We're Back!

We're baaaaack...!! It's election time in America again, which means it's prime time for nuts, dicks, and boobs! Please feel free to welcome us back by sending any sort of food or - of course - tube socks. Also, it would be fun if you would leave some comments. (Unless, of course, they're negative comments. I mean - who needs that?)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What Was Michael Vick Thinking?

(Video from Saturday Night Live)

Michael Vick is a multi-millionaire superstar NFL quarterback who has been indicted for being a member of a dog fighting ring. What's wrong with this picture?

Now, of course, he hasn't been convicted of anything yet, but you have to wonder. If the allegations are true, what would compel him to get involved in such a barbaric enterprise? He couldn't be in it for the money. So it must be because he enjoys it. He enjoys it. This is a sport where dogs who lose or don't perform well are routinely executed. From the indictment...

In or about April 2007, PEACE, PHILLIPS, and VICK executed approximately 8 dogs that did not perform well in "testing" sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning, and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground.

Roger Goodell is under pressure from animal rights groups and others to suspend Vick from playing this season. According to a story in the LA Times, Goodell is reluctant to suspend Vick, because he fears it would taint Vick's trial, but he "would like Michael Vick to take a paid leave of absence." However, Vick is resisting that idea and has indicated that he "wants to play football this season."

If I were Vick, I think I'd take Goodell up on his offer of a paid leave of absence. I don't know how he'll be able to concentrate on playing football, what with all the demonstrations and booing (and barking, I'm guessing) that he's sure to encounter all season long.

Some people are speculating that other NFL players may be involved in attending the dog fights. If that proves to be true, this could cause a lot of damage to the NFL's reputation.

Of course, this isn't the first time that Vick has had problems with his strange behavior. Back in January of this year, he was detained at Miami International Airport with a mysterious water bottle that contained a hidden compartment. No charges were filed in that case, but it raised a lot of eyebrows.

Michael Vick's football career may well be over, but at least he has his dog fighting career to fall back on. That must provide some comfort to him.

Friday, July 20, 2007

No End in Sight

No End in Sight is a devastating expose of the blunders that have led to the disaster in Iraq. It won the Special Jury Prize in the Documentary category at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and will open in selected locations across the US starting July 27th.

We've all heard about the terrible mistakes in judgement that were made by Bush and Company, but this film has apparently succeeded in connecting the dots to give a crystal-clear picture of the chain of events that led us to where we are today.

When asked what he hoped his film would do for America, director Charles Ferguson replied...

I hope that it will help Americans understand that we must never go to war casually, and that reconstructing a nation after conquering it is just as important as defeating its army. Wars are sometimes necessary, but war is not a game, and the war is not over when the opposing army surrenders.

Ferguson remarked that he was astonished that "nobody else appeared to be making a film about American policy in Iraq." Let's hope it's not the last. This is a story that needs to be told, a story that needs to be understood and a story that needs to be used as a lesson for future generations.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Larry David Has Seen the Light

Larry David, the creator of Seinfeld, has seen the light and become an environmentalist, and it's all because of tuna. Of course, it might also have something to do with his wife (soon-to-be ex-wife), Laurie David, one of the producers of Al Gore's Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth.

By the way, if you're one of those people who have never seen Curb Your Enthusiasm, do yourself a favor and tune in.

Who Controls the Burning Leaves?

(Video from MSNBC)

A few decades ago, Bob Newhart did a classic comedy bit in which he went back in time to the 16th century and had a telephone conversation with Sir Walter Raleigh, the subject at hand being Raleigh's idea to introduce tobacco to the American colonists...

"You can chew it? Or put it in a pipe. Or you can shred it up and put it on a piece of paper, and roll it up - don't tell me, Walt, don't tell me- you stick in your ear, right Walt? Oh, between your lips! Then what do you do to it? (Giggling) You set fire to it! Then what do you do, Walt? You inhale the smoke! You set fire to it! Then what do you do Walt? You inhale the smoke! Walt, we've been a little worried about you...you're gonna have a tough time getting people to stick burning leaves in their mouth...."

Over the centuries, millions of people have stuck those burning leaves in their mouths, and millions of people have died as a result. Although educational efforts have paid off in terms of reducing the number of smokers in the US,tobacco still represents a serious health risk to people around the world.

