Friday, July 31, 2009

Lunkheads of the Week [CORRECTED]
Southerners. Southern Whites.
Quote of the Day
Henry Louis Gates, on his meeting yesterday at the White House:
We hit it off right from the beginning. When he’s not arresting you, Sergeant Crowley is a really likable guy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Only in the South
This excitement was in The Tennessean:
Available online earlier this month, and also at the Hams & Jams Market adjacent to the Café at 8400 Highway 100, Piggy Popcorn is already developing a strong following.
One customer was so taken with the snack she ordered 15 pounds for her son’s wedding.
Some who haven’t tried the snack, which is a special gourmet popcorn that is popped in bacon grease, coated with a caramel sauce and then sprinkled with lean bits of hickory-smoked country cured bacon, say they are unsure about the flavor.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"American People's Demands of Government Largely Irrational"
That should be the headline of whatever story accompanies this news. Seriously, could we finally get some coverage that forces this recognition?
More Lunkheads Can't Stand the Heat
Blue Dog Democrats have reached a deal with House leadership. Public option remains intact. According to Brian Beutler at TPM, what the conservative Dems got in return are these things:

1) No House vote until September. This part sucks because it gives Republicans an entire month to bash the plan. The good news is that the Waxman Committee will vote a bill out this week. So by the time recess is done, there should be a bill ready to vote on.

2) The version favored by House leadership exempted small businesses from penalties for not covering their employees if their total payroll was less than $250,000. The compromise with Blue Dogs doubles that amount to $500k, allowing many more businesses free to leave their employees uncovered and not having to pay into the public system.

3) Instead of tying payment rates to Medicare, the government's public option will negotiate pay schedules separately through the Secretary of HHS.

4) Individuals whose income falls between 300 and 400% of the poverty rate - hence eligible for government subsidy for health coverage under the House plan - will receive a slightly smaller subsidy, potentially saving taxpayers, Beutler reports, $100 billion according to Blue Dogs.
LOTW Update
I guess the withering shame of receiving Article 19's demoralizing Lunkhead of the Week award took its toll. Paul Stanley has resigned from the TN Senate.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Colbert Says Goodbye to Palin
Clip of her farewell address must be seen to be believed.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sarah Palin Will Be Missed
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stimulus Money in Tennessee
When I see that the NYTimes has written an article on Tennessee, I usually cringe as I click the link. Today's though - following the Tennessean's own series (1, 2) on the way the stimulus money is being used - paints our Governor as what he is at his best: forward-thinking and willing to act. Is his a good long-term strategy? Using welfare money to create immediate jobs in heavily depressed, rural areas? I haven't a clue. But it's nice to see positive, job-creating stories from the stimulus money.

Kind of makes me want to take a road trip to Perry County and buy one of those turnovers from the Armstrong Pie Company.
Dear Mitch Albom
Stick to sports and sap. (and maybe learn a little math)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

No Guns, No Crying
One unfortunate result from last November's election is that Tennessee Democrats lost control of both the state House and Senate. All of the crazy Jesus and guns legislation that we've kept bottled up in committee for years has come rushing out. Included is one that's sure to do wonders for tourism, making it legal to carry concealed handguns into restaurants and bars. Now, any establishment that wants to limit its clientele to non-gun-carriers has to indicate that with a clear sign out front, a la no smoking. I noticed 3 Crow in East Nashville is trying the humorous route. Made me laugh, anyway.

See also Colbert's very funny/scary piece on this idiocy.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lunkhead of the Week
Paul Stanley.
Deep Thought After Spending 1 Day on Facebook
Blogging is now long-form writing.
What the...
I turn around and the Red Sox go from 3 games up to 2 1/2 down in a week. Looks like the bats have gone cold all at once. How did that happen so quickly? They've dropped faster than Lance Armstrong this week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sell Sell Sell
Now that I've given in just today and activated an account on Facebook, it is a sure sign that the fad is over. No longer cool. Pass the word.
The Crazies
Jon Stewart last night took on the birther crowd.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Honest Questions
This sounds great. Crush Netanyahu indeed. But how? With what leverage?
Shortz (Includes A19 Poll Question)
When I can't sleep, I like to work on the Sunday NYTimes crossword (it's reprinted the next Sunday in the local paper). I usually end up taking a stab at it every week though I almost never finish and rarely get beyond 75-80%. In a sign that declining standards and grade inflation is alive and well into middle age, I count 50% as the fault line of my failure/success. If you try it as well, you may enjoy this ongoing Q & A with puzzle editor Will Shortz. I knew that puzzles were sent in by others who are paid a small amount when they are selected, but I didn't know there were so many submissions (75-100 a week!) and I was shocked at the involved weekly process he describes for how a puzzle gets from submission to publication:
When I select a puzzle for publication, I factcheck it (of course) and edit the clues. On average about half the clues in a Times puzzle are my own. I edit first for accuracy, because it doesn't matter how clever or interesting a clue is if it's wrong. I also edit for the appropriate level of difficulty given the day of the week, as well as for freshness, playfulness, humor and overall balance of subjects.

After I edit and typeset the puzzles on my handy Mac, I send them to three test solvers, one of whom rechecks the accuracy of every clue and answer again. These testers are Frank Longo (a talented crossword constructor and editor himself), Nancy Schuster (a former crossword editor as well as a national champion solver), and Evie Eysenburg (my "everyman" solver). All three call me with their comments and corrections. I polish the puzzles and send completed electronic files, a week at a time, to The Times, where they are test-solved by a fourth person, Ellen Ripstein, who's also a former crossword champion. Ellen prepares the files for online publication and other formats, but also serves as another backup.

This used to be the entire process. Some years ago, though, I noticed a person on the Times's crossword forum, Martin Herbach, who wrote incredibly literate and knowledgable comments about little flaws in the published puzzles. And I thought, why should I wait until the puzzles are published before getting Martin's feedback? So after Ellen finishes her work on the files, she sends PDFs of all the puzzles to Martin. Our understanding is that if he sees a problem, he lets me know immediately, in time for me to make a change. And, if he doesn't, all is well.
The whole thing is pretty fascinating if you are into puzzles. Apparently, he enjoys every kind of puzzle. Here's the question for the day: do you puzzle? Which do you like/hate?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Palin's Resignation Speech
Edited by professionals.
What's wrong with them?
Qualms about President Obama's stewardship of the economy are growing, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, as Americans become more pessimistic about when they predict the recession will end.
By 50%-44%, they disapprove of how he is handling health care policy.
Who are the morons that approved before, when Obama was proposing his health care plan and challenging Congress to act quickly, and now disapprove, while Obama supports that same plan (basically) and is still challenging Congress to act? If public support dwindles, there is no shot at a public option. Too many very very fearful Congressmen and women. We'll get a bill that outlaws denial of coverage based on pre-existing condition, and a couple of cost-cutting measures and that's it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lunkheads of the Week
Nelson, Lieberman, Wyden, Landrieu. We were really making headway, lunkheads.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Franken Watch
It was nice to see Al loosen up a tiny bit today. On substance he was actually quite good as well - though he elicited nothing interesting from the Judge, he made some good points himself. Whether he was actually funny, or just seemed so against the comedy competition on the Senate Judiciary I don't know, but after watching hours of hearings he had me laughing. Didn't overdo it, just some light moments - see for yourself:
Health Care Bills
The good news is that, thanks to the Internet tubes, regular citizens like us can go ahead and read pending legislation like the health care reform bill (pdf) that is moving forward in the House. The bad news is that it's 1018 pages long. But there's good news again, which is that even though we could never read and digest the whole thing in time to be completely informed for the debates to come, we have a brilliant and committed news media who will capably and accurately describe the content. Ha!

If you are interested in reading *some* of it, the Committee's website also has it broken down into summary pages and by topic.

You can read the health care bill that came out of the Senate's HELP Committee - checking in at a slender 615 pages - here. The Senate Finance Committee has yet to get through the mark-up phase of their version of the bill. That is scheduled to start next week.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Verdict on Lindsay Graham
Condescending asshole.
Verdict on Sotomayor
She's smart. Avoids questions in a way that doesn't insult the listening audience as much as most nominees.
From the Church-State World
Ralph Reed is attempting a comeback.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Moment of the Day
Senator Al Franken speaks at Sotomayor's confirmation hearing as a member of the Judiciary Committee. No, he's not saying anything too interesting. But remembering his impression of Senator Paul Simon during SNL sendups of a confirmation hearing (I forget, was it Thomas?), seeing him up there for real is kinda funny.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Movie Recs
Last week, I caught Food, Inc. My earlier fear about being too grossed out to be effective did not bear out. Certainly there are unpleasant images, but nothing as graphic as I expected from the NYTimes review. In general, it's a good film - but not a great one. If you haven't read Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, and feel confident you never will, perhaps there will be more new perspective here for you than there was for me. If you have read it, some of the images and interviews will reinforce the book (including extensive screen time with Joel Salatin, who runs Polyface Farms, the focus of about 1/4 of the book). There were a few new and horrifying things - or at least I had forgotten them if they are in the book - emphasized here, especially discussion of Monsanto's vigorous - no, ruthless - enforcement of seed patents. For me, that was the emotional apex of the film.

Recommended. But it's not a great, great documentary like, perhaps, the material desperately needs. I have to say, too, that it's pretty depressing. As I've told others, I came out of it in many ways more hopeless than I did walking out of the Al Gore movie, which was pretty darned scary. I had a real sense of having nowhere to honorably turn, just competing bad options to varying degree.

Second, I saw "Moon", which was fascinating and well done as a sci-fi film on a budget. If you can get past a couple of front-end implausible things, it's a compelling story. If anything, I wished it was longer, to spend more time on some of the psychological issues raised which really should have been more intensely explored by the character(s?) in question. As it is, much of that is left to us.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lunkhead(s) of the Week
Blue-Dog Democrats.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The NYTimes' A.O. Scott says that, some laughs aside, Bruno will leave you with a bad taste.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

On Returning
I assume nothing happened while I was away?

Thanks to Doug and Farge for livening up the place yesterday. Anyone with the keys should feel free to do that any time. I am, after all, only one man.

I did everything I could to avoid coverage of the Michael Jackson funeral yesterday. 2 media outlets got through my defenses though: ESPN somehow managed to put clips on Sports Center. Before I could get to my remote, Magic Johnson was telling me that his Lakers jersey, like Kobe's, would not have been in homes across America if it hadn't been for Michael being there first, opening up the African-American merchandising barrier... Hmmm. That's just not true, is it? Does anyone (Magic included) really believe that black basketball stars wouldn't be popular and accepted but for the success of Thriller? Does that even make any sense?

Then early this morning I had a dream that Michael Jackson was my older brother and that our dear father was the Reverend Al Sharpton. Waking up in a panic I realized that my radio alarm was dutifully playing NPR, and they were in the middle of a segment on yesterday's ceremony. Sharpton was speaking to the crowd and he was saying that contrary to public opinion there is nothing strange about the Jackson family, and specifically the Jackson father. They were simply coping, he said, with strange situations. That certainly cleared up for me the sleeping with young boys and the giraffes in the backyard.

Maybe the strangest Jackson-related story of the day though was this one.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Taking Matters into Our Own Hands
In the comments thread to Don's last post before giving it all up to become a beach bum, farge had this to say:

This freaky piece makes me wonder if someday I will be looking down from our moon colony at the Lost Red Planet (Earth).