"He Couldn't Take it Anymore"--The Real Cost of those Low Prices at Wal-Mart

By Grant Lawrence

Recently a 58 year old employee of Wal-Mart set himself on fire in the store parking lot. A Wal-Mart employee reported the man just "couldn't take it anymore."

Although I don't know the exact reasons for this man's particular suicide, I do know that people are more apt to commit suicide when they are under a great deal of stress and feeling a great deal of despair.

You might say this man was lucky enough to have a job.

But America has been transformed into a place of "haves and the have nots". A formerly prosperous and growing American middle class has shifted into a large and growing working poor represented by a Wal-Mart workforce.

Wal-Mart has been notorious for low wages, working its employees off the clock, inadequate and costly health insurance, discrimination against woman, violations of child labor and the use of undocumented workers, anti-unionization efforts, and violations of workers safety.

But even if you don't care about the guy that lit himself on fire at Wal-Mart or the emotional trauma and exploitation of those subjected to the dehumanization of a "Wal-Mart" economy. You might be concerned about the cost of this "Wal-Mart" economy to your pocket book.

Sure you can buy some cheap plastic junk and some cheap groceries, but Wal-Mart has decimated American small business and has soaked communities of a great deal of their tax revenue.

"The subsidies Wal-Mart lobbies for run the whole gamut: free or reduced-price land, infrastructure assistance, tax increment financing (TIF), property tax abatements or discounts, state corporate income tax credits, sales tax rebates, enterprise zone tax breaks, job training funds and low-interest tax-exempt loans. The most deals and dollars were found in Texas (30 deals worth $108 million) and Illinois (29 deals worth $102 million)."

Also, when workers are being paid well below the living wage for an adequate living and mostly working part time. Then you have workers that are not able to pay much in taxes and must depend on the government for subsidies to survive.

In fact, those low Wal-Mart prices have helped bring about a transformation of the American economy into a what we see today.

The collapse of the American economy and its effect on the worldwide economy is directly related to the debt bubble created by an underpaid and often underemployed or unemployed American workforce that used credit to survive during a period of decline in real wages for the American worker.

Most of us are aware of the phenomenon of several workers in a household (mom, dad, and kids) struggling to make the household income of just one American worker in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Unfortunately, the American economy can no longer sustain the low prices of Wal-Mart and the other big box corporate retail stores which

When you have an underpaid and underemployed American worker then you have a consumer that can no longer afford to keep the American and world's economy moving and growing.

Sadly the abuse and dehumanization that came with the Wal-Mart economy has not only wrecked the American psyche along with their incomes, but it has also spread throughout the economy of the world in the form of our present collapse.

The real cost of the American Wal-Mart economy has rippled through the world in the form of an economic collapse.

Do you prefer books, or do you wait for the movie or cartoon? (Or: They Ain’t Makin Jews Like Jesus Anymore)


Not everybody enjoys reading – reading books I mean. Tabloids, blogs and not-so-witty texts on coffee mugs & toilet walls don’t count. Not (and pardon me for yet another atrocious pun) in my book anyway, it doesn’t.

That’s why people, half-jokingly say, “I will wait for the movie”, when others ask them if they have or will read a certain book.

Now, I wouldn’t wish to come between a non-reader and some lousy movie adaptation but I do prefer books. Not all books. Wild horses or a stable full of nubile virgins could not drag me towards anything written by Dan Brown (but then I would boycot those movies as well, of course.)

Anyway, there are some good movie adaptations of (very good) books. ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, for instance, and ‘The Name of the Rose’. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, of course, and even ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

Religious books and stories, however, don’t translate so well into movies. Most are too respectful, too drab and twee. The Bible has some great stories in it but there really are a Hell of a lot of terrible movies out there, that were inspired by the Book.

‘The Ten Commandments’, for instance, with Charlton Heston or, God help us, that truly dreadful movie, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’

Not that the Bible is fun to read as a whole. Most of it is quite boring, in fact – though true believers might find each and every ’smote’ and ‘begat’ endlessly fascinating, of course. As an agnost I can’t really judge that.

Still, when it comes to religion, neither Books nor movies really do it for me.

No, for me, the best medium to discuss (and to truly enjoy) religion is that of the good, old cartoon – like this one

or this one

… though this one ain’t bad either, of course.

I was tempted to end this column with a Jesus Christ Superstar clip but that would be too cruel, so I won’t. There are many more agreeable songs about God.

Like this one,

or this one,

or this

but I just have to leave you with the inimitable, incomparable and mostly incompatible Kinky Friedman:


Social Security (Tax on the Poor) Runs a Surplus

I thought you all might enjoy this.


Source: nthought

The facts.

The federal government "borrows" from your social security to pay down part of the deficit created by Bush's tax cuts, which mostly went to the rich. It was under Reagan that social security was reformed (taxes raised) and the income tax system was made more flat. This led to a major general deficits, which of course, was paid down by the social security tax which was running surplus. The social security tax is a regressive tax used to pay for a tax breaks for the rich.

George Bush and Ronald Reagan essentially both stole from the poor to give to the rich. Now they tell us that Social Security is becoming insolvent. The fact is, social security will run surpluses until 2017, and will be solvent for decades more. Had the government kept it's hands off of it, it would be solvent much longer.

But no, they're not going to shoot you straight. They want your money. They own you. They own this place...

about 3 minutes in, Carlin, as usual, 100% correct.

"It's a big club, and you aint in it"

Obama--The War President

By Grant Lawrence

President Obama has decided to continue the policy of American Global hegemony. Obama has had a rare opportunity to make a real change in American foreign policy but instead has decided to opt for Bush Lite--a foreign policy a little more palatable but almost as deadly.

Recently the President has asked for $205 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2010. Although the spin in the managed media is that Obama is ending the war in Iraq by 2010. The President will still have close to 50,000 American troops in Iraq after that date.

If you recall, last year Bush had been negotiating a troop withdrawl with Iraqi Prime MinisterNouri al-Maliki and it called for a deal in which all combat troops would withdraw by 2010.

President Obama has promised to expand the war in Afghanistan and has recently sent another 17,000 troops there. But the Obama Administration is also expanding the war into Pakistan with the recent drone attacks on Pakistani villages.

So Obama's decisions to continue occupying Iraq with a large military presence and military bases for many years to come, to expand the war in Afghanistan, and to extend military attacks into Pakistan is pretty much what you would expect from our former NeoCon Doctrine of Empire.

Also Obama's silence last December and later support for the Israeli war on Gaza was pretty much a NeoLib response to the usual NeoCon support of Israeli atrocities.

So far President Obama has proven that American foreign policy will run a course dictated by the military industrial complex no matter who is President, as many of us suspected before the election.

His recent actions have made him our new "War President" and unfortunately they are a continuation of failed Bush policies. The United States will continue to occupy that region of the world for Oil and strategic positioning but it will be a costly and deadly move. So far it has taken over a trillion dollars, more than a million dead Iraqis, thousands of dead Americans, and tens of thousands of wounded Americans to put some bases in Iraq and set up a puppet government.

