Monthly Archives: September 2011

So where can I get some awesome chicken soup to go, in the Lewisville-Clemmons area?

New Englanders put up the storm windows at the end of the baseball season. I expect that day came today. Such a sad end to a promising …

Doing the show tonight in a fog of over-the-counter cold remedies. Should be interesting.

Off to Rehearsal, “39 Steps”

Wow! Thanks all for the birthday wishes…. I’m moved and touched! Well, you all KNOW I’m a little touched…. You all are the best. And…

Off to Rehearsal, “39 Steps”

This had better not be a cold. First the foot, now the throat… What theater god have I offended?

Off to Rehearsal, “39 Steps”

That wasn’t so hard Red Sox, was it?

“In the time it takes us to look bring the lies, we could be sailing through each other’s eyes. And in those stolen moments when love is…

Off to Rehearsal, “39 Steps”

Laundry. As if I didn’t have enough to do watching the Red Sox choke today.

“I am the one who waited
And now you act like you just don’t give a damn.
Like you never knew who I am.”

Off to Potential 39 Steps Rehearsal

Off to Rehearsal, “39 Steps”

Thanks to John Hodgman, I just discovered www.ifttt.com. Pretty cool if you’re a geek.

Support The Troops

In every GOP debate, it seems, the audience steals the show with their insane outbursts.

Two weeks ago, debate attendees cheered executions. Last week, some in the audience backed letting uninsured Americans die. And last night, the audience booed a U.S. Army soldier fighting in Iraq.

 

It's funny about these debates — you learn more about Republican debate audiences than you do about the candidates.

Elizabeth Warren on “Class Warfare”

(Extended) quote of the day:

“I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever'.  No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.

“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Man, does this woman need to be in the Senate or what???

Facebook Urges Users To Use Google Plus

Well, what else can account for their recent changes?

Take a look at your Facebook page today, and let us know if you laughed or smashed your screen. Facebook has changed its look, adding a “top story” listing of the newest postings by your online friends, and the reaction is … well, not warm.

The” top stories” on each person’s page, automatically generated by Facebook, are marked with a with a blue triangle. But some users are already taking exception to being told what they should consider the highest priority posts from their friends.  One annoyed comment on the Facebook blog: “Quite frankly I don’t want Facebook deciding who is most important in my life. I want my news feed to just go chronologically and if I want to hide posts from someone, I will. Stop changing.”

On Facebook’s blog this morning, people were voting against the changes by a 2-to-1 margin.

“Starting today, it will be easier to keep up with the people in your life no matter how frequently or infrequently you’re on Facebook,” wrote Mark Tonkelowitz, an engineering manager at Facebook, in a post on the company’s blog.

The idea, Facebook says, is that if you’ve been away from the site for a few days, you won’t be in danger of missing the most important posts friends put up. Though Facebook hasn’t provided details on how, its software will figure out which posts are most likely to be of interest to you, and keep them up at the top.

“News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper,” said Tonkelowitz. “You won’t have to worry about missing important stuff. All your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top.”

The changes:

  • New posts that went up since you last logged on are marked with small blue triangles in the upper left, as if you had folded down the corner.
  • There’s a moving “ticker” along the right margin: “See what your friends are up to right now.”
  • Photos are larger.

Do you like that? Not everyone does.

The “top story” on my own page was a one-liner from an old college friend: “Packing my FB bags and headed for Google+. This sucks.”

 

Facebook Urges Users To Use Google Plus

Well, what else can account for their recent changes?

Take a look at your Facebook page today, and let us know if you laughed or smashed your screen. Facebook has changed its look, adding a “top story” listing of the newest postings by your online friends, and the reaction is … well, not warm.

The” top stories” on each person’s page, automatically generated by Facebook, are marked with a with a blue triangle. But some users are already taking exception to being told what they should consider the highest priority posts from their friends.  One annoyed comment on the Facebook blog: “Quite frankly I don’t want Facebook deciding who is most important in my life. I want my news feed to just go chronologically and if I want to hide posts from someone, I will. Stop changing.”

On Facebook’s blog this morning, people were voting against the changes by a 2-to-1 margin.

“Starting today, it will be easier to keep up with the people in your life no matter how frequently or infrequently you’re on Facebook,” wrote Mark Tonkelowitz, an engineering manager at Facebook, in a post on the company’s blog.

The idea, Facebook says, is that if you’ve been away from the site for a few days, you won’t be in danger of missing the most important posts friends put up. Though Facebook hasn’t provided details on how, its software will figure out which posts are most likely to be of interest to you, and keep them up at the top.

