Archive for November, 2009

On Like Donkey Kong

November 25, 2009

In what is probably the most improbable political duel in years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Washington Post columnist David Broder have gotten into a public slap-like-a-girl fight.

These are probably the two most middling, lukewarm, bland, bloodless, colorless, soft-focus Milquetoasts in Washington.

If it were a professional fight, they’d promote it as Mudpuddle Reid vs.  Soggy Biscuit Broder.

(On the substance, both men are right: Reid is utterly uninspiring and ineffectual as a leader, and Broder has been trying to pass off the same 1980s-era bromides as gray-headed wisdom for a long, long time.)

A Little Help, Please

November 23, 2009

Let me say up front that I haven’t the time to read the 4,700 word document, nor much time to engage in a discussion of it either (which is why I need a little help here). But I’ve noticed in the news that 150 religious leaders have published “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.” A quick skim of an article about it reveals that it urges Christians to engage in acts of civil disobedience in regard to issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Alright, first of all, let me say that I’m a big fan of civil disobedience in general and that it’s not something Christians have been very proficient at over the years. In fact, the best civil disobedience stories out there are times when they were used against Christian opposition (think Gandhi, think King).

But someone will have to help me out here. What are these leaders urging Christians to do? I’m guessing that they already assume anyone that might listen to them would not run out and have an abortion or marry someone of like gender. So how are they urging their listeners to non-violently disobey abortion and same-sex marriage laws?

Again, don’t know that I’ll have much chance to respond. But any help in understanding this will give me one less thing to scratch my head about right now – and with finals approaching, I already have more than enough. 🙂

Deep Stupid

November 18, 2009

It’s shooting fish in a barrel — actually, it’s more like shooting a pumpkin in a barrel — but today’s winner is Sarah Palin.

The Israeli government is again expanding Jewish settlements in territory that belongs to the Palestinians.  Basically, they’re making any kind of peace treaty with the Palestinians impossible.

Ms. Palin’s response to that is that Israel should be allowed to expand these settlements as much as they want, because:

that population of Israel is, is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.

First off, I’m not sure what special insight into “that” worldwide Jewish population Ms. Palin has, such that she knows flocks of them will move to Israel in the next few days, weeks, or months.  Maybe it’s part of that whole End Times nuttiness.

Second, and this is the stupid part: what the heck does she think “that” Palestinian population is going to do?  Shrink?  I know she doesn’t think they’re going to get Raptured away, since they’re evil Canaanites.  Where does she think they’re going to go?

And as Matt Yglesias points out, the population of every country on Earth is growing.  According to Palin’s logic, that means they’re all entitled to poach as much land as they need from neighboring countries, which . . . well, you know.

Heck, that population of Terry’s house is expanding.  I guess he’s entitled to snag his neighbor’s house to keep a roof over his burgeoning horde.

Top Ten in Pop 2009

November 16, 2009

It’s not too long before those “Best of ’09” lists to start making the rounds, so I thought I’d go ahead and give it a whirl. Here it is. My Top Ten Picks of 2009:

1. Ellen Degeneres

She finished off the year by being just the second woman ever to grace the cover of O with Oprah Winfrey (Michelle Obama was the first). Hers is the only daytime show I tivo because she’s just so dern funny. Seriously, how can you not be filled with glee after watching this:

2. Comic Book Nerds

True, I hated Watchmen more than I can say, but the comic nerd movement (a movement which I fully support) is still going strong. TV shows started producing supporting comics, and some canceled shows even continued their stories in comic form. We got a movie about the origins of Wolverine, and children got in on the fun with Astro Boy and Coraline. And, whaddayaknow, The Big Bang Theory viewership is up 30% this season. Long live the nerds!

3. Michael Jackson Madness

It may not be his most popular video, but I will always remember the first time I saw The Way You Make Me Feel.  The grittiness. The energy. The high-pitched woo-hoo! I loved it. The man was talented to the point of madness, and he could make anyone get off their feet and dance. Or at least attempt the moonwalk. There’s been so much said that I couldn’t possibly have anything new to offer, so… R.I.P. King of Pop.

