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There are probably more important stories in the news, but none as entertaining as this: in his quest to prove the Earth is flat, self-proclaimed daredevil "Mad" Mike Hughes blew himself up this weekend in the California desert.
"Blew himself up" isn't really the correct phrase. His homemade steam-powered rocket, launched from the back of a tractor-trailer as part of a reality television project for the Science Channel, took off in one piece. If this had been a launch for NASA TV, the post-mortem anomaly report might have sounded something like "though the mission succeeded in achieving its primary goal of powered flight, a subsequent abrupt failure of all descent parachutes resulted in the loss of the craft." (It may or may not be a coincidence that NASA doesn't use hot water to launch rockets.)
There is no small irony in a flat-earth theorist being done in by gravity, which Einstein's general relativity theory defines not as a force but as the distortion matter creates in the curvature of spacetime. In other words, Hughes was literally flattened by a round Earth.
In the aftermath of the — what shall we call this? An accident? An incident? A punchline? — a public relations representative told the press that Hughes' oft-repeated disbelief in a round Earth was in reality nothing more than a PR stunt. That would also explain why Hughes told Space.com that his motivation for this launch was "his love for Trump and his desire to make America great again." Nobody could say such things with a straight face and mean them. At least nobody sane.
While we may never understand what would drive someone to climb into a steam-powered roman candle for the benefit of a television camera, the one thing we can say for sure is that "Mad" Mike died doing what he loved: denying science.
"Deer Runs Over Man" reads the headline accompanying the eye-catching video. The full story is somewhat more sinister:
Just after noon Retired detective Ken Worthy had just exited a McDonald's in the small town of Locust, North Carolina — "A City With a Soul" — when he was ambushed by a deer.
"We were walking out with our Cokes," said the victim, "and, uh, you look both ways and I... my wife caught a look. I looked literally just saw him the last second, and he collided with me. I was down."
Sure, this deer drive-by looks comical because it didn't happen to you, but don't be fooled! Any attack on Coca-Cola and McDonald's is an attack on America!
They can take our Cokes, but they can never take our freedom!
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The impeachment trial of Donald John Trump on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of congress begins today, January 22, 2020.
"On the day President Trump was inaugurated, the headline of the Washington Post said, 'The campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.' After that, we saw two years of the Mueller Investigation, and now we've seen this year wasted on this ridiculous investigation and these puny articles of impeachment."
Georgia senior senator David Purdue via perdue.senate.gov, January 21, 2020
"While I've only been in Washington for a couple of weeks, it's abundantly clear that impeachment is a partisan exercise to undermine @realDonaldTrump and his agenda. It's time to end the taxpayer funded political games and get Congress back to work for the American people."
Georgia junior senator Kelly Loeffler via Twitter, January 17, 2020
"Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws, so help you God?"
Oath willingly sworn to by all sitting U.S. Senators, January 16, 2020
"Favoring neither; disinterested; treating all alike; unbiased; equitable, fair, and just."
Definition of "impartial," prior to 1600
For the record, I think the defendant is guilty as sin, but I haven't sworn any oaths.
In 1914, the countries of Serbia and Austria-Hungary were at each other's throats as they vied for political dominance in their overlapping spheres of influence.
Prince Regent Alexander of Serbia assumed control of his ill father's crown on June 24, 1914. Heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by Serbian-recruited agents four days later.
Though no one could have predicted the horrors the future held for the two countries that started The War to End All Wars, the assassination was particularly unexpected considering that just a few years prior, Alexander had criticized his predecessor's own ulterior motives for war in this response to a question from his national press:
My father will start a war with Austria-Hungary because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate. He's weak and ineffective. We have a real problem in the kingdom. So, I believe that he will attack Austria-Hungary sometime prior to the end of his reign because he thinks that's the only way he can maintain power. Isn't it pathetic?
Because that's how grown-ups talk.
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And so begins a series of backup stories first appearing in Superman #354, released 40 years ago.
It's easy to look at this series by Superman stalwarts Julie Schwartz and Curt Swan and see what the old-timers got wrong about the far flung future forty years forthcoming. (Sorry. You can't talk about Silver Age comics without a lot of alliteration.) Flying cars, domed cities, and passenger flights around the moon are still more dream than reality.
What is considerably more impressive is what they got right about contemporary life, and I don't mean the giant flat-screen TVs.
Superman-III's main antagonists aren't mad scientist or sentient computers. No, in the "future," Superman still has his hands full with intolerant Nazis. Their rhetoric would sound crazy if it wasn't something we heard every day on Twitter and Facebook and White House press releases.
Or saw at Navy football games.
Despite the predictions of many over the years (myself included), comic books still exist in 2020. And it's a good thing, too. We need the Man of Tomorrow as much as ever to lead us in the never-ending battle for Truth, Justice, and the American way.
"But for the most part, you have many states where they have so much water that it comes down — it's called rain — that they don't know, they don't know what to do with it."
Quote by the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES on December 6, 2019 as part of a speech justifying rolling back EPA water regulations.
Sadly, you can't impeach someone just because they're stupid. (Though corrupt and dishonorable seem to work.)
I'm one of those people who, back in 2018, was reluctant to impeaching the sitting President because there was no way the Senate would do anything.
I'm also one of those people who, even though the Senate probably still won't do anything, has become convinced that impeachment is a necessity in the wake of the sitting President actively
soliciting extorting outside influence on the 2020 election.
I'm bothered that a not insignificant portion of America continues to support the President's interest in subverting the democratic rule of law. I want to give my fellow countrymen the benefit of the doubt. I hope it's a simple case of ignorance, either about the law or about what the President admits that he did.
Late in his life, Thomas Jefferson explained that he wrote the Declaration of Independence
"to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent."
Obviously, that worked out pretty well*. May the inevitable Articles of Impeachment be just as successful.
*John Adams rather famously estimated that up to a third of the American population resisted Independence until the bitter end. In any era, some minds can't be changed.
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Press Briefing by President George Washington, issued on April 8, 1793:
MR. WASHINGTON: Hey, guys. How are you all?
So we're going to talk about French Minister Genet. We're going to announce today that we're going to meet Citizen Genet on May Eighteenth at the Mount Vernon facility in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Now, let's talk about the site selection process because I know you folks will ask some questions about that. How do we go about doing this? First of all, we use a lot of the same criteria that have been used by presidents of the Confederation Congress. There's a long list of the accommodations on site: the ballrooms, bilateral rooms, the number of rooms, the portrait ops, the support lodgings that are there, the proximity to cities and seaports, carriage boarding zones, medical facilities, et cetera.
So we use the same set of criteria that previous administrations have used. We started with a list of about a dozen, just on parchment. And we sent an advance team out to actually visit ten locations in several states. We visited Connecticut, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Now, we got that list down to just under ten, and the advance team went out to visit those. And from there, we got down to four finalists that our senior team went out to look at. They looked at — I think it was one in Maryland, two in New Jersey, and then the Pennsylvania State House facility in Philadelphia.
And it became apparent at the end of that process that Mount Vernon was, by far and away — far and away — the best physical facility for this meeting. In fact, I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back, and I said, "What was it like?" And they said, "George, you're not going to believe this, but it's almost like your father built this facility to host this type of event." If any of you have been there, you know that there's separate buildings with their own rooms, separate and apart from each building, so that one country can have a building, another country can have another, you folks could have your building for the press. And obviously, the common areas are going to be perfect for our needs down there.
Anticipating your questions: How is this not an emoluments violation? Am I going to profit from this? I think I have pretty much made it very clear since I arrived here that I don't profit from being here. I have no interest in profiting from being here. It's one of the reasons that I took no salary as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. Will not be profiting here.
I had considered the possibility of whether or not I could actually do it at no cost, to understand there's difficulties with doing it that way. But we'll also have difficulties, obviously, if I charge market rates. So I'm doing this at cost. As a result, it's actually going to be dramatically cheaper for us to do it at Mount Vernon compared to other final sites that we had.
Now, my guess is, with that official part of the briefing finished, there's going to be some questions about a variety of things that are going on in the world.
Q: "Yeah, thank you. So, how is this not just an enormous conflict of interest for you to host the French government at your own plantation?
MR. WASHINGTON: Okay, a couple different things. First off, I'm not making any profit. I think we've already established that. I think some —
Q: There's marketing and branding opportunities.
MR. WASHINGTON: It's a huge — I've heard — you know, I've heard that — I've heard that before. You know, I guess I've been the Chief Executive now for about three or four years, and I always hear: Whenever we go to the District of Columbia, it's a huge branding opportunity; whenever I go sleeping anywhere in New England. And everybody asks the question: Is it not a huge marketing opportunity?
I would simply ask you all to consider the possibility that George Washington's brand is probably strong enough as it is, and I don't need any more help on that. This is not like it's the most recognizable name in the English language and probably around the world right now. So, no, that has nothing to do with it.
That's why — listen, I was skeptical. I was. I was aware of the political, sort of, criticism that I'd come under for doing it at Mount Vernon, which is why I was so surprised when the advance team called back and said that this is the perfect physical location to do this.
So, I get the criticisms. Face it: I'd be criticized regardless of what I chose to do. But, no, there's no issue here on me profiting from this in any way, shape, or form.
Q: You said it's going to be done at cost. Do you have any idea of the cost estimate, how much money you're looking at?
MR. WASHINGTON: Yeah, I don't have the numbers in terms of the cost. I do know that it was — it was — one of the ones I saw was, it was almost half as much here. I don't want to butcher the numbers, but it was thousands of dollars cheaper by doing it at Mount Vernon than it was at another facility. And that was roughly fifty percent savings.
Q: Foreign Ministers have been visiting for decades, so how can you make the argument that this is the best place to hold it? Surely there were other places that this could be held. And you can't make the argument that you are not going to profit because we can't know how much you might profit in the future, right?
MR. WASHINGTON: Yeah. To your first point, again, I think the profit one. Again, I'm not making any money off of this, just like I'm not making any money from working here. And if you think it's going to help my brand, that's great. But I would suggest that I probably don't need much help promoting my brand, so we'll put the profit one aside and deal with a perfect place.
Q: I understand that you're trying to put it in a place that you think is the best.
MR. WASHINGTON: Yeah.
Q: And maybe save the taxpayers some money, which is important for all of us. But sometimes you — because of the appearance of impropriety, you don't make that call. Can you at least understand and acknowledge that just the appearance of impropriety makes this wince-inducing and maybe this is something that you want to reconsider?
MR. WASHINGTON: Yeah. I know that. Listen, I — I know the environment we live in. You all know the environment that we live in. And I know exactly that I'm going to get these questions and exactly get that reaction from a lot of people.
And I'm simply saying, "Okay, that's fine. I'm willing to take that." The same way I take it when I go to Valley Forge. The same when I go play at Washington, D.C. I got over that a long time ago. I absolutely believe this is the best place to have it. We're going to have it there. And there's going to be folks who will never get over the fact that it's a Washington property. I get that. But we're still going to go there.
Q: Aside from what your advance team did to look for the perfect place, what role did you play in selecting Mount Vernon, including getting it on the initial list of ten places in the first place?
MR. WASHINGTON: Yeah. I think we — that's a fair question. We sat around one night. We were back in the dining room and I was going over it with a couple of our advance team. We had the list, and I go, "What about Mount Vernon?" And everyone was like, "That's not the craziest idea. It makes perfect sense."
Q: About the Mount Vernon property: Why has no other Foreign Minister meeting ever been held there before?
MR. WASHINGTON: Because they didn’t go look at it. So —
I don't know, why did they have it at Federal Hall? I mean, seriously. I mean, for those of you who were there, I'm a little bit familiar with it; I've talked with the folks up at Federal Hall because I was up there recently and asked. I said, "Didn't you guys go up..." — I think it was Lafayette back then. Seventeen Eighty-Three, something like that. And they said it was a complete disaster. I'm like, "Okay, I wonder how that happened. How did that decision get made?"
Q: Just to show the American people that this is above board, are you going to share documents that show how you arrived at this decision with the Congress?