“News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper,” said Tonkelowitz. “You won’t have to worry about missing important stuff. All your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top.”

The changes:

  • New posts that went up since you last logged on are marked with small blue triangles in the upper left, as if you had folded down the corner.
  • There’s a moving “ticker” along the right margin: “See what your friends are up to right now.”
  • Photos are larger.

Do you like that? Not everyone does.

The “top story” on my own page was a one-liner from an old college friend: “Packing my FB bags and headed for Google+. This sucks.”

 

Netflix Is Fucking With Its Business Model Again

Not content to remain successful, Netflix has decided to split its DVD services from its streaming service:

The mail order plan will be renamed "Qwikster." In a few weeks, Netflix subscribers who want to get DVDs by mail will go to a separate website to access Qwikster. The streaming business will continue to be called Netflix.

Members who subscribe to both services will have two entries on their credit card statements. Instead of Netflix, the distinctive red envelopes will now say Qwikster.

It's a risky bet. The amount of streaming content the company offers is still far less than the number of DVDs in its catalog. And competition, from Hulu, Amazon, Coinstar's Redbox kiosks and other services, is growing. Netflix could even alienate customers further by asking them to now deal with two separate websites and accounts instead of just one.

I like (and use) just the streaming service, but I can see why those who use the DVD service as well are annoyed.

 

Nanotechnology Is Cool

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have created 'microbots' that can manipulate tiny objects:

The robots, which are only half a millimeter wide, are controlled via magnetic fields and can perform simple tasks such as opening their jaws or moving around a container of liquid.

They are among the smallest robots ever created.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), which operates Argonne, the new robots demonstrate the ability to manipulate materials on a miniature level.

The creation of the robots, which are self-assembling and self-repairing, was funded by a DOE project to design active self-assembled materials.

Awesome.

 

My, Aren’t We Productive!

Every so often, I come across a statistic that blows my mind.

Today was such a day.  You ready?

Take all the goods and services produced in the world since the year 1 A.D. up to the present day.  The output of goods and services is a rough measure of economic output.

Did you know that almost 25% of all the economic output since 1 A.D was produced in this century, i.e., 2001 to 2010?  

That's pretty amazing.  In ten years, the world has produced one-quarter of ALL the economic output since the beginning of time.

Here's a graph:

Economichistory

NYT Looks At Bachmann Messaging Problem

You see, one could go with the assumption that Michelle Bachmann is batshit insane.  I mean, that's my theory.

But the New York Times is better than me, I guess.  They dug hard to found out exactly why Bachmann says the stupid things she says.

Part of it, it seems, is her staff.  They tell her stupid things, like when she spoke in Manchester, NH, and made reference to the battle of Lexington and Concord, which she thought had something to do with the state capital of New Hampshire.

But then we find this:

People close to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mrs. Bachmann is often influenced by the last person she speaks with on an issue rather than maintaining discipline in communicating a message.

And that explains it.  It explains how she would go on national television claiming that an HPV vaccine causes mental retardation, based on the fact that some woman she just met told her that.

It explains the time when she accused President Obama of planning a trip to India that would cost taxpayers “$200 million a day” and included more than 870 “five-star hotel rooms.” It was, of course, totally false.  But what made her think it was true?  Her source was apparently an unconfirmed report in an Indian newspaper citing an anonymous official.  She read it; she ran with it.

There's a word for someone who believes everything she hears and reads: a rube.  It certainly doesn't show "leadership" qualities.

Today’s Google Logo Explained

As most people know, the Google logo on the main Google search page is often changed to note a holiday or significant event.  

Admittedly, sometimes the occasion is a bit random… like last week, when this showed up on September 5

Freddie11_static-hp

That was to honor Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday.

And a few weeks before that, we saw

Lucilleball11-hp

in honor of Lucille Ball's 100th birthday.

Today's Google logo…

Albert_Szent_Gyorgyi-2011-hp

is probably the most random and obscure of any Google logo…. ever.

It is there to celebrate the 118th (118th?) birthday of Albert Szent-Györgyi.

WHO??!?

Szent-Györgyi was a Hungarian physiologist and Nobel laureate who, in the 1930s, discovered Vitamin C. He would later research muscle movement and development and was active in the Hungarian resistance during World War II.

Vitamin C…. hence, the oranges.

Worth noting: Delicious citrus fruits aside, Szent-Györgyi first extracted Vitamin C from paprika.

Anyway, that's the 411.  Enjoy other quirky Google logos here.