4. Celebs who Tweet

The twitter universe isn’t for everyone, but it’s become one of the few places celebrities can interact with their fans. Many simply tweet funny messages (Rainn Wilson: “Today I dedicate to Lady Gaga.”), but others actually get their fans involved. Ellen asks her followers to do random stunts to win tickets (“Meet me at the Grove and bring a yucca plant!”), Imogen Heap allowed fans to choose her album cover, and Nathan Fillion (sigh…) and others respond to their fans directly.

5. PS22 Chorus

I can’t imagine that someone hasn’t forwarded you a video of these kids at some point in time. They were everywhere this year, singing for everyone from Suzanne Vega to Beyonce. And, yep, they’re just a public school chorus with a truly phenomenal teacher (three cheers for Mr. B!). If you’re ever in need of some quick inspiration, just visit their blog.

6. Taylor Swift

She made history as the youngest person ever to win the CMA Entertainer of the Year, her album Fearless went platinum four times over, and she’s even dating the werewolf from Twilight. She writes, sings, and plays all of her own songs. Very good songs at that. The shot at ex Joe Jonas during her SNL monologue (she was host and musical guest) pretty much sums it up: “Hey Joe! I’m doin’ real well.”

7. Jane Lynch

I could give this spot to the entire cast of Glee, but instead I’m singling out the brilliant Jane Lynch. Even while playing the truly diabolical cheerleading coach, she elicits more real emotion than any other character on the show. I’ve seen her around in other movies (every Christopher Guest movie, in fact), and she’s always been a scene-stealer. But her role on Glee just might make her a bonafide star. Here’s hoping!

9. Kings of Leon

That voice. That guitar. The glorious anthem-y-ness of it all! Kings of Leon were the soundtrack to life this year. Since hitting the big time, some of their old school fans have accused them of selling out (as old school fans always do). All I have to say to them is: If this is what selling out sounds like, bring it on.

In related news, KOL also delivered my favorite quote of the year: “Marijuana is a gateway drug. It leads to sweatpants and cheetos.”

9. Joel McHale

I know, I  know, I mention Joel McHale in practically every other post. I love the man so much that I’m currently working on a music video with my fellow crazies in hopes of persuading him to do a stand-up show in Memphis.  Community gets funnier each week and The Soup is at its’ best. Come to Memphis, Joel. We’ll fill you up with BBQ and chicken tetrazzinni.

10. Star Trek

Pretty much anything J.J. Abrams touches turns to gold. But the big props here should go the casting director who managed to perfectly cast each character. That’s a tough thing to do with such an old and treasured (perhaps bizarrely worshipped) franchise. I can’t think of another movie I enjoyed more (or saw more) this year than Star Trek. Naturally, I’m asking for the special edition DVD for Christmas.

So what are your top in pop, fellow hippos?

Great Moments in Homophones

November 15, 2009

Listening to this week’s NFL preview from the other room, I heard a commercial for something called “Ass Effects.”  I wasn’t paying much attention, but they just kept repeating it: Ass Effects, Ass Effects, Ass Effects.

Then they said, “Ask your doctor if Ass Effects is right for you.”  Huh?

So I hopped up and dashed to the living room just in time to catch the very end:  Aciphex.

Who thought this was a good idea?

(I would also like to point out that the spell-checker doesn’t know the word “dashed.”)

The Fungibility of Fungibility

November 13, 2009

So the health care bill the House passed picked up a last-minute amendment.  Known as the Stupak Amendment, after Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), who wrote and offered it, it says no federal health dollars can go to fund abortions.

There’s nothing new about that.  It’s been the law since 1976, when the Hyde Amendment (named for long-time GOP congressman, Henry Hyde) passed.  It’s still the law and there is no danger that the House will revoke it.  Actually, in its entire 33-year existence to this point, it has never been in any danger.

“So why did Rep. Stupak think he needed to repeat the Hyde Amendment in the health care bill?,” you might reasonably ask.


Reaping the Whirlwind

November 12, 2009

Apropos of our discussion of my last Deep Stupid post, I’ve been hearing quite a lot lately about various segments of movement conservatism starting to turn on each other.

