Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Man and His Pizza

While Pennsylvanians still bicker over gay marriage, other parts of the country are already moving on:

 Washington Permits Marriage Between Man and Pizza 

Olympia, WA | Oct 4, 2013

 For years, Rick Santorum has warned that this day would come. His opponents called him crazy, some even called him a bigot, but yesterday's ruling from the Washington State Supreme Court has silenced their jeers. That's because sometime early next month Washington will become the first state to officially recognize a marriage between a man and a pizza.

In a controversial ruling on Friday, the Washington Supreme Court has declared that the state does not have an over-riding interest in preventing the marriage of Walla Walla resident James M. Harrison to his favorite Italian pie. While many are hailing the landmark decision as a watershed moment for human and pizza rights, Christian groups from across the country have called the ruling "outrageous" and "insulting."

"The State has failed to prove the necessity of placing limitations on the bonds of human affection, whether those bonds be between a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a man and a pizza," wrote Chief Justice Gaston Moore, who authored the majority opinion. "The State's outdated maritial laws have violated Mr. Harrison's 14th Amendment rights to equal protection, as well as his God-given rights to love who, and what, he chooses." Harrison reports that he plans to wed his beloved pizza in a civil ceremony sometime next week.

Groups like the North American Man-Food Love Association (NAMFLA) have called the ruling an historic step forward in the struggle for recognition of human-food couples. However, several Christian groups have decried the ruling. Rev. Bill Wigglestaff of the group Christians Under the New Testament released a statement on Friday condemning the decision and warning that this new development will undoubtedly bring the down the wrath of the almighty. "The Lord is not mocked," said Rev. Wigglestaff, "but he is sorely pissed off."

In the wider population, views are equally mixed. A recent poll showed that 52% of Americans support civil unions between people and food, 46% are opposed, and 2% can't believe someone's actually getting paid to ask them this sh*t.

On Friday, Mr. Harrison expressed his gratitude to Judge Moore and his joy at finally being able to recieve official recognition for the years-long relationship he has enjoyed with one very special pizza. "Before this ruling, if I had to go to the hospital for some reason, my delivery driver wasn't allowed to come see me. Now, they'll be allowed to escort my beloved pie into my room. It may not seem like much, but for someone like me it's a real big deal ."

 "I only see my parents a couple times a year, but I see [delivery drivers] Chuck and Wanda practically every day," Harrison added, "they're as much a part of my family as anybody."

Outside the courthouse, protestors both for and against made their feelings known.

"We need more love in this world," said Sharon Reese, one of the pro-human-food-marriage activists, "and when someone finds it we shouldn't judge them for it or tell them it's wrong. If someone wants to have intimate relations with a food product in the privacy of their own home, I say more power to them."

Others were not so sanguine. "Mark my words, the Lord will make us pay for this," said one anti-marriage protestor. "Marriage was intended to be between man and woman, not man and pizza. What's next, letting someone get married to their favorite TV show?" Another protestor added, "The bible is very clear; it says if a man lies with a falafel as with a woman, he shall be stoned to death. God obviously does not approve of man-on-food relationships. No good will come of this."

God could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Double Dose of Absurdity from the Washington Post and Media Matters

On August 23rd, the Washington Post published a piece on the Politics section of their website by David Fahrenthold that supposedly examines the size of the US Government.  Absurdly, Fahrenthold makes the following claim:
...the government has about 4.1 million employees today, military and civilian. That’s more than the populations of 24 states.
Back in 2010, it had 4.3 million employees. More than the populations of 24 states.
Notice that  Fahrenthold includes a link to Census data, which one might expect to support his claim that the USG is employing as many people as live in nearly half of all US states.  However, if one does even a little fact-checking, it quickly becomes obvious that Fahrenthold's claim is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds.

Some cursory fact-checking shows that, according to 2010 US Census data, the seven least populous states had a combined population of over 5.8 million.  That's right, 1.5 million more people live in just our seven smallest states than Fahrenthold is claiming live in 24 states.

The Post's bizarre and facially ridiculous claims are absurd enough, but then the media watchdog website Media Matters for America went and made things worse by calling Fahrenthold's claims "misleading statistics."  Rather than pointing out that Fahrenthold is simply lying, Media Matters' Ari Rabin-Havt instead decided to quibble with his choice of an example.  Apparently thinking that he is making some kind of point, Rabin-Havt points out that 4.1 million people is
...less than half the audience that viewed America's Got Talent last week.
The absurd fact is that both the Washington Post and Media Matters let Fahrenthold's claim pass without questioning the basic math involved, despite the fact that the original article provides a link to Census data that disproves his claim.  

