Michele Bachmann is a Froot Loop Looney Toon

I’ve done a good job lately of ignoring Sarah Palin, in part because a new oblivious, insane Tea Party tool of Americans for Prosperity has come on the scene. Her name is Michele Bachmann, and she’s fascinating. Positively crazy.

The Positive

First, I need to give the devil her due. She and her husband have been foster parents to 23 children. I will assume they were kind parents, although maybe they taught those kids some weird things. Whatever; that’s a noble thing to do. Lots of kids need loving homes, so I recognize her good work there.

She once opposed a “School to Work” program because it treated kids like “trainees“. I’m also opposed to the business model of education. She and I probably oppose this sort of thing for very different reasons, but strange bedfellows and all that.

She opposed the 2007 surge in Iraq. (That surge may have resulted in fewer deaths in Iraq, but I was opposed to it too.) And she opposed the Wall Street bailout. Again: different reasons, I’m sure, but I’ll give it up whenever the venn diagram overlaps.

Teh Crazy

Okay, let’s get to the fun stuff. In case you haven’t been paying attention:

  • Despite her constant complaining about government programs, her family farm received over $250,000 in 10 years.
  • In 1991 she fought against giving money to a local hospital for a morgue, because they perform abortions.
  • She helped open a charter school in 1993 that taught creationism and banned the movie Aladdin because it supposedly teaches paganism.
  • She has worked for years to create a constitutional amendment making same-sex marriage illegal. Lots of other people endorse this too, but that doesn’t make it any less insane.
  • She voted against a bill in 2007 that increased Pell Grants and lowered student loan interest rates.
  • She introduced the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act. I swear to Jebus I’m not making this up.
  • She has called for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Again, she’s not alone, but it’s still crazy. Same with intelligent design and evolution as “unproven theory”.
  • She believe global warming is “voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax”.
  • She calls carbon dioxide “a harmless gas”. To be fair, in small enough amounts, the same can be said of Zyklon B.
  • She insisted that media outlets try to find members of Congress who are “anti-American”. (This helped convince Colin Powell to vote Democrat in 2008.)
  • She soon took back that statement, and then immediately accused Obama of endorsing socialism.
  • She refused to take part in the 2010 census.”I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home,” she said. “We won’t be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.”
  • She said of her opposition to cap-and-trade policies: “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue”.
  • She opposes AmeriCorps because she believes it will lead to “re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums”.
  • Her son, meanwhile, volunteered for Teach for America (an AmeriCorps program).
  • She made up crazy numbers about Obama’s 2010 trip to Asia.
  • She considers “ObamaCare” and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law extreme far-left bills, despite the fact that both of them are just tiny little baby steps in the right direction.
  • She said Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty’s tax-free zones were based on Marxist principles.
  • She wants to abolish Social Security and Medicare.
  • She’s a big fan of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministry.

And then there’s the following seventeen-second YouTube video. Maybe she didn’t put it up herself, but I expect she authorized it. (“People won’t sit still for a three-minute discussion of the issue. Just put up seventeen seconds’ worth. It’s like the Twitter of YouTube.”)


Today I’m listening to: Groove Salad! Donate!

I Don’t Understand Wall Street

I’ve been casually (but eagerly) studying the US economic system for over ten years now. In 1999 I convinced a friend to take my place in Seattle for the corner-turning anti-WTO protests (since I couldn’t make it). I’m reading Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail and I’m waiting to get a book copy of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Report.

But sometimes I see a story and I just feel baffled. Or at least confuzzled and sad. Take this story from last month: Profit Drop Shakes Up Goldman Sachs. Oh, man. Sounds like bad news, right?

But look at what the article actually says:

Goldman Sachs shares fell 2% Wednesday morning after the investment bank reported a 53% drop in profits in the fourth quarter to $2.39 billon.