How many more lives and at what cost will it take to continue the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Americans voted for change and a President that believed in peace last November. What America got was the NeoLib version of a Neocon vision of empire and global dominance.

America got itself a new War President.

News Roundup for 2/27/09

Minstrel in blackface
Dean Grose entertains friends at an office party

-Headline of the day-
"Mayor To Resign After Watermelon Email Outrage."

Remember Los Alamitos, California Mayor Dean Grose? You know, the one who's a comedic genius...

Yeah, he's not going to the the Mayor of Los Alamitos for much longer. Turns out his edgy email attachment humor was way ahead of its time and people didn't get that an image of the White House lawn as a watermelon patch wasn't racist, it was just... Well, never mind. It wasn't racist.

After getting national attention for his small 2 1/4-square-mile city with his laugh-riot of an email, all he got in return for the favor was criticism. So he's outta there -- off like a dirty shirt, saying the controversy has affected his ability to lead the city.

Dang, it's getting so a white guy can't even make a joke using racist stereotypes anymore. Dean didn't even get a chance to break out his coke-bottle glasses and do his Chinese laundry bit. And forget about the sombrero and big fake mustache -- you're never going to see it.

Hope you're happy America. The next time you want to see a hilarious Pakistani convenience store clerk impression, don't come looking for Dean Grose. (CBS2.com)

-Did you know Joe the Plumber's a freakin' moron?-
Oddly enough, it's true. He is. The man whose big claim to fame is that McCain-Palin used him as a prop goes back into history and gets it 100% wrong:

Back in the day, really, when people would talk about our military in a poor way, somebody would shoot ‘em. And there’d be nothing said about that, because they knew it was wrong. You don’t talk about our troops. You support our troops. Especially when our congressmen and senators sit there and say bad things in an ongoing conflict.

When was this that people were shot for talking about our military " in a poor way?" Y'know, I don't think we actually ever did that. That seems kind of -- oh, what's the word? -- oppressive.

I'm pretty sure China did stuff like that, though. In fact, I'm pretty sure they still do. Is Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelgoober a commie Chinese agent?

I'd say there can be no doubt. Take him out and shoot him -- preferably with some sort of brain-endowing gun. (Think Progress)

-Bonus HotD-
"Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers."

Wow, the casual-sex-in-a-bathroom, visit-a-hooker-for-diaper-wearin', dirty-text-message-to-teen-pages-sending crowd are big fans of the porn. What a shock! And they seem so super-moral and all...

According to the report, a new study finds that "states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption" and "Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don't explicitly restrict gay marriage."

"One natural hypothesis is something like repression: if you're told you can't have this, then you want it more," says researcher Benjamin Edelman of Harvard Business School. I'd add that while conservatives fantasize, liberals realize.

While there's no info on the type of porn we're talking about here, looking at the difference in numbers, I'd say a lot of it was of the homosexual variety. Besides, the right has been way too obsessed with gay sex. People who are obsessed with gay sex have a tendency to be gay.

It's OK, Red-staters. Go ahead and enjoy your porn.

Just shut the hell up about how deviant everyone else is, OK? It's a little hypocritical. (New Scientist, via reddit)

GOP Wins a Battle No One was Fighting

vintage photo of family gathering around radioYesterday was a big day for residents of the nation's capital. Taxation without representation will finally end in Washington DC. With the passage of a DC Voting Rights Bill, the city will get one voting member of the House of Representatives -- Obama is certain to sign it. I was flipping through the channels recently and came across Glenn Beck claiming it would give Democrats two more senators, but -- not surprisingly -- Beck has no idea what he's talking about. The bill increases the seats in the house from 435 to 437 (a deal was struck to add a balancing seat from Utah). It doesn't do anything to change senate membership.

It's kind of fitting that I came across Beck's idiocy on this subject, because another deal swung in the senate to get the bill passed involved the Fairness Doctrine.


The U.S. Senate passed an amendment on Thursday that would bar regulators from requiring broadcasters to give equal time to all points of view, a ban strongly supported by some Republican lawmakers.

The legislative amendment, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from reimposing the so-called Fairness Doctrine to all broadcasters. It was repealed more than 20 years ago.

Aides to President Barack Obama have said he has no intention of trying to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, but that has not stopped some Republicans from raising the issue.

DeMint added the amendment to the voting rights bill, in order to save right wing talk radio and conservative media from destruction by the forces of... Well, fairness. The right has been demagoguing the issue for some time, pretending that there was some danger of the doctrine ever returning -- while completely misrepresenting what the Fairness Doctrine actually was.

Basically, the right has been collecting off-hand comments by Democrats to convince people that there was some big lefty groundswell to bring the doctrine back. For example:

[The Hill:]

“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”

Eek!! Durbin wants to destroy Rush Limbaugh! Never mind that one casual comment does not a movement make. There was no bill, there was just two sentences thrown over the shoulder at a reporter.

Durbin had "no plans, no language, no nothing. He was asked in a hallway last year, he gave his personal view," said Durbin's press secretary in 2008. "...and it's all been blown out of proportion."

The biggest problem with the left is that the Fairness Doctrine wouldn't actually do anything. "The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters," wrote Steve Rendall in 2005. "Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented."

One of the biggest BSers about the doctrine has been Bill O'Reilly. On his FOX show, O'Reilly said that "liberal politicians hate conservative talk radio and want to lessen its impact." He sent FOX News producer Griff Jenkins to ask Sen. Jeff Bingaman, "The implication was that it would impose or infringe on the free speech rights of broadcasters. Do you not see that the Fairness Doctrine would do that?"

But here's the thing, the Fairness Doctrine could be reinstated tomorrow and Bill's show wouldn't have to change a thing. He regularly reads letters from viewers -- many of whom disagree with him -- so he'd be golden. Bill O'Reilly is complaining that he'd be ruined if he had to do exactly what he's doing now.

In fact, the Fairness Doctrine would probably have been the best thing that ever happened to the right. The media is already obsessed with "balanced reporting," which relies on repeating facts, but not in telling the truth. You can see the problem with reporting on global warming or evolution. The fact is that one group of people say one thing and another group says another, but the truth is that one side is right -- provably and inarguably. By reporting these facts, while ignoring the truth, the media fails to inform and only confuses.

And this is what they're doing now. Imagine what would happen if they were required to tell "both sides of the story." Would we be treated to some flat-earther nut saying we never landed on the moon every time there was a story about NASA? Would we watch Holocaust deniers balancing every story about WWII? There are both sides to every story, but one side is often insanity, BS, or both -- while being completely unnecessary in understanding the issue. We don't need to hear both sides, we only need to hear the truth. The right would have more to worry about if the media stopped trying to represent a balance between truth and PR.

But, in the end, the right did something they often do -- believed their own propaganda. They scored a victory in a one-sided battle against a phantom enemy. There was no push to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, making DeMint's amendment the easiest concession anyone's ever made to get a bill passed. Republicans weren't all that happy with the DC Voting Rights bill either, since the city is a guaranteed Democratic seat from now until forever. But they gave up that fight in order to win a different battle against nothing. DeMint might as well have banned elves from ever holding office.

