Friday, February 27, 2009

Attention: Voters in Illinois District 5

Readers of my blog might remember this post I did about unions, and Bobby Kennedy. In it, I talk about meeting an amazing labor lawyer and author. Well, he's running for the #5 seat in Illinois, and if you can vote for him, you really should.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so. The very brilliant Joe Conason thinks so too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The hippy to the hip hip hop

OMG, everyone! The Republicans are totally into black people now!

First of all, the new head of the party said, and I am so not kidding, that their latest message is “off the hook,” yo. And that they plan to bring it, beeyotch, to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”

Wow. That is one hep cat.

And that’s not all! They have discovered another brown dude that they are pretty sure is gonna be huge. And not only is he dark-skinned, but he’s immigrant-y as well! Parents from a different country, and all that. But born in the USA, let’s just be clear about that. No birth certificate hanky-panky going on here!

Readers, as the official Republican response to Obama’s unofficial state of the union address, I give you the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal:

As the president made clear this evening, we are now in a time of challenge. Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs. Others have seen your college and retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your health care and your homes. And you are looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions.

What you’re not doing, is looking to the Republican elected leaders in Washington. Because it’s mostly their policies that got us into this mess.

Republicans are ready to work with the new president to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don't care what party you belong to, if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation's capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the president's strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.

Warning: those “better ideas” will be the same ideas they tried to sell you in the last election.

Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us. Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina -- we have our doubts. Let me tell you a story.

Well, okay. But I’m pretty sure we just spent the last eight years listening to stories.

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office, I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: "Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!" I asked him: "Sheriff, what's got you so mad?" He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go, when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, "Sheriff, that's ridiculous." And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: "Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!" Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people.

There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens.

Wait a minute. Ignoring Jindal’s self-aggrandizing portion, I’m pretty sure that the hero of this story is the sheriff, right? And wasn’t he acting in his official capacity as an agent of the government when he organized the rescue? So, I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this really a story about the compassion and wisdom of government agencies, and how the people within them ultimately have the power and the ability to overcome the nitpickers who are unable to effectively weigh the value of different courses of action? And let’s be honest; don’t those nitpickers plague not only government agencies, but also private enterprise and charitable institutions everywhere? I mean, when some idiot refuses to let you adopt a dog because your backyard fence is only 3 feet high instead of 4, does that mean that charitable institutions are the enemy? When the quality control person at your job rejects a document it took you 10 days to gather the signatures for because it was signed with fine point pens instead of medium point pens, does that mean big business is, as that idiot Reagan would say, “the problem”?

We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.

What “spirit” is he referring to, exactly? If he means the spirit embodied by Sheriff Lee, then I take it that he means that those with big ideas can overcome the naysayers? If so, that seems like an implicit recommendation of the stimulus package to me. And somehow, I’m pretty sure that’s not what he meant.

To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and not to just put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you, the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything.

Yeah, Americans have a great “can do” attitude. I agree.

Except, you know what I can’t do? Regulate Wall Street. I have tried, and those fuckers just won’t listen to me. I told them that sating their desire for more investment opportunities by creating bad securities was not a good idea. And I also told them that those completely unregulated credit default swaps would weaken the market by creating a situation in which the failure of one large institution would necessarily bring about the failure of many all at once. They told me to fuck off. So, when I hear traders moaning about how unfair it is that they, as taxpayers, would have to pay for the funds that Americans who can’t pay their mortgages would receive under the stimulus…let’s just say that my reaction is not one that would likely make it onto the air on CNBC.

Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, [the Democrats] passed the largest government spending bill in history, with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest.

Okay, so taking away the tricky question of “interest,” the stimulus bill that was passed totaled $787 billion. Yes, that’s a lot of money. But it’s too bad the Republicans only recently discovered their disdain for government spending, otherwise we might not have spent $638 billion in Iraq so far. And that’s only the costs traceable through the Budget Authority. And unlike the stimulus spending, those dollars are all, if you’ll forgive the expression, dead. They’ve been spent. They’re gone. And for what?

While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a "magnetic levitation" line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called "volcano monitoring." Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.

The 300 mil for government cars are for green cars. The high-speed rail is similarly a green project. Remember that, readers, because you will be quizzed on it later on.

And as for the volcano monitoring, 1) you need a better joke writer, and 2), it’s kind of important to monitor volcanoes, and 3), the 140 mil is for a variety of scientific projects, of which volcano monitoring is one. Yes, I know it’s shocking that Governor Jindal would play fast and loose with the facts. Let’s move on.

Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It's irresponsible. And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.