[Update: The Washington Post's fact checker is, as I suspected, on vacation.]

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Discovers Widely Available Research

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, has finally seen the light on medical marijuana.  In an article published today on, the good doctor goes all mea culpa and renounces his former anti-pot position, while also managing to make himself look like a complete schlemiel. 

To wit, the excuse Dr. Gupta gives for his former prohibitionist stance is that he took the government's word for it when they said pot was evil.  Seriously.  I'm not making that up.  Here is the good doctor, in his own words:
I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have "no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse."
Did this guy just fall off the turnip truck or what?

Back in 2009, with medical marijuana initiatives gaining ground in many states, Gupta wrote an article in TIME magazine titled "Why I would Vote No on Pot."  How did this renowned neurosurgeon and journalist come to the determination that pot has no medicinal use and shouldn't be legalized, even a little bit?  He just assumed that the DEA had some quality know...somewhere.

Meanwhile, NORML's (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) website has, for quite some time, had an entire page dedicated to actual scientific research into the medicinal benefits of marijuana (as well as the risks).  But the chief medical correspondent for one of our major news outlets couldn't be bothered to investigate the claims of MM proponents.  No, that's something an actual journalist would do. 

Now, Dr. Gupta has decided to actually research the issue, rather than just taking the DEA's word for it and he's found (surprise, surprise) that the DEA is full of shit.  While it is commendable that Dr. Gupta has admitted his mistake in this instance, one has to wonder how many other of the doctor's opinions are based on his "surely, they must have quality reasoning" line of thought.  At least CNN can rest assured that Gupta isn't running up his expense account doing a bunch of needless fact-checking.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Obama Denies Knowledge of Federal Law

A few days ago, Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report wrote a scathing review of President Obama's response to the Zimmerman acquittal (which you should go read in full right now).  I hadn't listened to Obama's speech yet, and so was unaware of the breathtakingly absurd claims made therein.  Here is Mr. Ford's summary: 

Beginning his performance with “Once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works,” and an endorsement of the propriety of the trial, Obama half-mumbled 2,100 words designed to indicate that he is aware of “a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws” – and then almost immediately washed his hands of the matter with the caveat: “The criminal code and law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.”

 Astounding, isn't it?  The President of the United States, the head of the Federal government, is claiming that the Feds don't do criminal law enforcement!  Does Mr. Obama think, perhaps, that his audience will have forgotten about such institutions as the Department of Justice and the FBI?  While it is indeed true that most criminal law enforcement is done at the local level, to claim that it is simply not done by the Feds ("traditionally," whatever that means) is simply ludicrous.

But perhaps I am being too hard on the President, perhaps there is simply no Federal criminal statute under which Zimmerman could be prosecuted.  Actually, there is.  And one must assume that Mr. Obama is aware of it, since he signed a portion of it into law only four years ago.

The law is 18 U.S.C. § 245, commonly known as the Civil Rights act of 1968.  The act permits federal prosecution of anyone who "willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person's race, color, religion or national origin"  when they are engaged in any "protected" activity (like attending school or voting, for instance).  In 2009, President Obama signed off on an expansion of the Civil Rights Act to include protections based on gender, disability, sexual identity and gender expression, as well as removing the requirement that the victim be engaging in protected activity.  Thanks to Obama, Trayvon was covered by the Civil Rights Act even while walking back from the convenience store. (For the record, that law is known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and is one of the few good things to come out of the National Defence Authorization Act of 2010)

I believe, along with many other people, that the murder of Trayvon Martin would never have happened if Trayvon had been white.  If Zimmerman followed and then confronted Trayvon even in part because of his skin color, he could be prosecuted under federal hate-crimes statutes

Not sure if Trayvon's murder qualifies as a hate crime?  Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist said that "bias-motivated crimes are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest."  The victims in Trayvon's murder include not only Martin himself, but also his parents, friends, siblings and community.  I think it's safe to say that they have incurred "distinct emotional harm" as a result of Zimmerman's actions; and those actions have certainly led to "community unrest" all across the country.  So while one may debate how much racism was involved in Zimmerman's actions (as opposed to undifferentiated stupidity), the results of his actions bear all the hallmarks of a hate-crime.

