Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter Olympics in Brief

Positive note: Not as gaudy as the Chinese, yet for me the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver were simply magnifique! Sure, there was a mechanical glitch in the end, when one of the cauldron decorative beams didn't cooperate, but the Great One's facial expressions as the torch bearers sweated it out more than made up for it. The Canadians are among the world's most simpatico people, and they put on a great show. My pick for best moment: K.D. Lang singing Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Beautiful.

Tragic note: Death on the course of the young luge athlete from Georgia. The claim by Olympic officials that it was “human error” does not compute. There were grumblings from the competitors that the track was too fast, the fastest in the world, and its configuration raised safety concerns. Wipeouts are part of this type of event; deaths are not. After the luger's death, adjustments were made to the track lowering speeds. I have a feeling this story is far from over.

Sour note: Is it just me, or is the IOC, from Jacques Rogge to Samaranch to the rest of those sexist, elitist dinosaurs, the most obnoxious sports governing body ever? I thought FIFA was bad, but these guys take the cake.

Augmented-Reality Maps

Very cool but slightly spooky cutting edge mapping technology. As advertised, TED has ideas worth sharing. It's all about the limitless potential of technology to transform our lives. There's something here for everyone.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


America's patriotic superhero, Captain America, seen here slugging Hitler in issue no. 1, ten months before Pearl Harbor, is at it again fighting FASCISTS in issue 602, in which he and his African American buddy, Falcon, investigate and infiltrate a right-wing anti-government militia that looks an awful lot like a Teabagger demonstration. Notice the authentic details (lily-white loons and "Tea Bag the Libs..." sign, among others) in a street scene reminiscent of Les Misérables.

When the Teabaggers protested -- how stupid is that, objecting to comic book immortality?! -- being accurately portrayed by America's liberal! Comic Book media, Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada apologized and promised to remove offending references to "Tea bag" from future issues. INSTANT COLLECTOR'S EDITION!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Hypocrisy Party and the Myth of Bipartisanship

Bill Nye, the Science Guy, today on the Rachel Maddow Show termed the Republican assault on science and the indisputable facts of climate change as “unpatriotic.” Those who are fans of Professor Nye's engaging way of teaching hard and complex science and making it fun for the uninitiated, would know that this is as harsh a criticism for the mild-mannered, apolitical scientist to make as can be.

These Republican morons, the party of anti-science, of senators James Inhofe, Mitch McConnell, and Jim Vitter, who yucked about Al Gore as if he had invented global warming -- a deliberate misnomer, since the term of choice among scientists is climate change -- not coincidentally are bankrolled and in the pockets of our nation's largest corporate polluters that fund fake “studies” to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence.

Professor Nye said that in his experience as an educator there is a generational factor to understanding the science of climate change. Older people, he said, have a hard time grasping the processes that would lead an ovepopulated planet with a very thin atmosphere to generate the greenhouse gases that trap higher temperatures on the planet's surface and more moisture (water) in the atmosphere. Young people, on the other hand, grasp the concept right away.

I know what he means. Back in December, when we had the first big snowstorm in the Chicagoland region, an older gentleman went off about global warming to me as we walked into the warmth of an office building and stamped the snow off our footwear. He prattled on about all this snowfall and what a crock this global warming was, that his brother in Norway had to dig himself out of a mountain of snow -- the sort of thing people all along the eastern seaboard are doing right now.

Obviously, I didn't agree but remained silent; it's pointless to argue facts against such attitudes. Facts like: NASA reports 2009 was the second hottest year on record and the past decade the warmest on record. According to the National Weather Service the snowfall in D.C. broke a 110-year record. That, by itself, as any scientist including Professor Nye will say, does not prove or disprove climate change, as the Republican climate deniers gleefully play to their base and the kind of attitude I encountered. Logically, though, it's not rocket science to conclude and understand that extreme weather events such as the record snowfall in Washington, D.C. in February occur due to more moisture in the atmosphere, moisture that is trapped by the greenhouse gas effect that returns to earth in much heavier precipitation (snow). Overall the world is getting warmer. That is a documented, scientific fact.

Meanwhile, multimillionaire liars Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck seize upon this narrative to prey on the ignorance of their followers convincing them to vote against their own interests. When a thoughtful Republican like Lindsay Graham, a conservative who understands the science and is trying to work across party lines on an energy cap-and-trade bill, is skewered by troglodytes to his right for working with Democrats, then the bipartisan jig is up.

This incarnation of the Republican Party, whose nativist hard-right element took root after the election of Ronald Reagan, is the most irreponsible, unpatriotic (as Professor Nye said), and criminal major political party since Germany's Nazi Party. This is not hyperbole; this is fact. There have been many fringe political parties and movements with extremist ideologies, but they have never had the power to put their extremism into effect; not since the German Nazi Party and this Republican Party.

It's unfortunate that in the currently charged political climate, the ‘F’ word is censored in mainstream liberal news sites, largely because it has been co-opted by extremist elements such as the Teabaggers, who couldn't tell a fascist from that face in the mirror. This is a conservative's description of the Tea Party Convention:.
“After I spent the weekend at the Tea Party National Convention in Nashville, Tenn., it has become clear to me that the movement is dominated by people whose vision of the government is conspiratorial and dangerously detached from reality. It's more John Birch than John Adams.

Like all populists, tea partiers are suspicious of power and influence, and anyone who wields them. Their villain list includes the big banks; bailed-out corporations; James Cameron, whose Avatar is seen as a veiled denunciation of the U.S. military; Republican Party institutional figures they feel ignored by, such as chairman Michael Steele; colleges and universities (the more prestigious, the more evil); The Washington Post; Anderson Cooper; and even FOX News pundits, such as Bill O'Reilly, who have heaped scorn on the tea-party movement's more militant oddballs.

[...] none of them seems to realize how off-putting the toxic fantasies being spewed from the podium were.

Perhaps the most distressing part of all is that few media observers bothered to catalog these bizarre, conspiracist outbursts, and instead fixated on Sarah Palin's Saturday night keynote address. It is as if, in the current overheated political atmosphere, we all simply have come to expect that radicalized conservatives will behave like unhinged paranoiacs when they collect in the same room.
The Republican Party is in a quandary. It cannot disavow its extremist right wing represented by the Teabaggers because of their enthusiasm and activism. The party is playing a cynical, despicable game of non-cooperation, obstructionism, and defiance of anything President Obama tries to do, short of deploying the U.S. military into the midst of another war, so that they can “break” him and destroy his presidency. Just as it was in the Nazi Party's interest to make Germany ungovernable, so it is that this Republican Party -- a once proud and vibrant party -- aims to prevent the President and the Democratic Party from governing, in the interests not only of short-term political gain but of taking power.

Lately, the President has complained bitterly (for him) about this; he seems genuinely puzzled. Unfortunately for the progressives, who have a more grounded, realistic, and cynical view of the Republican opposition, what seemed lofty rhetoric turns out to have been part of the President's core beliefs. This is what Mr. Obama said three years ago today, announcing his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois:
“It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable -- that it's possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we're willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.”
Well, Mr. President, as I'm sure you have discovered, Illinois state government is not Washington. For one thing, Illinois has that endangered species, the moderate Republican, in greater numbers than the national party. Perhaps it's because this is, after all, the Land of Lincoln, and Republicans here are somewhat chastened to behave responsibly by that historical fact. I don't know. I can certainly understand it when you say it's nice to get out of D.C. The reality is, Mr. President, that progressives have spent an entire year pleading with you to stop trying to convince ultra-conservatives like Olympia Snowe, Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi, and Susan Collins to come around.

You gave it more than the old college try, wasting an entire year in a fruitless quest for bipartisanship. Democratic healthcare bills have passed the House and the Senate. Now it's your solemn responsibility to grab the Democrats by the scruff of the neck and drag them across the finish line. Get this thing done, once and for all with 50 + 1 votes and break the back of the Republican filibuster, for the good of the country, for the people, and for the perpetuation of a healthy two-party system.

Benito Mussolini said, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” In the wake of the SCOTUS decision opening the floodgates to a corporate takeover while the Republican right wing maneuvers, in obstruction of Democratic governance, to seize this merger, only you and the fractured Democratic Party can prevent this.

Politically it's high noon. It's time to get tough, Mr. President, unite the Democrats, and get it done. This outrage is what you should remind the American people of every single day:

Signs of the Times




Tuesday, February 09, 2010

White House Press Briefing: Robert Gibbs Mocks Sarah Palin

Even White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs got into the act funning Sister Sarah, Queen of the Teabaggers. Watch:

Sister Sarah Adopts Sartorial Style of Fox News’ All-White Female Anchors

In Roger Aile’s stable of female anchors, salaries at Fox “News” rise right along with skirt hems. “Heh . . .” drools Fox News’ Jabba the Gut.

Sister Sarah, the latest addition to Jabba Roger’s harem, will fit right in to the Fox sorority as she gives Teabaggers a rise:

Only in Chicago, Part Deux

The Illinois nominee for Lt. Governor with “issues,” Scott Lee Cohen, has “resigned” from what office (?) it is yet unclear. It happened during the Super Bowl half-time show as The Who played “We Won't Get Fooled Again” with his son crying copiously (why subject the kid to this?) and family gathered for another bizarre presser. Yup, this is Illinois.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Quote of the Day

“It should be a simple message (and it should have been the central message in Massachusetts): a vote for a Republican, no matter what you think of him as a person, is a vote for paralysis. But by now, we know how the Obama administration deals with those who would destroy it: it goes straight for the capillaries. Sure enough, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, accused Mr. Shelby of “silliness.” Yep, that will really resonate with voters.”
- Paul Krugman, America Is Not Yet Lost

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Rham Emanuel's Apology for Calling Progressives "Fucking Retards"

Teleprompter For DUMMIES!

In her speech before adoring fans at the Tea Party Convention, Sarah Palin outlined a program that makes no sense at all (a more detailed analysis to come), which she summed up as ENERGY, TAX CUTS, AND DIVINE INTERVENTION. After criticizing President Obama as a “guy with a teleprompter,” Sister Sarah was busted consulting her dumbed-down teleprompter: HER HAND! What’s worse, this was during the Q&A session, a kind of de riguer thing for politicians with presidential aspirations after President Obama DEMOLISHED House Republicans without the benefit of a teleprompter or notes; they had their notes, but it didn’t help them one bit!

The shocking truth about Sarah’s hand-prop is revealed in all its cheatiness. Unlike President Obama’s tour-de-force, Sister Sarah’s questions were pre-screened, so it was just a matter of the most primitive 5th grade level memorization. This lady's no quarterback; obviously (to use the appropriate football metaphor for the day) there's a only a few plays she can memorize at a time.

Here is the transcript, and video:
JUDSON PHILLIPS: “As soon as that happens what do you think are the top 3 things that have to be done?”

PALIN: “We’ve got to rein in the spending, obviously.” —Glances at hand— “We have got to jump start these energy projects that we have heard so much about.”

Only in Illinois

What is it about this state that produces such salacious political scandals? Is it the Great Lakes drinking water? Here's a small sampling, not counting Rod Blagojevich nor the latest political eruption swirling around Democratic Lt. Governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen. Casting aspersions on the nominee would seem like piling on. Mr. Cohen can speak for himself:

Mr. Cohen, a pawnbroker -- his legitimate claim to the fashionable “outsider” label in this year’s Illinois elections -- beat out three other “inside” pols for Lt. Governor, completely surprising the party establishment. It’s not the first time a wild-card candidate for Lt. Governor has won a major party primary. In 1986, candidates from the extremist Lyndon LaRouche faction -- those charming people responsible for the Hitler mustache posters of Obama -- “sent the party into a tailspin” by winning Democratic nominations for two statewide offices.

Former Illinois Senator Adlai Stevenson, III had narrowly lost the governorship to Jim Thompson in 1982 and was in a good position to unseat Thompson, who was vying for an unprecedented 4th term. That is, until the LaRouche debacle forced Stevenson to run on the so-called “Solidarity Party” ticket -- invoking Lech Walesa’s Polish labor revolt was, sadly, insufficient to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And so, when Adlai III came out of retirement the other day to implore Cohen to step down, it was like déjavu all over again.

Cohen refuses to drop out, despite pressure to do so from the entire Democratic establishment. Maybe Elvis can convince him? I’m inclined to blame Rham Emanuel and David Axelrod for this one, too. Why not. I can just picture Rhambo on the phone with the big boss man of Illinois Democrats: “How did this fucking thing happen! Can’t I fucking delegate any-fucking-thing anymore!? In my own FUCKING STATE!”

Governor Quinn claims he never saw a Chicago Sun-Times 3-17-09 column in which Mr. Cohen’s problems first came to light. Strange how this story was apparently deemed unworthy of wider exposure in the cutthroat, competitive Chicago media. Almost like mischievous collusion, as if they sat on the story waiting for it to explode in full bloom.

Lynn Sweet, the Sun Times’ chief political correspondent, did she? Of course she knew about it; she knows everything that’s going on in Chicago politics. That’s her meal ticket. When I saw Lynn on TV talking about this she looked like she’d had a face-lift. Times (no pun intended) are tough in the newspaper media business. Nothing like a salacious political scandal to boost their ratings and enhance job security. Call it the fortunate alignment of the world’s three oldest professions -- prostitute, pawnbroker, and politician -- in one story: The Case of the Terrible Ps!

Ultimately, though, it was the state Democratic Party’s responsibility to vet its candidates before the election. It seems that vetting potential officeholders has not been a strength of the current administration. Perhaps it’s a systemic Illinois thing. People here seem to favor glass houses. And what is it about insurgent politicians with the first name “Scott” that makes them so toxic to the Democratic Party?