Pat Robertson: Divorcing Someone With Alzheimer’s Is Okay, Because They’re Kinda Dead Already

Compassionate conservatism and family values:

During the portion of the show where the one-time Republican presidential candidate takes questions from viewers, Robertson was asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from the incurable neurological disorder.

"I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her," Robertson said.

The chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which airs the "700 Club," said he wouldn't "put a guilt trip" on anyone who divorces a spouse who suffers from the illness, but added, "Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer."

***

Terry Meeuwsen, Robertson's co-host, asked him about couples' marriage vows to take care of each other "for better or for worse" and "in sickness and in health."

"If you respect that vow, you say 'til death do us part,'" Robertson said during the Tuesday broadcast. "This is a kind of death."

Who Gets The Blame?

GOP and Tea Party supporters are giddy about the recent GOP wins in congressional special elections, as well as Obama high dispproval numbers (he's at a 55% disapproval rate).

To them, I would point out some comparative numbers.

First of all, Bush's disapproval rate at the end of his presidency was %69.  Obama is nowhere near that number.

But more importantly, the right should take note of a poll just released by Bloomberg.  45 percent of those surveyed said they blame Republicans on Capitol Hill for the problems inside the Beltway, while 39 percent said they believe the fault is with Obama or Democrats in Congress.

So who is playing a losing game?

The GOP’s Plan To Win The White House in 2012: Change The Rules

What do you do if you aren't winning and know you can't win?  Change the rules.

That is exactly what the GOP strategy appears to be when it comes to the 2012 presidential election.  Under the current system, Obama — even a relatively unpopular Obama like now — will probably win re-election (although, of course, once he starts campaigning, his numbers will go up).  So the GOP is doing all it can do… to change the current system.

And here's the scary part: what they are doing is legal.  The scheme works like this:

Every political junkie knows that the presidential election isn't a truly national contest; it's a state-by-state fight, and each state is worth a number of electoral votes equal to the size of the state's congressional delegation. (The District of Columbia also gets three votes.) There are 538 electoral votes up for grabs; win 270, and you're the president.

Here's the rub, though: Each state gets to determine how its electoral votes are allocated. Currently, 48 states and DC use a winner-take-all system in which the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state gets all of its electoral votes. Under the Republican plan—which has been endorsed by top Republicans in both houses of the state's legislature, as well as the governor, Tom Corbett—Pennsylvania would change from this system to one where each congressional district gets its own electoral vote. (Two electoral votes—one for each of the state's two senators—would go to the statewide winner.)

So, by taking away the winner-takes-all system in Pennsylvania and a few key Democratic states (i.e., Michigan), and perhaps with a healthy amount of gerrymandering (which Republicans do well) within those states, Republicans can essentially rack up electoral votes that they wouldn't have under the current system.

Keep on eye out.  More to come.

Samaritans

You know, I heard about this on the radio, and dismissed it as some sensationalist story.

But honestly, when you see the video, it is pretty sensational.

The background.  Car and motorcycle crash.  Motorcyclist is trapped under the car, which is on fire.  Bystanders lift car to rescue motorcyclist.

 

New York Ninth

Last night, in a special vote to replace the seat left vacant by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D), the Ninth Congressional District of New York elected Bob Turner, a Republican.

Anyone who thinks this bodes badly for Obama in 2012 in engaging in wishful thinking.  While it is true that the New York Ninth District typically leans Democratic, it should be known that all the districts in New York City lean Democratic, and the Ninth District is the least Democratic-leaning.

The Ninth District encompasses south Brooklyn and south centreal Queens.  Anyone even remotely familiar with the area will recognize that those neighborhoods are overwheming Orthodox Jews, who have a mere 13% approval rating for Obama.  (It should come as no surprise that Orthodox Jews aren't big fans of the schwartzas, you know?)

But the rest of the country doesn't vote like the Orthodox Jews of Queens and Brooklyn, which is why it is simply laughable to suggest that this spells bad news for Obama (not to mention the fact that the election is, in the political timespan, light years away).  

Poll after poll shows Obama beating any of the GOP leading candidates by as much as 11 points.  And he's not even out there campaigning yet.  GOP pundits know this, which is why the dishonest GOP pundits are going to try to make the NY 9th win bigger than it actually is.

On the other hand, it remains true that… as long as the economy stays bad — or get worse — that spells bad news for Obama, generally speaking.  But these elections in and of themselves don't speak to the economic outlook a year from now.

And The Anti-Gay Amendment Passes The NC Senate

Predictably.

