Tuesday, November 23, 2010

News Roundup, TSA Edition

Tomorrow is National Opt-Out Day.

John Pistole says "Noooooo."

Just what we've been waiting for: tungsten-lined underwear.

TSA to soldier: "You can keep the assault rifle. But you can't board the plane with fingernail clippers." (Hat-tip to BoingBoing).

Meanwhile the women of Harpyness point out the obvious.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Way We Live Now

The upper middle-class American parent will stop at nothing to give their children every experience and opportunity possible. The agonizing dissatisfaction with one's looks that torments adolescents, the unrealistic beauty standards held by so many adults?

Parents are taking extra steps to ensure their elementary school-age kids know how it feels. Does little Timmy have a scab on his cheek? Does Susie have a mole? Parents are now paying to have unsightly realities removed from their children's school pictures. For $10-20, teeth can be whitened and a cowlick smoothed down.

Your kids don't have to be troubled by scars or blemishes in their school photos--just in real life.

Because it's never too early to start feeling inadequate.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Solution to Voter Apathy?

It's generally agreed among people who don't watch Fox News that Republican successes in the recent mid-terms were less a ringing endorsement of the GOP and more a natural result of voter apathy. College student turnout was particularly low.

Obama's not very good at communicating his successes. Furthermore, while he pulled us backed from the brink of another Depression, "Things Could Have Been a Lot Worse," isn't a terribly inspiring campaign theme.

Maybe the Democrats need to look abroad for ideas on generating voter enthusiasm. In Spain, the Socialist Party of Catalonia created a TV spot for the upcoming regional elections called "Voting Is a Pleasure:"

Although now that I think about it, this might have been a better fit with the Clinton years.


You may recall that several days ago I posted about Nicaragua invading Costa Rica and saying it was an honest mistake because they were using Google Maps. Well, it may interest you to know that Google corrected the mistake a week ago, and instead of the Nicaraguan Army saying "Fallo mío" ("My bad") and going back across the border, their soldiers are still in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has appealed to the Hague for removal of Nicaraguan troops.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Idiot America Watch

Some of the good people in Phoenix, Arizona have been protesting the construction of a mosque in their midst. Now, let's just set aside the whole Islamophobia issue, and let's ignore the apparent "refudiation" (as Sarah Palin would say) of this country's avowed tradition of religious tolerance.

Let's get to the fact that the mosque is actually an interdenominational church. These protestors were simply confused by the building's appearance. When it's finished, it'll have a dome:

You can understand why these earnest patriots are confused. I mean, churches never have domes:

And furthermore, there's just something un-American about a building with a dome:

So when you see a building under construction and you notice a dome taking shape, it just makes sense to assume it's a mosque, right?

Hat tip to my friend Simon Pride for this story.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This Is Supposed To Be Good News?

According to Gallup, public disapproval of Sarah Palin is at an all-time high:

More than half of Americans, 52%, now view Sarah Palin unfavorably, the highest percentage holding a negative opinion of the former Alaska governor in Gallup polling since Sen. John McCain tapped her as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. Her 40% favorable rating ties her lowest favorable score, recorded just over a year ago.

There was some gloating about this in a comments thread on the Huffington Post, but I have to agree with the commenter who was dismayed that only 52% of Americans view her unfavorably. If the survey results are valid, and if my math is right. A 42% approval rating of Sarah Palin means over 120 million Americans approve of this sociopath. Over 120 million Americans don't recognize this mean-spirited, ignorant, hypocritical huckster for what she is.

Sadly I'm not surprised: sometimes I think if a diseased Tasmanian devil switched places with Sarah Palin, people would still show up for its public speaking engagements and book signings.

God knows the Tasmanian devil would make more sense.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"This beast dares to exist without shame"--W.H. Auden, "Mundus et Infans."

"There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity."--Big Daddy Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

If Big Daddy were to visit the U.S. today, he would find the stench overwhelming, from Sarah Palin's seemingly willful determination that everything she says contradict reality to the myriad lies we are told by various self-important people on a daily basis: Afghanistan is a "war of Obama's choosing;" letting the Bush tax cuts expire would be disastrous for small businesses.

But even in the factory of lies that is American public discourse these days, George W. Bush has done something unprecedented in the history of dishonesty: he's plagiarized sections of his own memoirs, an act the very idea of which is so bizarre I don't know how to even begin describing what's wrong with it. You would think that being President of the United States would give you interesting writing material: you get to meet other world leaders, a ringside seat for the pressing issues of the day, you get the occasional shoe thrown at you...but no.

Bush lifted whole passages from memoirs by former administration employees and described himself being at events he did not attend, such as Hamid Karzai's inauguration.

Even when assisted by a former speechwriter and a research assistant, he's still too lazy to even remember what happened to him and write it down. Or say it on tape for an assistant to transcribe.

Or it's possible that he's so brain-damaged he actually doesn't remember anything. Or that Cheney locked him in a kennel and only let him out for public appearances and he doesn't want to write about sitting in the dark and getting tossed the occasional dog biscuit.

Either way, the man who was our non-president for 8 years has written a non-memoir. The question is whether this will matter to any of his supporters. Partisan loyalists seem oblivious to facts.

Fortunately we're still at the stage at which some people can be offended by dishonesty. But not for long, if the current crop of college students is any indication. A professor at the University of Central Florida caught one-third of a class of 600 students cheating on their mid-terms.

And guess what? They're in the business school. Maybe that's how Dubya got his Harvard MBA.

Naturally, some students see nothing wrong this. UCF student Konstantin Rawin: "This is college. Everybody cheats.Everyone cheats in life in general. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn't cheated on an exam. They're making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing, as if they want to teach us some kind of moral lesson."