Well, in times of need, sometimes you do have to borrow against the future. I don’t like it either, especially since it’s essentially Republican free market fucks like him who got us into this mess that I now have to pay for, but I believe that government spending is the way out of this mess, and I’m not the only one.

When we should not leverage our future, is when we are not in need. When were we not in need? Again, the war in Iraq springs to mind. Jindal talks as if this is the first time we have incurred national debt. We’ve been running a substantial debt since 1940. When did it climb most dramatically? During the Reagan and BushCo years.

Yes, we need to pay it down. Yes, it’s wrong. But after sixty years, to try to lay the burden of our debt on to the stimulus bill is not just short-sighted, it is, if you ask me, a calculated strategy to delay our recovery.

To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation, increase energy efficiency, increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels, increase our use of nuclear power, and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home. We believe that Americans can do anything and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.

Remember, a couple of paragraphs ago, when Jindal was railing against the government investing in green cars, and a high-speed rail along one of the most emission-choked sections of highway in the US? Remember? Now, who is going to build and sell the green cars? Americans are. Who is going to make and build the high-speed rail? Americans are. THEN WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS MOTHERFUCKER TALKING ABOUT????

To strengthen our economy, we also need to address the crisis in health care. Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health coverage -- period. We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage.

See, they don’t stand for you having it, they only stand for you having access to it, if you can afford it. Which you can’t. Unless your work pays, if you have a job. And if you can keep that job after you get sick. And if you can keep the insurance that costs too much after they find out that you got sick once. But other than that, it’s totally accessible.

What we oppose is universal government-run health care. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not by government bureaucrats.

Hey, we agree on something! I, too, believe that health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients. Currently, mine are being made by corporate bureaucrats.

To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana was said to be half under water, and the other half is under indictment. No one says that anymore.

Maybe because it’s not funny anymore.

Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past.

Whoops. Spoke too soon.

We need to bring transparency to Washington, D.C., so we can rid our Capitol of corruption and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read and the American people haven't even seen.

Hm. So, the bill is corrupt and your fellow Republicans in the Congress didn’t read it? Wow, care to elaborate?

As we take these steps, we must remember for all our troubles at home, dangerous enemies still seek our destruction.

Oh. I guess not.

Now is no time to dismantle the defenses that have protected this country for hundreds of years, or make deep cuts in funding for our troops. America's fighting men and women can do anything. If we give them the resources they need, they will stay on the offensive, defeat our enemies, and protect us from harm.

No one’s talking about dismantling any defenses, unfortunately. I appreciate that you are insinuating otherwise, however.

In all these areas, Republicans want to work with President Obama.

When they’re not calling him corrupt.

We appreciate his message of hope, but sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington -- they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people.

Hear that, American people? Jindal believes that, inexplicably and against all evidence to the contrary, all you need is a tax cut like the ones BushCo gave you, and then you can fix the economy on your own, even though the economy is worse now than it was when you got those tax cuts that didn’t fix the economy then, even though it was not as bad as it is now. So…get to work, American people! Doing…something! Something fix-y!

You know, a few weeks ago, the president warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said "we may not be able to reverse." Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover. Don't let anyone tell you that America's best days are behind her. This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery…

…by defeating the conservative Southern states in civil war

overcame the Great Depression…

…with a Democratic president and massive government spending

prevailed in two World Wars…

…while increasing our national debt

won the struggle for civil rights…

…led by two Democratic presidents opposed by conservative Southerners

defeated the Soviet menace…

…with, if the Republicans’ own rhetoric is to be believed, massive increases in government spending

and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001…

…no thanks to a Republican administration that was determined to ignore a real threat in favor of a make-believe one.

The American spirit has triumphed over almost every form of adversity known to man, and the American spirit will triumph again.

Readers, the point of these exercises for me is always to turn the speakers' own words against them. Some people make it easier than others.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscars® 2009! The audacity of Hugh

What up, Oscars®?

Why so stingy with the suck this year?

Sure there were some hard-core suck-ass moments, and some genuinely asinine ideas (5 past winners, I’m looking at you!) but overall, a solid meh. The opening number was cute. Plus, "Craigslist Dancers"? I have to say it was funny. It’s as if the Academy Awards®, has figured out, after 81 years, that they’re just a silly awards show, after all, and if they dial down the attitude a little bit, then people are maybe slightly less likely to revel in their mistakes.

Sort of like the United States, huh? Yeah, maybe Hollywood is taking a cue from the recent presidential election. I would call them the Oscars of Hope® if only there was anything vaguely hope-y about them. Other than, you know, the murmur of a thousand voices whispering “I hope I win.” I would call them the Post-Racial Oscars® if only Cuba Gooding had been given something remotely clever to say when he introduced Robert Downey Jr.’s nominated performance playing a South African playing a black man in black face. Seriously, Vilanch, or whoever wrote that “We salute you, and we so, like, mean it” drivel, it’s called motherfucking fodder, dude. Look into it.

