Friday, August 31, 2007

Welcome to our young century: Karl Rove edition

Remember the classic "In the Year 2000" skits that Conan O'Brien used to do in the late 1990s? The premise was that, even though the year 2000 was right around the corner, he and his supporting cast would predict the creation of fantastic inventions. Well, today's National Review brings us something that is pretty much the opposite: an opinion piece by Karl Rove in which he makes a claim that, though the century is but 7 years old, he can identify the key threat over the next 93 years.

I believe history will provide a more clear-eyed verdict on this president’s leadership than the anger of current critics would suggest.

President Bush will be viewed as a far-sighted leader who confronted the key test of the 21st century.
That test, presumably, is "teh terror." But, of course, how do we know what the key test will be in 2040? What about those radioactive spiders in Indiana? What about the toxic gas released by Jupiter's seventeenth moon? Hey, who can possibly know what we'll be grappling with in 2040. If you had asked people in 1965 what we'd be wrestling with in 2005, how many of them would have said small groups of radicalized Muslims? How many would have said global warming? How many would have correctly identified the absurd relationship between Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo? Exactly--very few indeed! Yet Rove feels, and certainly most conservatives would back him up, that he can forecast the general status of our national zeitgeist for the next 93 years. What a joke.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A humble plea regarding portion size nutritional info

As a lifelong diabetic (Type 1, haters!), I find myself increasingly frustrated with the nutritional information listed on the back of every food item I purchase. To sum up: the labels are laughable when it comes to describing how much of their contents constitutes a single serving, and I can't help but think that this contributes, in some small part, to the obesity problem in our country.

As with all blog posts since time began, my post will not rely on any scientific data, but rather on a series of personal experiences. Got that? Ok. Here's my first example: I went to the friendly food purchasing area at my place of employment and found a bag of pretzels. Yum, pretzels. Who doesn't like pretzels? Moreover, these were Snyder's JalapeƱo pretzel pieces, which are, quite frankly, freakishly awesome. So, as I always do, I checked out the nutrional information on the back to ensure that my soon-to-be-ingested foodstuffs would not send me into a death-spiral of ketoacidosis induced kidney failure. And, to my delight, each serving had but 20 carbohydrates, and 150 calories. Yay! Do-able. But then, d'oh, I notice that the rather small bag has FOUR servings. What? Seriously?

Delicious...but deadly

Example two, my new favorite food from Trader Joe's the turkey sausage stromboli. A delightful mixture of spiced sausage, tomato sauce, and assorted flavorings inside a calzone-like dough. Truly delicious. Each serving has something like 250 calories and 35 carbs. Ok, great, quite reasonable. But, again, d'oh!--each single stromboli (about 5" long) is two servings.

This is the problem: nobody on earth is going to do anything but eat an entire stromboli, and nobody is going to buy a single bag of pretzel pieces and not eat the whole thing. I like the nutritional information requirements, but people need to be more realistic about what actually constitutes a serving. I can't help but think that people are faked out to some degree by the low calorie/carb numbers, and don't really get around to noticing how many servings they are ingesting. I suspect that folks would be less likely to eat the entire bag if they knew that the whole thing contained 600 calories and nearly 80 carbs.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

God bless the Midwest for giving us hilarious stories about legless simultaneous drunk driving

I spent my halcyon college days in a bucolic community in rural Minnesota, where the smell of the nearby Malt-O-Meal plant was tempered, however slightly, by the gentle aroma of the nearby turkey farm wafting across the prairie. I learned many things during that period of my life, chief among them this: you cannot beat small towns in the Midwest when it comes to bizarre crimes. Impossible. And, if I needed any evidence to back up my claim, today's news gives us this, straight from the town of Marshfield, Wisconsin:

Two drunk men arrested for driving same vehicle

ABBOTSFORD -- Two Dorchester men were arrested for operating the same vehicle while intoxicated in the Abbotsford area.

Harvey J. Miller, 43, who has no legs, was steering the 1985 Chevrolet truck from the driver's seat while Edwin H. Marzinske, 55, operated the brake and gas pedals, according to the Colby/Abbotsford Police report.

They were headed northbound on Hiline Avenue in Abbotsford when police pulled them over at 2:40 a.m. Aug. 18.