But I guess a phony win is still a win -- at least in perception. Republicans got the base to believe that the Fairness Doctrine really was a threat to the First Amendment, an attack on conservative media, and just around the corner. I suppose the nuts will believe there was a victory, mostly because they believed there was a battle. But the Fairness Doctrine wasn't anything they ever should've been afraid of.

"If Congress really wants to help the folks, it will pass the 'Honesty Doctrine,'" says O'Reilly.

You better hope not, pal. Because then you'd be screwed.


So many songs, so little time


(And it’s time, time, time…)

Caught between work, the bar and bed, I realize time, this moment, is not a friend. You know how certain people are always waiting for you to fuck up. That’s time, when you’re not very careful: Not so much a fuck buddy as Buddy Holly’s last airplane ride.

Anyway, let’s talk time - and let’s start with Leonard again:

“It’s four in the morning, the end of december
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better
New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.

I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert
You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record.”

Or, you can say, like Bowie, that

“Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette
The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget”

Still, maybe it is better to go with Jim Groce’s

“If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you”

… but only if sung by Kermit and Co:

So many songs, so little time


(And it’s time, time, time…)

Caught between work, the bar and bed, I realize time, this moment, is not a friend. You know how certain people are always waiting for you to fuck up. That’s time, when you’re not very careful: Not so much a fuck buddy as Buddy Holly’s last airplane ride.

Anyway, let’s talk time - and let’s start with Leonard again:

“It’s four in the morning, the end of december
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better
New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.

I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert
You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record.”

Or, you can say, like Bowie, that

“Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette
The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget”

Still, maybe it is better to go with Jim Groce’s

“If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that Id like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you”

… but only if sung by Kermit and Co:


Things to Come--A Green Economy or an Eco Nighthtmare?

By Grant Lawrence

"....But what we have seen is that the time since 2000 was a period of rapid economic growth, and it was also a period of time where a large fraction of the economic growth was fueled by electricity based on coal, and coal is the energy source that releases the most CO2 per unit of useful energy that’s released. The consequence of that is that we have seen a very rapid increase in CO2 emissions....
Chris Field, a leading member of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says the current trajectory of climate change is now much worse than the IPCC had originally projected. (Democracy Now)

Just as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is warning that the earth's warming is much worse than previous climate models had proposed, there is the news that some Southern governors are waging a "water war" over the rights to Lake Lanier.

If a water war is beginning in the American South, Dr. Field of the IPCC believes that things could be very bad for the American Southwest.

According to Dr. Field," We basically see a big tongue of area that extends from California to about Oklahoma, where the combination of decreased precipitation and increased temperature, increased evaporation, leads to decreased river runoff. And that decrease is quite large, in the range of 25 to even 35 percent. It really projects a period of extreme stress on water resources, limited availability of water for all of the kinds of water users that are out there, from agriculture to industry to cities to in stream ecological uses."

As the world's climate is drastically changing at an alarming rate, it is imperative that the people of the world demand a real change from our governments in dealing with the climate crisis.

The water war that we are seeing in the American South is surely a sign of things to come.

Still there is also a hopeful sign of things to come in that people, especially young people, may finally be getting the message on the climate crisis. A large protest is being called in Washington DC at a coal fired plant and it promises to be the largest act of civil disobedience against global warming in this country.

The solution to help offset global warming is that a real Green Economy has to be initiated along with conservation. This Green Economy has the potential of moving the world beyond its present economic depression by creating new technologies, investments, and jobs. But this Green Economy will also mean that our children will have a future and that humanity prospers in that future.

Hopefully, President Obama and other leaders of the world will begin to make good on their promises of combating global warming. In the face of an extreme crisis in global climate change that has emerged, even beyond the old projections on climate change, the people need to make Obama and the rest of the world's leaders go Green.

Source: Bodhi Thunder

News Roundup for 2/26/09

Bush in clown makeup
Dubya the Clown

-Headline of the day-
"Bush charging $150,000 and private jet travel for speeches."

Golly, sounds rough. You might've heard that George W. Bush plans on making "ridiculous" amounts of money as a hired speaker. In this economy -- or any for George -- $150,000 definitely qualifies. He only got $400k per year as president and we were getting ripped off at that price.

If you want to hire him, you also have to pony up either a first-class seat or a private jet to get a slice of The Decider's brilliance. Local gigs get a discount; if you're in Dallas it's $100,000. Cheap!

What'll Bush talk about at these gigs? Well, if you're going by the bio at his agency, the topic of discussion is how great George W. Bush was.

So, 150 grand and a private jet will get Dubya to come tell you how awesome he was as president.

I think I'll just go ahead and hire the regular clown for the next birthday party. (Think Progress)

-Fun with racism-
The mayor of Los Alamitos, California has apologized for sending an email attachment to a local businesswoman and community volunteer. "I was horrified when I read that e-mail," said Keyanus Price. "What I'm concerned about is how can this person send an e-mail out like this and think it is OK?"

Mayor Dean Grose sent the following image with the header "No Easter Egg Hunt This Year":

White House with lawn as watermelon patch

"Hey, that's not nice at all," Price wrote back. "Not all black people like watermelon… you should know better than that." Grose was clueless.

"The way things are today, you gotta laugh every now and then," he responded. "I wanna see the coloring contests."

OK, I don't get that one.

I guess no one else did either. In his apology, Grose said he wasn't sending it as the mayor, but as a private individual. So he stops being a total prick when he's on the clock?

He might consider never punching out. (Orange County Register)

-Dumbass quote of the day-
Here's Rush Limbaugh from his radio show yesterday; "People who don’t believe in God believe in Obama. Agnostics, athiests... believe me, a planeload of athiests on a jet on the way to Hawaii... and three of the four engines go out, the athiests start praying to who? God, not the ocean to save them. So everybody believes in God at some point, but not until they face their mortality. Everybody does. They have some God."

As an atheist, I call BS on that one and use it as an excuse to repeat a joke.

An atheist and a priest are on a plane when it starts losing altitude. The masks come down out of the ceiling, everything's bouncing around -- it's pretty clear they're going to crash.

The priest looks at the atheist and says it's time to pray. The atheist says he doesn't believe in God.

"Wouldn't the wisest thing you could do here be to hedge your bets?" the priest asks. "If you're right and no being can help you, then you've lost nothing."

"However, if you're wrong and this being exists, then you have everything to gain," he goes on. "Go ahead son, call on this being for help."

The atheist nods and yells, "Save me Superman! Save me!"

I guess Rush never heard that one. (MicCheckRadio.org)

Shooting Down Missile Defense

missile launchLong, long ago, shrouded in the mists of ancient history (i.e., December 2006), I wrote a post I titled "The Only Purpose of Missile Defense is to Waste Money." At that point in time, we had blown $95 billion on missile defense systems since Ronald Reagan jotted his "Star Wars" notion on the back of a matchbook. What we got out of all this spending and research was nothing. We still have no working missile defense system. Worse, after the fall of the Soviet Union, missile defense became a solution in search of a problem -- its reason for being is to counter a threat that no longer exists.