The other major issue with having five past Oscar® winners introduce the nominees in their former categories, aside from wondering why Sophia Loren, the most famous Italian actress in, like, ever, can’t get a stylist, and always shows up to these things looking like some cheap china figurine your grandma keeps on her dresser...

...aside from that, my issue with it is that who wants to see 5 legendary actors read their lines off a cue card like someone just grabbed them off the street five minutes ago, and with less feeling than Tom Carvel mustered up for Fudgie the Whale? They’re all actors, so I know they know what a rehearsal is, theoretically, although being film stars they’ve probably never actually been to one. Only DeNiro seemed up to the task, as he, in true goomba form, assumed that only a gay dude plays a gay dude so well, and wondered aloud how Sean Penn managed to get all those straight guy roles for so many years.

So I guess when the show wasn’t busy being the White-People-Accept-Awards-for-Indian-Movie Oscars®, it was busy being the Anti-Prop 8 Oscars®. Winning “Milk” screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, railing against conservative Christians, said that moving from Texas to the west coast, and learning about the story of Harvey Milk, gave him hope that “one day I could fall in love and get married,” and he addressed the LGBT community by saying “no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you…very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours.”

Nice promise. I’m not sure how he plans on following through with it, but then, maybe these really are the Oscars of Hope® after all!

Sean Penn’s take on the situation was predictably less rosy. In his acceptance speech for Best Actor, he referred to his Hollywood audience as “you commie homo-loving sons of guns,” thereby stealing the headline for Ann Coulter’s next column. He then said “For those who saw the signs of hatred as we drove in tonight, I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban on gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes, if they continue that way of support. We have got to have equal rights for everyone.”

I am grateful to him for that. I am also grateful to him for winning, so we would not have to suffer through another Mickey Rourke acceptance speech. Look, Mickey, I love my dogs, too, man. But saying that you would trade your nomination for another two years with a ill-tempered elderly Chihuahua? C’mon, that’s just crazy. Ill-tempered elderly Chihuahuas are a dime a dozen, man. In fact, is there any other kind of Chihuahua? But screwing up the career boost you’ve gotten from this nomination by, oh, calling the press “faggots” or, say, getting arrested for a DUI on a Vespa – that’s fucking priceless.

And speaking of people that shouldn’t have won…Heath Ledger. Look, I appreciate that everyone feels bad that a pretty good actor died. I get it, I really do. But winning for the Joker? Really, Academy? I mean, really? Because if you ask me, it’s not that hard to put in an exciting performance next to a professional sourpuss like Christian Bale. His Batman was so boring he made Val Kilmer look like Lawrence fucking Olivier. Ditto Ledger playing opposite Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was so miscast that if you looked up “miscast” in the dictionary…you’d see the definition of “miscast,” which is what she fucking was.* Not only that, but what the hell did Maggie do to piss off the makeup artist so bad? Girlfriend looked rode hard and put away wet in that movie, which is, I’m pretty sure, not the look you’re going for in a comic book-style heroine. Anyways, readers, I don’t want to hear about how great Ledger was playing “crazy,” okay? It’s the easiest thing in the world to mumble your lines and loll your head around and smirk periodically. I would too if I had to say lines like:

“To them, you're just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don't, they'll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you.”

The screenwriter should be shot.

And speaking of people who should be shot: Baz Luhrmann.

If we can’t shoot him, can we at least deport him or ban him from making anything that other people have to look at, ever? I mean, “Strictly Ballroom” was charming, if a tad predictable. “Romeo and Juliet” was somewhat interesting but ill-conceived and unevenly executed. And “Moulin Rouge” was just drivel. Pure, sticky, self-indulgent drivel. It was a crappy valentine to a preening actress who frankly does not deserve even such meager tribute as that. Australia,” I hope to never see, not even for 3 seconds as I flip past the Starz! network.

And now, he’s created this:

If nothing else, I hate him because up until this fiasco, the 81st Oscars® had been one of the few events on television that was completely Beyonce-free. So, thanks for ruining the one thing it had going for it, Baz. Although, it’s almost worth sitting through just to hear Jackman shout “The musical is back!” Because if there ever was a reason for the musical to NOT be back, this is it. Well, that, and Pierce Brosnan in “Mamma Mia!”

