Monday, February 28, 2011

Shocker: Fox News Encourages Employees to Lie

In what should come as a surprise to no one, it turns out Fox News regularly encourages/cajoles/forces their employees to lie about important matters, even to federal judges.

Although this is a bit like pointing out that things get wet when it rains, it's always good to catalogue such behavior for future reference...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More on Wisconsin

There's been a great deal of awesome photos coming out of the ongoing occupation of the Wisconsin state capitol building, but I think this is one of my favorites:

It's a short list of rules for anyone staying there that were spontaneously devised by the occupiers. In addition to these rules, there are strict guidelines posted throughout the building about where and what food to share, where and when to clean (the demonstrators have taken over care of the building while they occupy it), and other such postings to ensure a smooth and well-functioning occupation.

I think what I like most about this sort of thing is that it effectively demonstrates how these people are not random crazies or troublemakers, but are actually extremely well-organized and courteous. It's a powerful example of the power of people to organize and regulate themselves, even without fear of retribution or anyone forcing them to do so.

As of the latest news I've been able to find, things are still at a stand still, but demonstrators are staying strong. Things may be heating up soon, though, as Anonymous, the internet hacker collective best known for their recent defense of Wikileaks, has announced they're taking on Governor Walker and Koch Industries.

I for one cannot wait to see what they come up with...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

On Wisconsin!

A great deal has been going down in the Badger state in the past few days. And while you should obviously be looking elsewhere for more up-to-the-minute reports, if you haven't been paying much attention to it, here's the important highlights to get you up to speed.

One of the biggest developments has been than Governor Walker was prank called by a Buffalo-area reporter pretending to be one of Walker's billionaire backers, David Koch. In the phone call, Walker gladly talks about all the things he's attempting to do to destroy collective bargaining rights, such as calling out thugs to beat up the men, women, and children peacefully camping out at the state capitol.

As many have noted, lots of the things Walker proposes or agrees to do in that phone call are highly illegal. In fact, a former Attorney General of Wisconsin has found at least 3 laws broken in the course of that phone call, with many more possible violations.

And the longer this goes on, the less friends it turns out Governor Walker has. Even the police and firefighter's unions (two of the only three unions to back Walker) have rescinded their support of the governor. In fact, when Walker ordered the police to clear the demonstrators out of the capitol, they not only refused, but publicly announced they're planning on joining the ongoing protests and sleeping in the capitol themselves!

And of course, the big point not to be forgotten in any of this is that it's not about balancing the budget like Walker claims, as the unions have agreed to all of the concession asked for save only their right to collectively bargain. In case you're confused by Walker's lies, here's a Pulitzer Prize winning tax reporter to break it down for you.

Finally, if you're curious what Rage Against the Machine guitarist, sole member of The Nightwatchmen, and all-around union rabble-rouser Tom Morello has to say about the subject, check out his great piece in Rolling Stone on his time at the capitol.

If you'd like to help out in some way, check out any of the sympathy demos going on in every state in the union. Or you could always pack up and travel to Madison for awhile. Or on an even simpler plane, send 'em a pizza.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How Racism Hurts You, Even If You Don't Think It Does

The War on Terror, for instance.

I know it sounds like a rather oblique example, but actually racism can help explain many of the problems plaguing this seemingly never-ending war.

For instance, why did so many Americans support the war on Iraq to begin with, when it was pretty clear from the get-go that there was no credible evidence Iraq posed any threat to us and there was all sorts evidence to suggest Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks? Obviously there were a lot of complex factors, but it certainly didn't hurt that Iraq, for many (most?) Americans, is a strange place filled with funny looking people, who even if they didn't have anything to do with 9/11 were probably still evil anyway.

But racism really helps explain why these wars drag on and on with no noticeable progress. Even bigger than listing the myriad ways American forces have blatantly ignored local cultures and customs, completely undermining the whole purpose of a "hearts and minds" style war, the inability (or unwillingness) to even understand the basic differences between peoples is clearly causing huge problems.

For instance, while U.S. officials continue to trumpet claims of capturing or killing important Taliban officials, it turns out many of these people aren't Taliban at all. In many cases, they don't even look like the people they're claiming (or claimed by others) to be. But hey, if all of these people look the same, who can tell?

And this, of course, is to not even mention the fact that many terrorists captured were for all intents and purposes simply invented by the government themselves. And again, while there's clearly many complicated factors behind these sorts of things, it's hard to argue that the reason these practices are accepted (or at least fail to produce any meaningful level of outrage) have nothing to do with the fact that they're really only affecting brown and black people who speak a different language and worship a different deity.

So even if you're a well-off white person who's never even seen something racist (at least, that you recognized), incredibly large sums of your tax dollars (not to mention thousands of lives) are being wasted, thanks in large part to racism.

[cue The More You Know jingle]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Maybe The Things You've Learned Are Slightly Biased

Been meaning to post this for awhile now, but here's a great article by Zsuzsanna Clark about how growing up under communist rule in Hungary was not oppressive and horrid, but actually far happier than are times now under capitalist rule.

