Saturday, September 26, 2009

Carl Sagan Has Been Modified (cross-post)

This was something posted over on my other blog, but I wanted to cross-ref it here for the 7 people who might actually visit this site:




Consider my mind blown for the weekend.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Iran: Not Forgotten

It's been some time since I've posted on Iran. Mostly because the green uprising over there had quieted down due to the illegal regime's crackdown.

Today, however, the place has exploded: apparently Ahmadinejad tried to host an anti-Israel/anti-American rally during something called Qods Day (apparently a day meant for solidarity with Palestinians). The reformist leaders called for people to join, and reportedly spread word to use the rally instead to challenge Ahmadi's and Real Evil Overlord Khamenei dictatorial rule.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended. Hundreds of thousands - fully aware of what kinds of punishment awaited them if caught - rose up with green signs even though told not to. Hundreds of thousands marching the streets chanting against Russia instead of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians showing that even after all the crap that's been done to them and their families, THEY ARE NOT AFRAID.

Rumors abound during times like this, and stories about mass arrests and more mob violence will abound as this weekend progresses. But Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and their lackeys have to be afraid right now, because the people they want to rule over no longer are afraid. Like any bullies, they should be terrified that their intimidation tactics aren't working...

With hope, it shouldn't be much longer. To everyone in Iran standing up, God Bless you and yours. Stay safe.

EDIT: via Sullivan, this blog Tehran 24 has a slew of photos of the day. Link it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Andrew Sullivan Thinks it's Petty to Punish Wilson

Let us not look at the rebuke of Rep. Joe (if that IS his real name) Wilson in terms of politics, but in terms of his actual behavior.

He acted rudely during a formal presentation. Let us not consider the location - Congress - as a place of political discourse and instead consider it as a workplace, or a school auditorium.

If a teenager disrupted or acted rudely during a formal presentation, the school administration has to punish him. Not because it is petty but because the school can't function if students are allowed to disrupt events in any way.

If an employee disrupted or acted rudely during a formal orientation or meeting, the upper management has to discipline that employee, because again the workplace can't function if disruptions like that are allowed. Personal experience bears this out: a low-level employee at my previous workplace made snarky and uncalled-for remarks about a guest speaker during an annual orientation, and that employee wasn't an employee two weeks later because of it. It wasn't pettiness: it was necessary.

If a Congressman acts the way Rep. Wilson does, and is not rebuked or punished, then not only will that Congressman continue to act that way we will have more and more Congressmen acting that way. And yes let's please consider the worse-case scenario that unpunished behavior will get worse (when shall we start seeing congressmen carrying canes, hint hint). And please also consider Wilson's behavior since then. His apology to Obama afterward is turning out to be weak tea: Wilson is selling t-shirts now promoting his 'stand' against Obama, for God's sake. That 'apology' of his now reeks of insincereness.

If you think that Wilson getting rebuked is partisan politics, then you're thinking exactly like Wilson and his fellow far-right GOP hacks: that it's all politics, that it's all fair game, that punishments are a ticket to martyrdom. You're not thinking like a manager of a workplace, or a high school principal who has to say "This is it, this is the line of common decency and acceptable behavior. This line, and no crossing it."

We've lost all common sense regarding acceptable public behavior. Is Congress not allowed to try and reset the guidelines again?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yes, This Is A Remembrance of 9/11

I was at the main library in downtown Ft. Lauderdale meeting with other librarians in the tech lab (computers) departments. The library was switching to a new email system (groupwise) and they wanted us to perform the in-house training. Meeting started at 9 am. One of my coworkers was late, coming in and saying there was news a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers.

It was sad to hear, but we all knew the story about the Empire State building getting hit with a plane back in the 1940s, so we assumed it was a tragic pilot’s error or bad weather or something (it was a clear day that morning in Florida. I think it turned out the whole Atlantic seaboard had clear skies… it was going to be such a beautiful day…) So we settled in, going over the email system, what we should teach, what the handout materials should look like, etc. It took about an hour, just sitting there in the classroom lab unaware of what was happening outside.