Here’s a few other miscellaneous Oscar don’ts:

  1. Don’t swoop the camera all over the place when I’m trying to watch the parade of dead people.
  2. Don’t cut to Angelina when Aniston is on stage. Twice. Is this the Oscars®, or TMZ?
  3. Don’t “explain” how a movie is made as a device for handing out the technical awards. We know what costumes are, assholes.
  4. Given that he was one of the few bright spots, you’re going to be tempted to let Stiller host the show next year. Don’t.

Here’s a do: Do have Bill Maher host next time. Anyone who can look America in the eye and say “someday we all do have to confront the notion that our silly gods cost the world too greatly…but there I go ruining the ending,” without being booed? That’s the guy you want hosting. Because clearly, he can get away with anything. Even hosting the Oscars®.

*this joke is an homage to a very similar joke in “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.”

Do you crave teh meaness? Check out last year's Oscar review.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Karl's Jr. - UPDATED

It’s getting so a gal can hardly swing a dead cat in this media landscape without hitting someone talking about how the US has now gone “socialist.”

Which I wouldn’t mind so much if one single damn one of them knew what the fucking word meant.

Socialism, sort of, ah, famously, is when the government controls the means of production. That means that all factories and institutions are owned and controlled by the government. All of them. A famous example of a socialist government would be the now defunct USSR, manufacturer of bad cars, bad television, aggressively unfunny comics, and toilet paper rougher than an afternoon hunting with Dick Cheney.

You know what’s not socialism? I mean, besides “spreading the wealth around”? Government spending as a percentage of GDP. If you’re going to define socialism by that mark, then it would be true that by outspending the USSR on arms, Ronald Reagan was the greatest practitioner of socialism in the history of socialism, because he defeated socialism with even greater socialism. To say nothing of BushCo, who rescued capitalism with socialism.

Not only that, but the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, who make numbers like this their business, estimates that our percentage of government spending in GDP this year will be 39.8%. Under Comrade Reagan, it reached a high of 37.2%

So according to Hanity and Rush and all the rest of the boneheads at Fox News, the difference between capitalist utopia and “in Soviet Union, television watches YOU,” is 2.6%.

I think the same people are falling for this who are falling for all the hoo-ha about how the New Deal didn’t work. It’s a typical Republican MO: they cherry-pick some unemployment numbers and ta-dah! FDR’s a phony, and Americans were no worse off at the beginning of WW2 than they were when Hoover had finished dragging the US through four years of laissez-faire purgatory. I seem to recall that Hoover thought that legislation to stimulate the economy would make citizens too dependent upon their government. And Americans don’t trust big government. I mean, except when they want to, like, drive on a road or call 911 or cash a Social Security check or other socialist-type activities.

But all this is merely being used by the Republicans as a way to counter comparisons being made to Obama’s stimulus bill by people who actually understand economics, and what words mean.

It’s tempting to make a big deal out of the lack of Republican support for the bill, but for them, opposition to it is win-win. If the stimulus is seen have been effective, they will never be held accountable for not voting for it, because their spin is that they are opposed “in principle.” And if the stimulus is seen to have failed, they will never stop screeching “we told you so.” It’s no wonder only a few brave souls crossed the aisle. Arlen Specter voted for the bill, and admitted to the press that many of his Republican colleagues told him that they wanted the bill to pass, but didn’t want their “fingerprints” on it.

So much for principle.



You know readers, a while back, Spooney and I were enjoying a nutritious breakfast (cheese grits!) at the Coral Diner in Burbank, and we overheard a young man at the table next to us bragging to his friends about how well his new job was going. Apparently it was some kind of public works deal, and for one day, at least, his crew’s job consisted of moving sandbags from one place to another. But what he was so proud of, was that his co-workers had decided to give the new guy a break, and they offered him a six pack for every 100 sandbags that he moved. At the end of the day, he told his friends excitedly, he had moved over 300 bags, forcing each of his 3 crew members to buy him a whole six pack of beer each.

It was adorable. The dude had no idea that he’d been ripped off. Or perhaps the deal would’ve been okay with him no matter what. But for the price of a sixer, the rest of the crew got to sit in the shade while one guy did all of their work for them.

This is not a story that makes Republicans feel bad. In fact, they have carried off a similar feat themselves, effectively forcing Democrats to carry the entire stimulus bill for them, while they not only bring the bucks back to their home states, but actually also BRAG ABOUT IT.

A Republican chief of staff to one of these hypocrites countered criticism by saying “Certainly it’s possible to oppose the entire bill on principle and favor certain sections of it.”

