Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Troubling Mentions of SEAN HANNITY in Fake Criminal Complaint

Here's Sean Hannity discussing the criminal complaint against Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich:

The word president-elect is mentioned 44 times in the document. Pretty troubling.
Oh, really? Did you read it, Sean? Or did you just ask someone who can read to count them for you? Did he note that not one of those "mentions" alleges or even hints at any wrongdoing on Obama's part?

In fact, every one of the "mentions" is similar to this one:

Intercepted phone calls demonstrate that ROD BLAGOJEVICH ... [has] engaged in efforts to obtain personal gain ... through the corrupt use of [his] authority to fill the vacant United States Senate Seat previously held by the President-elect.
So, the "mention" is a reference to the "Senate Seat previously held by the President-elect." Pretty damning stuff, Sean.

Just for fun, let's make up a fake (and totally unprofessional) criminal complaint. Here goes.

1. Defendant ADAMS suggested, during a telephone conversation with defendant BAKER, that Fox News personality SEAN HANNITY might be interested in their murder-for-hire scheme.

2. Defendant BAKER responded that SEAN HANNITY was a "stand-up guy" who would never become involved in "anything like this".

3. Defendant ADAMS agreed that SEAN HANNITY was "a real American" and a "fine human being" but nevetheless convinced defendant BAKER to establish contact with SEAN HANNITY.

4. Defendant BAKER subsequently called SEAN HANNITY, who expressed shock and disbelief and immediately hung up.

5. SEAN HANNITY subsequently called the Federal Bureau of Investigation and agreed to cooperate in all respects with an investigation.

6. SEAN HANNITY, in utter disregard of his personal safety, agreed to a meeting with defendants ADAMS and BAKER, to which meeting SEAN HANNITY wore a recording device.

7. SEAN HANNITY subsequently delivered the recorded tapes to the FBI by special courier at SEAN HANNITY'S own expense.

8. The FBI arrested defendants ADAMS and BAKER and credited SEAN HANNITY with the apprehension, stating that "SEAN HANNITY is the kind of American we need more of."
Uh-oh. SEAN HANNITY is mentioned eleven times in the complaint. And it's way shorter than the Blagojevich complaint.

Pretty troubling.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Lost Moment

As an American liberal—and I'm proud to use the word even though the conservatives have managed to turn it into a slur—the Republicans I could vote for have been few and far between. John McCain was one of them.

While I certainly did not agree with all of his positions, McCain appeared to be committed to doing what he felt was right and honorable, the political fallout within his own party be damned. As the Republican party moved further and further rightward, and determined to oppose the Democrats on any issue, regardless of logic or consequences, McCain stood out. He worked with Democrats and opposed most of his party on campaign finance reform, normalization of relations with Vietnam, environmental and energy issues, patients' rights, and immigration. He voted against some of the Bush tax cuts. He excoriated Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as "agents of intolerance" and denounced "the politics of slander and division."

Oh Johnny, I hardly know ye.

Because he knew it was the only way to gain the 2008 nomination, McCain has moved relentlessly to the right since the 2004 election. He cozied up to those agents of intolerance, delivering the 2006 commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University. He came out against his own immigration reform bill. In a stunning reversal of his repeatedly stated position on torture, he voted against a ban on "enhanced interrogation techniques," some of which he himself endured in Vietnam. He gave up his opposition to Bush-style tax cuts and now proposes even larger cuts in the face of unprecedented budget deficits and economic upheaval.

Many had hoped that all this simply reflected what he had to do in order to gain enough support within the Republican base to gain the nomination, and that, once the nomination was secured, he would move back to the center. He would drop the mask and turn back into John McCain. But this has not happened. He has given up none of his new positions, and his campaign has been marked by the very sort of duplicitous and underhanded tactics that the Bush organization used to defeat him in 2000, the same "politics of slander and division" that he once denounced.

