Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hey, Adam, let's go feed the Stegosaurus!

Here's why the "intelligent design" people are so scary. Among other things, they perpetuate a view of earth science that maintains that Adam and Eve cavorted around Eden with peaceful, plant-eating dinosaurs. And Noah welcomed baby 'saurs onto the ark.

There's a $25 million museum going up in Kentucky that will be full of exhibits of this horseshit. Read about it here.

Other creationist museums are going up in Arkansas, Texas, California, Tennessee and Florida. Museums are part of a massive push to teach creationism in schools, part of a vast Christian publishing and filmmaking industry that seeks to rewrite the past and make it conform to the Bible.

Maybe they can make one of those museums a wing of the shiny new Bush Library. It would certainly play to the same crowd of tourists who worship both Jesus and W.

For a great evolution recap, check out this past week's pure genius Simpsons "couch opening." Watch Homer evolve from single-celled organism to swimmy thing to dinosaurlet to rat to monkey to...Do'h!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

And next weekend, the Flat Earth Society Prom

Determined to become the laughingstock of all institutions of higher learning, the university up the hill welcomes this group of antediluvian thinkers to campus.

Up next: Age of Enlightenment a Bad Idea Debate (Pro-Rollback to Dark Ages Advocates Allowed Free Parking).

After that: Slavery Not Such a Bad Concept After All Convention.

Followed by: Reunion of Bob Jones University Alumni.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Are they really "appealing" -- or just kind of cute

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Three fraternity brothers accused in a case that tested Florida's law against hazing avoided prison by pleading no contest Monday to a lesser charge in the beating of a prospective member.

Each received probation, including 30 days in a sheriff's work camp, after entering the pleas to misdemeanor hazing. Prosecutors offered the plea deal only after two mistrials on felony hazing charges.

Five Florida A&M University fraternity brothers were tried together. The second jury convicted two, and each was sentenced to two years in prison. They are appealing.

HuffPo has the rest.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beware the Hides of Zarch

Happy birthday, Judy W.

Even though I haven't gotten so much as a Christmas card from my old college roomie, I somehow always remember that her birthday is on March 15, the Ides of March.

For those of you in college, and therefore immune to the important factlets of history, it was on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. (which does not mean "before calendars," as one of my students once wrote), that Julius Caesar became a bloody cutlet at the hands of his friends in the Roman Senate. He had been warned by a soothsayer to "Beware the Ides of March." But no, he just had to test fate and show up to work that day instead of staying home and eating grapes with the eunuchs. Or the grapes of the eunuchs.

My old roomie Judy, born on the Ides of March, 1953, was such a sex fiend she could have given a eunuch a hard-on. There I was, the non-drug-taking, non-blowjob-giving, campus-job-working drama major, sharing a dorm room with a girl who looked and acted like a hillbilly Liz Taylor. Judy had enormous tatas, which she emphasized by arching her back just so whenever anyone with a penis entered the room. Judy seduced undergrads, grad students, teaching assistants, visiting directors and professors. As I recall, she gave head to the heads of two departments. She sneaked into the house of one of them and was waiting naked in the shower when he came home--an act I'd file under "stalker" and to which the middle-aged man responded by stripping off his clothes and soaping her up.

Judy wasn't dumb. She made the dean's list every semester. Perhaps by making the dean.

My favorite outfit of hers: cut-off short-short bluejeans, halter top, rainbow-striped kneesocks, wedge-heeled cork sandals. Picture a shorter, black-haired Jessica Simpson in "Dukes of Hazzard." Now make her sluttier. Now make her even sluttier than that. And give her bigger honkers.

At night in the dorm, I'd be studying like a fiend on one metal twin bed and on the other side of the room, Judy would be stretched out watching "Dragnet" reruns (no cable back then...we were in college so long ago our black and white TV had rabbit ears). She maniacially file her nails and coo into the phone (rotary dial!) to her latest conquest. It was from Judy that I learned that men respond idiotically well to babytalk. Talking to a man, including her dad, Judy's voice would rise three octaves.

After graduation Judy and I briefly shared an apartment during grad school in Dallas. All the men in our grad school class were gay, so she went back to dating her hometown goobers, who would drive up in their pickup trucks for a quick howdy-do in our one and only bedroom (for obvious reasons, she got the bedroom, I slept on a twin bed in the living room). I could always hear them in there, the guy grunting like a boar, Judy squealing and babytalking like a pro. She never understood why this made me uncomfortable. Screwing was as natural a part of the day to her as brushing her teeth or filing her nails.

She quit grad school after a semester, moved back to her hometown and started teaching public school. That's the last I heard of her. I think I heard she married an assistant principal and settled down in a suburb.