In that post, I wrote:

So why is the Bush administration pushing this? Did I mention that we've spent $95 billion on it? Throwing pots of cash at defense contractors is what Bush does. It doesn't make any difference whether or not it works -- a failed test is exactly as expensive as a successful one -- the only thing that matters is that it allows people who are already unbelievably rich to reach into your wallet and grab your tax dollars. Who cares if it works?

Oddly, with all the Republican complaining about wasteful spending, missile defense hasn't really made an appearance. Obama has signaled that he might be open to placing a missile defense system in Poland, so it's not like the subject hasn't come up. For the GOP, wasteful spending means monitoring volcanoes so we're prepared for eruptions, not throwing money at stupid-expensive missile systems that may not actually work and have never been adequately tested. Bailing you out because you got suckered into a crap mortgage is "pork," while throwing billions at defense contractors for what amounts to a lucky charm is sound fiscal policy.

Starting to see how we got into this economic mess in the first place?

Since Obama's election, Bush loyalists have been quietly freaking out that he may not really be willing to waste money hand over fist on missile defense anymore. The military has never been very excited about missile defense (Pentagon officials refer to civilian MD advocates as "missile defense moonies"), so it's not like they see any worth to the systems. But those Bush loyalists sure do. And they've made repeated attempts to get you to panic at the thought of abandoning it.

[Wall Street Journal, "Obama and Missile Defense," former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, Nov. 2008:]

Freeing America from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty's antiquated constraints is rightly regarded as one of President Bush's most significant achievements. In 2001, we believed that the Russian strategic threat had eased. But the emerging threats from rogue states possessing a few nuclear-capable ballistic missiles required that we develop adequate defenses -- especially because many emerging nuclear-weapons states do not accept the same calculus of deterrence that maintained the Cold War's uneasy nuclear standoff. The demise of the ABM Treaty allows America to defend itself from these threats.

For a new Obama administration to retreat from this achievement, as many in the arms-control "community" have advocated, would be a significant step backward. His campaign position about deployment after the technology is "proved" is an excuse never to deploy missile defenses -- because nothing in the military field is ever conclusively proven for all time. Rebuffing [Polish President] Kaczynski is also precisely the wrong response to [Russian President] Medvedev's provocation. It will surely be read as weakness, and not only in Moscow. In fact, Moscow announced yesterday there would be no more missile-defense negotiations before Jan. 20.

Missile defense is only unproven because it can't be proven. It seems that firing a missile and knocking it down isn't proof -- mostly because our missile defense system can't do it. If it won't work in controlled situations, why assume it'll work in the field? The word for that is "faith." I'm not convinced we should be spending billions on faith-based weapons systems. And many in the know think Obama isn't either.

"I think it's on the back burner," James F. Collins, director of Russia studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former ambassador to Moscow, told FOX News earlier this month. "I read the Obama and other statements more or less as tentative about this system in the sense that they aren't going to put huge investment in it unless they can figure out it's going to work."

More recently, Obama himself gave missile defense moonies reason to worry. "In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them," the president said in his address to a joint session of congress this week. "We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use." That budget comes out today. Whether or not MD takes a hit remains to be seen.

But you'd hope that sanity will finally prevail. Missile defense is an idea that should be allowed to die. It's never worked, no one can explain how it's ever going to work, and it answers a threat that doesn't actually exist. What I said in 2006 is just as true today -- the only purpose of missile defense is to waste money.


What’s in a name? Why some people should not be allowed to have (or name) children


(It’s only words…?)

I think most people would agree that Shakespeare had a way with words – but it has to be said that he did have a few strange ideas about names.

Take this following quote from Romeo and Juliet:

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”

Of course, he also wrote the following lines in Hamlet:

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

Which could be seen as his flowery way of admitting that he was often talking through his hat – or out of his Elizabethan arse, if you want to use a more Falstaffian phrase.

Some people would certainly think this latter quote and, perhaps, confession makes more sense than stating grandly that names don’t matter one fig, or one rose.

Good folks like Justin Case, Barb Dwyer and Stan Still would most definitely disagree with that ‘which we call a rose’ question – insisting, with Gertrude Stein, that a bloody rose is a bloody rose is a bloody rose.

If these people would quote Shakespeare, it would probably be this line from Hamlet:

“Give thy thoughts no tongue.”

Or, in a pinch, improve on that famous sentence, spoken by a rather exasperated Lady Macbeth:

“Out, damn’d sot! out, I say!”

Anyway, enough of the Bard bashing – but here’s why some folks would rather be called by any other name than the one their parents gave them:

What do you call some of the most unlucky people in Britain? Justin Case, Barb Dwyer and Stan Still. It sounds like a bad joke, but a study has revealed that there really are unfortunate people with those names in the UK. Joining them on the list are Terry Bull, Paige Turner, Mary Christmas and Anna Sasin. And just imagine having to introduce yourself to a crowd as Doug Hole or Hazel Nutt. The names were uncovered by researchers from parenting group TheBabyWebsite.com after trawling through online telephone records.

(By any other name still a very shitty song…)


UFOs and What they Are Telling Us about Us

By Grant Lawrence

".....Roberto Di Giorgio, head of general security for the Italian Air force commented to Italian media outlets that all 38 cases recorded by the Air Force are ones that have no immediate explanation. He stressed ‘We cannot rule out the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence (in relation to these sightings)’ although noted also that ‘We cannot prove that ETs are behind these sightings..."

Witnesses are reporting UFO activity near U.S. military bases in Arizona and Texas this week. The Texas incident lit up both the sky and the ground as a glowing light moved toward the ground. Fighter jets were reported to have chased "two intense red lights" in Arizona...."

"....The number of UFO sightings over Britain doubled last year, the Ministry of Defense says...."

Thanks to the rise of an "unmanaged" alternative press that is currently thriving on the internet. The UFO phenomena
is no longer the subject of the scandal rags like the National Enquirer. Instead people all over the world are currently taking a deep interest in the UFO subject and, to me, that is a good thing.

There are probably a number of reasons for the rapid increase in sightings and the rise in interest on the UFO subject. Of course, people all over the world are mistaking comets, satellites, and aircraft for UFOs. But there is little doubt that UFO awareness and sightings have increased dramatically.

First, there is the psychological reason for the UFO phenomena. When people are having difficult times in their lives they often search for something that transcends their limited experiences. Usually, people will look to religion and spirituality for the transcendent. But in today's technological and scientific age, many people are also prone to look for a more "materialistic" support, hoped for in the UFO phenomena, that possibly a civilization or a group outside of the world could somehow save humanity. In short, hard times call for an expanded way to view reality and the UFOs offer that.