But North Carolina state senator Doug Berger (D) got in some good words.  He compared the state’s proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage to Nazi Germany during this afternoon’s debate. “I believe that if we pass this motion to concur, we are essentially putting a pink triangle into our state constitution,” he warned:

BERGER: In Nazi Germany, some of you may not realize that Adolf Hitler came to power through the ballot box and even though he was elected by the people, he was able to use the instruments of power to take away the rights of individuals….[I]f you were gay, you were required to wear a pink triangle to single that you were a member of that despised group. Now, I believe that if we pass this motion to concur, we are essentially putting a pink triangle into our state constitution.

Watch:

 

But the bill passed anyway, 30-16, and now will be on the May ballot.

Michelle Bachmann Kills Little Girls

I poke fun at her a lot, but her stupidity has an evil streak.  To explain, I'll have to put in some background.

HPV is an acronym for human papillomavirus, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “the most common sexually transmitted infection.” Some twenty million Americans carry the virus and there are about six million new cases each year. Most people never even know they have it, and simply fight it off with a normal immune-system response. But for some ten thousand women each year, HPV causes cervical cancer.

On February 2, 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed an executive order requiring Texas girls to receive a vaccine, which prevents the strand of HPV that leads to cervical cancer, before entering the sixth grade.  Even though "mandatory", the law provided for an opt-out provision, if parents didn't want their daughter to get vaccinated.

But the opt-out provision wasn;t enough to prevent a backlash from the religious right, who raised the stupendously stupid (and unsupported) argument that "if you give the vaccine to young girls, they will be more inclined to have sex".  And they wanted to control everybody's daughter.

Perry refused to reverse himself, essentially arguing his critics were on the wrong side of science. “If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it, claiming it would encourage smoking?” he said a few days after signing the order.

But it didn't matter. The Texas legislature overturned the executive order.

Last night, the issue came up in the GOP Presidential Debate.  Michele Bachmann made the accusation

I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children.  And to have innocent little twelve-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It’s a violation of a liberty interest. 

That’s—little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan. They don’t get a do-over. The parents don’t get a do-over. 

She also leveled the charge that Perry only signed the order because he had been "bought out" by the pharmaceutical manufacturers that produce the vaccine.

But that's not the point.  The point is — Bachmann is claiming that the HPV vaccine, which can save women's lives, is "potentially dangerous".

Even after the debate, Bachmann upped the ante: she made an extreme claim on Fox News, saying that a mom in the debate audience told her that after receiving the vaccine her daughter became “retarded.” Bachmann repeated the claim this morning on “Today,” adding, “This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions.”

Money quote at 1:05…

 

Now, consider this for a moment.

Michelle Bachmann is getting on national television and linking a vaccine — a vaccine which can prevent cervical cancer — with mental retardation…. and it is based on something that some unknown lady told her.  And Bachmann thinks she can do better than Obama on healthcare?

In fact, the only side effects of the HPV vaccines, branded as Cervarix and Gardasil, are, according to the C.D.C., “pain and redness where the shot is given” in the arm, “itching,” and mild or moderate fever.)

This is dangerous and irresponsible.  And risks the lives of young girls whose parents, for whatever reason, will believe that Bachmann knows what she is talking about.

UPDATE:  Seriously…. how crazy of a wingnut do you have to be when even Rush Limbaugh agrees with me?

With 10.1% Unemployment In North Carolina, The NC Assembly Gets To Work

From the AP:

Ten House Democrats voted with nearly all Republicans in favoring of putting on May’s primary ballot a question that would make marriage the only domestic legal union recognized in this state. The bill passed 75-42 — above the 72 needed for any constitutional change — and is now headed for debate Tuesday in the Senate. A similar three-fifths majority would be needed.

Although 30 states have gay marriage bans in their constitutions, North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without such a marriage limit there. State law already defines marriage between a man and a woman, but amendment supporters argue traditional marriage would be better protected against potential legal challenges by same-sex couples married in six other states and the District of Columbia.

Yup.  North Carolina already defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but now gay-bashers want it in the North Carolina Constitution.

Hopefully, the Senate will reject this.  And if they don't, hopefully the people of North Carolina will reject the measure.

 

Pants On Fire!

I didn't see the GOP debate last night, but apparently it was a lie-fest.  They lied about each other; they lied about Obama.  But this has to take the prize:

Rick Perry says the 2009 stimulus 'created zero jobs'

Pants on Fire!

Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized President Barack Obama's new jobs plan during a Republican presidential debate Sept. 12, 2011, saying his previous effort "created zero jobs."

WOLF BLITZER: "Gov. Perry, the president in his new plan has a lot of tax cuts, payroll tax cuts, middle-class tax cuts, tax credits for hiring veterans, tax credits for hiring long-term unemployed people. Are those things you would support?"

