Archive for December, 2009

2009 – The People We Like

Posted by Matt on Thursday, December 31st, 2009

"Oh, Beeyill..."

I like you. Do you like me? Here are Gratuitous World’s favorite people of 2009.  

10. Anna Paquin: Until my Old Lady sat me down to watch HBO’s True Blood, I scoffed at the recent interest in Vampire-related media. After all, I thought we went through that phase in the 90s. Not to mention the 1890s. Paquin’s character is a refreshing female lead, not afraid to stand up for her convictions, or take her top off. Titties!  

9. Dr. Atul Gawande: Gawande’s New Yorker article, The Cost Conundrum, was the best piece I read on America’s broken health care system. While avoiding much of the finger-pointing that makes up the current “debate,” Dr. Gawande’s article addresses many fundamental behaviors in need of correction, including those of doctors, patients, hospitals and insurance companies. While offering no “magic bullets,” he does offer concrete examples of systems such as the Mayo Clinic and Grand Junction, Colorado, where good care and coverage are provided, while costs remain low. Great article.  

a lot going on here?

8. Phish: I was skeptical when one of my favorite bands announced their return after a 5-year absence. Anyone who saw their disastrous final ’04 effort at Coventry knows what I’m talking about. However, a little time off and some sobriety have done the men well. They’re having fun on stage and the audience is returning the favor. Following the band’s tours provided me with much enjoyment over the year. And yes, I did rank the “jam band” Phish between a widely renowned doctor and a Supreme Court Justice.  Please feel free to bring the ridicule.

7. Justice Sonja Sotomayor:  In 2009, I discovered “empathy” was a naughty, naughty word.  And of course we found out “judicial activism” now means any decision in disagreement with Conservative dogma.  We also discovered your sex and ethnic background are really important, unless of course you’re an old white man.  On a related note, if you graduate at the top of your class at 2 Ivy League Institutions, and you’re not a white male, it’s obviously the result of affirmative action.  

While Sotomayor has yet to surprise with her votes on the bench or author any transcendent opinions, she’s on this list for handling her confirmation with class. She had more federal judicial experience than any nominee for the Court in the last 100 years. She was more than qualified, yet had to let bigots like Sen. Jeff Sessions drag her through the mud for weeks.  While I understand the nature of confirmation hearings, I don’t think I’ve seen so many (untrue + unneccessary) personal attacks levied at a SC candidate in my lifetime. That includes you, Justice Thomas.  

Sotomayor handled the entire circus with grace and class – especially for a hot-blooded Latina!  

6. David Rohde: Unless Dick Cheney wants to talk out of his ass about something, America’s mainstream media hasn’t paid much attention to our actual conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan for about 6 years. That’s one reason Rhode’s 5-part NYT series “Held By The Taliban” is so powerful. Rohde spent almost a year in captivity, and this series provides amazing (and much-needed) insight into our enemies, their culture, and the daunting challenges presented to our troops and the region’s civilians. Please read it.  

5. Dr. George Tiller (deceased): ”In 1993, George Tiller was shot in both arms. He did not let this stop him from returning to work and helping women caught in the most difficult of circumstances. He continued in his work despite daily harassment. He continued in his work despite being labeled a “baby killer” no less than 28 times by Bill O’Reilly. He continued despite lies told about him by O’Reilly and others. He continued until an anti-abortion activist entered the church where he was attending worship, and shot George Tiller through the eye at close range.”  

4. David Eggers: Screenplays for Where the Wild Things Are and Away We Go are both laudable, but his book Zeitoun was the true highlight of Eggers’ prolific year.  

3. Stephen T. Colbert:  Stephen did nothing specific, except maintain the most intelligent, creative, and humorous show on television. Suck it, Charlie Rose.  

2. The Ricketts’ Family + Rocky Wirtz: While the Ricketts family has yet to do much, listening to the new Chicago Cubs’ owners talk about their vision for the franchise makes me smile. For decades, the Tribune and Wrigley corporations ran this franchise into the ground. They continue to be a laughingstock, but I sense a bright future ahead – right after they unload Soriano’s contract in 4 years.  

While it’s never easy to lose a father, it was readily apparent what Rocky Wirtz needed to do in order to bring fans back to the Chicago Blackhawks. He first needed his father (“Dollar” Bill) to die so he could take over the team. He then needed to put the games back on tv. Genious! Finally, add the best young team in the NHL and hockey is back in Chicago for the first time since Larmer, Chelios, and Roenick made it happen in the early 90s. Fantastic!

1. The Iranian Opposition: Every year in countries we don’t care about, courageous people put their lives on the line to protest injustice and attempt to effect needed change. Obviously, in places like Myanmar and Sudan, struggles against oppressive regimes are ongoing. Kudos to those who keep fighting.   

   

While we clearly pay a lot of attention to Iran for different reasons, the continued opposition to the election fraud, violence, and overall oppression is truly amazing. While these disillusioned masses don’t represent the entire country, the images have been poignant and their ongoing fight against a misguided and corrupt regime is truly inspirational. 

Hopefully, this is one occasion where America can sit back and watch this unfold organically.  So to those with a warped interpretation of “American exceptionalism” and a selective memory of history(1953) – people like Mike Pence and Joe Lieberman - please shut the fuck up on the matter. Good luck in 2010.  

_____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks to Paul for his assistance.  This decade should be better. Let’s rock out 2009.  

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The Douchenozzles of 2009 – A Retrospective

Posted by Matt on Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

It’s hard to follow-up a year like 2008.  After all, election years like that can bring out the douchenozzle in all of us.  But 2009 has no shortage of people we can’t stand – old friends and new assholes, all about to be ridiculed by some stranger in flannel pajama pants.