And I wonder if he knows that his wife is the source of a secret smile on the lips of a dozen old profs who taught at our alma mater in the 1970s.

Beware the girl born on the Ides of March, for she will slice up your heart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hey, rich kids, read this

I'm angry enough to have written this, but he wrote it better than I could have:

Maybe We Deserve to Be Ripped Off By Bush's Billionaires
By Matt Taibbi

While America obsessed about Britney's shaved head, Bush offered a budget that offers $32.7 billion in tax cuts to the Wal-Mart family alone, while cutting $28 billion from Medicaid.

"Now, after she shaved her head in a bizarre episode that culminates a months-long saga of controversial behavior, it's the question being asked by her fans, her foes and the general public: What was she thinking?"-- Bald and Broken: Inside Britney's Shaved Head, Sheila Marikar, ABC.com, Feb. 19

What was she thinking? How about nothing? How about who gives a shit? How's that for an answer, Sheila Marikar of ABC news, you pinhead?

I'm not one of those curmudgeons who freaks out every time that Bradgelina moves the war off the front page of the Post, or Katie Couric decides to usher in a whole new era of network news with photos of the imbecile demon-spawn of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. I understand that we live in a demand-based economy and that there is far more demand for brainless celebrity bullshit than there is, say, for the fine print of the Health and Human Services budget.

But that was before this week. I awoke this morning in New York City to find Britney Spears plastered all over the cover of two gigantic daily newspapers, simply because she cut her hair off over the weekend. To me, this crosses a line. My definition of a news story involves something happening. If nothing happens, then you can't have "news," because nothing has changed since the day before. Britney Spears was an idiot last Thursday, an idiot on Friday, and an idiot on both Saturday and Sunday. She was, shockingly, also an idiot on Monday. It will be news when she stops being an idiot, and we'll know when that happens, because she'll have shot herself for the good of the planet.

Britney Spears cutting her hair off is the least-worthy front page news story in the history of humanity.

Apparently, from now on, every time a jackass sticks a pencil in his own eye, we'll have to wait an extra ten minutes to hear what happened on the battlefield or in Congress or any other place that actually matters.

On the same day that Britney was shaving her head, a guy I know who works in the office of Senator Bernie Sanders sent me an email. He was trying very hard to get news organizations interested in some research his office had done about George Bush's proposed 2008 budget, which was unveiled two weeks ago and received relatively little press, mainly because of the controversy over the Iraq war resolution. All the same, the Bush budget is an amazing document. It would be hard to imagine a document that more clearly articulates the priorities of our current political elite.

Not only does it make many of Bush's tax cuts permanent, but it envisions a complete repeal of the Estate Tax, which mainly affects only those who are in the top two-tenths of the top one percent of the richest people in this country. The proposed savings from the cuts over the next decade are about $442 billion, or just slightly less than the amount of the annual defense budget (minus Iraq war expenses). But what's interesting about these cuts are how Bush plans to pay for them.
Sanders's office came up with some interesting numbers here. If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.

Or how about this: if the Estate Tax goes, the heirs to the Mars candy corporation -- some of the world's evilest scumbags, incidentally, routinely ripped by human rights organizations for trafficking in child labor to work cocoa farms in places like Cote D'Ivoire -- if the estate tax goes, those assholes will receive about $11.7 billion in tax breaks. That's more than three times the amount Bush wants to cut from the VA budget ($3.4 billion) over the same time period.

Some other notable estimate estate tax breaks, versus corresponding cuts:
Cox family (Cox cable TV) receives $9.7 billion tax break while education would get $1.5 billion in cuts
Nordstrom family (Nordstrom dept. stores) receives $826.5 million tax break while Community Service Block Grants would be eliminated, a $630 million cut
Ernest Gallo family (shitty wines) receives a $468.4 million cut while LIHEAP (heating oil to poor) would get a $420 million cut
And so on and so on. Sanders additionally pointed out that the family of former Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, who received a $400 million retirement package, would receive about $164 million in tax breaks.

Compare that to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which Bush proposes be completely eliminated, at a savings of $108 million over ten years. The program sent one bag of groceries per month to 480,000 seniors, mothers and newborn children.

Somehow, to me, that's the worst one on the list. Here you have the former CEO of a company that scored record profits even as it gouged consumers, with gas prices rising more than 70 percent since January of 2001. There is a direct correlation between the avarice of oil company executives and the increased demand for federal aid for heating oil programs like LIHEAP, and yet the federal government wants to reward these same executives for raising prices on the backs of consumers.

