Archive for December, 2008

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging

I guess this isn’t exactly a surprise:

BY THE SEA, HONAH LEE – Amid the controversy surrounding an RNC member’s racist song, Puff the Magic Dragon has finally stepped forward to take a stand.

Chip Saltsman, a GOP strategist seeking to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee, recorded and distributed to committee members a CD called “We Hate the USA” containing songs ridiculing liberals. But one parody, “Barack the Magic Negro”, set to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon”, has attracted the most controversy.

(…)

Puff has now stepped forward to declare his unhappiness. “I was frolicking in the autumn mist when little Jackie brought me my usual strings and sealing wax. He slipped in the daily paper, and I roared when I read what this Saltsman nitwit had done!”

He angrily blew smoke out of his nostrils. “Honah Lee is a magical land of inclusion, as stated in Constitutional Amendment 4 concerning non-discrimination. If I ever see that mooncalf, I’m taking him out sailing and only one of us is coming back, you know what I’m saying?”

Puff then cut the interview short to continue his allotted frolicking for the day.

Honah Lee sounds very nice.  I wonder what their emigration policy is like.

December 31st, 2008 at 09:28pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weekly World News

Bog Person, Iceman, Mummy, Or Fossil?

Museum Tarp 2

If you had the option of becoming a bog person, an iceman, a mummy, or a fossil after your death, which would you choose?

Sure, bog people, icemen and mummies are all much cooler and better-preserved than fossils, but I don’t think they have the same eternal staying power.

Which is why, if given the choice, I would choose fossilization. Millions of years from now, the sentient cockroaches that rule the earth might someday unearth my bones and arrange them in a threatening pose in one of their museums, possibly holding a shoe and bearing a label like “Fearsome 21st-Century Predator” or “Ruthless Mass Murderer.”

Generally speaking, I don’t much care what happens to my body after I’m done with it, but the idea that it might someday scare the children of a distant and unimaginable future kinda tickles me.

5 comments December 31st, 2008 at 08:29pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

Raises For Those Who Need And Deserve Them Most… Not.

Epic Tone-Deaf Fail:

Members of Congress have at least one reason to ring in the new year: They’ve given themselves a $4,700-a-year pay raise starting Thursday.

With the economy in a recession and millions of Americans losing their jobs, however, members are under fire to rescind the pay hike, which will increase their base salaries to $174,000, roughly a 2.8 percent raise.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California will get a larger raise of about $6,100, though it’s about the same percent increase. Her salary will rise to nearly $223,500. Pelosi’s office declined to comment on the raise.

(…)

“Certainly, the timing could be a lot better. . . . When you look at the rest of the country, people are hoping to hang on to their jobs, much less get a salary increase or a bonus,” said Steve Ellis, the vice president of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Other critics say that Congress has done nothing to deserve a raise.

“The general public can’t help but think that lawmakers are patting themselves on the back, and padding their wallets, for presiding over the worst fiscal-policy blunders in recent history,” said Pete Sepp, the vice president for policy and communications for the National Taxpayers Union.

(…)

Ellis said that Congress would be wise to delay its 2009 raise until the recession ended or unemployment declined. That would show that public officials are making a “shared sacrifice” during times of economic difficulty, he said.

While members of Congress will receive a raise, 12 percent of seniors are living at or below the poverty line, said Daniel O’Connell, the chairman of The Senior Citizens League. A senior who receives average Social Security benefits will get a $63 monthly increase in 2009, he said.

The congressional pay raise is expected to cost taxpayers $2.5 million next year.

“This money would be much better spent helping the millions of seniors who are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heat on this winter,” O’Connell said.

He said that members of Congress were increasing their salaries after questioning the multimillion-dollar compensation of auto executives earlier this month.

“As lawmakers make a big show of forcing auto executives to accept just $1 a year in salary, they are quietly raiding the vault for their own personal gain,” O’Connell said.

There are a few congresscritters, in both parties, who are at least making a show of doing the right thing:

Four members of Congress from Indiana have announced that they won’t accept the pay increase: Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, Republican Reps. Mike Pence and Dan Burton and Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth.

In Florida, Republican Sen. Mel Martinez and Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis and Ginny Brown-Waite said they’d vote to block the raise if congressional leaders allowed a vote. California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she wanted nothing to do with the raise. Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, intends to donate her raise to charity…

As for the rest of them, well, not so much…

Finding anyone brave enough to defend the pay hike in Washington these days is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. When they’re asked to comment, usually accessible members quickly go missing, are on vacation, are extremely busy with family members or can’t be reached on their cell phones because they’re in remote locations. Some congressional aides, however, speaking privately, said they wouldn’t be surprised if public pressure forced Congress to revisit the issue when members returned to work next week.

