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The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was defeated late on the evening of Thursday, July 29th.  The bill would have provided $7.4 billion in aide to those who were made sick by the toxic debris of the September 11th attacks.

Worried about potential GOP amendments to the bill, Democrats decided to suspend the rules before the consideration of the bill, which also changed the required number of votes from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority in order for the bill to pass.  This led to Republicans voting ‘No’ at an overwhelming clip to a bill that would have provided health care to those affected by the 9/11 attacks.  And collectively America sighs.

This procedural faux pas has Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) pissed off.

And he will not yield.

Sources: 1, 2

I suppose if you made me guess a state that this man would be running for governor of…

Alabama, it’d be awfully embarrassing for this guy to be in charge of a Bojangles, let alone your entire state.  What a jackass.

Awesome.

From the producers of Sherlock Holmes comes Darwin: Evolution of a Madman. Is it crazy that I actually want to see Hollywood make an action-adventure about a swashbuckling Darwin? Awesome.

This is the cartoon drawn by Lars Vilks that pissed extremist Muslims off in 2007. Seriously.

You may know Lars Vilks as the Swede who published a series of drawings depicting Islam’s prophet Muhammad as a dog. Apparently having nothing better to do, Islamic extremists around the globe threatened him with death, one organization even going as far as offering $150,000 for his murder. Of course, this reaction was exactly what he predicted and only furthered his point, which was that everyone in the world should be entitled to freedom of speech, regardless of how offensive it might be (I’m offended by the Bible’s condemnation of women and homosexuality – should I riot and attack anyone that preaches it?).

Recently, you may have heard about Vilks giving a presentation on free speech at Uppsala University in Sweden, where almost immediately he was assaulted by protesters who amount to little more than savages. Fortunately, only his glasses were broken before police stepped in. You can watch the entire ten minute insanity below.

In the final minutes of the film, the fools cheer with “unrestrained jubilation” at the announcement that the presentation will stop due to security reasons – perhaps not realizing that they only furthered the point of what Vilks was trying to convey: religion is dangerous to free speech (and society). Religion deludes the mind. You cannot possibly view this video and come to the conclusion that these folks are not completely delusional due to their religious beliefs.

They bullied to get their way with threats of violence and to “take him out,” meanwhile only furthering the resentment of their religion around the world for the hundreds of millions who already believe Islam to be a religion of hate, violence, and bigotry (which, for the vast majority of Muslims, it is not).

Days after this, Vilks home was set fire, windows were smashed, and bottles of gasoline were thrown in. Thankfully, it did not burn to the ground.

Sometimes, all I can do is sigh and shake my head.

Holy hell – this is why I love Florida Congressman Alan Grayson (well, one of many reasons – how about this speech?). If there were politician trading cards, I would be collecting Grayson.

Grayson is introducing a bill called ‘The War Is Making You Poor Act’ – you can see his official website for it right here, where you can also sign a petition saying that you support the bill (or really, what it is that the bill stands for – we are wasting too much money on these wars). His introduction on his site says that the US government’s budget next year “allocates $159,000,000,000 to ‘contingency operations,’ to perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s enough money to eliminate federal income taxes for the first $35,000 of every American’s income each year, and beyond that, leave over $15 billion that would cut the deficit.”

Watch the video and please pass it on.

We could very well see this man as our President someday.

Thursday, May 20, 2010, marks one month since BP’s oil rig exploded in the Gulf Coast, killing 11 people and unleashing one of the worst environmental disasters our nation has ever seen.

Since then, millions of gallons of oil have gushed into the ocean, poisoning marine life and threatening hundreds of miles of coastal waters, beaches and estuaries from the mouth of the Mississippi to the Florida Keys.

This is the clearest picture we could have of our failed national energy policy — which extends over many decades and administrations. Yet, shockingly, our elected officials in the Senate continue to drag their feet on enacting the policies that would bring the real change we need to shift our country from dirty to clean energy sources, while creating jobs and cutting our dependence on oil.

This oil disaster is threatening marine life and habitat in a region that accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. production of shrimp and oysters, as well as millions of pounds each year of red snapper, grouper, bluefin tuna and other fish. Fishing has been shut down from the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle — an area of 46,000 square miles, or roughly the size of the state of Pennsylvania. These closures are devastating to thousands of Gulf Coast families who depend on this bounty for their livelihood. Many of these people are still reeling from the trauma of Hurricane Katrina five years ago.

I am glad that President Obama announced that he would appoint an independent commission to look at the causes of the blow out and determine what we must do to prevent this from ever happening again. This is an important first step in addressing the national tragedy and coming up with real solutions to prevent future drilling disasters.

But it is not enough.

Right now, the Senate has legislation on the table that would help move us in a new direction and put America back in control of its energy future. The American Power Act, drafted by Senators Kerry and Lieberman, is not perfect– but it is a significant step toward cutting our dependence on fossil fuels, limiting carbon pollution, and encouraging businesses to shift to clean energy sources.

Unfortunately, the full Senate continues to stall — weighed down by too much infighting and too many special interests. That’s why we need the president to assert his voice and leadership by letting the Senate — and the American people — know that he is serious about getting clean energy and climate legislation passed this year.

