Monthly Archives: October 2010

Long but fun afternoon on the DC mall with thousands of sane people

Time Traveler Attending Premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus”?

An 82-year-old film clip from a Charlie Chaplin movie premiere that appears to show a woman talking on a mobile phone has baffled movie buffs and caused an online sensation. 

George Clarke, a film festival organiser from Belfast, claims to have discovered the puzzling vision, shot in 1928, on a Charlie Chaplin DVD. 

Mr Clarke said he studied the black-and-white film and sent it to his colleagues. The video clip shows a woman dressed in a dark cloak and hat walking past a sign for Charlie Chaplin's film "The Circus." 

She appears to be speaking into a device that looks remarkably like a mobile phone. Mr Clarke said there was no rational explanation for the clip. 

You be the judge:

 

So, what's going on.  Some of the serious theories (from the Washington Post):

1. She's using a hearing aid: Michael Sheridan of the New York Daily News points out that small aids would have been available during this time period, so it's likely that that's what she was holding up to her ear. Although that doesn't explain who she's speaking to, but maybe she's just jibber-jabbering to herself. I know, it's hard to believe that people walked along Hollywood Boulevard talking to themselves in the '20s, but it just might be possible.

2. She's using her hand to amplify hearing: In a twist on the hearing aid theory, one YouTube commenter suggests the woman is merely cupping her hand to amplify the sound around her and there isn't anything in her hand at all. Which is plausible.

3. She's just adjusting her hat or gesturing to her face: After watching the footage several times, this is the most logical conclusion I can draw. if you watch closely, she eventually starts to put her hand back down and — to me, a non-Irish filmmaker who hasn't devoted hours to parsing this footage — it looks like there isn't actually anything in her fist at all.

As for me, I think it has something to do with the Army of the 12 Monkeys.

12monk_01

Arizona’s Illegal Immigration Law Explained

NPR got to the bottom of Arizona's much-discussed controversial anti-immigration law — the one would require certain aliens to have documentation with them at all times, and gives the Arizona police broad powers to stop and detain anyone who appears to be an undocumented alien.  

The Arizona law would undoubtedly send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. 

So it comes as no surprise (in retrospect) that NPR discovered who was the impetus for pushing such a law: the private prison industry, who stand to make lots of money running and filling jails.  This law was a plan they devised some time ago, and they helped write the bill, and lobby for its passage.  Read the whole thing.

OK. I’m out of the woods, apparently
There was a report of a tornado in Clemmons, but news is saying no.

Tornado heading this way? Really? So I gotta drag my ass to the basement?

Stay Classy, Paulites

They beat up a MoveOn.Org person yesterday.

As far-right ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) arrived for the candidates' final debate, Lauren Valle of MoveOn.org tried to give him a satirical "employee of the month award" from Republicorp, a pseudo-entity created by MoveOn to draw attention to the merger of the GOP and corporate interests.

But before Valle could reach the candidate, Paul supporters grabbed her, forced her to the ground, and at one point, literally stomped on her head as she lay helpless on the curb.

There was apparently some talk from Paul backers that the woman simply fell. The video shows otherwise.

Valle did not initially appear to be seriously injured in the attack — she spoke to reporters after having been assaulted, complaining of headaches — but last night, Valle was in a local hospital. Her condition has not yet been reported this morning. We also do not yet know who stomped on her head, though local police are investigating.

 

I Voted Early

Took five minutes.  In and out.  Easy and kind of fun.

In fact, I might do it again later this week.

Didn't quite vote the straight Democratic ticket.  Left a lot of positions blank.  And if I knew the candidate (a neighbor, or a legal colleague running for the court), I didn't care about political party.

Voted "yes" on the library bond issue, although I think that might lose because people in these parts don't cotton to that edumacation thing, especially if it means higher taxes.

Voted "yes" on the constitutional amendment which will ban ex-felons from being sheriff.  You may ask "WTF?", but seven ex-felons ran for sheriff in various counties throughout North Carolina, so it's an epidemic down here.  You may wonder who would be in favor of ex-felons becoming sheriff, and the answer is the Libertarian Party of North Carolina.  They point out that stealing pine needles is a felony in North Carolina (they are right about that), and ask "do we want to preclude people from being sheriff simply because they stole pine needles?"

And after giving it some thought, I concluded, "Actually, yes.  If you steal anything, pine needles, bicycles, whatever — you probably shouldn't be sheriff."  So I voted "yes" on that one.

O’Donnell Doesn’t Have A Prayer

I think O'Donnell may have put the final nail in the coffin that is her Senate campaign.  With this:

David Brody: How do you see God’s role in all of this because you’ve had some ups and you’ve had some downs. Where is God in all of this? How do you see all of that?

Christine O’Donnell: God is the reason that I’m running. If I didn’t believe that there were a cause greater than myself worth fighting for, if I didn’t believe that it takes a complete dying of self to make things right in this Election cycle I would not be running and when you die to yourself you rely on a power greater than yourself so prayer is what’s gotten us all through. The day that we saw a spike in the polls was a day that some people had a prayer meeting for me that morning for this campaign so I believe that prayer plays a direct role in this campaign and I always ask please pray for the campaign; please pray for our staff; please pray specifically that the eyes of the voters be opened.

I think it is fine for politicians to invoke their faith.  It's fine if their belief in God is what is causing them to run for office.  That's all fine by me.

But O'Donnell is saying – literally and unequivocally – that God created a spike in the polls the other day.

Um, really?

What does that mean if she loses?  That people didn't pray hard enough?

