Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pied Piper of the Clown Troupe

Years ago, during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, Rush Limbaugh was in the forefront of those criticizing Clinton because -- he said then -- honesty and integrity, even in small matters, were essential for the effective functioning of such a high political office.

This week, while the press was exposing governor Sanford's scandalous affair, Rush Limbaugh... blamed Obama for pushing Sanford into it.

At what point does Rush's hypocrisy start to reflect badly on his supporters? (Does Rush have any supporters?)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Disney Makes You Sick And Stupid

Disney has spent (at least) hundreds of millions of dollars to convince you that they are a happy, wholesome company that provides quality entertainment for your family. All this brainwashing costs them little compared to the profits that roll in when little tykes drag their parents off to see the latest repackaged crap their studios have served up.

These guys' idea of "character development" is to do a marketing study to see what toys little kids want to find in their Happy Meals.

"Plot" is something that must fit in five bullet points or less. This is not too restrictive, as there are only three different plots allowed in Disney movies anyway.

These days, it seems as though they pay more for "fart joke development" than they do for animation. Plot development of course costs nothing at Disney, which also helps to boost profits. If they could only find a way to reuse fart jokes, their profits would go up at least 50%.

Yeah, that's right, I just watched yet another movie adapted from something I liked and ruined by the scabrous clutches of Disney studios. Have you ever watched a Disney movie and noticed that some parts are good and other parts are stupid? That's because the good parts came from the original source, and Disney added all the crap.

For God's sake, people, stop with the brand-identification! Stop rewarding these sickos for raping their consumers!

Why All the Rage Against Colin Powell?

Yet more attacks on Colin Powell from the Cheney/Limbaugh wing of the GOP (via CNN).

"My take on it was Colin had already left the party," Cheney said. "I didn't know he was still a Republican."

The former vice president noted that Powell endorsed then-Sen. Barack Obama in last year's presidential race. "I assume that that's some indication of his loyalty and his interests," Cheney said.

Why do these guys keep pushing on someone they've already dismissed as irrelevant? Here's two possibilities.

1) Powell was Bush's Secretary of State during some very interesting times. Cheney & co. now face potentially very serious legal issues regarding their use of torture, and Powell probably knows where some bodies are buried. Powell's credibility therefore may threaten Cheney & co.

2) As a potential moderate, African-American, Republican candidate, Powell has the potential to lead the GOP to a more moderate direction. The "Cheney wing" of the GOP would be relegated to "schismatic" status. Also not good for Cheney & co.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sometimes Irony Is Not Delicious

Now that Rush Limbaugh and Michael Steele are having a public feud (they'll kiss and make up before the next election, of course), one wonders...

Remember when Rush said that Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama was invalid, essentially because Powell was African-American, and therefore couldn't be trusted when he endorsed another African-American?

There's a fair chance the Republican party will be fielding African-American candidates at the local, state, and perhaps even national level in future elections. Should we expect Rush to say that Steele's endorsement of those candidates is meaningless?

I'm not holding my breath....

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Everybody Knows...

With apologies to Leonard Cohen. Here are a few more things that "Everybody knows..." but not everybody admits.

1) People know what is right and what is wrong.

2) It's hypocritical to whine about "welfare queens" scamming a few food stamps while turning a blind eye to the massive white collar crime that completely dwarfs welfare fraud in this country.

3) Hard work and talent will give you a comfortable living, but it will not make you extremely wealthy.

4) To become extremely wealthy, you need to be lucky, manipulative, and/or corrupt.

5) Ken Lay, Bernie Madoff, and many other white-collar criminals have caused more harm than an entire prison full of drug dealers. But white-collar criminals are rarely -- if ever -- given the sentences they deserve.

6) Regular people have a lot more power than they think. Those who benefit from the status quo do not want large numbers of people to stand up for what's right.

7) For that reason (#6), a lot of talking heads divert our attention from issues that really matter, and ridicule or harass any attempt to organize.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Are Ancient People Less Human than I Am?

In this post, I rattled on about a disturbing political trend of valuing the lives (or well-being) of foreigners as less important than our own.

Now let's talk about religion. It's not surprising that religious perspectives are so closely related to political stances on such matters of "foreign relations." Open a Bible, read a few pages, and you'll be smack-dab in the middle of the argument.

Some Christians contrast the "Israel-centric" nature of the Old Testament with the "universal" audience of the New Testament. And, in fact, it's true. The Old Testament is, in large part, a history of the wars that Israel fought against anyone and everyone. Sometimes they attacked, sometimes they were attacked. Sometimes God ordered Israel to kill civilians, sometimes God used Israel's enemies to slaughter Israel's civilians. Or to be more accurate, in God's eyes, no infidel was a civilian.

While there are some notable exceptions, the idea that people in ancient Israel were more valuable than anyone else is fundamental to the Old Testament.

Much has been claimed about the religious revolution the New Testament writings initiated. But foreigners had always been permitted to join the Hebrew religion, as long as they joined the nation of Israel. If the New Testament really was revolutionary, perhaps it was not so much in a religious sense as in an ethnic sense. In a culture whose religion preached that non-Jews were worth little, Jesus and his followers suddenly asserted that human value is (at least relatively) independent of nationality or culture.

In modern politics and religion, the liberal-conservative split still seems to revolve around this issue. How much is your life worth compared to mine?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Are Foreigners Less Human Than I Am?

In a recent interview, Dick Cheney criticized the new political climate in which people "are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States."