Even if they do end up cancelling the pay raise, they shouldn’t have needed to be shamed into it.  This was a golden opportunity to both do the right thing and score easy political points by showing solidarity with the millions of Americans who aren’t getting pay raises, or who will be lucky to even keep their jobs.

Maybe if they’d been doing such a super awesome bang-up job, I might feel differently, but… well.

1 comment December 31st, 2008 at 07:48am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Economy,Wankers

The Most Insane Sewing Machine I Have Ever Seen

Sewing Madness

For the love of God, it has THREE USB PORTS. Whyyy.

The latest piece of tech in the war on grandmas has gotta be Brother’s Quattro 6000D sewing machine, a beastly machine with specs that will help even the most diligent granny patch up those quilts or ripped teddies more efficiently. Once you get past the huge 50-inch workspace, you’ll notice the 4.5 x 7-inch Sharp HD LCD display and embedded runway lighting. Brother’s “InnovEye” and “Up-Close Viewer” technology places a camera right next to the needle to give the user a birds-eye view on the LCD to allow perfect placement before stitching. Advanced embroidery features and built-in tutorials should certainly mitigate any mishaps, and should you get the urge to plug every flash drive you own into it, there are 3 USB ports.

Surely this is madness.

1 comment December 30th, 2008 at 10:50pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Technology,Weirdness

Giant Chinese Snow Santa!

You heard me.

Giant Snow Santa

China’s freezing northern city of Harbin is building what organizers say is the world’s largest Santa Claus ice sculpture.

The giant Father Christmas, 160 meters (525 ft) long and 24 meters high, centers on an enormous face of Father Christmas, complete with flowing beard and hat.

(…)

Every year the city plays host to a world-renowned ice festival. But the effects of global warming are taking a toll as the snow and ice now melt more rapidly than in the past.

Organizers said they had to artificially make snow for the Santa Claus sculpture.

Still, the sculpture has attracted thousands of tourists from all over the country who want to enjoy a white Christmas despite worries over the economic downturn.

I think the war against global warming has just merged with the War On Christmas.  Talk about strange bedfellows.

December 30th, 2008 at 08:45pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Art/Architecture,Coolness,Environment,Weirdness

Wanker Of The Day

Matt Ivester is a truly horrible person:

Across the country, college students are trading personal postings about their classmates, from the “ugliest sorority girl” at Truman State to “frat fags” at Clemson. Some postings simply state a person’s name with the command “Discuss” underneath. And they do, often in highly profane and personal terms.

Juicycampus.com has taken college gossip to a new level, transmitted instantly and anonymously. Students can post whatever they please – true or false, trivial or traumatizing – about whomever they please. The result is a free-for-all message board that makes bathroom scribbles look like kid’s play. The website was started 15 months ago on seven campuses and has spread to 500 colleges. Boston is a particularly busy locale, since it hosts 300,000 college students on dozens of campuses.

Matt Ivester, a 2005 graduate of Duke University, founded Juicy Campus, whose slogan is “C’mon. Give us the juice.” The site states: “This is the place to spill the juice about all the crazy stuff going on at your campus. It’s totally anonymous – no registration, login, or email verification required.”

The writers may be anonymous, but their victims are very much identified. At BC, one thread names a student and asks, “Is this girl a straight-up ho or what?” At Northeastern: “Who hooked up with hockey players this year? Name them and comment.” People did. The girl at Northeastern who “looks like a Muppet” got off easy. Ditto for the BC freshman who was merely called “a real tool.”

Some shrug Juicy Campus off as silly; others think it’s toxic. Whichever, it gets a million visits a month. “It became incredibly popular incredibly quickly,” says Ivester, 25, who was president of his fraternity at Duke. “There are 2,400 four-year institutions in the US, and we’d like to be on every single one of them.” It is solely up to Juicy Campus, headquartered in Los Angeles, to add campuses to its roster.

Ivester says he loved gossiping with fraternity brothers at Duke. “So why not have a place where you could share ridiculous, hilarious, entertaining high jinks of campus life?”

(…)

Gossip targets at some schools have reported getting emotionally devastated and even physically ill over the postings. Some have said that it ruined their entire academic year.

But Ivester remains unabashedly proud of the network he created. Legally he thinks he’s covered. Guidelines on the site state that users must agree not to post material that is abusive or obscene – though the rules seem to be honored mostly in the breach. Juicy Campus says it isn’t responsible or liable for the content and doesn’t vouch for its “reliability, accuracy, legitimacy, or quality.”

That doesn’t impress the attorneys general of New Jersey and Connecticut, who are investigating Juicy Campus for fraud for not enforcing its own policy against offensive material. And Google removed the site from its advertising network because it violated the company’s ban against “excessive profanity.”

But wait!  Ivester is actually a sensitive, caring nurturer:

Ivester has spent much time defending his “entertainment” website, saying that it’s all about free speech. But doesn’t the caliber of the conversation bother him? He says he doesn’t like “the personal attacks or mean-spirited stuff,” and in response to complaints, posted a letter reminding users that “words can hurt” and “hate isn’t juicy.”