When we finished the meeting, we left the classroom and walked out into the foyer area and up the escalator to the library’s main floor. They had dragged out a TV on a cart and was trying to get a signal. For some reason, TV reception was lousy in that building, and they didn’t have cable connection. I saw an old boss of mine who was also at the library for a meeting and approached her, asking what was going on.

“Oh my God,” she told me. “There was another plane hitting the other World Trade Center tower.”

It took a few seconds. It took a few seconds to realize that one plane was an accident. Two planes, one right after the other… hitting each tower…

I knew then it meant war.

The lobby TV was terrible, snow and static, and I went up the 8th floor to see if reception for a TV in the staff lounge was better up there. It wasn’t. They tried moving it into a meeting room closer to the windows to see if that could help. And barely. There was still a lot of static and snow, and some of the guys I was with didn’t agree with me when I swore one of the towers had collapsed.

By that time, reports of the Pentagon strike were all over the place, rumors about other buildings getting hit with car bombs, more planes in the air… The call went out from the county government: everyone close down and go home.

Every skyscraper in Ft. Lauderdale was closing (the odds of terrorists striking South Florida seemed ridiculous, but by then panic was unshakable). The parking lot for the library was actually a few blocks to the other side of the government center across the street. I walked across and met a young couple who were trying to enter the government building. The county center had already locked their doors. The couple didn’t know. I told them. “Terrorists are flying planes into buildings. They hit the Twin Towers. One of them’s gone, just flat out gone.”

By the time I got to my car and got the radio on – the first time I could clearly get news about what was happening – the second Tower fell.

I couldn’t go straight home: while the downtown buildings were closed, other library branches were still open and I had to report back to the NW Regional branch in Coral Springs. When I got there, the whole staff knew. I met with my tech lab workers and we all talked about what was happening in low hushed tones. There were probably 7 patrons in the whole building, just one in that lab. Just before lunch time, the word came down that all libraries were closed until further notice from the county.

That whole day ended up with me in a daze. I went home first, sitting with my two cats and watching CNN for hours. Reports on the last plane – Flight 93 – started coming in. By the afternoon, I felt restless, despairing. I decided to go donate blood. I had never done it before: I hate needles, was terrified of doing it, but that day… well I wasn’t the only one. The only blood bank anywhere in North Broward was crowded well out into the parking lot. I ended up standing there for three hours before it had gotten so dark that you couldn’t see the persons you were talking with (few parking lot lights). So I went home and went back to donate blood that Saturday.

They ended up not taking my blood. I tested positive for Hepatitis C and spent the whole month of October getting re-tested before they confirmed it was a false positive. They never told me what I did test positive for, though. But I digress.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Just One More Thing, Sir," as Columbo pulled from his trench coat a copy of the Roberts Rules of Order

Some further notes on Rep. Joe Wilson:

  • Far be it to defer to Daily Kos diarists writing that we should focus more on the fact that Rep. Wilson lied. Oh, c'mon, guys, this is pure schadenfreude over here. Let's just enjoy the moment for what it is: watching a political douche blowhard twist slowly in the wind...
  • Speaking of Joe Wilson being the liar, he gets nailed for it by my favorite political critique source Politifact.com. Wilson is insisting that Obama and the Democrats are pushing to provide health care to illegal immigrants: is still now insisting it, when he 'apologized' in the media for his outburst he still claimed the health care bills were providing coverage for illegals. But read that Politifact link: that 'coverage' is not found on the pages the chain emails and astroturf talking points claim it's on. Politifact can't find anything supporting the claim illegals will get anything from the health care bills at all.
    Here's the deal on Politifact: it's managed by the St. Pete Times, a respectable paper that wins it's fair share of Pulitzers (one for Politifact!) for investigative reportings. I grew up in the Tampa Bay area and I've read the Times. I trust this publication more than any other media source (plus, any media corporation that p-sses of Bill O'Reilly has to be doing something right).
  • And an interesting side note: Politifact's research has 11.9 million illegals living in the U.S. at the moment and 6.8 million are uninsured. Wait: there's 5.1 million illegals who ARE insured??? How the hell did THAT happen?
  • There's been some blogger discussion about how the British Parliament - the closest democratic institution to our own - has a solid history and even a tradition of back-bench heckling, and that if the Brits can heckle, why not the U.S.?
    Andrew Sullivan discusses this, and almost immediately points out that even with the heckling there's one unbreakable rule: You can't call someone a liar: "...Once the opposition starts yelling "You lie!" they have essentially abandoned the deliberative process, by questioning the good faith of a speaker. Without an assumption of good faith or a factual rebuttal, just calling someone a liar abolishes the integrity of the debating process..." So Rep. Wilson wouldn't even get away with it in Parliament.
  • As for Wilson's Democratic opponent Miller getting truckloads of campaign funds from just five seconds of Wilson's faux pas? According to the Kos people who track this stuff: Miller has raised $170,000 within the last 24 hours just on the ActBlue fundraiser itself. Political observer Charlie Cook now considers this a race: while he considers it unlikely Wilson will pay at the polls another year away from this, Miller now has the funds to make this a decent fight.
Edit: Oh, yeah, one more thing:

Famous Last Words: Sept. 9th Edition

From what I posted yesterday:

They still have Obama's health care speech before Congress tonight to whine about.

From Congressman Joe Wilson (R-South "Yeah Like We Needed More A-Hole Politicians Screwing Up In Public" Carolina) during last night's Obama-Health Care speech before a join session of Congress:

You Lie!

Congratulations, Rep. Wilson (no relation to other Joe Wilsons out there)! You've just earned our Employee Jerkass of the Month Award!

Just some of the prizes you'll be taking home:

  • You've just won the immediate recognition from the entire world (well, outside of RedState and related blogs) for being a loudmouth douche!
  • You've just given your Democratic opponent Rob Miller in the 2010 midterms a major boost in fundraising ($150,000 by 8 am this morning)! Not to mention that your outburst, Mr. Wilson, can be used in all mudslinging campaign efforts by Mr. Miller cleanly and effectively. He doesn't have to hire a fake actor or edit your words out of context to make you look bad. You already made yourself look bad!
  • You've made the phrase 'faux pas' one of the most popular Google Search Terms ever this week! Well, other than Bunny+Lesbian+Fruit Salad+Porn.
  • You got your good colleague Charles Boustany (R-Louisiana) off the hook from trying to give a memorable official rebuttal to Obama's speech: no one else is even talking about it this morning! No stress for Boustany today!
  • You also get this nice dog whistle which you were supposed to use instead of the bullhorn you went with.

Seriously, what Wilson did last night was to take another boring rah-rah "This Is What I Want To Do" Presidential pep talk to Congress and turn it into a "OMG Do Not Go There Girlfriend" moment. Per Washington Monthly:

But the damage has been done. Indeed, Wilson's outburst is an almost perfect summation of 2009 -- President Obama appears big, Republicans appear small. Democrat show class, Republicans act like children. One side is serious, one side is shrill. The White House says something true, Republicans lash out with falsehoods.

The whole month of August with the town halls exploding with pre-planned outrage now appears like a bad dream - all storm and rage, all sound and fury - washed away by this one night. Everything the Republicans have been doing since Inauguration to tear Obama down - the refusal of the stimulus, the fight over Sotomayor, the health care debacle - has now been funneled into this one outburst - "You lie!" - that may seem so simple and yet is that one wafer thin mint puking the entire GOP effort into the trashbin.

Here's the thing. Wilson didn't have to shout out what he did when and where he did. Wilson could well have waited after the speech and make comments to the media accusing Obama of lying (and maybe not even those words, but dog-whistle phrases to clue in those listening for them): when done then, and to that audience, it's not that big of a deal. It actually happens a lot between politicians accusing each other of this thing or that act or those fruit salads. Also, if you listened to Obama's speech, despite what Steve Benen writes in that Washington Monthly article, you'd notice Obama did point that Republicans - in general, no names were named but you could see him point at Sarah Palin and others - were themselves lying about "death panels" and that illegals would get health care. Which is why Wilson shouted his response.