20. Rod “Green Balloons” Jetton: This Missouri State Rep. has a familiar M.O.:  Family Values GOP official who publicly chastises gays as sexual deviants and proclaims that consensual gay sex should be illegal. Will this man have his own issues, including a

Your new cellmate wants to play too!

random-ass “safe” word?  Of course.

Detective Bethany McDermott’s affidavit says Jetton went to the woman’s home around 9 p.m. Nov. 15 with two bottles of wine, which he allegedly opened alone in her kitchen. After drinking some of the wine and watching football, the statement said, the victim “began ‘fading’ in and out and remembered losing consciousness several times.

The affidavit says Jetton and the alleged victim agreed on a safe word – “green balloons” – that could be used to stop sexual relations during the evening.

Instead, the affidavit says, Jetton hit her on the face and choked her before engaging in intercourse. Jetton allegedly said, “You should have said ‘green balloons,’ ” before leaving her home the next morning.

Jetton is rightly facing felony charges. So who’s the deviant, asshole?

If you’re in the Jefferson City area and looking to get down with some BDSM,  I’d steer clear of all Missouri GOP politicians.

19. Lance Armstrong: Let me count the ways. There may be no “I” in “team,” but there’s definitely a “lance” in “chemical imbalance.”

18. Jon & Kate Gosselin: These are my girlfriend’s docuhenozzles of the year, and who can blame her? Pay me. Watch me cry. Leave me alone. Pay me. We just want to be left alone. Watch me. Pay me. I don’t want the attention.  Shut the fuck up!

17. Cook County Board President Todd Stroger: I’ve had a lot to say about Mayor Daley, but I need to finish this list and Stroger is the easiest in-state target this side of a former Illinois governor. Pretty much any former governor.

This guy is so in over his head it’s hardly funny anymore.  He’s not even a good liar. And he calls himself a Chicago politician?  For shame.

16. Rumeal Robinson: Random, indeed. You may remember Rumeal as the University of Michigan guard who hit 2 free throws to beat Seton Hall in the 1989 NCAA championship game.  Or you more likely don’t remember him at all. Regardless, check out this story about Rumeal swindling his foster mother out of her house:

Ford, 65, is close to tears when she explains the day when a constable came to her door this past March and handed her an eviction notice — giving her one month to clear her home of her belongings and leave. Back in 2003, Robinson, now 43 years old and living in Florida, allegedly tricked his foster mother into signing over the deed to her own home — on a street named after him — and transferred the property to people unknown to her. They held the home as collateral in a suspected business transaction gone wrong.

In fairness, it is his street.

Ford’s attorney, Dennis Benzan, said he is seeking a civil suit against Robinson. But Benzan said Robinson has other legal troubles to deal with, separate from this case. Last month, the FBI arrested Robinson and charged him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank bribery, false statement to a financial institution and wire fraud.’

Hail to the Douchebag.

 

Nozz

15. Jay Leno: Hey bud, congratulations on not rocking the boat for 20 years.  Let’s celebrate your inability to make people laugh by moving you to prime time.  Maybe some “fake headlines” and a Cameron Diaz interview?  Fantastic.

Weeknights at 9pm on NBC should be reserved for the Law & Order franchise.  For instance,  Law & Order: Maritime; Law & Order: Phil Spector Unit; Law & Order: Jersey Shore; and Law & Order: Tragic Staten Island Ferry Accident…or murder?

14. Max Baucus: This “public servant” has been under my skin the much of the year, truly proving the only ones that can let the dying Republican party back into power are Democrats like Baucus.  The Head of the Senate Finance Committee also happens to be one of the top recipients of health industry cash.  And who was drafting the Health Care Bill? Exactly.  Coincidentally, senior aide Liz Fowler, who reportedly drafted much of the Bill’s actual text, just happened to be Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs for Wellpoint. You know Wellpoint, the insurance company whose stock just hit a 52-week high?  That one.  And in case your still wondering who Baucus answers to, his office sent K-Street copies of his Plan well-before a copy was sent to the White House.

And oh yeah, just in case nepotism was feeling overshadowed by corporate greed and conflict of interest, there was this little gem last month: Sen. Douchenoz nominated his girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, for Montana’s US Attorney position.

13. Brett Favre: This asshole just won’t go away.  After keeping the Green Bay Packers in limbo year-after-year while contemplating retirement, he went ahead and destroyed the New York Jets locker room (and season) last year.   Many thought this is the year the selfish fucker fades into retirement.  Not so lucky.  After hedging on whether to return for about 6 months, he joined the Minnesota Vikings (right at the end of training camp.)  While ESPN and others have spent 3 months in a constant Favre-gasm, cracks may beginning to show.  Despite being surrounded by arguably the most complete team in football, ’09 Favre could very well end up like most other Favre versions:  a playoff disappointment and an over-sensitive locker room cancer.

12. Betsy McCaughey: If you listen to the Right’s apocalyptic paranoia about providing health care to some of themselves and their countrymen, there’s a good chance it came from  Ms. McCaughey.  The “liberal” media seemingly couldn’t get enough of the “objective” health care expert, as they routinely gave her a platform to spread her bullshit, including the “death panel” fallacy.  Of course, rarely was it disclosed that McCaughey was a member of the board of directors of the Cantel Medical Corporation  - all the way back on August 20, 2009.

11. Former Governors Rod Blagojevich, Elliot Spitzer, and Governor Mark Sanford: From Blago’s old school graft, to the diddling by the other 2 hypocrites, these guys helped make 2009 the year of the scandalous governor.  I’ve Blago’d the hell out of this site, but want to let him know he’s not forgotten.  As for the other 2 moralizing fucks, I hope never to hear from you again. Unfortunately, Sanford’s appropriation of funds for inter-continental adultery didn’t get him canned or shame the devout Christian into resigning.  See you next year?