Second, some of these UFOs in the sky could be ours. There has most likely been a tremendous advance in secret human technology that is not presently known about by the general public. The famous UFO hacker Gary McKinnon reported that he hacked into NASA and US defense sites to find out about UFOs. What he says he found is an American interstellar Air Force that utilizes what appears to be UFO technology. Unfortunately for McKinnon, the United States government didn't appreciate his snooping and now McKinnon faces life in prison in the US. Perhaps our technology has advanced in such a way now that the black operations of Air Force technology is now going public in a big way.

Third, it could be that the extraterrestrial or multidimensional beings have likely been visiting us for a long time are now taking a keener interest in our activities. Perhaps they are taking note that many countries of the world already possess a massive number of nukes and there is a great potential for a fantastic atomic catastrophe. Perhaps they have noted that our use of technology has been bringing about a poisoning of the planet and its creatures and they are studying us like we study animals in the wild. Perhaps they are in the process of doing their own genetic engineering using earth material. Perhaps they are planning for some grand entrance and takeover of the planet.

Finally, it could be that there are a number of these so called ETs from various planets and dimensions and some of them are working with our global government. Perhaps they, along with our present advanced secret technology, are roaming the skies and it is quite frankly getting a bit crowded up there. But if we have ET friends, then too it is entirely possible that we have ET enemies. Or at least those that aren't in agreement with our present fascist structure.
So we may have a situation in which our own star fleet, friendly ETs, and Enemy ETs are crowding the skies all over the world.

But, for me, the rise in awareness and sightings of UFO are an important aspect of our present conscious development. The concept of other beings on other worlds and in other dimensions forces us to expand our own ideas about humanity and in what direction we want to take our development. Even the Vatican recently has acknowledged that we can't rule out ET life because we can't put limits on God. According to the
Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, "Just as we consider earthly creatures as a brother, and sister, why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother? It would still be part of creation."

The UFO phenomena is a hopeful sign that humanity is now expanding their awareness and understanding into previously "hidden" realms of reality. It is not that the UFOs were that hidden but it is just that we have been conditioned as a society to see only certain aspects of reality. The ridicule of UFOs and the suppression of UFO reporting and evidence was part of a massive conditioning effort, I believe, by the governments of the world to close the eyes of humanity.

For many of us, the universe is rapidly revealing more of itself because we are opening our minds to it. The UFO phenomena is likely an important part of human awakening. It not only signifies an expanded awareness but it has also helped open our awareness to a previously "hidden" reality.

News Roundup for 2/25/09

Bobby Brady
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

-Headline of the day-
"Bobby Jindal's Secret Past."

Believe it or not, Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wasn't created in a Republican laboratory to oppose the stimulus. He was a person long before Barack Obama came into office. And those years are actually pretty interesting. Turns out Bobby's crazier than a shithouse rat. Among Jindal's past achievements:

-Has "boasted of participating in an exorcism that purged the spirit of Satan from a college girlfriend."

-Originally named Piyush, changed his name to Bobby "after becoming mesmerized by an episode of The Brady Bunch."

-Began conversion to Catholicism in high school after "being touched by the love and simplicity of a Christian girl who dreamt of becoming a Supreme Court justice so she could stop her country from ‘killing unborn babies.’”

A complete religious fanatic? Wow, he's perfect for the GOP.

That Bobby Brady thing's a little weird. It might explain his contempt for volcanoes, though... (Daily Beast)

-Not the best argument-
During a floor debate, Colorado State Sen. Scott Renfroe argued against Senate Bill 88, which proposed equal access to benefits for same-sex spouses of state employees. To make his argument, Greeley turned to the Bible -- which, BTW, is not a legal document, although Renfroe seems to believe it is. The Bible told us to "be fruitful and multiply," so gay stuff is verboten. He also said that the purpose of government is to make laws in accordance with the Bible, saying that since murder's a sin and illegal, so should homosexuality be.

Here's the thing -- only three of the ten commandments are illegal and, even then, only two are illegal in every circumstance (you can get away with lying most of the time). Not illegal are worshipping false idols, working on the sabbath, and have the hots for your neighbor's wife. If the Bible is the basis for our law, we're doing a pretty shitty job of it.

And here's a crazy idea. If the founders had governing by the Bible in mind, why did they bother to write a constitution and why didn't they bother to mention this whole "purpose of the government" thing? Seems to me that if they thought this was the way to go, they might've mentioned it someplace.

But hey, he's a religious nutjob. It's not like Renfroe's going to let little things like logic, fact, or history influence his opinions -- all those things were invented by Satan. You don't have to be technically right to be correct, you just have to believe you're right with all your little heart.

Then Republican Jesus comes down and fixes reality so it agrees with you. Hallelujah! (PageOneQ)

-It's a hit!-
Barack Obama's big speech last night is getting rave reviews, but more importantly seems to have made an impression on voters.

A CNN/Public Opinion Research poll taken before and after the speech shows that two thirds had a very positive reaction to it.

Additionally, the report tells us, "85% of those polled said the president's speech made them more optimistic about the direction of the country over the next few years, with 11% indicating the speech made them more pessimistic." That's a 17% increase in optimism from before the speech.

"Eight out of 10 said the president's plans will improve the economy and 68 percent said his proposals will reduce the federal deficit," reports CNN. "Three out of four questioned said Obama's plan will improve health care and 82 percent said his proposals will create or save jobs across the country."

Hey GOP, how's that grand strategy of obstructionism working out for you? From where I'm standing, it kind of looks like it really sucks. (CNN)

Obama Shines, Jindal Flames Out

Obama addresses congressThere wasn't much mystery preceding President Obama's address to a joint session of congress last night. Everyone knew it would be about economic stimulus, everyone knew it would involve cheerleading America, everyone knew it would be pretty damned good. Obama used the constitutional requirement that the president address congress on the state of the union "from time to time" to get both houses together in one place. Not specifically a state of the union address, it still filled the bill. The state of the union is not strong and Barack Obama -- as we've come to expect -- asked us all to roll up our sleeves and strengthen it.

Republicans -- still patting each other on the back for their near-universal opposition to Obama's stimulus -- were forced to face the undeniable fact that there was no victory here for them. The bill passed and the obstructionism of they were so proud of had cost them dearly. Polling shows that voters see the party as out of touch and just "not getting it." But, as I've pointed out before, in the House of Representatives at least, only the farthest right wing reps from the very reddest districts remain after two consecutive Democratic election cycles. They are the crazies, those for whom ideology borders on religious belief, those who are lost causes. Reality doesn't bother them, since it's not where they live. Being forced to face it the way they were must've been painful.

In this party made up of the surviving nuts, leadership has been hard to come by. They've elected party leadership, but no one pays any attention to them. "I don't even know the congressional leadership," says Utah's Republican Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. "I have not met them. I don't listen or read whatever it is they say because it is inconsequential -- completely."

Given this lack of leadership, the big celebrities in the GOP have been Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber, and Rush Limbaugh. Seriously. They desperately needed someone serious to become the face of the party. Someone who wasn't a national joke or a divisive figure. Since only the crazies are left in Washington, they needed to go outside DC. They found Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Bobby JindalHe was just what they needed -- far enough right without seeming ridiculous and not an obvious fool. He's threatened to turn down a tiny sliver of the stimulus money for his state, while grandstanding on the threat. He's considering a presidential run the next time around and, unlike Sarah Palin, he speaks English. The GOP had found their guy. Gov. Bobby Jindal would deliver the Republican response to Obama's address. The new face of the Republican party was now something other than an unemployed plumber, an empty-headed former beauty queen, or a drug-addled blowhard.

It didn't go well. Jindal, already handicapped by limiting himself to the party line, was wooden and uncomfortable. He shot for a southern folksiness and wound up with the pacing and inflection of a Quick Draw McGraw. Even his walk to the camera at the Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge was stiff, prompting one commentator on MSNBC to say "Oh God..." under his breath.

The governor started off well enough, pointing out the historical nature of the president's first address to a joint session of congress and giving a brief son-of-an-immigrant bio of himself, but things quickly went south. He claimed that Republicans had "better ideas," then went on to list off some of the things in the stimulus that he didn't like.

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

Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.

We shouldn't be keeping an eye on volcanoes? And that "magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland?" Yeah, that's not in the stimulus. That "$300 million to buy new cars for the government" is $300 million to buy a more fuel-efficient fleet, saving the federal government money in the long run. As Republicans have been throughout this debate, Jindal makes stuff up to oppose. It makes you wonder how genuine their reasons for opposing it can possibly be.

Of those "better ideas," Jindal offered tax cuts, tax cuts, and tax cuts -- because using tax cuts to cure every ill has been working so well for us so far. He said that Republicans "stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage," but that's the first I've ever heard of it. They used to be all about health care savings accounts, where you put money aside to pay for health care -- because everyone's finding it just so easy to build up savings accounts these days. If the GOP has a plan for universal coverage, it might've been a good idea not to keep the details secret.

After they shut down the remote feed from Louisiana, even conservative commentators gave Jindal the thumbs down. "It came off as amateurish, and even the tempo in which he spoke was sing-songy," said Juan Williams on FOX News. "He was telling stories that seemed very simplistic and almost childish."

"In a moment when only the federal government is actually big enough to do stuff, to just ignore all that and just say ‘government is the problem, corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending,’ it’s just a form of nihilism," said conservative columnist David Brooks on PBS. "It’s just not where the country is, it’s not where the future of the country is."

"E-mails I’m getting are from disappointed conservatives," wrote Kathryn Jean Lopez for the National review's The Corner. "They wanted a full-throated response to Obama and expected and/or wanted more."

But these people should have less criticism for Jindal and more for the party in general. Jindal may not have done well, but he was only as good as the material he had to work with. Republicans really don't have anything but criticism to offer, so no one should be surprised that Gov. Jindal didn't have any solutions. If all you have is "Obama's wrong," it's hard to come up with some idea of what might be right.

The new face of the Republican party won't do much to change people's minds if the only thing it has to offer are the same tired old failures, instead of new ideas.



Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called President Obama's plan to fix the economy "irresponsible" and certain to increase taxes and federal debt. "The way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians," said Jindal, who gave the Republican Party's response to Obama's speech. The stimulus bill will expand the government, "increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt," he said.

Jindal, widely thought to be considering a presidential bid in 2012, said Republicans wanted to work with Obama but criticized Democrats for placing "hope in the federal government." He invoked the memory of Hurricane Katrina to make his point. "Where we agree, Republicans must be the president's strongest partners," said Jindal. "And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward."

The men who get paid to watch porn - and complain how hard it is


Have you ever noticed how we use words, without really considering their true meaning. I was thinking about just that when I was looking for my keys. Today, after a three-and-a-half months stay in Prague, I will return to Holland, to try and pick up my life again over there. Back to work and all of that. Anyway, I have two sets of keys: One for Prague and one for Holland and I now couldn’t remember where I had put my Dutch set.

I’m a neurotic, so I like to worry about stuff. So, instead of starting with the more obvious places, I went down the other route, first checking the most unlikely hiding spots and then working my way down - or up - that list. Of course, I did find the keys, in that last and, indeed, most likely place, working my way up to a state of self-induced panic and hysteria.

Ah well, I have never claimed that I am normal. Still, while I was searching for those keys, I was thinking about language - the word ‘key’ in particular. Also, I became freshly aware of how much of our identity is linked to those pieces of metal. When we carry them with us, they open the doors to our homes, our work place and vehicles. Without them, we are as lost as illegal, paperless immigrants at a well-guarded border.

So, it’s no wonder that we use the word ‘key’ as something that describes the singular importance of this, that and the other - as in: ‘This is key to…’ Most of the time, of course, we tend to use these kinds of words without really thinking about them. Looking for stuff in, as I said, an ever growing state of self-induced panic, helps to concentrate on the meaning of certain things.

Anyway, all of the above was just to say that I, like most other people, am quite good at creating my own problems. Almost all of humankind’s troubles and miseries are, in one way or the other, self-induced. From war to famine, from addictions to heartbreak: We do insist to afflict these and other wounds on ourselves.

All of which suits us very well, of course, because if there is one thing that we humans like, it is to complain about stuff. It can be the weather, the food, the government, our family, our Gods or our employers but all of these things and more are fodder to our complaining mills.

As the following story shows.

Work is what we love to hate and to complain about. Sometimes, with good reason but we tend to do it as a matter of principle. I mean, most men who do not work at the British Board of Film Classification would consider the following more as an enviable perk than a reason for complaint. The actual staff, however, are complaining, rather excitedly, about their lot:

“Staff at the British Board of Film Classification are not easily shocked, but they are in revolt over a management plan that would require them to watch hardcore pornographic films alone in a bid to save money. Examiners say films that are refused an R18 certificate often include scenes that many find disturbing, including sadomasochism and sexual violence. Some are concerned that viewing pornographic content alone will increase the chances of being sexually aroused by the material.”


An Expert in Economics Explains Why the Rich Shouldn't Pay More in Taxes

By Grant Lawrence

“The income distribution has to stand.... By trying to alter it with a more progressive income tax, you end up in problematic circumstances. In the current world, there will be people who will move from one tax area to another. I am proud to be an American. But if the tax became too high, as a matter of principle I would not be working this hard.”
Kenneth C. Griffin, who received more than $1 billion last year as chairman of a hedge fund, the Citadel Investment Group.

The economic situation is very confusing to me. President Obama is talking about having the rich pay a greater share in taxes. But I just don't know about that. There are a lot of rich people and a lot of folks in the media telling us that it is not good to have the rich pay more in taxes.

So when I get confused like this I usually take a trip to talk to a big time economist at a major Ivy League university for a little more clarification. Unfortunately, he doesn't give me permission to use his name so I will just call him Dr. Reaganomics.

The good doctor eloquently and passionately explained to me last September, right after the collapse of the economy, all about the "new global economy" and how the rich were too important to fail and needed bailouts. So I figure if anyone could help me understand about taxing the rich, it should be Dr. Reaganomics.