I hope those words come back to haunt Konstantin. But they probably won't. I predict a brilliant career.

Meanwhile, Big Daddy--sit back and enjoy the smell.

Hat tip to Dr. Jeffrey Fisher for the UCF story.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

News Roundup

Move over, Muslims and gay marriage: paranoid fundamentalist Christians see a new threat to all that is sacred.

There are frivolous lawsuits, and then there are insane lawsuits.

You know the recession's been over for more than a year, right? Somebody forgot to tell Massachusetts homeowners. And the unemployed.

In other news, the new Tory Security Minister doesn't seem to be aware of what she can and can't take on a flight.

A Kentucky Tea Party group is taking on a dreaded enemy: drinking water that won't give you cancer.

Republican leaders: ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell would be a disaster for our men and women in uniform. Men and women in uniform: it wouldn't be a big deal.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god; it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia.

The good people of Oklahoma, ever mindful of the looming threat presented by the muslims who make up less than 1 % of its population, voted to ban sharia law last week. Of course, given how abysmally ignorant Americans are about religion, I'm sure most Oklahomans don't know what shariah law is.

And they certainly don't know anything about the Constitution, which wouldn't allow sharia law to be the basis for a state's legal code (or judicial descisions) in the first place.

In the meantime, a federal judge has implemented a temporary restraining order on the ban, so all those Oklahoma judges who were itching to consult their Qu'rans can go to town.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Week in Food

Recipes for a recession: think cabbage.

"It made me want to throw up:" the new bacon soda is getting mixed reviews.

At long last, we may have an answer to the question that mankind has been asking for millennia: what does the galaxy taste like?

Religious leaders say the family is the foundation of civilization. But archaeologists suggest beer provided a little help.

While the National Institute of Health tells us to lose weight, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tells restaurants to add more cheese.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Pope Complains about Spain

Benedict XVI is deeply distressed at what he sees as the increasing secularisation of Spanish society.

Gee, if only Spain had some kind of organization that could make people toe the religious line.

Friday, November 5, 2010

You Can't Always Trust Google

I don't know how I missed this: two weeks ago Nicaragua invaded Costa Rica. It didn't get much news coverage up here, mainly because to the U.S. media other countries don't exist unless there's a heinous disaster or we're invading them.

And to be honest it wasn't much of an invasion: if you were picturing armed commandos storming Costa Rican strong points and Costa Rican soldiers valiantly defending la patria, you're in for a disappointment. Costa Rica has no fortified strong points to storm and they don't have any soldiers. Actually they haven't had an army since 1948.

Apparently Nicaraguan troops under the command of one Eden Pastora crossed into Costa Rican territory, dredged a river, ousted a family from their ranch, and established a camp of some sort. Pastora claims to have thought he was still in Nicaragua--in spite of the fact that his troops spent some time taking down Costa Rican flags down from buildings and replacing them with Nicaraguan flags.

His defense? He was using Google Maps, according to which he was still in Nicaragua.

I don't what's more ridiculous: the possibility that he thinks this is a plausible excuse, or the possibility that military commanders actually use Google maps.

Of course, on the scale of mistakes that a military can make, this is fairly trivial compared to some others.

(Hat tip to Searchengineland, where I first learned about this.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Day After

"Principally I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, and Thomas and so forth."--Jonathan Swift, letter to Alexander Pope, September 29, 1725.

I've felt like the good Dean most of my life: principally I hate the American people, even though I love individual Americans. We're largely a nation of pig-headed morons who refuse to believe in evolution or global warming, despite there being as much evidence for both as there is for gravity. Many of us claim to be Christians, yet those same Americans are pathologically indifferent to the plight of the poor and adamantly opposed to social justice.

At the moment I particularly hate those Americans who voted Congressional Democrats out of office. These idiots told the press their biggest concern was the economy, and yet they vote into office the party that opposed the stimulus (and then asked for stimulus money) and extension of unemployment benefits.

They're worried about the economy and they vote into office a party that despises the unemployed.

They blamed the banks for the economy and they voted Republican.

The only thing consoles me is that this nationwide stupidity isn't unprecedented. As Juan Cole pointed out on his incomparable blog, in 1942 FDR had more or less ended the Depression, was well on his way to winning a world war, and the Democrats still got pummeled in the midterm elections.

And God, try reading about antebellum elections some time: 1828 was a class act, run on such "issues" as whether John Quincy Adams had pimped for the Czar of Russia.

Democracy. Sometimes it's enough to make me to think this country just needs a king again.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Says It All, Doesn't It?

From a recent episode of Studio 360 on Tea Party singer-songwriters. During the segment on Chris Cassone, Derek John began pressing Cassone for specifics when he talked about the changes in American society since Obama's election and America's "enemies within." Cassone's response:

"My mother was Irish. My father was Italian. I have an Irish attitude and an Italian temper. And for me to debate, it's not for me. I've seen myself, I get all flustered, I can't back and forth with somebody...that's why I'm singing. I feel safer in that realm than trying to debate...anybody."

Translation: "I have completely abdicated my responsibilities as a rational being. I refuse to control my emotions and I blame it all on genetics. And God forbid I should actually have to discuss anything with someone else because then I might have to think. The 2,400-year-old consensus that a citizen of a civilized society is someone who exercises self-control and reasonably discusses the issues of the day with his peers--I want no part of it. I'll just sing so I won't have to listen to anyone else."

The new face of American conservatism. Yahoos like this will determine the composition of the 112th Congress.

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