10. Pope “Joey Ratz” Benedict XVI: Reinforcing his “old-school” reputation as a bigoted fucker, Jesus’ German Shepherd started off this year with a bang, lifting the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including that of a Holocaust denier.

Warning: Do not look directly at picture.

The Vatican said Saturday that Benedict rehabilitated the four as part of his efforts to bring Lefebvre’s Society of St. Pius X back into the Vatican’s fold.

But the move came just days after one of the four, British Bishop Richard Williamson, was shown in a Swedish state TV interview saying that historical evidence “is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed.”

This Williamson guy also thinks the U.S. staged 9/11.  If there’s a genocide denier in the Church, there’s a good chance His Eminence will promote him.  Benny’s denial doesn’t end with mass murder.  Here’s exactly what the 200 million Catholics of sub-Saharan Africa needed to hear:

As he made his way to Africa on Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI declared that condoms were not the way to fight HIV/AIDS. Speaking to reporters on his flight to Cameroon he said that they “increase the problem.”

Really, doctor?  Wearing a mitre does not prevent you from being a supreme asshole.  I wish clarity for you in 2010, but expect you to be back in the running next year.

9.  Milton Bradley: In the storied yet shameful history of the Chicago Cubs franchise, it’s really really difficult to stand out as an all-time failure. But kudos to you, Milton. Not only were you a huge disappointment on the field, but you managed to overshadow your horrid play with 6 months of petulant behavior.  Top it off with a baseless accusation that a bunch of 3 year-olds are racists, and what do you get? Fucking docuhenozzle.  Thank you, Seattle Mariners.

8. Sarah Palin: This country’s biggest fraud could certainly be higher on this list.  However, as is consistent with her pattern of behavior, she doesn’t hold public office anymore after quitting on the people of Alaska.  The country’s most socialist governor then proceeded to proclaim we’re descending into socialist hell, “write” a score-settling book, spread a bunch a lies among her blind followers, and generally talk out of her ass.   A solid follow-up to her super docuhey 2008 performance.  I’ll have more on her before the end of the year.

7. Kanye West: Check this out – I’ve never typed the following sentence:   Kelly Clarkson is right. This guy is a total asshole.  Also, it’s easier to put up with Kanye’s antics when he’s putting out good music.  That doesn’t happen anymore.

6. Dick & Liz Cheney: Fun Fact about one of Dick’s 5 Vietnam deferments:

“On Oct. 6, 1965, the Selective Service lifted its ban against drafting married men who had no children. Nine months and two days later, Mr. Cheney’s first daughter, Elizabeth, was born.”

Aw snap. This chickenhawk did everything he could to keep himself out of harm’s way.  But if it’s you or your child? Go fuck yourself.

After 8 years of virtual silence and hostility towards the press, Dick couldn’t get enough of the camera in 2009.  Of course, the pawns at Fox, Politico, and CNN, let Cheney accuse Obama of treason and revise history without any challenging follow-ups, apparently fearful he would steal their spleens with his magic cane.  Any of the following would’ve been welcomed…

  • And who was in charge of National Security on 9/11/01?
  • Greeted as liberators?  6 mos.?  Financed by Iraqi oil $, etc…?
  • Speaking of ‘dithering,’ what’s up with letting Bin Laden escape at Tora Bora in 2001?
  • Speaking of war profiteerring, you liquidated $30 mil in Haliburton stock options during the 2000 campaign, but you kept how much?
  • You said Obama’s 6 mos. reassessment of Afghanistan constitutes “dithering.”  How would you describe the Afghan policy of the previous 7 years?

While the war criminal doesn’t really give a shit about this country, he certainly succeeded in raising a daughter he could believe in. Liz, a “birther,” was more camera-hungry than her father.  But like her old man, she used heaps of bullshit to defend her father’s record and certainly believes his administration made 0 mistakes in 8 years.  By the way, Liz has 5 kids to brainwash.  There’s no end in sight.

5. Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, et al.: The Iranians talk hate out of their ass. Daydreaming about nukeing a nation that never invaded a foreign country gives Bibi a hard-on.  Will this end well?  Not with these assholes around.

4. The “Teabaggers”: Gratuitous World wants to be clear:  This site supports grassroots protesting, and in general, the political

excuze mi?

involvement of the American citizenry.  However, when these people put down their Palin signs and picked up their hilariously misspelled tea party placards, it was almost too much to handle. Hey Gratuitous World – what do you mean, these people? I mean the kind of people who lose their shit over having to press “1″ for English. You know, Michelle Bachmann.

Obviously, the hypocrisy of these people who didn’t say shit about the destructive financial policies of Bush/Cheney, yet suddenly careabout “government spending” now that a strange black man is president is readily apparent.  But a couple things for these people:

  • Socialism, Fascism, Communism, and Nazism are not all synonyms!  Turn down the radio and read a fucking book.
  • Medicare is government-run.  Your sign doesn’t make any sense.
  • It’s not really grassroots when you’re movement is being run by lobbyists like Dick Armey and being relentlessly promoted by the country’s most-watched cable news network.
  • Your metaphor makes no sense.  The British law that eventually precipitated the Boston Tea Party was the Tea Act of 1773. One of the many inconsistencies of the wingnut tea bagging revolution is the unfortunate fact that the Tea Act was basically a corporate tax cut. As Cesca points out, “ the tea parties are emulating a protest against a corporate tax cut while also “going Galt” which is a protest against a corporate tax hike.  Adding… I think the Sons of Liberty, who boycotted corporate tea, would be flummoxed by the notion of the wingnuts tea baggers purchasing thousands of corporate tea bags.”

Finally, teabagging” means to have a man insert his scrotum into another person’s mouth in the fashion of a teabag into a mug with an up/down (in/out) motion. You might want to check urbandictionary before naming your next movement something like “The Felchers.

3. Ben Bernanke: Hopefully Z Systems will chime in on this one.  I was baffled when Time named Bernanke their “Man-of-the-Year.” Of course, if the magazine was still relevant, people might really care. Regardless, the Fed King helped us into a recession and was rewarded with another term.  Just one example of this man’s character is his ongoing dealings with AIG, where Bernanke, Geithner and the New York Fed, passed billions off ‘so that certain organizations’ can receive yet more payoffs through the back door of the Federal Reserve (no questions asked).

I guess when there’s no oversight or accountability you can be a big time Douchenozzle and no one will ever know.

2. Glenn Beck: All you really need to know about Beck is that he yearns live in another time. More specifically, 9/12/01.  You remember 9/12/01- when everyone was confused, overwhelmed by tragedy, and scared shitless. Ah, those were the days. And who’s going to fear-monger us back to this time? Mr. Beck. Since his move to Fox, Beck has turned on the crazy, tuned in the radical, and dropped out of reality.

He has called the president a racist. He has implied Obama’s policies will set you on fire. He “thinks” FEMA is going to round you up and put you in death camps. HE MAKES BILL O’REILLY SEEM REASONABLE (occasionally).

His abilities as a snake-oil salesman are unparalleled.  Who else would readily admit to incest fantasies just to sell books? But one thing is certain, Beck is here to stay – at least until he crashes into flames he lit.   But in 2009, no one is flying higher in conservative circles than Mr. Beck.  No one uses more Hitler-comparisons.  And no one can revise history and develop baseless conspiracy theories like Glenn. A douchenozzle of the 1st degree.

One more thing, Glenn.  You’re going to have to get me one of those jump suits.

 

 

 

D.N.O.T.Y!

1.  Texas Governor Rick Perry: As a patriotic American, I have a problem with any public official who advocates secession, even if it’s in the form of insincere pandering. Any student of the Civil War knows the tragedy this country has endured. That’s why I wipe my ass with the Confederate flag. But secession talk alone doesn’t make you this big of a bastard.

While I rarely mess with Texas, I just can’t put aside my contempt for this man. Not only does he support executing the mentally ill, but the innocent as well. That’s why this dead-eyed fuck is such a dirtbag. Nothing is more important to Rick than himself and his career.  I guess that’s a theme that runs throughout this list. I posted on this issue here and here, so if you want see the details of while I despise the slimy d-bag please go there.

Me? I’m spent from all the hating.

So Rick Perry – You did it bud.  You’re actually a bigger Douchenozzle than Glenn Beck. Congrats and see you in 2010!

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One More And He Gets A Free Sandwich

Posted by Matt on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

A 51-year-old Montana man with six drunken driving convictions has been charged again after testing nearly four times the legal limit for alcohol.

Earl Leo Rock pleaded not guilty to felony drunken driving Monday before District Judge G. Todd Baugh. Rock also was charged with felony criminal endangerment, driving with a suspended license and having an open alcohol container in a vehicle.

Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Ingrid Rosenquist said Rock had drunken driving convictions in 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997 and two in 2001. In the most recent case, Rock is accused of driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.306 percent. He was arrested Dec. 16.

.306?  Good Lord.  If there’s one thing this country is good at, it’s putting people in prison.  Yet why is such dangerously selfish behavior constantly disregarded while authorities are quick to jail anyone possessing small amounts of certain drugs?

DUIs can also be rich people crimes. Similar reasoning exists for why harsher penalties long existed for crack as compared to cocaine. How is Representative X going to get his son out of  jail if there’s strictly legislated punishment for his crime? C’mon, America. DUIs only hurt people that get hurt or die from drinking & driving accidents.

Earl Leo Rock – You’re a bastard.

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The Worst of the Best

Posted by Matt on Friday, December 18th, 2009

It’s that time of year again.  That time of year when the dregs begin to come out of the shadows, pure evil armed and ready to bother the crap out of anyone who gets in their way.  I’m not one for over-the-top exaggeration, but this may be the worst collection of people in America. Check that: the worst collection in the Western Hemisphere.

You’re wondering, “Who is he talking about?! I need to avoid these people.”  Yes.  You do.

Is it the American Taliban? No.  The Teabaggers? Nope.  The Real Housewives of Wherever? Not even close.  Hollywood liberals? Not this year.  One-legged Mormons? Um, no.

“WHO, THEN?!”  I’ll tell you who –  The 1972 Miami Dolphins.

For those readers who choose to be football ignorant, a little background:  The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only NFL team to complete a full season undefeated.  (14-0 Regular Season, plus 3 playoff wins = 17-0.)  Certainly, this is a great achievement.  And like your uncle who scored 4 touchdowns in a 1963 high school game, they will never let you hear the end of it.   To this day, whenever the last undefeated NFL team loses, these has-beens get together to pop champagne and reminisce about the glory days when linebackers ran 4.7 40-yard dashes and white running backs could actually start.

Perfection at its Worst.

My faintest memories of the ’72 Dolphins come from 1985.  My beloved Chicago Bears were 12-0 and shufflin’ their way to the Super Bowl when they strolled into Miami for a Monday night game, a game where the Dolphins also happened to be honoring the ’72 squad. It was the Bears only loss that season.  The has-been Dolphins were all over the sidelines, uncorking champagne and presumably annoying the shit out of Dan Marino.

In 2006, the Bears started off hot.  They were rolling at 7-0 when the Dolphins came to town. Brian Griese was the Bears back-up QB. His father Bob was the QB of the ’72 Dolphins (and one of the NFL’s all-time most overrated QBs). Of course Bob will root for his son to have unmitigated success, right?

“I hope the Bears win the Super Bowl and lose one game along the way,” Griese said.

What a family! Well, Bob got his wish.  The Bears lost to the Dolphins and ended up Super Bowl losers.  Don’t worry Bob, you still get served first at Thanksgiving.

But the planet’s best opportunity to put these clowns permanently in the past came in 2007. The New England Patriots were the first team to complete a successful regular season since 1972.  They finished 16-0 and rolled to the Super Bowl, where they played the underdog NY Giants.  Over the course of that season, the ’72 Dolphins were invariably squirrely.  Clearly they felt threatened by a team that would’ve wiped them off the field before Halftime.  This may be best epitomized by asshat Mercury Morris:

Here’s some good advice:  If you EVER see Mercury Morris on tv, grab the remote and just hit a button.  Even if you end up on QVC, you’ll have saved yourself an ulcer.  Unless, of course,  Larry Csonka is in the QVC studio unintelligibly hawking old Dolphin memorabilia.

Well…the Patriots lost.  But fear not America, there’s still hope…

Now it’s 2009.  The Indianapolis Colts (14-0) and the New Orleans Saints (13-0) are threatening the record.  They are both led by uber-skilled, likeable QBs, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.  Both teams are well-coached and have playmakers on both sides of the ball.  The ’72 Dolphins should feel threatened.  Sure enough, I turn on the NFL Network before last night’s Colts/Jaguars game.  It’s Mercury, hyperventilating with doubts about the Saints’ experience and the Colts’ mental toughness.  Bob Kuechenberg can’t be far behind.

You would think that men of that age would develop some grace, or at least some perspective.  But not a chance.

So long to the Pistons’ Bad Boy teams and the early-1970s Oakland A’s squads.  I’ll even give a pass to the knights at Medieval Times. There is no question, this is the most insufferable collection of athletes ever assembled.

The NFL playoffs are right around the corner.  If you’re looking for a team to support, I implore you to root for an undefeated Saints or Colts squad.  Let’s put these guys to rest and do it while they still have their (relative) faculties.  It won’t be long before they’re incoherent bedwetters.  Like Larry Csonka.

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Mr. President – C’mon!

Posted by Matt on Friday, December 18th, 2009

A lot of Progressives have been upset with President Obama’s failure to live up to their lofty standards.  Apparently, they believed the oft regurgitated bullshit National Journal meme about Obama being the “most liberal Senator,” and imagined all their policy-related dreams coming true.  Obama supporters like myself understood he is not a liberal idealist and much more a consensus-building pragmatist. For the most part, this has been reflected in his 1st year as Chief.  For instance,  the Lily Ledbetter Act, SCHIP expansion, and certain environmental measures are examples of welcome departures from 8 years of destructive policies.  And while I don’t agree with his plan for Afghanistan, he stressed the issue during his entire campaign.  People shouldn’t be surprised.

Which brings me to health care.  With some exceptions, I am an unapologetic liberal.  I support a single-payer government-run health system.  Cover everyone. Pass on the administrative savings. Provide better care.  However, like many liberal policies, this is not supported by any corporate interests, thus making its passage an impossibility in America.  But what about a Public Option? What about Medicare expansion? Two policies with overwhelming public support.  Off the table.  Thus, we’re apparently left with the Senate’s current “compromise.”

From what I can tell, the current bill does nothing to control costs.  More people might be covered, but that’s just because mandates will come into effect.  With no not-for-profit, government-run public option, there will be no increase in competition. With no premium caps, insurance companies can continue their current business model of “charging people more for worse coverage.” Someone tell me how this addresses our current problems. Most people filing for Bankruptcy because of health care bills HAVE health insurance.  It’s just shitty insurance that won’t help if the “insured” is diagnosed with something catastrophic.  That’s part of the currently broken system. I’m not sure what will change.

As Greenwald notes, some progressives have been quick to come to Obama’s defense.  I mean, the White House is just the victim of a few Conservative Democratic Senators bought + sold by the insurance companies, right?  I don’t know.  I might have to agree with Sen. Feingold on this one:

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), among the most vocal supporters of the public option, said it would be unfair to blame Lieberman for its apparent demise. Feingold said that responsibility ultimately rests with President Barack Obama and he could have insisted on a higher standard for the legislation.

This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don’t think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth,” said Feingold. “I think they could have been higher. I certainly think a stronger bill would have been better in every respect.”

I am not a health care expert, but it’s pretty easy to read patterns of behavior.  The White House had no problem pressuring Democrats when they needed votes for the War Spending Bill.  But Obama puts up no fight for a public option, medicare expansion, etc?  Why is he doing this?  This will be the defining legislation of his first term.  He’s not powerless, so what’s the logical answer?

It’s most likely this is the Bill he wants.  Look at the White House reaction chastising Howard Dean for coming out against the Bill, as opposed to their virtual reacharound to accommodate Lieberman, who criticized it from the other (industry) side.

What is happening seems to be just another example of the appropriation of our government by Corporatism.  I keep picturing another unqualified disaster/giveaway like Bush’s Medicare Part D.

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe the proposed Senate Bill is the first step in improving a system that provides no care for some, substandard care for many, and all at exponentially rising costs.  Also, I support Obama’s previous health care measures: SCHIP, tobacco regulation, and stimulus funds for Medicaid, COBRA subsidies, health information technology and the National Institutes of Health. You could also throw stem cell research in there.  On a personal level, the COBRA subsidy provided me great assistance following my job loss earlier this year ($385/mo. premium down to $165/mo.)

And I’m trying not to lose perspective of the following…

The Institute of Medicine’s methodology says 22,000 people died in 2006 because they didn’t have health-care coverage. A recent Harvard study found the number nearer to 45,000.

So please someone tell me why I’m wrong.

(Note:  I started writing this yesterday evening. Coincidentally, I received this e-mail from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois mid-post:

from noreply@hscil.com
to XXXXXXX@gmail.com
date Thu, Dec 17, 2009 at 5:36 PM
subject Important Information regarding your BCBSIL Application – Primary Applicant: MATTHEW X X
mailed-by hscil.com
hide details 5:36 PM (15 hours ago)

Based on the information provided on your application, we are unable to extend an offer of coverage.  A detailed explanation of this decision will be sent to you shortly.)

I’m a relatively healthy 30 year old, with only one pre-existing red flag. I’m trying to move from COBRA to an individual policy.

Maybe I answered my own question.

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The Right To Endanger Your Kids Shall Not Be Infringed

Posted by Matt on Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Check out this heart-warming holiday tale:

CORTEZ, Colo. — Authorities say a 12-year-old Colorado boy accidentally shot himself in the leg while playing with a loaded pistol his parents had hidden behind the family Christmas tree. Montezuma County Sheriff Gerald Wallace says the boy was shot in the calf on Monday morning but the injury wasn’t serious. Wallace says the parents had left for work but other family members took the boy to a hospital.

The sheriff says he won’t recommend charges because the parents had left the .22 pistol a reasonable distance from the child.  It wasn’t clear why the weapon was hidden there. Wallace says the boy was “digging around” when he found it. His father had other weapons locked in a safe.

It's 2009, Ralphie. Grow a pair.

Few things are more annoying and inappropriate than telling someone else how to raise their children, but I’m gonna go ahead.  A loaded .22? Did you want to give your kid the option of celebrating the gift by immediately firing a couple rounds into the ceiling?

And under the tree?  Are you sure about this?  Was it wrapped?  Could you possibly foresee a child putting a wrapped package to his ear and shaking it?

I don’t know all the details, so I can’t fault the cops for not dropping a child endangerment charge on the parents.     Although, I don’t see the fairness in allowing the kid to be the sole victim of his parents’ idiocy.  He’s the one who suffered the gunshot wound. He’s the one who will have to stand with Tom Selleck for the NRA PR photo shoot. Also, he’s probably grounded for waking up the dog.

“Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at it’s zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

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GW: Favorite Albums of 2009

Posted by Matt on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

I know little about music – just that I like to listen to it and that it has caused me to develop a mild case of tinnitus.  I also like to rank things.  Two interests collide and spawn this list of my favorite albums for 2009:

(Quick Disclaimer – Many times it takes me a year or 4 before I hear about (or listen to) certain albums.  For instance, I still haven’t heard the new Flaming Lips, although I’m not sure if they would threaten this list considering I haven’t really got into their work for the better part of a decade.)

20. The Dead WeatherHorehound: This is my favorite of Jack White’s “side projects.”

Delorean - Ayrton Senna

19. DeloreanAyrton Senna (EP): I just really like the track “Seasun.” Takes me to a nice July evening on Fire Island.

18. The Mountain GoatsThe Life of the World to Come:  A little more subdued, with less folksy guitar, but still pretty standard. This means it’s good.

17.  PhishJoy: Along with Billy Breathes, I would argue this is one of the band’s best studio efforts.  Well-done, hippies.

16. White RabbitsIt’s Frightening: Good album.  That’s about all I got.

15. Mos Def The Ecstatic:  I’m clearly multicultural. Of course, my favorite Mos Def reference is from a prime time network sitcom catering to white 35-year olds:  ”Who would ever know there were so many words? It was like a Mos Def CD!”  HaHaHa.  There ARE a lot of words. Good stuff.

14.  Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine: Um. Let’s just keep going.

13.  DrummerFeel Good Together: This is a pretty fun album.  Check out Harpoon Harbor for some video.

12.  Sin Fang BousClangour: My first exposure to the “Scandinavian Sufjan.”  I like pickled herring as well.

11.  The Felice BrothersYonder is the Clock:  At points, this album sounds like it’s from a different era.  This is nice because, let’s be honest, this decade has blown.

10.  Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion: Like Feels, I thoroughly enjoy this album.  However, if I’m going to listen to Animal Collective I’m probably going to play one of their live shows.  Yet unlike some of the other critically acclaimed 2009 albums (Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors), this one stays inventive and enjoyable throughout.

9.  The Heartless BastardsThe Mountain: Erika Wennerstrom’s voice carries an otherwise above-average  album into the realm of “pretty solid.”  What’s the difference?  You’ll just have to listen.

Iron Lemonade wash my friends away.

8.  Black Moth Super RainbowEating Us: Hard to explain, but I’ll try: Sound unique. Music good.

7.  The Phenomenal Handclap Band – (self-titled): I heard “You’ll Disappear” on some NPR podcast and was immediately hooked.  While I initially wore the album into the ground, certain tracks remain unescapably catchy and fantastic.  2 tall, swell-looking tambourine girls should encourage you to catch them live.

6.  The AntlersHospice:  You have to listen closely to understand the lyrics. If you’ll do, you may experience a few minutes of depression, followed by a sense of achievement for discerning the words.

5.  Karen O and the KidsWhere The Wild Things Are (Soundtrack): For my money, this is more enjoyable than anything put out by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

4.  Miles Benjamin Anthony RobinsonSummer of Fear: This guy follows up his excellent self-titled album with another stellar “downer.”

3.  MegafaunGather, Form & Fly: I had never heard of this band and was immediately impressed with their experimental take on straight-laced folk.  Despite their unique take on the genre, “The Longest Day,” a traditional-sounding tune, may be my favorite song on the album.

2.  The Avett BrothersI And Love And You:  I was one-and-done with their previous album – Emotionalism, but this one is pretty fantastic from beginning to end.  Critics say it’s over-produced.  I’m not sure if I even know what that means.  It sounds good in your ears.  Also recommended is their All Songs Considered set from SXSW.

1.  Neko CaseMiddle Cyclone:  From the cover art to the first track, to the awesome cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me,”  this is Gratuitous World’s favorite album of the year.  Of course, this site is predisposed to be in favor of anything Neko-related.  If her next album consists solely of her singing in-flight safety instructions, it will probably reach top-5.  That being said, I think Middle Cyclone has a slight edge over the uber-acclaimed Fox Confessor Brings The Flood.

Hope you’re enjoying the closing acts of 2009. Be well.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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Lookout Joe, Old Times Were Good Times

Posted by Matt on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

There has been a lot of hand-wringing in Democratic circles about the behavior of Sen. Joe Lieberman over the last couple days.  I’m wondering why they’re surprised.  I’m wondering why the White House is bending over backwards for this clown. And I’m hurt that they didn’t read my post from last November:

Joe Lieberman knew.  He knew he could campaign on a promise to investigate the Bush Administration’s ineptitude in their handling of Hurricane Katrina.  He knew he would give Bush a pass once he got his chairmanship (as Homeland Security Chair).

He knew he could push for the “compromise” to appoint the far-right-wing ideologue Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

He knew he could support John McCain, promise not attack Barack Obama directly, and go right ahead and say the following:

  • “Obama does not always put country first”
  • on whether Obama is a Marxist: “it’s a good question.”
  • pick-up on the misleading, bullshit line that: “Obama…voted to cut off funding for our troops.”
  • said Obama’s economic plan would be like Herbert Hoover’s approach, which:  ”turned a recession into a depression.”

He knew he could rally with the rest of the neo-cons + chickenhawks in vehement support of Bush’s Iraq war, implying those who were not fully behind the Bush War were traitors.

What did Joe Lieberman know? He knew Harry Reid + Co. were ineffectual hand-wringers who don’t really give a shit about the people who got out the vote to elect a democratic president + congress.  He knew.   He knew the spineless Evan Bayh wouldn’t even get his half-hearted “apology.”  He knew he would never have to give up one of the most crucial chairmanships in the Senate – the committee that just happens to deal with many Lieberman/Bush/McCain policies that the voters just overwhelmingly rejected.  Good job, Senate Democrats.  Your reputation is certainly well-earned.

This last point still stands.  To have relied on this two-faced docuhebag shows incredible naiveté on behalf of Harry Reid and the

I was for it before I was against being against it.

President.  It would be like a Republican WH doing everything in its power to accommodate Sen. Specter.

Of course,  maybe I’m the naive one.  Maybe adhering to Lieberman’s demands is the perfect excuse to water-down a bill that, as of now, is already watered-down to pretty much represent mandated hand-outs to the Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies. I’ll have more on that if I have time later today.

It’s almost 2010.  If you’re just now beginning to realize Lieberman is a self-serving asshat, you may be better off in your bubble.

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P.C.XMas

Posted by Matt on Monday, December 14th, 2009

Over the last couple decades, the term “Political Correctness,” originally revived by 60s’ Progressives, has developed a negative connotation. Conservatives often use it as a couching term in attempts to lend reasonableness to arguments that label Liberals as anti-free-speech, or as a preemptive rationalization for their own bigotry and intolerance.  It’s also used as a over-sensitive retort to some contrived controversy:

“Political correctness has gone too far…How dare Store X name it the Holiday Tube Sock Sale, as opposed to the Christmas Tube Sock Sale.

Ah, the Spirit of Christmas:  Gold, frankincense, and tube socks.

Many times, Haters will use “PC” (and its negative stigma) as broad, baseless reasoning to blame the Left for some awful tragedy.  Take Conservative pundit Jeffrey Kuhner pontificating on the Ft. Hood shooting:

“This is the insanity of political correctness. We are unilaterally disarming…put up a sign, ‘Bomb our buildings, kill our soldiers; hell, rape our women’ “

Tucker Carlson and others repeated this ridiculous point.  Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson used similar illogical reasoning to blame liberals for 9/11.

This brings me to Asheville, NC:

RALEIGH, N.C. – Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell believes in ending the death penalty, conserving water and reforming government — but he doesn’t believe in God. His political opponents say that’s a sin that makes him unworthy of serving in office, and they’ve got the North Carolina Constitution on their side.

At issue, is an antiquated NC law prohibiting non-believers from holding office:

Article 6, section 8 of the state constitution says: “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

I’m no Constitutional scholar, but I do believe this violates the 1st Amendment.  Not to mention Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Who’s behind this?  Ironically, among the angry fanatics is a former member of an organization often chastised as being part of the ‘PC Police.’

Bothwell’s detractors are threatening to take the city to court for swearing him in, even though the state’s antiquated requirement that officeholders believe in God is unenforceable because it violates the U.S. Constitution.

“The question of whether or not God exists is not particularly interesting to me and it’s certainly not relevant to public office,” the recently elected 59-year-old said.

[snip]

That has riled conservative activists, who cite a little-noticed quirk in North Carolina’s Constitution that disqualifies officeholders “who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” The provision was included when the document was drafted in 1868 and wasn’t revised when North Carolina amended its constitution in 1971. One foe, H.K. Edgerton, is threatening to file a lawsuit in state court against the city to challenge Bothwell’s appointment.