Hate isn’t juicy, bros and bro-ettes.  We would all do well to remember that.

December 30th, 2008 at 11:26am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Wankers

Carrots And Honey

Still more evidence that while torture may be satisfying to sadists and useful to propagandists, it’s as ineffective as it is immoral:

In response to Steve’s probing questions, Naji proudly explained that his father was grooming him to be a mujahedin and a future leader of Al Qaeda. He also said that his father took him to important meetings.

A veteran interrogator the night before had told us we “should show the little punk who’s in charge.” This was the attitude of many of the old guard, the interrogators who had been at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq early in the war, when the “gloves were off.” They mocked those of us who didn’t imitate their methods of interrogation, which were based on fear and control. There was tremendous peer pressure to follow in their footsteps and not appear soft on our enemies.

We ignored the pressure. We believed that, particularly with a child, interviewing rather than interrogation got better results. Steve had been trained in interviewing children, and he used those skills with Naji, gently stroking the child’s ego and noting that he must have been a very important boy to have attended meetings. Soon, Naji started rattling off places where meetings had taken place. He detailed who was at the gatherings, how many guns were stored at the houses, what was discussed and what plans were made. Naji talked because Steve was sympathetic and made him feel good.

From the information he provided, it was clear that Naji’s father had been a mid- to high-level Al Qaeda leader with connections throughout Yousifiya and Al Anbar province. By the time the interview ended after an hour, Steve had filled up pages in his notebook with detailed information about Naji’s father’s network.

Back in our office, Steve and I marveled at all the intelligence Naji had provided — the names, the locations. He’d pinpointed the better part of Al Qaeda’s operations around Yousifiya. In the two weeks that followed, our soldiers put this information to good use and took out a significant portion of Al Qaeda’s suicide-bombing network in the area. For two weeks, violence dropped and many lives were saved.

(…)

Good interrogation is not an exercise in domination or control. It’s an opportunity for negotiation and compromise. It’s a common ground where the two sides in this war meet, and it’s a grand stage where words become giants, tears flow like rivers and emotions rage like wildfires. It is a forum in which we should always display America’s strengths — cultural understanding, tolerance, compassion and intellect. But that’s not how all interrogators see their role.

According to a recent report from the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee, “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot be attributed to the actions of a ‘few bad apples’ acting on their own.” The effects of the policy that allowed torture to happen at Guantanamo Bay, the report concluded, spread to Iraq through the interrogators who had first been at Guantanamo. The preference for harsh interrogation techniques was extremely counterproductive and harmed our ability to obtain cooperation from Al Qaeda detainees. Even after the old guard interrogators were forced to play by the rules of the Geneva Convention, there was still plenty of leeway for interrogation methods based on fear and control. I believe their continued reliance on such techniques has severely hampered our ability to stop terrorist attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.

We will win this war by being smarter, not harsher. For those who would accuse me of being too nice to our enemies, I encourage you to examine our success in hunting down Zarqawi and his network. The drop in suicide bombings in Iraq at two points in the spring and summer of 2006 was a direct result of our smarter interrogation methods.

I used to tell my team in Iraq: “The things that make you a good American are the things that will make you a good interrogator.” We must outlaw torture across every agency of our government, restore our adherence to the American principles passed down to us and, in doing so, better protect Americans from future terrorist attacks.

As Alexander points out, it is not enough simply to outlaw torture.  Until all our interrogators understand that harshness is not the key to intelligence-gathering, they will continue walking up to the edge and being as brutal as they think they can get away with, and they will get nowhere.  Torture is about as effective for intelligence-gathering as invasion and bombing are for winning hearts and minds.  Who knew?

As with politics, the right thing to do is often the smartest thing to do… and also the hardest.

(h/t Brandon Friedman)

December 30th, 2008 at 07:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Iraq,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture

Bonus Wanker

Mitch McConnell:

From the Washington Post:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced skepticism today about the emerging economic stimulus plan, applying a brake to Democratic plans to quickly pass up to $850 billion in spending and tax cuts soon after President-elect Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
“As of right now, Americans are left with more questions than answers about this unprecedented government spending, and I believe the taxpayers deserve to know a lot more about where it will be spent before we consider passing it,” McConnell said in a statement, which will be publicly issued later today.

Rant on:

Let me get this straight. A Senator who oversaw one of the largest expansions in government spending in history is now concerned about spending? According to the CBO, total government outlays under Bush and the Republican controlled Congress from 2001 -2006 increased from $1.8 trillion to $2.4 trillion — that’s an increase of 33%. At the same time — again under Republican rule from 2001 to 2006 — the total debt outstanding increased from $5,807,463,412,200.06 at the end of fiscal 2001 to $8,506,973,899,215.23. And now a man who helped to oversee this is complaining about spending? Excuse me?