I've always thought it odd that tobacco is freely available in the marketplace, whereas if another product (let's say cookies, for example), were to contain the same cancer-causing agents as tobacco, it would never see the light of day. Well, it turns out there's a reason for that. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the power to regulate tobacco. They tried to establish regulations, but of course the tobacco companies fought them, went to court, and won.

But now congress is trying to pass a new bill that would give the FDA the power to, among other things, regulate the levels of harmful substances in tobacco, and in the process (according to proponents of the bill) create a safer cigarette. But of course, a "safer" cigarette is a long way from a "safe" cigarette, and if, by giving the FDA this new power, you create the impression in people's minds that cigarettes are safe, you're not really solving the problem.

Of course, you can expect the tobacco companies to put up a big fight. I'm sure they've got lobbyists frantically trying to kill the bill. But with Americans increasingly turning against tobacco, their days of doing whatever they want may be numbered.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Kids of Bonanza City

(Video from CBS)

Kid Nation is an upcoming CBS reality show in which 40 kids (ages 8-15) are dropped into the middle of a New Mexico ghost town for over a month and tasked with bringing the town back to life. It's a kind of social experiment which aims to see if kids can work together for the common good without the influence of any adults.

The show has already stirred up a shitstorm of controversy, with adults screaming "child abuse" and kids screaming, "Hey, that sounds way cool!" CBS got around some of the child labor laws by declaring the show a "summer camp," and claiming that the kids weren't really working, but only living in this "summer camp" while the TV crew filmed them.

While the promo for the show does bear a certain resemblance to Lord of the Flies, I suspect that the outcome will probably be more positive. Truthfully, if I had had a chance to be on this kind of show when I was a kid, I would have begged my parents to let me do it, and then after they'd said "forget it", I would have forged their signature and done it anyway.

Nuts in the Gallery

Rajan Zed is a Hindu chaplain who was invited to open the Senate with a prayer a few days ago, the first time for such an invitation to be extended to a Hindu chaplain. It was a notable occasion and reflected the fact that America is a religiously diverse nation.

But, predictably, it brought all the nuts out of the woodwork, screaming that America is a Christian nation and this is an insult to true Christians everywhere, blah, blah, blah...

Three of these nuts made their way to the Senate gallery, where they disrupted the prayer with a competing prayer of their own,"Lord Jesus, forgive us Father for allowing the prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight." They were arrested and led away. Buh-bye...

The group doing the loudest screaming was the American Family Association, who had been warning their followers for days that a shocking event was going to happen and they had to do something to save the nation from ruin. They were quoted as saying...

"It represents an official stamp by the government on paganism, a move which may draw God's anger according to biblical example."

So if anything really bad happens in the US, for instance, a tornado or an earthquake, you can go ahead and blame it on Senator Harry Reid. He was the guy that invited Mr. Zed to say his evil prayer.

But Mr. Zed need not worry. According to Buddy Smith, an AFA spokesman, Christians everywhere should "pray for the chaplain's salvation." I've racked my brain to try to think of a more condescending statement, but haven't found it yet.

These images of people shouting down a Hindu holy man (in the United States Senate, for crying out loud), are broadcast around the world, and we wonder why America is held in such low regard in much of the world.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Is Rudy Giuliani Really the Hero of 9/11?

(Video from the International Association of Fire Fighters)

When 19 terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, mayor Rudy Giuliani was all over the TV, looking to all the world like a man in charge, a man coming to the rescue of his beloved city.

Now Giuliani wants to be president and actually has a decent chance to grab the Republican nomination, if for no other reason than that the rest of the field is just plain pathetic. He's basing his campaign on his supposedly heroic efforts on that day.

But the International Association of Fire Fighters has a different story to tell about Rudy. This short film documents his failures on that terrible day. Did 121 firefighters lose their lives needlessly? Why did those 121 firefighters remain in the doomed North Tower after being ordered out? Whose fault was it? Who is the real Rudy Giuliani?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Musical Interlude: Christine Lavin

(Video by Vu Trong Thu / Music by Christine Lavin)

Christine Lavin is a wonderful folk singer from New York City. This amazing video was made to accompany her song "If We Had No Moon." Besides being a beautiful song and video, it's also a great science lesson in astronomy.

