Rocky Mountain News - not anymore

Rocky Mountain News, one of America's oldest newspapers, is calling it a day.

From Rocky Mountain News:

Rich Boehne, chief executive officer of Rocky-owner Scripps, broke the news to the staff at noon today, ending nearly three months of speculation over the paper's future.

"People are in grief," Editor John Temple said at a news conference later.

Boehne told staffers that the Rocky was the victim of a terrible economy and an upheaval in the newspaper industry.

"Denver can't support two newspapers any longer," Boehne told staffers, some of whom cried at the news. "It's certainly not good news for you, and it's certainly not good news for Denver."

Reaction came from across the nation and around the block.

"The Rocky Mountain News has chronicled the storied, and at times tumultuous, history of Colorado for nearly 150 years. I am deeply saddened by this news, and my heart goes out to all the talented men and women at the Rocky," U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said in a statement. "I am grateful for their hard work and dedication to not only their profession, but the people of Colorado as well."

At least the Christian Science Monitor will stay alive online - for now. With the crap economy and the online revolution, I guess we are going to see the newspaper domino effect happen sooner rather than later.

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Free Jestina Mukoko!

It has become commonplace in Zimbabwe for anyone to be tortured, jailed and sometimes murdered for disagreeing with the policies of President Robert Mugabe. Jestina Mukoko, journalist and director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), was abducted and jailed in December for attempting to “overthrow the Mugabe government." However, her supporters believe that she was taken from her home in an unmarked car because she bravely speaks out about the abuses under ZANU-PF. Since her abduction, the Zimbabwean government has refused to back down on Mukoko, despite pressure from the international community for her release, claiming that they don’t know her whereabouts. Mukoko’s supporters are still hopeful that she will be released in a timely manner, and are making efforts to expedite the efforts.

Internet users can join a Facebook group, which was created by supporters to raise awareness about Mukoko’s plight, including photos of Mukoko being taken into custody. On the page, supporters can also read updates on Mukoko as well as other prisoners being held in Zimbabwe for their political beliefs.

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'Change" in Afghanistan?

I know that I am late on this, but 17,000 more troops on the ground in Afghanistan?

From NY Times:

The order will add nearly 50 percent to the 36,000 American troops already there. A further decision on sending more troops will come after the administration completes a broader review of Afghanistan policy, White House officials said.

Mr. Obama said in a written statement that the increase was “necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires.”

At least for now, Mr. Obama’s decision gives American commanders in Afghanistan most but not all of the troops they had asked for. But the decision also carries political risk for a president who will be sending more troops to Afghanistan before he has begun to fulfill a promised rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Many experts worry that Afghanistan presents an even more formidable challenge for the United States than Iraq does, particularly with neighboring Pakistan providing sanctuary for insurgents of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Under Mr. Obama’s plan, a unit of 8,000 marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., will be deployed in the next few weeks, aiming to be in Afghanistan by late spring, administration officials said, while an Army brigade from Fort Lewis, Wash., composed of 4,000 soldiers, will be sent in the summer. An additional 5,000 Army support troops will also be deployed in the summer.

Antiwar groups criticized Mr. Obama’s decision even before the White House announced it.

“The president is committing these troops before he’s determined what the mission is,” said Tom Andrews, director of the coalition organization Win Without War. “We need to avoid the slippery slope of military escalation.”

But does Obama really have a choice here but to send more troops? The Bush administration let Afghanistan fall back to the Taliban while it raged terror in Iraq. No one likes war, but what can you realistically do here?

President Obama has a lot of explaining to do tonight.



Racism, Poverty and Hollywood

So, tonight is a big night in Hollywood. I won't be watching tonight. The Oscars have been such snore-fest in recent years. Furthermore, since none of the films I like don't have any real chance of winning anything, why bother? I will just watch the highlight clips on YouTube tomorrow.

Plus, I don't think I can bare watching rich people spending exorbitant amounts of money on parties and fancy dresses, considering the state of the economy. Wouldn't it be cool if one of the winners gets on stage tonight and denounce Hollywood for not being fiscally responsible as unemployment is the highest it has ever been.