UPDATE —  Also Chris Coons latest ad really makes O'Donnell look, well, kinda nutty:

 

2010 Elections: As Bad For The Democrats As Everyone Thinks?

Maddow on MTP about the so-called apathetic Democrats in 2010:

"I think that the initial diagnosis that Democrats don’t care and were going to be–weren’t going to be able to turn out, that they weren’t going to be able to get off their hands and actually get out to the polls this year has turned out to be a little bit of–a little bit wrong. We’re seeing the high Democratic numbers in terms of early voting, for example. But, you know, it was less than two years ago that this country turned out and elected Barack Obama by seven points, by 10 million votes, and it was–for the second straight election, elected a hugely greater number of Democrats to Congress and the Senate than they did Republicans, and that was less than two years ago.

I don’t think the country has changed that much. We, at that time, in 2008, saw people screaming about the president’s birth certificate and imagining everybody was a Muslim and fainting at the sight of Sarah Palin. I mean, those people existed in 2008, as well, but they lost. And so I think that the narrative has been very exciting on the Republican side, but I don’t think the country has changed as much since 2008 as the narrative would suggest."

I think there is some truth to this.  Voter anger was supposed to carry Republicans to a sweeping victory, but as the remaining days of the campaign come and go, races around the country aren’t following the script.  Some of them, in fact, are quite tight.

Will the Republicans pick up seats in the House?  Yes.  A couple dozen.  But the Senate probably isn't in play anymore; the Democrats will maintain the majority.

And here's something else — another phenomenon that I think many people overlook.  The cellphone bias.  About one in four Americans are reachable only by cell phone now, and most polls do not bother with cell phone users.  And cellphones have a Republican bias.  

For the last four years, the Pew Research Center has conducted public opinion surveys involving separate, parallel samples of both landline and mobile phones. Their design allows for a comparison between combined samples of landline and cell interviews and samples based only on landline calls.

Before the 2008 election, they found that calling only landline phones introduced a "small but real" bias in favor of John McCain, an average bias of 2.3 percentage points on the margin on nine national surveys conducted between June and October of that year.

But even in the two years since 2008, that bias has grown larger.  The most recent survey in the study, conducted in late August and early September, also involved comparisons based on a subgroup of "likely voters" chosen using a traditional seven question turnout scale (similar to the classic Gallup likely voter model):

The combined landline and cell estimate produced a seven-point Republican advantage: 50% supported the GOP candidate for Congress in their district while 43% backed the Democratic candidate. The Republican lead would have been 12 points if only the landline sample had been interviewed, a significant difference from the combined sample of five points in the margin.

In other words, most polls we see out there are probably 3-5 points off, favoring the GOP.

So this might not be another 1994.  Or, at least, not as bad as 1994.

Maybe.

Has Timothy McVeigh Become The Soul Of The GOP?

You would think so, sometimes:

WASHINGTON – Republican congressional candidate Stephen Broden stunned his party Thursday, saying he would not rule out violent overthrow of the government if elections did not produce a change in leadership.

In a rambling exchange during a TV interview, Broden, a South Dallas pastor, said a violent uprising "is not the first option," but it is "on the table." That drew a quick denunciation from the head of the Dallas County GOP, who called the remarks "inappropriate."

Broden, a first-time candidate, is challenging veteran incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in Dallas' heavily Democratic 30th Congressional District. Johnson's campaign declined to comment on Broden.

In the interview, Brad Watson, political reporter for WFAA-TV (Channel 8), asked Broden about a tea party event last year in Fort Worth in which he described the nation's government as tyrannical.

"We have a constitutional remedy," Broden said then. "And the Framers say if that don't work, revolution."

Watson asked if his definition of revolution included violent overthrow of the government. In a prolonged back-and-forth, Broden at first declined to explicitly address insurrection, saying the first way to deal with a repressive government is to "alter it or abolish it."

"If the government is not producing the results or has become destructive to the ends of our liberties, we have a right to get rid of that government and to get rid of it by any means necessary," Broden said, adding the nation was founded on a violent revolt against Britain's King George III.

Watson asked if violence would be in option in 2010, under the current government.

"The option is on the table. I don't think that we should remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms," Broden said, without elaborating. "However, it is not the first option."

What is most frightening is that these people actually believe that violent overthrow of the government is what the framers of the Constitution actually envisioned.

Ironically, treason is the only crime actually defined in the Constitution and it was defined as "levying war against the United States".  This moron thinks the Constitution encourages it.  No, it doesn't.  

Kudos To Obama For Doing An “It Gets Better”

I'm a little disappointed in my president for, well, for a number of reasons, but I'm glad he's still not above using the bully pulpit for good causes:

 

What's more, the White House posted an item from Brian Bond, the deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement, who not only shared his own story about being taunted as a young person, and who also admits that he considered suicide. His piece on the White House blog also includes links and information on anti-bullying resources.

All of this comes the same week as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also recording a video message for the It Gets Better project.

 

Sucks To Be Clarence Thomas

Imagine what it must be like to be Clarence Thomas right now.

As opposed to 19 years ago.  Nineteen years ago, Anita Hill, an employee of yours, testifies at your Senate confirmation hearings that you would make all kinds of off-color remarks when you were head of the EEOC.  Stuff like public hairs on Coke cans.  And obsession with porno.  Man, that was really uncomfortable…. like a high-tech lynching.

But it's nineteen years later, and now your Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and you're way past all that crap from the past.  You're on the Supreme Court, man.  There's been an entire generation of people who haven't even heard of Anita Hill.  

And then…. grrrrr….. and then your bone-headed wife calls Anita Hill out of the blue and asks for an apology on an answering machine, and suddenly…. the controversy from nineteen years ago is stirred up again.   Thanks, honey.

And speaking of nineteen years ago…. when Anita Hill accused you of sexual harassment during yourconfirmation hearing, remember how you vehemently denied the allegations, citing your steady relationship with another woman in an effort to deflect Hill's allegations?