Source: Huffington Post

So, actor and voiceover master D.C. Douglas gets fired by Geico for a politically-charged sarcastic voicemail that he left an organization closely aligned with the Tea Party and here is his response. No more needs to be said.

There are many around the internets who are grumbling about how Laura Bush should have been saying this while her husband was sitting the Oval Office. While I agree that would have been fantastic, it’s not very realistic to think that a significant other would voice his or her opposing political views while their husband or wife was sitting in elected office. I say, hell, it’s better later than never for her to come out and say this – and maybe it will inspire some other significant others to speak out for what they believe it. It’s promising to see that there are some Republicans out there with common sense.

I can only hope that by the time I have grown children, these will be non-issues.

“We didn’t, like, evolve from anything. That doesn’t make any sense. I mean, how can, like, an African American person evolve from a white person? We’re different skin.”

I’d like to make a joke about this, but Great Scott! – creationism has absolutely no place in the science classroom. If the school I taught at were to ever teach it in our science classes, I would fight it – while eagerly offering to teach a “World Religions” or “Religious Mythology” elective in its place – and if the fight were lost, I would resign without any hesitation. Teach the history behind Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. in a Global Awareness social studies class, and I’m fine with it, but there is no room for teaching mythology in a science class.

More changes must come on top of all of this. As PZ Myers says on his blog:

One additional requirement, besides diverting reasonable amounts of money into education: demand improvements in quality. Not this misbegotten accountability of No Child Left Behind, but shakeups in how school boards manage budgets; remove the elected officials from the business of dictating pedagogy and content, and let the qualified professionals design curricula that actually works. I listened to the video and just felt a sense of dread at the thought of the Texas Board of Education suddenly flush with new money and deciding to buy Bibles for every child, or something similarly absurd.

School districts are slashing budgets left and right across the country, firing thousands and thousands of teachers in the process, removing any trace of creativity and choice in the schools, and destroying the quality of education that students receive. This is ridiculous. This is not the answer. An article in the New York Times examined the current educational “catastrophe”:

Districts in California have given pink slips to 22,000 teachers. Illinois authorities are predicting 17,000 job cuts in the public schools. And New York has warned nearly 15,000 teachers that their jobs could disappear in June.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimated that state budget cuts imperiled 100,000 to 300,000 public school jobs. In an interview on Monday, he said the nation was flirting with “education catastrophe,” and urged Congress to approve additional stimulus funds to save school jobs.

The key to leading the developed world is not by flexing military might, but by continuing to produce a population that innovates, creates, solves problems, and understands – the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to put it to good use. Please, America – it is time to get our priorities straight.

If this whole hopey-changey thing doesn’t work out for him, at least President Obama can feel comfort in knowing that he has a future in stand-up comedy. At the the White House Correspondents Association Dinner last night, the President nailed just about every joke with the comedic timing of a seasoned stand-up veteran.

On the other hand, the supposed “real” comedic act of the night, Jay Leno, rambled off bland one-liner after bland one-liner from his notecards for twenty minutes – that old, predictable, safe mother-in-law humor. Granted, for the rest of eternity, it will be difficult for anyone to live up to Stephen Colbert’s ballsy and ironic roast of President Bush in 2006 (such a brilliant, oh-no-he-didn’t roast filled with all of those delicious moments of uncomfortable silence), but you would think Leno could have been at least a little less restrained and little more, well, funny. Where’s Conan O’Brien when the President needs him?

While all the fifteen minutes of the President’s routine are worth watching, here are a few of my favorite jokes that he nailed.

I am glad that the only person whose ratings fell more than mine last year is here tonight – great to see you, Jay. I’m also glad that I’m speaking first, because we’ve all seen what happens when somebody takes the time slot after Leno’s.

I work a lot. And so I wasn’t sure that I should actually come tonight. Biden talked me into it. He leaned over and he said, “Mr. President, this is no ordinary dinner. This is a big [beep] meal.”

Now, look, obviously I’ve learned this year politics can be a tough business, but there are times where you just can’t help but laugh. You know what really tickles me? Eric Massa. Apparently Massa claimed that Rahm came up to him one day in the House locker room, stark naked, started screaming obscenities at him – to which I say, welcome to my world. I feel you. It’s a tense moment.

He finished it all off by taking a moment to drop the comedy act in order to say some insightful remarks on the importance of a free press:

Earlier today I gave the commencement address at Michigan, where I spoke to the graduates about what is required to keep out democracy thriving in the 21st century. And one of the points I made is that for all the changes and challenges facing your industry, this country absolutely needs a healthy, vibrant media. ‘Probably needs it more than ever now.

Today’s technology has made it possible for us to get our news and information from a growing range of sources. We can pick and choose not only our preferred type of media, but also our preferred perspective. And while that exposes us to an unprecedented array of opinions, analysis, and points of view, it also makes it that much more important that we’re all operating on a common baseline of facts. It makes it that much more important that journalists out there seek only the truth.

And I don’t have to tell you that. Some of you are seasoned veterans who have been on the political beat for decades; others here tonight began their careers as bloggers not long ago. But I think it’s fair to say that every single reporter in this room believes deeply in the enterprise of journalism. Every one of you, even the most cynical among you, understands and cherishes the function of a free press and the preservation of our system of government and of our way of life.

Well put, Mr. President.

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