Kramer Calls It Quits

(Video from National Lampoon)

Michael Richards' career went down in flames last November when he launched into a vicious racist tirade in the middle of his comedy club routine. He claimed not to be a racist, saying it was anger, not racism, that fueled his verbal attack, but it was hard to square that claim with the horrible language and imagery that spewed from his mouth.

Now Richards says he's quitting stand-up comedy, although I kind of doubt that he was getting many invitations to perform in the clubs. It's a bit like saying, "You can't fire me, I quit."

"That night, when I was insulted and disrupted, I lost my heart; I lost my sense of humor. I've retired from that. I'm taking time off to feel myself out, get to know myself and appreciate other people," he was quoted as saying.

He has recently shown up in Cambodia with his fiancee, which has people wondering if he's seeking out some sort of spiritual redemption. They were on a tour sponsored by the Nithyananda Foundation of Los Angeles.

But Richards says that he was "just a tourist....I listened in, but often my fiancée and I went on our own, to feel the temples in our own way. They're magnificent structures. It's great to just be in them and watch time go by. We'll probably be back."

I've always been a big Richards fan, going all the way back to his years on "Fridays." It's hard to watch someone that you've admired for so long self-destruct right in front of your eyes.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Battle of the Butts

(With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan)

The Times Square Church hates big butts, and they cannot lie.

They are definitely not happy about the giant happy (complete with smiley faces) derrieres about to be plastered on a big billboard on their building and have sued to stop the TOTO Corporation from putting it up.

(TOTO is a Japanese company which has come to the US to sell Americans their high-tech toilets which, by the way, are already in half the homes here in Japan.)

In court filings, the church claims that...

"It is instantaneously obvious that this advertisement is too indecent for public display. It consists principally of photographs of the nude back sides of several people. It is certainly unsuited for public exposure to children, and antithetical to the values of our congregation and church. That anyone thought it suited for display on a church building is astonishing."

(To be clear, the billboard will NOT be erected "on a church building," but rather on the side of the large office building in which the church happens to reside.)

The TOTO Corporation, of course, has a different take on the matter:

"The advertisement is not obscene or pornographic. It is not sexually suggestive. And it does not promote an immoral or indecent message or product. All it does is display parts of the human anatomy that, while usually covered, can be seen on network television and in the public library and refers the public to the Web site of the product’s manufacturer. The Times Square Church is entitled to find the advertisement distasteful and objectionable. But it is not entitled — under the plain terms of its lease or the common law of nuisance it invokes — to dictate the contents of the advertisements that appear on the building it occupies."

Judge Marcy S. Friedman has granted the church a temporary restraining order and prohibited the billboard from going up until she studies the matter further. Of course, the whole thing is a bonus for TOTO, giving them invaluable free publicity for their snappy new toilets.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What? No Buzz Beer?

(Video from FOX11 TV)

In a stroke of marketing genius, a dozen 7-11 stores across the US recently teamed up with 20th-Century-Fox and rebranded their stores as Kwik-E-Marts, as part of the hype surrounding the opening of the new Simpsons movie. With a kind of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" bravado, 7-11 decided that even though the Kwik-E-Mart is a savage parody of their company, there was money to be made by joining in the fun.

But some patrons were devestated to learn that there was no Duff Beer to be found anywhere. Apparently, the movie folks were afraid that it would tarnish their "family-friendly" image. (Huh??)

They weren't the only unhappy campers. Some Indian-Americans have voiced their displeasure with the friendly Kwik-E-Mart proprietor, one Mr. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. They consider him to be a negative stereotype. (Apparently, real Indian-Americans don't pick hot dogs off the floor and sell them anyway.) Other actual Indian-American 7-11 proprieters rebutted the naysayers with 5 words: Lighten Up! It's a cartoon!

In any event, much fun was had by all, and if you didn't have a chance to buy your very own Buzz Cola or Krusty O's breakfast cereal, you can probably pick them up on Ebay.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Man Behind the Curtain

In 1988, a group in England called ARISE (Associates for Research into the Science of Enjoyment) was formed and remained active until 2004. They promoted themselves as “a worldwide association of eminent scientists who act as independent commentators”.