Even the stars of Slum Dog Millionaire haven't benefited from the film's popularity.

Speaking of political activism at the Oscars, one of the most memorable moments in the award show's history was when Sacheen Littlefeather/Maria Cruz presented a speech on behalf of actor Marlon Brando, for his performance in The Godfather, when he boycotted the 46th Academy Awards ceremony in protest of the treatment of Native Americans by the film industry.

Specifically, Brando was protesting how Hollywood and mainstream media had at that time portrayed Native Americans around the events of Wounded Knee.

As far as I am concerned, not much has really changed since 1973 in how people of color are portrayed in the media.



Mary Frances Berry on post-racial America

Mary Frances Berry, historian and former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was in Boston February 19 to discuss her latest book, as well as her career in Washington.


Berry on Eric Holder's "nation of cowards" speech: "It was a gutsy thing for him to do."

Berry on NY Post cartoon depicting Obama/chimpanzee : "I can agree that it's racist, but they have a right to say that."

The original conversation is about an hour long, so I cut it into 7 10-minute segments. It is well worth worth watching the whole conversation if you can.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

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JA pols vs. bloggers: Round 2

The battle between Jamaican politicians and human rights activists rages on over homophobia on the Caribbean island. As you may recall from last year, Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, came under fire over remarks on British television, opposing gay members in his administration. Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) was also denied accreditation to a UN event in September after representatives of the Jamaican government complained about their presence only after the group was given clearance to attend the meeting months before. Bloggers throughout the Caribbean and around the world spoke out in defense of LGBT Jamaicans, and they are coming out again in force, this time over another Jamaican politician making controversial remarks.

Ernest Smith, an MP from St Ann parish, said the following last week:

"I am very concerned that homosexuals in Jamaica have become so brazen, they've formed themselves into organizations and are abusive, violent and something that the Ministry of National Security must look into is why is it that so many homosexuals are licensed firearm holders. There was a report recently which has never been challenged that our security forces, particularly the Jamaican Constabulary Force, have been overrun by homosexuals … there was a front page report in one of our daily newspapers, which has never been challenged."

Smith is now also calling to outlaw J-FLAG. Some Caribbean bloggers are calling for both Golding and Smith to resign, while others hope this latest incident will make people wonder about the irrationality of homophobia.

"Time was when the homophobic hysteria and condemnation would have been the norm with perhaps a lone dissenting voice," the blogger continues. "If nothing else, Smith's diatribe has brought out this more balanced, rational response we might not have known of otherwise."

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Post-Racial America?

And to think, some people believe that black history month is obsolete now that we have a black president.

From Reuters

African Americans criticized a New York Post cartoon as racist Wednesday, saying it likened President Barack Obama to an ape -- a potent image in the history of racism toward blacks.

The cartoon, which the newspaper defended as a parody of Washington politics, depicts a police shooting of an ape, playing off the real shooting of a pet chimpanzeee in Connecticut this week. One of the police officers says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

Because Obama promoted the $787 billion economic stimulus that he signed into law Tuesday, critics of the cartoon interpreted the dead chimp as a reference to Obama, who became the first black U.S. president on January 20.

"The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African Americans as being synonymous with monkeys," civil rights activist Al Sharpton said.

Calling the cartoon "offensive and divisive," he promised to stage a demonstration outside the Post offices Thursday.

New York City Councilman Leroy Comrie said he received numerous calls from outraged constituents.

"To run such a violent, racist cartoon is an insult to all New Yorkers. This was an unfortunate incident in which a human being was seriously injured, not an opportunity to sling dangerous rhetoric," Comrie said in a statement.

Police in Stamford, Connecticut, shot and killed a 200-pound (90-kg) chimpanzee Monday after the pet nearly killed its owner's friend and attacked a police car. The chimp, named Travis, had once starred in television commercials and was taking medication for Lyme disease.

New York Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan said in a statement the cartoon was "a clear parody."