Um, no dude. It’s actually not. You can oppose the entire bill because you don’t think the bill as a whole fiscally justifies the parts that bring money to your state, but you can’t oppose the entire bill on principle, while still welcoming the sections that are going to help you get re-elected. Again, I think the problem might be that Republicans don’t entirely understand what words mean. Okay, I get that a large vocabulary is frequently a deal-breaker when it comes to being elected to public office, but “principle” is a word they really might want to look up before they go brandishing it any further.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican, supported the stimulus package in spite of taking a lot of shit from his party. Crist is also being criticized by other Republican Governors as well, notably South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, who has stated that he may not accept his state’s portion of the stimulus money. When asked for his reaction to the stand Sanford and those other Republican governors may take, Crist’s former chief of staff said “Ah…call me back if one of those governors doesn’t take it.”

Well fucking put.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine’s Day, America! Hope you like being fucked in the ass!

Wow, Judd Gregg must be the most principled man alive in politics today. After all, the Obama administration asked him to be Commerce Secretary, and he felt a sense of duty. He felt an obligation to serve. Who wouldn’t, when asked to take over such an important position in such perilous times? He could’ve demurred, given his economically conservative philosophy. He could’ve demurred, given his key position as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. But he didn’t. He tried to make it work. And if he did demur from urging fellow Republicans in the Senate to support the President’s stimulus bill, it’s only because, as a cabinet nominee, it wouldn’t have been right to exert political pressure. And he tried to reconcile his philosophy to the Obama administration’s. But he couldn’t. Their scheme was too liberal, too spend-heavy, too damn crazy to stand behind. So, in the end, being a man of principle, he resigned as nominee, re-joined the Senate, and, as painful as it was to him, voted against the stimulus package.

And he lived happily ever after. The End.

Did we all enjoy our little Mother Fox News fairy tale?

Good. Because as is so often the case in WDC, the truth is quite the different story.

First of all, according to Obama administration officials, Gregg approached them for the position. And he promised them that he was well aware of the President’s core beliefs, and he was also, as aforementioned big cheese on the Senate Budget Committee, well aware of the contents of the stimulus package and he said that it would not be a problem for him to get behind it.

Hm. Well, that’s quite different, isn’t it, from Gregg’s version? I wonder why he wouldn’t want us to know that he wanted the position? Vanity, maybe?

Or maybe something more.

I wonder, what changed, between the time Gregg offered himself up, and the time when he high-tailed it out of there?

Readers, what changed was this: the Obama administration took control of the 2010 census away from Commerce, and gave it to the White House.


Who gives a shit about the stupid-ass census?

Republicans do. Oh, they do.

Which states are poised to gain representatives after the census? Arizona. Florida. And your favorite and mine - Texas.

Whoever administrates the census can make sure that the polling in those states is particularly thorough, and that the polling in Democratic areas (big cities) is lax. And because TX, AZ & FL have Republican-controlled legislatures…any new districts can be gerrymandered so that their breakdowns will remain now and forever, reliably Republican.

Yes, surprise, surprise, the Republicans were cooking up a scheme to ensure their return to power. The ole’ “permanent majority” dream of BushCo has reared its ugly head again, and so soon!

But who busted it? No one knows for sure. My guess? Rahmbo.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

On the Origin of Godtards

Someone, let’s just say someone who should’ve known better, recently hit me with the old chestnut “if man evolved from apes, how come there are still apes?”

I flashed back to when a classmate in my junior high biology class once asked that same question. My teacher, Mr. Shank, first treated that student to a twenty second Shank Stare. The Shank Stare was a fearful thing indeed. I had personally seen the Stare boil water in a bunson burner. I had seen it kill mold growing in a petrie dish. Once on the receiving end of the Stare, you would go to any length to avoid it again. You would even study your biology text.

After delivering the Stare, Mr. Shank sighed, and said “Can anyone who HAS been paying attention this semester care to answer that question?

How can it be that an educated adult doesn’t know that humans did not evolve from apes, but that humans and apes share a common ancestor?

How can it be that 200 years after the birth of Charles Darwin, and almost 150 years after the publication of “On the Origin of Species,” Darwin remains, as journalists are fond of telling us, a controversial figure?

What they rarely mention is that the controversy is a mostly American phenomenon. In other parts of the world, Darwin is recognized as one of the true giants of thought and science, and his birthday is celebrated as a day signifying the advancement of mankind. But then, “thought” and “science” and “advancement” are things that Christian Americans tend to ascribe to godless communist homosexual faggot commies.

And those are the more open-minded ones.

For those of you tempted to dismiss my last statement as mere hyperbole, need I remind you that during the last presidential election, 3 Republicans candidates, all Christians, declared that they did not believe in evolution. One of them, the deceivingly genial Mike Huckabee, went on to declare in a later debate that “if anyone wants to believe that they are the descendents of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it.”