RICK PERRY: "And he's going to pay for them all with raising your taxes. That is the issue. He had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs, $400-plus billion dollars in this package. And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs."

PolitiFact has regularly checked job claims about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, so this one caught our ears.

Zero?

Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts said in February 2010 that the stimulus bill "didn't create one new job." He earned a Pants on Fire.

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott said in September 2010 during his successful campaign for governor that the stimulus bill had "not created one private sector job." We smelled smoke. (We even found Billy Weston, a Florida Republican who personally credited the stimulus for his new job with a private Riviera Beach pharmaceutical manufacturer.)

So, what's the evidence? 

The White House has posted on its stimulus website a listing of jobs funded by the stimulus, breaking it down by state and congressional district. Just for the quarter April 1 to June 20, 2011, the country had a reported 555,029 full-time equivalent jobs funded by the Recovery Act.

As our colleagues at PolitiFact Virginia have pointed out, in a report released March 18, 2011, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers estimated that between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs were created or saved by the stimulus through the fourth quarter of 2010.

Separately, the council’s report cited four independent analyses by the Congressional Budget Office and three private economic analysis companies. Here’s what the groups found:

• CBO: Between 1.3 million and 3.6 million jobs saved or created.

• IHS/Global Insight: 2.45 million jobs saved or created.

• Macroeconomic Advisers: 2.3 million jobs saved or created.

• Moody’s Economy.com: 2.5 million jobs saved or created.

Note the language "created or saved," which means not every one of those more than a million jobs count as "created," as Perry said.

But certainly more than zero. Ask Billy Weston. 

Perry said "the first round of stimulus … created zero jobs." We say Pants on Fire.

The problem with this stuff is, as Twain says, a lie can get half way around the world before the truth can get its boots on.  And when you are talking about the Tea Party followers, who close their eyes and ears to the truth, false statements like that of Rick Perry have a way of taking root.

They should have insta-factchecking on these debates.  And the candidates get an electric shock if they are lying.

Anyway, here's the debate in a nutshell:

 

Here's the famous "let the uninsured die" exchange:

 

Now it's true that it was the audience reaction that seemed to approve of letting the uninsured die.  (Remember when the Republicans threw a hissy fit when Alan Grayson said their health care plan was to die quickly? A-HEM!)

It should be noted that Ron Paul's response, however, was equally bizarre:

"No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals," said Paul to additional applause. "And we've given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that's the reason the cost is so high. The cost is so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy."

That's the GOP.  Remember before what their answer was to rising medical costs?  They advocated bartering chickens for healthcare. Now they advocate that churches cover the medical expenses for long-term coma patients.

Except that churches don't do that.  And why not?  Because health care is so expensive.

These guys don't have the answers.

Country First? Nah….

So Obama rolled out a job program last week and urged Republicans to get behind it.  There wasn't a lot to complain about relating to the jobs program. 

So Republicans should be behind it, right? Let's find out:

House Republicans may pass bits and pieces of President Barack Obama's jobs plan, but behind the scenes, some Republicans are becoming worried about giving Obama any victories — even on issues the GOP has supported in the past.

And despite public declarations about finding common ground with Obama, some Republicans are privately grumbling that their leaders are being too accommodating with the president.

"Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?" said one senior House Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely. 

Can that quote be any clearer about what the GOP's aims and goals are?  They're not concerned about boosting the economy or creating jobs; they just want to undermine the president.

The correct answer to this aide's question — Americans get back to work is more important than partisan politics — never seems to enter the picture.

 

9/11 Plus Ten: Are We Done With That?

I'm not one for anniversaries of significant historical events.  Hell, I'm not one for birthdays and anniversaries of significant personal events.  But I realize that, at least in the public sphere, anniversaries serve as a nice point for us as a society to look back and reflect, hopefully impassionately, at key moments from our collective past and how, if at all, those moments charted the course of history, for better or for worse.

And ten year anniversaries mystify me even more.  The number ten is significant only because, evolutionary-wise, we were born with that many digits on our hands.  If we had only four fingers per hand, we would be using base 8 and this 9/11 rememberance overkill would have happened two years ago.

But that's not how we evolved.  So now, everyone was required to talk about 9/11 for a day or so.

Fine.

Well, I'll just come out and say it….

Ten years out, 9/11 marks the time when the United States of America got ugly.

Bin Laden/Al Qaeda took innocent human lives.  Those who perished that day ten years ago should be honored and commemorated.  It is fitting and right that we do so.