Funny how so many Republicans were totally on board with giving the financial sector $700 billion with no oversight and no strings attached and giving the Bush administration a blank check for a disastrous war (while slashing taxes on the rich), but when it comes to spending a comparable amount to, say, restart the economy, or a fraction of that amount to save the American auto industry and 3 million jobs, they suddenly rediscover their situational undying commitment to fiscal responsibility.

December 29th, 2008 at 09:13pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

Can’t Wait To Be Rid Of Laura Either…

Ick.  Just… ick:

First Lady Laura Bush “wasn’t amused” by the Iraqi who hurled two shoes at her husband – and said Sunday the jailed man is lucky Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.

“If Saddam Hussein had been there, the man wouldn’t have been released. And he probably, you know, would have been executed,” the First Lady said on “Fox NewsSunday.”

“It was an assault,” she said. “And that’s what it is. And it would be an assault to anyone. The President laughed it off. He wasn’t hurt. He’s very quick. As you know, he’s a natural athlete. And that’s it. But on the other hand, it is an assault, and I think it should be treated that way, and I think people should think of it that way.”

As “bad as the incident is,” she said, it is an indication of progress. “It is a sign that Iraqis feel a lot freer to express themselves,” she said.

Dubya is just sooo dreamy!

And I really don’t see the shoe-throwing as a stirring endorsement of free speech in the post-Saddam era so much as a complaint that it is not much of an improvement… if any.

In any case, the fact that al-Zaidi was “merely” arrested and savagely beaten, and may very well be imprisoned for many years instead of being executed does not exactly make me feel warm and fuzzy all over.  And the swooning over Dubya’s natural athleticism just makes it downright icky.

1 comment December 29th, 2008 at 08:15pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iraq,Wankers

Monday Media Blogging

It’s a Steven Seagal music video.

You heard me.

YouTube Preview Image

Actually not quite as horrible as I imagined…

1 comment December 29th, 2008 at 11:11am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

Wankers Of The Month

Depression profiteers:

A tight-knit group of former senior government officials who were central players in the savings and loan bailout of the 1990s are seeking to capitalize on the latest economic meltdown, enjoying a surge in new business in their work now as private lawyers, investors and lobbyists.

With $700 billion in bailout money up for grabs, and billions of dollars worth of bad debt or failed bank assets most likely headed for sale or auction, these former officials are helping their clients get a piece of the bailout money or the chance to buy, at fire-sale prices, some of the bank assets taken over by the federal government.

Emphasis on “enjoying”…

“It is a good time to be me,” said John L. Douglas, a partner in Atlanta at the law firm Paul Hastings and a former lawyer for bank regulators who helped create the agency that administered the last federal bailout, the Resolution Trust Corporation.

Some of these former federal officials, like L. William Seidman, the first chairman of the R.T.C., are serving as advisers — sharing ideas with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and the transition team for President-elect Barack Obama — even while they are separately directing investors or banks on how to best profit from this advice.

“It is an enormous market,” said Mr. Seidman, who has already joined two such potential money-making efforts and is evaluating proposals to participate in a third. “I am enjoying this.”

So not only are they cashing in on meltdown and misery, they’re actually gloating about it.  Awesome.

December 29th, 2008 at 07:11am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Economy,Wankers

Why Is My Air Conditioning On???

It’s almost 70 degrees!  Two days after Christmas!  In PITTSBURGH!  I mean, what the hell???

Hey, if the global warming deniers can crow about how climate change is all just a great big scam every time it frickin’ snows, then surely we can raise the alarm when it’s shirtsleeve weather at the end of December, right?

December 27th, 2008 at 04:17pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Environment,Weirdness

The Lighter Side Of Blago

Can I sit in your seat?

(Image by Superpoop)

December 26th, 2008 at 08:43pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Comics,Corruption/Cronyism

Stay Classy, Republicans – Parts 831 & 832

First, Chip Saltsman shows himself to be a perfect fit for the RNC:

RNC candidate Chip Saltsman’s Christmas greeting to committee members includes a music CD with lyrics from a song called “Barack the Magic Negro,” first played on Rush Limbaugh’s popular radio show.

Saltsman, a personal friend of conservative satirist Paul Shanklin, sent a 41-track CD along with a note to national committee members.

“I look forward to working together in the New Year,” Saltsman wrote. “Please enjoy the enclosed CD by my friend Paul Shanklin of the Rush Limbaugh Show.”

The CD, called “We Hate the USA,” lampoons liberals with such songs as “John Edwards’ Poverty Tour,” “Wright place, wrong pastor,” “Love Client #9,” “Ivory and Ebony” and “The Star Spanglish banner.”

(…)

The following month, Shanklin debuted his version of the song, sung to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon” and performed in Shanklin’s impression of Al Sharpton.

