Friday, August 14, 2009

The Party of Love, Making Its Voice Heard

Looks like the American Right has apparently decided to turn itself into exactly the kind of angry, strident, hysterically paranoid fringe that they once accused the Left of being.

Billy Mays Won't Be Selling Health Insurance Any More. Does This Seem Right To You?

iCan pulls Billy Mays commercial:

TMZ reports that "Today (Aug. 13) is the last day you'll be seeing the late, great Billy Mays endorse health insurance -- the company behind one of the legendary pitchman's most recent commercials has officially pulled the spot off the air. . . For the record, the company did get the OK from the family to continue running Billy's ad -- and Billy's son also made the following point on his Twitter page, "When actors die, their movies continue to play, right?"

But here's the problem: Would a company selling a health insurance product really want it's pitchman to be a guy who recently died at the age of 50, with the autopsy report suggesting that cocaine was a factor? That's the problem.

Well, shoot. I'm going to miss calling out "Dead Man Yelling!" every time a Mays ad comes on the air.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Party of Love Returns

Man Holding 'Death to Obama' Sign Investigated by Secret Service
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (Aug. 13) -- The Secret Service is investigating a man who authorities said held a sign reading "Death to Obama" outside a town hall meeting on health-care reform in western Maryland.
The sign also read, "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids," referring to the first name of President Barack Obama's wife, said Washington County Sheriff's Capt. Peter Lazich.

But don't you see? it's okay to hold a sign calling for the murder of not only the President, but his wife and kids, because SOMEONE MADE A JOKE ABOUT BRISTOL PALIN!

Anyone remember any protester from ACORN or Code Pink or any allegedly "leftist" group during the Bush Administration holding up signs saying "Death to Laura and the Twins?" Anyone recall any "Death to Cindy and Megan McCain" signs?

Anyone? Anyone?

Vaya Con Dios

Guitar legend Les Paul dies at age 94

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Les Paul, the guitarist and inventor who changed the course of music with the electric guitar and multitrack recording and had a string of hits, many with wife Mary Ford, died on Thursday. He was 94.

According to Gibson Guitar, Paul died of complications from pneumonia at White Plains Hospital. His family and friends were by his side.

There's some argument over who actually "invented" the electric guitar; Leo Fender and, of all people, Merle Travis have also claimed credit. But I think it's safe to say that without Les Paul's inventive genius, we would not have Rock and Roll, at least not rock as we know it.

Thanks, Les. R.I.P.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Next Season on "Law and Order"

Brazil TV Host Wallace Souza in Murder Probe
SAO PAULO, Brazil (Aug. 11) - In one murder after another, the "Canal Livre" crime TV show had an uncanny knack for being first on the scene, gathering graphic footage of the victim.
Too uncanny, say police, who are investigating the show's host, state legislator Wallace Souza, on suspicion of commissioning at least five of the murders to boost his ratings and prove his claim that Brazil's Amazon region is awash in violent crime. Police also have accused Souza of drug trafficking...

The killings of competing drug traffickers... "appear to have been committed to get rid of his rivals and increase the audience of the TV show."

Of course, for all I know this may have already BEEN an episode of Law and Order...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sarah Palin Is Lying

Former Governor Palin:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

FACT CHECK No death panel in health care bill:
Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes. Here are some questions and answers on the controversy:

Q: Does the health care legislation bill promote "mercy killing," or euthanasia?

A: No.

More at the link.

Let us repeat: there is nothing whatsoever in this bill or in any health care bill currently being considered that can even be interpreted to create any sort of "death panel" or any mechanism that assesses a person's "level of productivity in society" to determine if they get medical care.

When people talk about the current political climate, they often bemoan the lack of "civility" in discourse,. In fact, Governor Palin herself, after her outrageous falsehood, has called for more "civility" in the health care debate.

But con artists like Caribou Barbie exploit good people's natural reluctance to call a lie a lie in order to run their con game. They know that nice people hate to go up to someone, even someone telling the most egregious lie, and go "you know what? You're lying." They depend on it.

Well, I'm not a nice person. And I'll come right out and say it:

Sarah Palin is lying. She is lying to try to scare people away from health care reform. She is lying becuase, if she told the actual truth about health care reform, she knows people would probably support it. She cannot win the debate with the truth, so she lies. She lies shamelessly and in such a way as to insult the intelligence of Americans. And, after moaning and whining about people talking about her family, she holds up her Down's syndrome baby like a bloody shirt because she thinks it'll make people all teary eyed and more reluctant to call her on her bullshit.

This is such a transparent lie that it shows her utter contempt for her supporters. She's treating you like rubes. Like marks. Like sheep who can be herded into the shearing pen and fleeced at leisure. She thinks you're all too stupid to question her.

And this is the person being touted as the GOP's next Presidential candidate? She is despicable.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Rise of the Robots

Latest Newspaper Column:

There are lots of things these days for us to be worried about: the economy, the environment, the Plague Formerly Known as Swine Flu, whether Paula Abdul leaving "American Idol" means she'll have more time to inflict herself on us via other media -- the list goes on and on. So I thought I'd give you one more thing to lose sleep over.

I'm talking, of course, about robots.

I've been seeing a lot lately about great leaps forward in robotics. Maybe I've read too many books or seen too many cheesy movies, but the things I see when science fact catches up with science fiction tend to fill me with dread. And since I love to share, I'd like to share some of that dread with you.

Some of the advances come from people studying the nature of intelligence by attempting to create AI (artificial intelligence). And let me tell you, that research has resulted in one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen on a TV or computer monitor: the robot baby.

The CB2, developed in Japan, is a little over 3 feet tall, and has "optical, auditory and tactile sensors." It has 51 compressed-air-driven "actuators" inside its body that help it move. It also has gray skin and big eyes, and it reacts to its environment by blinking and altering its facial expressions. It coos. It tries to cuddle. It is creepy beyond my ability to describe.

The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has spurred an interest in (and lots of funding for) machines that can go in harm's way and thus save humans from having to do the same. An excellent idea, to be sure. But no one yet has suggested strapping guns on a robot and sending it off after the bad guys, Terminator style. The key word there is "yet."

One military-funded robot project is called "Big Dog." It's a four-legged hauler designed to carry gear and supplies over terrain that's too rough for wheeled vehicles. The hard part, it seems, is getting the legs to sync up right. Well, with the right software and enough computing power, the folks at Boston Dynamics have licked the problem, but the result is unsettling to watch.

Imagine a mechanical mule with no head that moves in a weird, insectlike gait while making a high-pitched buzzing sound like a weed whacker. I think what makes the thing so eerie is that it looks so alive, especially when you watch it do something like struggle to its "feet" after sliding on ice.

Other robotics researchers are turning aside from the idea of bigger 'bots in favor of smaller, faster machines that can divide jobs like reconnaissance or searching a building for terrorists among a large number of smaller, cheaper, expendable units. I'm talking about a swarm. A swarm of tiny robots. And yes, they do look almost exactly like spiders. Freaking out yet?

Sorry, folks, but you ain't heard nothing yet. Because they're working on a robot right now that can forage for its own fuel. And that fuel could be -- you. A company called Robotic Technology Inc. is working on an autonomous mechanoid that's "able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling."

How does it manage this? Well, the robot, according to an RTO press release, can "find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically based energy sources)."

Oh, sure, the company assures us that the metal beastie seeks only to "create usable green power from plentiful renewable plant matter." But as any meat-eater knows, there's a lot more bounce to the ounce in protein. Why do you think cows move so slow and wolves move so fast? And then there's the thing's name: The Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot, or, EATR for short.

So, put it all together and think about this: swarms of buzzing tiny robot babies that feed on organic material.

Pleasant dreams ...