The truth is that while Mr. Obama claims (with no hint of shame) that the federal government simply doesn't do criminal law enforcement, the President could easily have directed Attorney General Holder to charge Zimmerman under federal hate-crime statutes.  The truth is that the President doesn't particularly care about endemic racism in our society and our justice system, and is definitely not concerned enough to try to do anything about it.  The truth is, as Glen Ford's article proclaims, Obama supports the racial surveillance that killed Trayvon.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Obama Administration Thinks Egypt is a "Stabalizing Force"

Bloomberg, yesterday, ran an article with the headline Egyptian Crackdown on Mursi Supporters Leaves Dozens Dead.  Buried at the end of the article is this lovely bit of absurdity:

President Barack Obama’s administration, in a move that may protect U.S. aid to Egypt, has concluded that it doesn’t have to make a formal determination on whether Mursi’s ouster was a coup, a State Department official said.

Making such a determination, which potentially would have required cutting off aid, wouldn’t be in the U.S. national interest, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said yesterday. Egypt is a stabilizing force in the region, and it’s to the U.S.’s advantage to continue providing aid, she said. [emphasis added]
We'll get to that bit about whether or not there was a coup in a moment, but first take a moment to savour the supreme absurdity of claiming that Egypt is a stabilizing force.  Coming at the end of an article documenting the state of chaos in Egypt (with violent protests and counter-protests going on across the country, besides the military and police violence highlighted in the headline) that claim can only strike the reader as bizarre. 

What Ms. Psaki is actually trying to say (though political correctness restrains her) is that the U.S. wants to make sure that it maintains a strong military presence in the country (and the region), which it does by funding the Egyptian military.  Which is why Obama directed the State Department to figure out a way to keep that funding flowing, despite the fact of a coup having taken place which, legally, should cause all aid to be suspended.  Or, as Bloomberg puts it:
Obama had asked U.S. agencies on July 3 to review whether Mursi’s removal required halting about $1.5 billion in U.S. aid, of which $1.3 billion is military assistance. A U.S. law requires the denial of “any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup d’etat or decree,” or a coup “in which the military plays a decisive role.”

“Our national security interests influence our policy as it relates to aid with Egypt,” Psaki told reporters at a State Department briefing. “We reviewed the legal obligations and determined we did not need to make a determination one way or the other.”
One might point out that a year ago, Mr. Obama clearly recognized the legitimate character of the Mursi government.  As the Washington Times reported at the time:
The White House congratulated Islamist candidate Mohammed Morsi on his election as Egypt’s first freely elected president, calling it a milestone in the country’s transition to democracy.
 This would seem to indicate that Mr. Mursi was indeed a "duly elected head of government" who has been "deposed by a military coup d'etat."  According to U.S. law, all aid to the country should now cease.  But as pointed out above, Mr. Obama doesn't want to lose his army buddies in the Middle East, so some way had to be found to get around U.S. law. 

So, rather than come to the obvious conclusion that a coup had taken place, the State Dept. discovered that, according to the letter of the law, they could just ignore reality by not declaring the takeover a coup...but not declaring it not-a-coup either.  How clever!  And how incredibly see-thru.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Administration Opposes Amash Amendment for the Same Reasons the Amash Amendment Opposes the NSA

In a stunning display of unintentional irony, the Obama Administration released a statement two days ago in opposition to the Amash Amendment (limiting the NSA's domestic spying abilities) which accuses the amendment's backers of the exact same things that are so disconcerting about the NSA's surveillance program.  Here is what the Administration had to say about the amendment:

This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.

Recall that the NSA's approach has been to sweep up all possible information (blunt), using secret rulings from a secret court to do so (not open or informed); which court has been characterized by insiders as little more than a rubber stamp factory (not deliberative).

Unlike the NSA's programs, the Amash Amendment was debated and voted on in public, but that didn't stop the Obama Administration from running with this bit of absurdity.

Fortunately, the amendment went down by an incredibly slim margin, which means we'll likely get another chance to have an open and informed deliberative process regarding just how much power we want our "intelligence" agencies to have.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Obama brags about $65 payouts

Near the end of a recent article in the Financial Times, entitled Treasury secretary rebuffs finance reform critics in Congress, I came across this lovely bit of absurdity:
In a White House ceremony on Wednesday, Mr Obama said the CFPB had already managed to get back more than $400m in refunds from “unscrupulous lenders” for “6m Americans”.
Alright children, everybody take out your calculator.  400,000,000 divided by 6,000,000 is what?  That's right $66.67 !

What's that you say?  Your lender misled you into signing a loan you couldn't afford, which caused you to loose your house and sent you into bankruptcy?  Don't worry, Uncle Sam is gonna give you enough money fill-up your gas least halfway!

(Of course, some people may have received more than the average amount...but that only means others got less.  Go Team Obama!)