Friday, January 29, 2010

R.I.P. Howard Zinn

You've probably heard by now that Howard Zinn died. There's not really much I can add to the chorus of obituaries that have already been written about him. I think my relationship with his work was pretty boilerplate -- I first read a copy of A People's History when I was in high school, and it more-or-less changed the way I see the world, like it did for about 50 million other people.

And what more can you say about a man so dedicated to humane ideals that he once re-traced the routes his planes flew in WWII when he was a bombardier so he could find and apologize to as many victims of his actions as he could. I'm guessing there's not a large number of ex-military who have done that.

Right up until the end he was a prolific writer and lecturer, and he will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Conservative Activists Strike Again!

A group of four "conservative activists" (it's hard to write the phrase, because conservative and activist tend to be two diametrically opposed terms) were arrested recently trying to bug the office of a U.S. Senator. One of the arrested is James O'Keefe, who regular readers might recognize as the guy who went under cover to entrap ACORN workers into quasi-illegal situations (hear a podcast with media expert Peter Drier discussing such attempts to discredit ACORN here).

My favorite part of the article? As O'Keefe was leaving jail on bail, apparently the only thing he said to reporters was "the truth shall set me free." Leaving aside the fact that leaving jail means you are currently free, I'm very interested to hear what truth that is. Dude, you were caught red-handed trying to bug the office of a United States Senator -- there are not too many situations in which that is not a crime. I can't wait to find out what "truth" there is out there that suddenly makes an obvious federal offense totally fine and understandable. I mean, even if I agreed with the guy I'd have to admit he screwed the pooch big time on this one.

So if we follow the safety procedures established by our previous president for dealing with ideologically-opposed activists, we need to convene a grand jury and threaten these four with dozens of years in prison, and assume anyone they have contact with is a dyed-in-the-wool terrorist...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Now That They're People And All...'s a handy how-to guide for dating your favorite new people, corporations.

And appropriately enough, a local article about how hard it is living without giant multi-national corporations. A recent state law requiring all state-purchased goods to be American made is straining budgets across the state.

The most ironic part of the article is that one person interviewed bemoans how other countries can recover more quickly from economic downturns because they actually make things that people need. I know it's more about political grandstanding than anything, but isn't part of the purpose of passing this kind of law so that American manufacturing companies, which by law and social pressure must pay their employees at least a decent wage (though often far from a living wage), can at least compete somewhat with multi-nationals that pay their workers pennies per hour?

So if people actually followed this law, then we would have companies actually making things and could recover faster from these kind of economic problems. But what do I know -- I'm sure the short-term solution of continuing to off-shore our production so we can get cheaper mershandise now will certainly pay off in the long run...

Monday, January 25, 2010

It Still Hurts Too Much

Couldn't even read the sports section this morning. In classic style, the Vikes played just well enough to get me to believe, so they could dash my hopes at the last second.

I'm now operating on the theory that Favre was actually Packer sleeper cell and this whole retirement saga/fiasco was just to lull us into accepting him so he could get our hopes up only to crush us...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Yeah, But Do The Saints Have Prince?

If you follow football, you know the Saint have a regular cadre of nuns who always show up to their home games (in their habits, nonetheless). Some are suggesting this gives the Saints some sort of holy advantage in the up-coming NFC Championship game.

But do the Saints have an incredibly odd new song written by Prince? No, but fortunately the Vikings do. Entitled simply "Purple and Gold," Prince wrote it after he apparently had a "vision of the future" during the Dallas game and was inspired to write a theme song for the Vikes' championship run.

Now, whether Prince is more powerful than some nuns is a subject to be debated, but I'd be willing to be none of those nuns have ever worn ass-less chaps, so I think the edge has to go the Purple one...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

But What Does Unemployment Look Like?

Unemployment numbers are often bandied about in the media as good or bad, big or small, etc. But it's always hard to know what they mean and who they effect. For example, somewhere like Detroit that has 100% or so unemployment (well, it's not that bad, but close enough) can have a big impact on unemployment numbers. Things may not be so bad elsewhere, but when one big employer leaves the country, it can skew numbers. Or not. I'm no labor expert.

But here's a really cool graphic that has the growth in unemployment broken down by county over the last several years. It does a good job of both showing the big trends in employment, but also showing how it effects different places at different rates. It's worth a very depressing look-see.

And as another note to throw on there, the unemployment rate (which nationally is currently about 10%) only measures people actively looking for work and not in prison. This is big for two reasons: 1) many people have given up looking for work because in many place there simply isn't work to be found, and B) we have by far the most people in prison in the world (most of whom are unemployed). If you put those people in the number (to actually reflect how many Americans don't have jobs), the unemployment rate would easily double. Which means that it's much closer to 1 out of every 5 Americans being unemployed...

In totally unrelated news to balance out that depressing thought, here's a handy Onion infographic on other ways God has shown his wrath through natural disaster, according to Pat Robertson.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ups and Down for Ioweagens

On the plus side, my beloved Panthers, the powerhouse of the plucky and lovable under-dog Missouri Valley Conference, are now ranked 20th in the nation in basketball. Granted, 20th is only a couple of slots into being ranked, but for a no-name school in the middle of nowhere Iowa, that's a pretty big deal. An even bigger deal? College basketball gods North Carolina are ranked a full 4 spots behind the panthers.

On the down side, Iowa is thinking of adding it's name to the long list of states that have banned the high-proof grain alcohol Everclear, just because some dumb-ass college kid nearly killed himself chugging the stuff. Without even getting into a rant about how Iowa can hardly ban the world's most infamous grain alcohol, why do we always have to make stuff illegal just because people are stupid? Why can't we just skip a step and make stupidity illegal, thus saving fun things for those of us who can use them responsibly, and guaranteeing the continued explosion of the criminal justice industrial complex? It's what we in business call a win-win!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Who Supports Green Initiatives?