"It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist," Allan said.

But the National Association of Black Journalists called the cartoon "the lowest common denominator of taste and class."

"The publisher and editors of The New York Post owe its readers an explanation," association President Barbara Ciara said in a statement.

The right-leaning Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch's international media conglomerate News Corp.

If this is what a post-racial America looks like, then maybe we really are a nation of cowards!

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Making My Media Matter!

Yesterday, I attended the Making Your Media Matter conference at American University. This is a gathering of filmmakers and nonprofit communications leaders who are in the business of producing social issue media.

Like journalists, documentary filmmakers are also seeing their industry being put to a challenge by Web 2.0. In fact, this conference was originally named Making Your Documentary Matter apparently, but it was changed to reflect the evolving multimedia landscape documentarians are faced with. But unlike some in the traditional journalism world, the folks attending this conference are actually embracing their inner new media evangelists.

Convergence was the word of the day.

Of course, getting funding to make a film is almost a full-time job in itself for documentarians. In a panel discussion on funding issues, Alice Myatt of the Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media said that the organization has now simplified the money seeking process with an online media database where filmmakers can post clips of their unfinished project as a way to solicit funders to see their work and possibly give them money to complete the project.

Also, social media has provided new opportunities for films that would otherwise not get seen because their subject matters are deemed to be too controversial by funders and broadcasters.

On another panel, filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris said that he had a hard time getting out his first film, Vintage - Families of Value, which is about LGBT siblings in black families.

"It was rejected by black film festivals for being too gay and gay film festivals for being too black," he said.

Now his film will have a second life in the near future, both in the virtual movie theatre, SnagFilms, and on the Internet TV network Free Speech TV.

The filmmakers behind the acclaimed film, Made in LA, also gave examples of online grassroots organizing that contributed to the film's success.

Syndicated tech columnist Scott Kirsner as well as other filmmakers at the conference gave some great examples of how filmmakers can use new media for their projects.

Posterous – post anything online via email

Eventful – online marketing/fan targeting

Foneshow – subscribe to podcasts on your phone

Media That Matters - online film festival for social justice documentaries

Prx - online marketplace for distribution, review, and licensing of public radio programming

Mojoco - NBPC's latest outlet for mobile journalists to showcase their work

J-Lab - helps journalists and citizens use digital technologies to develop new ways for people to participate in public life

New Media Women Entrepreneurs - entrepreneurial opportunities for women new media pioneers

Witness/The Hub - uses video and online technologies to open the world's eyes to human-rights violations

Blogtalkradio - put on a free radio show to promote your film

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Some sanity comes back to Zim...I guess

Change has come to Zimbabwe?

Not so fast...

From The Guardian:

Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as Zimbabwe's new prime minister today, but was prevented from addressing the nation on television in a sign of the power struggles likely to come in the powersharing government with the president, Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe administered the oath of office to his bitter rival just a few months after saying he would never talk to the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, let alone share power with him.

Tsvangirai stepped up to the podium and shook Mugabe's hand. The new prime minister raised his right hand and promised to be faithful to Zimbabwe, observe its laws and serve it well. The rival leaders signed papers and shook hands again. There were no smiles...

Oh, no he didn't. Just to think that there is probably as much drama going on in Harare as there is in Atlanta.

But wait until you hear about Mugabe's upcoming birthday party.

From Times of London:

...In recent days [ZANU-PF has] been out soliciting “donations” from corporate Zimbabwe and have drawn up a wish list that is scarcely credible in a land where seven million citizens survive on international food aid, 94 per cent are jobless and cholera rampages through a population debilitated by hunger.

The list includes 2,000 bottles of champagne (Moët & Chandon or ’61 Bollinger preferred); 8,000 lobsters; 100kg of prawns; 4,000 portions of caviar; 8,000 boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates; 3,000 ducks; and much else besides. A postscript adds: “No mealie meal” — the ground corn staple on which the vast majority of Zimbabweans survived until the country’s collapse rendered even that a luxury.