Miller admitted he was too drunk to drive but argued he wasn't operating the vehicle because he couldn't push the pedals.
Now that is a brilliant legal defense right there. Someone keep an eye on young Mr. Miller--he may go places.

Hands down saddest song of all time. Enjoy!

When I was a young lad in college, I took a class on Irish Literature, taught by a splendid chap who wore tweed jackets with patches on the elbows, had a classically messy office piled with books and papers and nary a computer, and who would play the class traditional Irish songs before embarking on a lecture. One day he pulled out a song that he told us would reduce every one of us to tears. Feh! Fat chance, old man! Well, he was right. The song was "Kilkelly, Ireland," a song written from a collection of letters from a family in Ireland to their son who had emigrated to America. The letters cover roughly 30 years or so, and reveal the turmoil and difficulty of life back in the mid/late 1800s. A gorgeous song, but, man, really sad. Anyway, because I'm not in the mood to write anything more about idiot Larry Craig, here's the Clancey Brothers singing "Kilkelly, Ireland."

NOTE: the idiots at YouTube (er...sadly, the same idiots who run this blog...ooops) have taken the video away. Boo. So here's an audio-only version, not sung by the Clancey Brothers.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The hot news today is that Idaho Senator Larry Craig was apparently arrested way back in June for possibly propositioning an airport cop in a restroom in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Yow. Roll Call has the full story, but what I find most amusing is the excuse given by the senator's spokesperson, which is sure to be a classic:

A spokesman for Craig described the incident as a “he said/he said misunderstanding,” and said the office would release a fuller statement later Monday afternoon.
Awesome. A "he said/he said misunderstanding." Just what every ultra-conservative elected official from Idaho wants from his name. Also, even better is Craig's excuse for why his foot just happened to brush up against the foot of the plainclothes officer as they were sitting in adjoining stalls:
Craig stated “that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched mine,” the report states.
"Wide stance"... I love it. You can't make that up.

My dinner with Alberto...

Welcome, children, to the magical land of Forced Smiles and Absurdly Green Napkins. 'Tis an enchanted realm.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Breaking! Celebs say stupid stuff that makes no sense!

I've come back to earth after my brief foray into high-powered editorializing re. Barack "Barry Hussein" Obama and the general stupidity of the mainstream media. Now I am pleased to return to insignifcant posts regarding stupid things said by people like Lindsay Lohan and David Beckham. First, Lindsay:

The actress has been reading Category 7 by Bill Evans. "She thinks the people you meet in weather are very inspiring," says a friend.
The "people you meet in weather"? What the hell does THAT mean? Weather people on TV? People whose van blows past yours as a tornado overtakes you on some godforsaken freeway in Oklahoma? What the hell, Lindsay.

Second, David Beckham.
The England captain and Real Madrid midfielder was forced to call on his wife Victoria, a former member of the Spice Girls pop group, to help their son Brooklyn with a school assignment because the footballer found the sums too difficult.

“Their homework is so hard these days,” Beckham, 30, said in an interview with the Mail on Sunday. “It’s totally done differently to what I was teached when I was at school, and you know I was like ‘Oh my God, I can’t do this’.”
"Teached." Awesome.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Latest annoyances

For no reason, I'm going to list two things that really, really annoy me and which I have experienced lately, thus increasing the annoyance factor.

1. Vending machines that don't show that they are out of something until you've put in the money and hit the button. What the hell. If you are out of Diet Coke, then have the stupid "sold out" light go on, don't wait until I put in the two quarters, hit the "Diet Coke" button and THEN tell me you're out of it! Gah!

2. This is a habitual annoyance of mine, but people who veer waaaaaaay to the left when turning right, or vice versa. Why do you do this, people? This isn't the 1950s! I see people in Minis, Scions, etc., all really small cars with power steering, executing this move, and it drives me into unspeakable fits of rage. People who drive Suburbans and Excursions, and etc., do this as well, though that doesn't surprise me because those are stupid cars, and thus I expect stupid things from their owners.