“See, real black men, like Snoop Dog, or me, or Farrakhan, have talked the talk, and walked the walk, not come in late and won,” one verse in the song says.

Saltsman said he meant nothing untoward by forwarding what amounts to a joke more at Ehrenstein’s expense than at Obama’s.

“Paul Shanklin is a long-time friend, and I think that RNC members have the good humor and good sense to recognize that his songs for the Rush Limbaugh show are light-hearted political parodies,” Saltsman said.

Because if there’s one phrase that leaps to my mind when I think of that good-natured teddy bear Rush Limbaugh, it’s “light-hearted political parodies.”  He’s just like a conservative Garrison Keillor or something.

Also: Way to go, Nebraska!

Nebraska Radio Network, Senator-elect Mike Johanns was caught on tape talking about working with “President-Elect Hussein”. Johanns didn’t even back up and correct himself.

If you go to the site and click on “Newscast” on the right-hand side, it should play right now. At about 00:34, in his comments, he states:

“I don’t necessarily disagree with President-elect Hussein….”

Over the Presidential election, many on the far-right used Barack Obama’s middle name in statements, while implying he was a terrorist and trying to instill fear or disdain. They’d use it to make fun of him as well. As a result, some supporters on the left used Obama’s middle name in their own names as statements of support.

One can be sure that Mike Johanns’ use of the name “Hussein” is not a statement of support for the new President. Rather, it is a slip-up of the type of talk that clearly goes on behind closed doors when the press isn’t there, and he can let his guard down. And it’s a clear indication of the REAL Mike Johanns.

Oh yeah, that’s right charming, that is.  I’m surprised he didn’t call him “Democrat President-elect Hussein.”  It’s disgusting enough when right-wing bloggers and radio cranks like Limbaugh say crap like that, but a high-ranking elected official?  Wow.  Nice party ya got there, guys.

UPDATE: Oops, never mind about that second part.  Apparently, Johanns actually said “is saying” and not “Hussein.”

December 26th, 2008 at 03:26pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Obama,Racism,Republicans,Wankers

Friday Quote & Turtle Blogging

This week’s quote is from Monster In A Box, Spalding Gray’s spoken-word movie about the reaction to his spoken-word movie, Swimming To Cambodia, and his attempts to write a book.  This particular quote relates to his surprise at the lack of vodka in post-glasnost Russia, and the lack of anyone talking about the lack of vodka:

Do you remember the vodka? When will the vodka come again?

And, of course, there’ll be other people’s turtles…

SD Turtle 1

December 26th, 2008 at 01:46pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Friday Quote & Cat Blogging,La Jolla/San Diego,Photoblogging

Merry War On Christmas, Everybody!

YouTube Preview Image

Yes, I’m just going to use this every Christmas until I see something better.  So far there is nothing better.

3 comments December 25th, 2008 at 10:19am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging

Weekly World News has the latest on the Minnesota Senate race:

Minnesotans have turned to schoolyard protocol in a last ditch effort to solve their Senate conundrum.

Following a 2-month recount that has still not determined a winner in the Minnesota Senate race between incumbent Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken, officials have decided on an age-old method to settle the matter – Rock Paper Scissors!

With ballot challenges fluctuating into the thousands, lawsuits being filed by both sides every day, and Minnesota voters unwilling to start the next session of Congress with incomplete representation, election officials have had a very difficult task before them.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie endorsed the move as weather difficulties prevented the State Canvassing Board from meeting on Monday.

“We now have a concrete, time-tested, voter approved method of ending the debate over this election.  Voters are eager to move on.  They’re eager to start fixing the economy, the environment, foreign relations.  And they’ll do it with whichever Senator wins the battle of Rock Paper Scissors in three throws or less.”

Representatives of the Franken and Coleman campaigns have confirmed that they have agreed on the referee for the match-up.

Former Minnesota Governor and third-party candidate Jesse “The Body” Ventura will act as the referee and oversee that it meets all the rules and regulations of the American Association of Rock Paper Scissors.

“I know some people are worried that I may end up throwing a Rock in the ring at the last minute,” Ventura told reporters.  “But if I wanted that seat, I would have thrown my hat in the ring over the summer.”

“It’ll be a fair match and we’ll have a winner.  No whining, no lawsuits, no appeals.”

Ventura has had to knock some heads after Coleman tried to weasel out of the competition citing carpel tunnel syndrome.

In other news, New York State is so hard up for cash that Governor Patterson has sold Coney Island to the mer-people.