Those who prefer to give in cash, not kind, are invited to send “donations” of between $45,000 and $55,000 to a US dollar bank account in the name of the 21st February Movement, a youth organisation controlled by Zanu (PF) and named after the date of the President’s birthday...

WTF...the more things change, the more things remain the same.

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Twitter: The New Journalism

With the growing popularity of new media tools like Twitter, many in traditional news media around the world wonder if they should call it a day. Now more than ever, citizen journalism has broken down the barriers to help get out stories in the name of social justice and transparency, especially during natural disasters.

Just a few days ago, people in China used Twitter to report news and information about a fire at the CCTV complex in Beijing, China. Earlier today a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shocked Indonesia, with no damages or casualties so far.

“I continue to be impressed how twitter is able to report on the Earthquake in Indonesia a few hours before it's reported on major news sites,” from a tweet by Jyamasaki

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Peanuts for Obama

About President Barack Obama's first press conference...

From Washington Post:

Rather than engage in a spirited dialogue with members of the press corps, Obama filibustered. After an eight-minute opening statement, he got through only 13 questions in an hour -- and allowed no follow-up questions. His answers were an oddly unexciting combination of familiar talking points and wonky dissertations. It wasn't particularly good TV, and it wasn't necessarily what Obama needed, either...

I would give the president a "B+" for at least answering some hard questions on the economy. Maybe I would also give his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, extra credit for making the rounds on the morning cable shows today to peddle the White House's upcoming website, http://www.recovery.gov, which will be "part of an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government." But I digress for now...

If I had a chance to ask President Obama a question last night, it would certainly not have anything to do with Alex Rodriquez and steroids (why did you ask that question????).

My question: Mr President, do you promise that the next FDA commissioner will hold companies accountable for the safety of their products being sold to the American people?

Because of the "surprising" departure of Tom Daschle, the search for the new head of the Food and Drug Administration is being put on hold.

From Reuters:

..."In general, the Daschle mess slows everything down ... it has frankly really made a mess of all the appointments," said Capital Alpha Partners health care analyst Kim Monk.

On Friday, the White House said it planned to announce a new FDA commissioner in the next few days. But many FDA watchers have said a nominee is not likely until an HHS secretary is confirmed.

Many are eager for new leadership at the FDA, which regulates products that make up roughly a quarter of the nation's economy and has been hammered by a string of safety issues, from the withdrawal of Merck & Co Inc's Vioxx painkiller to the current salmonella outbreak from tainted peanuts...

While some people are concerned about dumb athletes and the choices they make in their personal lives, our food system is silently killing Americans, unbeknownst to them. Is it me, or does there seem to be more salmonella outbreaks that usual in recent years? Well, I say there is no coincidence to this issue. The latest outbreak - peanuts - started in a Georgia factory, where workers knew that their product was tainted and didn't bother to tell anyone.

Did you know that this is just business as usual in the corporate food world and the FDA? Food producers are not necessarily required (in practice) to tell the FDA that their products are crap. You did know that, right?

At least someone in Washington is keeping it real...

From Hartford Courant:

...While innocent people continued to get sick from contaminated peanut butter, the case lingered in jurisdictional limbo between the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, causing critical delays. And when the salmonella's source was finally identified, FDA officials had to wait for industry approval before they could go live with the recall. That is not how a fully functioning regulatory agency is supposed to operate.

To truly fix inherent problems in our food safety system, we must fundamentally restructure the food safety bureaucracy at the FDA. Today, food safety is divided among multiple, separately managed units at the FDA — the Office of the Commissioner, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, the field force (Office of Regulatory Affairs) and the National Center for Toxicological Research. As a result, there is no one single individual to be held accountable for food safety at the FDA or anywhere else at the federal level.

Separating food safety regulation from drug and device approvals would go a long way toward restoring the balance that has long been missing at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and give food safety the attention it deserves. By establishing a Food Safety Administration within Health and Human Services, headed by its own commissioner, we can give food safety experts and researchers the room and the resources to do their jobs...

