Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oh Outrage Fatigue...

The September 11 attacks (often referred to as September 11th or 9/11) were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and many others working in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C. There were no survivors from any of the flights.

2,976 victims and the 19 hijackers died in the attacks. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of over 90 countries. In addition, the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to dust from the World Trade Center's collapse.

That's the first two paragraphs of the wikipedia entry for the September 11 terrorist attacks. Just wanted to be clear.

And if you're reading this, you probably know all that. In fact, I would be willing to bet you could give all sorts of more information and details and would think it were laughable if someone didn't know about these attacks.

But that would put you far ahead of Bush Jr.'s former press secretary Dana Perino, who just recently claimed there were no terrorist attacks during Bush's presidency. Go ahead: click on the link and watch her say it.

Let me repeat that to be clear: Mz. Perino apparently does not count the attacks of September 11, 2001 (well over 9 months into Bush's first term) as terrorist attacks. Apparently they were friendly misunderstandings.

Of course, Dana Perino makes her living lying out of her ass. And once again, maybe this was just a really, really stupid mistake.

But I highly doubt it. This is just another example of how the right-wing attempts to re-write history to make it fit their pre-conceived notions. Because of course her completely-wrong assertion about never suffering a terrorist attack under Bush wasn't just a mistake, it was to illustrate how strong a defender of the homeland Bush is, as opposed to that queer-o-sexual, Muslim terrorist currently in the White House.

And, of course, it doesn't matter that Bush was warned months in advance of the worst terrorist attack on our nation in the past 60 years, and then did nothing to prevent it. And then took actions to make matters worse and another attack far more likely.

No, like Reagan, Nixon, and all the other fuck-ups ahead of him, he must've been a brilliant and noble man, so surely something as inconsequential as the fucking objective truth shouldn't inconvenience your narrative at all...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Controlling the News Through Poor Infographics

The above image has been making the rounds on the ol' interwebs for the past couple of days. As you can see, it's a handy Fox News breakdown of who Republicans support for the next presidential run. And as you also might see, if you have 3rd-grade level math skills or higher, the pie chart adds up to 193%, an amazing feat.

This is a great example of not only the shitty, hurriedly-slapped togetherness of most everything the 24-hour news stations do, but also a great example of Fox' repeated "errors" that make their chosen politics and positions look better. Fresh off the flap over their twice in as many days doctoring crowd footage to make various Republicans look more popular than they really are, you now have this pie chart.

And sure, it could just be a stupid error of someone not knowing what they're doing, or it could be a conscious attempt to misuse graphics to make it look like all three of them are wildly popular. And granted I would like to think it was a failure, but we are, after all, in a nation where a large percentage of the population is insulted by the the teaching of scientific fact to their children, so I'm not too sure they would be that quick to notice obvious math errors...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nerdgasm: Jason Segel + The Swell Season

If you're a fan of Irish/Czech cutesy (former) couples folk music and underrated sweetly awkward comedy, than you'll love Jason Segel serenading the audience at a recent Swell Season gig in L.A.

Turns out that the number in the video is actually his phone number...I got his answering machine, so try it while you can.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't Not Do It Because It's Wrong, Don't Do It Because You Don't Need To

Recently 3 Tennessee football players were arrested on charges of armed robbery. As of yesterday, two had been dismissed from the team and action was pending on the third.

This is absurd for multiple reasons (how much money do you need when you're going to college for free?), but the most pertinent is this: you don't need to do it. Unless you're just in it for the thrills, there are far easier ways for a football player at a major Division I school to get money.

And no, I'm not talking about the indignity of work-study or even a real job. No, you simply get a wealthy booster to give you thousands of dollars under the table. Like this guy:

That's a photo (which was quickly removed) from Kenneth Page's myspace page. Page, a recent high school grad and high-ranked recruit of the Clemson football team, somehow got his hands on thousands upon thousands of dollars in fresh bank bills (in case the resolution isn't very good, those are twenties).

Now one might ask how an unemployed recent high school graduate would come into possession of such a large amount of cash. Perhaps he went trick-or-treating in a really nice neighborhood that gives away thousands of dollars in fresh-from-the-bank bills instead of candy bars...

Or, perhaps, a Clemson booster wanted to make sure their new recruit was happy and well taken care of. Not to make the wild accusation that these supposed amateur athletes occasionally make some good money for being "student" athletes, but it would seem to be a plausible explanation.

Which is what makes the Tennessee case so crazy. Major college athletes don't need to avoid robbing banks because of the legal fallout, they don't need to rob banks because there are plenty of people willing to give them large amounts of cash just because they play football for a particular university. And given the choice between armed robbery of a bank and getting thousands of dollars for free, I would probably choose the free money. But then again, I was busy spending my time in class instead of running football drills, so maybe they just missed that day in logic class...

Monday, November 16, 2009

And Jesus Said "Come to me, and I will give you rest...unless you're a homo"

As a life-long Catholic and someone who tries to follow the scriptures, there's often a bit of cognitive dissonance to work through. Sometimes it's particular bits of theology I can't agree with (I'm still looking for that part of Christianity that actually says gay people aren't people) and sometimes it's extremely embarrassing things my church has done that I can never condone (hiding the sex crimes of multiple known child abusers).

But this week the American church has really upped the ante of reprehensible/hypocritical anti-scriptural behavior. In two different ways, nonetheless.

Hot on the heels of a national announcement by American bishops that they would not support health care if it included any money that could possibly ever be spent near an abortion provider, Catholic Charities has announced they will stop all work in D.C. if it legalizes marriage.