In recent days it has turned downright scary. Inflamed by Sarah Palin's thinly-veiled "He's not like us" theme, enraged audiences at McCain events have gotten out of control. The crowds, increasingly composed of the most vicious, least tolerant, least informed among us, are hurling insults and even threats at Barack Obama. We hear shouts of "traitor," "treason," "terrorist," even "off with his head" and "kill him"; but the candidates, McCain and Palin, say nothing.

We haven't heard "nigger" yet, but how far off can that be?

At a Wisconsin rally last Friday, a woman said something to which McCain finally reacted.
Woman: I don't trust Obama. I've read about him. He's an Arab.

McCain: No ma'am. He's a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about.
Now, I don't claim to know his thoughts. Maybe he'd just had enough, and his innate sense of honor and integrity required him to say something. Or maybe he felt that he had no choice but to respond because this time it wasn't just an anonymous shout from the crowd but instead was addressed directly to him, on camera. I don't know.

But, whatever his motivation was, here was a moment. It was an instant in time when at least partial redemption was possible. It was a moment when he could have shaken everything off, like a dog shaking water off its back, and become the man that we know he can be. He could have said something like this:
No ma'am. No. That is not right. Barack Obama is not an Arab. And by the way, Arabs are not our enemies. The overwhelming majority of Arabs—and Muslims everywhere—are friendly and peaceful men and women who pray to the same God you do. Our enemies are a tiny minority, religious extremists.

Barack Obama is not an Arab. He is not a Muslim. He is not a terrorist. He does not hate America. He is not your enemy; he is as patriotic as I am. He is a good and decent man who has the best interests of all Americans at heart. Barack Obama and I disagree on some issues—but we agree on many more. Your choice should be based on those issues where we disagree and on nothing else.

My friends, I have let this campaign get away from me. I truly believe that I would make the better President, but in my great desire to win this election and lead this country forward I have foolishly accepted some very bad advice. I should have known better. You have seen in my own campaign the very tactics that have been used against me in the past, and I know from my own experience how wrong they are. And in allowing my campaign to run this way I have pandered to extremists and lost the very people I most needed to win the election—the huge majority of reasonable, moderate Americans.

It stops here, my friends. It stops right now. From this moment on, my campaign will focus on the issues, and only on the issues. We will not distort the positions of my opponent, but we will highlight our differences and let you be the judge. We will be truthful about my own positions—and I will be telling you what I really think and plan, not what my campaign advisors tell me to say. It may not be what you some of you want to hear. So be it. But my campaign will be fair, honorable, and truthful, and that is something I can live with, whatever the results might be. I cannot do otherwise any longer.
Maybe if life were scripted by the writers of The West Wing, he would have said that. He certainly could have said more than he did. But he didn't.

It probably would have been too late to save his campaign, but at least he would have been able to sleep at night.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How To Win a Debate Without Really Trying

I'm seeing a lot of stuff like this from CNN:
[S]ince Biden was supposed to destroy Palin, and didn't even come close, this was a good night for the Republican.
As P.G. Wodehouse once wrote, "what frightful horse-radish."

Most of the talking heads now annoint debate winners not in terms of who actually performed better, but who performed above or below expectations. In this case, Sarah Palin didn't accidentally set the podium on fire as expected, so she won.

OK, here's my plan: I'm going to challenge Michael Phelps to a 100-meter butterfly. But first, I must tell you that I'm a terrible swimmer. I'm not sure I could finish a 100-meter race. There, now your expectations for my winning are pretty low, right? So, when I do eventually crawl out of the pool, you'll be surprised that I failed to drown.

Which will make me the winner. All I need to do is perform better than expected.

PS to Sarah: in a debate, you're really not supposed to say "I may not answer the questions...." It's a debate, the point of which is, well, that you answer the questions.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Where Do You Want to Go Today?

Southwest Airlines's cruise search.
Going nowhere is certainly a money saver.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sounds Vaguely Familiar

This from the Times rings a bell, somehow:
Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy.
I've heard this about some other administration, but I just can't put my finger on it.

A few other tidbits:
  • Palin has said that polar bears are not endangered and has sued the federal government to keep them off the endangered species list because doing so would hinder oil and gas exploration. She argued that the bears are well-managed and not in danger, and that "there is not enough evidence to support a listing." But email records show that the scientists who studied this for her concluded that the bears are in danger.
  • She fired the Wasilla city attorney after he issued a stop-work order on a home being built by a campaign supporter.
  • She ordered city employees not to talk to the press.
  • The Wasilla high school yearbook now "now doubles as a veritable directory of state government."
  • Ms. Palin and her staff used personal email accounts in order to work around possible subpoenas of official records.
Laura Chase, Palin's mayoral campaign manager, is quoted as saying, "I’m still proud of Sarah, but she scares the bejeebers out of me."

Me too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Just the Facts

Pretty depressing item in the Washington Post this morning.

Here are some Republican "facts": Sarah Palin said "Thanks, but no thanks" to that bridge. She fired the state house chef. She sold the state jet on eBay. She is dead-set against earmarks. Obama's tax plan raises everyone's taxes. He supports infanticide. He was referring to Palin with his pig-lipstick comment. He thinks Iran is a "tiny" threat.

We know every one of these "facts" to be untrue.

You think this is Republicans only? Not hardly. Whoever made up those Palin "facts" (her plan to cut special ed funding, the list of books she wanted to ban from the Wasilla library, and so on), shame on you. You're no better than they are.

In an article about how "untruths" become facts, the Post quotes Republican strategist John Feehery:
"The more the New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there's a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she's new, she's popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent," Feehery said. "As long as those are out there, these little facts don't really matter." [emphasis added]
The facts don't matter.

And, sadly, that is a fact. The truth doesn't seem to matter any more. A huge percentage of the American public will suck up whatever garbage is handed to it because it is too damn lazy to open a newspaper or click a mouse.

If there is a sadder comment on the state of American politics, I'm hard pressed to come up with it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Olbermann and Matthews

OK, so MSNBC has announced that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews won't be anchoring coverage of political news any more.

Now, I happen to like Olbermann. Yes, yes, he's over the top at times, and I wish he would tone it down a bit. (Memo to Keith: Calling people names [viz, "pinheads"] is the spécialité de la maison over at Fox. You don't need to sink to that level to make your point--your vocabulary didn't stop expanding in third grade as theirs apparently did.)

Nevertheless, this is the right move. Reporting should be separate from opinion, and the anchor desk should be manned by a reporter, not by op-ed people (MSNBC has tapped the excellent David Gregory as the new anchor). Doing this not only separates news from opinion, it affords Olbermann and Matthews the opportunity to voice what they think without the constraints of being reporters. They both crossed that line more than once; they knew it; so they fixed it.

What's really interesting to me is the gloating going on over at Fox. To see this in perspective, first look at what the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz has to say:
Olbermann and Matthews will remain as analysts during major political events, and officials at [both NBC and MSNBC] ... said Olbermann had initiated the discussions to clarify his role. They said Olbermann's influence at MSNBC would in no way be diminished and that the shift would enable him and Matthews to offer more candid analysis during live coverage. Olbermann confirmed yesterday he had initiated the discussions [emphasis added].

"[MSNBC president Phil Grffin] and I have debated this set-up since late winter/early spring (with me saying, 'Are you sure this flies?' and him saying, 'Yes, but let's judge it event by event') and I think we both reached the same point during the RNC," Olbermann said by e-mail.

So Olbermann agrees that this is the right thing to do, and he initiated the discussion about the change in role.

OK, now here's how Fox "reports" the same story (under the enormous blood-red headline, "KEITH OLBERMANN, CHRIS MATTHEWS BOOTED FROM MSNBC POLITICAL ANCHOR DESK"):
Keith Olbermann may be the “voice” of MSNBC, but network executives have decided to yank the talkmeister off its political anchor desk after the cable channel finished dead last in the Nielsen rankings of all news coverage during the two weeks of political conventions.
The network’s weak ratings during the conventions may have given MSNBC executives the cover they needed to boot Olbermann and Matthews. FOX News Channel topped all broadcast and cable networks with 9.2 million viewers on each of the last two nights of the convention. MSNBC got barely more than a quarter of Fox’s total –2.5 million viewers.

MSNBC also ranked last among the three cable channels during primetime coverage of the last two nights of the Democratic convention.

A portion of the O’Reilly interview with Obama aired last Thursday and earned O’Reilly his second highest rating ever, with more than 6.6 million viewers.
Ratings-obsessed, much? It appears that Fox has fully internalized O'Reilly's mantra: "Good ratings prove I'm right." This is all about ratings, and not about reporting, not about integrity. Don't bother to mention that Olbermann himself appears to have initiated the change. That wouldn't fit the storyline, so let's leave that part out, OK?

But we didn't get to the really funny bit yet:
The network announced Monday that Olbermann and Chris Matthews have both been booted as co-hosts on political night coverage in favor of David Gregory, whose White House press corps experience may make him better suited to deliver sober and less opinion-driven assessments of the news.
Fox News thinks someone else delivers "opinion-driven assessments of the news"? Are they serious? They had to be howling with laughter when they finished typing that sentence, right? I visualize them gasping for breath, holding their sides, falling to the floor in gales of hilarity. Oh, the irony.

The big difference here, really, is that MSNBC saw that there was a problem in using pundits as anchors, and they did something about it. Fox News, which doesn't seem to have anyone who can report news without sharing an opinion, will never understand that. Not in a million years.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fox Opinion Channel

Some things are just hard to understand. On Fox News, almost everything is hard to understand.

Last night, Fox's commentators, including the network's designated liberal Alan Colmes, decided that there was no point in our actually listening to the Democratic Convention's keynote address, so they talked over almost all of it. The keynote address, for God's sake. A twenty-minute address, and we got maybe two minutes of it. Instead, we are treated to a bunch of commercials and an interview with Rudy Giuliani. That's right, they used the Republican keynote speaker to talk over the Democratic keynote address. Couldn't have waited just a bit, guys? I'll be most interested to see if they jabber over the Republican keynote address next week.

Update: They didn't. No jabber. Broadcast the whole thing. Surprise!
But that is as nothing compared to the utterly bizarre commentary by Megyn Kelly just the previous night. It turns out, according to Megyn, that if you change the words someone says, they sound different. Megyn can prove it, too. Here is Megyn entering an alternate universe while yakking about Michelle Obama's address at the convention:
[W]hat [Michelle] said was, and I wrote it down, was, "The world as it is just won't do." If you replace "world" with "country," you're back to the same debate, arguably, that you have been having about Michelle Obama's feelings about this country.
Seriously. That is what Megyn said. Replace what Michelle did say with what Michelle didn't say, and it doesn't sound so good.

OK, let's see how this works. Here is what Megyn said when asked who her favorite active "journalist" is:
Brit Hume. The man truly knows everything about everything.
Now, if I replace the first "everything" with "nothing", and the second one with "anything", here's what I get:
Brit Hume. The man truly knows nothing about anything.
So, it turns out that Megyn thinks Brit Hume is an idiot. Hey, it does work!

At this point, Fox really has no option other than to remove the word "News" from its name.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Maytag's Exclusive Feature

Oh, sure, this sounds handy. But think about it. Only one person in the entire world can use it at a time. It's a stupid feature.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Truth in Labeling

Corrected label for "fat free half & half"

If You Own a Dog, You Should Have One of These

Because you just never know when you'll need it.
Keep one in the car, too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Startling Statistic

Maybe it's because they live so much longer?

Update: I thought this was an interesting point of view, so I looked into the AAPS just a little. A smorgasbord of other AAPS headlines "in perspective":
  • The Dark Side of Peer Review
  • 32,000 Scientists Dissent from Global Warming "Consensus" *
  • US Scientists Back Autism Link to MMR **
  • European Population in Decline, Welfare State Threatened
  • Thank Hillary Clinton for Flu Vaccine Shortage


  • Ron Paul’s “tea party” breaks fund-raising record
  • Ron Paul sets one day GOP fundraising record
  • Ron Paul supporters aim to break record for contributions on Nov. 5
  • Michigan GOP leader wants Paul barred from future debates
  • Ron Paul introduces bill to rein in the FDA


* 32,000 Scientists Dissent from Global Warming "Consensus"

Um, not really. The petition web site as of today lists 31,072 people (not 32,000, and not scientists, as we shall see) who mailed in a postcard. While the web site says that signers must have degrees in "appropriate scientific fields", the organizers seem to be pretty casual about what those might be. Your family doctor apparently qualifies. So does Fluffy's veterinarian. And anyone with, say, a B.S. in electrical engineering. Are they really qualified to voice an informed opinion on the science of global climate change?

I think it's quite interesting to note that, of those 31,072 signers, exactly 40 claim a degree in climatology. Four-oh. About one-tenth of one percent.

Moreover, having a B.S. doesn't make you a "scientist" by any stretch of the imagination. Nurses generally have a B.S. degree or equivalent. God bless 'em ev'ry one, but do you know many nurses who refer to themselves as "scientists"?

Now, the list of "scientists" posted on the site does not include locations or institutional affiliations, so it's pretty durn hard for anyone independent to validate them. Is "R. Payne" qualified? Who knows? There's no way for us to check, is there?

The petition organizers claim to have validated "most" of the signers, but, just for fun...

...I picked a name at random from the list and fired up Google. I'm sorry, Alison. Alison M. Azar holds a B.S. in chemistry and is Vice President of Sales for the M.F. Cachat Co, "a regional technical sales organization focused on the marketing and distribution of specialty chemical products." Previously she was Midwest Regional Sales Manager. Her professional affiliations include the Institute of Food Technologists and the Society of Cosmetic Chemists.

I feel quite certain that Alison is a very fine person, but is she a "scientist"? In an "appropriate scientific field"? If she is, then so am I (and I'm not, I assure you).

** US Scientists Back Autism Link to MMR

Um, not really. Their own article has no statement from any scientist saying anything remotely like that. This is all they can say:

The vaccine strain of measles virus has been found in 85% of samples taken from the guts of children with regressive autism, according to a study to be presented in Montreal, Canada, this week by Dr. Stephen Walker of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina.

Right, probably because 85% of the kids he studied had been vaccinated. I'll bet he found milk in 95% of 'em, too. I think the real cause of autism is probably milk.

In point of fact, Dr. Walker himself warns that his study does not indicate a link between MMR vaccine and autism: "That is not what our research is showing."

I guess the good scientists at AAPS have forgotten what they learned in their high school science class: correlation does not imply causation.

  1. Sales of ice cream cones increase during summer months.
  2. Drownings increase during summer months.
  3. Therefore, ice cream cones cause drowning.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Say It Ain't So, CSI

Get out! New York cops don't work out of spacious, pristine, dimly-lit, ultra-modern offices? Crime scene technicians are not heavily involved in pursuing and apprehending suspects? NYPD does not have the technology to obtain a recognizable image of a suspect by enhancing the reflection in an eyeball from a fuzzy security camera video?

I can't believe this. I am so depressed.

(Note also that CNN remains obsessed with Miss USA falling down.)

Tempest in an Inkpot

About that New Yorker cover. I see a lot a stuff that's just silly.
It's not funny.

It's not supposed to be funny. New Yorker covers rarely are. They can be wry; they can be satirical; they can be pretty. Sometimes they are subtle enough to require study before they are understood; sometimes they are blunt instruments. Occasionally, yes, they may elicit a subdued chuckle. But funny? Not so much.

It's racist.

No, it isn't. It's anti-racist.

The New Yorker thinks that the Obamas are gun-toting, flag-burning, America-hating Islamic terrorists.

No, it doesn't. It thinks that the Obamas are none of these. The cover isn't characterizing the Obamas; it's ridiculing the smears that are being used against them.

I'm going to boycott The New Yorker

OK. Conservatives already do, so you must be a liberal. Let's think this through. Better yet, let's look at some stuff that's appeared in The New Yorker:

This is a tiny sample, believe me. This is the magazine you want to boycott?

They shouldn't have used it because [insert your favorite demographic here] won't understand it.

Sorry, but that is not The New Yorker's problem. The magazine is written for its readers. Most magazines are. It seems a little off the mark to say that a magazine should tailor its content for people who don't read it.

They put this on the cover to sell magazines.


Update: Jon Stewart excoriates The New Yorker for printing satire that some people might not get. Daily Show correspondents reveal that this kind of horrible stuff permeates the magazine: in addition to believing that Obama is an Islamic extremist, it supports baby-killing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fall Girl

Yes, CNN, it was necessary to show this poor girl falling six times in your 45-second video clip. The slo-mo was especially effective, I thought, in driving home your point. She definitely fell down. No question about it.

See the shocking video and decide for yourself.

A Mysterious Accident

Quite mysterious indeed. At this point, authorities will only say that it happened sometime after he was hit by a baseball. (Yes, Boy will be OK.)

Source: Yahoo News, 12 July 2008

They Lend Horses, Don't They?

I get a lot of spam. So do you. Most of it falls into predictable categories, right? Herbal supplements. Male enhancements. Financial and work-at-home opportunities. Meet singles in your area.

I have to admit, this one is original. Not that much of my spam falls into the "large animals available for lending" category. Nice work, "Laurance"! Almost made me want to open it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Great Performances

One of these things is not like the others
One of these things just doesn't belong
Can you tell me which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Source: Yahoo News 11 July 2008

It's Comcastic!

I hadn't planned, when I started this blog an hour ago, to use it for rants. But then this happened.

We have Comcast digital cable, but cable boxes for only two of our four TVs (yes, of course we need four TVs; there are four people in the house). So, the unfortunate two get only the analog stations. We noticed the other day that some of the channels we watch regularly--to wit, the D.C. network affiliates--had been disappeared. They were still on the two TVs with boxes, but not on the other two. Just snow. Easily solved, right? Just check the Comcast web site.

Oh dear, nothing there. The channel lineup shows them just where they always were.

OK, well, I'll just call Comcast. Not quite as convenient, perhaps, but they'll be able to tell me.

Let's try the local number first, the one they give us to call for trouble and such. Surprise, an automated response system! Yes, I speak English. Yes, I'm a current customer. Here's my phone number.

Welcome to Comcast's automated bill payment system. Oops, not what I really wanted. And I don't have my 14-digit account number handy. Oh, wait, it's OK: Press 0 at any time to speak to a representative. Good, they're transferring my call...ohhhh...Our normal business hours are 8AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday. Please call again during normal business hours. Damn. It's Saturday evening.

No worries, I'll call the big kahunas at the real number. 1-800-COMCAST, those guys really have all the answers.

A little dialing music, Paul (thanks for that one, Dave)...yes, I speak English...yes, I have cable...yes, I have trouble...Comcast repair service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week...Comcast, we're here when you need us...(now we're getting somewhere!)...

Welcome to Comcast's automated bill payment system.

It's not really all that Comcastic.

A Really Smart Pricing Scheme

If you don't buy any books, it's quite expensive.


So what is this, anyway? It's just a place where I can put stuff that amuses or interests me. Maybe some of it will amuse or interest you, too. Anything to lighten your day (which is, by the way, probably a few degrees hotter than it really should be).