Well, that "other woman", whose name is Lillian McEwen, is now breaking her years of silence.

And guess what?  She's saying that Anita Hill was right.  You were a womanizing, sexual harrassing, porno-obsessed dude:

He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners," McEwen said matter-of-factly. "It was a hobby of his."

***

"He was obsessed with porn," she said of Thomas, who is now 63. "He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting."

McEwen added that she had no problem with Thomas's interests, although she found pornography to be "boring."

According to McEwen, Thomas would also tell her about women he encountered at work. He was partial to women with large breasts, she said. In an instance at work, Thomas was so impressed that he asked one woman her bra size, McEwen recalled him telling her.

So basically, you're Clarence Thomas, and there isn't a single woman (other than your wife, who is always the last to know) who can corroborate that you weren't some skirt-chaser at the EEOC.

And this is coming up nearly two decades later now.

Sucks to be you, Clarence.

An Open Letter to Katie Couric, Tim Winter, and Others

Katie Couric
c/o CBS News
555 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019 

Tim Winter
Parents Television Council
707 Wilshire Boulevard #2075
Los Angeles, CA 90017 

764926299_309803

Dear Katie, Tim, and others occupying the fainting couch:

There comes a time in every man's person's life when they are compelled to see Lea Michele's panties…. apparently.

I know.  I've been there.  

I didn't expect it.  I didn't look for it.  But there she was: Lea Michele.  Legs spread, skirt up, panties exposed and down, the whole ragamuffin.  

And when I was exposed to Ms. Michele's, er, exposure, it was for real — i.e., in the actual unphotoshopped flesh!  Not some fashion fotos for a magazine.

Yes, like untold hundreds of others who sat in the front right orchestra section (or onstage left if you happened to score one of those tickets) of the pre-Glee hit Broadway musical Spring Awakening, I sat in somewhat stunned silence as Jonathan Groff (later to do a short stint on Glee himself) sang a melodious tune to Lea Michele, who had undone the straps of her dress and was now topless.  I watched as his hand moved down her leg, lifting her skirt, and actually pulled down her panties.  Yeah, that's right — some of us got a FULL show, in living color.  (Oh, yeah, there's video, my friends)

So yes, Katie.  I can somewhat identify with your shock and dismay.  I know whereof you speak when I read this account of what you said on CBS News.

"I'm a Gleek," she began, saying how she and her 14-year-old daughter watch the show every week. But she decried the photos, particularly Michele's spread-eagle one, as "raunchy" and "un-Glee-like," and concluded: "I'm disappointed."

But there's one thing you need to know, Katie:  IT GETS BETTER.

IT GETS BETTER when you realize that there is such a thing as context.  Of course the photos are un-Glee-like because guess what?  They're not promotional photos for Glee.   They are for an adult male magazine.  (Tim Winters, please be advised that you are the director of the Parents Television Council, not the Parents Male Fashion Magazine Council.)

IT GETS BETTER when you realize that Ms. Michele and Ms. Agron, the two Glee actresses in the saucy photos, are both 24 years old and fully grown adults.  Cory Montieth is 28.  Yes, folks, they only portray teenagers on television.  In real life, they've grown up into adulthood. Perhaps others should grow up, too.

IT GETS BETTER when you realize that Glee never tried to be High School Musical and to the extent that your 8 and 9 year child thinks otherwise, then the problem is with you as a parent.  I think Glee actor Dianna Agron said it best when she wrote on her blog:

Now, in perpetuating the type of images that evoke these kind of emotions, I am sorry. If you are hurt or these photos make you uncomfortable, it was never our intention. And if your eight-year-old has a copy of our GQ cover in hand, again I am sorry. But I would have to ask, how on earth did it get there?

(Emphasis mine).  

[And by the way, for those of you in the press who take the former paragraph and report that Dianna Agron is apologizing, I think you misread her tone.  Yes, she is saying "I am sorry", but it's more like "I'm sorry that you are such tight-asses, but que sera sera."]

But returning to the subject of Gleeks like Katie Couric being disappointed by these photos, let's look at what aired this week on Glee (it was a re-run)….

• A crash course in "hairography," the art of whipping your long hair around.

• An energetically choreographed rendition of "Bootylicious."

• Kurt giving Rachel a "ho makeover."

• Sexting (explicit texting).

… not to last month's Britney Spears-themed episode of "Glee", where teenage cheerleader Brittany (Heather Morris) fantasizes about seducing her counselor's dentist boyfriend (John Stamos).  And that was actually on teevee!

101910paige_cst_feed_20101018_18_41_26_1257#h=282&w=400

So here's my advice to parents and others who are concerned about the raciness of the photos by Lea Michele and Dianna Agron:

  1. First and foremost, I would cancel my child's subscription to GQ magazine.  Clearly, the people at GQ have no moral compass when it comes what the youth of today should or shouldn't be exposed to.
  2. Please know that IT GETS BETTER.  Lea Michele's exposed panties and schoolgirl outfit is just GQ's way of having fun (clean, sexy fun) with the particular genre that propelled Michele and Agron into stardom.  Yes, it's adult fun.  That's why it's in an adult magazine.  But the image of Lea Michelle's silky white panties won't haunt you forever, I promise.

    Unless of course, you rub your own nose in it.  

    But I wouldn't recommend doing that.

    Unless you're into that sort of thing.

    And I suspect you're not. 

Yours,

Ken

Got an earworm problem.

Juan Williams And Bigotry

"Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Juan Williams.

Can we, if nothing else, agree on a working definition of "bigotry"?

It seems to me that if you get nervous because you see Muslims on a plane, it is because you have an assumption, or perhaps a fear, that these Muslims will hijack or blow up the plane, because that is what happened on 9/11.  

In other words, based solely on their appearance, you attributing certain negative traits to these hypothetical "Muslims on a plane".

Juan, that is what bigotry is.  I mean, maybe it is understandable that you feel nervous and worried.  Maybe it is commonplace.  Maybe every non-Muslim feels that way.  But it is bigotry, and let's not pretend that it is not.

Now, I don't think Juan Williams should be fired for solely for saying this.  And I'm not sure that he was, in fact, fired simply for saying this.  I think he's had a long history of being lame — being one kind of journalist/reporter on NPR, and another kind on Fox News (the Bill O'Reilly ass-kissing kind).  And I think last night was the final straw for NPR.

So so long, Juan.

Dreamt that a crazed Alice Ripley was trying to kill me with a knife.

Olive Branch Fail

From CNN:

Anita Hill, whose accusations of sexual harassment almost derailed Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ high court nomination, has no plans to apologize for the charges she made nearly two decades ago.

The response from Hill, now a law professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, comes after a message left for her over the weekend by Thomas’ wife, Virginia, who requested an apology.

Charles Radin, the Brandeis director of news and communications, said Hill received the voicemail message and turned it over to the campus Department of Public Safety, which then turned it over to the FBI….

…In a statement to CNN, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas said: “I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get past what happened so long ago. That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended.”

Ok. What was the message?

“Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology some time and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day.”

That's not a good way to extend an olive branch: "Hey, I'm giving you a chance to apologize for complaining that my husband sexually harassed you".

P.S.  Filing under "Tea Party" because Ginni is one of those, and I mean a fringe-y one of those.

Frontline Exposes Willingham Execution

I've written in the past — here and here and here — about the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in the state of Texas, a state which has a disturbing record of getting it wrong when it comes to death penalty cases.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed by the state of Texas on February 17, 2004 after having been found guilty by a jury at trial back in 1992.  The trial stemmed from a 1991 fire in the Willingham household in which Willingham's three daughters died.

The case came into national prominence after Willingham's execution when Texas governor Rick Perry tried to bury it.  A state commission on arson was about to conclude that Texas forensic "experts" (who were nothing but glorified firefighters) were dead wrong when they concluded that the fire was intentionally set.  Perry basically replaced the commission, rather than have that report released.  And that's who most people came to know about Willingham in the first place.

Last night, PBS' Frontline did a nice expose on the Willingham case and execution, interviewing some of the key players.  It was bone-chilling.

I was reminded of the documentary The Thin Blue Line, which focussed on another man — Randall Dale Adams — who was facing execution in Texas.  Basically, the police decided they had their man early on, and built a largely circumstantial case around it, using very thin evidence.  As a result of the film, Randall Adams was freed and pardoned.

The scary thing about The Thin Blue Line was the interviews with Texas law enforcement.  One of them said, "When we interviewed Adams at the police stations, he kept saying he was innocent.  It was like, he was almost OVER-emphasizing he was innocent".  As it turned out, Adams WAS innocent, which probably explains why he was so emphatic.  But at the time, oddly, the fact that he "over"emphasized his innocence was looked upon as proof of guilt.

There was a lot of that in last night's Frontline documentary about Willingham.  How he (supposedly) didn't show enough remorse for the death of his children, etc.  The fact that he occasionally abused his wife.  That's what made people think he was guilty.

But was there evidence that Willingham actually set the fire that killed his three children?  Not according to the best experts in the country.  Did he have a motive?  No.

Anyway, if it re-airs, I suggest you take a gander.  This type of thing happens all the time in this country, especially in Texas.

“It Gets Better” Broadway-Style

Sometimes these celebrity sing-along-for-a-good-cause deals can be embarrassingly bad or awkward — pale self-parodying imitations of "We Are The World".  

But I find this one to be pretty good, if only because it doesn't contain Broadway's big stars — instead, it's mostly people you've never heard of with tons of talent and singing their hearts out.

Also the song rocks:

 

Idiots

Down the road:

MIDWAY, N.C. (WGHP) – A Davidson County man says he found Jesus Christ in a tree branch.

After his landlord cut up a branch that fell from his tree, Bill Johnson took a closer look and couldn't believe what he saw.

Johnson says the image on the branch appears to be Jesus Christ dressed in a robe and holding out his hand.

"First thing crossed my mind was, 'that's a picture of Jesus'. So I go in and get my wife," said Johnson.

Johnson didn't tell his wife about his religious discovery. Instead, he just showed her the limb of the tree.

"First thing she said was, 'that looks like Jesus'," said Johnson.

Johnson put polyurethane of the branch to preserve the image and believes the discovery was a sign that he needs to return to attending church on Sunday more regularly.

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Yes, it looks like Jesus.  It also looks like the head of a duck, like a duck puppet.  And about 100 other things.  

But no.  It's Jesus coming to this guy in the middle of a tree, telling him he needs to go to church more.

PT Barnum lived in the wrong century.

Quote Of The Day

This is another one of those stories about people taking their anti-government ideology so far that they really reveal themselves as idiots.

But there's a bit of a back story.

It takes place in or near Concord, New Hampshire, where I grew up.  The story involves Johnathon Irish and Stephanie Taylor, a young redneck couple in Epsom, New Hampshire.  On October 6, Stephanie Taylor gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter.  On October 7, the New Hampshire child services people came in and took the newborn daughter under protective custody, based in part on an affidavit from law enforcement.

The affidavit pointed out that Johnathon Irish had a long record of violence and abuse, i.e., that he had abused Taylor, as well as Taylor's two other children from another marriage.  Also, Irish failed to complete a domestic violence course as ordered previously by the state.  

Mom was no prize either: a hearing was held last month to terminate Taylor's parental rights over her two older children.

Also, Irish and Taylor stockpiled lost of guns and ammunition.

So, all things considered, a judge decided that the child services people ought to get in there and look after the newborn baby.

Oh, but another thing the affidavit mentioned?  It mentioned, in passing, that Irish was a member of the Oath Keepers.

The Oath Keepers is a Las Vegas-based group that describes itself as an affiliation of current and retired military and law enforcement officials who promise to fight government tyranny. Members of the Oath Keepers swear to uphold their oaths to protect the Constitution. Members also pledge 10 specific vows, including, "We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps."

In other words, the Oath Keepers are paranoid kooks, so it comes as no surprise that they all assumed that social workers took Irish's child because and solely because he was a member of the Oath Keepers.  You can imagine all the back-and-forth on the fringe Internet boards.

So, these past couple weeks, the Oath Keepers and other libertarians have been rallying at the Concord Hospital or various courthouses, decrying the Irish incident and how it foretells that Obama is coming to steal their babies or some such nonsense.

I'll let the Concord Monitor pick it up from here, because this is how we get to the stupid quote of the day:

The internet played a big role in rallying support for the couple. A Facebook page dedicated to the couple spurred the 20 or so protesters at the hospital yesterday. Many held signs, and conversational references to the Nazis and Stalin-era Russia were common. Someone brought poster board and markers for sign-making; one man held a sign that read "Infant Political Prisoner."

A woman who only identified herself as Tiffany held a sign that read "I am an Oathkeeper. Are you gonna take my kids too?"

Tiffany said she had joined the group only yesterday morning, after hearing of Irish's story.

"This is supposed to be America, not Nazi Germany," said Tiffany. "You can't have your children stolen."

Amanda Biondolillo, a Concord woman who came with her young daughter, said she didn't think the state should get involved in family issues at all, even if there is reason to suspect abuse.

"The family should be left to resolve it on their own," Biondolillo said. "Or private enterprise – private companies can contact the family and say, 'We heard you were hitting your kids. Can you stop that?' "

Now, I understand anti-government sentiment, and I don't think that government is always the answer.

But as a matter of social policy, does anyone think that issues of domestic abuse should be left to the family?  Doesn't that make about as much sense as letting arsonists run the fire department?

And Amanda's alternative suggestion — let private enterprise handle it — is even stupider.  How exactly would that business work?  

*Knock, knock*

"Yes?"

"Hi, Mr. Irish.  I'm from Stop Beating Your Wife and Kids, Inc.  Here's my card."

"What do you want?"

"We heard you were hitting your kids.  Could you stop that?" [That's a direct quote from Amanda Biondolillo]

"What?"

"You should stop beating your wife and kids."

"Um, okay."

"Thanks.  Here's my bill."

These people don't even stop to think about what their political beliefs are before they start opening their mouths to demonstrate their ignorance.

Bonus crackpot quote (from the same article):

"We've got Nazis in our airports," said David Oliver, an Exeter man. "They're restricting our movement, trying to chill everybody by stealing babies."

No David.  They're really not.

Friday Funnies

Let's start off with this typical story.  You're a Russian cop, and you pull over a guy's car, ask for the license and registration, but then you have to jump into the guy's car when a pack of Russian wolves come out of nowhere.


Russian Cop Hops In Car To Avoid Wolves – Watch more Funny Videos 

Now, since it's topical….

Chile_mine_rescue_playset
And finally, Casablanca re-edited to take out the smoking scenes in order to comply with MPAA regulations…

 

“We Have A Winner” — A Correction

Earlier this week, I posted about Rich Iott, who is the Republican candidate for Congress for some district in Ohio.  And the reason I posted about him was because he and his friends like to dress up in Nazi uniforms, which is something a candidate for high office probably shouldn't do (IMHO).

And just to remind you, I posted a picture.

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Well, Iott's campaign team wants the public to be aware of a distinction.

"Rich Iott doesn't have an anti-Semitic bone in his body," [said Iott's spokesperson], who sought to distinguish between a Nazi uniform and an SS uniform, which he said is what Iott is wearing in the now-famous image.

The Nazis were Adolf Hitler's party — and became shorthand for the German military under his rule — while the SS was an elite squadron of soldiers and law enforcers responsible for a variety of war crimes.

So first of all, I erred when I wrote that Iott was wearing a Nazi solder's uniform.  He wasn't.  It was an SS uniform.  He wasn't posing as one of Hitler's regular soldiers, but as a member of Hitler's elite soldiers and law enforcers.  Specifically, Iott engages in re-enactments where he portrays himself as a member of the Waffen SS — specifically, an SS officer in The Wiking SS.  The Wiking SS was part of the 5th Panzer Division that fought bloody battles on the Eastern Front.  That division was responsible for rounding up Ukranian and Hungarian Jews and murdering more than 700 in games of bloody and torturous inhumanity. Joseph Mengele was a member of that unit.  And this candidate for the U.S. Senate likes to dress up as one of them and not as a regular Nazi.  So I stand corrected.

Secondly, I may not be the world's highest authority on politics, but it seems to me that if your campaign spokesman is making the distinction between whether the candidate was wearing a Nazi uniform or an SS uniform, it's probably time to fold it in.

UFOs DID Arrive Yesterday

Yesterday, I made a short tongue-in-cheek post about how some Air Force dude predicted  that yesterday was the date for "a fleet of extraterrestrial vehicles to hover for hours over the earth's principal cities".

Ha, ha.  Big joke, right?

Except….

A silvery vision of a dozen balloon-like dots hovering in yesterday's clear-blue sky over West 23rd Street had thousands speculating the mysterious objects might be UFOs.

Callers began phoning the NYPD and Federal Aviation Administration at 1:30 p.m. with reports of the strange, silver objects high in the sky.

"Some people saw something described as yellow with blue lights surrounding it," said FAA spokesman Jim Peters. He added that if the objects were weather balloons — as some suggested — his agency had no prior notification they'd be launched.

Yes, there's video:

 

…and local news coverage:

 

My guess?  Balloons.  Yes, balloons over NYC.  Not exactly novel.

Kennedy vs. Foxx

Digby thinks he "may just pull this thing out".  Well, I hate to be pessimistic, but Billy Kennedy's chances against Virginia Foxx in NC-05 are just about zero: he's down 30 points in the polls. 

I will say this though: he's running a great campaign.    

Granted, he's up against Virginia "Matthew Shepard was a hoax" Foxx, but this is North Carolina, y'all, where crazy isn't necessarily an impediment to high office.  

But that doesn't detract from the fact that Kennedy is running like a winner.  So much so that the Winston-Salem Journal, which tends to back Republicans, actually endorsed Kennedy over Foxx.

He also did well in the debate earlier this week.  Here's a zinger he got in:

 

Now, I could be wrong abut Kennedy's chances, so I encourage everyone to vote, even if chances are bleak.  It's important to vote against the insanity of the right wing.  

Shut Up And Spin The Wheel, Pat

2010-03-30-pat_sajak It's very common to see conservatives take potshots at "Hollywood liberals", i.e., how Hollywood is full of liberals.  Even if it is true — and it probably is — I never quite understood the reason why it generates such outrage.  So what?  Do you hear progressives whine and moan about how country music is full of conservatives?

Anyway, I've always dismissed the Hollywood criticism as envy of some sort.  I mean "envy" makes sense when the only Hollywood people who support your cause are Chuck "Has Been" Norris, Pat "Who?" Boone, Steve "The Baldwin Who Can't Act" Baldwin, and, most recently, Clint "I Get Cameos In My Brother's Movies" Howard.

Heavy hitters all.

But let's not forgot another one — Pat Sajak — who takes time from his busy wheel-spinning schedule to pen a brief article for the National Review.  

The subject?  

Disenfranchising certain law-abiding tax-paying Americans.

He's in favor of it.

Oh, he denies it by saying…

I’m not suggesting that public employees should be denied the right to vote…

… but that's the kind of phrase that is immediately followed by a "but", and indeed it is.

Pat's argument is this: people who are employed by the government have a conflict of interest when they get to vote for who is in government, or get to vote on ballot initiatives which concern them.  For example, should public school teachers be allowed to vote on a ballot initiative which caps the salaries of public school teachers?

No, says Pat.  They have a conflict of interest.  After all…

None of my family and friends is allowed to appear on Wheel of Fortune.  

Right.  Because voter participation in their democratic government is just like a game show.

Then Pat continues with his comparison:

Same goes for my kids’ teachers or the guys who rotate my tires. If there’s not a real conflict of interest, there is, at least, the appearance of one.

Well, what about the public school teacher example?  Can their kids, friends, or families vote on that ballot initiative? 

Make no mistake about it: this is batshit crazy.  Banning Americans from voting just because they might benefit from the outcome runs counter to the whole purpose of elections in the first place.  

I mean, what's next?  Suppose a candidate comes along with a plan to lower taxes on people making over $250,000 a year.  Should we not let those wealthy voters vote, simply because they might benefit from such a law?  Hmmmmm.  Wait a minute…..

No, seriously… DUMB idea.  And try getting that past the U.S. soldiers.  Yes, they are public employees, too.

Shooting A Guy In The Face Means Never Having To Say “I’m Sorry”

The Washington Post caught up with Harry Whittington, the guy that VP Dick Cheney shot in the face with 300 pellets of buckshot at close range five years ago, and uncovers this little tidbit at the end:

[D]id Cheney ever say in private what he didn't say in public? Did he ever apologize?

Whittington, who has been talking about his life and career for hours, suddenly draws silent.

"I'm not going to go into that," he says sharply after a short pause.

Harry Whittington is too gracious to say it out loud, but he doesn't dispute the notion, either.

Nearly five years on, he's still waiting for Dick Cheney to say he's sorry.

Prick.

Obama Administration To Challenge Court’s Rejection of DOMA

Recently, a federal judge ruled that DOMA, the federal law that says that marriage is only between a man and a woman, unconstitutional.

Today, the Justice Department filed an appeal of that decision, which is bad.

But they did in it a half-assed way, which is good:

Although Obama opposes the law, a Justice Department spokeswoman said that the administration was defending the statute because it was obligated to defend federal laws when challenged in court.

"As a policy matter, the President has made clear that he believes DOMA is discriminatory and should be repealed," said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler. "The Justice Department is defending the statute, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged."

I think that's the right tone.

UFOs To Arrive Today

Look up:

A newly-published 352-page book by a retired Air Force officer, Stanley A. Fulham, tentatively predicts October 13, 2010 as the date for a massive UFO display over the world’s principal cities. According to the author, the aliens will neither land nor communicate on that date; they are aware from eons of experience with other planets in similar conditions their sudden intervention would cause fear and panic.

Read the whole thing.

A Couple Petty Grievances About The Chilean Miner Rescue, As It Is Happening

On my phone, I saw the first one being pulled out last night.  Pretty cool, even on a phone.  When I got up this morning, they had ten out, so it all looks pretty good for a completely happy ending.  But I have a few observations:

(1)  They just pulled up miner #12 and I notice there's a little ennui on the surface.  Apparently, the thrill has worn off.  Which kind of sucks for the future to-be-rescued miners.  Will anybody even notice when miner #33 comes out?  Will they all have gone home but for a few stragglers?

(2)  I find it… strange… that some family members choose to video-record their spouse/father emerging from the hole, rather than just watch it in, you know, real life.  It's more of a comment on society and technology — we sometimes gravitate to looking at significant moments through a camera lens, rather that just taking it in the old fashioned way… with our eyes.  Bizarre.

(3)  Jesus Christ, Michelle Malkin will take any opportunity to wave the American flag.  Yes, Michelle, it's all about us.

UPDATE:  From the Onion

Trapped Chilean Miners Considering How Funny It Would Be If They All Died Right As Rescuers Completed Tunnel

COPIAPO, CHILE—With their rescue imminent, the conversation of the 33 miners trapped in the Copiapó copper and gold mine turned to how hilarious it would be if they valiantly endured 68 days trapped underground only to die right when their path to salvation was finished. "Oh man, what if the drill hit a methane pocket above our heads and we all exploded just before they reached us?" Miner Carlos Bugueño Alfaro said as his malnourished comrades struggled to hold back giggles. "Like, right when we’re moments away from getting out? Can you imagine? People would be so freaked out. Or what if we all simultaneously dropped dead right this second from copper toxicity?" This last suggestion reportedly resulted in the miners collapsing into a fit of laughter, which then gave way to a hush as the first pebbles broke loose from the ceiling and the drill penetrated their refuge.

We Have A Winner

Iott-atlantic-watermark-cropped-proto-custom_2 The Tea Party crowd sure does bring an odd assortment of politicians to the forefront.  You know what I mean — politicians who are people "just like you and me".  

Which is true. I know I'm always having to disavow being a witch.

But in the race to crazy, the winner has to be Ohio Congressional candidate Rich Iott.

Iott likes to dress up like a Nazi.

Yes, it is a rather unusual hobby of his… dressing up as a member of the 5th SS Wiking Panzer Division, a unit in the German army during World War II.  And now Iott has to go on teevee and explain why he belongs to a group that honors German soldiers.

Just like you and me.

I, For One, Welcome Our New Robot Chauffeur Overlords

The New York Times informs us that cars that drive themselves are here, and they work.  Google has been perfecting several self-driving cars for a while now.  The cars have already driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and over 140,000 miles with “only occasional human control.” Yes, engineers have been in the cars the whole time, and paying attention, but it’s clear where this is going.

The robo-cars operate by driving themselves while interfacing with a human driver using speech, warning the human of possible problems. The human can take over if needed. The article discusses some of the problems inherent in having robots drive cars (like who’s liable when there’s an accident), and notes that they’re not ready for the mass market yet.

From the article:

Robot drivers react faster than humans, have 360-degree perception and do not get distracted, sleepy or intoxicated, the engineers argue. They speak in terms of lives saved and injuries avoided — more than 37,000 people died in car accidents in the United States in 2008. The engineers say the technology could double the capacity of roads by allowing cars to drive more safely while closer together. Because the robot cars would eventually be less likely to crash, they could be built lighter, reducing fuel consumption. But of course, to be truly safer, the cars must be far more reliable than, say, today’s personal computers, which crash on occasion and are frequently infected….

During a half-hour drive beginning on Google’s campus 35 miles south of San Francisco last Wednesday, a Prius equipped with a variety of sensors and following a route programmed into the GPS navigation system nimbly accelerated in the entrance lane and merged into fast-moving traffic on Highway 101, the freeway through Silicon Valley.

It drove at the speed limit, which it knew because the limit for every road is included in its database, and left the freeway several exits later. The device atop the car produced a detailed map of the environment.

The car then drove in city traffic through Mountain View, stopping for lights and stop signs, as well as making announcements like “approaching a crosswalk” (to warn the human at the wheel) or “turn ahead” in a pleasant female voice….

Read the rest and check out the video.

The Recession Is Over….

on Wall Street, that is:

Pay on Wall Street is on pace to break a record high for a second consecutive year, according to a study conducted by The Wall Street Journal.

About three dozen of the top publicly held securities and investment-services firms — which include banks, investment banks, hedge funds, money-management firms and securities exchanges — are set to pay $144 billion in compensation and benefits this year, a 4% increase from the $139 billion paid out in 2009.

 

The Ugly Interpretation

Kevin McCollugh over at Townhall.com is particularly vile when discussing the Tyler Clementi suicide:

The assumptions made on many of these broadcast, print, and web based reports follow the idea that Tyler felt so bullied by the roommate and girlfriend who evilly and immorally taped him, that he had no option but to turn to suicide. This has been quickly adopted as the authoritative version of what happened and the need for psychologically profiling both the bullies who did it and other youths who engage in homosexual behavior.

Of course there are other issues that could be examined. Perhaps Tyler had a genuinely sensitive conscience, perhaps he had great respect for both his family and his God, perhaps he felt ashamed of actions because he knew they were immoral. Hence a completely different narrative could be told, one that encourages young people towards moral choices.

In other words, young Mr. Clementi committed suicide not because his sex act was taped and broadcast, but because he realized that his (gay) sex acts were immoral.

Or, in even shorter words, if Mr. Clementi hadn't sinned, he wouldn't be dead.

So the lesson, I guess, that from this "Christian" is: "Don't be gay, kids.  Or you'll end up jumping off a bridge, too."

Glee Breaks Beatles Record

The show Glee has six new songs on the Billboard Top 100 this week, songs that were all part of last week's show.  That makes a total of 75 "singles" on the Top 100 for the show.  That's more singles than the Beatles*, who had 71.

Of course, it's not the same.  If the Beatles released all their songs as singles, instead of in album format (with two or three songs released as singles), then they would have had hundreds of songs on the Billboard Top 100.  And also:

For as many of them as have made it onto the chart, Glee's covers haven't stayed there long: they've accumulated just 105 weeks combined, whereas the Beatles' 71 singles spent 617 weeks on the chart.

Yup.  Apples and oranges.

And I want you to digest that number.  75 singles for Glee, which stay on the chart for a combined total of 105 weeks.  That means that most Glee singles are on the chart for one week only.  Whereas the average Beatle single was on the chart for almost nine weeks.

*The Beatles were a popular singing group during the 1960s.  It consisted of Paul McCartney, who is still alive, as well as John Lennon and George Harrison, both of whom are not.  And a fourth guy.  They were the most popular group of all time, if you were born before 1980.  Ask your grandparents.

Victory For NC ACLU In Body Piercing Case

Honestly, I think the North Carolina chapter of the ACLU has only one attorney, Kathleen Lewis Parker (who I crossed paths with last year when a friend's daughter was barred from creating a gay student organization at a local high school).

The NC chapter of the ACLU is a good organization, but woefully underfunded.  So it can't do all the good things it would like to do.

But it is nice when they have successful moments.  Today, they got a nice win:

RALEIGH, N.C. – A federal judge ordered a North Carolina school to admit a 14-year-old high school student suspended for wearing a nose piercing she says is part of her religion, and the teenager was headed to science class Friday afternoon.

U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard announced his decision allowing Ariana Iacono to return to school during a hearing Friday.

"We are thrilled that Ariana can return to her studies," her mother, Nikki Iacono, said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union. "Ariana was an honor roll student in middle school, and she is eager to get back to her classes and continue with her education as soon as possible."

A call to Nikki Iacono by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.

The ACLU file a lawsuit Wednesday claiming school officials violated Iacono's constitutional religious liberty rights. The freshman has been suspended repeatedly since classes started four weeks ago. She and her mother, Nikki, claim the nose piercing is part of their faith, not a fashion statement.

The Johnston County school system has a dress code banning facial piercings, but allows for exemptions based on religious beliefs.

Ariana and her mother belong to a church called the Church of Body Modification, which sees piercings and tattoos as religious devotion. The church has 3,500 members nationwide and was incorporated in Pennsylvania in July 2008.

Personally, I would have liked to seen this case won on free speech grounds, rather than religious freedom grounds.  It's not like the piercing was to such a degree that it created a distraction to other students.

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On the other hand, what was pretty ugly about the case was that the school officials made Ariana and her family have to defend their religion — having to prove that it was a bona fide religion and that they were truly members of that religion.  Can you say "religious test" anyone?  (The full allegations are in the complaint here - PDF).

Now, the judge's order is only temporary, but it's still a big win.  She'll go back to school, the world will not come to an end, and she will presumably win the full case (unless, of course, the school decides to drop all disciplinary action).

Judge Jails Lawyer When Lawyer Refuses To Say The Pledge Of Allegiance

Danny Lampley was jailed by Chancery Court Judge Littlejohn in Tupelo for failing to recite the pledge of allegiance in open court earlier this week.  Danny was one of the local lawyers who represented the plaintiff in the Pontotoc school prayer case years ago, working with the ACLU and People for the American Way.

The order incarcerating him provides:

BE IT REMEMBERED, this date, the Court having ordered all present in the courtroom to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegience, and having found that Danny Lampley, Attorney at Law, failed and refused to do so, finds said Danny Lampley to be in criminal contempt of court.

The order states that for this, Danny Lampley “is hereby ordered to be incaraerated in that Lee County jail.” The order continues:

IT IS FURTHER ORDED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED, that Danny Lampley shall purge himself of said criminal contempt by complying with the order of this Court by standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in open court.

Here’s a copy of Lampley contempt order.

For what it is worth, the judge is clearly wrong here.  The Constitution protects freedom of speech, which means (in part) that the government (here, the court) cannot order you to give an oath or pledge.  That is forced speech.

Oh, this happened in Mississippi.  Of course.

Captain Jack Sparrow Shows Up For School Mutiny

Not long ago, a nine-year-old girl attending Meridien Primary School outside London, wrote the following letter:

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It reads:

Captain Jack Sparrow, At Meridian Primary School, we are a bunch of budding young pirates and we were having a bit of trouble mutiny-ing against the teachers, and we'd love if you could come and help. 

Beatrice Delap, aged nine, a budding pirate.

Much to Beatrice Delap's surprise, Captain Jack Sparrow actually showed up earlier this week, as caught here by crude cell phone video:

 

Yes, that really is Johnny Depp, who went to the school on a lark (He's in London filming "Pirates of the Caribbean 4").  The school was told just ten minutes beforehand that Depp would be arriving, and shortly thereafter two blacked-out cars swept through the school gates.  Depp reportedly gave Beatrice a hug and said, "Maybe we shouldn't mutiny today 'cos there are police outside monitoring me."

World Premiere

The movie I'm in (or perhaps "of which I am on the cutting floor") premieres next month.

Hellphone-Postersm

Blurb: 

When people start dying in a small southern town, it’s up to the deputy
sheriff, her ex-fiancée, and her current boyfriend to figure out what is
happening. Little do they suspect that a vengeful spirit has possessed a
cell phone and is the cause of all the havoc. Together they must discover
the source of the mayhem and find a way to stop it before their town in
destroyed.

Maybe He’ll Stay Down There

Remember those 33 trapped Chilean miners?  Yes, they're still down there, but it looks like they'll finally be rescued early next week, perhaps even this weekend.

Miner Jonny Barrios, 50, may not be eager to come out.  Apparently, there is a virtual encampment of relatives and friends near the mine site, and his wife is dutifully there.  Unfortunately, she ran a woman who, it turns out, is Rojas' mistress.  Uh oh.