Saturday, February 13, 2016

Justice Scalia Dead

Wow.  The sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia was a huge surprise.

I'm not going to shed any tears for Scalia; he made America worse on a regular basis. Now we get to watch Senate Republicans leave his seat vacant for at least a year. The President should appoint someone to fill the seat and the Senate should approve the appointment or not. But it seems very likely Mitch McConnell will not hold a vote on the off chance that the Republicans will retake the White House this fall.

The Supreme Court is now composed of four conservatives and four liberals, which means a LOT of very important issues will result in a tie. It is hard to overstate what a huge change this is.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Oh and the plague. And Prima Nocta.

Please remember.

During the Saturday night debate held before New Hampshire Republicans voted Donald Trump as the winner in their primary, Trump said this:

Well, I’ll tell you what. In the Middle East, we have people chopping the heads off Christians. We have people chopping the heads off many other people. We have things that we have never seen before—as a group, we have never seen before what’s happening right now. The medieval times—I mean, we studied medieval times. Not since medieval times have people seen what’s going on. I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.
That statement was made by the front runner for the Republican nomination for President. And if you don't see why that's a problem*, then you deserve this fascist as President.

*Okay, for the less enlightened. Torture doesn't work. Torture is dehumanizing and morally indefensible. Torture is unnecessary, there are other more effective methods of getting information. Torture inspires people to join forces against the torturers. And using torture justifies its use against our captured citizens and soldiers. Enough reasons for you?

This isn't at all horrifying

Here's a peek into the minds of a family of Trump supporters in New Hampshire.
The family said they also supported Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration, saying they believed Trump would prioritize the needs of U.S. workers over undocumented immigrants. Peering out from behind a fur-lined hood, Alexis Ierardi, a student at Babson College, added: “It’s like on an airplane, where they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before you help someone else. We gotta be able to breathe.  Link
Of course! We certainly need some breathing room. If only there were an efficient, single word that described our need!

Oh, silly me. Of course, there is:  Lebensraum.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Arseholes hate "freeloaders"

The next time you see people on Facebook or other social media whining about their taxes while denouncing "freeloaders" for wanting all free stuff, remind them of this.
There is an enduring myth that people who rely on public assistance are unwilling to work. However, there are 41.2 million working Americans (nearly 30 percent of the workforce) who receive public assistance—and nearly half of these workers (19.3 million) have full-time jobs. Not surprisingly, these workers are concentrated in jobs paying low hourly wages. A majority (53.1 percent) of workers earning less than $12.16 per hour—the bottom 30 percent of wage earners—earn so little on the job that they must rely on public assistance to make ends meet.  Link
The fact is, there are tens of millions of full time working Americans who cannot support themselves or their families because they make minimum wage and don't have any chance for advancement. A living minimum wage would mean they could get off public assistance and would lift our economy for everyone, rich and poor alike.

The hateful shaming of low-wage Americans by calling them "freeloaders" for relying on an adequate social safety net (which also helps the elderly and the infirm) is despicable. Call out such hatred when you see it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

This is why we can't have nice things - YET AGAIN

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered a major blow to President Barack Obama by blocking federal regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, the centerpiece of his administration's strategy to combat climate change.
In a highly unusual move, the court voted 5-4 along ideological lines to grant a request made by 27 states and various companies and business groups to block the administration's Clean Power Plan. The move means the regulations will not be in effect while litigation continues over whether their legality.  Link
These regulations are squarely within the law and the type of power that Congress and previous courts have given the Executive Branch. This isn't just a defeat for the Obama Administration, it's a defeat for everyone on the planet. 

I am not exaggerating. The sooner the United States joins the rest of the world in fighting climate change and getting away from polluting, environment damaging carbon fuels, the better off we all are. And the better off our children will be.

Guess which Justices voted to block the plan?

Thanks, Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Alito and Thomas.

Stupid conservative wankers.

This is exactly why the upcoming Presidential election is so important. It's possible that the next President will appoint three or even four Supreme Court Justices. Do you want Donald Trump or Ted Cruz to pick those Justices?

And with that pleasant thought, good night.

At these prices, you'd be stupid NOT to drink it!

So you know how the government of Michigan, including Republican Governor Rick Snyder, poisoned thousands of residents of Flint, Michigan with lead to save a few bucks? Well, don't worry, because Gov. Snyder has a plan!
Snyder, a Republican, will make the case for the $30 million plan when he presents his budget next week for the coming fiscal year. Pending the state legislature's approval, his proposal would lower residents’ bills by about 30 percent until water is safe to drink, and credit their past bills going back to April 2014. Former residents would also be eligible for refunds.

“I agree with Flint residents, that they should not have to pay for water they cannot drink,” Snyder said in a statement.
Flint’s average monthly water and sewer bill was $140 in 2014, much higher than neighboring cities, according to the Flint Journal. Under Snyder’s proposal, a family paying $140 would get about a $40 credit.

Now, a rational, moral, person might conclude that residents should pay $0 for poisoned water. But that would certainly make them a commie, socialist, liberal, atheist radical. I mean, 70% of that water is okay, so why should these freeloaders get off paying nothing for it? It is the American way, after all.

Let's hear from some experts.

There you go.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Reminder of which party is really better for the economy

Last week, unemployment slipped beneath 5% to 4.9%. That represents 70 straight months of employment growth.

Thanks Obama. 

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Busy Week

Last weekend we attended what will likely be Rachel's last show at JMU, the restoration comedy, The Beaux' Strategem. We drove up on Saturday morning, saw the 2PM matinee, took Rachel to dinner, and then attended the 8PM show. We've done this a few times over the years and I will greatly miss it now that Rachel's graduating.

The show was fun. Being a restoration comedy the language was "Shakespeare-lite" which I'm sure made it a little difficult for Ben to follow but not so much as an actual Shakespeare play. The show was set in the 1960's which allowed for more modern costumes and language. Rachel played Cherry, the daughter of the thieving innkeeper, in one of her biggest roles. As usual, she was great and the whole cast really did a great job enlivening the material.

This weekend, both kids had important auditions. Ben auditioned for scholarships from one of the schools he's been accepted to, Albright College. He and Carol went up to Reading, PA, yesterday for the audition.

Meanwhile, Rachel was in Memphis for the UPTA, a national audition for theater folk. Ninety-two theatre companies from around the country were there to see talent for professional theatre jobs. Rachel got 9 callbacks! She's back at school now. I have no idea when she'll hear back. Earlier this week she auditioned for the National Players in Olney, Maryland.

Carol and I are both very proud of our talented kids.

Super Bowl 50

I wasn't planning on watching the Super Bowl but tuned in to watch the kickoff and first bunch of commercials. The game is now halfway through the second quarter and I'm pretty much hooked. Good game with one major blown call by the refs on a complete pass by Carolina called as incomplete. If the Panthers lose, that call will haunt the refs. 

So far the commercials have totally sucked. Big time. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

An important aid in voting

This may be the most brilliant political analysis OF ALL TIME. Seriously, check it out.

The Presidential Candidates Ranked By Their Usefulness In A Bar Fight

Monday, January 25, 2016

Are you thinking of voting for Ted Cruz?

Donald Trump is getting most of the attention among the seventy-four nitwits running for the Republican nomination for President, mostly because he's a huge racist, narcissistic, douchebag who will say apparently anything for attention. But let's not ignore the second place candidate, Senator Ted Cruz.

Seriously, don't you just want to punch this smug face?

Below are just some of the awesome plans that Ted Cruz has in store for us if he does become President (thanks to Daily Kos). (It should be noted that as President, Cruz wouldn't actually have the power to do most of these things, but that's how delusional he is):
  • The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv would be moved to Jerusalem. (Because this wouldn't light a fire under the already tenuous Israeli/Palestinian situation. Seriously, this would be a huge dick move.)
  • He'd axe the Commerce Department, and with it millions in grants for small and minority-owned business assistance. Too bad small businesses!
  • He would eliminate the Department of Education, leaving all education policy up to the states. Given climate change and evolution denial, abstinence-only sex ed, and conservatives' "American Exceptionalism" view of history, you can imagine how well that would go.
  • He also wants to kill the Department of Energy because apparently we don't need any regulations over energy production or a coherent energy plan.
  • Housing and Urban Development is on Cruz' chopping block so goodbye all the programs that help people secure affordable housing as well as enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
  • And finally, the Internal Revenue Service would be "abolished". No idea how the government would process taxes and revenue without the IRS.
  • Killing those five agencies would result in 214,000 federal employees and contractors losing their jobs. Good thing those workers don't have families or mortgages or car payments or healthcare needs.
  • Cruz has said that he wants to abolish income and payroll taxes. This would, incidentally, eliminate the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. 
  • He would somehow unilaterally reverse the Iran nuclear deal. You know, the one where it's been confirmed that Iran just destroyed all their nuclear weapons development sites? I guess they could go back to building a bomb.
  • He would get rid of Obamacare of course. Too bad for the millions of Americans who now have affordable healthcare. Or those who have pre-existing conditions. This would also blow up the deficit with a huge increase in public spending as people went back to the emergency room plan for healthcare. 

Of course, Ted Cruz is pretty much hated by everyone who gets to know him, so even the Republican establishment is working against him. But he takes extreme Christian positions and that endears him to the evangelicals. And that has catapulted him to the number two position in the Republican hierarchy of infamy.

To return to the question in the title of this post, if you are thinking of voting for Ted Cruz, either (1) you don't know what he stands for, (2) you don't care if he harms America and tens of millions of Americans, or (3) you're an idiot.

Your choice.

Jessica Jones

One thing the blizzard has allowed me to do is to finish up binge-watching Jessica Jones on Netflix. Marvel Studios has been knocking it out of the park for years now and this thirteen episode series is no exception. Set in Daredevil's Hell's Kitchen, Jessica Jones has a distinctly different feel than that great series, more sensuous and noir, but like Daredevil, the show takes the time to develop interesting, conflicted and deep characters, including an incredible turn by David Tennant as the mind-controlling villain, Kilgrave. Kilgrave is really, really terrifying.

Filled with strong feminist themes and addressing many of the issues of being a woman in America in the 21st century, Jessica Jones (the character) is conflicted, angry, obnoxious, but heroic and completely relatable. Krysten Ritter is great as the title character.

Really, this was just outstanding. Marvel is becoming Pixar-like in its track record.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowmapocalypseageddon - 11:45AM Sunday

This is as good as it gets. The snow stopped on Saturday night.

We still haven't seen a plow. Miraculously, our neighbors pulled their cars from the circle before the storm so the plows should be able to get through our street without threading their way through a bunch of stupid snowbound vehicles. This is literally the first time this has ever happened.

The federal government is closed tomorrow, which is obviously the correct call. So another good night's sleep for me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snowmapocalypseageddon - 12:30 - Saturday

Saturday afternoon, and we have around 30 inches of snow. Note the birds on the snow and the feeders. Our small car, blocked by the flag, is a huge pile of snow with only one side mirror poking out.

Snowmapocalypseageddon - 11PM

Here we are last night, when all was peaceful and calm.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snowmapocalypseageddon - 8PM

And here we are at 8PM.

The snow seems to have tapered off, but they say it will get worse over night.

Snowmapocalypseageddon - 4PM

The snow started falling at 1:45PM.  And here we are at 4PM.

Snowmapocalypseageddon - 1PM

Because of the approaching blizzard, the federal government closed at noon today. I didn't go in because my round trip commute is two and a half hours and being at work for only three hours didn't really seem worth it. Three of my people live close to the office and they held down the fort until noon. Given that all the local schools are closed, which puts government workers with kids in a bind, I think it would have made more sense to just close the government, but that wasn't my call.

So now I'm home, stocked up on survival goods (more or less) and looking forward to a quiet, snowed-in weekend. I'm crossing my fingers that the power doesn't go out. But if it does we've got lots of wood to burn, so we'll be warm.

I thought I'd track the storm in pictures. Here's the first, taken at 1PM, before the snow hits. Note that the bird feeders are full.  (Click to embiggen).

I'll update when things have changed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Glorious Leader endorses candidate!

Hey! Speaking of North Korea, a high-ranking North Korean leader apparently endorsed Donald Trump today!

Here's part of his endorsement speech. Excuse the English syntax, but obviously English is not his first language.

Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing: a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge. So troops, hang in there, because help’s on the way because he, better than anyone, isn’t he known for being able to command, fire!
And this.
“Trump’s candidacy, it has exposed not just that tragic ramifications of that betrayal of the transformation of our country, but too, he has exposed the complicity on both sides of the aisle that has enabled it, okay?

Crazy, right? But an endorsement's an endorsement.

Wait. What? That's Sarah Palin endorsing Trump? Oh.

My bad.  No. John McCain's bad. Thanks McCain.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Let us build our country into the most powerful one in the world, into a people's fairyland, as wished by the great Donald Trump!

My apologies for foisting this on you. I feel sorry for these little girls.

Here are the lyrics for the first verse. They have a distinctly authoritarian feel with a touch of non-English-speaking authorship thrown in for good measure.
Cowardice, are you serious?
Apologies for freedom, I can't handle this!
When freedom rings, answer the call!
On your feet, stand up tall!
Freedom's on our shoulders, USA!
Enemies of freedom
Face the music, come on boys, take 'em down!
President Donald Trump knows how to make America great
Deal from strength or get crushed every time
Those are definitely some North-Korean worthy lyrics there.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Lottery

While I totally get the appeal of fantasizing about winning over $1 billion, the fact is, I'm not going to win the lottery and you're not going to win the lottery. So I don't waste my money on tickets.

Yesterday and today, I made offers to two people I know regarding their plans to buy lottery tickets. I told them that instead of buying lottery tickets, they could give the money to me. Then, next week, I'd give them half the money back, guaranteeing them a 50% rate of return. Just after 10PM tonight, their rate of return will be 0%.

Neither of them took me up on my generous offer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


People who think things are getting worse under President Obama are idiots.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Want to eliminate poverty? Let's ask some rich guys.

On Saturday, most of the Republican candidates for President held a forum in South Carolina about fighting poverty. This is pretty laughable, since nearly all of the economic policies championed by the Republicans enhance rather than reduce poverty. Things like tax cuts for the rich, eliminating the minimum wage (forget raising it), changing all government assistance to block grants to the states, eliminating worker protections, and getting rid of successful programs like SNAP, every single idea they're pushing hurts lower income people in America.

If Republicans had their way, the poor would have even less to eat, be more uncertain about where their next meal is coming from, have no childcare options and even fewer options for healthcare. This isn't speculation, we've seen it for decades and have the data to prove it. The rich would get richer and the poor would get poorer. And that's the goal.

The Republican candidates having a forum on poverty is kind of like whales having a forum on krill.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Thanks, Obama! (Employment edition)

Remember this if you're voting for a Republican for President, most of whom want to do the same things George W. Bush did.

If you want to see this chronologically, move the blue line to the right until it starts at the end of Bush's red line.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Okay, it's time to talk about this. I've seen it twice now and enough time has passed to put the movie into a little bit of perspective. After seeing it the first time, I was torn. The second time worked better for me, but I'm still kind of ambivalent about the story.

This isn't going to be any kind of in-depth analysis, but just a bunch of thoughts I had during and after seeing it.

(Note that I'm going to refer to the movie as "TFA" below because it's easier.)


What I liked about the movie:

  • TFA felt like a real Star Wars film. The prequels had an artificial, CGI aspect, which didn't quite seem like traditional Star Wars. TFA did. J.J. Abrams didn't fill the film with his traditional lens flare and lots of chaotic noise, but emulated the tone and pacing of the original films. Well done.
  • I loved almost all the new characters and having the two leads be a woman and a black man was a great choice. What's more, the actors performing these roles were great.
  • The action scenes were mostly easy to follow and exciting.
  • Han Solo and Chewbacca were well used.
  • The pacing of the film was excellent.
  • The reveal of the Millennium Falcon was one of the best movie moments I've had in years. Really funny and surprising.

What I didn't like about the movie:

  • The opening shot of A New Hope was awe-inspiring and iconic. The opening shot of ATF was muddled and dark. I thought the bulb in the projector had been turned down.
  • A New Hope, Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace all climax with a fighter attack on a giant ship/space station in order to save our heroes. Why the hell did this movie have to do the same thing yet again? "Hey, I know what we should do! Those first two Death Stars were awesome. Let's build a new one, but this time, even bigger and with an even more obvious fatal flaw." Urgh.
  • In fact, TFA mimics the structure of A New Hope to a large degree. The Empire Strikes Back didn't do that and is the best of the films. Coincidence? I think not.
  • While the Prequels overdid the political discussion, I would have loved at least a few sentences about the political situation in the galaxy. It's really unclear what's going on with the New Republic, the Resistance and the First Order. It seems that 30 years after the destruction of the Empire, nothing much has been accomplished.
  • Why the hell wasn't Leia trained as a Jedi and why don't they even address that?
  • Apparently training Jedi has a very high chance of producing a Sith or other Dark Side follower like Kylo Ren. You think they'd figure out a less failure-prone method.
  • And why the heck does anyone switch to the Dark Side if it de facto means you have to kill a bunch of innocent people? Doesn't that mean that Ben Solo was a sociopath to begin with?
  • Finn's change of heart about being a Stormtrooper was not developed at all. It's presented as a fait accompli in his first scene, and he talks a little bit about it, but there really wasn't any arc to his changing sides or any second thoughts, even when he's killing his former troop mates.
  • If you have a map to a portion of your galaxy and all the systems of the galaxy had been mapped previously, it would be very simple to figure out where the portion of the map goes.
  • Captain Phasma (the cool-looking, female, silver stormtrooper captain) was a complete letdown.
  • I can't decide if I like emo Darth Vader Jr. wannabe or not. He doesn't seem to understand that Darth Vader repudiated the Dark Side before he died. Dumbass.
  • And on top of that, Kylo Ren is actually wounded in a lightsaber duel by a non-Jedi and beaten by someone who's been studying the Force for about ten minutes. That tended to undercut his supposed awesomeness.
  • J.J. Abrams has no sense of the scale of space. The "Starkiller" planet appears to be in a different star system than the unnamed planets it blows up late in the movie. A beam fired at the speed of light from a different star system would take years to hit the target. And if Starkiller is in the same star system as its targets, then just sucking up the sun to power the super gun would be enough to kill all the planets in the system, including the ones our heroes stood on to watch the other planets get blown up. Firing the gun at that point would be unnecessary.
  • A small planet couldn't possibly soak up the mass of a sun and not rip itself apart (not to mention flattening anyone on that planet). That was REALLY STUPID "science".
  • And finally, due to Luke Skywalker's "failure" at training Jedi, one of them became a Dark Lord, or whatever, and killed the rest of the Jedi-in-training. Luke, the only person around who might be able to stop this new Dark Lord, then vanishes for unknown reasons, leaving everyone to the mercy of this new terror. Thanks a lot, dick.
I would love some discussion in the comments.