Monday, April 28, 2008

Irony alert: "Free Tibet" flags actually made in China

When the actual, real-life news starts to resemble The Onion, you know things have gone sideways.

Take it away, BBC:

Police in southern China have discovered a factory manufacturing Free Tibet flags, media reports say.

The factory in Guangdong had been completing overseas orders for the flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Pop quiz! This flag:

a) is known as the "Snow Lion flag"
b) represents Tibet's victorious accomplishment of a unified spiritual and secular life
c) represents the "Free Tibet" movement
d) is banned in China
e) is manufactured in China
f) it's obviously all of the above, you jagoff

Hey, that's right, "f" is the right answer. (But you don't have to be so antagonistic about it, damn.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The one rumor I simply refuse to believe

Ok, look, I admit that I'm a pretty easy-to-fool guy, but I absolutely refuse, categorically, to believe that Dwayne Wade is dating Star Jones. I simply won't consider it. There are a few things in life that are so completely catastrophic, and could have such far-reaching and horrific consequences, that they must be blocked from the mind at all cost. Peak oil is one, and now Dwyane Wade dating Star Jones is another. It can't be real. No way.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One poll number I'm absolutely not worried about, or, why you shouldn't stress about Clinton supporters voting for McCain

In the frenetic back-and-forth between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, one oft-reported statistic is the number of each candidates voters who claim that they would vote for John McCain in the general election if their favored candidate does not win the Democratic nomination. This is often presented as bad news for the Democratic party. Here's a representative example of this kind of reporting:

A sizable proportion of Democrats would vote for John McCain next November if he is matched against the candidate they do not support for the Democratic nomination. This is particularly true for Hillary Clinton supporters, more than a quarter of whom currently say they would vote for McCain if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.

As would be expected, almost all Democratic voters who say they support Obama for their party's nomination also say they would vote for him in a general election matchup against McCain. But only 59% of Democratic voters who support Clinton say they would vote for Obama against McCain, while 28% say they would vote for the Republican McCain. This suggests that some Clinton supporters are so strongly opposed to Obama (or so loyal to Clinton) that they would go so far as to vote for the "other" party's candidate next November if Obama is the Democratic nominee.
Now, does this spell doom for the Democrats? On the surface, it could be ominous: if you take a random sample of 100 Democrats, and assume that roughly half support Obama and half support Clinton, then 28% of Clinton's supporters would turn out to be somewhere around 12-13 voters. Take those numbers to a state like Florida or Ohio, and they could be worrisome indeed.

However, I'm not at all concerned, for the following reason: this is an extraordinarily unusual primary process, with the race lasting far longer, and with far more bitterness, than you normally see, in either party. Because of this, the committed voters for each candidate have dug in to their positions, and find it hard to imagine that their candidate could lose the election. This makes sense: when you are supporting a candidate in the early days of the primary season, you likely have not supported him/her for that long, and consequently can easily transition to the candidate who gets the nomination.

Clinton and Obama supporters, however, have at this point been in their respective candidate's camp for an extended period of time. There is a good deal of hostility towards the opponent, who at this point is not John McCain. Given this, I'm not at all surprised that so many Clinton supporters claim they would support McCain. It makes sense that more Clinton supporters than Obama supporters claim they would support McCain--Obama, after all, is more likely to win the nomination, so to his supporters the idea of a choice between Hillary and McCain is an abstraction. For Clinton supporters, the eventual choice between Obama and McCain is very likely, and very likely hard to stomach.

Really, at this point those numbers are not a sign of Clinton's strength, but her weakness. The more her supporters come to grips with her likely withdrawl from the race, the higher the "I'll vote for McCain!" number will rise. It is, at this point, a tactic unto itself: they are trying to persuade superdelegates that voting for Obama will drive Democrats to McCain. Will it work? Probably not. Is it a credible threat? Perhaps, but not at the level suggested by those polls. I suspect that there is probably a hardcore element, say 5-6%, of Clinton supporters who will find themselves so disillusioned by an Obama nomination that they will chose to not vote. I doubt they'll support McCain, however.

I could be wrong about all this. But really, I think at this point the high number of Clinton supporters who claim they'll support McCain is more representative of their growing sense of the inevitability of her loss than anything else, and threatening to support McCain in the general is the only weapon at their disposal.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A question about the military's "relaxed standards"

Question: Who will be the first Presidential candidate to get in trouble (with the media, with the Republicans, same difference) for saying that it's perhaps not the greatest thing ever, and that it certainly says nothing good about our country, that we are dramatically increasing the "waivers" we give to people who have committed felonies and who are now applying to enter the military, now admitting them when in past years they would have been summarily excluded?

Friday, April 18, 2008

NY Times snarks on pope's visit

Wow. Guess there were more of those victims than we thought.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How to Ignore the Iraq War, by ABCNews

It was a bad day for US forces in Iraq.

Five soldiers lost their lives, including three in Baghdad, which General David Petraeus assured everyone was a veritable Charlie's Chocolate Factory of zany good times in his presentation before Congress yesterday.

As I write this, my computer's clock says "Wednesday, 3:34 pm." Since Sunday, not that long ago, 17 soldiers have died.

Give the seeming rupture between this bad news and the positive spin that George Bush and John McCain have been putting on the news, you'd expect that the media would be all over this story like flies on dog crap. You'd think so, but you'd be wrong. Check out the front page over at ABC News, gathered about two minutes before I wrote this post. (Click the photo to expand it.)

See that? Or, rather, don't see that? That's right--NOTHING about Iraq. Not a word. There's plenty of room for "Boy monkey says no to Barbie" or "Simon Cowell: Smoking is Good," but a major uptick in violence in Iraq? Borrrrrring.

Sheesh. It's kind of unreal. I mean, yes, I know that it gets depressing day after day to write the same "X US soldiers died today in Iraq, etc." stories, but at the same time, you've got the President, the GOP nominee for President, and the main military official responsible for Iraq all selling the same story, and the "facts on the ground" (as the President is so fond of saying) indicate precisely the opposite. It would be refreshing for the media to pay attention, don't you think?

I'm beginning to understand why "Johm" McCain confuses Iraq and Iran

Isn't "spell your name correctly" one of those skills you have to know by, like, second grade?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Madonna: Insane

Superstars of a certain luminosity evidently reach a point where nobody in their lives is willing to tell them to shut up, and so they just continue on their merry way, their remarks losing great touch with reality and sanity with each passing year. So near as I can figure, Madonna passed this point about a dozen years ago, and so it's not too surprising to discover that nearly everything the woman says is touched by some hint of Teh Crazy. Today, she offered some insight into the plight of Britney Spears, and noted that the starlet's troubled relationship with the paparazzi (or "Pavarottis," to quote a certain wife-beatered, hatted, fertile ex-husband of Britney's) is not unlike, uh, well, something about Africa and witches. Here, take it away, Madge:

When you think about the way people treat each other in Africa, about witchcraft and people inflicting cruelty and pain on each other, then come back here and, you know, people taking pictures of people when they’re in their homes, being taken to hospitals, or suffering, and selling them, getting energy from them, that’s a terrible infliction of cruelty.

“So who’s worse off?
Ok, well, first of all, giving the events in recent years in Rwanda and Sudan, I think "the way people treat eachother in Africa" can occasionally rise above the level of "witchcraft," but, that aside, what the heck is Madonna saying here? Genocide is roughly the equivalent of paparazzi stalking someone eating at Hyde? For real?

News flash: Conservative economist Larry Kudlow would support a war tax!

Ok, well, he didn't come out and say it, but take a look at a couple of passages from his most recent blog post on the execrable "The Corner" blog over at National Review:

Surprise, surprise. Having failed to penetrate General Petraeus’s story about the great improvements on the ground in Iraq, liberals are now trying to make the case that the cost of the Iraq war may have somehow undermined the economy, and even caused the current slowdown. What complete and utter nonsense.

First point: The U.S. has spent roughly $750 billion for the five-year war. Sure, that’s a lot of money. But run the numbers and the total cost works out to a miniscule 1 percent of the $63 trillion GDP over that time period. It’s miniscule.
Ok, got it. $750 billion over five years is "miniscule."
Perhaps the anti-war forces should recall the portion of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, where he called on Americans to pay any price, and bear any burden, in order to preserve freedom, liberty, and democracy. Do these folks actually think 1 percent of GDP is too large a price, too heavy a burden? I sure hope not.
You heard it here first. Larry Kudlow, one of the most conservative/brain-dead economists in America, thinks that a $750 billion war tax over 5 years is a small price to pay for freedom. Pretty incredible news. I only hope that President Bush will follow his suggestion.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Oh, heavens! In a fit of pique, John McCain called his wife a "trollop" and a word that rhymes with "runt"

'Tis not always so easy being John "Walnuts" McCain, apparent GOP nominee and winner of the "Presidential Candidate Who Most Closely Resembles a Friend of Grandpa Simpson" contest. Back in the day, he and his wife, the heiress to the lucrative Budweiser distribution franchises in Arizona, had something of a spat. Normally, so what, many couples have meaningless spats. What makes this one somewhat interesting (and hilarious!) is the filthy talk ("straight talk," natch) that came spilling out of his mouth in response to a fairly mild and genial putdown by his wife.

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain's intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain's face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." McCain's excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.
Yow! First of all, I have to say that the "c-word" is coming back into vogue lately: the key plot moment in "Atonement" owed much to that particular word, and now here we have ol' Walnuts McCain dropping it as well.

However, even more than the c-word is his use of "trollop." Note: if you are attempting to convince voters of your undying youth and vigor, try to avoid using words that even Montgomery Burns himself would find stale and outdated. "Trollop?" Who says that?

John McCain: Hates Trollops

Friday, April 4, 2008

The smartest $10 you'll spend on the internets: Charles Bronson 3-D paper doll

If you haven't wasted hours or weeks of your life wandering around, you owe yourself the chance. It's a website where hundreds if not thousands of independent artists and craftspeople sell all manner of products: t-shirts, art prints, plates, random pieces of wood, you name it. Like most markets, it's got a decent mixture of fantastic stuff and crazy stuff. The following item, however, is definitely one of the strangest (and best) items I've found: a paper figure of legendary action star Charles Bronson. Bronson, far cooler than modern day joke Chuck Norris could ever hope to be, gets the full treatment here, and for a mere $10 this incredible product could be yours. (I'm not affiliated with the artist in any way whatsoever, I just think this is pretty damn cool.) Charles Bronson paper toy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

British/US sex-scandal gap grows depressingly wide

Look, the Brits outclass us in many areas. Pop music, for starters. Good TV comedy. CRUMPETS, for crying out loud. But imagine my dismay at discovering that they have done us one better in an area that used to be ours for the keeping: the sex scandal. Sure you've got your Eliot Spitzers and the $750/hour call girl, but, honestly, isn't that whole thing a little played out by now? What has happened to us, America? Have we just gotten fat and content in our old age, no longer determined to bring ingenuity and entrepreneurship to the sex scandal as we did in days gone by? Consider these two recent examples, and tell me which looks like the hungry contender, and which one looks like the self-satisfied champion of yesteryear:

United States

The co-founder and former CEO of the liberal-progressive Democracy Radio and husband of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow was caught in February by a Troy police sting aimed at catching prostitutes, according to a police report.

Thomas L. Athans was stopped Feb. 26 by undercover officers investigating a possible prostitution ring in a room at the Residence Inn near Big Beaver and Interstate 75. Athans paid a 20-year-old prostitute $150 for sex in a Troy hotel but was not arrested, according to police reports obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Detroit News. The police report said officers observed Athans enter a room under surveillance and leave 15 minutes later.

Great Britain
Formula one boss Max Mosley is under pressure to resign after he was exposed by a British tabloid enjoying a Nazi-style orgy with five prostitutes.

Jewish groups condemned the behaviour of Mosley, 67, whose father, Sir Oswald, was the leader of the British Union of Fascists and a friend of Adolf Hitler.

Mr Mosley was caught on video by the News of the World with five women in an underground "torture chamber" in Chelsea, where he spent several hours allegedly indulging in sado-masochistic sex.
Mosley reportedly took part in the scene on Friday at a London apartment near his home, according to the News of the World.

In a video on the newspaper's website, it shows a man identified as Mosley arriving at an apartment.

The man is then greeted by a woman playing the role of a prison guard, checking his hair to s ee if he has been kept clean "at the other facility".

Later, another woman in a prisoner's uniform enters the video and the man said to be Mosley is heard speaking German.

Ok, look, no comparison. The whole Nazi angle is really distasteful, yes, but when is a good sex scandal tasteful? Isn't the whole point of a sex scandal that you are shocked? And in a day and age in which kids can really view all manner of indecency on the computer, you have to give Mr. Mosley credit for bringing his A game to the sex scandal arena. The United States showed some creativity, it must be admitted, by having its contestant arrested on Big Beaver Road, but that's about it, as they lose points by the low amount of money exchanged ($150) and the shockingly small amount of time spent on the actual act--15 minutes. Meanwhile the British guy paid God knows how much and spent hours engaged in his dirty business.

For shame, America.