Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) is the Majority Whip, the #3 Republican in the House of Representatives. In 2002, he spoke to an assembly of the European-American Unity & Rights Organization, or EURO. It's a white-supremacist hate group founded by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
A couple days ago, the fact of Scalise's speech to these bigots was uncovered and publicized. Since then, it's been amusing to watch the flummoxed Scalise try to tap dance through the shit storm while constantly revising his story:
"I didn't do it."
"If I did, it was a long time ago and I don't remember it, so it doesn't really count."
"I might have. I guess I did, if you say so."
"Yes, I vaguely recall the event. But I thought I was talking to a Cub Scout troop."
"Now that you mention it, they were a little old for Cub Scouts."
"Linked to the Klan? You don't say! Well, it was during a campaign and I'm not picky. I'll speak to any group during a campaign (especially a group likely to vote for me)."
"OK, it's all coming back to me. Now I remember. Yep, my bad! I regret doing it. Of course I oppose the views of groups like EURO (but pander to them anyway)."
"But I'm saddened that some are now trying to use this episode for political gain (just like I did by speaking to EURO in the first place)."
"John Boehner says he'll keep me around if I behave myself from now on, so all's forgiven and I'm good to go."
Weeper of the House Boehner: "Rep. Scalise made an error in judgment. He has my full confidence."
So the douchebag keeps his job. Unbelievable. Republicans are utterly shameless. To cobble votes together, they'll cater to any fringe group, no matter how stupid or vile. Let's tell the truth: When Mr. Scalise spoke to the EURO people, he was addressing one of the GOP's core constituencies. He was truly representing his party by talking to the base.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Sunday, December 28, 2014
I just watched the Cleveland Browns wrap up another inauspicious season with yet another uninspiring loss. Connor Shaw played better than Johnny Manziel, but that's faint praise. It was still . . . meh.
It wasn't always this way. In their first 13 years of existence, from 1946 through 1958, the Browns were a postseason team 12 times, a streak which included 7 AAFC or NFL championships. Those were the golden-age teams of Otto Graham, Marion Motley, Dante Lavelli and Lou Groza. Paul Brown coached the best teams in professional football. I wish I could say I remember those glory days, but it was a bit before my time.
|The great Jim Brown and Frank Ryan celebrate|
after defeating the Baltimore Colts 27-0
in the NFL Championship, Dec. 27, 1964.
Ryan threw for 3 touchdowns.
|Brown rushed for 114 yards.|
|Gary Collins caught all 3 TD passes.|
They came closest the very next year, losing to the Packers in another championship game. The Browns were consistently good into the early 1970's. In the nine seasons from 1964-1972, Cleveland was in the postseason seven times, appearing in two pre-Super Bowl championship games (1964, 1965) and two league championships (1968, 1969). Brown and Ryan, Leroy Kelly and Bill Nelsen. I loved those guys.
There followed a seven-year dry spell from 1973-1979. Have you forgotten the Paul McDonald era? I hope you have.
But the Brownies bounced back in the 1980's, fielding playoff teams seven times during the decade. First came the Kardiac Kids of Brian Sipe, Mike Pruitt, Ozzie Newsome and Dave Logan. Then from 1985-1989, Bernie Kosar led the Browns to five consecutive postseason appearances, including AFC championship games in the 1986, 1987 and 1989 seasons. Bernie's main helpers were Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack, Ozzie Newsome and Webster Slaughter. I loved those guys too.
But that was just about all she wrote for the Browns -- the last hurrah. After so much success, how were we to know?
There was one playoff team in the abbreviated 1990's, the 1994 squad led by Vinnie Testaverde and Leroy Hoard. After the 1995 season, Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore. In 1999, after a three-year absence, the Cleveland Browns were reincarnated as an expansion team.
In the 16 seasons from 1999 until now (a.k.a. The Trail of Tears), the Browns have employed 22 starting QB's, 8 head coaches, 7 general managers, and 3 team owners while compiling a lop-sided losing record -- a revolving door of embarassment. In that time span, their single playoff game was in 2002 with career-backup Kelly Holcomb (who?) under center. Futility, thy name is Browns.
