Monday, February 28, 2011

"Anonymous" Targets the Koch Brothers

Image found at The Green Market
The Koch Brothers--billionaire tycoons who fund many and sundry conservative movements, including the Tea Party--have had a spotlight shone on them of late, as their hand in the Wisconsin labor protests has come to light. Especially after a Buffalo blogger totally punked Governor Scott Walker, posing as David Koch in a twenty minute phone call. The minor ripples this has made in mainstream news coverage is most perplexing. Were the political parties and policies on the other political foot, FOX "News" would have blown this up into the new, new Black Panther Party at least, in the amount of squawking they'd do about it.

The punk'ing wiggled its way into Meet the Press with David Gregory's interview with Walker on Sunday morning, but Walker shrugged it off, and Gregory is not known for tenaciously forcing an issue. Once, twice, still not gonna answer? We're going to have to leave it there. . . But not everyone is ready to let the Koch Brothers lurch off back into the shadows where they'd rather be. The entity known as "Anonymous"--which I'll confess I only heard of about since about a week or two ago--is now focusing in on the Kochs. Good.


‘Anonymous’ targets the brothers Koch, claiming attempts ‘to usurp American Democracy’

The decentralized protest group "Anonymous" has a new target: no, it's not a middle eastern dictator, a major bank or even a bit player in the military-industrial complex.

It's none other than tea party financiers Charles and David Koch, who were being targeted, an open letter stated, for their attempts "to usurp American Democracy. . ."

Read more at: Raw Story

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blast from the Past: My Favorite Oscar Winners

It's Oscar night, so I really should feature movies, right? But invariably, the movies I watch don't win many awards. But I got to pondering, which of my favorites of yesteryear did? And by yesteryear, I meant movies that came out pre-2000. I thought I'd find out. . .

#1 - The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - The very first Best Picture Oscar of my lifetime (1966-present) that I would consider one of my favorites, is this one, believe it or not. Don't get me wrong, many good ones in there, and good nominees. But Jodie Foster' and Anthony Hopkins' thriller is the first one that makes my list.
#2 - Network (1976) - Peter Finch died before he could accept his Best Actor Oscar for his fantastic portrayal of crazed Glenn Beck-like news celebrity, Howard Beale. Amazing movie too, and should have beat Rocky for Best Picture.
#3 - Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) - Sissy Spacek was only known as the psychokinetic/psychotic Carrie when she turned in this Best Actress Oscar-winning performance as Loretta Lynn. It was one of the first movies I went to see on my own.
#4 - Schindler's List (1993) - There aren't a lot of Best Director Oscar winners whose winning films make my list, but this one did. Plus, it finally netted Steven Spielberg an Oscar!
#5 - Ghost (1990) - This movie doesn't make my list in the way that other people might fancy it. It's not my Dirty Dancing or Pretty Woman perfect romance story. I like the evil specters, and especially the humor of Whoopi Goldberg, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
#6 - Moonstruck (1987) - Cher won an Oscar for Best Actress in this one, proving her critics wrong once and for all. I originally had Silkwood (1983) in here, until I realized that while it was nominated for a lot of Oscars, it didn't win any.

That's it for now. Happy Monday, everyone!

The Sad Solved Saga of the Sony HT-SS370 Home Theater System!

UPDATE: This issue has been--tentatively--solved, and Sony is for the most part exonerated. Scroll to the end of the post for my solution.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: I've posted this as much for other owners of this system with the same problem, as for its blog value. I've included updates with tests for anyone else seeking answers.]

I know that I've talked a lot about my new home entertainment setup in the last couple of weeks. But when you've got your own web forum and you want to vent, there's no better place. And much of my time has been taken up lately, ironing out the kinks in the system.

I bought a new stereo to go with my new TV, mostly because my old stereo was barely hanging in there, and had no HDMI inputs. So, when Ultimate Electronics started their going out of business sale, I was ripe for the pickings. It turns out everyone had a sale on the Sony HT-SS370 home theater system, apparently, so my "deal" wasn't so special. But it does everything I wanted it to do, and it's super slim, and fit where I wanted it to go. So, great, right?

Well, when the TV arrived, we got everything hooked up, and I was showing it off to some friends. 10 minutes into the new Star Trek Blu-ray, the stereo kicked off, and thus the picture went out. After fumbling around, I got it back on. 10 minutes later, >blink!< out it goes again. After a little study, I found out that "auto standby" is a default setting, and that the stereo will turn itself off if it senses no action for 10 minutes. Okay, stupid feature, and even stupider that it can't sense the Sony Blu-ray player, but whatever. I turned it off. Problem solved?

Sort of. It no longer turns off when playing Blu-rays. It doesn't shut off when watching the cable box. It doesn't shut off when I'm playing music through blue tooth from my PC. But when I play CDs from my old Pioneer 300-disc player, it will shut off unexpectedly, sometimes after only a couple of minutes. When you get it back on again, it might last for half an hour, it might last for a minute. Or 10 seconds. Or two seconds. Maddening, right? And I couldn't take it back, because Ultimate Electronics is going out of business!

The Other Half suggested that I go buy a duplicate, swap out the receiver, and take it back for a refund. That way, I got what I paid for, and the rest is Sony's problem. Unethical? I don't think so under the circumstances. So, I did it. And I did it clean too, I didn't disturb anything else in the package, just swapping out the receiver. Then, one of three things happened: a) I got another lemon, b) karma bit me in the ass, or c) all Sony HT-SS370s do this.

I should mention that before I went the extreme route of returning it, I contacted Sony via online chat with a tech. The girl I talked to had never heard of the problem before, but she told me I should unplug the unit from my power strip, and plug it directly into the wall. As unlikely as it sounds, that worked. The first time I tried it. The next day, it was back to shutting off every 5 seconds.  And this one does too. So, either I'm going to have to phase out my CD player, or replace it with another, newer (possibly HDMI? Maybe Sony?) CD player. And I won't know until after I try it if that is going to work!  Short of that, the only think I can think of is to try a different cable or a digital one. I suppose it's worth a shot.

UPDATE: Though my Pioneer PD-F1009 CD player is very old, maybe 10 years or so, it is still sold by Pioneer Electronics. The exact same machine. So the age of the thing shouldn't be my problem, right? And the only other output is fiber optic, which the Sony receiver lacks. I'm stuck.

UPDATE #2:  Running a test. I set the player on random, at 11:10 pm. It is currently running with no issue. I have the volume at a moderate level, and am curious if turning it up has any effect, because the times it has cut out, the volume has been loud. 11:20, and the system is still on, so the "auto standby" can't be the culprit. If it makes it to 11:30, I may have to try turning it up. Sorry neighbors!

11:31, and it's still playing. Cranking it up a bit now. Frankly, "cranked up" is not very loud, at least with the CD player. No cut-out yet. Could this problem be daylight related? Some sort of stray infrared signals coming from somewhere? It seems unlikely. 11:40, and still no disruption, even at full volume. As for loudness, the left channel still seems weak, so tomorrow I'll check my wires. The difference between playing it today and tonight though is puzzling. The only difference seems to be daylight. More testing tomorrow.

UPDATE #3: It's 12:10 am--an hour later--and the stereo is still playing just fine. But after some tooling around on the internet, I did find something interesting. Each time the receiver has shut down, it has done so abruptly, and the power light has flashed red several times. I found out this is indicating "protect" mode. And protect mode indicates a short of some sort. The only place I could have a short would be in the speaker wires, which may be why I have a left channel problem. Why this would only occur with the CD player is a mystery though. Sigh.

UPDATE #4: Sunday morning, I turned on the system, and it barely made it through a song before it cut out. I turned it back on twice more, and each time it shut off again. Since my left channel speaker has always seemed weak, I decided to unplug it, and remembered my speaker switch box. Yes, I have an A/B/C speaker switch box that allows me to play music on speakers outside! So, I bypassed the box, and plugged the left front speaker wire directly into the speaker.

The stereo did not shut off! I left to run errands (including an unsuccessful search for a new switch box), leaving the stereo on for two hours. It was still playing when I got home.  So, most of the mystery seems to be solved. My switch box was shorting out, and causing a protection fault, pretty much like a GFI. Had I known to suspect a short, rather than the stereo itself, I could have avoided a heck of a lot of trouble.

Sony's troubleshooting and online techs could be well served to have this little nugget of knowledge. The blinking red "protect" light is not clear in the manual. So while I exonerate Sony, and put the blame on my Radio Shack switch box, Sony could have helped a lot by explaining what "protect" means!

I'm not ready to do cartwheels, and think all my problems are solved. For one thing, since this was an intermittent and oddly specific problem, I still can't figure out why it only happened when playing CDs, or why it seemed to only happen in daytime. Mostly though, if the problem is solved, I don't care!

And finally, since this seems to not be a Sony problem, then my ethically dodgy return of the first receiver is moot, because there was nothing wrong with it! No harm, no foul.

Pro-Union Group Runs Anti-Gov. Walker Ad (Fake Koch Brother Phone Call)

Good for them. If this were a "Democrat punk'd by a prank call" situation, with a public outcry, and a liberal billionaire like George Soros, this story would not be flying under the radar. Instead, you've got a situation where a conservative billionaire helped get a conservative governor elected in Wisconsin, and then got the billionaire's pet issue--crushing unions--to be the governor's first major issue. I ain't sayin' that Democrats have never manipulated politicians or mislead the public. But a Republican is doing it here, and people should know it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pointless Serendipity (Arrested Development

Arrested Development cast from E!
Last month, I took Netflix up on their "free month" promotion. The timing was right, what with a new internet-capable Blu-ray player for Christmas, and then the purchase of a mostly new home theater setup. Of course, the month came and went before I got the chance to cancel, and they got me for the first $7.99 month (and I mean a month down to the second, as it happens). Unfortunately, much of Netflix's service is restricted to their $9.99 "DVDs-by-mail" customers, which I couldn't see myself ever using. Plus, I mean let's get real, this stuff is all going to be online eventually, right? Anyway, what I have found I enjoy is some of the TV series collections they have.

Two of those series starred Portia di Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres' beautiful and talented wife. The first, Better Off Ted was a badly titled but brilliant workplace sitcom. The second, Arrested Development is another brilliant but cancelled sitcom masterpiece, starring Jason Bateman, Wil Arnett, Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor and David Cross. It centered on the Enron-like fall of a family-run business, and all of the dysfunctional family members behind it. Of the two series, Arrested outshines Ted, but only because Ted got much fewer episodes in the can. If you've got Netflix, and a few weekends to burn, you could do no better for entertainment than these two shows. But watch out for Mrs. di Rossi-DeGeneres, Hollywood executives. She could be the new Ted McGinley of series cancellation, if Summer Glau hasn't taken that title already!
[Continued below]

Arrested Development Season 3 Bloopers (Not Safe for Work)

All of that is a lead up to one of the recurring motifs in my life: pointless serendipity. At least four or five times a week, an odd word or topic will come up twice in the same day, hours or even seconds apart. For instance, I may be reading the word "sanctimonious" only to have that word be uttered seconds later on TV. Or, I may be discussing Isabel Sanford one evening, only to find out she died hours later (watch your ass, Portia!). This time, it was Arrested Development. I'd just finished watching the season-ender. I mean less than a half hour ago. I came into my office, turned on my computer, and found this on my facebook page, near the top:

Was 'Arrested Development' A Remake of a 70s Sitcom?

Image from MoviePatron
And then I went to a search page and found this a story about Charlize Theron, a prominent guest in the last season. The story even featured Theron's "Monster" movie makeup, a shot that was used in Arrested Development. This is all very weird, but nothing new. I just had to document it for once.

Captain Obvious: Oil Companies Can Do Whatever They Want

This afternoon while running errands, I passed a gas station that had regular unleaded at $359.9 per gallon. Exactly a week ago, I paid $319.9. I've noticed the steady climb each day this week. What are the odds that the gasoline in the tanks at that station was drilled for, refined, trucked and pumped since last week? Practically zero, I'd say. My suspicion that the gas stations raise prices willy-nilly on the chance that the refining process is going to become more expensive was confirmed on local Las Vegas television. A gas station manager was interviewed by a reporter, and said (paraphrasing here), "Yeah, we noticed everyone else was raising their prices, so we had to too." Isn't it nice to know that one of the biggest influences on the American economy is decided by speculation and peer pressure?

Not to mention profit of course. The gas stations raise their prices instantly in response to whatever reason they want, and lower them very gradually when those reasons change or don't pan out. If there was a sudden shortage of water in a city, and every retail outlet started jacking up prices instantly, they'd be guilty of price gouging. And of no morality whatsoever. Oil companies nearly always get a pass. We need it, they've got it, and we'll pay whatever they ask. Back in mid-2008, prices jumped to $4.50 per gallon. We groused about it, but we paid it. It gradually dropped back below $3.00, but not at nearly the speed at which it climbed. We got used to paying for gas at $2 - $3 per gallon, and have done so ever since. But recently, the price crept over $3, and in the last two weeks has shot up like a rocket sled, allegedly in response to unrest in the middle east.

The stock market took a bit of a tumble in the last few days too, also allegedly in response to the unrest in the middle east. But I've grown suspicious of market prognosticating too. In the morning they might say, "The Dow is taking a hit today in response to the turmoil in Libya," or they might say, "Stocks are up a tick, despite the turmoil in Libya." They don't really know, and they never have to be correct in their guesses. The Dow can go up in the morning, down in the afternoon, and back up at the close. At each step, the market news can be exactly wrong. And nobody loses their job. When it comes to gas prices, this guesswork is all it takes to drive prices up, up and up. . .even if the turmoil in Libya ultimately has little effect on actual oil prices.  Don't get me wrong, I'm aware that the price of a barrel of oil has risen of late (though I'm not convinced it's for concrete reasons), but should have had zero effect on the price of already refined and processed gasoline. They just did that because they can.
Through it all, the oil companies are the highest profit makers of any other industry in Earth history. They are also tax payer subsidized to the tune of additional billions of dollars. We pay for them to drill it, we pay for them to refine it, we pay for the final product. When you factor in all of the costs for oil (don't forget our military in the middle east), I wonder what the real price per gallon is? Whatever it is, we'll pay it.

Democrats say that we ought to develop new, greener, more efficient forms of energy in order to wean us off of oil, and make the price of it irrelevant. Republicans think we ought to "drill baby drill" anywhere and everywhere--despite any ecological or aesthetic damage--to flood the oil market, and bring the price down.  One is a long-term fix, one is a short-term fix, and both will take a decade or more to implement. In the meantime, we'll pay whatever Big Oil asks. And they'll continue to be the most profitable corporations on Earth, while the Middle East remains the most volatile region on Earth.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Home Theater is Now in Harmony

Though little glitches have popped up, and required ironing out,* my made-over home theater setup has received its final component, for a while anyway. We replaced our HDTV and the sound system (receiver, sub woofer, speakers), while retaining the 10-year old CD Jukebox, the Logitech wireless music system for the computer, and the Blu-ray player we got for Christmas.

These components are working together in relative harmony,** but there was a still a bit of a problem. Five remote controls. Even the two Sony components had two similar remotes, neither of which could be dumped. Amazingly enough, The Other Half was managing without throwing them at me. But I was unsatisfied. I mean, I got these new HDMI-connected components not only for their zazz factor, but for simplification.

So, what to do? Run down to Big Lots and get a $20 All4One "universal" remote?  In my experience, those devices can be useful, but they are certain disappointments. They'll do the basics, but if you have special features you need to access, you'll need to haul out the old remotes. This is particularly true now, when many of my components have very minimalist control panels on their physical selves. So, I needed something better.

Have you seen the commercial with the dweebie guy who wishes he was Kevin Bacon? You may have missed it while figuring out that he was played by Kevin Bacon, that the commercial is for a fancy universal remote. It's a Logitech Harmony, and they come in quite a variety of classes: cheap, pricey, pricier, expensive, very expensive and ridiculously expensive.  The higher up you go, the more features you get, the more devices you can control, and the flashier buttons and gizmos it has. I wanted the Harmony 650 after some study. It controls 5 devices, has a little color display screen, and seems like what I need.

But the 650 is pricey at about $100. So, I've been scoping out "deals" on it. After sussing out that there were no real deals to be had (even at Ultimate Electronics' going out of business sale), I went to the usual suspects: TigerDirect, Amazon and eBay. Ultimately, I got one for about $50, and it arrived two days later!

So, how does it work? So far, it's fantastic.  The Harmony 650 comes with a USB cable to plug in to your computer. It doesn't work with my Mac PowerBook, but I think Apple's pretty much abandoned me too. Fortunately, it works just fine with a Windows PC. You go to Logitech's website, go through a quick registration, download a little software, and then set up your remote. The process is pretty slick. You just need to know the manufacturer and model of each piece of equipment (which is usually pretty easy to figure out). It walks you through that, and it walks you through how you watch TV, listen to music, watch movies, etc. I'm sort of a techie, and I found it simple. If you're not into gadgets as much, you might find it a little more challenging. But not much. (Apparently, if you have a device that your Harmony doesn't know, you can use your existing remote to program it, button by button.)

The remote has an "all off" button which is very cool. When I select "watch TV," the TV, stereo and cable box all turn on, and the controls are set for that. If I then press "watch movie," the cable box turns off, the Blu-ray player turns on, and the controls are set for that. It's really very, very cool. I didn't realize that audio/video equipment understand "on," "off" and "toggle power." It's a distinction I never thought of before, but it keeps the devices from turning back on when you don't want them to.  Anyway, I've found just a couple of things that the remote doesn't do intuitively, but supposedly, I can go back online and make adjustments.***

I still have all of the old remotes in a drawer nearby, should I need them, but I think I'm going to be able to eliminate them for about 95% of the things I need to do! Mission accomplished.

* Glitches do remain, like a left channel speaker that sounds weak, and my Sony HT-SS370 receiver's troublesome tendency to turn itself off. Still working on that.

**Two puns on the word "harmony" is probably one too many.

***I have already gone back to Logitech's site to fiddle with the settings. I added some favorite channels (with some station icons), added a command that lets me go through the different Dolby/Pro-Logic/Music/Movie settings on the stereo. I added a "random" button for the CD player. Basically, any function that you think you'll need can be added, and put into the control screen or assigned to any button. In short: it's awesome.

Rachel Maddow's Department of Corrections

This was a pretty great segment from Thursday night's The Rachel Maddow Show, with a series of "corrections" of stories Rachel has been accused of getting wrong. The quotes are used there, because she wasn't so much. Wrong that is.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thursday, February 24, 2011

FOX "News" . . . .Tells the Truth?

Image from MediaIte
Shepard Smith has always been out of step with most of his FOX "News" stablemates, in that he seems to be an actual news guy. Oh, he'll read the spin from the teleprompter, but there's often been a look askance here, an eye roll there. If anyone was ever going to "go rogue" at FOX, you knew it would be him. But the funny thing is, going rogue at FOX is simply telling an inconvenient truth.

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin, has been framing his standoff with the labor unions as a fiscal emergency. It doesn't have anything to do with "union busting," he's just pressed to the wall fiscally, and this is the only way to fix it. Fix it now! Time is of the essence? Of course, this was blown all to hell by the prank phone call he took, thinking it was billionaire David Koch he was talking to. There, he didn't mention a fiscal crisis. He talked about some sort of epic battle with the unions, and he was going to have his "Ronald Reagan moment." Ego much, Scotty?

Anyway, back to Shepard Smith, who had the audacity to stray from the FOX "News"/Gov. Walker framing, and tell it like it really is. You have to wonder if telling the truth is enough to get him fired from FOX.


Fox’s Shep Smith: Pretending Wisconsin Is About A Fiscal Crisis Is “Malarkey”

Shepard Smith’s conversation today with commentator Juan Williams would likely surprise loyal viewers of both Fox News and MSNBC. Shep’s repeated assertion that there is no longer a budget crisis in Wisconsin and that the battle in the state is all about politics and union-busting was most shocking because that’s the exact argument many of MSNBC’s commentators have made, and continue to be suggesting. . .
Read more at: MediaIte

FOX "News" Chief Instructs Employee to Lie

Image of Alfred Hitchcock
Roger Ailes from source, NYTimes
Yeah, sure, this happened a while back. But it's just coming to light, and it's just further evidence that Rupert Murdoch's empire is run by folks like Roger Ailes who have a very loose relationship with the truth.


Fox News Chief, Roger Ailes, Urged Employee to Lie, Records Show

It was an incendiary allegation — and a mystery of great intrigue in the media world: After the publishing powerhouse Judith Regan was fired by HarperCollins in 2006, she claimed that a senior executive at its parent company, News Corporation, had encouraged her to lie two years earlier to federal investigators who were vetting Bernard B. Kerik for the job of homeland security secretary. . . 

Read more at: New York Times

Have a (Fake) Koch & a Smile: The Walker Tapes

By now you've heard all about how Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker--Union Buster®--was punked by a blogger from the Buffalo Beast. But have you actually heard the video? If not, here you go.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Obama: Key Part of "Defense of Marriage Act" Unconstitutional

Image from source, Raw Story
A president can't rule on the constitutionality of a law. But he can order his Justice Department to stop defending a law against legal challenges. And so, a crucial first step in the overturning of DOMA (the badly named Defense of Marriage Act) has been made. The ridiculous Clinton-era law (something he regrets) will still be law, but pending legal challenges will not be met by any kind of Justice Department obstacle. This will go a long way toward making Obama's gay critics (and their allies) a little more comfortable with him and his administration.

So, good. DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) will be--barring some sort of right-wing dirty trick--history soon, and DOMA is on its way to becoming so. If history is any lesson, this means we'll have some sort of minor setback soon, followed by another victory of a sort. And so it goes.


Obama declares key section of gay marriage ban ‘unconstitutional’

In a stunning reversal of policy announced Wednesday, President Barack Obama decided that a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, a Clinton-era law that restricts the benefits of marriage to a man and a woman only, is unconstitutional, and ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending it. . .
Read more at: Raw Story

Wisconsin Gov. Walker Punk'd by Blogger, Reveals Real Plans

Governor Wanker Walker, from DailyKos
Looks like the links between Wisconsin's Gov. Walker and the billionaire Koch brothers was more than just a case of internet rumor-mongering, and Glenn Beck-style conspiracy spinning. A blogger--a particularly ballsy blogger--prank phone-called Walker, pretending to be David Koch. Walker took the call, and chatted for 20 minutes, bragging about his union-busting efforts thus far, his plan with other Republican governors to do this all over the country, and other things. While the jury is out on whether Walker said anything potentially incriminating, it is for sure embarrassing. And it paints some of his "this is just for the budget" rhetoric as bat guano.


Walker admits to 'Koch' that union-busting is ultimate goal

Republican Governor Scott Walker has dismissed the candid conversation he had with a blogger posing as billionaire David Koch, saying it proved nothing except he "says the same thing in private as he does in public."

Well, sure. Except for a public admission that Walker's efforts to strip collective bargaining rights has nothing to do cutting costs and everything to do with destroying unions. . .

Read more at: DailyKos

Sen. Harry Reid Wants to Outlaw Prostitution?

I don't know what's up with my Senators. John Ensign is inexplicably still running for re-election, even though he'll likely be primaried, possibly by Sharron Angle. And Harry Reid, who got re-elected by virtue of looking good next to Sharron Angle is now wading into "culture war" waters. I guess it's what all the cool Senators are doing these days, or something. But ending prostitution in Nevada? Really? That's miles off the radar screens of even the frothiest tea bagger. And where are those newly unemployed hookers going to get jobs? That's right, in the illegal sex trade. Bad idea, Harry.


Harry Reid gets chilly response for call to end prostitution in Nevada

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is calling for an end to legalized prostitution in his home state of Nevada. . .

Read more at: USA Today

Quick Thought: Sean Hannity is a Moron

One of these men is a boob. The other was a
famous comedian.
On my "surprise" day off on Monday, I happened to catch a little of The Sean Hannity Show on the radio. Sean is much less irritating--voice-wise--than most right-wing radio hosts. But he's kind of a boob. If the rumors are true, he's kind of a front for Mark Levin's ideas anyway, which makes Levin's show not only redundant, but completely inexcusable. Though Sean tries to sound colloquial when he speaks, throwing in a bunch of "hey"s and "now"s, he sounds anything but natural.

But the reason for this post is just one point Sean was making the other day. A rare rogue caller was insisting that corporations--who can't (technically) vote--are not people. Sean didn't get into Supreme Court rulings, or analogies. He did weakly say that corporations are made up of people, but then his reasoning petered out. What actually came out of his mouth was, "Corporations ARE people." Not like people, not akin to people, people. I renew my opinion that Sean Hannity is a boob. And I'd like to see a corporation get a proctological exam.

Wisconsin Protests: Can I Have a Diet Koch Instead?

Image from source, Think Progress
One of the fun things about following politics more closely than most people is finding out what's going on behind the scenes. Beyond our own research and studying, we can watch Rachel Maddow (for lefties like me) or Glenn Beck (for. . .I don't know. . .insane people?), and see the research others have done. Sometimes, we find that the story is uplifting: a real, grass-roots groundswell, with people having an honest movement and working together to further their goals. Unfortunately, that's not what usually happens.

In the case of the situation in Wisconsin--and I'll gladly cop to being snowed if this turns out to not be true--it would seem that the whole Governor Walker union busting thing has really been orchestrated by some of the usual suspects. I mean really, this all seems to not only stem from the same people who exploited and overtook the nascent tea party movement, but even Jack Abramoff. So, apparently, some really rich dudes bought themselves a Governor, and then had him do their bidding. Sound about right? Ugh.


Koch Industries Front Group Americans For Prosperity Launches Ad To Support Walker’s Union Busting

As ThinkProgress has reported, the global conglomerate Koch Industries not only helped elect Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), but is the leading force orchestrating his union-busting campaign. Koch gave Walker over $43,000 in direct donations and its allies aired millions of dollars worth of attack ads against his Democratic opponent. . .
Read more at: Think Progress

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rahm Emanuel Mayor of Chicago

Image from AP
I don't really care one way or the other. I wasn't Emanuel's biggest fan when he was in the White House, but this is a very different role. And now, he's too busy to be too involved in national politics.


Rahm Emanuel Wins Chicago Mayoral Race

Rahm Emanuel decisively won Tuesday's mayoral election, becoming the city's 55th mayor.

With 86 percent of the city precincts reporting, Emanuel had 55.63 percent of the vote -- enough to avoid a runoff election. His main rivals were Gery Chico, with 24.52 percent, City Clerk Miguel del Valle, with 9.53 percent, and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) with 8.87 percent. . .

Read more at: AOL

Michael Jackson's ‘Neverland’ Comes to Life For One More Day

My proof that I was there! (Click to embiggen)
I originally moved to Las Vegas because I was in the amusement industry, and amusement rides were at the time very big here. It was Vegas' misguided push to become "family friendly." Since then, the slogan has become the very adult, "What happens here stays here," of course. And my amusement industry career came to an unceremonious end almost 15 years ago. But I was in the industry for about eight years, and got to work at and for several parks and fairs, across the country.

By far the most interesting was Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch. See, one of the guys I worked with--and shared an apartment with--back in Ohio had been inspecting the rides at Jackson's spread for years, and was eventually hired away. For one of the many events the ranch held, Big Al Scanlan (everyone calls him Big Al) invited me and a few other former co-workers and friends to come to the ranch as ride operators. I got to run the (awesome) bumper car ride, and my friends ran the swinging ship and carousel for the event. Many months later, there was an "employee appreciation" event held, and we were invited to that as well! On that trip, we got to take a tour of the grounds, and even of Jackson's house. Both visits were extraordinary experiences.

Big Al on the Neverland Valley
Steam Train

If you've only heard of Jackson's park, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a ridiculously lavish and ostentatious extravagance of a pampered star's ego. Maybe it was, a bit. But it was also one of the coolest places I've ever been. If I lived or worked there, I'd never want to leave. Now, for one more day, Neverland will come back to life at Disneyland. And Big Al will be there.


‘Neverland’ Comes to Life For One More Day

. . .“The Amusement Park, along with the rest of Neverland, was built to bring a magical day; a joy filled memory into the lives of all those sick and less fortunate kids who visited Neverland,” Scanlan said. “The impact that a day at Neverland had on the inner city children and the children who were dealing with life threatening illness was beyond belief. To represent Mr. Jackson and to help make his dream come true for those children, to be part of that magical day and the memory those children will hang onto was a blessing. . .”
Read more at: MJFanClub

Better Late Than Never: OverTime with Bill Maher, February 18, 2011

Oops, I forgot. . .

Justin Bieber Cuts Hair, Still Looks Like a Girl

Image from source, Gawker
Over the last dozen years or so, I've gone from a walking pop culture encyclopedia to a middle-aged know nothing.  Outside of a Lady GaGa song here and a Ke$ha song there, I'm very, very out of the loop these days, particularly when it comes to music. But I'm seldom at a complete loss for the popularity of a performer (outside of rap. . .I've never understood rap). Justin Bieber has finally stumped me. I think his music is completely lackluster and uninspired. I think he is unremarkable looking; not ugly, not handsome, just. . .meh.  Usually--to quote Bette Midler--when there's a sex symbol, you know the sex of the symbol!

Now, I know that I'm not the target audience for Bieber. But I am target adjacent. I mean, I may be getting on in years, but gay guys are the next most likely target group for a young music sensation, are they not? But I don't get it. I'll say this, when he was on Saturday Night Live, CSI, and in his recent Super Bowl Best Buy commercial, he seems like a nice kid, and could probably be a decent actor. But the music, the hype, the frenzy? Just. Not. Getting it.


Justin Bieber Has Cut His Hair

After hinting that he might on Twitter a few hours ago, we now have photo confirmation that miniature pop figurine Justin Bieber has done the unimaginable. The tiny wee creature has cut his famous hair. . .
Read more at: Gawker

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wisconsin Tea Baggers: We Don't Need No Education!

Irony alert!

Found at: Joe.My.God.

Are Koch Brothers' Fingerprints on Wisconsin Gov. Walker's Union Busting?

Wow. It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Where in the World is Moamar Gaddafi

Image from Anorak News
The Middle East is really having a heckuva year. Things are getting weird for the people in charge, and because of it, we have to try to figure out how to spell Moamer Gaddafi again. What is it with these weird looking head cases with impossible to spell names anyway? But of all of the unstable world leaders, Gaddafi is quite possibly the nuttiest one this side of Kim Jong Il. Can you seriously think of a person in the world (other than Gaddafi himself) who'd be upset if we never had to type his name again? Sources can't even agree on his first name. I saw "Mu'ammar Qaddafi" on Wikipedia. Begone unspellable menace!


Libya’s Gaddafi denies fleeing as cities overrun

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi denied Monday he had fled his country after protesters overran several cities, as his four-decade rule was under assault amid claims of a "massacre" in Tripoli.

"I am going to meet with the youth in Green Square," in downtown Tripoli, he said, in what state television reported was a live broadcast from the strongman's home. . .

Read more at: Raw Story

So, What's Been Going On, Y'all?

This is just a quick post to say "hey" to any blog readers who may have dropped by. If you've been here before, you may have noticed a distinct dropoff in posts on my part of late. Broadly, it's because I've been up to a lot of things that have kept me away from the news, so I'm not really sure what's going on! I mean, what can I bitch about when I don't know what's up? Oh, I've managed to glean quite a lot about Wisconsin, and have been hearing the buzz on some of the Middle Eastern protests. I even managed to catch a little of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on the radio machine. I don't recommend that.

So, my intent is to do a little current events immersion, and then come back with anything interesting that I might find. I will have new, fresh posts up for Tuesday, I promise! Or if I completely fail at the task, I will plumb my archives, and I will bring back some gems from there. Either way, I'm going to make up for a little lost time!  More to come. . .

Blast from the Past: My Favorite SNL Clips of the 70s and 80s

This has likely been one of my least productive blogging weeks. I just have not been much in the mood. I have a feeling it is an expression of the February blahs, something I used to get back in Ohio. There, I had the excuse that the sun stops shining some time in November, and doesn't start again until March.  Out here in Las Vegas, I don't have that excuse. Maybe it's just inborn.

But I wanted to get something new up for Monday, even if I do have a "surprise" day off from work. So, since NBC decided to fill their entire Sunday night with Saturday Night Live specials--once again, too focused on musical acts--I thought I'd see if some of my favorite clips are available. Having watched the show since the very first live episode, I've stuck through each cast change. Every year has it's bright spots (though some years they are rare), and every year has it's rough episodes (more than you likely remember). Here are some of the better moments.

Church Chat - Dana Carvey brought out "The Church Lady" (Enid Strict was her actual name) in his first episode in 1986. It was an unusually strong first episode, funny nearly all the way through. This skit is from a little later in the season, featuring Phil Hartman as Jimmy Swaggert, the then recently scandal-plagued televangelist. Church Chat came along just in time for a lot of religion-themed scandals.

Bonus, Derek Stevens Choppin' Broccoli - This isn't one of my favorite clips, but it is memorable, and from that initial Carvey episode, hosted by Sigourney Weaver. It was also the first episode for Phil Hartman, as well as Jan Hooks and Victoria Jackson.

Quiz Masters - This one always cracked me up, mostly for Jan Hooks. SNL has used game shows as skit fodder for as long as it's been around, so this one didn't break any special ground, but for some reason, it stuck with me.

Emily Litella on Weekend Update - Any appearance by Gilda Radner, as Emily Litella or Roseanne Roseanneadana, on Weekend Update would qualify as a favorite. She likely had the first regular characters featured on Update, a trend that would stray further and further from actual news-related figures. But Emily and Roseanne were both news commentators, and very, very funny.

"Not for Ladies Only"- Another Gilda clip, one of many favorites. This one was a natural, since Madeline Kahn was the host of the evening. Each woman had performed as a character that spoke like Elmer Fudd, Kahn as Lilly Von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles, and Radner as Baba Wawa. Here, they get together with Kahn as "Marlena Deutschland." Very funny stuff. I still get a little misty that both of these funny ladies met sad, too-early deaths.

Well, I suppose that's enough for one entry, and I have really not even scratched the surface. Maybe I'll do a sequel next week. In the meantime, happy Presidents' Day, and have a great week!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Crowds Protesting in Wisconsin Only Getting Bigger

Image from Guardian UK
So, Governor Wanker Walker,  what's your next move?


Largest Crowd Yet Descends on Wisconsin Capitol

A state Capitol thrown into political chaos swelled for a fifth day with nearly 70,000 protesters, as supporters of Republican efforts to scrap the union rights of state workers challenged pro-labor protesters face-to-face for the first time and GOP leaders insisted again Saturday there was no room for compromise. . .

Read more at: AOL News

Captain Obvious: Government Shutdown? Aren't We at War?

After President George W. Bush's post-9/11 popularity wore off, conservatives had to adjust to the rapid, constantly increasing unpopularity he started to gather. One of their favorite tactics was to counter any criticism of The Commander-in-Chief™ by saying he was a War President™, and that it was unpatriotic to criticize The Decider™ while we were at war. Support our troops! Wait, the Dixie Chicks said something mildy insulting about Dubya? While we're at war? Burn their records!

We are still at war. This has not prevented the right from flinging every possible insult in their repertoire at President Barack Obama. No matter how head-scratchingly stupid the insult, they'll continue to use it, and ramp it up in intensity. There's nothing he can do, nothing he can say that won't result in incensed, frothing, venomous reprisal from the right. The attitude spread from the President to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (two people many Americans would barely have known about otherwise) and to all other Democrats/liberals/progressives. Oddly, the right's patriotism isn't maligned for their doing this. When they simultaneously tout American exceptionalism, and then proceed to gloom-and-doom us with how we are in the "end times" of America. . . .are "the troops" even remembered?

Back in the aftermath of 9/11, "the troops," policemen, firemen and other emergency "first responders" were put on a pedestal as near deities. The military is still fetishised in some quarters (and for once, I don't mean that in a sexy way!), but the rest of 'em? Not so much. They're government employees, and that's suddenly a bad thing. They should have their unions busted, their pensions pulled, their benefits cut! Hell, let's just shut down the government! As John Boehner says, "so be it!"

But again, we're at war. As incoherent as our reasons for being there are, we are there. Don't ya think while we have soldiers in battle, there probably ought to be a functioning government back home to support them? How about the benefits of veterans, the health care of the troops' families back home? For once, the claim of "we're at war" really does have something to do with the political argument of the moment.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wisconsin: Birthplace of Workers' Rights? Possible Deathbed Too?

I've been posting a lot less than I usually do, for two reasons. One of those reasons is my new home theater system, of which I've now worked out most of the kinks. The second reason is that The Other Half is home on vacation (staycation?) until Monday. Also--I suppose this is a third reason--we actually went out for some exercise today! And the plan is to step that up to 4-5 times per week. This shouldn't prevent me from blogging after I get into a rhythm, as exercise will take the place of Countdown with Keith Olbermann in my schedule.

But I have managed to catch The Rachel Maddow Show most nights lately, and I'm impressed. Mostly, I'm impressed with how well she holds up in HDTV on a new 60" set (the same cannot be said of many, many other TV stars). Rachel's framing of the Wisconsin Governor vs. Unions conflict has been different from most reports, getting down to the nitty gritty. Whatever you believe about the money, and the fiscal state of Wisconsin (and even PolitiFact is giving Rachel a BZZZT! on some of that), it's important to note what's behind the Governor's actions. Much of it is the right-wing's hatred of Unions. But what is behind that? Mostly that Unions do tend to champion liberal causes, and are the largest donors to Democratic candidates. In fact, if the Unions get squashed in Wisconsin (and sure to follow, everywhere else), all you have left is the big right-wing donors in politics. Unions, oddly enough, are just about the only counter-balance to the big, giant, billionaire-funded right-wing organizations pushing all those "Concerned Americans for Drilling in Yellowstone"-type commercials.  Oy.

But did you know that many of the benefits that we used to take for granted, and are now having slowly stripped away, were born in Wisconsin?

Republicans Still Fighting Culture War: Planned Parenthood, Contraceptives

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Douche), from Raw Story
I'm so glad that the Republicans are focused like a laser beam on jobs. These small-government folks still want to micro-manage our sex lives, don't they?


House plans to defund Planned Parenthood, contraceptives, health counseling

The US House of Representatives is expected to pass an amendment to the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 by this weekend that would cut millions of dollars in funding to Planned Parenthood for contraceptives, reproductive health counseling and cancer screenings. . .
Read more at: Raw Story

Featured Site: Back to the Future

Brilliant! Best idea since Born This Way (the site, not the Lady Ga-Ga song, though I like that too!).

The setup is, a photographer took "classic" photos of people from years gone by, and then posed shots as closely as she could from today, and put them together. Some of these are amazingly well done. The photographer, Irena Werning, should consider opening up her site to submissions. I know it would sort of be "competition," but I think it'd be a big hit.
Visit: Back to the Future

Found at: OMG!! Blog (which I won't link to since it can be naughty, but you're free to look it up!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rick's Santorum Problem

Man-on-Dog Santorum, from HuffPo
Sometimes karma works. Rick Santorum, one of the smarmiest and ickiest of a list of once-powerful former Republican elected officials wants to run for President. This despite an embarrassing loss in his most recent election. But the political flavor of the month is extreme conservative, or it seems to be. But I'm thinking that Ricky isn't quite crazy/stupid enough to outshine Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, or several others in the cartoonish 2012 lineup. Oh, he's batshit. He's just not that batshit. And he's got this little problem. This little, hilarious, richly deserved problem. . .


Santorum Google Searches Spike After He Speaks Out About His 'Google Problem'

Earlier today, we brought you word that would-be presidential candidate Rick Santorum had been sharing his feelings about his "Google problem" -- that is to say, his name has become strongly associated on Google with "the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex. . ."
Read more at: Huffington Post 

Uh, oh. Is Disney Up to the "Subliminal" Sex Messages Again?

Actually, considering how often this comes up with Disney, one of two things is true: a) some Disney artists really like effing with people or, b) some Disney fans are obsessed with finding secret, sexual messages!

Found at: Joe.My.God.

Crazy Like a FOX: Lying About Ron Paul

Image from source, Raw Story
You know, there's something weird afoot when FOX "News" is lying in order to discredit a conservative. I mean, clearly, they're trying to make Paul look bad. Which is kind of funny. Paul is undoubtedly an eccentric political figure, and it is understandable that many Republicans would want to see him painted as a kook. But the Republican/Tea Party is full of kooks, and FOX employs a great number of them. How far out there do you have to be to be pushed aside by FOX? And then, there is the question of why a "news" channel would be in the business of promoting or de-moting any candidate.


Uncovered: Fox News deceptively used old CPAC footage to smear Ron Paul

Interviewing Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) on his victory in the CPAC 2011 presidential straw poll, the conservative Fox News Channel did something slimy: they cued up footage of the prior year. . .
Read more at: Raw Story

Actress Picked for Wonder Woman TV Show

Image from source, TVSquad
They've been promising a Wonder Woman movie for years now, a project that was bounced around and ultimately seemingly shelved. Then came word that David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) would be making a TV version. But the biggest question throughout it all has been, who would play Wondy? Lynda Carter--though forever trapped in a 70s disco-era confection--was Wonder Woman. Well, they found somebody. I never heard of her, but she looks pretty. Can she fill out a bustier? Apparently. Can she act? Carter herself couldn't at first (though she took to it very quickly). I guess we'll have to see. Let's hope it works out better than the remakes of Knight Rider and The Bionic Woman.


And Our New 'Wonder Woman' Is ... 'Friday Night Lights' Alum Adrianne Palicki

Hold onto your superhero underoos, people!

NBC released a wonderful bit of casting news today: 'Friday Night Lights' alum Adrianne Palicki is set to play the title role (and two alter-egos) in David E. Kelley's buzzed about 'Wonder Woman' reboot. . .

Read more at: TV Squad

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gay Republicans to be Outed in Indiana?

For all their talk about getting big government off of our backs, a staggering number of conservatives want the government to have a say over who can and cannot get married. Well, of course it goes further than that. Many conservatives would legislate gay people out of existence if they could. With the very loud--to the point of obnoxiousness--braying about "jobs, jobs, jobs," the most high profile Republican policy efforts have been "culture war" issues.

In Indiana, conservatives are going the extreme route as it pertains to same-sex couples, by trying to ban not only marriage, but also any legal recognition of same-sex relationships. That goes beyond "protecting marriage," and onward to just plain mean. But it turns out, there is going to be some fairly powerful opposition to these plans. Which makes me happy. I'll be happier when we are no longer used as a political volleyball.


Outings threatened against anti-gay politicians in Indiana

The Republicans, and a few wimpy Democrats, are trying to pass a state constitutional amendment in Indiana banning marriages and civil unions for gay Hoosiers. This because Indiana apparently didn't suffer from the recession like the rest of the nation, so that state's legislators have nothing better to do with their time than the traditional Republican pass time of hating on minorities. . .
Read more at: AmericaBlog

Is Wisconsin the New Egypt?

Image from source, NY Times
Hey, I know the headline is silly. I'm not serious, I know the protests are about vastly different things.  Still, I'm heartened to see our citizenry take to the streets, and fight for what they believe in. Sure, we had the "tea party" folks, but their message was vague and all over the place. Not to mention propped up by conservative billionaires, putting the protesters out there to fight against their own best interests. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I've never been a member of a union, and I have opinions that come down on both the pro- and anti- sides. But I also recognize that were it not for unions, many of the things all workers have become accustomed to (40-hour work week, weekends, etc.) would not exist for many of us. But those things are now being chipped away. There are even conservatives out there arguing against child labor laws for goodness' sake. So, while I don't know all of the particulars in this battle yet, I know which side I'm more drawn to. And it isn't Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

From my vantage point, here is what we all need to pay attention to: what does each side want to keep, and what do they want to cut? For instance, does it make sense to cut funding for NPR and PBS, while continuing to provide billions in subsidies to Big Oil (whose companies make the largest profits of any industry in the history of the world)?  Keep an eye on 'em, folks.


Angry Demonstrations in Wisconsin as Cuts Loom

As four game wardens awkwardly stood guard, protesters, scores deep, crushed into a corridor leading to the governor’s office here on Wednesday, their screams echoing through the Capitol: “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” . . .
Read more at: New York Times

Sign of the Times: Don't Steal My Neon, Bro!

I'm still studying and fumbling with my many remote controls on my home theater setup, but I thought I'd post this picture I snapped while out shopping this weekend.

In what is either a case of being way overprotective, or just too friggin' broke to tempt fate, the Nevada owner of this mid-90s Plymouth Neon put The Club on the steering wheel. You know, just to be sure.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oh, Dear God, WHY? "NOM" is Following Me on Twitter

Yeah, I know I'm an agnostic, but there isn't an agnostic phrasing for "oh, dear God." NOM--the National Organization for Marriage--is not an organization for marriage. They're an organization dedicated to ending and/or preventing same-sex marriage. That is their only purpose. They don't, as far as I know, help enrich, rebuild or otherwise restore faltering marriages. They don't prevent divorce. They don't try to pass laws making divorce difficult or impossible. They just seek to block future same-sex marriages, or rend current ones asunder. They're evil bastards, basically, with their noses in places they don't belong.  I thought I was in the Twilight Zone when Karl Rove started following me. Now this?

At least they're following the astonishingly talented and smart Ben Patrick Johnson. Maybe they'll learn something there. But following me on Twitter isn't going to get them very far. I barely post there. Just random brain farts. I'm going to have to dog-whistle an insult at them.
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