But bin Laden, in knocking over those towers, exposed — probably unintentionally — the ugly underbelly of maggots that lie just underneath the fabric of America.  I'm talking about those who have exploited, and continue to exploit, 9/11.

When the towers were first knocked down, the nation's focus was on them.  "Who were those people?"  "Where did they come from?"  And the biggest question: "Why do they hate us?"

And suddenly, it was as if the nation — and the government — woke up to discover there were bad people in this world.

I was at the World Trade Center during the first al Qaeda attack. The one people forget.  The terrorists drove a van containing a 1,500-pound urea-nitrate bomb into the basement area of the World Trade Center and then set the timer and left. The explosion rocked the World Trade Center killing six people and injuring over a thousand others. (I recount this and my 9/11/01 story in this post from 2006)

So I didn't "wake up" to a "new world" on September 11, 2001 (and if the Bush government did… well, it is only because they were asleep at the wheel).  The world did NOT change on that day.

What changed was that some people and institutions got scared.  Terrorized.  Which, if you think about it, is what terrorism is supposed to do.  

And what did those terrorized people and institutions do?  They obsessed over the "them".

And we, as a country, became divided and ugly.

Institutionally, 9/11 provided the justification for infringement on our liberties.  We (or rather, our government) condoned torture, indefinite detention, targeted assassinations, surveillance absent a warrent, profiling, data mining, and (some would say) overgroping TSA agents.  

 

Our government, which was supposed to protect us by protecting the Constitution, started chipping away at it.  And much of this continues under Obama.  So much for change.

Worse still was the fact that our government took complete advantage of the terror caused by Islamic terrorism, and channeled it into an unnecessary war that simply had nothing to do with 9/11 or its causes.  The Bush White House didn't merely lie about the non-existence of WMDS in Iraq — they simply didn't CARE.  They were going to invade Iraq, and fear was just one convenient reason allowing them to do so. The human decency and common purpose that swept over the country in the aftermath of 9/11 was quickly supplanted by a cynical political strategy to manipulate man's desire for revenge in order to advance a long held agenda.

Sure, the world is well rid of Saddam Hussein. But knowing as we now do the exaggeration of Hussein’s threat, the cost in Iraqi and American lives and the fact that none of this great splurge has bought us confidence in Iraq’s future or advanced the cause of freedom elsewhere — I think Operation Iraqi Freedom was a monumental blunder.  Furthermore, I remain convinced that had our government NOT gone after Hussein, we wouldn't find our deficit and economy so back-breaking.

But so far, I've been speaking of our institutional (governmental response) to 9/11.  To me, there has been another ugly consequence.  When al Qaeda attacked those towers, he exposed the wormy maggots that lie at the underbelly of our society: the bigots.  Sure, for a brief moment, the country was united, but it wasn't long before bigots and racists realized that they were able to openly express their hatred for Islamic people.

No, I'm not talking about the bigots and racists of the 1950's, those hooded monstrosities. I'm talking about contemporary bigots and racists — those who speak openly and freely on the rightwing blogosphere and AM talk radio.

And once their fora were established, they were able to expand the targets of their hatred.  Not content to bash Islamics and Koran-readers, they turned to other cultures.  And suddenly, immigration is a huge issue.  And gays.  And anyone who isn't like them.

Sure, this has always been a divided country, and these people have always existed in one form or another.  But 9/11, I suggest, allowed these people to come out in great numbers and cloak themselves with the American flag.  Suddenly, hating "them" (whoever "them" happens to be at any given time) was patriotic.  Well, faux patriotic.  

But you know what I'm talking about.  Remember the Dixie Chicks?  They spoke out against the Bush Administration, and were branded as "unpatriotic" by the right — the same right wing whose presumptive nominee for President in 2012 is a governor who once advocated that his state secede from the Union.

Divide the country into "us" and "them" is what they did.  Ironically, these were (and are) people who HATE New York and D.C., where the events of 9/11 actually took place.  Ironically, the victims of 9/11 were and are a testament to multiculturalism, the very things that the wingers railed against in the months and years to come.

And with yellow ribbon bumper stickers boldly placed on bumpers, the War on Terror (a stupid name if there ever was one) became a comic book epic in their collective mind, where the forces of good fight the forces of evil, and there is no nuance, no deep explanations, no attempt to understand the causes of terrorism.

 

To me, that's all that 9/11 brought about: shame.  What could have served as a Great National Unification became something, as Krugman puts it, "irrevocably poisoned" about our society and country, as the forces of division and hatred took center stage.  

