July 23, 2014
Thomas the Tank Engine: Fascist Oppressor
Verily, it hath been many moons since the Editorial Staff raised the consciousness of the assembled villainry by exposing the shocking exploitation of one Knut - the Adorably Psychotic Gay Teen Bear.
Truth be told, Knut was a bit of a puzzlement to us at first. On the surface, he was not your garden variety, undertrodden pawn of the vast evil, reich-wing (but we repeat our ownselves) conspiracy. Unrepentantly white in color, a Haver of Decidedly Masculine Naughty Bits, poor Knut was the sort of bear at whom we would have felt more comfortable wagging the stern finger of international opprobrium.
Thankfully, our friends the Germans performed a seemingly impossible feat. They managed to turn this white, male bear into that most useful of social justice avatars: the perpetually aggrieved victim. Of course Knut deserves some of the credit for copping to a deliciously transgressive inter-species fling with his human handler (Thomas Dörflein's suspicious demise is alleged to have resulted from a random-but-completely-understandable S&M role playing encounter gone tragically wrong - possibly brought on Dörflein's boringly clichéd polyamorous adventures with female bipeds of his own kind). There is no shame in any of this - these are all perfectly legitimate lifestyle choices. And how could enlightened folk like us help but love Knut when he bravely led the German Gay Polar Bear movement to oppose Sarah Palin's VP nomination? In a civilized society like Amerikkka, even the voices of Deutschen Eisbären have their place?
The young ursine has been the target of death threats for his prescient and principled opposition to European Islamofascists. Thus, we found ourselves deeply disturbed to learn that, not content with being a bad mother, animal hater and strident foe of a woman's exclusive right to determine the reproductive destiny of both partners in a sexual relationship, Gov. Palin has come out against same sex marriage rights for polar bears.
But sadly, even in death our hapless fUr-brother (no thanks to PETA, still possessed of his huevos) has been pressed into service to bolster the brands of his heartless, capitalistic oppressors. We shall speak of this atrocity no more.
In the culture wars, Evil never takes a day off. So neither must we.
Sadly, a new menace looms ... err... menacingly... on the horizon: a racist, sexist, rampantly authoritarian and Otherist danger to everything we hold dear.
That's right: we're talking about Thomas the Tank Engine:
Thomas and those friends are trains that toil away endlessly on the Isle of Sodor – which seems to be forever caught in British colonial times – and, on its surface, the show seems to impart good moral lessons about hard work and friendship. But if you look through the steam rising up from the coal-powered train stacks, you realize that the pretty puffs of smoke are concealing some pretty twisted, anachronistic messages.
For one, these trains perform tasks dictated by their imperious, little white boss, Sir Topham Hatt (also known as The Fat Controller), whose attire of a top hat, tuxedo and big round belly is just a little too obvious. Basically, he's the Monopoly dictator of their funky little island. Hatt orders the trains to do everything from hauling freight to carrying passengers to running whatever random errand he wants done, whenever he wants it done – regardless of their pre-existing schedules.
Inevitably, the trains get in a fight with or pick on one another (or generally mess up whatever job they are supposed to be doing) until Hatt has to scold one of them about being a "really useful engine", because their sole utility in life is their ability to satisfy his whims. Yeah, because I want to teach my kid to admire a controlling autocrat.
But there was one particular episode that caused me to put the brakes on Thomas for good. It revolved around James, a red engine who is described in the opening credits as "vain but lots of fun." (Wait, it's OK to be vain if you can show others a good time occasionally? Great – that's going in my Parenting 101 book.) In the episode "Tickled Pink", poor vain James, is ordered by Topham Hat to get a new coat of paint. But while James has only had an undercoat of pink slathered on, Topham Hatt interrupts and demands that James go pick up Hatt's granddaughter and deliver her and her friends to a birthday party right now.
This reckless and unsanctioned Pinklighting must not be allowed to stand. Until the oppressed locomotives of Sodor have achieved gender parity, we honestly don't know how we can sleep at night.
Admit it, knuckleheads. This is quite possibly the defining issue of our time. How will our children grow up to love social justice and resolve never to possess more material goods than the least fortunate among us if they are continually being fed warped values by self loathing cartoon locomotives who continually refuse to recognize their own best interests?
Now perhaps if Thomas were to come out in a future episode as a Locomotive of Unambiguous and Unapologetic Transgenderness, honor *might* still be served. Whatever happens, Percy should definitely be forced to parade around in a shiny new coat of pink paint. With rainbows.
And unicorn decals. OCCUPY SODOR!!!!
July 22, 2014
Jumping On The Bandwagon
The Princess' posting about 'Weird' Al's new album earlier this morning aroused my curiosity. I've always been a fan, especially of his later songs, but I must say, this one really appeals to my inner grammar nazi.
I never liked the original song much due to the nature of the lyrics and video, but the music and beat were very earworm-like. I like this version much better.
Tip o'the Stetson - IMAO
July 21, 2014
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes???
The end, maybe. But first part - and most of it - sounds more like "Carry On" to this CSNY fan. What say you, cheesy 70s retread types?
“I wanted to do a song about all the ridiculous double-speak and meaningless buzzwords that I’ve been hearing in office environments my entire life,” Yankovic says by e-mail. “I just thought it would be ironic to juxtapose that with the song stylings of CSN, whose music pretty much symbolizes the antithesis of corporate America.”
Of Presidents and Priorities
As smoke billowed from the downed Malaysian jetliner in the fields of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, President Obama pressed ahead with his schedule: a cheeseburger with fries at the Charcoal Pit in Delaware, a speech about infrastructure and two splashy fund-raisers in New York City.
The potential for jarring split-screen imagery was clear. Reports of charred bodies and a ground-to-air missile attack from Eastern Europe dominated television screens while photographers snapped pictures of a grinning Mr. Obama holding a toddler at the restaurant. The presidential motorcade was later filmed pulling up to Trump Place Apartments, the Riverside Avenue venue for his first fund-raiser.
And yet, White House aides said no consideration was given to abandoning the president’s long-planned schedule, even during the hourlong flight from Delaware to New York, when word suddenly arrived that Israel had begun a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, providing the day’s second international challenge.
We don't know why so many
Republicans racist, mean spirited, partisan poopyheads are saying this guy is incompetent. Why, just look at all that can be accomplished in America if you're determined to stay focused and work hard at your job!
On Thursday morning, President Obama is off to a party fundraiser in New York. Next week, he’s flying to the west coast for another fundraiser with the Hollywood glitterati. When Obama was in Denver last week, he attended no less than four cash-gathering events in the space of 24 hours.
In his first term, Obama attended more fundraising events than any other president in recent history. According to author Brendan J. Doherty, from 2008 to 2012 Obama went to 321 events, compared to just 80 for Ronald Reagan. And, as the chart below shows, he’s done 72 events in his second term – 34 this year alone. So far, he’s ahead of the pace of George W. Bush, who had been to 30 events at this point in 2006. In his two presidential terms combined, Bush hosted 318 fundraisers. Obama has already smashed that number with 393 events to date.
He's no Bill Clinton, though.
It Isn't Just Science That Is Ignored
Like so many Bush-era lefty rallying cries, "Listen to the Generals" appears to have fallen by the wayside too:
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Dunford if he, or any other senior military leader, recommended “a policy of everybody out by 2017, no matter what?”
“No sir, not that I know of,” Dunford responded. “We still plan to have, as you know, some presence after 2017, but no one recommended zero.” He acknowledged that setting specific target dates for withdrawal comes with risks. “I think all of us in uniform, including the Afghans, prefer that would have been a bit more ambiguous.”
“In Iraq, we withdrew, with the associated consequences,” Dunford said. “And for me, that’s the most significant change. We knew when we left Iraq that there was work remaining to be done to develop sustainable Iraqi security forces, as well as to ensure that political stability existed in Iraq such that security would continue. In Afghanistan, we’ve got a chance to get that right, and my argument is for us to a responsible transition for Afghanistan, as opposed to withdrawal.”
Ignoring the Science, Immigration/Welfare State Edition
During the Evil Bu$Hitler Era, the plaintive cri de coeur of the Enlightened Progressive was often heard throughout the land. "Why, oh why! do those horrid conservatives ignore what Science tells us?"
Now, of course, we live in a more respectful age, when public servants obligingly decide which scientific debates are "settled" and which should simply be ignored:
Many young progressives think they have found a fail-safe way to end poverty: a universal basic income (UBI). The idea is very simple, they say: Every month, the government cuts a check to everyone. Period. That way, no one has to fall below the poverty line.
The UBI is an old idea, which also has a storied history on the right. Many conservatives like the idea of a simple welfare system that would replace arcane programs and nosy bureaucracies.
And indeed, right-winger that I am, I was for a very long time a strong proponent of a UBI. But now I oppose it.
What happened? I looked at the best science, and changed my mind.
Social science has been plagued with amateurish studies featuring non-random samples, missing control groups, and dubious attempts to conflate correlation with causation. Only one method - repeated, randomized field trials - addresses these deficiencies. And the repeated conclusion of numerous randomized field trials is that the guaranteed basic income creates dependency and dysfunction, weakens economic growth, and erodes the work ethic:
...the UBI is one of the very few, if not the only, domains of social science policy where we have exactly that: extensive, long-term, repeated RFTs, which are the gold standard of evidence in social science.
As RFT expert Jim Manzi writes, these experiments "tested a wide variety of program variants among the urban and rural poor, in better and worse macroeconomic periods, and in geographies from New Jersey to Seattle"; more than 30 experiments were done in the U.S. from the '60s to the '90s and there was another set of experiments done in Canada in the '90s. The universal basic income is one of the few areas of social policy where we can say with some confidence "science says..."
And science says the UBI doesn't work.
As Manzi writes, one of the few consistent findings across all these experiments is simply this: the only type of welfare policy that reliably gets people who can work into work is a welfare policy with work requirements. All the evidence strongly suggests that if you have a UBI, the outcome is exactly what many conservatives fear will happen: millions of people who could work won't, just listing away in socially destructive idleness (with the consequences of this lost productivity reverberating throughout the society in lower growth and, probably, lower employment, in a UBI-enabled vicious cycle).
This is not a minor concern. As Megan McArdle has noted, the latest research suggests that work is a central part of human flourishing. Long-term unemployment is worse for self-reported well-being than divorce or the death of a spouse.
A related study finds that countries with less generous social welfare programs benefit more from immigration than those with more generous programs. Why? Because relatively weaker social safety nets encourage immigrants to become net contributors to the economies of their adopted countries:
Life can be tough for immigrants in America … And if you can’t find work, don’t expect the taxpayer to bail you out. Unlike in some European countries, it is extremely hard for an able-bodied immigrant to live off the state. A law passed in 1996 explicitly bars most immigrants, even those with legal status, from receiving almost any federal benefits. That is one reason why America absorbs immigrants better than many other rich countries. … The opposite was true in some countries with generous or ill-designed welfare states, however. A one-point rise in immigration made the native-born slightly worse off in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. In Belgium, immigrants who lose jobs can receive almost two-thirds of their most recent wage in state benefits, which must make the hunt for a new job less urgent.
Part of the reason progressive public policy is so popular is that - in theory at least - it sounds so kind and caring. But at some point, it has to matter whether these policies actually produce the intended results. What results has this administration's announced refusal to vigorously enforce our immigration laws produced? Ignoring repeated warnings didn't make the problem go away:
During the president's 2012 reelection campaign he announced plans to defer the deportations of certain immigrants brought to the country illegally as children before June 2007.
Critics now argue that the administration chose to ignore reports about the growing number of immigrant children and instead focused on trying to push his reform bill through Congress.
'Was the White House told there were huge flows of Central Americans coming? Of course they were told. A lot of times,' one former government official told the Post.
As many have noted, this problem is neither new nor unique to this administration:
The U.S. faced a similar challenge in the mid-2000s, when border patrol was caught unawares by a surge of Brazilian illegals. The Bush administration determined that word had gotten back to Brazil that people apprehended at the border would be released and able to stay, so the Department of Homeland Security initiated an operation dubbed "Texas Hold 'Em."
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff explained the results during a Senate hearing in 2005. "We prioritized the existing space, dedicated bed space and began detaining and removing all of the illegal Brazilians we apprehended," said Mr. Chertoff. "The word spread surprisingly swiftly; within its first thirty days, the operation had already begun to deter illegal border crossings by Brazilians. In fact, the number of Brazilians apprehended dropped by 50%. After 60 days, the rate of Brazilian illegal immigration through this sector was down 90%, and it is still significantly depressed all across the border. In short, we learned that a concentrated effort of removal can actually discourage illegal entries by non-Mexicans on the southwest border."
What is the kinder policy in the long run? To stubbornly ignore the tragic consequences of well meaning but completely unrealistic public policy decisions on the real people they were designed to help? To craft policies that encourage people to lie to and cheat each other? Is it socialism itself that encourages the erosion of reciprocity and social trust? Or is it the poverty and scarcity endemic to life in these so-called worker's paradises?
The authors found that, on average, those who had East German roots cheated twice as much as those who had grown up in West Germany under capitalism. They also looked at how much time people had spent in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The longer the participants had been exposed to socialism, the greater the likelihood that they would claim improbable numbers of high rolls.
The study reveals nothing about the nature of the link between socialism and dishonesty. It might be a function of the relative poverty of East Germans, for example. All the same, when it comes to ethics, a capitalist upbringing appears to trump a socialist one.
As Hillary Clinton is wont to say, "What difference does it make?". The outcome is the same.
July 17, 2014
Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice
"Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body." ~ Elizabeth Stone
This heartbreaking, yet inspiring, story was below the fold of my paper this morning.
"TOLEDO, Ohio — Just days after his infant daughter’s death, Nathen Steffel asked strangers on the Internet for only one thing: He and his wife wanted a photo of their daughter without the breathing tubes and tape that masked her little face.
The response has been overwhelming.
Hundreds of photos, sketches and paintings have poured into the family’s northwestern Ohio home and their inbox."
Some with beautiful results...
Speaking of beautiful results...
July 15, 2014
Beans Beans The Magical Fruit
The more you eat
The longer you live??
"To put it one way, small doses of hydrogen sulfide help keep cells healthy and thus help ward off maladies such as dementia, diabetes, and even cancer.
To put it another way, "smelling farts could be the best thing you do today," as per CNET. As the Independent explains, researchers at the University of Exeter discovered that while hydrogen sulfide—the stuff produced in the gut that causes gas—is toxic in large doses, it's actually quite beneficial in smaller ones.
Specifically, it preserves mitochondria, which are vital to cell life. "Although hydrogen sulfide is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a health care hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases," say the Exeter scientists."
Seems Eddie Murphy was onto something all those years ago.
[NSFW - it is Eddie Murphy, afterall.]
And I don't even want to know what those "future therapies" might consist of.
*snort...ack ack ack*
July 14, 2014
Alright, villains, here is your next picture to snarkify.
Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
"Scaredy Cats"? I Think Not
Tip o'the Stetson: IMAO
July 12, 2014
Let The Judgement Begin
Alright, villains, I know you've all been chomping at the bit to see who the winners of the last contest are, however meat-space demands had to take priority over the joys of snarking the winners. Alas, such is the life of the Dark Lord when family needs someone to light a fire under their ass.
But, now it's time for old business. After a short review of the last picture,
...the Judgement has come.
Kicking off our party, and pretty much pooping on everything in his path, is George Pal with this brilliant rendering of our current political debate format -
MMA! (Medicare Modernization Act)... HAH!
ACA! (Affordable Care Act)... double HAH!
WMDs!... HAH! HAH! HAH!
BENGHAZI!... HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH!
ABU GHRAIB!.... HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH!
BOWE BERGDAHL!... HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH!
HOMELAND AND LILLY PROTECTION ACT!... HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH! HAH!
GREEN JOBS/ENERGY!... HAH! How Many HAH!s we at? Double your HAH!s
HALLIBURTON!... ENRON!... TRIPLE your HAH!s
SOLYNDRA! FISKER! IRS! QUADTRUPLE YOUR HAH!s
LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!
I’M RUBBER, YOU’RE GLUE!
And Grim, ever faithful to fairness, takes a brief moment to speak for the current occupant - "Yeah? Well I'm still taller than you. Can't stop me looking down on that."
Spd must have been hungry at the time of this comment - "Pretzel?"
As shirley there wouldn't be any ill intentions coming from one of our resident smart-asses...
Although, the after-effects of htom's reply could be considered as such -
It's my Dad that hates broccoli.
And MJL rounds out the first five with this earbug - "Ebony and Ivory..."
Which, all things considered, coulda been worse.
Frequent flyer launches the top five with a classic from one of our favorite movies - What's a Dazzling Urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?
As model 1066 gives us the internal conversations -
Barry: Hmm...thought you were taller.
W: Hmm...thought you were smarter.
spd, that fount of linguistic leger-de-main, displays his brass...um...iness with - "Toldja."
While DUGurl brings the snort with - Kiss me you fool!
Leading up to Don Brouhaha, having apparently come for air long enought to get a cup of coffee, with the top comment for this week, as well as probably the comment most closest to the lips of GW - "Having fun yet?"
Well, that's it for this week's judgement. As I've come to expect, another excellent job with the commentary. Thanks, everyone, for playing.
As usual, the next picture will be up....