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Fairey vs. The World

Speaking of memorabilia, the artist behind the ultimate Obama memorabilia got busted last night.

From WCVB:

...Shepard Fairey, 38, was arrested on two outstanding warrants as he was about to enter an exhibition of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Fairey was charged with damage to property for having painted two Boston area locations with graffiti, spokesman James Kenneally said.

Fairey told the Los Angeles Times last year that his "Obey Giant" street art campaign had led to his arrest many times.

Boston police said he had painted his "Andre The Giant" graffiti near an entrance to the Massachusetts Turpike and the Boston University bridge across the Charles River...

Up until this week, I thought those iconic red, white and blue images of our president were created by his campaign. I had no clue who the real artist was until I started watching some TV commercial he is in right now and a new tour of his artwork. Then I read an angry letter in this week's Boston Phoenix.

Fairey, who is notorious for having sticky fingers and “appropriating” other artists’ work for his multi-million dollar company, without giving a dime of compensation or credit when he can, is somehow painted as the innocent anti-establishment artist. Give me a break. You were so busy kissing Fairey’s ass you probably didn’t have time to ask him about René Mederos, the Cuban artist that he stole from to create one of his more popular T-shirt designs. Only when caught did Fairey’s company pull the T-shirt and pay the artist’s family a pittance of a royalty fee. Now Fairey’s most famous work of President Obama is proving to be just as mired in plagiarism — he’s attempting to stiff the original photographer. Fairey’s proving himself to be the next Todd Goldman, and trying to say that finding something on Google means he doesn’t need to give credit where credit’s due. Funny, I found his art on Google — but he wants me to pay him to hang it on a wall.

Way to go, Phoenix — you really know how to side with the short-changed artists.

The photographer Fairey is accused of stealing from is a former Associated Press staffer. If the AP is not down with being stiffed by the blogosphere, they are certainly not going to take crap from some street artist.

The Associated Press, which claims the art is based on a photograph taken by one of its photographers, has alleged copyright infringement and wants credit and compensation.

“We have reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney and are in discussions. We hope for an amicable solution." said Paul Colford, AP's director of media relations.

The image, Fairey has acknowledged, is based on an Associated Press photograph, taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia on assignment for the AP at the National Press Club in Washington.

"We believe fair use protects Shepard's right to do what he did here," Fairey's lawyer, Anthony Falzone, told the Associated Press.

The image was used by Time magazine on its cover when it named Obama its "Person Of The Year."

I am interested in how this will play out. I wonder if the Obama campaign paid Fairey for helping to get its man elected...

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No Vatican Love Online

Shocking News: No one is buying into the Vatican's YouTube channel.

From Times of London:

It only launched last Friday, but already the papal Youtube channel is losing viewers.

A total of 90,411 hits were registered on Vatican YouTube on its launch day, Jan 24. By Monday, the audience for the English language version of the site, which features videos of Pope Benedict's addresses had fallen to 31, 558 views, according to the video measuring service TubeMogul.

The channel, which uses existing content broadcast on Vatican tv and radio channels. Users are not permitted to post comments or ratings while the Vatican Channel does not allow for its videos to be embedded on third-party sites, a factor which may prevent the google site from attracting a larger web audience.

The Vatican hopes to broaden Pope Benedict’s outreach through the channel. In his first appearance on Youtube on Friday, the Pope described the internet as a “great family that knows no borders.”

So long as the family doesn't criticize other family members...

I guess Pope Benedict has at least one thing in common with Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev.

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Obama Memorabilia = $$$$

If you haven't noticed, President Obama has not been having a good week. (And big-ups to Katie Couric for her hard hitting questions!)

Now that I am getting older, I need to start thinking about saving more stacks in my bank account for retirement. Unlike Tom Daschle, I don't have the luxury to get away with not paying up to Uncle Sam annually. Also, with the down economy these days, even less money is being saved and actually going towards my rising rent and bills.

So, I have discovered a way to invest in my future. What better way to make money than to invest in Obama memorabilia! Hey, if the US government would rather give bailouts to corporate executives than to average Americans, I need to get my own hustle on.

From American Society of Appraisers:

Holders of a Barack Obama button or a McCain-Palin bumper sticker may want keep their collectibles in a safe place, as items from the historic 2008 elections may become valuable memorabilia in years to come, appraisal experts who are members of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) advise.

They say campaign memorabilia may likely increase in value over the years, depending on election outcomes, an office-holders’ legacy, or the events that shape an administration. Not only was this an historic presidential election, but there were scores of pivotal House, Senate and gubernatorial races. It was also the first time a former first lady ran for president.

“The value of an item comes after the campaign is over,” said Allan Stypeck, a 35-year personal property appraiser and member of the American Society of Appraisers. “Political memorabilia is so much a part of this country.”

Paula Hantman, Accredited Senior Appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers, said a president’s profile plays a large part in the value of memorabilia. Hantman also said the rarer the item—such as an inaugural address or a pen used to sign an important document--will become more valuable. A PT109 tie tac from the Kennedy legacy is less valuable because there are a large number of them available through various commercial outlets.

Stypeck, an ASA Accredited Senior Appraiser who appraised the holdings of Fords’ Theater in Washington, D.C. that houses an exhibit on President Abraham Lincoln, said the history of items plays a large part in an object’s value. Items from the term of Willliam Henry Harrison hold particular value, Stypeck said, because the president died only 30 days into office.

Another key determinant in the value of political memorabilia is its desirability. Hantman and Stypeck said if an item is mass produced or in wide circulation, it won’t be worth as much. Stypek added that as electronic campaigning becomes more popular, there are fewer tangible collectibles whose values may rise.

The rarer the item, the more value it holds. Stypeck counts a jug commemorating the inauguration of George Washington as the nation’s first president as one of the oldest items he’s appraised.

Now you have to figure that Obama being the first black president, anything with his name on it is solid gold. So, for the last few weeks, I have been collecting a lot of commemorative magazines, mostly from the black press like Ebony, Essence and the local black newspaper, as well as an assortment of Obama campaign buttons, literature and bumper stickers, which I am wrapping in plastic and putting in a undisclosed place so I can peddle them on Ebay in 20 years. Or even better, I can be featured on Antiques Roadshow with my collectibles.

But I am not that desperate...

Check out some of the other "memorabilia" people are putting out:

Now this is getting a little out of hand.

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Baseball brings Africans together online

Sport has always been used to bring groups of people together for goodwill ever since the first Olympic games in 776 BC. In today's sporting world where soccer is king, there are other sports enthusiasts using lesser known activities - baseball - to spread good sportsmanship while raising awareness about social causes.

The African Baseball Network (ABN) is an organization that uses baseball as a recreational tool to enhance education and socio-cultural exchanged within marginalized communities in Africa and the United States. Some of ABN's programs include computer literacy, baseball development skills, HIV/AIDS education and awareness while encouraging interactive recreational activities. The organization currently uses its Facebook group page to recruit volunteers and spread the word about their initiative.

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Obama's peeps and taxes...

Doesn't anyone in Obama's administration pay taxes?

First Timothy Geithner, then Tom Daschle, and now Nancy Kilefer, the person who was "suppose" to oversee how the federal budget is handled.

From CNN:

...Killefer is a senior director at the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. She was nominated last month as Obama pledged to cut unnecessary spending and bring "a new sense of responsibility to Washington." Officials said her position would restore fiscal order and reform government.

"We can no longer afford to sustain the old ways when we know there are new and more efficient ways of getting the job done," the president said in announcing her nomination...

Say it with me: The more things change, the more things remain the same.

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Random Gordon Ramsay Ridiculousness

If you who love watching Gordon Ramsay and his TV cooking antics, you will love this parody. While I do find some of his shows to be a bit sexist, I have to admit that he is mad funny.

Also, do you love the theme music to Gordon Ramsay's F-Word as much as I do? Well, the song is done by the UK band Blackbird