Wilson's problem is that he 1) openly called Obama a liar right in the middle of a speech, and 2) right there on the floor of Congress. Even though Obama was challenging the Republicans' statements and was effectively calling them liars in the process, it was by the rules of Oratory fair game for him to do so in a formal speech: go read Cicero, especially his Cataline orations. But what Wilson did was inexcusable. There's a reason Wilson's fellow Republicans in government (not the bloggers) aren't going out of their way to defend Wilson, and why Wilson immediately apologized afterward: HE VIOLATED DECORUM.

Remember Dick Cheney (oh yeah, like we're forgetting his criminal ass any time soon)? For all the violations of law, for all his endorsement of torture, for all his rule-breaking, the one thing he did that really got Congress in an uproar was that he privately told an opposing Senator to "Go F-ck Yourself" on the floor of the Senate. There was an honest-to-God debate over whether ethics charges could be filed against Cheney for what he said.

There are rules of behavior for Congress, and for all their clowning and incompetence the one thing that matters to them (well, the other thing that matters is their own job security, damn incumbents) is that they behave according to the rules. Wilson's outburst went against that. There are ways during a speech for members of the opposition party to act out: refusing to applaud at key moments, for example. But anything along the lines of, say, booing the speaker while acceptable at certain public events (if a stand-up comedian goes off the rails) is practically verboten at formal events such as Presidential speeches (Edit: see next paragraph).

It's disrespectful of the office. Even if you're opposed to the man, common decency insists that you Respect the Office. Which is why the likes of George W. Bush never received any of this disrespect even when the Democrats took over in 2007 and at a time when Dubya's polling numbers were lower than Truman's (which was the previous record holder for unpopularity: Nixon was reaching Truman's post-1950 numbers over Watergate when he resigned). Edit: Democrats did boo Dubya during the 2005 State of the Union, hence the strikethru. There is no question that was boorish behavior on the part of the Dems. The problem there is that unlike Joe Wilson there isn't one person to highlight being a douche, so the Dems get away with it due to sheer numbers.

Even when Clinton was in office and the GOP was in charge of Congress, you never heard this level of disrespect on the public floor. Even the impeachment trial over BLOWJOBS was done with some decorum (some).

And this had been the Republicans' biggest problem all this year: their animosity towards Obama - questioning his birth origin, comparing him to Hitler AND Fascists AND Communists AND a Secret Undercover Muslim, claiming he was ruining an already-wrecked economy - was getting so personal that they were disrespecting the duties and requirements of the Presidency itself. Why else was there a noticeable backlash in the media - after months of accepting some of the craziest conspiracy crap since Vince Foster - over the Republicans' "outrage" of Obama speaking to school kids to study hard?

Wilson's "You Lie" is in some respects overshadowing Obama's actual intent from last night. Obama was trying to claim a leadership position on the health care debate to get Congress to pass reform legislation before the year ends. Instead, all the blogs are aflame about Wilson's faux pas and half the mainstream media is chewing it up and spitting it out like they do all overblown outrages. But let's be very clear about this: Wilson's statement will do a far better job of rallying the Democrats to respond with their health care package and waking them up to how boorish their Republican colleagues have behaved all year than it will keeping the Republicans on message. Just look at their immediate responses: Democrats are sending truckloads of cash to Wilson's opponent and talking about censuring Wilson; Republicans are reeling and on the defensive in a way they haven't been since 2005.

Makes all that talk about Republican gains in next year's midterms seem foolish and uncertain now.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Things That Happened on Sept. 8 2009

Lessee...

Here's what happened on Sept. 8th:

Here's what didn't happen on Sept. 8th:
  • The planet did not explode.
  • The children were not taken over by pod people.
  • They did not come marching out of the classrooms in goosestep singing "Mombassa Uber Alles".
  • They did not begin speaking in Orc and sharpening spears at both ends.
  • They did not shatter the conch shell.
  • They did not line up at landing sites for the UFOs coming down to take them to Pied Piper Land.

I hope this didn't ruin the Republicans' week. They still have Obama's health care speech before Congress tonight to whine about.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Because the Insanity Won't Ever End: Hypothesis Proven

I posted a good while back about my Obama Shoelace Hypothesis: that sooner or later the Republican Far Right wingnuts will get so obsessed with stopping Obama - no matter what topic and no matter how minor an issue - that they will criticize the way Obama ties his shoelaces.