It's a fairly balanced viewpoint of how life under communist rule wasn't all peaches and cream, but the introduction of rather ruthless free-market capitalism has not only failed to improve the nation, but has actually introduced a host of serious social problems.

It reminds me a lot of a really wonderful German movie by the great Wolfgang Becker called Good Bye, Lenin! which I can't recommend highly enough. Similar to the article linked above, it's a rather even-handed exploration of how life under communist rule in East Germany had it's ups and downs, but the introduction of capitalism didn't really solve anything, it just substituted a new set of problems for the old.

Both of these are great rejoinders to the images I remember from my early youth and from history books throughout school that life behind the iron curtain was dull and tragic and everyone there was horribly oppressed and miserable at all times. Obviously anyone with some critical thinking skills could figure out that might not be entirely true, but I always find it really fascinating to hear the voices of people who actually lived through all of that, rather than hearing the same tired tropes from people who have a vested interest in making communism look bad. Because it turns out, not only was everyone in the Soviet Union not completely and always miserable, but some of them even enjoyed their lives and approved of the way things were operating...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why Wisconsin Matters

In the Catholic Church, there are two types of sin -- mortal and venal. Venal sins are the little ones; things that are wrong, but not that major. Think lying to someone or not tipping your waitress. Mortal sins, as you might imagine, are the big ones, the ones that "destroy charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law."

As you're probably aware, right now in Wisconsin one of the biggest labor battles of my lifetime is going on, as Governor Walker has proposed gutting state employee benefits and barring them the right to collectively bargain for anything but the most narrow of pay issues (and even then, pay would be capped by certain factors tied to market functions) to solve a crisis he himself created, either because he's phenomenally stupid and does not grasp the most basic concepts of addition and subtraction, or because he
intentionally did this specifically to crush the power of organized labor.

So this is a good time to remind ourselves and Governor Walker that union busting is not just a sin, but a mortal one, violating the first, fifth, and seventh commandments.

So say what you will about the salary and benefits of public employees (though when adjusted for the fact that public employees tend to have much a higher degree of education and experience than their private-sector counterparts, they're actually underpaid), but the ability to collectively bargain for a decent and dignified life is a right sanctioned not only by the State, but by God.

And since we apparently get to defund Planned Parenthood simply because God might disagree with a small portion of what they do, I think we get to keep our collective bargaining rights...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Single. Best. Bobblehead. Ever.

You can forget ever trying to produce a new bobblehead that's witty and awesome and right in every way, because it already exists. Even better, the Twikies have confirmed it is both real and will be part of a promotion this year.

There is a 100% chance I will be in line for that promotion. And I am not at all being hyperbolic.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Confession Made Easy

If you like to participate in the Holy Sacrament of reconciliation, but find remembering all of the horrible things you've done and need repentance for simply too taxing, it turns out there's an app for that.

For only $1.99 you can get the Confession app, which handily helps you keep a running checklist of the depraved things you've done and need to bed God forgiveness for. And in case you're afraid of running the risk of heresy (which you would then need to remember to put in your app), worry no more, as it is actually approved by the one true Church.

I don't mean to sound like some weird out-of-touch elderly man, but wow, what a technological wonder world we live in...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Little Bit Late...

Maybe you forgot Valentine's Day this year and are scrambling to make up for it, or maybe you did something wonderful but are now out of ideas for next year, or maybe you have no sweetie but like to compile advice for a possible future scenario in which you do have someone to call yours. Or maybe you just like reading funny things.

If any of these scenarios apply to you, might I recommend reading Ghostface Killah's handy valentine's tips?

Through a series of tweets, Mr. Killah drops some mad knowledge on how to have the perfect valentine's day. Amongst many other such gems are immortal words of advice like:

"Nahmean she liked to get pampered too. She like to hear that "I Love You" shit a thousand times a day. You understand what I'm sayin."

"Cook for her if you could, if you know how to cook. If not take her to get something to eat."

"The whole shit is just shocking them. Shock the bitch b."

"Not to call her a bitch like that but you know what I mean, just shocking them. She gotta be like "Yo this nigga just fucked my head up!""

You're welcome...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"It’s A Pretty Stellar Piece of Stagecraft, One Guy Out There, Logic His Greatest Foe"

As anyone who's ever followed this blog or spoken directly to me for more than a few minutes knows, I'm a huge fan of the AV Club, the pop-culture obsessed review site that's a sister publication of my beloved The Onion.

One really fun running article series they have going on right now is a feature wherein their television critics watch and review shows that normally don't fall under the rubric of critically-reviewed shows. For instance, a couple weeks ago they looked at the Super Bowl as a television show, with little concern about the game itself.

But this week's article is a real winner. Staff writer Todd VanDerWerff watched an entire week of Glenn Beck to understand what makes him such a popular commentator, which I think entitles you to some sort of award, or at least free mental health counseling.