We Browns fans are necessarily made of sturdy stuff, but will fate ever smile upon us again? I'm not greedy. I don't need to win all the time, and I know that every team -- except one -- ends it season with a loss. I'm just saying it's been 50 years between drinks, and I could use a little sip.
Friday, December 26, 2014
After initially cancelling the film's release, Sony Pictures backtracked and grew about half a nut, deciding to show it at 300-some independent theaters and to also release it online as a video download.
The big multiplex theater chains like AMC and Cinemark are still doing their spineless worm imitations by refusing to play "The Interview." May they go promptly bankrupt.
Haven't watched the movie yet (I hear it's OK, but not great), but that's hardly the point. It's to challenge Sony, Cinemark, et al, to stand up for their own business interests and reject 'fraidy-cat self-censorship, and it's also to figuratively flip off the hackers, whoever they may be. (Almost certainly not the North Korean government, but it's fun to imagine it was.)
It was a $5 protest purchase. How courageous of me! Now I gotta put on my PJ's and watch it!
The blog-year that was, in a dozen dollops:
Crime & Punishment, (1/16/14). I'm opposed to the death penalty, but if [society demands that] some bad people simply must be executed, let's bring back the guillotine. The desired death is certain, painless and instantaneous, but it's a little messy.
In Voting, Fair Is Fair, (2/26/14). If literal uniformity [in voting access] is so friggin' important, why must it always be accomplished while reducing voter access? Why not uniformly expand it?
The New Richter Scale For Fracking, (3/18/14). Level 4: Yes, the building did sway slightly. But I think it was just the effect of the economy growing from responsible oil and gas exploration.
Like Father, Like Sons, (4/7/14). The Koch boys, Charles and David, obviously share their daddy Fred's sense of privilege and superiority: They are the top dogs, and the rest of us are just a bunch of fire hydrants.
"We're Not Racists, We're Oppressed White People," (5/1/14). Cliven Bundy, Nevada cattle rancher and batshit militia man/sovereign citizen, said he believes that "Negroes were better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life." Ah, yes, the family life of slaves. Those were the good old days.
Perfect Solution To The Washington Redskins Problem, (6/19/14). All this honor-naming of sports teams was done by old white men who never asked any real Indians what they thought. The perfect solution: Keep the name, and change the logo to a potato!
A Message For Rick Perry, (7/22/14). Sister Norma Pimentel of McAllen, Texas wants Governor Perry to know that "Jesus did not say, 'I was hungry and you asked for my papers.'"
Tips For Being An Unarmed Black Teen, (8/15/14). Explain to the police officer that you do not enjoy being shot, and would prefer that it not happen.
What D's Can Run On In The 2014 Mid-Terms, (9/19/14). First and foremost, don't be a chicken-shit. Embrace President Obama and his two huge, historic accomplishments -- economic recovery after the Great Crash of '08, and the health care expansion of the ACA/Obamacare.
Ebola, (10/17/14). "Ebola ebola ebola ebola, ebola ebola?" Ebola Ebola (R-Ebola) ebola.
Lucy Will Never Play Nice, (11/10/14). A minority of eligible mid-term voters have, in their infinite lack of wisdom, just traded economic recovery, social progress and cool, calm foreign policy for voo-doo trickle-down economics, neo-Puritanism, raging Tea-Baggers, and knee-jerk sabre-rattling. Thank you so much.
Sony's Down A Pair, (12/19/14). Sony cancelled the release of the film "The Interview", citing a lack of corporate nut-sack and resulting general wimpiness.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Friday, December 19, 2014
It's a fun watch!
Stephen Colbert concluded his final show with a star-studded rendition of "We'll Meet Again." It begins with Stephen joined by Jon Stewart, with Randy Newman at the piano. Then everybody and his brother show up, and by the end there are maybe 100-plus people on the stage singing along. How many do you know?