While this isn't about his shoelaces, this is definitely a tipping point that proves my hypothesis: the Far Right has gone batsh-t insane over Obama's planned video speech nationwide to schools promoting a message to work hard and stay in school.

From this link:

This is no small, isolated fit, thrown by random nutjobs. The New York Times, Washington Post,LA Times, AP, and others all ran stories this morning about the coordinated national effort to either keep children at home so they can't hear their president's pro-education message, or demanding that local schools block the message altogether.

That's right. The wingnuts don't even want those kids whose parents actually think Obama is, you know, the lawfully elected President of these United States, listening to Obama speak on education.

From that Washington Monthly link, a link to TNR's Michelle Cottle:

This is disgraceful. For starters, Obama's message, as described in a press release from Ed Sec Arne Duncan, will stick to anodyne topics like the need to work hard and take responsibility for one's own success (which once upon a time were values Republicans could cheer.) Admittedly, I don't have an advance text, but I'll bet a year's supply of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey that Obama will not be lecturing America's youth about the joys of bank bailouts, universal health care, or cash-for-clunkers--just as I am confident George W. Bush would never have used school children to hawk the Iraq war, the Medicare drug program, or "enhanced interrogation" techniques...
More broadly, Obama is the leader of this entire nation. It doesn't matter if you voted for him--or even if your head threatens to explode every time you think about him. He is the president, and, as such, it's a big deal that he's speaking directly to students about the importance of education. (Not teachers unions, you hysterics.) And, whatever one's party registration, the idea that any child should be kept home from class purely so their parents can make a political statement about an apolitical speech is appalling.

But this is where we're at. The Far Right is so obsessed with refusing to recognize Obama is President - that he won a fair election, that he's got a birth certificate and was born in the State of Hawaii - that they've taken to denying him the right and responsibility no matter how trivial to do his damn job.

What I posted on the Balloon Juice comments:
Remember Newton’s Third Law of Motion that states “for every action there is an equal opposite reaction”? It’s different in politics: “For every Democratic action there is a monstrously disproportionate Republican reaction”... (snippage)

The Republicans are complaining about Obama doing a perfectly normal function of the Presidency: speaking to the youth of our nation as part of his duty as Chief of State. Bush the Lesser did it, Clinton did it, Bush the Elder did it, Reagan did it, Carter did it, Ford did it, Nixon tried it, LBJ did it, Kennedy did it… anyone notice a pattern? Every President is supposed to speak to this nation, to provide leadership and motivation and morale, and the Republicans are throwing a goddamn hissy fit about it.

This is almost the same reaction they threw when Obama was invited to speak at Notre Dame. Only this time it’s worse: whereas the Far Right was outraged a pro-choice President was speaking to pro-life Catholics, this time the Far Right IS ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED Obama is gonna turn all our kids into GODLESS SOCIALISTS! Based on absolutely no evidence but their own built up animosities towards him.

And the crazier they get, the more they get their damn faces plastered all over the plasma screens. Attention whores, the lot of them. Can’t wait for the moment in the movie when the wingnuts shoot us in the back, leave our collective corpse floating in the pool, and finish the evening with a grand flourish down the staircase for the cameras and lights

The Wingnut acts insane. The Media provides them air time to spew their bullsh-t. The American people glance about wondering what the hell happened to this country.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Because the Insanity Won't Ever End Part XVI

Coming from a rally in Colorado, Rep. Michelle "Don't Do The Census So I Can Lose My District" Bachmann said this:

In a fiery speech that had her conservative Colorado audience cheering, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann railed against the dangers of health care reform and other Democratic initiatives, warning the proposals “have the strength to destroy this country forever.”

“This cannot pass,” the Minnesota Republican told a crowd at a Denver gathering sponsored by the Independence Institute. “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”

Uh, um. Mrs. Bachmann, just to point this out: You slit your PALMS to make a blood oath. You slit your WRISTS to commit suicide.

This is why I have a Polar Cub facepalming as my avatar.

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