Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Most Trusted Name In News

Watching a little CNN as I head off to work and they just had a bunch of footage of scary al-Qaeda training camps. The story? A possible al-Qaeda attack on the Olympics in Beijing. Not that there's any evidence this will happen, of course. It's just something that some CNN producer has decided could happen and hence the story.

Here's my story pitch to CNN. It's also something that could happen: I've known since childhood that the ruthless Cobra Commander has been using genetic manipulation and human cloning in order to create an army of super soldiers who are stronger, faster, more agile, more resilient and smarter than the average person. Seems to me that these superhuman clones could blend in well with.... Olympic athletes. CNN should do this story. What if Cobra Commander replaces the world's Olympic Athletes with his superhuman clone soldiers? As soon as the torch is lit, the clones could attack and take over Beijing, China and eventually the world.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

How Katie Keeps Her Job...

CBS has to pay her $40 million if they fire her.

And, good for her. It's always a good idea to give a ruthless employer something to think about before they jump the gun and fire you, especially when you left a high paying job to take a risk anchoring the broadcast that's pretty much always been third in the ratings.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

George Bush Is Batman

The Wall Street Journal decided to run this column by a mystery writer who believes that Batman is a metaphor for George Bush, so I thought I'd share the laughs.

Money quote: "...when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised -- then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror."

Well, I could pick this apart and make an argument about how the writer, Andrew Klavan doesn't understand the Batman mythos or the movie he saw. But that'd be pedantic and dorky. It'd be pedorkant. Instead, let's just list all the things we know that prove that George Bush is NOT The Batman despite the fact that they both come from rich families and have ties to weapons contractors:

Batman knows better than to go into battle without body armor.

Batman cannot be knocked unconscious by chewing a pretzel.

Batman would not choose a guy who looks like his enemy The Penguin to be his vice president.

If George Bush were Batman, Batman would love the Joker. "That guy's weird. Heheheh."

Batman never gets into a fight without having formulated an exit strategy.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Katie, Hillary and Sexism

I definitely think that Hillary Clinton's campaign was hurt (but not ruined) by sexist media coverage, especially from folks like Chris Matthews. But to have to read Katie saying this " is a tad annoying: "I find myself in the last bastion of male dominance, and realizing what Hillary Clinton might have realized not long ago: that sexism in the American society is more common than racism, and certainly more acceptable or forgivable. In any case, I think my post and Hillary's race are important steps in the right direction."

Katie Couric makes $15 million a year to read the news. I just don't get how she's a victim of sexism. $15 million a year and her ratings suck. And no, her ratings don't suck because of sexism. Her ratings suck because she has no credibility because she spent years acting like a clown on The Today Show, for which she was also paid obscenely.

This somewhat applies to Hillary Clinton as well. She had to put up with some comments that no reasonable contender for the presidency should have had to put up with. But I actually attribute a lot of it to that Washington D.C. rule of the 1990s which says that it's okay to say anything you want about a Clinton. Even so, she was badly treated. But she's no victim. She's a multimillionaire Senator who is on track to achieve any number of great things in the years ahead.

Is it sexism that keeps Katie from being the number one rated anchor? Or Hillary from being President? How can anyone square that with the wealth, power and influence they already have? Oprah Winfrey had a ton of struggles too. But you don't see her going around saying that sexism and racism have kept her a billionaire instread of a multibillionaire.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Fact-Finding, Fact-Losing

McCain recently criticized Obama for reiterating his intention to get American troops out of Iraq within eighteen months if he's elected even though Obama hasn't yet made his upcoming fact-finding trip to Iraq.

“In my experience," McCain said, "fact-finding missions usually work best the other way around: First you assess the facts on the ground, then you present a new strategy."

I'm not sure it's a fair accusation in this case, but it's a reasonable one. Policy decisions should always be inspired by aspiration but shaped by information. And even more important than finding facts is really thinking them through--making sure that they're as reliable, complete, and contexualized as possible. I've got no problem with McCain making this critique of Obama's stance. It rings a little hollow since I don't think there's any facts McCain could find that would make him change his policy, but that's a another story.

What I do object to is that since learning in 2000 just how ruthless and dishonest Bush and his retinue can be, McCain seems to have developed Stockholm syndrome for his captors in the creep wing of the GOP. In the past 5 years in Iraq, the US government has spent about a trillion dollars that could have been used at home (hello, mortgage crisis, hello tanking dollar), the US military has lost 4,121 soldiers, and (conservatively) 90,000 Iraqis have been killed.

