Thursday, December 29, 2011
...and the year-end wrap-up from Mark Fiore. Click here.
Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The good part of Christmas is not always Christian--it is generally Pagan; that is to say, human, natural.
Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but with a message of eternal grief. It came with the threat of everlasting torture on its lips. It meant war on earth and perdition hereafter.
It taught some good things--the beauty of love and kindness in man. But as a torch-bearer, as a bringer of joy, it has been a failure. It has given infinite consequences to the acts of finite beings, crushing the soul with a responsibility too great for mortals to bear. It has filled the future with fear and flame, and made God the keeper of an eternal penitentiary, destined to be the home of nearly all the sons of men. Not satisfied with that, it has deprived God of the pardoning power.
And yet it may have done some good by borrowing from the Pagan world the old festival called Christmas.
Long before Christ was born the Sun-God triumphed over the powers of Darkness. About the time that we call Christmas the days begin perceptibly to lengthen. Our barbarian ancestors were worshippers of the sun, and they celebrated his victory over the hosts of night. Such a festival was natural and beautiful. The most natural of all religions is the worship of the sun. Christianity adopted this festival. It borrowed from the Pagans the best it has.
I believe in Christmas and in every day that has been set apart for joy. We in America have too much work and not enough play. We are too much like the English.
I think it was Heinrich Heine who said that he thought a blaspheming Frenchman was a more pleasant object to God than a praying Englishman. We take our joys too sadly. I am in favor of all the good days--the more the better.
Christmas is a good day to forgive and forget--a good day to throw away prejudices and hatreds--a good day to fill your heart and your house, and the hearts and houses of others, with sunshine.”
— "The Great Agnostic" Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), "A Christmas Sermon," Evening Telegram, Dec. 19, 1891
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
"Thank you for your letter.
You may be interested to know that the tactical computer in the Hornet had detected the presence of, and subsequently locked on to, your hostile radar equipment and automatically sent a jamming signal back to it, which is why it shut down.
Furthermore, an Air-to-Ground missile aboard the fully armed aircraft had also automatically locked on to your equipment's location.
Fortunately, the Marine Pilot flying the Hornet recognized the situation for what it was, quickly responded to the missile system alert status and was able to override the automated defense system before the missile was launched to destroy the hostile radar position on the side of Highway 77, south of Kingsville.
The pilot suggests you cover your mouths when swearing at them, since the video systems on these jets are very high tech.
Sergeant Johnson, the officer holding the radar gun, should get his dentist to check his left rear molar. It appears the filling is loose. Also, the snap is broken on his holster."
This is really awful. Politifact, which is supposed to police false claims in politics, has announced its Lie of the Year — and it’s a statement that happens to be true, the claim that Republicans have voted to end Medicare.
Steve Benen in the link above explains it, but let me just repeat the basics. Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a voucher system to buy private insurance — and not just that, a voucher system in which the value of the vouchers would systematically lag the cost of health care, so that there was no guarantee that seniors would even be able to afford private insurance.
The new scheme would still be called “Medicare”, but it would bear little resemblance to the current system, which guarantees essential care to all seniors.
How is this not an end to Medicare? And given all the actual, indisputable lies out there, how on earth could saying that it is be the “Lie of the year”?
The answer is, of course, obvious: the people at Politifact are terrified of being considered partisan if they acknowledge the clear fact that there’s a lot more lying on one side of the political divide than on the other. So they’ve bent over backwards to appear “balanced” — and in the process made themselves useless and irrelevant.
Way to go, guys.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
“I don't have a chance [on being elected Mayor of New Orleans]. I'm running on the gay marriage, no religion, legalization and taxation of marijuana platform.”
— Brad Pitt, in an interview with Ann Curry on "The Today Show," Aug. 13, 2009
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Long ago we ran out of storage space in the kitchen. Now, it will take awhile, but I'm sure we'll fill it up aga
The structure spans the entire eastern wall of our dining room, a full 11' wide. (If you click each pic, they should open to a larger view.)
Friday, December 16, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Why Smart Conservatives Suddenly Hate Newt
by Gene Lyons
Newt Gingrich is the Jimmy Swaggart of American politics, a confidence man so transparent as to test the faith even of True Believers. Paradoxically, that’s precisely why the disgraced former speaker looks a good bet to secure the GOP presidential nomination.
Not seeing through Gingrich’s bare-faced mendacity requires an effort of the will so profound it can only be accomplished with the aid of strong countervailing emotions — essentially the envy, resentment and fear that right-wing media have fomented among the faithful ever since the election of President Clinton and the 1994 “Contract With America.”
Metaphorically speaking, Gingrich’s candidacy is the love child of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, with Fox News throwing the baby shower.
This only makes the horror of intellectually inclined conservatives at the prospect of Newt’s ascendancy more remarkable. Where have they been all this time? Back in 1994, Gingrich and Frank Luntz circulated a list of hurtful words conservatives should always call liberals. "Traitors” was at the top, also some that sound particularly ironic today: “waste,” “corruption,” “self-serving,” “greed,” “cynicism,” “cheat,” “steal” and “patronage.”
To the Washington Post’s resident Tory George Will, Gingrich “embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive.” To his colleague Charles Krauthammer, it’s Newt’s faculty lounge-lizard side — his half-baked intellectual pretentiousness — that’s most disturbing.
Not himself a particularly modest fellow, Krauthammer writes that “Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama’s — but, unlike Obama’s, is untamed by self-discipline.” He finds Newt’s “[t]hinking of himself as a grand world-historical figure, attuned to the latest intellectual trend” downright comical.
Will too lampoons Gingrich’s “intellectual hubris” and “enthusiasm for intellectual fads.” He levels the ultimate insult, correctly asserting that Newt “would have made a marvelous Marxist, [believing] everything is related to everything else and only he understands how.”
To his credit, Will focuses upon what’s perhaps Gingrich’s single most despicable moment, a 1994 election eve attempt to blame a South Carolina mother’s drowning of her children on Democrats. Never mind that Susan Smith allegedly turned out to have been abused by her Republican stepfather. Politics had nothing to do with the tragedy.
What Will calls Gingrich’s “grotesque opportunism — tarted up as sociology” has been his entire stock in trade for years. He made similarly absurd observations about the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy. To him, two teenagers who massacred 13 of their classmates with automatic weapons became somehow the fault of liberal Democrats.
And so it goes. In 2010, Gingrich wrote a book arguing that the Obama administration “represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” Earlier this year, he told a Texas church gathering that he feared his grandchildren would grow up “in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”
Because the president of the United States, of course, is secretly a radical Muslim whose “Kenyan, anti-colonial” views lead him to seek revenge on behalf of the African father he hardly knew. Newt said that too.
Two thoughts: First, it’s a straight line from this kind of intellectual promiscuity to the other kind Newt’s also famous for — serving divorce papers on Wife 1 while she was hospitalized for cancer in favor of Wife 2, whom he subsequently abandoned for the bejeweled Callista, his mistress of the Clinton years, who, as Wife 3, hovers over him relentless as a bird of prey. A 68-year-old Catholic convert, Gingrich once blamed his misbehavior on too much hard work motivated by patriotism. They practically dare you to laugh, those two.
Second, the Chicago Tribune’s estimable Steve Chapman captured the essence of Gingrich’s appeal to the GOP’s propagandized base: “Demonizing adversaries is what he does best. Some on the right don’t want a conservative so much as they want a hater. Gingrich is their dream come true. Romney shows no flair for irresponsible hysteria and crude smears — and many count that as a serious flaw.”
All three columnists agree that Newt would prove a fatally flawed candidate in the general election. “Even if Gingrich can win over most Republicans,” Chapman writes, “he is bound to repel everyone else.”
Indeed, faced with him as the nominee, many conservatives would privately hold their noses and vote for Obama. “Bigfoot dressed as a circus clown would have a better chance of beating President Obama than Newt Gingrich, a similarly farcical character,” one anonymous Republican told Washington Post blogger Jonathan Bernstein.
Certainly welcome, this principled scorn comes a bit late. Few on the right have been willing to confront the reality that conservatism in the classical sense scarcely exists anymore in the United States. It’s long been replaced by the Yahoo dogmatism of a huckster like Gingrich, and it looks increasingly as if we’re all going to have to live with the consequences.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can e-mail Lyons at email@example.com.More Gene Lyons
Monday, December 12, 2011
By the time I realized, as interesting as it was, I'd better stop this stuff and try to earn a living, I had discovered many of our social problems and quality of life issues could be traced to the same political source: our corrupt-by-definition electoral system. The solution to the problem was as easy to discover as the cause: The elimination of all private finance in the electoral process.
I was working doing most of my research in the area of our foreign policy since WWll, whatever fell under the umbrella of international liberation politics, but I examined and analyzed a fair amount of local issues as well.
I wanted to know how things work? Where's the power? Who's pulling the strings?
This doesn't mean corporations shouldn't exist or even that their directors are evil by their very DNA. It has been a legally acceptable basic flaw in the form of our capitalist system that allows corporations to operate without a moral compass or obligation to society -- but that's a discussion for another day.
The law is rarely a problem because the corporations' legal obligations are pretty much designed first and foremost for their maximum profit by the legislation created by the legislators belonging to our two national political parties, both of which are wholly bought, sold and controlled by Wall Street. The banks and the corporations. In other words the game is rigged. Feel like a sucker? We all do because we all are.
The manipulation, aided by a very willing media also owned by the corporations, has made things easier beginning with what has become the amazing Orwellian staple of every newscast, selling the public on the lie that the Dow has somehow become America's scoreboard!