December 24th, 2008 at 10:33pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weekly World News

Pre-Christmas Awesomeness, Part III

Walker Library
Andrew Moore

This is The Most Awesome Library Ever:

Nothing quite prepares you for the culture shock of Jay Walker’s library. You exit the austere parlor of his New England home and pass through a hallway into the bibliographic equivalent of a Disney ride. Stuffed with landmark tomes and eye-grabbing historical objects—on the walls, on tables, standing on the floor—the room occupies about 3,600 square feet on three mazelike levels. Is that a Sputnik? (Yes.) Hey, those books appear to be bound in rubies. (They are.) That edition of Chaucer … is it a Kelmscott? (Natch.) Gee, that chandelier looks like the one in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. (Because it is.) No matter where you turn in this ziggurat, another treasure beckons you—a 1665 Bills of Mortality chronicle of London (you can track plague fatalities by week), the instruction manual for the Saturn V rocket (which launched the Apollo 11 capsule to the moon), a framed napkin from 1943 on which Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined his plan to win World War II. In no time, your mind is stretched like hot taffy.

(…)

Walker shuns the sort of bibliomania that covets first editions for their own sake—many of the volumes that decorate the library’s walls are leather-bound Franklin Press reprints. What gets him excited are things that changed the way people think, like Robert Hooke’s Micrographia. Published in 1665, it was the first book to contain illustrations made possible by the microscope. He’s also drawn to objects that embody a revelatory (or just plain weird) train of thought. “I get offered things that collectors don’t,” he says. “Nobody else would want a book on dwarfs, with pages beautifully hand-painted in silver and gold, but for me that makes perfect sense.”

The Wired story has lots of photos.  Just to give you a flavor, here’s my favorite caption excerpt:

Grasping the box of prosthetic eyeballs at left is the original “Thing” hand from the TV show The Addams Family, signed by the cast.

Seriously, what could be more awesome?

(h/t to the shadowy & mysterious Codename V.)

December 24th, 2008 at 05:07pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness

Pre-Christmas Awesomeness, Part II

Rachel Maddow busts financial industry shill posing as Completely Objective College Professor:

Last night, Rachel Maddow did something I never thought I’d see a journalist do: In the name of transparency, she went back and clarified that a bailout-justifying guest of hers actually had a blatant conflict of interest. Watch the clip here.

On Monday, Maddow had on Berkley professor Laura Tyson to talk about the bailout. You can watch that clip here. As you’ll see, Tyson defended the firms that have received bailout money, saying they are not at fault in either how they are using the money, or in how they are refusing to answer questions about their use of the money. She also insisted that companies that get bailout money should be able to keep paying dividends to their shareholders.

Yet, Tyson didn’t tell viewers that she sits on the board of directors of Morgan Stanley, a bank that has received $10 billion in bailout money. That’s right – according to Morgan Stanley’s SEC filings, Tyson makes about $350,000 a year from Morgan Stanley in total compensation from that position, and she now owns about 79,000 shares of the company. In other words, she has a direct financial interest in defending the bailout, absolving bailout recipients of wrongdoing, and justifying the use of bailout money for shareholder dividends.

Obviously, it’s really unethical to appear on a show billing yourself as an objective disinterested professor at the same time you aren’t telling people you are on the board of directors of the company you are effectively defending. But, as a recent New York Times story about defense commentators shows, this kind of thing happens all the time. It’s completely corrupt – quite literally, paid industry spokespeople are being allowed to cloak themselves in the veneer of objectivity and use the media to limit the parameters of our political debate on major issues.

Thankfully, when I pointed Tyson’s conflict of interest out to Maddow and her show’s staff, they did the responsible thing and made a big effort to inform viewers about what happened. Indeed, in doing this follow-up piece, the Rachel Maddow Show displayed the kind of integrity and respect for their audience that is almost unheard of in political journalism. In being so honest about this, they really showed what their program is all about, and how they aren’t willing to be used or deceived by corporate spokespeople.

This does not happen enough.  Or, really, ever.  Rachel Maddow rocks.

1 comment December 24th, 2008 at 11:04am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Economy,Media,Republicans,Wankers

Pre-Christmas Awesomeness, Part I

The rivalry between India and Pakistan heats up even more:

A nine year-old girl in India named M. Lavinashree has passed the Microsoft Certified Professional Exam, becoming the youngest person to ever pull it off (smashing the record previously held by a 10 year-old Pakistani girl). The youngster has a long history of making records in her short life — including reciting all 1,300 couplets of a 2,000 year-old Tamil epic at the age of three — and now she’s now cramming for the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer Exam.

Way cool, and perhaps a little scary…

December 24th, 2008 at 08:01am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology

…The Bad News Is, They Can Pretty Much Forget About Manny.

Well, this was unexpected:

The New York Yankees swooped in Tuesday and hooked prized free agent Mark Teixeira, reaching agreement with the first baseman on an eight-year contract worth $180 million, three sources involved in the negotiations said.

The agreement, which is subject to a physical, includes a signing bonus of about $5 million paid out over the first three years of the contract, no opt-out clause and a complete no-trade provision, the sources said.

With the Red Sox, Angels, Nationals and Orioles making well-documented runs at signing Teixeira, the Yankees made an offer weeks ago, but then withdrew it; their intention all along was to make an offer, which they did formally on Tuesday, if it fell within parameters acceptable to the organization.

I really did not see this coming at all.  The Yankees did an excellent job of pretending to be only slightly interested, and everyone (myself included) thought they were going to go after Manny, who is a better hitter… for the next year or two.  Assuming he’s not Yet Another Guy Who Can’t Play In New York, Teixeira is a much better long-term signing: He’s young, he’s a switch-hitter, and he plays good defense at a position the Yankees have struggled to field ever since Tino Martinez left.

The offensive upgrade, along with the pitching upgrade of Sabathia and Burnett, means that the Yankees can afford to trade offense for defense in centerfield and play either Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner there until Austin Jackson is ready.  They probably won’t, but they can.

Another plus about choosing Teixieira instead of Manny: If the Yankees had signed Manny, the Red Sox could still sign Teixiera.  But now that the Yanks have signed Teixeira, there’s no way the Red Sox will take Manny back.  They’ll just have to learn to love Jason Bay… or bring up yet another kid who turns out to be an MVP or Rookie Of The Year candidate.

The one thing that worries me is when I think back to about five years ago, when the Yankees were looking at trading for either Javier Vazquez or Curt Schilling.  I was so relieved when they picked Vazquez, the young, strong guy (same age as Teixeira is now, I believe) – sure, Schilling was a better pitcher, but he was getting up there and probably didn’t have that many good years left.  Yeah, that worked out well.

On the other hand, I was right about Vlad Guerrero vs. Gary Sheffield – they made the wrong call on that one, too.

December 23rd, 2008 at 09:50pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Sports

It All Depends On What The Meaning Of The Word “Involved” Is

Here’s a wonderfully wankerish poll from Rasmussen Reports…

Forty five percent (45%) of U.S. voters say it is likely President-elect Obama or one of his top campaign aides was involved in the unfolding Blagojevich scandal in Illinois, including 23% who say it is Very Likely.

Just 11% say it is not at all likely, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken Thursday and Friday nights.

Okay, fine.  Now tell me what “involved” means.  If it means Rahm or some other Obama staffer called Blago up to pass along Obama’s thoughts on who he might like to see in his old Senate seat, then yeah, I think he was “involved” too.  If it means they actually got to the point of talking turkey with Blago about what they might give him in exchange for said seat, then I’d say it’s very unlikely.  And someone would have to be extremely stupid to have such a conversation with a governor who was already under investigation (by bulldog Fitz, no less) and therefore much more likely to be bugged or wiretapped than the average governor.

I also found this interesting:

Voters nationally are more skeptical than those in Illinois. Thirty-two percent (32%) of Illinois voters said in a survey late last week that there is no way Obama was involved in the Blagojevich case, while only 13% said it is Very Likely that the president-elect was involved, with another 13% saying it is Somewhat Likely.

I mean, they’re they closest to it, right?  They know Obama, they know Rahm, they know Blago, and the relationships (or lack thereof) between them, and they don’t think there’s any there there.

If you wade through the various other splits, including the oh-so-enlightening tidbit that married people and people with dependent children are more mistrustful of Team Obama than unmarried or childless people, you come to my favorite stat (and quote) in the whole survey:

[T]wo percent (2%) of voters nationally say Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, arrested last week on federal corruption charges including trying to sell Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder, is more ethical [than] most politicians.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE???

December 23rd, 2008 at 08:58pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Obama,Politics,Polls,Republicans,Wankers

Farewell To Philly Photoblogging

Well, that’s it for the Philly photos – just a couple more building shots:

Philly Building 21

Philly Building 20

December 23rd, 2008 at 11:28am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging

Hopefully This Will Put The Obama-Blago “Scandal” To Rest…

Finally, Team Obama will release a rundown of all their contacts with Governor Blagojevich, which the Village and the right wing been clamoring for (“What’s Obama hiding???”), and which Pat Fitzgerald actually asked them to sit on until now.

Of course, if it doesn’t contain anything sufficiently juicy, i.e., if there are discussions about possibilities for Obama’s Senate replacement that don’t include Obama staffers offering Blago something more than “appreciation,” then the cries of “What’s Obama hiding???” will surely continue unabated, since the criers have obviously decided that it’s a given that Obama and his staff are just as corrupt as the average Republican.

December 23rd, 2008 at 07:25am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Media,Obama,Politics

Wasted MRI

This was a completely unnecessary use of taxpayers’ money:

President George W. Bush has had an MRI of his left shoulder in an attempt to understand why he has experienced pain recently.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters that Bush had the exam while at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Monday afternoon to visit wounded soldiers. White House physician Richard Tubb performed the MRI and Johndroe said it is possible the results will be available later in the day.

Bush’s activities have not been restricted by the pain, and Tubb says the problem is probably the result of no more than wear and tear.

Obviously, Dubya strained something while patting himself on the back.

2 comments December 22nd, 2008 at 06:21pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush

Penultimate Philly Photoblogging

Well, I’m almost done with the Philly photos. I should have enough for one more post after this one.

Philly Building Reflection 4

The reflection is clearer in color, but the colors look washed-out and unattractive. So I’m sticking with B&W.

Philly Building Reflection 3

The colors are pretty much essential to this one, however.

Philly Building 19

I’m drawn to alleyways like this, I’m not sure why.

December 22nd, 2008 at 11:31am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging

Monday Media Blogging

Uncanny theremin version of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”:

YouTube Preview Image

Um, I no longer remember who to hat-tip…

2 comments December 22nd, 2008 at 07:48am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

The Mustache Of Justice

I can’t help it, I am irrationally amused by this:

[NYT:] I’ve heard you referred to as “the Mustache of Justice.”

[Henry Waxman:] I still have my mustache, and I still believe in fighting for justice.

I got the sense that he either has absolutely no sense of humor, or a very dry one.  Either way.

December 21st, 2008 at 07:27pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Quotes

Wall Street Vs. Detroit: The Double Standard

Okay, so let’s review:

American auto company execs flying corporate planes to testify before Congress is a disgrace.  Financial company execs- oh, wait, they never had to testify before Congress to get 50 times as much money as the auto companies asked for.  But they’re positively lousy with corporate jets, and no-one seems to mind.

If you accept the premise that pension payments to retirees (of which the Big Three have a lot more in this country) are somehow part of current employees’ paychecks, then Big Three auto workers are grossly overpaid.  Therefore, any relief measure should include massive wage concessions.  Meanwhile, the only constraints on executive compensation for the financial sector bailout were loopholed out of existence.

This is even more obscene when you consider that employee compensation makes up 10% of auto industry costs, and well over 50% of the financial industry’s, where they paid out $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and perks (did I say corporate jets?) to executives last year.

So, to sum up, the auto companies got exactly the kind of scorn, scrutiny and tough questions that the financial industry deserved.  Apparently it’s a lot easier to get 12 digits of relief than 11.

3 comments December 21st, 2008 at 06:10pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Economy,Media,Politics,Republicans

Police Epic Fail

What the hell???

It was a little before 8 at night when the breaker went out at Emily Milburn’s home in Galveston. She was busy preparing her children for school the next day, so she asked her 12-year-old daughter, Dymond, to pop outside and turn the switch back on.

As Dymond headed toward the breaker, a blue van drove up and three men jumped out rushing toward her. One of them grabbed her saying, “You’re a prostitute. You’re coming with me.”

Dymond grabbed onto a tree and started screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” One of the men covered her mouth. Two of the men beat her about the face and throat.

As it turned out, the three men were plain-clothed Galveston police officers who had been called to the area regarding three white prostitutes soliciting a white man and a black drug dealer.

All this is according to a lawsuit filed in Galveston federal court by Milburn against the officers. The lawsuit alleges that the officers thought Dymond, an African-American, was a hooker due to the “tight shorts” she was wearing, despite not fitting the racial description of any of the female suspects. The police went to the wrong house, two blocks away from the area of the reported illegal activity, Milburn’s attorney, Anthony Griffin, tells Hair Balls.

(…)

Three weeks later, according to the lawsuit, police went to Dymond’s school, where she was an honor student, and arrested her for assaulting a public servant…. The case went to trial, but the judge declared it a mistrial on the first day, says Griffin. The new trial is set for February.

“I think we’ll be okay,” says Griffin. “I don’t think a jury will find a 12-year-old girl guilty who’s just sitting outside her house. Any 12-year-old attacked by three men and told that she’s a prostitute is going to scream and yell for Daddy and hit back and do whatever she can. She’s scared to death.”

Since the incident more than two years ago, Dymond regularly suffers nightmares in which police officers are raping and beating her and cutting off her fingers, according to the lawsuit.

The cops’ lawyer’s response:

Both the daughter and the father were arrested for assaulting a peace officer. “The father basically attacked police officers as they were trying to take the daughter into custody after she ran off.”

Also, “The city has investigated the matter and found that the conduct of the police officers was appropriate under the circumstances,” Helfand says. “It’s unfortunate that sometimes police officers have to use force against people who are using force against them. And the evidence will show that both these folks violated the law and forcefully resisted arrest.”

Oh yeah, they were totally following proper police procedure by raiding the wrong house and completely ignoring the description of their target (i.e., adult white women), and the girl and her dad are in the wrong for fighting back against three strangers in street clothes trying to drag her into a van.  Got it.  I hope the lawsuit inflicts some major pain on these wankers.

(h/t Ian)

December 21st, 2008 at 04:18pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Wankers

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