This group was very active in the '90s and appeared frequently in various British media. Their purpose was to show how “everyday pleasures, such as eating chocolate, smoking, drinking tea, coffee and alcohol, contribute to the quality of life.” In other words: If it feels good, do it!

The group mocked what they called the "health police," and tried to convince people that there were "scientific studies" that proved that indulging in your vice of choice was actually good for your health.

The leader of the group, Professor David Warburton of the University of Reading, published academic journal articles to dispute the finding of the U.S. Surgeon General that nicotine was addictive, and incredibly, actually concluded the opposite, that nicotine was good for you!

Well, guess what! Last year George Monbiot, of The Guardian newspaper, came across some very interesting documents from the big tobacco companies, who had been forced to make them public. It turns out that Big Tobacco had been secretly funding ARISE the whole time, with the express purpose of putting out their propaganda and disguising it as "science."

Moral of the story: The next time you see some "scientific" research that purports to prove something about smoking, global warming, or anything else that doesn't pass the smell test, you might want to check out who their corporate masters are.

The Road Home

(Video from Mad Mustard/"All Those Lies" by Glenn Frey)

The New York Times has declared, in an unequivocal editorial titled The Road Home, that...

"It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit."

The newspaper of record has joined only a handful of other papers to call for a complete pullout. In a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration, they state...

"Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles."

The editorial goes on to note that opposition to the war is no longer a Democratic/Republican or left/right issue. That is certainly becoming evident, as more and more people from all walks of life realize the folly of continuing down the path that Bush has laid out.

Bush stands, for all practical purposes, alone and isolated. Perhaps The Decider will decide to start listening to the people. But don't hold your breath.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Musical Interlude: Merle Haggard

Not only has Bush lost the support of many key Republicans in Congress, he's lost the support of the original Okie from Muskogee, Merle Haggard. The country singer who railed against hippies nearly 40 years ago has trained his sights on Bush and his Iraq policy:

"Let's got out of Iraq, get back on the track, and rebuild America first."

This song is called America First.

Friday, July 6, 2007

What Really Ended the Pacific War?

(Video from NHK Japan)

The Japanese defense minister has resigned his position after causing an uproar by remarking that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had "ended the war," and adding, "I think that it couldn't be helped."

Robert Joseph, the American special envoy for nuclear nonproliferation, added fuel to the fire by saying "I think most historians would agree that the use of an atomic bomb brought to a close a war that would have cost millions more lives, not just hundreds of thousands of Allied lives but literally millions of Japanese lives."

As Japan approaches the 62nd anniversary of the bombings next month, these remarks have hit a nerve with a nation that has, since the end of the war, dedicated itself to fighting for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Although the conventional wisdom of many historians is that the twin atomic bombings were the decisive factor in ending the war, a fascinating new study titled "The Winning Weapon"" in the journal International Security (published by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University), makes the case that the Soviet decision to enter the Pacific war was the true reason that Japan surrendered.

Although Japan had stated that the bombings were the reason they surrendered, the study concludes that this was a face-saving gesture on their part. "Who could blame them, after all, if they had lost the war not because they were not brave enough or smart enough, but because they failed to anticipate an unimaginable scientific breakthrough?"

The study concludes by taking a look at the question of the military usefulness of nuclear weapons in light of these new findings. It states, "If nuclear weapons played no role in the surrender of Japan, perhaps it is time to conduct a serious, far-reaching review of the general usefulness of nuclear weapons."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

(Video from Maury Povich)

Franklin Roosevelt said...

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

A lot of Americans have forgotten these wise words. But you can't really blame them, what with Bush and Co. constantly using fearmongering as a tool to try to keep people in line. Their not-so-subtle message is...

"Terrorists are everywhere. They're gonna get you (and your little dog, too)." The ONLY way you can save yourself is to support the Iraq war and vote Republican come election day. If you don't, you are unpatriotic and not a true American.

Their constant mantra is "9/11, 9/11, 9/11," a shameful exploitation of that national tragedy that is an insult to the memory of the victims and their families. The national press doesn't help matters by reporting every potential threat as if it's the end of the world.

Are there terrorists out there who want to harm us? Of course there are. We see the latest evidence of that in the botched attempts to attack London and Glasgow. But is it too much to ask that we intelligently go about assessing the threat so that we can come up with sound and logical strategies to combat it rather than trying to scare the bejesus out of everyone?