While his conclusions are not really anything I haven't heard before (Beck is a mix of shrewd entertainer and completely batshit insane), it's really interesting to hear him discussed not from a political point of view, but from an artistic point of view.

I don't want to do a disservice to VanDerWerff's argument and simplify it too much (seriously, go read it, it's only 3,000 words), but essentially, what he finds is that Beck is less political talk show than a combination of mystery serial and soap opera, giving him huge credit for building a Lost-like mythology that would take a viewer years to fully grasp.

I can't say that I'll be tuning into Beck's show any time soon now, but this is easily the best description of just what exactly he's up to that I've ever stumbled across...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Monday!

Presenting the Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator! It will easily amuse you for the next 10 minutes.

Here's my favorite that it produced for me:

Update: Nope, this one's better:

Friday, February 11, 2011

What's a Waste of Your Tax Dollars?

If there's one thing you can always count on from a Republican (or really any conservative and/or libertarian), it's that they'll complain about the gubmit wastin' their money.

Food stamps so children don't starve to death?
Waste of money.

Public schools so we can have an educated populace, the basis of all advances in recorded history?
Waste of money.

Medicare so that poor people can at least die in a hospital with some semblance of treatment rather than on the street?
Waste of money.

A bloated military budget that is more than the rest of the world spends on their respective militaries combined?
Quite necessary.

It's funny how that works, but nothing ever spent on giant mechanical dick-waving is ever a waste of money.

For example, the Navy spent $450,000 of your tax dollars to fly some jets over a closed dome at the Super Bowl.

Think about that -- you know of a school in your area that could use some current textbooks? What about the street outside your house riddled with potholes? How about any use of that money that actually does something?


But I've yet to hear all those crazy tea partiers carrying guns outside of Pentagon, telling them to stop wasting their money or they'll kill them all to "take are cuntry back."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How Come So Many Guys Hit .300?

I've started to become a big fan of Deadspin lately. For those of you not in the know, it's a snarky sports blog, but unlike, say, the sports bogs on espn or other official type sites, it has a lot more interesting things to say than updates on contract negotiations and comments that are generally more clever than the "Aron Rogers is a fag n u r stupid asshole" type variety found on most sports blogs. It's worth a bookmark if you like sports but generally hate everything about sports media (as I assume you do if you like sports).

Anyway, they recently posted a great article on why so many baseball players end the season with a precise .300 batting average. The article really is worth your time to read, but the short version is that it happens much for the same reason we think a $4.99 happy meal is a way better deal than a $5.00 one.

Essentially, the human mind very quickly categorizes things like price and percentages. Retailers have long exploited this, like in the aforementioned happy meal price -- even though you know $4.99 is only a penny less than $5.00, when you glace at it, your mind place the former in a the $4-5 category and the latter in the $5-6 category, thus making it feel like the former is cheaper.

The same thing happens with batting averages -- .300 seems to be a lot higher than .299, even though we know that means one at bat out of a thousand had a different outcome. But it clearly holds sway, on everything from Hall of Fame voting to several percentages higher salary.

As such, batters who are hitting .299 going in to their last at bat will do anything to get a hit. So much so that since the advent of free agency in baseball (when the difference between .299 and .300 in a contract year could mean beaucoup bucks), not a single person batting .299 going into their last at bat of the season has ever walked. None. Out of thousands of hitters who have been in that situation, none of them has ever taken a walk (a positive outcome to an at bat) because it would not nudge that .299 average up. It actually turns out these .299-ers have a .420 batting average in that situation they're so attuned to the importance of getting a hit.

Baseball. Math. Craziness. And somewhere right now, Malcom Gladwell is suddenly getting a smile on his face...

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Do You Have Oscar Fever?

Banksy does, and it appears he's awarded himself an Oscar before the Academy even gets their chance. Is this the underground version of an Oscar campaign for Exit Through The Gift Shop, or someone who's made their name thumbing their nose and things simply thumbing their nose at yet another self-aggrandizing cultural event?

Who cares. At least he was able to enlist the help of so many storm troopers to protect the hardware...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Slow Mobing Blog For Awhile...

Those in the know of your humble li'l blogger's personal life know that I'm having a fun little international adventure in a not-technically-anymore war zone for the next several months.

As a result, internet connections are sometimes hard to come by. While I should be settled in with regular internet access within the next couple of weeks, little is guaranteed in a place like this, so I don't dare to presume a perfectly functioning, always-available internet will be mine until I return to God's America™ this summer.

When I'm able to catch the internet and have the free time/desire to avoid work, I'll try to bang out some posts and schedule them for publishing so the content keeps coming somewhat regularly. But since I've only been able to have about an hour or two of access lately, I've been using it to get important and somewhat important things done, blogging not quite qualifying as somewhat important.

So all of this is to say that the same smart-ass eclectic content you've grown to know and tolerate will still be coming, just not quite as regularly.

Unless, of course, you'd like to wire me $1,000 or so that I may upgrade my facilities. I actually recommend that option, but I won't tell you what to do...