Apparently the Pope. In the large stockpile of interesting things I probably should have known about but didn't, it turns out Benedict XVI is apparently pretty pro-environment: he's done everything from installing solar cells on the roofs of Vatican buildings to strongly denouncing world leaders for failing to make any sort of real progress at the Copenhagen summit.

Of course, though, global warming is just a scam and this is nothing but further evidence that the Pope is actually a left-wing nutcase intent on damaging free market enterprise, but it's interesting nonetheless...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Are Your Neighbors Watching?

The NY Times has a great interactive map this morning allowing you to see what videos are most (and least) requested from Netflix for a variety of metro areas.

Turns out the Twin Cities' most popular movie right now is the Curious Case of Benjamin Button (a/k/a Forrest Gump II), which also holds true for my zip code (though my old hippie neighborhood favors Milk...surprise, surprise). Giving me some hope? The least requested movie for my zip code is The Proposal, starring the charming Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. I haven't seen the movie, but I can only guess some wacky circumstance is keeping those two from falling in love...or is it?

My only bone to pick with this map is that you can't really define the least requested movie. Netflix has to have hundreds of thousands of movies, and I would guess that several thousand of them are tied for least requested at zero. On the other hand, if you were going to pick one movie out of the pack and define it as the least popular, I'm pretty comfortable with that choice.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Crazy Number 80

As I wrote only a few days ago, Michelle Bachmann is the insane crown jewel of Minnesota's bevy of crazy politicians.

Well, now she's been named the 80th most important Conservative politician in the nation, by the British newspaper Telegraph. The 80th most important Liberal? Bo Obama. Yeah, the dog.

That sounds about right, though: Michell Bachmann is about as important as the President's dog. Couldn't have put it much better myself...

Monday, January 11, 2010

R.I.P. Art Clokey

He may not be a household name, but his claymation friends are (or were...hopefully they still are). Art Clokey, the inventor of Gumby, died this week at 88. Though he's also responsible for the hokey and over-the-top Davey and Goliath shorts, he did use the money from them to get Gumby back on the air, so I prefer to think he was only doing them for the cold hard cash.

Either way, I know Gumby filled up much of my childhood, and a Gumby and Pokey still sit atop my desk, inspiring me to reach for the stars...or something like that. In any event, he will be missed.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Here's Your Weird News of the Morning

Li'l Wayne -- rapper extraordinaire, defender of New Orleans, syrup enthusiast, cake model for Alec Baldwin's daughter, soon to be convict, and all around bad ass -- will provide the voice of Jesus is an upcoming [adult swim] special "Freakniks," masterminded and produced by king of the vocoder T-Pain (who, of course, also played Frylok in the live-action Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode).

This isn't exactly the weirdest news I've ever read over my morning coffee, but it's probably the coolest. And I've got to give it to [adult swim] -- no other block of television can claim to have cornered the coveteted stoner/overweight loser/gangsta market so throroughly...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Michele Bachmann's Crazy Chickens Come Home To Their Insane Roost

You know Michele Bachmann, right? You know, the woman who had an orgasm the first time she met then-president Bush? The woman whose un-paralleled insanity embarrasses Minnesota on a near daily basis? Yeah, you know who I'm talking about.

Well, you probably remember how she said she wouldn't fill out her census because it would send her to an interment camp, or something like that. And she encouraged other God-fearing Minnesotans not to fill out their census either, because then they, too, would be open to all sorts of government mind control now that Obama and his socialist-fascist regime would know their estimated annual income. (Though I do have to at least point out the irony between this "how dare the government want to find out basic information about me?!?" stance and her continued support of government spying programs...)

But if you follow her crazy ramblings, you might notice she's stopped caring about the census so much lately. Is it because she suddenly realized she's bat-shit insane and wanted to back off of her comments to save whatever scrap of dignity she has left?

Of course not! It's because Minnesota is in danger of losing a seat in the House, and the person most likely to suffer from that is none other than Bachmann herself, who would then have to run against another far-more qualified and likely sane incumbent.

And in the end, I guess that would be a pretty good outcome. So maybe this is indeed the one time people should actually do what Michele Bachmann says...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

How Do You Decide When to Die?

And does it depend on your marginal tax rate?

It turns out that the super-wealthy (a/k/a our betters) are now desperately trying to cling to life so they can die in the small window this year when the estate tax momentarily lapses before being renewed in 2011. It turns out many wealthy people actually have directives in their wills telling their family to keep them on life support before until the estate tax is temporarily off the books.

Because you can't take it with you, but just because you can't, doesn't mean you should have to pay your fair share of taxes.

And a word on the so-called death tax -- remember, it will never apply to me or you or to anyone you know. If every single member of my extended family died tomorrow and everyone of them left everything they owned to me, I would still not have enough money to qualify for the estate tax when I die. As the article points out, the estate tax applies to about 5,500 people each year. According to the CDC, 2,426,264 died last year, meaning the "death tax" applied to roughly 0.2% of the population. The 0.2% we call the "obscenely wealthy who go to such lengths to avoid paying their fair share of taxes that they artificially keep their corpses alive long enough to avoid paying in any way."

Not noted in the article, of course, is the irony of how much money it takes to keep someone alive who otherwise would be dead. It seems the obscenely wealthy don't mind draining away large sums of money, they just don't want it going to their fair share of taxes...