Goldman turned a profit during the quarter in question — a healthy profit, by most normal peoples’ standards. (Small business owners! If you made 2.3 billion dollars in three months, wouldn’t you say that was pretty good?) But it’s less than Jim Cramer expected them to make, so it’s time to hide the razor blades over at Forbes! (And every other financial-sector outlet.)

This really points to the fundamental incongruity in our economic system: It’s not about companies being competitive. It’s not about capitalism simply requiring some sort of profit margin. In the USA right now, it’s all about feeding huge trucks full of cash into the gaping mouths of investors and financiers. And all public policy must also suit this goal.

Meanwhile the rest of us work overtime and watch our benefits get slashed.

I Don’t Understand Sarah Palin™

That’s not a typo, people — she’s trademarking her name. Apparently it’s a pretty common thing for celebrities to do, but it’s still weird to me. We’d better use it as much as possible before it’s illegal! Sarah Palin Sarah Palin Sarah Palin!

My Ears Don’t Understand This Ring Tone

My students played for me the mosquito ringtone. It’s really creepy! Try it for yourself and tell me you’re not worried about what this could mean. Once they learn how to talk at that frequency, we’re done. (Although an entire album at that frequency would be a cool idea. Maybe a new take on John Cage?)

Too bad Sarah Palin wouldn’t be able to hear it.

My Brain Doesn’t Understand the Concept of Sleeping In

I woke up this morning at 4:00 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. I told myself I was going to take a nap, but then I started cleaning out my big To Do file on my desk and when I looked up it was 5:00 PM. I’m not sleepy, but I expect I’ll have a headache or just be run-down tomorrow. Fun!

I bet Sarah Palin gets plenty of sleep every night.

The Tea Party < The Muslim Brotherhood (At Least According to the Orthodoxy of Most Pundits I’ve Heard Lately)

Every story I hear these days about Egypt features some self-important white guy wetting his pants about how Egypt is destined to become the next Iran, and anyone who wants to be a part of the next Egyptian government needs to promise to be non-violent. (For the record, The Muslim Brotherhood has on its website a statement of principles which affirms “the right to public gatherings, the invitation to them, and participation in them, all within the limitations of public of public safety, so long as the usage of violence or arms or the threat of doing so is not included.”)

Can you imagine if we applied the same stringent requirements on political organizations in the US? Imagine if pundits went on NPR and FoxNews saying that Tea Party leaders will have to commit themselves to nonviolent action if they want to be a part of the US government. Sarah Palin would strangle a moose when she heard the news!


Speaking of Egypt: Today we have two TimeWasters™, both courtesy of Davey D’s superb hip-hop politics blog. First up is from Moroccan rapper MasterMimz: “Back Down Mubarak”

And we’ve also got one from dead prez’s M1, with Jasiri X (who also did “What if the Tea Party Were Black?“): “We All Shall Be Free”. Yay, Egyptian democracy!

Lyrics here and here.

Today I’m listening to: The BGM Show! (They should do an episode with music about Sarah Palin.)

Sarah Palin Sarah Palin.

Money, Motorcars, and McDermott

Tell me this isn’t the coolest custom license plate you’ve ever seen. Go on — tell me. LIAR! You can read all about it — and how The Man told the guy he couldn’t use it — at Jalopnik.

I’ve been saving bunches of links and stuff recently, and now it’s time to let it all out. So strap yourselves in, people!

Reagan and Palin and Politics

I’m severely guilty of giving Palin more attention than she deserves, and I really am  trying to cut down. But this whole thing in Arizona.. First of all, about her “blood libel” video — read this breakdown by Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post. Also, why am I apparently the only one who is totally weirded out by her constant frowny-face lip-clamp shtick every five seconds?

As Kessler notes, her quote from Reagan was bizarre at best, since he was arguing against social programs trying to cut down on poverty and crime that tends to rise with it. And speaking of Reagan, check out Frank Rich on some things about Reagan’s administration that Obama should remember, now that he’s read the biography.