"Oh, it is you again," Dr. Reaganomics looked pained to see me.
"Yes, Hello professor I have a couple of questions for you about taxing the rich," I said.
"OK, but make it quick," last time you took too much time," he said

Dr. Reaganomics, if the top 1% of wage earners have more wealth than the entire lowest 95% of wage-earners, wouldn't it make sense that they should pay their fair share in taxes?" I asked.

"As I previously explained to you, the rich are special," he said.

"They keep the economy moving and everyone benefits. They are not only too big to fail but they are too big to pay too much in taxes. You see if the rich had to pay more in taxes then that would interfere with the money we are giving the banks to bail the rich out of their risky schemes and bad investments. To take more money from the rich would simply defeat the purpose of taking the trillions from tax payers in the bail outs. The rich need their money to invest in hedge funds and various financial instruments so that they can grow richer and thus everyone benefits. It's all very simple." Dr. Reaganomics was smiling as he related the wonders of the new economy.

"Dr. I realize that you are an expert on the economy, but still I don't see how taking money out of the pockets of the rest of the 95% of Americans to bail out the rich helps the economy. If 95% of Americans have a lot less money to spend doesn't that hurt the economy?" I asked.

"The economy is a free market in which the rich must be free to earn as much as the people can give them. This goes beyond economics. This is a question of liberty and freedom. The rich must be at liberty to take your money and pay less than their fair share in taxes because that is the beauty and wonder of capitalism. The capital has to go to the top because it is the rich that invest in hedge funds and risky investment instruments and thus everyone benefits. Who else will be able to risk the capital in these instruments if the rich don't have the money to do it. If we tax the rich more then they will not be able to invest in risky financial instruments to grow their wealth," Dr. Reaganomics said.

I could see that he was clearly getting annoyed with me now.

"But Dr.," I demanded, "isn't it a question of fairness that the rich 1% that have more than 95% of Americans pay a greater share in taxes."

"The economy is all about freedom and fairness is never a question to be considered. When you introduce fairness into the economy then you are going to have a lot of fairness but the rich will be less rich and thus that will hurt everyone. Again the whole idea of the "new economy" is to allow the rich to get richer so we cannot tax them more or expect them to take losses on their grand investments. It would interfere with the freedom of the rich to get richer. After all, you idiot, they are rich and if they weren't rich then who would the economy serve?" Dr. Reaganomics was clearly angry now.

"Isn't the economy supposed to serve everyone?" I asked.

"Again you are hopelessly lost in fairness and serving everyone. This is the talk of Democrats at election time but it should never be considered when talking about the taxes and the economy. It is all about freedom, my simple friend. The freedom of the rich to risk the world's wealth and to gain the rewards so that everyone benefits. Unfortunately, as I stated, when we tax the rich more they can't take as many risks," he said emphatically.

"But Dr. wouldn't that be a good thing. If the rich had a little less money and were not free to take such wild risks then the people would not be bailing out the Wall Street and the banks?" I puzzled.

"You are missing the point of our new global economy and unfortunately for you, I must go now. But I will repeat so that you finally understand that the rich must be free to take fantastic risks on Wall Street. If the people have money they do things like buy groceries, pay for housing, buy cars, buy clothes, send their kids to college, and all of the little things that will not create vast fortunes in this new global economy. The rich have to be protected so that they have the money to invest in risky investment instruments. When they grow their vast fortunes then we all benefit. That is why we can't tax the rich any more than we do now," he said.

So I said to goodbye to Dr. Reaganomics and headed out the door.

I was now confident that an expert had the right idea about taxing the rich. Sure some of what he said didn't seem to make much sense. But I do know that I want everyone to benefit and if bailing out the rich and not having them pay their fair share in taxes will help everyone then I am all for it. I am just not sure how that works, but fortunately we have experts like Dr. Reaganomics that know how it all works.

News Roundup for 2/23/09

Person wearing elephant with tutu costume
Pretty much any network news anchor

-Headline of the day-
"'Self-censoring' journalists gave visual nod to GOP: study."

Turns out that liberal media elites are so afraid of being called liberal media elites that they cut Republicans a whole bunch of slack. Clever of the commie media to disguise its lefty bias by favoring the right. Cunning.

According to the report, "A book by two Indiana University professors details their study of the three broadcast networks' -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- presidential campaign coverage from 1992 to 2004. According to the analysis, the coverage favored Republican candidates in each election." Hell, I could've told them that. But I guess media critics have to study something.

The book -- Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections -- found that Democrats suffered more from negative sound bites and unflattering photos, while Republicans were more likely to be given the final word on talking head shows and news reports.

"We don't think this is journalists conspiring to favor Republicans. We think they're just so beat up and tired of being accused of a liberal bias that they unknowingly give Republicans the benefit in coverage," said coauthor Maria Elizabeth Grabe. "It's self-censorship that journalists might be imposing on themselves."

Might be? Hell, they seem to revel in it. During the stimulus debate, Republicans outnumbered Democrats on talking head shows 2 to 1. Before that, Republicans dominated talk shows because "their party was in power." If these guys were to "self-censor" any more, they'd dress up in elephant costumes.

It's time for the media to follow the public's lead and say, "Screw Republicans -- they're all crazy anyway." Seriously, what amount of their audience do they think they'd lose nowadays? Republicans don't watch the news anymore, they're too busy hanging on Rush Limbaugh's every word. (Raw Story)

-cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids! It's time for a little "tough love" with Knuckles...

Chains we can believe in
click for animation

Hope! Hope! Hope! Change! Change! Change! (MarkFiore.com)

-Watch TV, get hammered-
Wonkette has put together their "Historical First-Ever President Barack Obama Congressional Address Drinking Game" and it sounds like it might just kill someone. If you hear one of the words of phrases, you've got to take one of the following actions:

-“Bipartisan” or “bipartisanship.” -- One shot, feel up somebody else’s girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse.

-“Same old politics” and/or “politics as usual.” -- Two quick gulps.

-“Discipline.” -- Take a very careful shot.

-“Infrastructure.” -- Two sips and check the fridge for supplies.

-Any mention of the Taliban: Put a “burqa” (pillowcase) over the heads of any women and gaily drink with your male friends.

Some I'm just plain not doing. For example, "Camera stops on various 'opposition' figures such as Cantor: If you’re male, do a line of meth and try to get another 'straight' guy to blow you in the bathroom" or "Any variation of 'best days are ahead.' -- Finish all the booze in the house, weep." Still, I promise not to judge you if you do.

Full rules at the post. BTW, I am in no way responsible if anyone actually does any of this stuff. Seriously, you, your liver, and your reputation are on your own. (Wonkette)

Bush's Loose Nukes

Cooling towers at nuclear plantGeorge W. Bush has no plans to retire any time soon. A post at Think Progress reminds us that Bush plans to make "ridiculous" amounts of money on the speaking circuit. While he'd probably be more valuable as a frank and honest witness to his own incompetence, criminality, and hubris, this is George W. Bush we're talking about here. Bush doesn't plan any truth-telling tours, putting all his mistakes on display so we can all learn from them. Former president Bush plans to be exactly like then-president Bush -- three gallons of smart in a fifty gallon drum, with BS making up the difference.