TIME article on Obama underscores general suckitude of mainstream media

TIME magazine this week runs an article on Barack Obama's comments that, hey, perhaps our long-standing policy towards Cuba--known in the national security biz as the "la la la, I can't heeeeear you!" policy--might, you know, be pretty stupid. Given the fact that this policy started with Kennedy and has continued for the next 47 years without doing a single thing to the Castro regime, it's certainly reasonable to ask this question.

My problem with TIME, however, is that their lead article on the subject is titled, "Will Obama's Stance on Cuba Hurt?" This illustrates perfectly the problem with the major media: they insist on interjecting themselves, through their political "analysis," into every story. They can't simply do a story on Obama saying that our policy on Cuba is completely idiotic and needs to change, no, they have to preempt the actual facts of the case with a long political analysis piece on how this will hurt his standing in the 2008 elections, particularly in Florida, home to many of the completely crazy and insane anti-Castro types.

Hillary Clinton, predictably, lashed out at Obama. Hillary, though the front-runner, is hardly behaving as such, and instead apparently believes that the best political strategy these days is to criticize everything Obama does, accusing him of naiivetee. For example, when he made the completely non-controversial comment that we would attack bin Laden inside Pakistan if we had intelligence that he was there and Pakistan refused to help, Clinton tried to gin up some controversy by claiming that his comments were the result of inexperience. (Of course, nobody asked her the logical question: "so are you saying you would NOT attack Pakistan in those circumstances?")

TIME's approach to this article, which in many ways sets the tone of political coverage these days, has two problems: first, by asking the question "will these be a problem," you increase the odds that it will actually BECOME a problem. Second, by emphasizing the horse-race nature of politics, you ignore the actual issue itself, and allow people to think that the winning candidate obviously had the winning policy. Should Clinton win, you can now expect that US policy on Cuba will remain unchanged for the next five years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Worst Clip Art EVER

Thanks, KATU News. Mere words cannot describe the odd mixture of horror, fear, humor, and, ultimately, mind-numbing eyeball bleaching dismay I felt upon seeing the clip art for the following story.

So many questions. Where is she looking? Why is one of her arms brown? Why is he able to fit one hand around her torso? I guess they say you haven't lived until you've seen the "O-face" of an 85 year old cartoon character. I guess they're right.

Monday, August 20, 2007

From Portland: Junior Hannity & Junior Colmes avoid sex harassment charges

The big news in Portland, OR this week (and for the preceeding several weeks) is the story of two 13 year old boys who apparently got a little overenthusiastic at school and started patting the boobs and butts of their female classmates. INAPPROPRIATE! But the D.A. went a little nutso (or so the local media would have you believe) and filed all kinds of crazy charges at the kids, the consequence of which would have meant a lifetime of sexual offender registrations for the two. Well, it turns out that the judge hearing the case thought the whole thing was pretty silly, and tossed the charges. That's the news. But what I find fascinating about the story is that if you held an open casting call throughout the nation for young versions of FOXNew's "Hannity & Colmes" (the former a loudmouth, ignorant, stereotypically sanctimonious buffoon of a talk-show host, the latter an ineffective foil), you could not do better than these two. Observe:

The senior, FOX-endorsed versions:

And their junior, non-sex-harassing versions

Friday, August 17, 2007

Whitest White Man in the History of Whiteness

The White House announced yesterday the news that First Daughter Jenna Bush will marry former Karl Rove protege Henry Hager. And, to commemorate the occasion, they released a photograph of the happy couple.

Now, look, I'm no student of American photography, but to my untrained eye that is indeed the whitest picture in the recorded history of "whiteness." From the plastered hair to the fake smile to the traditional blue suit with gold tie look (the very look I was, admittedly, planning to wear to a friend's wedding in a few weeks, and which I am now urgently reconsidering), young Mr. Hager has got it all.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

For all your stupid rich person dessert needs

The most recent issue of Forbes magazines introduces us peons to the high-end desserts our more moneyed bretheren inhale like hipsters drink PBR. Tops on the list is "The Fortress Aquamarine" (already I hate it) at The Fortress, in Sri Lanka. It costs a mere $14,500, and includes "an 80-carat aquamarine gem that rests on a sliver of chocolate shaped to resemble the traditional stilt fisherman that’s part of the resort’s logo." Tellingly, the magazine doesn't mention the actual food portion of the desert, but I guess that's beside the point. Here's a photo of the dish in question:

Dropping down quite a bit to second place, we find the "Brownie Extraordinaire with Saint Louis" at the Desert Experience in New Jersey (really, how gauche), which comes with "a Saint Louis crystal atomizer, a $750 keepsake filled with a shot of rare 1996 Quinta do Noval Nacional port wine to be sprayed into the mouth between each bite of hazelnut-coated brownie."