Reagan made no promise whatsoever of a balanced budget in the document that codified Reaganomics, his White House’s 281-page message to Congress in February 1981. The historian Gil Troy has calculated that spending on entitlement programs more than doubled on Reagan’s watch. America slid into debtor-nation status, and Americans “went from owing 16 cents for every dollar in national income in 1981” to owing 44 cents per dollar in 1988.

I keep hearing about how Tea Partiers will get all furious when they realize that their conservative candidates don’t deliver on reducing the defecit or curtailing the debt. But I expect that they will give them a pass — as they did for Reagan and Bush and Bush Jr — because Republicans give them the kind of patronizing ideologically-correct speeches they want to hear. So it doesn’t matter what they actually do.

Tim Robbins totally needs to re-make Bob Roberts. Maybe a sequel, about Bob’s son?

Loughner and McDermott

Obviously I don’t have much to say about the shooting in Arizona that hasn’t been said already, except for two things. First of all, look at the man’s rap sheet. “Mr. Loughner and a member of his family had at least nine contacts with law enforcement between 1994 and 2010.” Now you know that if he were a black man, then when he got stopped on the day of the attack, the police would have called in a SWAT team and searched every inch of his car. Also: Hurray for Wal-Mart! (Where he bought his glock ammo.)

Number two: It may be unfair to connect Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck to Loughner’s actions. But what about Charles Turner Habermann? You’ve never heard of him, have you? He’s the one who threatened to kill US Representative Jim McDermott.

“You let that [deleted] [deleted] [deleted] know, that if he ever [deleted] around with my money, ever the [deleted] again, I’ll [deleted] kill him, okay,” Habermann said, according to a sworn FBI affidavit on file in federal court. […] “I’ll round them up,” he added. “I’ll kill them. I’ll kill his friends, I’ll kill his family, I will kill everybody he [deleted] knows.

The article notes: ‘He said Democratic members of Congress were “stealing” money from “the wealthy” and giving it away to “losers.”’ Now tell me this guy hasn’t been influenced by Beck and Palin constantly demonizing taxes and government programs that help children in poverty. Go ahead; I’m listening. Is this blood libel, too, Sarah?

And Byron Williams. He wasn’t influenced by Glenn Beck, either, right? Don’t get me wrong — folks on the left need to check themselves for hyperbole and broad-brushing, too. We need to avoid demonizing our ideological opponents, just like everyone else. But the evidence does not suggest parity, or anything close to it. Show me the Rachel Maddow viewers who are making death threats to John Boehner or The Cato Institute.

Also: Read this.


Did you know John Lennon owned a Ferrari?

He owned the Ferrari for only a few months before selling it. By that time, he had already purchased a Rolls-Royce limousine which he had painted in a psychedelic color scheme. He also owned a Mini Cooper at the time.

Today’s music stars get money for cars (and other stuff) by turning their Twitter accounts over to corporate ads! I swear I’m not making this up.

In hawking the Toyota Sienna, rapper Snoop Dogg tweeted that “these homies know the deal” […] “I can see great upside and great risks for a brand putting their message on Twitter,” says Debbie DeGabrielle, chief marketing officer of Visible Technologies […] “But if you’re Toyota, will Snoop Dogg talking about 22-inch wheels drive away your women buyers?”

Yes, of course. That’s the concern — driving away women buyers. Not the pathetic and soul-crushing sadness that comes from a supposedly “keepin’ it real” rap star like Snoop selling his soul for a Toyota minivan. (Also: Did you get the clever “drive away” double-entendre there? See what they did?)

Hey, look! The Birthday Dog turned two years old.

And now for something completely different: It turns out US schools aren’t so bad after all.

My research team at Duke looked in depth at the engineering education of China and India. We documented that these countries now graduate four to seven times as many engineers as does the U.S. The quality of these engineers, however, is so poor that most are not fit to work as engineers; their system of rote learning handicaps those who do get jobs, so it takes two to three years for them to achieve the same productivity as fresh American graduates.

As for standardized tests like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to compare the US with other countries?

As well, the tests compare select populations of small countries such as Singapore and Finland, which each have about 5 million people, with the U.S., which has 310 million. These countries achieve the top rankings on the PISA list. Compare these countries to similar-sized U.S. states, however, and you find that some of those states, including Massachusetts (population 6.5 million), produce the top students.

Next item: IceCube explained!

From the Stop Saying This file: I’m really sick of people using the word “random” when they mean to say “assorted” or “unrelated”. Random means random, dammit!

And I’m also ready for people to stop using tired — and depressing — clichés like “Livin’ the dream!” and “Another day in paradise!” when I ask them how they’re doing. If your life isn’t paradise, or you’re not living the life of your dreams, then change your life. (Funny how I get annoyed looks and scornful responses when I use negative hyperbole to suggest what we need to improve about the world, but it’s become standard for people to use positive hyperbole to suggest that their lives aren’t satisfying enough.)

Oh yeah! My article on Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei is Today’s Featured Article on Wikipedia. Yay!

Go fans! Did you geek out like me and wet your pants when a goban appeared in the new Tron movie? Did you say “Oooo, I wanna study that board position so I can see how they’re playing? Well, here it is, courtesy of the American Go Association.

And finally: Did you enjoy Into the Wild (the book or the movie or both), as I did? Then perhaps you will enjoy these Charlie Rose interviews with Jon Krakauer and Emile Hirsch and Sean Penn and Eddie Vedder.


Did you know that Dr. King praised Nichelle Nichols for her Star Trek character Uhura, saying it was the only positive, intelligent portrayal of an African-American on TV at the time? And that it was the only show he would let his kids stay up to watch? And that her name comes from the Swahili word for “freedom”? It’s true!

Today I’m listening to: Malcom Kipe!

The New Congress

I’m not sure how this inspired the following comic, but it did.

Reference video #1:

Reference video #2:

Reference video #3:

Action and Alaska

I think as part of her new reality show, Sarah Palin should spend several months alone in Bus #142, along the Stampede Trail. I don’t want her to starve to death, like Chris McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) did in August 1992, but I would like to see her achieve the same anti-materialist and community-minded enlightenment that he reached.

And come on — wouldn’t it really be interesting to see how she does on her own in the real wilderness? Let’s see if she can succeed with the moose where poor Chris failed. (Though I doubt she would bring Jack London or Henry David Thoreau to read. She’s probably scribble arcane aphorisms in the margins of Glenn Beck.)


Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough. I go to school, I try to persuade kids that reading is important. (But they know that they can just go to SparkNotes and fake their way through life. Rant for another time.) I know teaching is important, and I hear from many students that I’ve helped them understand stuff better.

Today I was watching (for the 20,000th time) the part in Manufacturing Consent where they highlight the good work of Z Magazine and South End Press and groups like that, and it reminded me of when I used to work on The Final Analysis and — later — Down at New College. I felt like I had a platform where people cared about what I thought, and I could dig into political and social and cultural issues without feeling constrained by state standards or curricular foci or parental blowback.

Sometimes I think I should resuscitate Down. (I even have a super idea for the cover image!) I could give copies to people and hopefully get feedback from folks that don’t read stuff I write online. (Hell, I’m happy if I get any comments here on this blog. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Blah blah moan whinge.) I’d be happy to pay for the printing myself — I’d think of it as an investment into the local political/social conversation. Like those Justified Textworks pamphlets I sometimes print up and hand out. Those are usually well-received.

But then I’m always so tired at the end of the school day. And I’ve got bowling (like it’s some huge burden) and Go Club and the video game website and podcast. And Wikipedia (not that I’ve put in any work there for the last five months) and other stuff. And I think about all the work it would take, and I just say “To hell with it.”

And instead I Photoshop Sarah Palin’s head onto Alexander Supertramp’s body and pray that his spirit won’t be too pissed off. Then I go play video games so I can relax a little and be rested enough to go back into the classroom tomorrow and do it all again.


Dude, it’s just a game.

Today I’m listening to: Machines Don’t Care!