“My father was a Baptist minister. I’m a Christian man. I have problems with people who don’t believe in God,” said Edgerton, a former local NAACP president and founder of Southern Heritage 411, an organization that promotes the interests of black southerners.

The head of a conservative weekly newspaper says city officials shirked their duty to uphold the state’s laws by swearing in Bothwell. David Morgan, editor of the Asheville Tribune, said he’s tired of seeing his state Constitution ”trashed.”

Some groups are threatening to sue for enforcement of this law.  However…

Bothwell can’t be forced out of office over his atheist views because the North Carolina provision is unenforceable, according to the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. Six other states, Arkansas,Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, have similar provisions barring atheist officeholders.

In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that federal law prohibits states from requiring any kind of religious test to serve in office when it ruled in favor of a Maryland atheist seeking appointment as a notary public.

But the federal protections don’t necessarily spare atheist public officials from spending years defending themselves in court. Avowed atheist Herb Silverman won an eight-year court battle in 1997 when South Carolina’s highest court granted him the right to be appointed as a notary despite the state’s law.

Man must really have wanted to notarize.  As for Bothwell, little stands in the way of him advancing his dangerous, godless agenda.

Bothwell ran this fall on a platform that also included limiting the height of downtown buildings and saving trees in the city’s core.

Holy shit.  Limiting the height of buildings? You mean, like Church steeples and crosses?  Saving trees?   Like trees that can be turned into Church steeples and crosses? Where will it end?!

Maybe it’s just the time of year.  That time of year when hyper-sensitive Christians construe consumer marketing as attacks on their religion, often blaming some amorphous form of “political correctness.”  You know, the kind of Christians who chastise The Gap for not including the word “Christmas” in the frolicking ads for their Indian-made apparel.

I could really give a damn if some public school or government entity wants to celebrate Christmas, put on a play, or put up some decorations. Same goes for Hanukkah.  As long as they’re not disparaging others’ beliefs, a message of good will isn’t going to hurt anyone.

But let’s be honest about where sympathies lie.  There’s no movement to eliminate the celebration of Christmas.  Inclusiveness is not the equivalent of some “culture war.”  Let’s also be honest about the real subjects of contempt in this country. From a 2006 University of Minnesota study:

This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society…

    Atheist: 39.6%
    Muslims: 26.3%
    Homosexuals: 22.6%
    Hispanics: 20%
    Conservative Christians: 13.5%
    Recent Immigrants: 12.5%
    Jews: 7.6%

I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group….

    Atheist: 47.6%
    Muslim: 33.5%
    African-American 27.2%
    Asian-Americans: 18.5%
    Hispanics: 18.5%
    Jews: 11.8%
    Conservative Christians: 6.9%
    Whites: 2.3%

According to this Pew Research Center survey, I would refuse to vote for someone based on the relevant characteristic:

    Catholic: 8%
    Jewish: 10%
    Evangelical Christian: 15%
    Muslim: 38%
    Atheist: 50%

And as for the Christians:

Here are the numbers of born-again Christians who regard the impact of these groups as negative:

    Islam: 71%
    Buddhism: 76%
    Scientology: 81%
    Atheism: 92%

That’s right.  People who don’t believe in any higher power are despised more by Christians than a religion whose most recognizable member is this guy:

Who has two index fingers and believes Xenu brought billions of people to Earth in spaceships? This guy.

Happy Holidays, everyone.  Except to the godless trash out there.

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No More Business Time

Posted by Matt on Friday, December 11th, 2009

This disappointed me:

[Thursday] New Zealand’s almost-award-winning, fourth most-popular folk duo broke the sad news that they were pulling the plug on their HBO series, “Flight of the Conchords.” After two rapturously received seasons of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement’s adventures trying to make it in New York, the show’s co-creators announced that they are calling it quits.

“We’ve noticed the less we say about the future of the show, the more people want to talk about it, so in an effort to reverse this trend we are today announcing that we won’t be returning for a third season,” Clement, McKenzie and executive producer James Bobin wrote in a statement on their official site. “We’re very proud of the two seasons we made, and we like the way the show ended. We’d like to thank everyone who helped make the show and also everyone who watched it. While the characters Bret and Jemaine will no longer be around, the real Bret and Jemaine will continue to exist.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the show was difficult to produce, both because the stars still live in New Zealand and because it was challenging to weave the pair’s inventive, multi-genre songs into story lines.

Despite their fictional struggle to get a big break in New York on the show, actor Clement was nominated for a Best Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy in 2009, and the show earned two Emmy nominations in 2008 (Best Directing in a Comedy Series and Best Writing in a Comedy Series).

This wasn’t my favorite show of all time, but it definitely had moments of brilliance – like a tree, or a high-class prostitute.

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Gratuitous World Blog

    • College Football Players, Awaken…
      January 29, 2014

      [Former NCAA President Myles Brand:] They can’t be paid. [Q:] Why? [Brand:] Because they’re amateurs. [Q:] What makes them amateurs? [Brand:] Well, they can’t be paid. [Q:] Why not? [Brand:] Because they’re amateurs. [Q:] Who decided they are amateurs? [Brand:] We did. [Q:] Why? [Brand:] Because we don’t pay them. – Michael Rosenberg’s 2010 Sports Illustrated interview of former NCAA president Myles Brand Yesterday, quarterback Kain Colter led a group […]

    • GW: Favorite Albums Of 2013
      January 11, 2014

      On time as always! Happy New Year. 20.  Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City:  Ok kids, we get it. Good work. 19.  Scott & Charlene’s Wedding – Any Port In A Storm 18.  Charlie Parr – Barnswallow 17. My Bloody Valentine – MBV:  Per usual, I can’t understand a fucking word, but still pretty […]

    • REPOST!…SNOW MY GOD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE…
      January 7, 2014

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