What people will spend the big money to hear will be Baron George Von Munchausen spinning tall tales of his own greatness. That is, if his bio at his agency -- Washington Speakers Bureau -- is any indication:

President George W. Bush served in the Oval Office for eight of the most consequential years in American history. Faced with challenges from a terrorist attack to a global financial crisis, he made difficult decisions that will shape the nation’s course and world affairs for decades to come. His leadership after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was an inspiration to millions of Americans. His policies, while controversial at times, kept the country safe for more than seven years and liberated more than 50 million people from tyranny.

Say what you like about President George, but he kept us safe -- that is, if you start counting right after the most deadly terrorist attack in American history. If you throw 9/11 into the mix, Bush averages more than one terrorist murder on American soil for every day of his presidency. In the "keeping us safe" category, Bush sucked just as badly as he did at everything else.

But, of course, we aren't supposed to point that out. We're supposed to pretend that 9/11 happened, they turned on the batsignal on top of the White House, and George W. Bush answered the call. We're supposed to pretend that a president eight months into his first term had just moved in and was unpacking. We're suppose to believe that George W. Bush was virtually born on 9/11 and everything that happened before then didn't actually occur.

And Bush would have us dismiss the problems after 9/11 as mere "controversy." For the Bush administration, spin has always been the answer. All problems were problems of public relations and could be fixed with photo-ops, propaganda campaigns, and nifty catch-phrases. And this approach to problem-solving (i.e., problem-not-solving) is still coming back to us.

[Government Executive:]

A number of institutions with licenses to hold nuclear material reported to the Energy Department in 2004 that the amount of material they held was less than agency records indicated. But rather than investigating the discrepancies, Energy officials wrote off significant quantities of nuclear material from the department's inventory records.

That's just one of the findings of a report released on Monday by Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman that concluded "the department cannot properly account for and effectively manage its nuclear materials maintained by domestic licensees and may be unable to detect lost or stolen material."

Auditors found that Energy could not accurately account for the quantities and locations of nuclear material at 15 out of 40, or 37 percent, of facilities reviewed. The materials written off included 20,580 grams of enriched uranium, 45 grams of plutonium, 5,001 kilograms of normal uranium and 189,139 kilograms of depleted uranium.

"Considering the potential health risks associated with these materials and the potential for misuse should they fall into the wrong hands, the quantities written off were significant," the report tells us. "Even in small quantities normally held by individual domestic licensees, special nuclear materials such as enriched uranium and plutonium, if not properly handled, potentially pose serious health hazards."

Suddenly, I feel a lot less safe -- even in retrospect. "Significant quantities" of nuclear materials are missing and the administration's solution was to fix the numbers so they match. Problem solved. Meanwhile, there are still materials out there somewhere, doing who knows what who knows where for who knows what purpose. Nearly two metric tons of depleted uranium alone are missing; a possible ingredient in a "dirty bomb" -- i.e., a polluting device meant to spread radioactivity and cause panic. That's "keeping us safe," as defined by Bush's Department of Energy.

So Bush can start his new job as historical turd polisher -- he may even manage to get a nice shine on the turd that was his presidency. But it's still a turd and stories like this one will still come out. That's the problem with history; it comes with consequences.

But that's just "controversy." The man born on 9/11 is a big freakin' hero and an example of presidential perfection.

What, you don't believe me?

Ask him yourself.


Crazy little thing called love: The human heart is greedy as the motor of an old Lincoln Zephyr


(Whatever feeds our greedy, needy hearts…)

Life has its funny and often weirdly serendipitous moments. In yesterday’s column I linked to W.B. Auden’s ‘O tell me the truth about love’ poem but now I feel I must render it in full, thanks to a story I just read in one of the English tabloids.

First the story, I think:

“American grandmother Linda Wolfe has become “the most married woman in the world” after walking down the aisle 23 times, and is now “on the lookout for number 24″. Mrs Wolfe, 68, is included in the Guinness Book of World Records for the dubious honour of being wed more times than anyone else alive. She has said that she is “addicted to the romance” of getting married.

Born Linda Lou Taylor, the American first married in 1957 aged 16, to a 31-year-old called George Scott. The union lasted for seven years, the longest and happiest of any of her marriages. Since then things have tended to go downhill. Over the subsequent decades she married a one-eyed convict, a preacher, barmen, plumbers and musicians. Two turned out to be homosexual, two were homeless and one beat her. Another put a padlock on her fridge. One marriage lasted just 36 hours because “the love wasn’t there”.”

As I said, it’s a funny story, although it’s also kind of desperate.

The human heart is like the motor of an old, American car - a Lincoln Zephyr, if you like. It runs on the kind of fossil fuels that are both strangely uneconomical and damaging to the immediate & future environment.

I am sure that there are many social, psychological and evolutionary reasons why we’ve developed this ‘crazy, little thing called love’, to explain and accompany our mating habits but humans are quite complicated animals and we tend to overdo things.

Which, at times, results in Columbine type shootings, bungee jumping, sending armies to Afghanistan, eating record numbers of pies or, indeed, marrying 23 times because you are ‘addicted to romance’.

Which is, come to think of it, more sad than funny, really but that’s humans for you.

Like the motors of those old cars I mentioned, the human heart feeds a most greedy and ostentatious machine that’s not very good at turning corners.

Anyway, here’s that old Auden poem, in full:

O Tell Me The Truth About Love

Some say love’s a little boy,
And some say it’s a bird,
Some say it makes the world go around,
Some say that’s absurd,
And when I asked the man next-door,
Who looked as if he knew,
His wife got very cross indeed,
And said it wouldn’t do.

Does it look like a pair of pyjamas,
Or the ham in a temperance hotel?
Does its odour remind one of llamas,
Or has it a comforting smell?
Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?
O tell me the truth about love.

Our history books refer to it
In cryptic little notes,
It’s quite a common topic on
The Transatlantic boats;
I’ve found the subject mentioned in
Accounts of suicides,
And even seen it scribbled on
The backs of railway guides.

Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian,
Or boom like a military band?
Could one give a first-rate imitation
On a saw or a Steinway Grand?
Is its singing at parties a riot?
Does it only like Classical stuff?
Will it stop when one wants to be quiet?
O tell me the truth about love.

I looked inside the summer-house;
It wasn’t over there;
I tried the Thames at Maidenhead,
And Brighton’s bracing air.
I don’t know what the blackbird sang,
Or what the tulip said;
But it wasn’t in the chicken-run,
Or underneath the bed.

Can it pull extraordinary faces?
Is it usually sick on a swing?
Does it spend all its time at the races,
or fiddling with pieces of string?
Has it views of its own about money?
Does it think Patriotism enough?
Are its stories vulgar but funny?
O tell me the truth about love.

When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I’m picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.