So there you have it. You either lay out 15 large for a huge stone on a plate in Sri Lanka, or you lay out one grand for a bottle of something to spray into your mouth while you plow through a brownie in Jersey. Tough call.

Redcoat generals deride colonial guerilla-style musket attacks as thoroughly uncivilised

Remember that lesson we were taught in elementary school--the reason the British lost the Revolutionary War was because they were used to the more civilized style of European warfare, whilst our American forefathers took advantage of every nook and cranny of the countryside and kept them off balance with cunning guerilla-style attacks? Yeah, I remember that stuff as well. Which is why it is so very odd--and unsettling--to read American commanders in Iraq saying the following:

Officials attribute the increasingly sophisticated attacks [note: talking here about house bombs, which is where troops are lured to a house, only to have it explode] to desperation on the insurgents' part after troops became too successful at finding roadside bombs and other explosives.

"It's a clear sign that they could not get to us by other means, and that's a good sign," said Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, a spokesman for the American operation in northern Iraq, describing the pattern of house bombs in that area. "Obviously we're countering the improvised explosive devices, and force on force, they know that they can't fight us."
Once again we bear witness to the Bush Administration's penchant for insisting that the latest example of very bad news is in fact GOOD NEWS (!!!), as it demonstrates some feature of the enemy's psyche we had not previously considered. For example, the truck bombs of earlier this week, which killed some 300 people, are now considered by the Bush Administration's sycophants to be a sign of the enemy's profound weakness. Yeah, go figure.
The foreign terrorists slaughtering the innocent recognize that their only remaining hope of pulling off a come-from-way-behind win is to convince your senator and your congressman or -woman that it's politically expedient to hand a default victory to a defeated al Qaeda.
Got that? If the number of killings drops, it means we're winning. But if it goes up, it mean...we're winning. Neat logic, that.

Can we make a new rule about Bush taking vacations?

Bush takes a vacation in August, 2001, and we all know what happened after that. Bush takes a vacation in August, 2005, and Hurricane Katrina happened. Bush takes a vacation in August this year, and the market is falling off the table. Would it be within the constitutional powers of Congress to pass a bill prohibiting the President from taking a vacation in August?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tough times for corporate apologists

Last Friday, one of the corporate stooges who hangs around on talking-head shows like "Hardball" had the following to say about all the recent problems with products from China.

I think people should be careful what they wish for on China -- you know, if China were to revalue its currency, or China is to start making, say, toys that don't have lead in them, or food that isn't poisonous, their costs of production are going to go up. And that means prices at Walmart, here in the United States, are going to go up too. So, I would say China is our greatest friend right now.They're keeping prices low, and they're keeping prices for mortgages low too.
Sure, hey, yeah! That cute toy your 10 month old is currently chewing on may have been steeped in toxic paint in some warehouse in BFE, China, but at least you save an extra $2! Score! Unfortunately, reality has an uncomfortable way of intruding upon the fantasies spewed forth by such commentators.
Toymaker Mattel is voluntarily recalling 9 million of its toys in the United States including popular characters such as Batman, Barbie, Polly Pockets and a toy from Pixar's "Cars" movie because of hazards to children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday.
Some of the recalled toys have magnets that can become dislodged and swallowed, and at least one has hazardous levels of lead in its paint.
A Chinese quality inspection agency also announced a temporary export ban on Hansheng Wood Products Factory and said police were investigating the use of "fake plastic pigment." Such pigments are a type of industrial latex used to make surfaces smoother and shinier.

Hansheng made wooden railroad toys that a New York company, RC2 Corp., sold under the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line. RC2 had to recall 1.5 million of the toys earlier this year because of lead paint.
That's not to say that everything coming out of China is toxic and should be thrown away, but when you outsource most aspects of your production to overseas corporations, you put yourself at the tender mercy of whatever regulations that country chooses to impose...or to ignore.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

USA! USA! We're number...uh, 42.

Hard to imagine that a country where you can buy the 2,900 calorie per order "Aussie Cheese Fries" from Outback Steakhouse (that's actually how many calories they have, I'm not making that up) would have a problem maintaining its once enviable life expectancy, but, 'tis true!

The United States has fallen behind many industrialised nations in life expectancy rankings, although Americans are living longer than ever, a media report said.

Fortyone countries have gone past the US, which include not only Japan and many in Europe but also Jordan, Guam and the Cayman islands, the report said. ...

A baby born in the United States in 2004 will live an average of 77.9 years. The life expectancy now ranks 42nd, down from 11th two decades earlier, according to international numbers provided by the Census Bureau and domestic numbers from the National Centre for Health Statistics.
But for those of you who want to fit this into your nefarious liberal utopia of socialized medicine, think again!
But "it's not as simple as saying [the U.S. doesn't] have national health insurance," said Sam Harper, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal.
That's right, libs! There's tons of other reasons! Like, uh, we're all fatasses!
Besides, US has one of the highest obesity rates in the world with nearly one-third of adults of 20 years and above obese and about two thirds are overweight, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Oh, yeah, and there's also that pesky institutionalized racism thing!
Racial disparities are also seen as a factor as Black Americans have an average life expectancy of 73.3 years, five years shorter than white Americans.

Black American males have a life expectancy of 69.8 years, slightly longer than the averages for Iran and Syria and slightly shorter than in Nicaragua and Morocco, it has been pointed out.
Ha ha, Syria! Deal with that!

All in all, a truly shameful statistic, one that puts the lie to the constant rah rah, we're #1 talk.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Laughable Angelina Jolie quotes of the week

Today offers up not one but two delightfully hilarious statements courtesy everyone's favorite crazed, psychotic man-stealing, brother-kissing sexpot humanitarian, Angelina Jolie. Both of them depend upon her completely misunderstanding the reason that she is famous. In the first, she assumes it is beause the public is eager to know her stances on the most important issues of the day; in the second, it is because she assumes that guys like her not because she is slightly crazy and somewhat freaky, but because she is a truly lovely person.

1. "There are many false stories that circulate about me, but the one I feel I need to address, because it is about such an important topic, is that I have not decided to endorse John Edwards, or any other presidential candidate."

2. “I’ve never hidden my bisexuality. But since I’ve been with Brad, there’s no longer a place for that or S&M in my life.”

Online economies eerily similar to real-life economies has an interesting piece today about cheating in video games. Their point is that it used to be all fun and innocent, but is now corrupt. I can see what they mean--in college, some friends and I spent hours upon hours playing the now-legendary Street Fighter II game on the Nintendo 64 (64 bit, woah!!!!), and that game became a lot more interesting once we learned how to program various "cheat" codes that allowed us to play the same characters against eachother, etc. (Of course, I still won all the games, and anyone who tells you otherwise has an agenda.) However, Slate contrasts this old-skool style of cheating with cheating in today's multi-player online games like World of Warcraft. Discussing a current scandal engulfing that universe, they write

Compare Contra with World of Warcraft, the 9-million member online game, where a hue and cry has ensued over the practice of gold farming, in which players, many of them Chinese, earn virtual gold through drudging labor (by killing the same monster over and over again, for example). The farmers then sell their gold to lazy players, many of them American, who use it to acquire coveted weapons and armor they don't have the time or dedication to earn the hard way.
Frightening how much that mirrors the real-world, eh? No word on whether the characters run by Americans throw down their weapons and become wealthy capitalists who claim that their five sons are best serving the World of Warcraft by riding around on the back of an orc, working to get their dad elected president.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My readers from around the nation are hereby invited to envy me

5 day forecast for Portland, OR:

Mitt Romney's kids, doing their part to keep America strong

Willard Mitt Romney, former pro-gay governor of Taxachutsetts and parent of five strapping young men who in another era would all be enlisted, fighting the war their father supports, has been asked some uncomfortable questions about why his kids are, in fact, stateside, sitting on their butts in front of computer screens. Rather than duck the question, Mitt meets it head on, answering:

"One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."
That, friends, is all kinds of awesome. Perhaps not as awesome as former senator Rick Santorum saying that people could serve their country by putting a Santorum bumper sticker on their car, but, still, pretty freaking amazing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

CNN captures the essence of mining tragedy

Utah: worse fines for unsafe driving than for owning an unsafe coal mine

The big story in the national news right now deals with the horrific collapse of a coal mine in central Utah. A group of six miners is trapped nearly half a mile below the surface, three miles into the mine, following a cave in. Apparently this particular mining company practices something called "retreat mining" wherein the ceiling of the area being mined is held up with coal columns, and then when the area is completely mined the company pulls out the pillars and collects the remaining coal before the ceiling collapses. Ok, that sounds insane. But, if we read into the story, we see the following:

The mine -- owned by Genwal Resources Inc. -- reported a cave-in to the Emery County Sheriff's Department about an hour after the seismograph reading was noted.

Inspectors have cited Genwal for 30 violations in 2007, MSHA records show. Recommended fines in the 10 cases where penalties have been leveled so far range from $60 to $524.
Get that? A mining company, which is responsible for the lives of its employees, has been hit with 30 different violations so far this year, and has had a maximum fine of $524. In many instances, the fine was lower than that. In the majority of cases (20 of the 30 total), in fact, no fine at all was levied.

However, this sort of coddling of industry is no surprise to anyone who has followed the Bush Administration's absurd policies over the past six years. By way of comparison, a first offense DUI in Utah has a minimum fine of $700. In Utah, if you are caught driving for the second time without proof of insurance, you have a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. In Utah, the bail for joyriding is $1,850 plus a mandatory court appearance. The list goes on and on: Driving 20mph over the speed limit in a school zone ($708.50), acting as a car dealer without a license ($1,850), speed contest or exhibition of speed ($550). The point, ultimately, is that the state of Utah imposes harsher fines on people engaged in a variety of motor vehicle code violations than the federal government imposes on unsafe coal mines in the state of Utah. Completely, ridiculously, absurd.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Hellacious X-Games wipeout

I'm sure most of you have seen the following video by now, but I'll put it up anyway. Some friends and I were eating ribs at a restaurant here in Portland this past Thursday, pausing between bites to glance up at the TV, which was showing the X-Games on ESPN. All of a sudden, we witnessed one of the most insane wipeouts any of us had ever seen--Jake Brown, a skateboarder from Australia, lost control of his board after launching up the top of a ramp. It was really crazy, and looked BAD. One of our group--a skateboarder, as it happens--said "man, I hope he lives so that I can see that replay." That's how bad it looked. Without further ado, here's the video:

Friday, August 3, 2007

It is NOT a miracle!

One of my biggest pet peeves about disasters is how someone will take the opportunity after the fact to say that some aspect of it was "a miracle." For example: there will be an earthquake somewhere, 25,000 people will die, and five days later the rescue workers will pull some 3 year old out of the rubble, alive. Immediately someone will say "It's a miracle!" The same is true of the Minnesota bridge collapse story. Observe:

"We were surprised that we didn't have more people seriously injured and killed," Minneapolis Fire Chief Jim Clack told The Associated Press. "I think it was something of a miracle."
No, it was NOT a miracle! There was nothing miraculous about it! It was a complete tragedy, and over a dozen people have probably lost their lives. I think there should be a new rule: whenever ANYONE dies in an accident/disaster/etc., the world loses the right to use the phrase "miracle" in conjunction with that event. If a plane crashes and four of the 300 people live, their survival is NOT a miracle! It is good luck! Gah!

Look at it this way: how horrible would it be to lose a loved one in some accident or disaster, and then hear people saying that someone else suriving the same event was "a miracle." What does that say about the loss of your loved one? That God couldn't be bothered? I understand the point people are trying to make, I just think this is one of those situations where we should be a little less quick with the phrases we use.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Oregon government warns: do that again, and we'll warn you again!

Today must be good government posting day on Pregnant Cornbread. Fresh off my post about Jim Kunstler's latest screed against the oil-driven western way of life, I encountered a truly tragic story on one of my local (Portland, OR) news affiliates:

A 27-year-old man whose van struck and killed a pedestrian in downtown Salem has never had a driver's license, but does have an extensive record of traffic violations, state officials said. Since 1999, the state Department of Transportation has put 16 suspension orders against the record of Sean Hagen of Woodburn, a spokesman said.
Imagine that: this guy has had his license (which never even existed) suspended 16 times, yet, miraculously, he was still on the streets! Incredible! Gee, you think they would have figured out after the, oh, third or fourth time, that he clearly does not care much for the petty little rules of our state government. But, no, they apparently believed that he'd eventually stop if he was warned enough.

What a total and complete failure of government. From the bridge in Minnesota, which is government failure writ large (though not quite as large as the government failure that was Katrina), to this incident, which is government failture at the micro level, there is no shortage of examples of our civic institutions utterly failing to protect people, whether the threat is cracked and decaying bridges, massive hurricanes, or idiots driving around with suspended licenses. What an utter shame and waste.

The most consistently depressing blog

Whenever I'm feeling just too damn happy, I cruise over to Clusterfuck Nation, James Howard Kunstler's blog. He's the author of The Long Emergency, an uber-terrifying look at how western dependence on oil will be our collective undoing. To a certain degree he's a proto-Hobbesian, in the sense that he's constantly forecasting a breakdown of society so profound that the only rational response would seem to be a return to the primeval state of nature, wherein life as we knew it was nasty, brutish, and short. (Just like Paul Wolfowitz! Zing!) Today's post is no exception. It's almost hilarious to witness the way that Jim can churn out mindbogglingly depressing and scary prose week after week. What must it be like to live with the guy? Observe:

The launching of this new oil export crisis is coinciding with the crisis in confidence in the financial sector. In fact, the oil export crisis is the un-recognized reality test that is challenging the habitual falsification of reality in finance. This oil export crisis will also have a palpable effect on the reality of everyday life in America. It will bring our system of extreme car dependency closer to failure every day, with each upward one-penny click. Whether the public ever comes to recognize what this means, it will still affect millions of individual decisions. Among these decisions will be a refusal to consider buying a new house 27 miles outside Minneapolis (or Dallas, or Atlanta....). At the same time this is occurring, and the anchovy barrels stashed around Wall Street start exploding from the gases of putrefaction within, there will be no more mortgages available for new houses anyway. And so the only real activity still driving the US economy -- the building of ever more suburban sprawl -- will come closer to a complete shut-down. I don't think the financial markets will survive that.
Yay! Tra la la la! In a certain sense I feel that he's probably right, but in another sense--that part of me that doesn't want to camp out under my dining room table with a tube of cheeze-whiz and a shotgun for five years--I hope he's wrong. Or, if not wrong, I hope he's at least misguided about the opportunity we have to reverse this trend.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Yet more Angelina Jolie absurdity

Longtime readers of this blog know that I think Angelina Jolie is one of the most ridiculously selfish and narcissistic people who has ever lived on the face of the earth. There's no news there. But today we get a report that she and Brad are feuding. Over what, you may ask? Whether to adopt a ninth tenth eleventh child? No! Whether to throw the trappings of Hollywood overboard and become architects? No! Yeah, it's actually over which presidential candidate to support!

An insider close to the Pitt family said, “They got into a huge fight about politics (Brad supports Barack Obama, while Angie’s a John Edwards fan.) Brad ended up calling her immature. He says the next thing he knew, Angie was cursing at him and throwing a glass of wine in his face.” Brad, understandably, was speechless. “He was left standing there with wine dripping down his face onto his clothes, before storming off to wash up and change. He says he was absolutely disgusted by Angelina’s behavior.”
Pretty awesome, if you ask me. Although I'm with Brad when it comes to my choice of candidates. Really, though, Barack and Edwards seem pretty similar, it's not like one of them is supporting Fred Thompson and the other one is supporting Kucinich. Just goes to show the ludicrous lengths to which Angie will go when confronted with someone who--gasp!--disagrees with her. "Your fairly populist yet widely appealing Democratic candidate is different from my fairly populist yet widely appealing Democratic candidate! You bastard! Take [reaches for wine glass] that!"