After all, if we spend all our time cowering and hiding under the bed, the terrorists have accomplished what they set out to do.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Paranoid Conservative Mind

(Video from Lewis Black/The Daily Show)

I swear, conservatives have got to be the most paranoid people on earth. They see liberal bias everywhere...PBS, CBS, TIME, Newsweek, The New York Times, and now Wikipedia and YouTube. How do they know liberal bias when they see it? Easy. If the facts don't fit their whacked out view of the world, it's liberal bias!

When faced with an unpleasant fact from one of these evil media sources, instead of considering the merits of the story, they dismiss it as "liberal bias" and therefore unworthy of consideration. Then they run to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Ann Coulter to get the "truth."

They live in their own world, a fantasy world where George Bush is the greatest president who ever lived and Dick Cheney is the grandfather they always wished they could have. A world where America can do no wrong, and if you don't agree, then you obviously hate America and should leave the country immediately.

Maybe one day they'll come to realize that the world is not black and white. It's made up of many colors. If they would only take off their rose-colored glasses, maybe they'd see it more clearly.

Bush: Do the Crime, But Not the Time

(Video from CNN)

Scooter Libby had already been issued an inmate number. He had one foot in the prison cell when, whaddaya know, here comes his buddy the president with a commutation of his sentence and saves him from serving 30 months in the slammer. Perjury? Obstruction of Justice? No problem. When you work for an administration that considers itself above the law, I guess you can pretty much do anything you want.

But perhaps the biggest hypocrite on this issue is Mitt Romney, who bragged that as governor of Massachusetts he NEVER issued a pardon, but when it comes to Scooter, well, that's a different matter. For Scooter, he thinks it's a swell idea.

Bush said in his commutation order that Libby's sentence was "excessive." Well, no, it wasn't. It was well within the sentencing guidelines for the crimes of which he was convicted. What IS excessive is the complete disregard for the rule of law demonstrated over and over again by the Bush administration.

Here's what Bush said about his pardon power as governor of Texas...

"I don't believe my role is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own, unless there are new facts or evidence of which a jury was unaware, or evidence that the trial was somehow unfair."

He doesn't claim that any of those factors were present in the Libby case. He's just doing a solid for a pal.

The commutation is also raising suspicion that Bush is trying to cover his own ass, fearful of what Libby might reveal about Bush's and/or Cheney's involvment in the Plame affair if sent to prison. Hopefully, Congress will do its job and try to get to the bottom of this fiasco.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Adam and Eve Half-Naked in the Garden

(Video from Ricky Gervais)

Christopher Hitchen's latest book, God is Not Great, is subtitled How Religion Poisons Everything. This story is illustrative of his point.

In Pakistan, a monthly fashion magazine called Octane published an image of Hazrat Adam and Amma Hawwa, who are apparently the Islamic version of Adam and Eve. The fact that they were pictured "half-naked" made a local cleric see red, and he promptly issued a fatwa against the magazine's owners and publishers for committing blasphemy.

Funny, I thought being half-naked was an integral part of the story, what with the whole fig leaf fashion show and all. Call me crazy, but the death penalty seems just a wee bit harsh for not putting trousers on Adam and a moo-moo on Eve.

In another demonstration of the clerics' power in Pakistan, Nilofar Bakhtiar, the country's female Tourism Minister, was forced to resign after clerics threw a hissy fit upon seeing a photograph of her giving a hug to her male coach after completing a para-jump in France. Never mind the fact that she had done the para-jump as part of an effort to raise money for the victims of the Pakistan earthquake of October 2005. No, she was a hugger and so she had to go.

Sheesh. Just....sheesh.

iWant My iPhone!

(Video from Late Night with Conan O'Brien)

The new iPhone from Apple has arrived with all the fanfare of the second coming of Christ. You have to wonder how people ever managed to live their lives at all before this miracle device appeared on the scene. Apparently this new gadget will be the only thing you need to live a full and rewarding life.

With the new iPhone you can look forward to more meaningful relationships with your loved ones as well as a sudden increase in your self-esteem. You'll notice that those nasty spots on your skin will disappear overnight, and you can expect to add 20 years to your life expectancy.

So reach deep down into your pockets and fork out the dough. Your life will never be the same again (at least until the upgrade comes along.)