This all happened to eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction that were long gone and to take out al Qaeda loyalists who weren't yet there. Before the invasion, those facts had been found. But then the White House had them lost. McCain isn't dumb. He knows that. But he's been mute on it for five years, and he'll be mute for another five months at least. If it's worth criticizing Obama for not making military decisions in terms of the best available information, surely it's worth criticizing the Bush administration-- Oh, never mind. We know what's going on.

Anyway, the good news in all this is that during the Bush administration, human life hasn't become worth less just figuratively. It's now literally worth less. 11.5% less, to be precise. In 2003, the EPA set the value of human life at $7.8 million dollars in deciding whether certain environmental pollution regulations saved enough life-dollars to be worth the regulation-dollars spent on them. Since then, the figure has dropped to $6.9 million.

Putting the dead from the Iraq war at 94,121 and setting aside deaths due to opportunity costs, the new EPA figure means that those who died in the Iraq war are only worth $649 billion. So it turns out that losing those facts about Iraq was only about a $1.65-trillion mistake rather than a $1.73-trillion mistake. Nice.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lame Bedfellows

So the New Yorker's latest issue has a caricature of Michelle & Barack Obama on its cover. She looks like a cross between Sister Souljah and Angela Davis, and he looks like Osama bin Laden. There's an American flag burning in the background.

Obviously--obviously!--this is a satire of all the untrue rumors about Obama that range from the (should-be) benign (Obama = Muslim) to the clearly insane (Obama = al Qaeda sleeper). It's well done and kinda funny.

Naturally, nobody involved in the major parties' campaigns admits to having a sense of humor about it.

An Obama spokesman told reporters, "The New Yorker may think... that their cover is a satirical lampoon... But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree." John McCain weighed in on the issue himself, calling it "totally inappropriate" and adding, "I understand if Senator Obama and his supporters would find it offensive." Heck, even Michael Bloomberg said, "We all have to watch very carefully what we say — our attempts at humor, our attempts at informing people — because some of what we say can be misinterpreted and do real damage."

Isn't it bad enough that during a presidential election our candidates' debates involve no real debate and that their policy positions have about as much detail as a 4-dpi image? Are we supposed to sacrifice our senses of humor too?

Well, as far some are concerned, yes. But the really annoying thing is that I'm convinced that neither McCain nor Obama is truly offended by these cartoons. There's no way that anybody who has even the vaguest idea what the New Yorker is would legitimately believe that the cartoonist was being serious. And it's a pretty funny drawing. I'm almost positive that both candidates responded as they did solely in order to put position themselves as centrists.

By claiming to be offended, Obama gets to take a swing at a lefty publication and remind people that, indeed, he isn't a terrorist and that his wife doesn't hate whitey. And John McCain gets to present himself as a racially sensitive kinda Republican who's wiling to agree with his opponent on matters of principle when their principles overlap.

Except here the principle they share is "I really want to get elected." And, of course, to bore us silly in the process. Only it's the kind of silly that we're not allowed to laugh at, apparently.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Free at Last, Free (of him) at Last!

Former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms died early this morning. No doubt it would have pleased him to die on the Fourth of July, though likely not as much as making it to next April 12 would have.

You know, I disagreed with pretty much every position Jesse Helms ever took--on race, on militarism, on art, on religion, on gay rights and civil rights in general. But when a man dies, you have to be respectfully willing to give him his due on the things he did right.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what those things are. Maybe he was a good family man?

If I remember correctly, soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jesse Helms used one of his popular WRAL radio commentaries to say that King had gotten what he deserved for promoting violence. In that eulogistic spirit, let me commemorate the life of Jesse Helms with some things that he definitely did say about race and social justice:
—"It is time to face, honestly and sincerely, the purely scientific evidence of natural racial distinction in group intellect."

—Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers can be "proved Communists and sex perverts.”

—King is “a sham, an agitator, a fellow traveler with known communists … King can wave his Nobel Peace Prize to his heart’s content, [but his movement] is about as non-violent as the Marines landing on Iwo Jima, and is a ‘movement’ only in the sese that mob action is moving and spreading throughout the land.”

—In 1968, Helms could hear in in King’s voice “the crackle of anarchy and the threat of violence.”

Rest in Silence, Jesse Helms.


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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Almost Forgot about Them

So, yeah, the NRA. Great.

The NRA is proudly proclaiming that it's going to carry out a $15m campaign against Barack Obama. Now, I kinda suspect that figure's a strategic exaggeration, but still, the NRA would seem to mean business on this one.

My favorite quote from the CNN article I've linked to:
The NRA's beef with Obama: He supports a ban on semi-automatic weapons and on almost all concealed weapons, and a limit on handgun purchases to one a month.

Yup, clearly the man's a fanatic.

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