Oh, if only Mr. Shank, who has died and gone to awesome teacher heaven, had been in the audience!

He would’ve reminded the former governor of Arkansas (a state that spends less per student on education that any other state) that humans ARE primates. And then he would’ve flunked him from the presidential campaign, along with fellow idiots, Tom Tancredo of Colorado, and Sam Brownback, who is still a senator representing Kansas.

In fact, he would’ve flunked Kansas.

Do you know that moment in Annie Hall, when Alvy Singer pulls Marshall McLuhan out from behind a movie marquee, and gets him to shoot down the ignorant blowhard in line behind him? That’s what I wish I could do with Mr. Shank every time some Godtard says that they don’t believe in evolution. I wish I could get Mr. Shank to flunk America, and not let us come back until we start paying attention.

Monday, February 09, 2009

When the world falls apart, some things stay in place: Grammys 2009

The Grammys, after suffering from a catastrophic 3-year U2 shortage, finally got their fix last night when the group (whose last album, “How to Build the Most Stupendous PR Machine in the History of the Music Industry,” was nominated for Grammys in various categories for…how many years in a row? 27?) opened the telecast with some song that I’m going to guess was about boots, since Bono, whose voice could barely be heard, kept lifting up his legs and pointing to his boots. I can only conclude that his performance was meant to be a public service for those Grammy viewers with hearing disabilities. When they call Bono a humanitarian they aren’t fucking kidding, people.

Come to think of it, U2 definitely established the Grammys’ unintentional theme of the evening, which was, “I can’t hear the vocals. Jesus Christ. How many strings tracks are they using, anyway?”

The Grammys didn’t hesitate to bring the crazy right off the bat, as presenter Whitney Houston was definitely on something, although it seemed to be maybe only massive amounts of alcohol or pain killers, and not crack. Her wig, on the other hand – still on crack.

Next, The Rock proclaimed that “The Grammys are a way of life,” a statement that should have sent the entire audience running for the exits, before the doors to the Staples Center were locked from the outside, and they were all forced to spend their remaining years in a Korbel-induced stupor whilst trying to avoid bumping into Boyz 2 Men in the greenroom toilet. Le Rock next attempted several verbal Grammy-related assaults, finally proclaiming, with an impish grin, that like Katy Perry, he, too, enjoyed kissing girls…which is hilarious because…he’s a MAN! GET IT? HE’S A MAN! HA HA HA!

Cut to Katy Perry, who rolled her eyes at the camera. And can I just say, I have a HUGE problem with that.

First of all, Katy Perry should not be disrespecting the man who in all probability will be the star of the first film to cast her in some small part that she cannot fuck up too bad after she inevitably turns her considerable ambition to the big screen. Which no doubt will be the first item on her agent’s agenda after single #2 flops the big flop.

Secondly, Katy Perry, don’t go sarcastic on The Rock, because a) it’s wasted, and b) at least the dude could wrestle, or whatever it is that those wrestling dudes do. You, on the other hand, cannot even manage to sing what must surely be a strong contender for TOP TEN SIMPLEST SONGS EVER without making everyone in the audience wish that you had packed a pitch corrector in your ironic banana corset. At least he managed to become famous without marketing his product with a video straight out of Penthouse Forum, complete with a bad Fredericks of Hollywood wardrobe and a cast that appeared to be blow-up sex dolls with AFTRA cards. Listen, Katy, have you ever kissed a girl for real? Because it’s not like an episode of “The Girls Next Door,” okay? Because those girls don’t kiss girls because they like it; they kiss girls for money.

Come to think of it, Katy, it might not be too late to audition for the next season.

Anyways, it wasn’t too long before the 2nd most inevitable Grammy band, Coldplay, took the stage for some really hard-core earnestness, which was made all the more earnest by the fact that Chris Martin could barely be heard above…I dunno…whatever that shit is that plays in the background of every single goddamn Coldplay song.

You know, it’s not that I hate them, exactly, I just wish that award shows would stop thinking that because they’re recognizing Coldplay, they are somehow appreciating something innovative. Another member of Coldplay, while accepting one of their Inevitable Awards, apologized to McCartney, sitting in the audience, for copping the Sgt. Pepper uniform bit. Only, the uniforms that Coldplay wears are pastel. The Beatles at least had the good sense to wear jewel tones. Hello.