I was able to identify the following, more or less in order of appearance, but I know I missed a bunch:
- Willie Nelson, musician
- Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian/author
- Bryan Cranston, actor
- Dr. Francis Collins, NIH Director
- Tom Brokaw, TV newsman/author
- Mandy Patinkin, actor/singer
- Yo Yo Ma, cellist
- Neil Degrasse Tyson, physicist/author
- Sam Waterston, actor
- Jeff Daniels, actor
- Cyndi Lauper, musician
- Big Bird
- Keith Olbermann, TV commentator/sportscaster
- Andrew Sullivan, author
- Katie Couric, TV journalist
- Ken Burns, film maker
- Ric Ocasek, musician
- Gloria Steinem, founder of NOW and Ms magazine
- Charlie Rose, TV journalist/interviewer
- Samantha Power, U.N. Ambassador
- Michael Stipe, musician
- James Franco, actor
- Toby Keith, musician
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA Hall of Famer
- Andrew Young, civil rights leader/politician
- Gen. Ray Odierno, U.S. Army Chief of Staff
- Barry Manilow, musician
- Bill DeBlasio, New York City mayor
- David Gregory, TV reporter/commentator
- Jeff Tweedy, musician
- Christiane Amenpour, TV journalist
- Patrick Stewart, actor
- Andy Cohen, TV host
- Cookie Monster
- Stone Phillips, TV reporter
- Peter Frampton, musician
- Ariana Huffington, publisher
- Alan Aldo, actor
- Cory Booker, U.S. Senator
- George Lucas, film maker
- Alexei Lalas, soccer analyst
- Jon Batiste, band leader/musician
- Elijah Wood, actor
- Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State
- Mike Huckabee, politician
- Bob Costas, sportscaster
- Tim Meadows, actor/comedian
- Pussy Riot, musicians
- Bill Clinton, former U.S. President
- J.J. Abrams, film/TV director/producer
- Smaug the Dragon
- Lesley Stahl, TV journalist
- Claire McCaskill, U.S. Senator
- Terry Gross, NPR radio host
- Matt Taibbi, author/journalist
- Eliot Spitzer, former New York Gov.
- Nate Silver, statistician/election analyst
- Eleanor Holmes Norton, U.S. Congresswoman
- Grover Norquist, anti-tax political activist
- Dan Savage, gay rights activist/author
- Thomas Friedman, columnist/author
- Paul Krugman, economist/columnist/author
- Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner
- Jeffrey Toobin, TV commentator/legal analyst
- Richard Clarke, national security expert/author
(Feel free to add to the list by leaving a comment.)
Thursday, December 18, 2014
When Castro took control almost 60 years ago, many well-to-do Cubans got a really raw deal. They lost most of their assets and fled to Florida. Today, those remaining old emigres are still righteously pissed off at Fidel, and understandably so. But time marches on and things change.
There's no more Red Menace. There are no missiles in Cuba. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the USSR collapsed in 1991. There are only five Communist nations left in the world today -- China, Viet Nam, Laos, North Korea, and Cuba. We've normalized relations with the first three. (My nephew just returned from a trip to Laos.) Now Obama has added Cuba to the list. It doesn't mean we're suddenly bosom buddies, but at least we'll be civil and do a little business together.
|"Barack, you will get me|
some good cigars, si?"
Now, as for North Korea, that make take awhile longer.
The group claims to be North Korean and calls itself the "Guardians of Peace," or GOP. Clearly, they are not Guardians of English Syntax, as shown by their hilariously garbled threats:
"You, Sony & FBI cannot find us. We are perfect as much."
"Bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to."
"All the world will denounce the Sony."
|"Seth Rogen not good American |
like Dennis Rodman."
President Obama warned against any hasty overreaction, and said, "My recommendation is everybody should go to the movies and chill."
Sony executives disregarded that advice and cancelled the film's release, citing a lack of corporate nut-sack and resulting general wimpiness.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
At a meeting of the Native Peoples Council (NPC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico yesterday, Native American leaders considered several proposals on the future of the continent's large, unauthorized European population. The elders ultimately decided to extend a pathway to citizenship for those without criminal backgrounds.
"We are prepared to offer White people the option of staying on this continent legally and applying for citizenship," explained Chief Wamsutta of the Wampanoag nation. "In return, they must pay any outstanding taxes and give back the land stolen from our ancestors.
"Any white person with a criminal record, however, will be deported in the next 90 days back to their ancestral homeland. Rush Limbaugh will be going to Germany. Justin Bieber will be sent back to Canada. And the entire cast of Jersey Shore will be returning to Italy."
Sustained European colonization of North America began in the 16th and 17th centuries, when arrivals from France, Spain and England first established settlements on land that had hitherto been occupied by native peoples. Over the past 400 years, immigrants from these countries and others throughout Europe have transformed the demography of the continent.
Despite their numerical superiority, many scholars question the legality of the European settlement, as it was founded on a mixture of unauthorized immigration, war and genocide.
Progressive native groups welcomed the council's decision today as a step forward towards normalizing relations with the White community. However, many conservative Native Americans are upset about the plan, claiming that amnesty will only serve to reward the lawbreakers.
"Why can't we just deport all the Whites back to Europe?" asks Sungmanitu Thanka Ob Wachi of the Lakota people. "They're just a drain on our economy anyway. They came over here to steal our resources because they're too lazy to develop their own back home.
"I can't believe we're just going to let them pay a fine. They should get to the back of the line like everybody else -- behind the Mexicans."
(This item got a lot of internet attention and angry comments in the past couple days, which is hilarious because it's a 12/12/14 article from dailycurrant.com, a satirical newsblog. The satire was lost on many people.)
Monday, December 15, 2014
Jeffrey Follmer, head of the Cleveland police union, was not pleased and piped up immediately: "It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Browns organization owes us an apology."
Earlier this month, a two-year investigation by the U.S. Justice Dept. found a pattern by the Cleveland Police Dept. of using their guns, tasers, fists and pepper spray unnecessarily, excessively and in retaliation. Seems the Cleveland PD may be a little fuzzy on the law themselves.
So, who owes who an apology?
For Cleveland cops who are season-ticket holders, the Browns may owe you an apology plus a partial refund for fielding a shitty team. But the team owes no one an apology for Hawkins T-shirt.
Mr. Follmer should stick to what he knows best and shut the hell up!
|"I'd do it again in a minute."|
We did everything we could think of to extract information from them, including torture.
Sooner or later, most of them said something.
Some of it proved useful.
Therefore, torture works!
|"That is most illogical."|
Putting it charitably, "Johnny Football" was consistent -- consistently awful. Meant to spark his team, he hurt them instead and the Browns are now all but eliminated from the postseason. Makes you wonder what the team's "brain trust" was thinking by benching Brian Hoyer and handing the keys to Little Johnny with just three games left to play and everything on the line. Hindsight is 20/20, but they shoulda danced with the one whut brung 'em.
And so, on to the next savior. Get ready for Quarterback Number 22 (whoever he may be).
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Citing "vulgarity," the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has denied a trademark application by the maker of "ComfyBalls" men's underwear.
Since I doubt a trademark would really be granted for the literal "ComfyTesticles" brand name, Buster suggests the following perfectly acceptable (non-vulgar?) alternatives:
"Like many Americans, I was shocked and disgusted by the Senate Intelligence Committee's publication of a torture report today," Cheney said in a prepared statement. "The transparency and honesty found in this report represent a gross violation of our nation's values."
"The publication of torture reports is a crime against all of us," he added. "Not just those of us who have tortured in the past, but everyone who might want to torture in the future."
Saying the Senate's "horrifying publication" had inspired him to act, Cheney called for an international conference on the issue of torture reports: "I ask all the great nations of the world to stand up, expose the horrible practice of publishing torture reports, and say, 'This is not who we are.'"