Even if you're a traditional, Barry Goldwater conservative, the kinds of budgets that Bush has sent to the hill not only this year but this whole century are the worst-case scenario; they increase spending generally while cutting taxes and social programming. They commit taxpayers to giant subsidies of already Croseus-rich energy corporations, pharmaceutical companies and defense manufacturers while simultaneously cutting taxes on those who most directly benefit from those subsidies. Thus you're not cutting spending -- you're just cutting spending on people who actually need the money. (According to the Washington Times, which in a supremely ironic twist of fate did one of the better analyses of the budget, spending will be 1.6 percent of GDP higher in the 2008 budget than in was in 2000, while revenues will be 2.6 percent of GDP lower). This is something different from traditional conservatism and something different from big-government liberalism; this is a new kind of politics that transforms the state into a huge, ever-expanding instrument for converting private savings into corporate profit.

That's not only bad government, it's bad capitalism. It makes legalized bribery and political connections more important factors than performance and competition in the corporate marketplace. Beyond that, it's just plain fucking offensive to ordinary people. It's one thing to complain about paying taxes when those taxes are buying a bag of groceries once a month for some struggling single mom in eastern Kentucky. But when your taxes are buying a yacht for some asshole who hires African eight year-olds to pick cocoa beans for two cents an hour ... I sure don't remember reading an excuse for that anywhere in the Federalist Papers.

I also don't remember reading much about this year's budget. It was a story for about half a minute when it came out two weeks ago. It barely made TV newscasts, and even when it did, only the broad strokes made it on air. There was some fuss about the Alternative Minimum Tax and a mild uproar over the fact that the 2008 budget failed to account for estimates of the costs for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But overall, the budget was a non-starter as a news story. As it does every year, it takes a back seat to hot-button issues like gay marriage, the latest election scandal, etc. Already, the 2008 election presidential campaign has gotten far more ink than the 2008 budget. As entertainment, bullshit politics always triumphs over real politics.

Here's the thing about the system of news coverage we have today. If the Walton family, or Lee Raymond, or the heirs to the Mars fortune actually needed the news media to work better than it does now, believe me, it would work better. But they have no such need, because the system is working just fine for them as is. The people it's failing are the rest of us, and most of the rest of us, apparently, would rather sniff Anna Nicole Smith's corpse or watch Britney Spears hump a fire hydrant than find out what our tax dollars are actually paying for.

Shit, when you think about it that way, why not steal from us? People that dumb don't deserve to have money.

Matt Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mea Crappa

I know. I suck lately with the blogging thing. Part of it is monetary. Mediavillage.com actually pays me real money to watch TV shows and blog my bitchy snark about them, which has to be the best, easiest and most ridiculously rewarding gig I've ever had. Last week the assignment was to watch all the TV shows I could find on the Internet and then write about how good or totally shit-on-a-stick the network websites are. Good: CBS Innertube. S-o-a-s: MTV Overdrive. (I tried to make links to those, but this El Sucko new Google version of Blogger won't let me. Google Blogger, why dost thou defy me!)

Anywhichways, I was up till 2 and 3 in the a.m. all last week watching Indian music videos from Swedish TV and the weather reports from Japan. And top models bitching and bulimisizing in Australia and breaking news in Canada.

When I was a kid I used to dream of getting paid to watch TV. And now I am. So there's your lesson. Live your dreams, kids. I didn't have to read The Secret to get mine. I had to watch buttloads of television. It's like getting paid to eat in fancy restaurants or go to musicals. Oh, wait. I do that.

If you're in Dallas, go see "Fences" at Dallas Theater Center. It's the best three hours of live theater this city has hosted in about 10 years. You can't beat an August Wilson play for epic family tragedy. The actors (cast out of NYC) are phenomenal. The lead is very James Earl Jones-plus-Danny-Glover. The actor playing the son is hot.

Since we're all on spring break, I'll make this short. It's a great week to catch up on "American Idol" (as my friend AJ said tonight, Sanjaya is so gay he's doubled back into straight), "ANTM," "Real Housewives of Orange County," "Two-a-Days" and all the other series that have redefined "reality" for all of us.

Oh, one more thing, while I'm typing TV. Saw my first-ever actual celebrity at Celebrity Bakery in Highland Park. Angie Harmon, late of "Law & Order" and currently wife of Jason Sehorn and mom of two babies. She's frickin' gorgeous, even in yoga pants and no makeup. She bought a lot of $2.50 iced cookies, left in her Mercedes and then returned 20 minutes later, box of cookies in hand, to go back in the bakery and straighten something out. She smiled at us. Star-gawking at Angie? Guilty as charged.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sisterhood by the pound

More here about the fallout from the great Depauw U. Delta Zeta sorority purge.

"There's no one left in that house bigger than a size 10," says Joanna Kieschnick, who left of her own accord.

Good for you, Joanna Kieschnick! We who dress in double digits salute you!