Thursday, December 18, 2014

I crack me up

I was wrapping some Christmas presents last night and was inspired by the wrapping paper. 

I am easily amused. 

In other, completely unrelated news, we watched Die Hard the other night with Ben who had never seen it. 

Best Christmas movie ever. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

America and Cuba: Thanks Obama!

President Obama announced today that we are discarding the failed policy of boycotting and isolating Cuba and entering more normal diplomatic relations. This is long overdue and very good news. Our half century boycott has done nothing to hurt the Castro regime,but opening normal relations, expanding trade, and encouraging travel between the two countries will have very positive effects and will improve the conditions of the Cuban people.

Despite a large majority of Americans being in favor of this policy, including a majority of Republicans, the usual suspects, Boehner, Rubio, and other asshats are all verklempt, because Obama. But screw those guys.

This is a good thing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Hobbit: The End of an Era

I was expecting to go see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies tomorrow, the day it opens. To my surprise this morning, when I was checking show times, I saw listings for tonight. They opened it early! So we’re going to the 8PM show.

The Hobbit movies are definitely different than The Lord of the Rings movies. I appreciate the stylistic and tonal differences, while I dislike the much more over-the-top action sequences. If you watch the entire LOTR trilogy, there are only a couple of action sequences that seem, well, ridiculous. Of course I’m talking about a couple of Legolas moments, but they’re mostly for fun and don’t disrupt the tone or the story. The Hobbit movies each contain a half dozen ridiculous action sequences. I’m not a big fan of those.

The amazing thing is that despite Peter Jackson adding a ton of non-book characters and scenes, the essential story from the book, The Hobbit, is all there. Someone could (and I bet eventually will) edit all three movies down to just the stuff that’s actually in the book. And it will be great.

So tonight will be the last time I sit in the theater to watch a new Tolkien movie. (Until someone eventually remakes them). One event still remains, the release of the Extended Edition sometime in 2015, but this is the big milestone tonight.

It was a long road, movie-wise, from 2001 to here but a great and enjoyable one.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Just another day in America

This morning I was watching the headlines about the pro-ISIS gunman in Sydney who had taken a cafe full of people hostage. Just as the bulletin was issued that the siege was over with two dead, there was a breaking news alert that five people were killed by a gunman in Pennsylvania.


Come on Australia, don't even try to outdo us in senseless gun violence!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Fun with Signs - A Musical Interlude

Here's the current one. I am due to change it out, but haven't decided on the next yet.

This was inspired by my friend Dave who suggested a sign based on Hotel California. I liked his idea, which made me think of this one.

A Mystery for Our Times

Why is it whenever there's an issue where it's fairly clear which side has the moral high ground, the side that will help people and expand human rights, Republicans (most of whom identify as Christian) are always on the wrong side?

Rape victims in the news? Republicans are always on the side of the (alleged) rapists.

Contaminating groundwater via fracking? Republicans will always side with oil companies.

Providing affordable insurance for millions of Americans? Republicans want to take insurance away from people.

Out of control police shooting or choking unarmed people? Republicans will always side with the police.

A coal mine accident which kills dozens of miners? Republicans will side with the negligent mine owner.

Torturing people, some of whom are innocent, for no good reason? Republicans are outraged to even discuss the issue.

Raising the minimum wage so that American families can survive and feed their kids? Republicans want to eliminate the minimum wage altogether.

Allowing people who love each other to marry? Republicans want to keep certain people from marrying.

Treat immigrants who came here to improve their lives with dignity? Nope, Republicans will have none of that, Ship them back, even if they'll be killed.

Don't believe me? Watch FOX News. Listen to right wing radio. They're not only on the misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-intellectual, racist, hateful side of every issue, they're proud of it.

If there's one constant in America today, it's that Republicans will be on the wrong side of every single issue. If they were fictional villains, no one would find them believable.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Another demonstration of Why We're Screwed

Last week, President Obama issued a veto threat against a package of tax cuts that the Senate was preparing to pass. The tax cuts were going to lock in tax benefits for big corporations while actually eliminating some middle class tax breaks. Thankfully, the veto threat was effective and the bill died.

Given all our other problems, all the critical issues that need addressing, like immigration, unemployment benefits, and crumbling infrastructure, Congress was focused on passing tax cuts for corporations.

Take a look at the following charts, compiled by the New York Times. The first shows that corporate profits as a share of GDP are the largest in history. The second shows that the corporate tax rate in America is at record lows. Finally, the third chart shows that employee compensation has been dropping for decades.

This is what's wrong with America's economy. Corporations are sitting on huge stockpiles of cash, while their underpaid employees have to get assistance from the government to eat. The stock market has more than doubled since President Obama was elected, the rich are richer than ever, but workers are being paid less and less and NONE of this wealth is "trickling down". If some of those huge stockpiles of corporate cash were redirected to employee pay or new taxes, the influx of cash would give a huge boost to all sectors of the economy. We would ALL win.

Read what a Goldman Sach's guy has to say about it.
In fact, the reason why corporate profits are sky high is that employee compensation is so low, explained Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs' lead U.S. economist: "The strength (in profits) is directly related to the weakness in hourly wages." Link
This would be an easy fix, if Congress weren't being held hostage by a bunch of corporate shills who don't care about the lower and middle class. And I'm not talking about the Democrats. Sure, there are some Democrats who will do anything for corporations. They were bringing the bill up in the Senate after all. But if Democrats held both houses, they would raise the Minimum Wage and shift some of the tax burden to the rich. The Republicans are the ones pushing the "poor corporate America" storyline and they have been for decades. They've been so effective in this propaganda that tens of millions of poor and middle-class Americans regularly vote against their own economic self-interest.

As long as Republicans hold the reins, those charts will continue to get worse and worse. And so will America.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Reince not impressed with lots of jobs

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus made fun of the excellent jobs report today by pretending that Republicans could do better. Apparently for Reince, snark is better than having an actual jobs program.
“The months of incremental job gains we’ve witnessed are not enough. Creating 300,000 jobs in one month shouldn’t be a new high; it should be the minimum we expect. Today’s jobs report shouldn’t be an aberration; it should be the norm. Sadly, it’s not. The Obama-Clinton Democrats have prioritized other things like ObamaCare regulations, energy regulations, and small business regulations. Translation: they pushed job-killing policies when we needed job-creating policies."  Link
Only one problem.

Tell me again why Americans think Republicans are better with the economy.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

America, F*%# Yeah!

We suck. 
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, in 2013 there were 461 “justifiable homicides” by police — defined as “the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.” In all but three of these reported killings, officers used firearms.
By contrast, there were no fatal police shootings in Great Britain last year. Not one. In Germany, there have been eight police killings over the past two years. In Canada — a country with its own frontier ethos and no great aversion to firearms — police shootings average about a dozen a year.  Link

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fun with Signs - A visual pun

I've tried hard not to repeat myself in the references I've posted on the wall signs.  But a couple of weeks ago, I came up with one that superficially is another Simpson's reference (the first being the Stonecutter's symbol from a few weeks ago that I am pretty sure almost no one figured out). But I enjoyed this idea so much, I went back to the Simpson's well.

Here's what I posted.

The key is the arrow which doesn't point the usual left or right, but down at an angle. What apparently no one at my office could figure out (I listen to them talking in the hall) is that the arrow points out the window at the structures below. Our building is across the street from Housing and Urban Development, which built "flying saucers" in front of their building in the late 1990's. Yes, those weren't built in the 1960's as everyone assumes. They also look a little bit like donuts. It so irritated me that people didn't seem to realize that the arrow pointed to the "donuts" out the window, I actually explained it to a couple of people, saying "that's what I think the sign guy was going for." Sheesh, my genius is unrecognized.

Given an easily identifiable cultural reference, the copycat prankster returned a few days after this was posted to add his touch.

The speech bubble says, in Morse Code, "OIAK". I think he was going for OINK. At least the quality of his graphics has improved. When I changed the sign last Wednesday, I moved the Spider-Pig picture up to the ceiling line, where it rightly belonged.

A sad eulogy for a giant company which treats its employees like crap. You know, because we're so exceptional!

In celebration of major American retailers forcing their poorly paid employees to give up national family holidays in order to shift sales from other days to Thanksgiving, I recommend to you an article about working for a soon-to-be defunct major retailer during the first days of its slide into extinction.

A Eulogy for Radio Shack

Read it. It's incredibly eye-opening and sad, and stories like it can and will be told in the years ahead about other failing retailers like Kmart and Sears.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

I would really like to post something, but too bloated from Thanksgiving. Oof.

I have to work tomorrow, but at least I didn't have to give up my holiday, my AMERICAN HOLIDAY, to sell crap to people. Shame on you, stupid retailers.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Spy (a very bad man)

So, beloved entertainer Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. Since it's unlikely he'll go to jail, here's hoping he never works again. 

It's good to be dedicated to the proposition of "innocent until proven guilty". But if you think the nearly two dozen women who have come forward so far are lying, then perhaps you should reexamine your biases. These women have nothing to gain and will certainly face a lot of terrible harassment from all sides, as do almost all women who report sexual assault. 

If you're on the side of the rapist rather than the victims, you're a pretty awful person. (I'm also looking at you, UVA). 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

So are we done now?

Two years ago, Republicans in the House of Representatives commissioned a House Intelligence Committee investigation into the 2012 attack on an American consulate in Benghazi. While failures of security were acknowledged by the administration, the investigation was one of many formed with the intent to prove some conspiracy theories about the incident, including a supposed high-ranking order for the CIA to stand down in the midst of the attack. 
But the latest report, released Friday, does little to back up Republicans’ suspicion of negligence, and it finds no intelligence failure on the part of the CIA.  Link

Like everyone but the TEA Party and Congressional conservatives already knew, there was NO SCANDAL in Benghazi. It was a tragedy, but nothing illegal, unethical, or otherwise nefarious was done by the Administration. This was a REPUBLICAN commissioned report, and it found that NONE of the ridiculous conservative conspiracy theories were true.

So can they please shut up about it already?


All righty then.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

At the mall during the 1980s

Gizmodo recently had an article featuring black and white photos taken at a shopping mall during the 1980s. The 80s were the height of American mall culture and the scenes in the photos were very familiar to me, having been a teenager during that time and having spent a lot of time hanging out at malls.

Many of the photos were great, but the one below haunted me a little. The kid wears the accessories of many teenagers of the time. The large sneakers, the headband, a Members Only jacket. And of course, the huge boombox. (I have no idea what's around his neck. Earmuffs?) (I also just noticed that someone is actually using the stall behind him.)

I have the feeling that a lot of people then, and even today, would see in this picture a punk. A loud, obnoxious, troubled teen who they would think was probably a criminal.

I see a confused kid trying to fit in. I see a kid, wearing the uniform of his peers, trying a little too hard to express to the world who he is. I wonder how long it took him to save up for that boombox. Or maybe his parents had money and it cost him nothing. I wonder how long he carried that thing around until he tired of its weight and started leaving it at home. I wonder if this look made him happy. I think he looks a little sad and lost. I wonder what ever happened to him.

The picture makes me sad. I hope he's okay.

Ipecac Eats Burgers #16 - Cuban Burger

When we went to visit Rachel in Harrisonburg a few weeks ago, we ate at a new burger place, Cuban Burger, which is very near our usual Harrisonburg burger place, Jack Brown's.

Nice-looking burger.

The burgers at Cuban Burger are 80% beef, 20% pork and always topped with homemade matchstick fries. I got the El Original.

Yet another good burger. The fries didn't detract and the beef/pork combo was interesting. I would go there again.

Seems about right

Zach Weiner's Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  Click to embiggen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Empathy not really their strongest suit


Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Republicans running for Congress were all "EBOLA IS GOING TO KILL US!!" and "WE NEED TO SEAL THE BORDER SO EBOLA DOESN'T KILL US IN OUR SLEEP!!"

Ahhhhh, good times.

But now, thanks to the government (and no thanks to the panicky media and Republicans), the disease has been successfully contained in the United States and NO ONE has it. Great!

Of course, thousands of people are still infected in Africa and they desperately need our help. Plus, if the disease is not contained in Africa, it could return to our shores. So spending resources to end it there is not only in our own selfish best-interest, but it's also the moral, right thing to do for our fellow human beings. Since they were so worried  couple of weeks ago, I imagine Congressional Republicans are looking to step up and spend some money for this incredibly important cause.

What? They're not? They're not talking about it any more? They're probably going to oppose President Obama's request to fund relief efforts? They've already turned to the next "scandalous outrage," the President's unprecedented deal with China on climate change?

Gee, what a shock.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The answer is no.

In a great article in Vanity Fair, Kurt Eichenwald asks, "Are conservatives ever right?"
The question isn’t meant to suggest that liberals are never wrong. But reviewing the last few decades of conservative policy initiatives—or their objections over that timespan to policies they hate—shows a consistent pattern of failure: predictions never pan out, and intended results turn to catastrophic flops.
This was one of the reasons I left the Republican party. Not only were they constantly and consistently wrong, but they made things worse by never, ever, admitting that they were wrong. I've heard President Obama say that he's made mistakes and take responsibility. George W. Bush never did either thing.

From "Tax cuts pay for themselves", to deregulating the thrift industry, to Iraq, to Obamacare, over the past thirty years, conservatives have been demonstrably, empirically, disastrously wrong.

And American voters just gave them control of both houses of Congress.

Read the whole thing here:  30 Years of Conservative Nonsense, An Explainer

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Halloween 2014

We had another great Halloween this year. I don't think we had quite as many trick-or-treaters as usual, but they were very enthusiastic and appreciative.

Normally I like to leave the decorations up for a few days and turn them back on at night, but Saturday morning it looked as if it was going to rain, so I took them all down.

Here's a short video showing everything up during the day and then again at night.


And a couple of pictures.

Fun with Signs - This one is for Carol

Went up last night.

Ipecac Eats Burgers #15 - Z-Burger

I'm still finding places to eat burgers.

This one is near my current office, which I stupidly didn't realize until four months after we'd moved. Z-Burger is a local DC chain with just six locations so far. They specialize in burgers, fries and shakes.

There's that huge firewall of lettuce again.

I thought this was a nice, juicy burger. Lots of vegetables, which is okay but not my favorite thing. But still, very good. And the fries were excellent. I'll be returning here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Predictions 2014+

Not unexpectedly, it was a good night for Republicans who, come January, will control both Houses of Congress.

Here are my predictions.

For the next two months, Senate Democrats will push forward executive branch and judicial nominees to fill the many, many open appointments that have remained unfilled because of Republican obstruction. This will, of course, cause Republicans to go apeshit. Once the Republicans take control, we'll be lucky to have any nominations filled for federal positions for the next two years.

Almost immediately, President Obama will use his Constitutional and statutory powers to reform civil rights and immigration regulations as much as he can without Congressional support. This will, of course, cause Republicans to go apeshit.

Over the next two years, Republicans will investigate the President, looking for some excuse to impeach him. They will pass crazy stupid law after crazy stupid law and then, when President Obama vetoes them, will go apeshit.

The Republicans will try to cut taxes for the wealthy but will do nothing that will actually help the economy like raise the minimum wage. Then when the economy doesn't do as well as they imagine it should, they'll blame the President.

And to those states who reelected assholes like Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker, you deserve what you're going to get.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Voting Matters

2014 Midterm Voting Guide

According to the polls, it looks likely that the Republicans will retake the Senate in a few days. Despite a plurality of Americans identifying as Democrats, the extensive Gerrymandering the Republicans did after the 2010 election as well as voter suppression laws designed to disenfranchise Democratic voters, continues to give Republicans control over the system. It's unAmerican and just plain evil, but the Supreme Court doesn't care and the Republicans obstruct everything Congress could do, so nothing is being done about it.

The Republicans have made their agenda clear should they take both Houses of Congress. Most of their ideas won't actually become law because the President will veto them. But Republicans have said their strategy will be to put poison pills into must-pass bills, forcing Obama to veto the must-pass bills. This will undoubtedly lead to more government shutdowns.

As you go to the polls, if you are interested in the following issues, you should vote accordingly.

Global Warming  - Just this week, another scientific report stated that if we don't act on climate change immediately, some of the effects will be irreversible. But Republicans will do NOTHING about it. In fact, they'll do the opposite and approve any pipeline or drilling proposal that comes their way AND move against renewable energy initiatives. Republicans are going to screw over ALL humanity for political gain.

Healthcare - Republicans hate Obamacare and have already said that if they retake the Senate, they'll vote yet again to repeal the entire law. It won't work, but if it did, this would deprive upwards of 20 million people of affordable healthcare. And raise healthcare costs. And increase the deficit. Apparently Republicans want all of these things to happen. If Democrats had both Houses, they would actually pass some fixes to make the law work even better.

Immigration - If you're interested in treating other human beings like, well, human beings, forget it. Any chance at actual immigration reform or giving a break to children immigrants who have been in America for most of their lives will be gone. Republicans won't pass immigration reform and won't help Dream Act kids. Democrats would do both.

ISIS and the Middle East - Want ground troops to intervene in Iraq and Syria? Vote Republican.

Social Security and Medicare - President George W. Bush wanted to privatize Social Security but couldn't find the votes in a Republican congress. This Congress will be far more to the Right. Want to risk Social Security on the stock market and privatize Medicare to boot? Vote Republican.

Minimum Wage and Fair Wages for Women - Interested in boosting the Minimum Wage, a win-win that would help tens of millions of American families make ends meet AND boost the economy? Want to help women make equal pay? Then don't vote Republican. Republicans won't pass either of these common sense, fair, much-needed laws. In fact, they may vote to get rid of minimum wage laws altogether.

American Infrastructure - America needs badly to invest in itself. We need to spend to rebuild bridges and roads, power plants, airports, public transport, dams, and all the other infrastructure that allows us to live and prosper. Oh, and this spending would boost the entire economy. Republicans don't want to spend for any of it. They would rather sell off our public parks and lands to private interests. And America will continue to crumble around us.

Voting Rights - Think that all Americans have the RIGHT to vote and shouldn't be subject to poll taxes? Think that voter suppression is not only unAmerican but immoral? Then vote for Democrats. If they're in charge of both Houses, they'll pass meaningful election safeguards. Think it's all right to deprive Americans of their Constitutional right to vote? Vote Republican.

On issue after issue, the Republicans are on the wrong side of the American people and they are on the wrong side of history. They serve only the wealthy and corporations.

Republicans deserve to lose every election until they stop being the stupid crazy party. The ONLY way this gets better is if Democrats win control of both Houses of Congress.

Please, help that to happen.