MR. WASHINGTON: No. But I would imagine we would share dollar figures with you afterwards. I mean, that's — that's ordinary course of business.
By the way, you're going to get this answer a lot, okay? I don't talk about how this place runs on the inside. So, if you ask if we — if you want to see our parchment on how we did this, the answer is: Absolutely not.
Q: There will almost certainly be a House Judiciary Committee hearing about this site selection.
MR. WASHINGTON: You think so?
Q: I really think so. Yeah. Will the administration participate, cooperate, with that?
MR. WASHINGTON: You know, that's a — by the way, that's a fascinating question. I had not thought that — that this would prompt a Judiciary Committee investigation. On one hand, I'm thinking to myself, "They don't have time to do it because they're too busy doing the two-party system." Right. And then I think to myself, "No, this is entirely consistent with how they've spent the first twenty-four months in office." Right? Or thirty-six months — however long they've been here. I guess it's been a few years, right?
That, yeah, they'd rather do that than talk about tax policy, than talk about tariffs, than talk about the Whiskey Rebellion; talk about the Jay Treaty. So, that's a fascinating question. I don't know if there will be a Judiciary Committee inquiry into this. My guess is there probably will be. And I look forward to participating in it.
Look, I know we can do this all night. No, I'm not going to take any more. But it's nice — it's nice to see everybody. Thanks again.
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Batman Day was this past Saturday. It should not be confused with Batman's birthday. According to the 1976 DC Comics Calendar, Bruce Wayne was born on February 19. Or April 7, depending on whether we're talking about the Earth-1 or Earth-2 version. (Don't even get me started on Earth-3.)
If you missed the date, don't blame yourself. Batman Day crawls blindly around the calendar like its namesake. In the past five years since it was created, it has never been held on the same date twice: July 23 (2014), September 15 (2018), September 17 (2016), September 23 (2017), September 26 (2015). If you can find a pattern in those dates, congratulations! You can be the super villain who crashes Batman Day 2020. You can call yourself "The Sequencer" and wear a costume covered in brilliantly colored, shiny sequins. Trust me; that's how comic book villains work.
In celebration of the "holiday," 10 cities across the globe gave promoters permission to shine the Bat-signal on their skylines despite it not being a Bat-emergency. Fans in Barcelona, Berlin, Johannesburg, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Rome, Sao Paulo, and Tokyo. That's a lot of cities for one hero to visit in a day. Batman's a billionaire, not Santa Claus.
The event advertised participation in 13 cities, but Los Angeles denied permits and Paris had an infestation of anti-government rioters (a situation that sounds more like a job for Superman). Meanwhile, Montreal's celebration was interrupted by a nutcase with a megaphone, which if you ask me, is about as Batman as it gets.
Hrm. He needs more sequins.
Very much has been made recently of Stephen Ross' fundraiser for Donald Trump. Ross is the billionaire owner of several lifestyle brands catering to the young and, shall we say, Trump-resistant set. Little has been made of the fact that Ross is also the principal owner of the Miami Dolphins. Dolphins' fans know all too well that Ross doesn't actually care about the consumers of the products he's selling.
A brief reminder: in September 2016, when some guy named Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem, the world came unglued. Players on other teams soon followed. Some owners (and many fans) made villains of Kaepernick, but others supported his activism, including Ross.
"I think these guys are really making a conversation of something that's a very important topic in this country, and I'm 100 percent supportive of them."
Unfortunately 2016 was an election year, and The Great Divider used the protests as evidence that American needed to be Made Great Again. After you-know-who was sworn into office in early 2017, Ross shifted with the political wind.
"I think it's incumbent upon the players today, because of how the public is looking at it, to stand and salute the flag."
Translation: they shouldn't protest because people don't like protests and it makes it harder for him to sell tickets to his terrible football games. Ross went so far as planning to fine and suspend players who offended his sensibilities until the players association forced him to back off. Way to be 100% supportive, bud.
Anyway, to those of you who claim to be shocked to discover that a billionaire businessman's only concern is how he can exploit you to make more money, welcome to the America Dream.