Also high on the list of Grammy inevitables is Kid Rock, who performed several songs that seemed mostly designed to position himself as the new redneck laureate. And I applaud that, because I think it’s damn hard to base a whole career on an affinity for midgets and being drunk in Vegas. Still, I just can’t approve the creation of, nor an appreciation for, a song that is essentially a mash-up of “Werewolves of London” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” with an overlay of lyrics that frankly, make Bob Seger sound like Alfred Lord Tennyson. Kid Rock has proclaimed himself the “Rock and Roll Jesus,” but to me he’s more like the Rock and Roll Ron Popeil. He’s pretty much selling whatever he thinks you’ll buy.

Oh, and a small side note to Blink 182: before you proclaim to an audience of 20 thousand people that your band is “back,” you really should make sure there’s a least one person there who cares. Because, crickets. Ouch.

And now, it's time for Spooney's 2 cents:
"What is with that Carrie Underwood chick's guitar player? Is that 1980s Nancy Wilson? She's all fake metal. And look at the wicked stupid '80s BC Rich guitar!"
Funny, right? Thank you, Spooney.

Also, does Kanye West have a mullet now? Color me intrigued.

Which reminds me: hip hop summit, aka the Rap Pack.

This much bally-hooed moment, in which rap giants Kanye, Jay-Z, T.I. and Lil Wayne performed “Swagga Like Us,” would have been a total 4 minute honk-shoe were it not for a very pregnant M.I.A., who bounced around the stage in a polka dot…um, dress? determined to mash her hit “Paper Planes” into the ensuing mess. It was right up there with Radiohead backed by the USC Trojan Marching Band as Best Killa Moment of the telecast, if only because it was kind of awesome to see so much faux gangsta testosterone so effectively thwarted by what appeared to be a magic dancing lady bug.

Interspersed throughout the evening were Lifetime Achievement Awards, which this year went to Gene Autry, Brenda Lee, The Four Tops, Dean Martin, folk artist Tom Paxton, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and jazz pianist Hank Jones.

Okay, here’s my beef. Except for the brief bit and all-star homage to the Four Tops (which would’ve been much better if the stars could’ve, uh, sung harmony, which was kind of the whole reason to love the Four Tops), we got zero information on any of the LAA winners. How much cooler would it have been, to have seen, say, a three minute video about why Dean Martin was so freaking awesome than to see Justin Timberlake and T.I. perform for the second time on a 4 hour show? How about we skip Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, and instead learn the younguns all about the magnificent Brenda Lee, and why she should be worshipped as a divine goddess who deigned to walk the earth?

How about we skip Kenny Chesney, and his hat-down “aw shucks, me sing?” act, and instead do ourselves the gigantic favor of hearing Gene Autry lay down a song or two. Because Gene Autry was amazing, y’all, and everyone should know that, and if our National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences can’t manage to make us understand why, maybe we should devote 4 hours of prime time to someone who can.

Sucka for the snark? Check out Grammys 2008.

Friday, February 06, 2009

When I needed sunshine I got rain

So, hanging on to the ole “faith-based initiatives,” are we, Obama?

Convinced that they are “a force for good greater than government”?

I’m not so sure.

Obama’s calling his the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and he’s appointed a 26-year-old Pentecostal Minister to head the thing. The minister, Joshua DuBois, said "We're also going to make sure we have a keener eye toward the separation of church and state."

Putting a Pentecostal Minister in charge of maintaining the separation of church and state? Isn’t that a little bit like putting Dick Cheney in charge of upholding the Constitution?

Oh, wait.

Seriously, though, at this point, my honest reaction was that I was glad that it wasn’t a Catholic in charge, because, ah…they’re not really at the peak of their credibility right now.

Yeah, who could have predicted that when the College of Cardinals elected an ex-Nazi to be Pope, he would end up having a little problem with the Jews? He also had a little problem with the Muslims a while back, but that mishegas was clearly just practice for the shitstorm he is weathering these days.

The Pope claims that he was unaware of Williamson’s background as a Holocaust denier when he reinstated him after his 1988 excommunication. I’m not really buying that, but the Pope is sticking to his story, oh, and asking Williamson to, basically, you know, take it back.

And I’m sure that as soon as the Pope finds out that Williamson says that women should not wear pants or go to college or hold a job, he will ask him to take that back, too.

So far, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and impromptu GWB backrub victim, is the only one who’s trying to hold the Pope’s feet to the fire. Of course, she’s a Lutheran, so there might be just a teeny conflict of interest there. Sarkozy, President of France and actual Catholic, has, in keeping with his nation’s reputation for general weaseliness, criticized Williamson but not the Pope.

I keep waiting for the great outcry, at least amongst U.S. Bishops and Cardinals, but the Bishops are apparently none too eager to criticize the Pope publicly, and the Cardinals...just lost the Superbowl. And I can’t really blame them for being reticent. Criticizing the Pope can get you excommunicated. Whereas, denying that Hitler had a plan to kill the Jews can bring about a Papal reaction more along the lines of “oops!”