That statement is worthy of ridicule. Cheney pretends that a large majority of US military captives are "Al Qaeda terrorists." But the real concern is that non-terrorists may be locked away without a fair trial. The US military has no business snatching up people and incarcerating them (and perhaps worse) for an indefinite time period. The time has long since passed for the US military to either put up solid evidence against those folks, or to let them go.

The bottom line: Dick Cheney wants you to assume the folks in Guantanamo deserve to suffer until it's proven otherwise. You don't know them, and they haven't been given a fair trial. The Bush administration convinced us that those prisoners do not deserve (what many Americans would consider) the basic human right of a fair trial.

Here's a related, all-too-familiar story. Hamas shoots rockets into Israel. Israel responds disproportionately, and many civilians are killed because they "got in the way" of the lesson that Israel needed to teach Hamas.

The bottom line: Any "disproportionate response" that involves civilians requires a calculus of human lives. Israel made a decision that the lives of Palestinian citizens were of small value compared to the lives of Israelis.

I'm sure there are terrorists incarcerated at Guantanamo, and I have sympathy for Israel and other nations that are attacked by terrorists or otherwise. But, Cheney aside, there's more to the story.

It's well-known that, in wartime, demonizing the enemy will stir up public support of the war. But in these cases, the demons are not soldiers or political leaders. We have demonized ordinary people who were unlucky enough to get in the way.

The distinction is as fundamental as the American creed "innocent until proven guilty."

Will we continue to follow Cheney's lead in assuming that foreigners are guilty until proven innocent? If we do not consider other nations and ethnic groups to be worthy of the human rights we claim for ourselves, who will defend us when we are in need?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Good Riddance to the Machiavellian "Bush Doctrine"

Two days from the US election, it's time to start looking toward the future. Unfortunately, recent stories of military strikes in other nations, including our "ally" Pakistan, have focused my attention on the ugly present.

The "Bush Doctrine" essentially asserts (in its various forms) that America has the right to attack another country if it thinks that country is harboring a threat to the USA. Recently, troubling news stories (barely reported in American media) have come to light indicating that the US has been launching attacks inside Syria and Pakistan. In defense of its actions, the White House has said little to nothing substantive.

As an American, I am offended that my President thinks "No comment" is an acceptable answer to the question, "Why are Americans invading so many different countries and killing their soldiers/civilians?"

What about all the reports that civilians are being killed in these attacks? Does the Bush Doctrine include the right to kill civilians and innocents?

The 9/11 terrorists perceived a threat to their own cultures from America. Are they allowed to invoke the Bush Doctrine to justify their attacks on America and its allies?

The current administration must be morally tone-deaf, in that they see no reason why others should be allowed the same moral privileges that America has. Only America has the right to strike other countries when it feels threatened. No one may attack America if they feel threatened by us. If you attack our civilians, you will be attacked. If we attack your civilians, they must have gotten in the way.

Bottom line: the Bush Doctrine, coupled with the actions of the US military, makes no rational or (especially) moral sense. God forbid that other nations should treat us the way we treat them.

The Bush Doctrine has nothing to do with moral or ethical arguments. Once the pretext of self-defense is stripped away, we are left with the stark truth: what the Bush Doctrine really asserts is that "Our military can do what it wants, because you can't stop us." You know, this almost sounds like "Asymmetric Evangelism."

Let us hope that the next administration is able to reign in the US military and to address international crises with human decency, respect, and transparency.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Election 2008: Bias in the Media (Viewers)

Charges have been swirling recently (i.e., over the last twenty years... or perhaps decades) that the American media are biased. Here's one journalist's response to those charges.

All in all, it's hard to come up with a quantitative measure of fairness or bias, although some studies have tried.

Instead, let's look at a related question: Are the consumers of media biased? Let's play around with Google Trends.

Fox News is associated with visits to,,, and searches for Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity.

MSNBC is associated with, the Huffington Post, Keith Olbermann, and Daily Kos.

NPR is associated with,, and

(Yes, I know some of the associations are personalities associated with a given media outlet.)

Whether or not the media outlets are biased, it does appear that the viewers (or readers) tend to travel in disjoint communities. I'd opine that the Fox News community is characterized by conservative pundits, while the MSNBC and NPR communities have liberal pundits.

MLB Cheated the Phillies Out of a World Series Win

Last night's baseball game was called due to rain in the middle of the sixth inning. The Rays had just scored a run to tie the game. Any regular baseball game would have been called earlier, as the field was unplayable due to the heavy, steady rain. (A rain-soaked field greatly increases the chance that players will make game-changing errors or, worse, injure themselves.)

The umpires clearly waited until the game was tied before suspending it. To see why this is a biased decision, consider a game in which you flip a coin ten times. At the end, you declare "heads" or "tails" the winner, depending on which side came up more. But then you add a new rule that if "heads" and "tails" are tied at any point, you will suspend the game. You will find that you get a lot of tie games with this new rule. The rule biases your flipping in favor of tie games.

The umpires waited until the Rays tied the game before they suspended it. If they had suspended it after, say, five innings, the Phillies would have been declared World Series champions. There is no question that the game should have been called earlier based on field conditions.

It's very reasonable to assume that the umpires were collaborating with the baseball commissioner in their decisions. Why would baseball bias its own World Series? Hard to say, but just speculating, here. It's all about money. An anti-climactic Phillies victory in a rain-shortened game damages the image of the game. Allowing the Rays to tie, and perhaps to play games six and seven, also gives networks much more time to play lucrative advertisements.