This isn’t the ultra-conservative vs. conservative stuff, like NY-23.  This is ultra-conservative vs. ultra-conservative.  Various tea party groups, for example, are questioning the patriotism of other tea party groups.  Some are even suing each other.

Hm.  Hmmm.  Something goes from a highly coherent, unified body to a bunch of small, self-involved sub-groups, then the sub-groups start calling each other names and questioning each other’s purity and credentials and eventually splinter into smaller and smaller sub-groups.

Hmmmmmm . . . this seems familar.  Like, a pattern I’ve seen before or somethin’.   Think . . . think . . . what. could. it. be . . . hmmmmm . . .

Oh no you dih-uhn’t!

November 9, 2009

David Frum:

Over time, the public option will grow, setting private insurance on the road to extinction – or at best to a tightly regulated new role as the health equivalent of public utilities.

Conservatives, are you sure you wanna go there?  Really?

Last I checked, electricity in this country was extremely safe and reliable, and available to effectively everyone.  Water in this country was extremely safe and reliable, and available to effectively everyone.  Phone service in this country was extremely reliable, and available to effectively everyone.

People like to complain about their public utilities for the same reason they like to complain about the weather: it’s always there, every day, without relent.  But that’s sort of the point with utilities, isn’t it?

If you want to hear some real howling, ask people how they feel about, say, their cable tv service — something that is run much more like the current health care system.

In short, I really don’t think the GOP wants to start people thinking about what life would be like if their health insurance were as reliable, automatic, and available as their electricity, no matter where they went.

Adventures in Ethics

November 9, 2009

It’s nearly always entertaining to watch members of the D.C. cocktail circuit try to talk about — try to pretend to suggest that they practice — ethics.  The current saga has to do with the lobbying firm Bonner & Associates, and a political ethicist at American University.

See, Bonner & Associates did some lobbying for the coal industry.  Part of this lobbying consisted of sending members of congress forged letters from various grassroots environmental groups.  In these letters, these grassroots organizations opposed some new coal regulations.  Counter-intuitive, no?  Yes.  But also very effective, because, honestly, who checks into these things?

Well, somebody did this time, and Bonner & Associates got covered up in stink.  They’re currently under investigation.

To try to control the damage, head honcho Jack Bonner ballyhooed that he had retained a pro bono independent ethics advisor, who would train his people and be something of a watchdog until things were straightened out.  That advisor was Dr. James Thurber, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, where he teaches classes on ethics and lobbying.

Thurber explicitly confirmed this, adding that he was doing it because he “believes in doing the right thing.”  Admirable, no?  Ay, a very treasure-trove of ethicky goodness, sez I.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ethics theater.  Shortly after Bonner’s announcement, Dr. Thurber took out an ad in Roll Call (a Capitol Hill insiders’ newspaper) praising Bonner for all the great teaching he had done over the past 15 years for Thurber’s CCPS program, and for . . . um, you know, hiring so many of the program’s graduates to do . . . wait for it . . . grassroots lobbying.


This raised some questions about just how effective a watchdog Dr. Thurber would be.  So Thurber backed out, and now can’t seem to put enough distance between himself and his old buddy: he now claims, contrary to his own previous statement, that he never agreed to work with Bonner in the first place.  Bonner insists he did.

Oh!, what a tangled web we weave when we practice to make people think we give a hoot about doing the right thing while actually continuing to be utterly hootless on the matter.

My favorite part of this whole thing?  The good doctor’s reaction to the stink his Roll Call ad created.

Thurber said he’d learned his lesson.  Something about conflict of interest, you say?  Something an ethics professor should have learned in ethics grammar school, perhaps?  No, no; you’ve run off with the wrong idea.

No, the lesson he learned was if nobody knows about it, it’s ethical:

I never am going to do [ads] like this again, thanking people. I’ll do it through personal correspondence.

Them’s crackerjack ethics, Professor Thurber.  Crackerjack.

Ricky Gervais and Elmo

November 7, 2009

Courtesy of our old buddy, Ari, over at EotAW, I bring you hijinks and tomfoolery: