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The Angry Echo Chamber

Stephen Colbert is brilliant, just brilliant:

Yes, that’s twice this week I’ve done postings about Sarah Palin. But I have an explanation: with all the mess and bad news both internationally and domestically, we need some comic relief.

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Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama was giving an interview recently, and get this, he said he thought that Joe Biden would be a good president. When asked why, he was like, ‘Because he’d make me look AMAZING.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“In a recent interview, President Obama said Joe Biden ‘would be a superb president.’ In a related story, Hillary Clinton punched a hole in a door.” – Seth Meyers

“NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is back in the news. He says the military at the NSA often shared nude photos that Americans had emailed to one another. So if your girlfriend won’t send you naked pictures, just tell her, do it for the troops.” – Conan O’Brien

“Edward Snowden is back with yet another spying scandal. In a new interview, Snowden revealed that NSA employees regularly pass around nude pictures of people they spy on. It got even weirder when German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, ‘So, vat do you think?’” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Kennedy said let’s put a man on the moon, and by God, 10 years later we put a man on the moon. Yesterday was the 45th anniversary. Nowadays a big deal for us is we combined the croissant and the doughnut to get a cronut.” – David Letterman

“When we landed on the moon everybody remembers what they were doing, and everybody remembers what Neil Armstrong said just before he left the capsule and stepped onto the surface of the moon. He said: ‘Out of my way, Buzz!’ Whack!” – David Letterman

“I heard that Rob Ford’s nephew is planning to run for a seat on the Toronto City Council. He has an interesting campaign slogan: ‘I’m adopted!’” – Jimmy Fallon

“According to a new poll, two-thirds of people in Colorado think it should be illegal to smoke marijuana in public, while the other one-third are still laughing at the word ‘poll’.” – Seth Meyers

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What’s Wrong with American Business

You can’t get a much better example of why American business sucks.

Forbes magazine just published an article “5 Reasons Why You Should Admire Comcast“. If I didn’t know better, I would think it was satire, but it isn’t.

First, the article is so full of misinformation it isn’t even funny.

Like one of their reasons to admire Comcast is because they have made lots of money while “waging war on competitors like Time Warner”. Hmmm, so that’s why when Comcast recently applied for federal permission to merge with Time Warner they claimed that it was OK because Time Warner is not a competitor because their service areas don’t overlap.

Or when the article spins the recording that went viral of one of Comcast’s customer-service representatives who the article admits was a “over-zealous, super-aggressive maniac”. But they spin this example of extremely bad customer service to try to claim that “Comcast stands behind their employees” because they “defended him, saying that he was only doing what he was trained to do”. Well, except that Comcast didn’t defend the employee in public. That statement was internal and was leaked to Consumerist by other disgruntled employees. Or as Consumerist put it:

If your only evidence of Comcast “standing behind its employees” is a memo that was leaked by employees who don’t feel supported by the company, you’re standing on shaky ground.

Second, the article paints an incredible picture of what is wrong with American business. They applaud because “Comcast is a ruthless, competitive, take no prisoners tech company… and good for them.” Their evidence of this? “They are employing teams of lobbyists, marketing experts and PR consultants whose job is to persuade us that the growth of their company is good for America and not anti-competitive.” Is this what we see as a successful, admirable company? Yes, this article even praises Comcast because “They are fighting the net neutralists, battling the press” all while not really competing against Time Warner and Verizon.

But the really ironic part is this:

We hate them because of their success and power over us. And we’re jealous of them – just like we’re jealous of the reach, power and success of Microsoft, Apple, Google and the like. But I have to admit – I admire their success. … Aren’t they the example of what a successful tech company is all about?

Again as Consumerist points out, Comcast operates a regional monopoly. Unlike Comcast:

Consumers aren’t told “you must have an iPhone if you live in this ZIP code” or “your only choice for video game consoles in this city is Xbox.”

Most customers of Comcast have no alternatives for cable or high-speed internet. This is competition?

And this is also an indictment of American media. Why did Forbes print this? Did Comcast pay them? Is a monopoly that overcharges their customers, gives them bad service, and then treats them extremely poorly their idea of what business should be? I hope not, because if it is we are asking for trouble.

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I wish the mainstream media was this aware

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

I look forward to seeing panel four more often, on the real news.

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Late Night Political Humor

“Before the incursion that started yesterday the Israelis agreed to a five hour cease fire so the Palestinians could get supplies and food – how Jewish is that? ‘We’re going to attack you, but first you should eat.’” – Bill Maher

“Marvel Comics announced that the next Captain America will be black. He has the same powers as white Captain America except he has to show ID when he votes.” – Bill Maher

“New Rule: Americans who couldn’t get into the World Cup no matter how hard they tried have to stop feeling guilty about it. It doesn’t mean that we’re not sophisticated. All it proves is that unemployed people will watch anything. It’s a giant bore. Involving two boring subjects: nationalism and soccer. On the bright side, it has reminded the German people how good it feels to be whipped into a nationalistic frenzy, and what could go wrong with that?” – Bill Maher

“Rupert Murdoch – the guy that owns FOX News – is wanting to buy Time Warner – which owns HBO – in which case you could kiss my ass goodbye. Yes, welcome to ‘Real Time with Bill O’Reilly’.” – Bill Maher

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Hillary Clinton

I was recently invited to attend a private event, a live interview with Hillary Clinton followed by her answering questions from the audience.

I had to think about it. I was never a huge fan of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and Hillary was a full partner in that.

I was also dismayed by some of her tactics during the 2008 Democratic primary against Barack Obama. Not just that she ran a very aggressive campaign against him, but that she seemed to take it very personally, and by all accounts (even hers) had a hard time getting over it afterwards. I always prefer it when politicians are like athletes who compete aggressively with each other in sports but don’t make it personal so they can be friends off the court.

I also lived in England during the time of Margaret Thatcher, and she always seemed to need to overcome any perceived female weakness by playing the roll of the “Iron Lady”, outdoing the men in aggression and warmongering. Hillary Clinton’s behavior during the primary reminded me of that, and I always worried that if she was elected, if she would do the same thing as president.

On the other hand, I am fairly sure that Clinton will be our next president (who else has any chance? And despite her coyness she is definitely running) so it would be a good thing to find out more about her. Plus I really enjoyed meeting Barack Obama and his wife Michelle (I even got to shake their hands, although I never got to talk with them personally).

So I went.

I’m really glad I did. I left impressed by her. She is not the same person she was when she was First Lady, nor the same person who ran for president in 2008. She is less ambitious and competitive, but more capable and statesmanlike. She answered every question thoughtfully (a few answers were a bit longwinded, but they were complex issues being discussed). I never felt, as I have sometimes in the past, that she was telling us the answer she thought we wanted to hear, or was giving us a politically expedient answer. The interview was almost completely free of sound bites.

I now think she will make a very good president.

If she had won the Democratic primary in 2008 I probably would have voted for her, but I think she will make a far better president now than she would have back then. She really seems to care more about the issues and about solving problems, than about political gain. She may be older, but she is definitely wiser, and she more easily commands respect. The occasional shrillness is completely gone, and she is more sure of herself.

Not only is Clinton more ready, I think the US is more ready. I think she has a much better chance of winning the presidency this time than she did back in 2008. Unfortunately, it is still more acceptable in our country to be sexist than racist, which worked to Obama’s favor during his presidential campaign. If Clinton had been the Democratic candidate, I think it would have been easier for Republicans to attack her all out. Plus they could attack her for the things they didn’t like about Bill’s presidency. And those attacks would have worked back then. However, the Republicans have been attacking everyone for so long and in ways that are so bat-shit crazy, I think most people aren’t listening to them any more. Especially the all-important independent voters; in fact pretty much everyone except for the die-hard Republican base, who would never vote for Clinton anyway. So I am confident she can win.

So that leaves one final question. We have never had a woman president before, so we don’t have a title for the First Spouse. Instead of the “First Lady” would he be the “First Laddie”? Or just “Bill”? Clinton admitted that she liked the term “First Mate”. Aye aye!

Mike Luckovich
© Mike Luckovich

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Late Night Political Humor

“This week, our pal Rob Ford faced off against his four challengers in a debate for Toronto mayor. His opponents were, of course, pretty critical of his performance, but Ford said, ‘Hey, my record slurs for itself.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“People love the new Pope, but I think it’s safe to say he’s gone crazy. Now he’s thinking about doing away with celibacy for priests. Are you like me? Are you thinking ‘Real Housewives of the Vatican?’” – David Letterman

“I don’t know if this is a good idea or not. Do you really want a priest showing up for the last rites with a date?” – David Letterman

“Even though both Israel and Hamas fired on one another during the five-hour humanitarian period yesterday, the U.N. secretary general said both sides ‘mostly respected’ the cease-fire. That’s like leaving the house without pants and saying you’re ‘mostly dressed’.” – Seth Meyers

“President Obama said that his strategy for foreign policy is to be patient and determined. Which is also his strategy when it comes to Biden’s bedtime.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Now the FCC wants to update the Emergency Alert System so the president can interrupt any TV program. ‘We interrupt this program so the president can tell America what he had for lunch: a good bowl of matzo ball soup. This concludes today’s presidential lunch update.’” – David Letterman

“Today is the 30th anniversary of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which raised the drinking age to 21. Also turning 30 today: a 16-year-old boy, according to his fake ID.” – Seth Meyers

“A federal judge ruled yesterday that California’s version of the death penalty is unconstitutional. Apparently the difference is California’s version has avocado on it.” – Seth Meyers

“Chris Christie warned against presidential candidates running too soon. Then earthquake experts warned Chris Christie against running at all. ‘Cities just aren’t equipped to deal with it.’” – Jimmy Fallon

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Shadows

Amber Butler
© Amber Butler

Someone I don’t know sent me this comic that she had drawn. It is not only quite good, but came at a time when I’ve been having conversations with various people about what is going on in the Middle East (mostly Gaza, Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Iran). About the only thing we all agree on is that we don’t see the problems resolving themselves any time soon. Any time a local problem becomes a focus of global interests, it is difficult to resolve on any level. Throw in religious fervor and it becomes almost impossible.

But I still have hope. After all, For a long time there was an eerily similar situation in Northern Ireland. Many thought that would never be resolved, but it did happen. I hope something similar can happen in the Middle East.

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Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama called German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday to talk about improving relations with our country after this latest spying scandal. Obama made her a pretty good offer. He said, ‘Look, we’ll stop spying if we can borrow your soccer team.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“This week Dick Cheney called President Obama ‘the worst president of my lifetime.’ Oh come on, Obama may not be perfect, but there’s no way he’s worse than John Quincy Adams.” – Seth Meyers

“Speaking of Obama, yesterday Congressman Raul Labrador said that impeaching President Obama isn’t a good idea, because, quote, ‘no one wants President Joe Biden.’ And that’s when Biden realized why Obama picked him as a running mate.” – Jimmy Fallon

“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in Iowa campaigning at a big cookout because this is what you do if you want to be president. He’s out there all day telling people the hotdog line is closed for a traffic study.” – David Letterman

“If you are attending this campaign cookout in Iowa, please, this is sort of like the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Do not get between the governor and the potato salad.” – David Letterman

“There’s currently a petition to split California into several states. Among the new states would be Botoxia, Pornsylvania, and of course, the Commonwealth of Kardashiania.” – Conan O’Brien

“A major wildfire in northern California is now being blamed on marijuana farmers. Everyone in the region’s really angry about it – unless they’re downwind, then they’re totally cool.” – Conan O’Brien

“Yesterday, Iran asked the U.S. for an extension on disabling their nuclear program. When asked how much time they needed, they said, ’10, 9, 8…’” – Seth Meyers

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Toboggan Ride Into Hell

nh8OOPo

Darn it! I have been SOOO good about not posting articles about Sarah Palin for a long time. At this point I believe it is much better to just ignore her, because she isn’t any kind of elected official anymore and seems to just say bat-shit crazy things to get attention. But this was just too funny.

Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, is still in Congress. The good news is that Bachmann is retiring at the end of this term, however some people think she is doing this so she can run for president. Considering what happened the last time she ran for president, it should be funny, even if she does it without Palin.

UPDATE: I don’t often point out that Michele Bachmann is bat-shit crazy, but when I do… she steps right up and proves me right. Wednesday on a conservative radio talk show Bachmann claimed that gays “want to abolish age of consent laws, which means children would… we would do away with statutory rape laws so that adults will be able to freely prey on little children sexually. That’s the deviance that we’re seeing embraced in our culture today.”

Steve Sack
© Steve Sack

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Hi-Speed Doublespeak

More than 20 states have telecom-sponsored laws on the books that prohibit local communities from building their own municipal high-speed internet networks. This despite the fact that these networks are wildly popular in communities that have them. In addition, communities that have installed their own high-speed internet networks have seen better than average population growth and a marked increase in the number of businesses relocating to and forming in their city.

Take the example of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which built their own gigabit internet service last year (and had 100 Mb/s service before that). Of course this service is popular — it provides internet more than 300 times faster, and cheaper, than AT&T’s antiquated DSL service, which is the only option for the areas surrounding Chattanooga. Well actually, most of the areas around Chattanooga don’t have any high-speed internet service at all, because AT&T (and Comcast, Verizon, Time-Warner, and other providers) aren’t interested. In fact, hundreds of cities in the US are already wired with high-speed fiber, but lobbying and non-compete agreements from telecom companies keeps it unused.

Chattanooga wants to provide high-speed internet to these surrounding areas, but state law prohibits them from doing that. A state law that was pushed through by the same telecoms who aren’t interested in providing service out there. Ironically, Chattanooga already provides phone service to those areas, but they are prohibited from providing internet service to the same areas.

Way back when, before our politicians were completely owned by huge monopolistic industries, we figured out that everyone deserved at least the right to buy phone service (and at reasonable prices no less!). But we haven’t yet figured out the same thing about internet service.

This is a huge problem. As Chattanooga’s internet provider puts it:

We believe that Internet access is the critical infrastructure for the 21st century. True broadband infrastructure provides access to information, jobs, and education and gives citizens and businesses the opportunity to fully participate in – and to lead – our emerging knowledge economy. Communities should have the right, at the local level, to determine their broadband futures.

Indeed, recognizing the importance of broadband Internet to the future of our country, Congress has specifically required the FCC to identify and remove barriers to the expansion of access to broadband Internet. And they are doing just that.

Or they were, until the GOP stepped in. Last week, House Republicans passed an amendment to a key appropriations bill that prohibits the FCC from helping communities establish their own municipal internet systems. Republicans claim they don’t want government (even local government) competing against industry, but most of these municipal networks are being built in areas where there is no high-speed internet access at all (and the rest of them in areas where the service is slow, unreliable, and expensive).

Is it any coincidence that the bill was introduced by Marsha Blackburn, a Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee? Blackburn opposes net neutrality, which she calls “socialistic”, is a strong critic of the FCC, and her top campaign donors include the telecoms that provide internet services.

So I guess in the world of Republican doublespeak, when they say they are in favor of “competition”, what they are really saying is that they are in favor of monopolies that give them campaign contributions.

Oh, and meanwhile telecoms like Verizon are deliberately clogging their broadband networks, slowing down content to their customers, so that they can charge more money. And then lying about it. Netflix even offered to pay the cost of new routers for Verizon (which would fix the problem) but Verizon refused. There is a word for that, and that word is “extortion”.

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Rewriting History

I guess no lie is too big if it compares Saint Ronnie Reagan favorably to Obama.

And once again Jon Stewart proves that he is a better source of news than the worthless majority of our news media.

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Late Night Political Humor

“To avoid being spied on by the NSA, Germany is considering using typewriters now to communicate so we can’t spy on them. Germany says they may even go further back and start using AOL accounts.” – Conan O’Brien

“Congratulations to Germany! They have now won four World Cup soccer championships. But – they are still O for 2 in world wars.” – David Letterman

“So the old Pope from Germany and the present Pope from Argentina got together at the Vatican and watched the World Cup together. We even have the footage – they’re praying over a pizza.” – David Letterman

“Pope Francis is considering repealing celibacy for priests. Priests will no longer have to take a vow of celibacy. See what you can accomplish when you don’t have Congress standing in your way?” – David Letterman

“The border crisis continues. And a new poll shows the majority of Americans disapprove of how President Obama is dealing with immigration. Of course, those numbers could change if he lets more people into America.” – Seth Meyers

“They want to make it so the president can instantly interrupt TV broadcasts whenever there’s breaking news. Then Obama said, ‘And I mean REAL breaking news, not that CNN stuff.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“This crazy weather we’ve been having all over the country — it’s because the polar vortex is back. The polar vortex is causing the Midwest to experience fall-like temperatures. I can’t tell if climate change is still a problem or if God just put the Earth on ‘Shuffle’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“And maybe that’s why the FCC just announced that it wants to overhaul the Emergency Alert System so President Obama would be able to interrupt any TV broadcast and address the country instantly. Which of course raises the question: He can’t do that ALREADY?” – Jimmy Fallon

“According to a new study, one in four Americans admits to not exercising at all. As a result, one in four Americans is actually TWO in four Americans.” – Seth Meyers

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Gimme that New Time Religion!

Ruben Bolling
© Ruben Bolling

You have to have faith in the holy trinity of CEO, board of directors, and shareholders.

Our CEO who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy customers come,
thy will be done,
in the sales room,
as it is in the board room.
Give us this day our daily tax break,
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive those who buy on credit,
and lead us not into regulation,
but deliver us from government.
For thine is the corporation,
and the power, and the money,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

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Legalize Vice!

Once upon a time we tried to make drinking alcohol illegal. We all know how that turned out. And finally (after WAY too long) states are starting to make recreational use of marijuana legal, with promising results.

Likewise, we finally eliminated laws against gay sex, and the world didn’t end. In fact, we took the next step and started giving civil rights to gays, including the right to get married.

It seems like attempts to legislate morality, in particular by creating “victimless crimes” is not only doomed to failure, it is pretty stupid. This is one area where I completely agree with libertarians.

And now, there is a stunning new study out from Baylor University about an accidental experiment in legalizing prostitution.

In 1980, Rhode Island updated their state law for prostitution. They didn’t realize it at the time, but they accidentally made prostitution legal by deleting a paragraph of the law by mistake. However, things like pimping and streetwalking were still illegal, so nobody noticed the change until the Internet gave prostitutes a new way to find customers without standing on street corners.

In 2003, police closed down two spas for prostitution, but when the case went to trial the judge ruled that they couldn’t convict the prostitutes of streetwalking because they were staying off the street. Prostitution remained legal in Rhode Island until 2009, when legislators finally revised the law to make it illegal again.

Which gave researchers an opportunity to study the effects of prostitution becoming legal in their state. What they found was extremely interesting: the statewide incidence of gonorrhea among women in the state (not just prostitutes) went down by 39%. Even more fascinating, the number of rapes reported to the police declined by 31%. That’s a very significant decline in a violent crime.

The decline in the number of rapes was so large that Cunningham and Shah felt obliged to examine their data with three separate statistical methods, but the effect persisted. The authors were eventually persuaded that their result was not a fluke, and that imposing criminal sanctions on prostitutes and their clients might cause violence against women. “The human costs are so big, if this is in fact a very real causal effect,” Cunningham said. “I think we have convinced ourselves that we have done everything we can do rule out alternative explanations.”

This is just one study, so sweeping generalizations are premature, but further research is definitely warranted.

The Puritans who helped found this country were against dancing, but we soon got over that. With these new changes, maybe “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” should become our new political slogan. In fact, there was even a study done about that!

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