Yes, that's right -- if the District of Columbia says it's ok for people who love each other to get married, Catholic Charities will respond by no longer housing or feeding the homeless. Because that seems like a proportional punishment. After all, there's no better way to make a political point than by punishing the poor and downtrodden.

If I remember correctly, the sermon goes "Blessed be the poor, unless of course, they can be easily used as political pawns in a war over semantics. In that case, fuck the poor."

People often misinterpret the role of infallibility in the Church. Not everything the Pope says is infallible; it is actually only special declarations that are deemed infallible (such as the Virgin Mary being subsumed bodily into Heaven). There's actually a pretty big out for when the Pope (or conservative asshole Bishops) are wrong. Called sensus fidelium it means literally "sense of the faithful." While it's a bit more complicated than this, it's essentially a smell test. Meaning that even in a Chruch as rigid and hierarchical as Catholicism, it is still recognized that if you honestly don't believe the Church's doctrine matches with what God really would proscribe, you can faithfully disagree if that doctrine just doesn't smell right. It's also the only nod toward some form of democracy in the Church, as a big enough groundswell of the faithful can actually change Church doctrine.

And these two recent events would be great examples of a sensus smell test -- no matter what tortured scriptural logic you can come up with to condemn homosexuality, I don't think any truly faithful person can agree that God would want you to punish the homeless as a result...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's Ok When We Do It...

I've been reading up on the Arab world a lot lately, and I'm really struck by how similar it is to the Christian world, in pretty much every way. Oh sure, the specific details differ, but overall, they're pretty indistinguishable. They both have their fanatics and their hypocrites, their crazy rites that really make no sense, they both blame women for all of men's faults, they both have sect splits over the most minor of differences, etc. Hell, they have the same deity and many of the same prophets.

And of course, even though both of their religions strictly and explicitly forbid killing, they both have managed to find some loopholes that make it ok as long as you're killing the right type of person. And here agin they're similar, as the right kind of person just happens to be anyone who isn't part of their religion (or who is part of it, but can be found to be not good enough).

One of the biggest contemporary resonances, however, is how the other side is nothing but bloodthirsty killers while your own side is nothing but pious and virtuous warriors for good. Glenn Greenwald has a great example of this as David Brooks decries Muslims for being so vengeful and murderous.

Yes, the same David Brooks who cheerleaded the nation into war (against two separate Muslim nations, nonetheless), who mocked those who called on a cease-fire between Palestine and Israel, and who wants to send more soldiers to Afghanistan, ostensibly based on how well that effort is going thus far -- you know, having lasted longer than both World Wars and yet having made essentially no progress, unless you count trading the Taliban (murderous religious-fanatic drug dealers) for the Karzai government (murderous secular drug dealers) as progress...

But yes, Muslims are the ones who enjoy war, Mr. Brooks. You merely think we should constantly be at war and measure all world leaders by their willingness to go to war. Perhaps I'm just not smart enough to parse out the subtle difference between the two...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Why "Reality" Rarely Bothers Us

A recent study by UNC and Northwestern sociologists explained why some people still believe Saddam was responsible for 9/11 despite the fact that both the 9/11 Commission and former President Bush both admit there was never any connection between the two.

The authors of the study point to what they call "motivated reasoning" -- that is, when we believe something, we tend to seek out evidence that confirms it and ignore contradictory evidence, no matter how strong or matter of fact it may be (this may be the same reason why so many Colbert viewers think he's actually a conservative).

Also of interest, one of the authors of the study, Andrew Perrin, was interviewed a long while back by your humble li'l blogger for the inaugural Contexts podcast. In the interview he discusses how polls of he electorate around political races are a "productive fiction." Interesting stuff, and not just because you get to hear my sonorous voice...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

PlayDoh Apparently Much Cooler Than I Remember

This is from a series of ads for PlayDoh that ran in Singapore before a Hasbro America rep found out and demanded them pulled.

Frankly, I think they do a better job selling it than the ability to make a long tube in the shape of a crescent moon, but I guess that's why I'm not in advertising.

Dick Cheney's Faulty Memory

We all know politicians have a hard time remembering when they did things that later became public fiascoes. Dick Cheney, for instance, never could seem to remember all those pesky details about the time he illegally outed a CIA agent to punish her husband.

Of course, that's not surprising. But Cheney being Cheney, he took it to a whole new level. It has now been revealed that he provided notes on the original Op-Ed piece that outed Valeria Plame as a CIA agent. And while he acknowledges that it is indeed his handwriting on that article, he now says he can't remember why he wrote what he wrote.

I think I'm going to try this tactic the next time I get a speeding ticket..."yes, officer, that clearly was me speeding, but I can't remember why I was speeding or what the speed limit was, so I can't be given a ticket." Should work pretty well...

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Doing the Civic Duty

Don't forget to vote today if it's an election day where you are. And if you're in Minneapolis, don't forget to give at least one of your three votes to Joey Lombard, of the Is Awesome party.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Shocking News: Bush Tax Cuts Favored the Wealthy!

(click on graphic to enlarge)

In a shocking twist sure to surprise all, the Bush tax cuts greatly favored the wealthy. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Some fun facts gleaned from the handy graphic above:

--The average household tax cuts for the top 1% were only a scant 597 times as much as those for the lowest quintile.

--But in percentages, the top 1% only got 18 times bigger a percentage reduction in their taxes than did the poorest quintile, so maybe it's more fair to look at it that way

--The top quintile had more savings in terms of both real dollars and percentage reduction than did the lower four quintiles combined!

And yet some people have the gall to say that major politicians are beholden to the wealthy and do not even consider the interests of actual working people! I think this graph handily disproves such crazed radical rantings...