But back to Obama, he who actually gave a shout to atheists during his inaugural speech. A first! Okay, so I’m not crazy about being called a “non-believer,” but compared to what I usually get called, it’s not so bad.

His ideas about creating some sort of nation-wide interfaith camp is an ambitious one. I only hope that those of us whose faith rests solely upon humanity’s shoulders don’t get forgotten in the process, like we have since, well, ever. Yeah, my hopes are not high. Woody Allen once joked that he spent two weeks at Interfaith Camp, where he was “sadistically beaten by boys of all races and creeds.” I can identify.

I live in fear that one day, all the religions of the world will wake up and realize how much they have in common: namely, their hatred of people like me.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

In the past couple of weeks, several firsts:

  1. First black president
  2. First time that I am OLDER than the President of the United States.
  3. First time my birthday party was busted by the LAPD

I have to say, I’m pretty excited by #3. I’ve lived here fifteen years now, and this is the first instance of Los Angeles sort of collectively letting me know that they do not approve of my activities. I have gotten one ticket for jay walking, and a pretty stern warning about a dim tail light, but those were in Beverly Hills and Burbank, respectively, which are separate cities from mine. In LA, as long as you’re not going more than 20 miles over the speed limit and/or shooting at people from your car, you’re basically given the key to the city.

So, two LAPD officers showed up at around midnight Saturday night. I was alerted to their presence by a departing guest. This is the entire exchange:

Me: Good evening, officers.

Officer #1: We got a complaint from a neighbor about the noise level…

Me: I’ll turn it down.

Officer #1: Thank you.

The End

Poor guys. In a neighborhood where El Norte music blasts and children shriek and illegal fireworks boom at parties that make a mockery of occupancy limits well into the night, my little emo gathering must have been quite the hilarious letdown for them. I mean, I seriously doubt that the Shins could rattle my neighbor’s windows like their 808s rattle mine, but hey, I must have pissed off someone. Maybe it wasn’t so much the volume of my music, but the choices. Maybe they just don’t like Ben Folds turned up to 5 on six-inch outdoor speakers. Readers, you might think I’m exaggerating, but I swear that at the time the 5-O strolled up the walk, my stereo was playing the flute solo from Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains in Southern California.”

I have chosen to look upon the incident as a sign that, in spite of my age, I can still inspire an urge to involve the authorities.

The next day, as I was watching the Superbowl and dumping leftovers on top of tortilla chips and trying to pass them off to Spooney as “nachos,” I vowed that I would continue to rebel, you know, in my own little older, Midwestern, hipster-adjacent kind of way. I would stop going on and on about refinancing my mortgage, and I would do more things that I want to do, even if there is a sign nearby telling me not to. I’m going to smoke on the beach. I’m going to make a left turn before 7pm. I’m going to fish off the pier. I’m going to stop somewhere else on red, and take my dogs to Venice on a Saturday after 10am in between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I’m going to go in the door for authorized personnel only. I’m going to walk on the bicycle side of the bike path.

Just kidding. I hate that. Damn, walking people, do you not understand why I am jingling my bicycle bell at you? You are on my side of the path, you know, the side of the path with the spray-painted bicycle graphic. You should be on the side with the spray-painted person-walking graphic. I mean seriously, how hard is that?

And just then, I heard this announcement:

“This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast, or any pictures, descriptions or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent is prohibited.”

First of all, “is” prohibited??? Don’t you mean “are” prohibited? Jesus.

Secondly, are they seriously attempting to suggest that I cannot describe yesterday’s game in a public forum without their consent?

I can’t even talk about it???

So I can’t say that I started out watching the game two hours behind on TiVo, and still caught up to meat time for the last half an hour even though I watched all the commercials?

And I can’t say that my theory of “shiniest pants win” was proven correct once again?

I can’t point out that cardinals are not native to Arizona and I feel that has got to be demoralizing to the team? Or that despite attempts by the AZ Cardinals to make their bird head logo look “mean,” it instead looks “adorable”? Or that given the dearth of non-abandoned steel mills in the area, the Steelers should just go ahead and change their name to the Pittsburgh Importers and maybe just put that little Moneybags guy from the Monopoly game on their helmets instead?

Well, joke’s on you, NFL. I mean, maybe not as big a joke as that whole opening song with Faith Hill singing about the game with cringe-inducing specificity, but still, a joke.

Because I’m about to comment on the game:

It was okay.

The commercials were boring, except for this one.

And for the first time in my life, during Springsteen’s halftime show, I longed for a career as an NBC cameraman: