Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Monday, August 31, 2009

Beer Bikes!

This kind of thing would never fly (or ride) in the US. We have far too many sticks stuck far too far up our butts.

Amsterdam lets "beer bike" ride on, with limits

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The beer bike will ride on in Amsterdam.

The outsized bikes, seating groups of people around a central bar, are something of a fixture in the city's center. But two accidents within two months prompted the city councillor responsible for transport to launch an investigation in June.

Following that review the city has decided to allow the bikes to carry on riding, a city spokesman said Saturday.

They will, however, need permits from the various city boroughs, and those permits are likely to come with restrictions on hours of operation and requirements for a sober driver.

While non-drinkers already typically steer the bikes, their size has also been an issue in some cases on the city centre's narrow streets. One of the better-known operators,, offers two-hour tours on bikes that seat up to 22 people and carry 30 litres (7.9 gallons) of beer.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Submission: Part 1

I recently finished reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's powerful book "Infidel." Ayaan's is an amazing, important life, and her story should concern women everywhere. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

In the West, it took a long while for women to gain the same rights as men had. And when I say "in the West" I could just as easily be saying, "under Christianity," which, in essence, includes both Catholicism and Prostestantism.

Unfortunately, under Islam, the so-called fastest-growing religion in the world (groan), women's rights still have a long, long....long way to go. "Infidel" is about the personal growth of Ayaan from small girl in civil-war-torn Somalia all the way to a seat in Parliament in Holland, and beyond.

The term "Muslim" is really not a monolithic one. Muslims from Morocco, for instance, may act and have customs somewhat different from Muslims in Somalia, or Muslims in Saudi Arabia, or the Philippines, or Bosnia, or the USA.

Some Muslims, however, still practice horrific brutality and subjugation of women.
Should western nations tolerate the abuse, and honor killings, of women inside their borders because the immigrants religion, Islam, seems to condone - even command - the brutality? If a nation's laws outlaw violence against women, can those laws be nullified in the name of Allah?

Can tolerance be carried too far?

In 1994 Ayaan collaborated with Theo van Gogh on a 10-minute film called, "Submission: Part 1." I have embedded the film below. It was intended to be the first of a series of films Ayaan had in mind examining women and their treatment around the world.
Some Muslims in Holland were so outraged by the film that, a few months after the films release, one of them killed Theo in broad daylight, slashing his throat, and left a note - a fatwa of sorts against Ayaan - stabbed into his chest. This is how the crazies deal with criticism of their Prophet and Islam.

Before you get too indignant at Islam, however, remember that it wasn't all that long ago that Christians were burning witches at the stake, and heretics before them. Islam needs a similar awakening.

There is a good review of the book in the New York Times here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Republican with a heart

Sibel Edmonds-FBI

From BradBlog...what ought to be some explosive stuff. If we had a "real" mainstream media, that is. This is, unfortunately friends, how "our government" works...


Just over two weeks ago, FBI translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds was finally allowed to speak about much of what the Bush Administration spent years trying to keep her from discussing publicly on the record. Twice gagged by the Bush Dept. of Justice's invocation of the so-called "State Secrets Privilege," Edmonds has been attempting to tell her story, about the crimes she became aware of while working for the FBI, for years.

Thanks to a subpoena issued by the campaign of Ohio's 2nd District Democratic U.S. Congressional candidate David Krikorian, her remarkable allegations of blackmail, bribery, espionage, infiltration, and criminal conspiracy by current and former members of the U.S. Congress, high-ranking State and Defense Department officials, and agents of the government of Turkey are seen and heard here, in full, for the first time, in her under-oath deposition. Both the complete video tape and transcript of the deposition follow below.

Though there was much concern, prior to her testimony, that the Obama Dept. of Justice might re-invoke the "State Secrets Privilege" to keep her from speaking, they did not do so. Nor did they choose to be present at the Washington D.C. deposition.

The BRAD BLOG covered details of some of Edmonds' startling disclosures made during the deposition, as it happened, in our live blog coverage from August 8th. The deposition included criminal allegations against specifically named members of Congress. Among those named by Edmonds as part of a broad criminal conspiracy: Reps. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Dan Burton (R-IN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Bob Livingston (R-LA), Stephen Solarz (D-NY), Tom Lantos (D-CA), as well as an unnamed, still-serving Congresswoman (D) said to have been secretly videotaped, for blackmail purposes, during a lesbian affair.

High-ranking officials from the Bush Administration named in her testimony, as part of the criminal conspiracy on behalf of agents of the Government of Turkey, include Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Marc Grossman, and others.

During the deposition --- which we are still going through ourselves --- Edmonds discusses covert "activities" by Turkish entities "that would involve trying to obtain very sensitive, classified, highly classified U.S. intelligence information, weapons technology information, classified Congressional records...recruiting key U.S. individuals with access to highly sensitive information, blackmailing, bribery."

Speaking about current members of Congress during a break in the testimony, Krikorian told The BRAD BLOG that "for people in power situations in the United States, who know about this information, if they don't take action against it, in my opinion, it's negligence." (More video statements from Krikorian, Edmonds and attorneys from all parties, taped before, during, and after the 8/8/09 testimony, are available here.)

Edmonds' on-the-record disclosures also include bombshell details concerning outed covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson's front company, Brewster Jennings. Edmonds alleges the front company had actually been shut down in August of 2001 --- three years prior to Bob Novak's public disclosure of the covert operative's identity --- following a tip-off to a wire-tap target about the true nature of the CIA front company. The cover was blown, Edmonds alleges, by Marc Grossman, who was, at the time, the third highest-ranking official in the U.S. State Department. Prior to that, Grossman served as ambassador to Turkey. He now works "for a Turkish company called Ihals Holding," according to Edmonds' testimony.

An unclassified FBI Inspector General's report, released on her case in 2005, declared Edmonds' classified allegations to be "credible," "serious," and "warrant[ing] a thorough and careful review by the FBI." In 2002, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), then the senior members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, co-wrote letters on Edmonds' behalf to Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and DoJ Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, calling on all of them to take action in respect to her allegations. And in a 2002 60 Minutes report on Edmonds' case, Grassley noted: "Absolutely, she's credible...And the reason I feel she's very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story."

The 8/8/09 deposition was brought by Krikorian as part of his defense in a case filed against him before the Ohio Election Commission (OEC) by Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH). The 2nd district Congresswoman has accused Krikorian, an Armenian-American who ran against her as an independent in 2008, of "false statements" during the campaign last year alleging that she had accepted "blood money" from Turkish interests. Krikorian says that Schmidt, co-chair of the Congressional Turkish Committee, accepted more money from Turkish interests during last year's campaign than any other member of Congress, despite few, if any, ethnic Turks among her local constituency. He has suggested she may have been instrumental in helping to hold off a Congressional vote on a long-proposed, much-disputed resolution declaring the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during WWI as a "genocide" by the Turks.

Edmonds herself happens to be a Turkish-American, though she was recentlyattacked by the Turkish Lobby, following her long-sought, long-blocked testimony.

The complete transcript of Sibel Edmonds' under-oath testimony, may now bedownloaded here [PDF]. The complete video-taped testimony follows, in five parts, below...

Go to Brad's site here to view the video depositions. This is yet another scandal that must not be allowed to be swept under the rug.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Idiots Are Taking Over

...smells suspiciously like America...

the words to this "song" below...

it's not the right time to be sober
now the idiots have taken over
spreading like a social cancer, is there an answer?

Mensa membership conceding
tell me why and how are all the stupid people breeding
Watson, it's really elementary
the industrial revolution
has flipped the bitch on evolution
the benevolent and wise are being thwarted, ostracized, what a bummer
the world keeps getting dumber
insensitivity is standard and faith is being fancied over reason

darwin's rollin over in his coffin
the fittest are surviving much less often
now everything seems to be reversing, and it's worsening
someone flopped a steamer in the gene pool
now angry mob mentality's no longer the exception, it's the rule
and im startin to feel a lot like charlton heston
stranded on a primate planet
apes and orangutans that ran it to the ground
with generals and the armies that obeyed them
followers following fables
philosophies that enable them to rule without regard

there's no point for democracy when ignorance is celebrated
political scientists get the same one vote as some Arkansas inbred
majority rule, don't work in mental institutions
sometimes the smallest softest voice carries the grand biggest solutions

what are we left with?
a nation of god-fearing pregnant nationalists
who feel it's their duty to populate the homeland
pass on traditions
how to get ahead religions
And prosperity via simpleton culture

the idiots are takin over [x8]

or go here

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mr. Potter revisited

I'm getting the feeling that "reason" is not going to be enough to stop all these liars and goons intent on demonizing and sabotaging healthcare reform. This country seems to be more fucked-up than ever, but I suppose that every generation has felt the same way.

Amy Goodman interviews Wendell Potter, the ex-Cigna (healthcare) spokesman. At least this guy had a conscience. Better late than never.

Vertical Farming

Why hasn't anyone, in this land of the "free" and home of the "brave", yet built a prototype vertical farm? We have the technology. We have a looming food and water crisis. We have an elegant solution in the vertical farm concept. What happened to the risk-takers and visionary innovators in this country?

Over the last six months, I've sent about ten different emails, faxes, and mailed messages to my Congresscritters and different city entities in Houston trying to get some kind of response to the vertical farm concept, and not one answer.
Houston used to pride itself on being a forward-looking city, willing to take chances. Sadly, that seems to have gone by the wayside, in many ways. Has everyone lost their will?

There is a recent New York Times editorial on vertical farming, asking some of the same questions.

Read the Wikipedia entry on vertical farming.

Check out Let's get off of our asses, people, and show a little ingenuity!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Reason Project

Well, hallelujah!

The Reason Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. The foundation draws on the talents of prominent and creative thinkers in a wide range of disciplines to encourage critical thinking and erode the influence of dogmatism, superstition, and bigotry in our world.

Bill Maher is on the Advisory Board of the Reason Project.

...and check out

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What to plant now?

One problem with gardening is the absolute information overload available about gardening. There are books, magazines, TV shows, newsletters, and websites dedicated to gardening. But rare is the book, or website, that gives a comprehensive overview of everything.

It's maddening.

There is such an amazing variety of flowers, herbs, vegetables, grasses, and trees, that I guess it's unrealistic to find one really great source that covers it all. I haven't.

I have several books (and then books specifically about container gardening), magazines and a collection of websites where I have to piece everything together. Grow from seed or seedling? What about watering and nutrient requirements? Soil types? How much shade? What kinds of pests are each plant attacked by (which is a whole 'nother world). Do the plants need support structures? What types work best? When to harvest? What about re-using soil? I don't want to hear about micro-climates!!

It's almost fall (thank goodness! the heat!!) so it's time to start thinking about what to plant. Mother Earth News has a decent site on what to plant when. The Gulf Coast section is here. But it's lacking in many ways. Anyone out there have a good guide for Zone 9?

So far, we have lots of seeds lined up: two kinds of broccoli, seven types of lettuce, three greens, cucumber, six kinds of carrots, kale, chard, and endive. I think that's enough to keep us busy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Morford: John Mackey

I, for one, am not going to boycott Whole Foods over the comments of their CEO John Mackey. On balance, he's done a lot of good things for Whole Foods workers and the grocery and food biz. I agree with some of his ideas (see the link to the column in Morford's rant) and don't fully understand others.

Read Mackey's article and see for yourself. Nobody is perfect. Mackey certainly isn't either. But I'd rather work for him over other CEO's too numerous to list. And I don't really shop at Whole Foods, not because I don't like the CEO, but because everything is too expensive in there!

Down with crab cakes! Ban Whole Foods!
On the ludicrous outcry against a brilliant, oddball CEO and his unfortunate opinion
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, August 21, 2009

So it is that the latest absurd micro-furor comes down the pipeline of misplaced lefty outrage, a rather bizarre eruption of wrath aimed at poor little John Mackey, humble and wacky CEO of saintly Whole Foods, who suddenly finds himself waylaid by a torrent of criticism over his rather unfortunate personal opinion regarding national health care, and how basically he doesn't think most people actually deserve it and everyone should just shut up and buy more $10 crab cakes, $14 salads and $8 bottles of fine artesian water flown in from Sweden.

OK, that's not exactly accurate. But it doesn't really matter, because the outcry against Mackey's health care position is, in itself, rather ridiculous, in large part due to its wild hypocrisy, given how Whole Foods ain't exactly a tiny hemp-n'-beans farmer's market by the side of the road and anyone who can afford to shop there is, it's safe to assume, largely immune to the health care woes of the 47 million uninsured Americans who are currently loading up their carts with orange soda, Coors Light and liquid cheese over at Safeway and FoodCo and Walmart.

Translation: Wealthy bohos complaining that their beloved organic supermarket's top (libertarian) exec doesn't agree with Obama on a particular issue? Isn't that like bitching that your private jet doesn't use grass-fed leather in the lounge cushions? Disingenuous? Maybe a little?

Make no mistake: I get it. Mackey is the figurehead, the primary rep of his company, his brand, that overall feel-good, Earth-lovin', we-are-the-world vibe that Whole Foods is fond of shouting from its rooftops. You want to think the guy who leads such a supposedly yummy, ethical place would at least embody what his stores are supposedly selling. It appears there's a painful disconnect.

Or is there? Five minutes of research on the guy reveals he's always been a bit ... unusual, a bit of a lightning rod for the both the left and the right, slightly offbeat and radical insofar as he fits into no typical CEO mold you can name. His health care opinion is merely par for the course.

Keep in mind this is the guy who, not a couple years ago, announced he was cutting his personal salary down to $1 because he said he had plenty of money, didn't need any more and merely wanted to continue working for the joy of it, and to help improve the world. Huh? This is the company that still has a salary cap for its top execs; no one can make more than 14 times the lowest-paid employee. WTF? The lords of capitalism are not pleased.

As CEOs go, when compared to the typical voracious cretins who rake in more than the GNP of a small country and who bathe in bloated, multimillion-dollar golden parachutes like they were golden showers, Mackey still looks like some sort of hippie socialist mutant. Maybe what's most surprising is how supposedly "shocked" liberals are by another example of how he regularly defies expectations. The guy's been a maverick CEO for what, 25 years? Where the hell have you been?

Personally, I've always found Mackey to be one of the more fascinating, likable characters in a land where heartlessness and a general pissing on the world reign supreme. Yes, I find his health care stance to be idiotic and wrong. But his company's efforts and policies regarding everything from meat production to slaughterhouse conditions to dairy farming, et al? Still rather astonishing.

Whenever a silly furor like this pops up, I go back and do a bit of homework, remind myself of Mackey's -- and Whole Foods' -- track record. Everything I read about the guy indicates he walks the talk, practices what he preaches, is definitely not some ruthless prick of a CEO out to rape the populace for as much power and money and influence as possible while only pretending to give a damn about the health of his employees. He is not, in short, the GOP.

Quite the opposite, in fact: Agree with everything he says or not, he remains one of a tiny handful of major CEOs you can name who has, without a doubt, actually made the world just a little bit better. Deny it at your peril.

Here's the gist: Love it or hate it, Whole Foods has changed the food industry in America for the better. No major food retailer has done more across the board to enact policies and raise awareness of the organic movement overall -- a movement it actually helped create in the first place.

Do you think Walmart, soon to be the largest purveyor of organic food in the country (!), would give a flying capitalist crap about organics had Whole Foods not essentially created a mass market desire for it? Do you think Safeway and Albertson's, et al would have enormous organic departments and green initiatives, or spend millions to redesign their stores to make them less the cold, fluorescent-lit nightmares they once were, had Mackey not essentially invented the new model? Do you even remember what grocery shopping was like 20 short years ago? I mean, dear God.

Look. There will always be those who whine and nitpick about a place like Whole Foods. There will always be a certain strain of overzealous lefties who will never be satisfied, no matter what Mackey (or the Dems, or Obama, or the courts) say or do. Like the religious fundies who were so angry at Bush because he didn't imprison all gays, ban abortion and bring the Rapture, hardcore lefties will always find things to hate about imperfect corporations, simply because they're imperfect corporations.

Do I wish Mackey was all-in for single-payer health care? Do I wish he supported unions? Do I wish he was a bit more in line with some "traditional" liberal positions? Hell yes. But I can also see the bigger picture. I think I see the choices fairly clearly.

On one side, a simply stunning laundry list of things this one company has done to improve the quality of food, food manufacturing and food shopping in this country, right alongside an entire self-created culture of green and organic and healthy. On the other, a handful of questionable, even distasteful policies and CEO personal opinions.

And above it all, another Whole Foods deli that's less like a deli and more like some sort of insane orgiastic sensory-overloaded paean to all things wondrous and delicious and healthy and bountiful on this here planet Earth.

Not a very difficult choice, really.

The original is here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Krugman: The Swiss Menace

Hard to keep up in a fast-moving world. Sometimes it's best not to even try.

The Swiss Menace

It was the blooper heard round the world. In an editorial denouncing Democratic health reform plans, Investor’s Business Daily tried to frighten its readers by declaring that in Britain, where the government runs health care, the handicapped physicist Stephen Hawking “wouldn’t have a chance,” because the National Health Service would consider his life “essentially worthless.”

Professor Hawking, who was born in Britain, has lived there all his life, and has been well cared for by the National Health Service, was not amused.

Besides being vile and stupid, however, the editorial was beside the point. Investor’s Business Daily would like you to believe that Obamacare would turn America into Britain — or, rather, a dystopian fantasy version of Britain. The screamers on talk radio and Fox News would have you believe that the plan is to turn America into the Soviet Union. But the truth is that the plans on the table would, roughly speaking, turn America into Switzerland — which may be occupied by lederhosen-wearing holey-cheese eaters, but wasn’t a socialist hellhole the last time I looked.

Let’s talk about health care around the advanced world.

Every wealthy country other than the United States guarantees essential care to all its citizens. There are, however, wide variations in the specifics, with three main approaches taken.

In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false. Like every system, the National Health Service has problems, but over all it appears to provide quite good care while spending only about 40 percent as much per person as we do. By the way, our own Veterans Health Administration, which is run somewhat like the British health service, also manages to combine quality care with low costs.

The second route to universal coverage leaves the actual delivery of health care in private hands, but the government pays most of the bills. That’s how Canada and, in a more complex fashion, France do it. It’s also a system familiar to most Americans, since even those of us not yet on Medicare have parents and relatives who are.

Again, you hear a lot of horror stories about such systems, most of them false. French health care is excellent. Canadians with chronic conditions are more satisfied with their system than their U.S. counterparts. And Medicare is highly popular, as evidenced by the tendency of town-hall protesters to demand that the government keep its hands off the program.

Finally, the third route to universal coverage relies on private insurance companies, using a combination of regulation and subsidies to ensure that everyone is covered. Switzerland offers the clearest example: everyone is required to buy insurance, insurers can’t discriminate based on medical history or pre-existing conditions, and lower-income citizens get government help in paying for their policies.

In this country, the Massachusetts health reform more or less follows the Swiss model; costs are running higher than expected, but the reform has greatly reduced the number of uninsured. And the most common form of health insurance in America, employment-based coverage, actually has some “Swiss” aspects: to avoid making benefits taxable, employers have to follow rules that effectively rule out discrimination based on medical history and subsidize care for lower-wage workers.

So where does Obamacare fit into all this? Basically, it’s a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.

If we were starting from scratch we probably wouldn’t have chosen this route. True “socialized medicine” would undoubtedly cost less, and a straightforward extension of Medicare-type coverage to all Americans would probably be cheaper than a Swiss-style system. That’s why I and others believe that a true public option competing with private insurers is extremely important: otherwise, rising costs could all too easily undermine the whole effort.

But a Swiss-style system of universal coverage would be a vast improvement on what we have now. And we already know that such systems work.

So we can do this. At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.

Original is here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Modest Proposal

Yep. It's not that hard, really.

Dear President Obama: A Modest Medicare Proposal

by Thom Hartmann

Dear President Obama,

I understand you're thinking of dumping your "public option" because of all the demagoguery by Sarah Palin and Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich and their crowd on right-wing radio and Fox. Fine. Good idea, in fact.

Instead, let's make it simple. Please let us buy into Medicare.

It would be so easy. You don't have to reinvent the wheel with this so-called "public option" that's a whole new program from the ground up. Medicare already exists. It works. Some people will like it, others won't - just like the Post Office versus FedEx analogy you're so comfortable with.

Just pass a simple bill - it could probably be just a few lines, like when Medicare was expanded to include disabled people - that says that any American citizen can buy into the program at a rate to be set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which reflects the actual cost for us to buy into it.

So it's revenue neutral!

To make it available to people of low income, raise the rates slightly for all currently non-eligible people (like me - under 65) to cover the cost of below-200%-of-poverty people. Revenue neutral again.

Most of us will do damn near anything to get out from under the thumbs of the multi-millionaire CEOs who are running our current insurance programs. Sign me up!

This lets you blow up all the rumors about death panels and grandma and everything else: everybody knows what Medicare is. Those who scorn it can go with Blue Cross. Those who like it can buy into it. Simplicity itself.

Of course, we'd like a few fixes, like letting Medicare negotiate drug prices and filling some of the holes Republicans and AARP and the big insurance lobbyists have drilled into Medicare so people have to buy "supplemental" insurance, but that can wait for the second round. Let's get this done first.

Simple stuff. Medicare for anybody who wants it. Private health insurance for those who don't. Easy message. Even Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley can understand it. Sarah Palin can buy into it, or ignore it. No death panels, no granny plugs, nothing. Just a few sentences.

Replace the "you must be disabled or 65" with "here's what it'll cost if you want to buy in, and here's the sliding scale of subsidies we'll give you if you're poor, paid for by everybody else who's buying in." (You could roll back the Reagan tax cuts and make it all free, but that's another rant.)

We elected you because we expected you to have the courage of your convictions. Here's how. Not the "single payer Medicare for all" that many of us would prefer, but a simple, "Medicare for anybody who wants to buy in."


Thom Hartmann (and RussBLib)

Thom Hartmann (thom at is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program The Thom Hartmann Show. His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It," and "Cracking The Code: The Art and Science of Political Persuasion." His newest book is Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture.

New words

Something to pass the time between outrages...

Here is the Washington Post's Mensa Invitational which once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate boner disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding halfa worm in the fruit you're eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners are:

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4 esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline..

11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon, n.. A Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Theodore Roosevelt

Douglas Brinkley was a recent guest on The Daily Show. Douglas has a new book out about Theodore Roosevelt called, "The Wilderness Warrior."

The Roosevelt family has had an enormous and positive influence on this country (contrasted with another powerful family of shrubs in more-recent history). Marveling over the accomplishments of Teddy Roosevelt and then Franklin D., I then glance over in the direction of Barack Obama and sigh and ponder all of the challenges of today and sigh again...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Douglas Brinkley
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bill Maher: New Rule

This is very sad, but true. I certainly don't agree with everything Bill Maher has to say. Just most of it.

New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country

New Rule: Just because a country elects a smart president doesn't make it a smart country. A few weeks ago I was asked by Wolf Blitzer if I thought Sarah Palin could get elected president, and I said I hope not, but I wouldn't put anything past this stupid country. It was amazing - in the minute or so between my calling America stupid and the end of the Cialis commercial, CNN was flooded with furious emails and the twits hit the fan. And you could tell that these people were really mad because they wrote entirely in CAPITAL LETTERS!!! It's how they get the blood circulating when the Cialis wears off. Worst of all, Bill O'Reilly refuted my contention that this is a stupid country by calling me a pinhead, which A) proves my point, and B) is really funny coming from a doody-face like him.

Now, the hate mail all seemed to have a running theme: that I may live in a stupid country, but they lived in the greatest country on earth, and that perhaps I should move to another country, like Somalia. Well, the joke's on them because I happen to have a summer home in Somalia... and no I can't show you an original copy of my birth certificate because Woody Harrelson spilled bong water on it.

And before I go about demonstrating how, sadly, easy it is to prove the dumbness dragging down our country, let me just say that ignorance has life and death consequences. On the eve of the Iraq War, 69% of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Four years later, 34% still did. Or take the health care debate we're presently having: members of Congress have recessed now so they can go home and "listen to their constituents." An urge they should resist because their constituents don't know anything. At a recent town-hall meeting in South Carolina, a man stood up and told his Congressman to "keep your government hands off my Medicare," which is kind of like driving cross country to protest highways.

I'm the bad guy for saying it's a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is. 24% could not name the country America fought in the Revolutionary War. More than two-thirds of Americans don't know what's in Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds don't know what the Food and Drug Administration does. Some of this stuff you should be able to pick up simply by being alive. You know, like the way the Slumdog kid knew about cricket.

Not here. Nearly half of Americans don't know that states have two senators and more than half can't name their congressman. And among Republican governors, only 30% got their wife's name right on the first try.

Sarah Palin says she would never apologize for America. Even though a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. No, they're not stupid. They're interplanetary mavericks. A third of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, and a third of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which is an absurd sentence because it contains the words "Bush" and "knowledge."

People bitch and moan about taxes and spending, but they have no idea what their government spends money on. The average voter thinks foreign aid consumes 24% of our federal budget. It's actually less than 1%. And don't even ask about cabinet members: seven in ten think Napolitano is a kind of three-flavored ice cream. And last election, a full one-third of voters forgot why they were in the booth, handed out their pants, and asked, "Do you have these in a relaxed-fit?"

And I haven't even brought up America's religious beliefs. But here's one fun fact you can take away: did you know only about half of Americans are aware that Judaism is an older religion than Christianity? That's right, half of America looks at books called the Old Testament and the New Testament and cannot figure out which one came first.

And these are the idiots we want to weigh in on the minutia of health care policy? Please, this country is like a college chick after two Long Island Iced Teas: we can be talked into anything, like wars, and we can be talked out of anything, like health care. We should forget town halls, and replace them with study halls. There's a lot of populist anger directed towards Washington, but you know who concerned citizens should be most angry at? Their fellow citizens. "Inside the beltway" thinking may be wrong, but at least it's thinking, which is more than you can say for what's going on outside the beltway.

And if you want to call me an elitist for this, I say thank you. Yes, I want decisions made by an elite group of people who know what they're talking about. That means Obama budget director Peter Orszag, not Sarah Palin.

Which is the way our founding fathers wanted it. James Madison wrote that "pure democracy" doesn't work because "there is nothing to check... an obnoxious individual." Then, in the margins, he doodled a picture of Joe the Plumber.

Until we admit there are things we don't know, we can't even start asking the questions to find out. Until we admit that America can make a mistake, we can't stop the next one. A smart guy named Chesterton once said: "My country, right or wrong is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying... It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" To which most Americans would respond: "Are you calling my mother a drunk?"

Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," and will be joined on the show tonight by Arianna Huffington. "Real Time" airs fridays on HBO at 10:00PM Eastern Time.

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You can find this plus much more "funny" stuff here.

More Bill Maher here.

Earth Song redux

"Earth Song," written by Michael Jackson, just makes me tear up, as in cry, not rip things up. What's up with that?

According to Wikipedia, which is often untrustworthy...

"Earth Song" is a ballad that incorporates elements of blues, gospel and opera. Jackson had a long-standing history of releasing socially conscious material such as "We Are the World", "Man in the Mirror" and "Heal the World". However, "Earth Song" was the first that overtly dealt with the environment and animal welfare. The song was written and composed by Jackson.

Reviews were generally favorable, but some charged that the song sounded pompous, even if unintentional. "Earth Song" was accompanied by a lavish music video shot on four geographical regions. It centered around the destruction and rebirth of Earth and went on to receive a Grammy nomination in 1997. The song was a top five hit in most European countries. In the UK, it remains Jackson's best-selling single. "Earth Song" was not released as a single in the United States.

Not released as a single in the U.S. Michael knew his audience. R.I.P. Here is Michael's song performed by Isgaard.

and Michael's video, again...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Extreme heat

Each fall, into winter and on into springtime, I find myself musing about how pleasant the weather is in Houston. Sure, it gets a bit "hot" in the summertime, but it rarely snows; there never has been a blizzard. A little heat is the price you pay for eight or nine nice, shorts-if-you-wanna months.

It's easy to forget how "a little heat" can melt your clothes onto your
body. Ok, true, I've never felt the heat in Iraq, but I've been to Palm Springs, California. Just be glad you don't get 125% humidity.

And then, June, July and August roll around again, and usually into September, the heat becomes intense, extreme, insane. Maybe I'm getting older and more susceptible to really hot weather; maybe global warming is kicking in and the summers are getting even nastier. I don't know exactly.

But this year has been a motherfucker. One for the record books. A year for the ages. I mean, knock your ass down and stomp on your lungs hot. We've had heat indexes over 110 many days, and we still have several more weeks of "summer" to go. Heat indexes over 100 has been a given since early June.

And dry. Dry. DRY.
Lately, finally, it has actually rained two days in a row! I find myself just sitting on the rooftop deck and staring at the sunset.

And I don't even feel guilty about it. (As usual, you can click on the pics to make them bigger)
Naturally, in the gardening world, in the summertime we look for plants that can tolerate the heat. Which is one reason we planted New Zealand Spinach. Most spinach requires cool weather to perform optimally, but New Zealand Spinach, while not actually spinach, is supposed to soak up the heat.

Here's a pic from the web:

That's what it's "supposed" to look like.

The "book" says that New Zealand Spinach reaches harvest between 50-70 days from planting. Today, 8/13/09, is 74 days from planting. And, while it sprouted rather quickly about 64 days ago, it just lay there and looked dead for the longest time. Now, finally, even though the growth is almost microscopic, we are actually seeing life from three of the four seeds we planted.

We are such amateurs.

Both plants are no more than 3" high. Quite a long way from "harvest," I think.

Is it the heat that stunted them? Too much water? Hell if I know, but they're actually growing now.

Same thing with the Swiss Chard. It seemed lazy and practically dead for the longest time, but in the latest heatwave, it perked up pretty good. Go figure.

Flowers is are a category we have little trouble with. On the roof. On the street. Inside the house.

For the first time, though, we have two different plumeria flowers blooming. The red one is a rubra, aka Red Frangipani.

And the other one is probably an "Alba" but I just call it "Heaven" because of the smell-o-gasm it radiates.

The "Teddy Bear" sunflowers are in bloom, and the color is very nice. They form a large clump of rather angry-looking blooms. No smell, just candy for the eye.

We've had some luck with the Plum Granny melon (Cucumis melo)
. In the olden times, wayyyy back olden times, people used to grow this small melon and carry it around with them to ward off their bodily stench. They weren't much into hygiene, apparently, but they still wanted to smell good. I guess. Poor things.

I don't have a picture of the mature melon. Thought I did, but can't find it. It turns yellow when ripe, and exudes the most wonderful bubble-gum smell I've ever eaten with my nose. The taste was rather blah and almost bitter, as expected, but the smell was quite unique. Two other fruits are starting to turn yellow now.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
(And you can smell my melons.)

Next time, however poetic, I think we'll grow a melon that TASTES good!

Speaking of smelling good, and tasting good, the cinnamon basil will make your olfactory and salivary fleshy bits go into overdrive. A sharp, pungent smell of cinnamon puts a grin on my face. As does the carrier of the basil...

Presentation of the basil...

Alas, the end came for our two most-productive tomato plants, the Rutgers and Better Bush. They valiantly tried to continue to produce flowers, but it was just too hot...or something...and we put them out of their misery recently. This years bumper crop will go down as probably one of our most successful in the tomato world. They were unbelieveably good. Here's one of the smaller ones, for old times sake.

The three new plants ain't lookin' too hot. Or maybe they ARE lookin' too hot. I gots work to do...

As you were....

The real death panels

The amount of lies, deceit and vitriol coming from the right these days is a little alarming. We've always known they were greedy liars, but combine the irrational anger with lots of weapons, and we have a potentially dangerous situation on our hands.

Hey, rightwingers! In case you forget, many, many, many of us liberals and progressives are armed also, and we know how to use them!

The Real Death Panels
By Joe Conason

When Republican politicians and right-wing talking heads bemoan the fictitious “death panels” that they claim would arise from health care reform, they are concealing a sinister reality from their followers. The ugly fact is that every year we fail to reform the existing system, that failure condemns tens of thousands of people to die—either because they have no insurance or because their insurance companies deny coverage or benefits when they become ill.

The best estimate of the annual death toll among Americans of working age due to lack of insurance or under-insurance is at least 20,000, according to studies conducted over the past decade by medical researchers, and the number is almost certainly rising as more and more people lose their coverage as costs continue to go up.

They die primarily because they didn’t have the coverage or the money to pay doctors and thus delayed seeking treatment until it was too late. They don’t get checkups, screenings and other preventive care. That is why uninsured adults are far more likely to be diagnosed with a disease, such as cancer or heart disease, at an advanced stage, which severely reduces their chances of survival.

This isn’t news. Seven years ago, the Institute of Medicine found that approximately 18,000 Americans had died in 2000 because they had no insurance. Using the same methodology combined with Census Bureau estimates of health coverage, the Urban Institute concluded that the incidence of death among the uninsured was enormous. Between 2000 and 2006, the last year of that study, the total number of dead was estimated to have reached 137,000—a body count more than double the number of casualties in the Vietnam War.

The Institute of Medicine also found that uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than adults with private health insurance, and other studies have warned that uninsured adults between the ages of 55 and 64 are even more prone to die prematurely. A lack of health insurance is the third-leading cause of death for that age cohort, following heart disease and cancer.

All those appalling figures, which are real rather than mythical, do not include the casualties of insurance company profiteering—namely, all the people, including small children, who perish because of the anonymous “death panels” that deny or delay coverage to consumers.

Perhaps the most notorious case in recent years was that of Nataline Sarkisyan, the 17-year-old leukemia patient whose liver transplant was held up by insurance giant Cigna HealthCare. She died for no reason except to protect Cigna’s profit margin, but her unnecessary and cruel demise was hardly unique.

Research by the American Medical Association found that the nation’s largest insurance companies deny somewhere between 2 percent and 5 percent of all the claims submitted by doctors. That rough estimate is the best available because private insurers are not required to reveal such statistics (although they certainly maintain them), and the government does not collect them.

But in June, a House Energy and Commerce Committee investigation found that three major insurance companies—Golden Rule, Assurant and WellPoint—rescinded the coverage of at least 20,000 people between 2003 and 2007 for minor errors, including typos, on their paperwork; a pre-existing condition; or a family member’s medical history.

“They try to find something—anything—so they can say that this individual was not truthful,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who oversaw the committee probe. He warned that insurance companies launch these nitpicking inquisitions whenever a policyholder becomes ill with a certain kind of condition—usually a costly and deadly one, such as ovarian cancer or leukemia. The result is denial and loss of coverage—and we now know that means increased mortality for innocent people.

So, who are the members of the death panels?

You can find them among the corporate bureaucrats who concoct excuses to deny coverage and throw the sick off their rolls. You can find them among the politicians and lobbyists who have stalled reform for years while people died. You can find them among the morons who show up to shout slogans at town halls rather than seek solutions. And you can find them among the cable and radio blabbers, who invent scary stories about reform to conceal the sickening truth.

Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer.

Link here.