We're all hypnotized, rooting for them like they're our home team at a football game, cheering for THEIR scoreboard mindlessly forgetting WE'RE THE AWAY TEAM!!
You think your congressman is working all day to get you a job? He may want to. He or she is probably not a bad person. They probably want to do the right thing. But they can't. Long-time Capitol Hill staff and campaign strategists tell me the average legislator spends one-third of their time (or more) every day raising money or on activities related to raising money.
Yes, they are "elected" which creates the mass delusion of democracy to keep the masses from rioting, but congressional races are costing millions of dollars and some Senate seats are going for tens of millions each, and they're predicting well over one billion dollars for the next presidency.
That's some democracy we've created there, isn't it?
Of the people?
For the people?
Democracy in America is a sick joke and the masses aren't laughing anymore.
Yes, we can demonstrate. We can march. We can write and sign petitions to our Representatives. We can occupy.
And we should because it's healthy to vent, and we don't feel so all alone. But the truth is, other than the value of venting, we're wasting our time. It is naïve to expect political results from any of these activities.
Our representative can give us lip service. A lot of sympathy. Empathy even. But we don't pay their media bills, gabeesh?
We need to eliminate all private finance from the electoral process.
And let's not be distracted by "reforms." Let's spare ourselves the unnecessary discussions about transparent disclosure, or the conflict of interest of foreign countries buying favorable treatment, or protection after protection being gutted by dangerously diluted regulations, or trying to impose this limit or that limit, etc., etc., etc.
Campaign finance doesn't need reform. It needs elimination.
The ruling makes the extraordinary decision that money is protected by the First Amendment.
Presumably Chief Justice Gordon Gekko presiding!
These smartest guys in the room actually decided that spending money is the equivalent of free speech. You might wonder why no one in that smart room stood up and said wait a minute, if money is speech, isn't lack of money lack of speech?
You know, as in the rich get to talk, and the poor don't? How are the non-moneyed classes represented by this decision?
THE PLEDGE FOR A DEMOCRATIC AMERICA
But the need for a Third Party aside, this idea applies for everyone. Just as much for the Tea Party on the right as the 99 Percenters on the left (the corporate oligarchy actually has no Party affiliation, it just looks Republican).
Let's see who's serious about representing the "people."
And you know what?
We might be pleasantly surprised at how many congressmen and senators sign this thing who would rather be doing something more dignified with their lives than spending half their time begging for money.
Friday, December 9, 2011
And I had one other revelation Thursday evening. It wasn't anything that Greg said exactly, but I suppose listening to him helped to trigger it...
We all know that powerful interests have been funding climate change skeptics, prominent among them Exxon and some "think tanks." Let's just say "Exxon" for brevity.
It is in Exxon's interest to paralyze Congress. It's not that Exxon doubts that climate change is real and happening, they just don't want anything done about it. Exxon employs many engineers and sc
So they are willing to let the ice caps melt (and sea levels rise, whatever) so that they can more easily access the oil in the polar regions. If that's not short-sighted and damn near suicidal, tell me what is.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Harnessing desert sun to power Europe
Desertec, a group based in Germany with heavyweight commercial backers including Siemens and Deutsche Bank, says the scheme would also bring the regions around the Mediterranean closer together, while providing jobs and stability for the countries in the south.
It has chosen Morocco, which is embarking on its own ambitious solar programme, for its first "reference" project - a plant meant to show that its grand vision is feasible.
Desertec expects to see the first electricity flowing through undersea cables from Morocco to Spain as early as 2014.
But its stated goal - using desert power to supply up to 100% of local needs and up to 15% of European demand by 2050 - has attracted critics who question whether such a vision is possible, or even necessary.
According to a study by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), a state agency that provided data used by Desertec, less than 1% of suitable land in the North Africa and the Middle East would be needed to cover the current electricity consumption of the region, as well as Europe.
Many countries with intense sunshine also have large tracts of uninhabited land.
But creating a power network presents a series of formidable problems, from nomads stealing solar components to the technological and political challenges of transporting and delivering electricity over such a vast area.
Paul Van Son, the Desertec Industrial Initiative's chief executive, stresses that his group has no detailed blueprint, but aims instead to create the broad conditions for a solar network to be developed.
"There is nothing which is unrealistic," he says.
"It's already happening today, there are installations in the deserts, solar installations, wind parks - it all works.
"There are electrical grids from Tunisia, Algeria for instance and Morocco to Spain and Europe. It's possible to transport electricity over long, long distances."
Desertec points to a pair of cables already installed between Morocco and Spain - though for now these are carrying power from north to south.
It says it will work closely with Medgrid, a French scheme to enable the construction of a Mediterranean transmission system.
What Desertec vision requires
- Solar farms across Middle East and North Africa
- Undersea High Voltage Direct Current cables
- Estimated $400bn of financing over 40 years
- Political stability and security in southern states
- Integrated and liberalised energy markets
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