio.

How Christian Were the Founders?

The New York Times explores the radical, purely politically motivated attempts that the Texas education board is taking up in an attempt to rewrite textbooks to push Christianity and conservatism at the expense of science, known verifiable history, and common sense, and how they're decisions will likely affect the textbooks of around 40+ states. I bet you didn't know that Phyllis Schlafly, the Moral Majority, and the Contract With America were some of the most integral events in American history. Well now they are. Just one of the great ways in which this country is being destroyed from the inside in the name of cheap politics.

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man
Esquire magazine's story about the life of film critic Roger Ebert now that he has lost most of his jaw, the ability to eat, the ability to speak thanks to cancer, and how his outlook and life have changed since. One of the best profile pieces you're likely to read this year.

Roger Ebert's Last Words, con't.
Roger Ebert responds to the article on his own blog, musing on the tone, the shock of seeing the photo they used, how he doesn't want people to get the idea that he's dying, and what he wants people to take away from the article.

McDonald's Has a Chef?
TIME follows around McDonald's head chef, Daniel Coudreaut, and looks at just what exactly it is he does in a job that most people expect is an attempt at irony. It's an interesting portrait at just what a man who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and ran the kitchen at the Four Seasons does at McDonald's and the arduous, creatively crushing nature, and logistical nightmare coming up with food ideas for Mickey D's is when the sheer size and food production timetables, schedules, and production lines of an organization with as many restaurants as McDonald's has have to be taken into account.

Wall Street's Bailout Hustle
Matt Taibbi comes back for one more shot at Wall Street and the financial wizards who destroyed the economy. This time he focuses on all the various cons, grifts, scams, and outright thefts the financial and banking sector has engaged in since the global meltdown and how they haven't really learned anything.

The future of reading

When the iPad was revealed there was a lot of snickering. Tampon jokes were made and the web cried out in furious anger: "This is it?". It just looked like a big iPhone, but without calling capability. "Ha ha, Steve Jobs," the internet said, "We've got you this time." And thus began a mass posting of iPad picture into cat photos with the words "FAIL" written at the bottom.

But perhaps the full range of capabilities was not made clear to us. Or perhaps it was and we were just too busy with the tampon jokes? Isn't that always the way? In this presentation from Wired magazine, they show us what exactly magazine publishing on the iPad could mean... if you're a good magazine that's willing to put in the time and effort into making sure the icy collapse of the publishing industry doesn't drag you down with it.

Intriguing. Maybe that's worth... $500-$800 dollars? Perhaps I may need to divert some cash from the TB Weapons Stockpiling and Impregnable Fort Construction Fund.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Where Have the Populists Gone?

The next time you find yourself lamenting the utter inability of Democrats to gain any traction whatsoever with a slightly more progressive economic agenda, feel free to bring up this piece by Ryan J. Donmoyer of Business Week. That is, if you can remember to mention it after having slammed your head against the wall so many times.
Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The average income reported by the 400 highest-earning U.S. households grew to almost $345 million in 2007, up 31 percent from a year earlier, Internal Revenue Service statistics show.

The figures for 2007, the last year of an economic expansion, show that average income reported by the top 400 earners more than doubled from $131.1 million in 2001. That year, Congress adopted tax cuts urged by then-President George W. Bush that Democrats say disproportionately benefits the wealthy.
On the upside, much of this wealth was likely devoured by the recession. On the downside, this probably only translated into fired groundskeepers and kitchen staff. Here's hoping the top 400 find a way to muddle through.

Further reading HERE from Ryan Avent at The Economist, who rightly calls this trend of unsustainable divergence "a massive populist backlash waiting to explode."

How Green is Your Wallet?

New Scientist has conducted a special investigation comparing public perception of a company's environmental friendliness, as determined by the Earthsense consumer survey, to its actual greenness, as derived from the company's Trucost score.

Interactive graphic HERE.

Methodology HERE.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Art of the day

Ibraheem Youssef, who designed and released a limited edition series of posters for Quentin Tarantino films.

Messing with Texas

One must marvel at the gusto with which Texas Governor Rick Perry attempts to pander to the fringe tea party activists he evidently think pack his state. From secessions threats, to his criminal negligence and collusion in covering up death penalty and legal issues, and his complete rejection and denunciation of Washington... except for all those times when he goes to them begging hat in hand for money. He's a real class act.

So that's why it's nice to see him double down on the crazy in an attempt to win the GOP nomination for Governor. What's he up to this time? Chuck Norris as a border guard and Secretary of Kicking Ass? Sovereign Texas money with Jesus on it? Cheap anti-science, pro-corporate stunts? Set another fire at the Governor's mansion? Decrying the stimulus while at an event touting money for and jobs saved by a stimulus project he's taking credit for? It was the science one. But it has a secessionist bent too. State's rights!
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is suing the Environmental Protection Agency in a bid to stop it from regulating global warming pollution. The centerpiece of his argument? Those leaked "Climate-Gate" emails.
Flanked by his attorney general, Greg Abbott, Perry declared at a press conference that the lawsuit was intended to "defend Texas' environmental successes against federal overreach." And he slammed the Obama administration for "using sweeping mandates and draconian punishments to force a square peg of their vision into the round whole of reality."

Abbott cited the emails to charge that the EPA was using "tainted data" when it ruled in December that heat-trapping gases are a threat to human health and can be regulated by the federal government.
Now, we all know where this one is going. Of course the hacked e-mails don't say anything near what Perry and Abbot say they do. Or even if e-mails from two scientists about their own research proved that their numbers were wrong or faked, that it doesn't invalidate all the multitudinous data from thousands of scientists in hundreds of disparate fields, across various disciplines, stationed everywhere across the globe that show what everyone knows the planetary scientific consensus is: planet warming, bad for humans. Or that if your position about climate change being a hoax was so strong you wouldn't have to lie about leaked e-mails. But that's not going to stop Perry. No, he's got two strong primary challengers, needs to rally the base, and most of his money and support comes from energy interests. Priorities people, priorities.

So big ups to Perry and Texas (ooh, and Virginia too, who has an attorney general with lots of ties to energy interests as well). You aren't going to let a little thing like science stand in the way of political grandstanding, primary politics, corporate whoring, and placing short term electoral and economic goals over long term economic and environmental ones. But I guess you've got a big state and can afford to see some of it under water. Plus, who is going to notice a couple degree increase in temperature when it's already hot as hell? Well done. I hope they make you double governor.