Bin Laden unwittingly opened the doors for Ugly American.  Now THAT hurt.

Supporters of Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment in NC Use Lock And Key To Show How Marriages Are Consummated

House Speaker Pro Tem Dale Folwell (R) held a press yesterday alongside ultra-conservative ministers who argued against civil marriage by maintaining that homosexuality is prohibited in the Bible.  One of those ministers, Rev. Johnny Hunter, said that sexual acts between two people of the same gender are “immoral and unnatural.”  Using a lock and key, Hunter explained that only heterosexual acts allow a marriage to be properly “consummated.”

 

So I guess you can't get married in North Carolina if you don't or can't have a proper "lock" and "key"

*Facepalm*

 

Famous Plays In Space

BY CHRISTOPHER GENO

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare

(HELENA enters stage right while LYSANDER and DEMETRIUS, who have both been enchanted by the magical nectar of the love-in-idleness flower, vigorously pursue her.)

LYSANDER: …

(LYSANDER weakly reaches toward HELENA.)

HELENA: … !!

(DEMETRIUS grabs his chest in pain. HELENA sheds a tear that boils away in the cold vacuum of space.HERMIA floats in limply upstage.)

A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams

(STANLEY shouts for STELLA who has fled up the stairs to EUNICE to escape her husband’s brutality.)

STANLEY: … hhcckh… !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(He falls to his knees in despair.)

STANLEY: … hhcckh… cchrrkh… !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(STELLA appears from above and attempts to run down the stairs to embrace her husband, but an asteroid hits her squarely in the chest jettisoning her sideways. She exits stage left with the asteroid.)

The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde

(In an attempt to put his double life behind him, JACK fabricates the sudden death of his imaginary brother, Ernest. This story is complicated by the appearance of ALGERNON at the Manor House, posing as Ernest to win the heart of CECILY. The story is complicated further when a wormhole tears through the fabric of space-time and deposits ERNEST, the imaginary brother who is actually real in another dimension, into the mix.)

CECILY (wryly): Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhk.

ALGERNON (glibly): … ch.

(The couple’s witty repartee is stopped short by the lack of oxygenated blood to their brains. ERNEST, like all sentient beings from his dimension, is also a cyborg, and uses his rocket-powered feet to blast off stage right.)

 

Teabaggers To The Rescue!

Problem:  Texas wildfires!

Is It Serious?:  The worst in Texas history.  The wildfires, which can now be observed from space, move incredibly fast, as this video from the Texas Park & Wildlife people shows:

 

Have these fires been around for a while?  Oh yes, this is wildfire season – it's been going on for months.

But thank God for the TEABAGGERS TO THE RESCUE:

(Reuters) – Texas lawmakers are set to slash funding for the agency responsible for fighting wildfires in the midst of a historic wildfire season in which some 2.5 million acres have burned.

The Texas Forest Service faces almost $34 million in budget cuts over the next two years, roughly a third of the agency's total budget. The cuts are in both the House and Senate versions of the proposed state budget.

The Forest Service has about 200 firefighters and offers assistance grants to volunteer fire departments. Assistance grants are likely to take the biggest hit.

I swear to God… these people are so anti-government they're all going to end up dead.

Right Wing’s Pearl-Clutching Faux Outrage

So the right wing has its collective panties in a twist over a Labor Day speech that Teamsters President James Hoffa Jr. delivered in Detroit. 

Here's the quote from the speech that conservatives are whining about:

"Let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong! Thank you very much!"

And here's the context of the quote:

"Everybody here's got to vote. If we go back and keep the eye on the prize, let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong! Thank you very much!"

In other words, he was talking about voting. This was not a call to violence — Hoffa wants to take the far-right politicians out of office, not out of existence.

The right almost certainly realizes this, but that's not stopping them from trying to make political hay out of this.  

 

Marriage Amendment in NC

The elected proponents of bigotry are pushing for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which they hope advances at a special legislative session on September 12.  Via Equality NC, we learn that the measure does not have the support of the people:

Fifty-six percent (56%) of North Carolina voters oppose or strongly oppose an amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage, a five-point jump in the last two years, according to a February 2011 Elon University Poll, a non-partisan polling service.

The poll also showed a strong majority (57%) of North Carolinians support marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples, revealing a dramatic 9% increase in public support for marriage equality in only two years. This result mirrors two separate polls conducted by Public Policy Polling in March and July that also reveal majority support of legal recognitions for same-sex couples.