(From the Borowitz Report, by Andy Borowitz, 12/9/14, www.newyorker.com)
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate issued its torture report detailing prisoner abuse by the military and the C.I.A. in the Afghanistan and Iraq operations.
An ironic coincidence and a fitting coda on a sorry chapter in American history. We're finally pulling out of a place we never should have entered in the first place, and we're also acknowledging (at least most of us are, with certain grumpy GOP exceptions) that we did horrible, sadistic and fundamentally useless things while we were there. We were all about lies and stupidity.
No charges will be filed. The Justice Dept. will not prosecute anyone as a result of the Senate report, but I heard an acceptable alternative proposed last night: Let's officially pardon George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Porter Goss, Gen. Michael Hayden, et al.
Let them complain and get all defensive about legality and good intentions and the fog of war. An official pardon would imply the exact opposite: It was illegal and wrong and you knew it and you did it anyway and you are ultimately responsible -- but, as a matter of record, your crimes are officially pardoned.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Some of the worst ads on TV come from drug companies and law firms. At times, the ad copy can be downright nonsensical.
From a typical pharmaceutical ad:
"Don't take [our product] if you have [condition, condition, condition], or if you are allergic to [our product]."
How would I know I'm allergic to it unless I take it?
From a typical law firm ad:
"If you or a loved one have suffered serious injury or death from [disease or defective product], contact the law offices of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe."
If I have suffered death, I'll have a hard time contacting anyone!
(Courtesy of my brother-in-law. Thanks, Mic!)
So, to say "Obama is progress" is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years...The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
The researchers had many different pairs of players "compete" in this way. The winner of each game was never in doubt. The player given the advantages of extra money and an extra die won every time.
In interviews after each game, researchers found that a majority of the "winners" attributed their victory not just to the dumb luck of the coin toss, but also to their own astute decisions and skill as a Monopoly player, and to their own personal awesomeness in general.
Fascinating, I think. When given every advantage and handed victory on a platter, some people still will insist that they themselves played a big role in their own guaranteed success. They were born six inches from the finish line and believe they won the race.
"Blaming the victim" is a rationalization commonplace in cases like rape and sexual assault. She had a short skirt. She was asking for it.
Now, with the spotlight on lethal force used by police on unarmed black people (not to mention vigilantism by assholes like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn), we're hearing the same lame excuse-making with racist undertones:
The black person . . . was big. He argued. He looked older. He ignored my command. It looked like a real gun. He was reaching for something. He had an arrest record. I feared for my life. His father had a drug conviction. He looked suspicious. He was a misdemeanor suspect. Etc.
In code-speak, he was less than perfect, no angel, and so killing him had some level of justification. Figuratively, he was a black man in a short skirt.
What Rudy doesn't say is that virtually the same high percentage of crimes against white people are committed by other white people. Where is the equivalent presence of race-profiling, violent black police officers sent to maintain security by harassing, arresting, jailing, and killing proportional numbers of white people at their youth soccer fields, Volvo dealerships and Whole Foods stores?
When it comes to cop interactions, it's demonstrably unequal -- too often white people get a warning and black people get dead. Police training and tactics must change, and virtually everyone knows it.
A four-team playoff is an improvement over the "beauty pageant" polls of the past, but it turns out that selecting four teams by committee is just as controversial and unsatisfactory as picking two by computer. The suits-in-charge will very likely go to an 8-team playoff next year, which will be better.
But that still necessitates subjective selection, and some good teams will be left out. Look at the the NCAA men's basketball tournament. March Madness has a 64-team field. (I think it's actually 66 if you count the "play-in" games.) And yet, even with that many, there's still a selection committee, it's still subjective, and many teams on the bubble wind up disappointed.
The pro sports, with their well-defined playoff systems, do it much better. Baseball -- the Long Season -- probably does it best of all. After 162 regular-season games and a bunch of playoff games, the World Series features what are clearly each season's two best teams . . . probably.
All of which is a very wordy way of saying . . . GO BUCKS!