“Over the past year, Equality North Carolina has had thousands of conversations with citizens from across the state of every age, race and background who oppose this discriminatory legislation and the harm it would cause to LGBT North Carolinans, our economy and our state’s reputation,” said Alex Miller, interim executive director at Equality NC. “These polls reflect these findings and track with national data that suggests the appetite for constitutional bans of same-sex marriage is waning. When our legislators push this anti-gay marriage amendment, they do so without the approval of the majority of the citizens of our state.”

It's not going to stop the GOP from moving on this.  But it's pleasant reminder how North Carolina, which went for Obama in '08, isn't as backwater as some of its neighbors.

Obama Caves Again

Seriously, what is the point?

"Hope and change" has brought nothing but "Let's do whatever congressional Republicans want".  The latest:

Citing the financial burden in a struggling economy and after Republican protests, President Barack Obama on Friday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to shelve a proposal to tighten smog standards.

"I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover," Obama said in a statement announcing the order.

Environmental activists immediately pounced on the move as a retreat by a weakened Obama administration trying to cut deals with Republicans in Congress. And the American Lung Association vowed to fight the move in court.

The withdrawal of the proposed rule comes two days after the White House, at the request of Republicans, identified seven such regulations that it promised to review after finding each would cost industry at least $1 billion.

Obama is now QUOTING from the GOP playbook — i.e., regulations destroy jobs.  I recognize on some level, there's a truth behind that, but there's the other side of the coin, too: the EPA earlier estimated the rule would save as much as $100 billion in health costs, and help prevent as many as 12,000 premature deaths from heart and lung complications.

Republicans are doing a jig, but, unhappy enough with success, Boehner merely calls this "a good first step".  

Here's a hint — if Boehner is happy, this country is headed in the wrong direction.

Mr. President, your poll numbers are tanking.  This is why.

Friday — And Here’s Not Rebecca Black

You remember the girl wearing pink in the back seat of the car with Rebecca Black?  The one dancing awkwardly with her shoulders?  Sure you do….

Benni-cinkle-rebecca-black

Well, her name is Benni Cinkle.  And she's lost the braces and embraced her reflected celebrity status.  In fact, she's come out with her own song and music video — "Can You See Me Now".

And here's the kicker… it's actually pretty good.  Certainly better than either song put out by her friend and classmate Rebecca.  It's about teen angest and image problems.  And dancing.  Enjoy:

 

Tea Party-Loving GOP Chair in NH Resigns

You see, tea party people… it's not enough just to be angry.  You actually have to DO things once you are in a position of power.  This guy found out the hard way.

CONCORD, N.H. – Embattled New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball resigned last night, ending a bitter internal battle that pitted Tea Party activists against long-time Republicans.

“I have come to the conclusion that even during a vote if I were to win, and I know the odds are against that, it would be next to impossible for me to fulfill my obligations as chairman moving forward given what’s been against me,’’ Kimball said before the Republican Party’s Executive Committee’s scheduled vote on whether to oust him.

Kimball continued: “Tonight, sadly, very sadly because I’m not sure this is helping our party, I’m not going to become an obstacle in our party. I am tendering my resignation as state committee chairman of New Hampshire.’’

***

Kimball, a businessman and former Tea Party organizer, ran for governor in 2010 but lost the Republican primary. He was elected party chairman in January, beating a candidate favored by the party establishment.

Since then, Republicans have blamed Kimball for lackluster fund-raising and several special-election defeats.

Kimball fired the party’s executive director and had not yet set a budget for the party. Some activists say Kimball has not reached out to advisers beyond a small cadre of conservatives, though Kimball has said that he has tried to unify the party.

New Hampshire’s leading Republicans – US Representatives Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta, US Senator Kelly Ayotte, state Senate President Peter Bragdon, and state House Speaker William O’Brien – had called on Kimball to resign.

Kimball was far removed from the Judd Greggs and Sununus of the regular GOP (who themselves are pretty far removed from traditional Yankee republicanism).  Oh, well.  Don't let the door….., etc.

Callous

It was only eight months ago when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head by a deranged Jared Lee Loughner.  She survived, but six other people, including a nine year old girl and a federal judge, were killed in the same shooting.

That took place in Tuscon, Arizona.  Tucson is in Pima County.

On August 26 the Pima County Republican Party sent out its regular online newsletter, e-Tracks [PDF]. It contained your standard newsletterisms… but this particular issue also featured an eye-catching giveaway to raise money for GOTV (Get Out the Vote) efforts.  For just $10, readers could purchase a raffle ticket (out of 125 offered) for a chance to win a brand new handgun. Not just any handgun, but a Glock….. the same brand of gun used to shoot Giffords and the others.

More here.