Current Obsession #7

Approximately twenty years after its debut, I've officially hopped on the X-Files bandwagon. DM and I are watching the new miniseries together, and are now on an ambitious quest to work our way through the first nine seasons. For those of you who are skeptical about the reboot, you HAVE to watch Episode 3, it's epically good (... and would likely be even better for those of you die-hard X-Filephiles).

For Your Enjoyment #37

The stocky mammals are celebrated as soothsayers that peer into the future when they emerge from their burrows, surveying the landscape for telltale shadows that signal Jack Frost's plans for the next six weeks. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is the birthplace of Groundhog Day and the home of Punxsutawney Phil, the Peyton Manning of prescient rodents. During a ceremony at sunrise, the waddling prophet is retrieved from his heated home inside a mock tree stump and hoisted heavenward by top-hatted helpers who interpret his gestures to make a prediction while thousands watch. Phil's stardom is coupled with infamy and not just due to the fact that his forecasts have been off 55% of the time over the past three decades, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

- The groundhog: Friend, foe and/or meteorologist? (image above)

“He looks amazing in the pictures,” the photographer told the China Daily in an earlier interview. “Not everybody looks good in suits. But he’s got class...he is happy that people are being nice to him and to be welcomed by so many people. Having people pay attention to him and having a sense of existing are important to him,” he added. “I want my grandpa to feel that he is useful.” Speaking on Monday with the help of his grandson, Ding said he had enjoyed his unforeseen transformation from farmer to fashionista. “They are beautiful,” the softly spoken grandfather said of his grandson’s viral photographs. The retired farmer said he was unable to pick his favourite look from his menswear collection. “I like all of them,” he told the Guardian.

- The story behind China's coolest, most dapper grandpa

Like most gay and equality campaigners, I initially condemned the Christian-run Ashers Bakery in Belfast over its refusal to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan for a gay customer, Gareth Lee. I supported his legal claim against Ashers and the subsequent verdict – the bakery was found guilty of discrimination last year. Now, two days before the case goes to appeal, I have changed my mind. Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion... The judge concluded that service providers are required to facilitate any “lawful” message, even if they have a conscientious objection. This raises the question: should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier? Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas.

- Revisiting the case against Ashers Bakery's 2014 refusal to accept an order for a pro-gay marriage cake - where do you draw the line between upholding personal beliefs v. practicing active discrimination?

The search is on in Australia for a motorist who is believed to have deliberately run over 17 kangaroos. Black tire marks along a road in Wacol, Brisbane, suggest the car swerved to hit the animals as they fed by the side of the road, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

- This person: Christ, what an asshole.

Of the 22 states that will be casting their ballots for a Republican nominee between Feb. 1 and March 5, 11 of them feature a Republican electorate that is more than 50 percent evangelical. Even more significant, the first state to vote is Iowa, roughly 60 percent of whose Republican caucus-goers describe themselves as evangelical Christians. As had been the case in recent election cycles, if Cruz could persuade this voting bloc to coalesce around him, then in this crowded field of Republican candidates he would almost certainly emerge the winner in Iowa.

- Welp, it looks like Ted Cruz's evangelical strategy apparently worked...

A gracious Trump gave brief concession remarks on Monday night, congratulating Ted Cruz and expressing gratitude to his team and the people of Iowa. “I’m just honored,” he said. “I’m really honored and I want to congratulate Ted and I want to congratulate all of the incredible candidates, including Mike Huckabee who’s become a really good friend of mine...I think I might come here [to Iowa] and buy a farm, I love it,” he said.

Trump displays some class after conceding Iowa

The only thing wrong with politics, he said, is “not enough good people bother to try.”

Farewell but not goodbye, Martin O'Malley 

Dropping out of the presidential race can be more important — and can have a more lasting impact — than entering it. Departing the right way can help a candidate built a lasting “brand” and set him or her up for speaking fees, TV contracts, a book deal and, who knows, maybe another run for the top prize one day....So how will 2016’s favorite soon-to-be-also-rans finally quit? 

- Some possible exit strategies to consider, including "The Mike Huckabee" approach (Spoiler alert - Historical precedent: Mike Huckabee; Most likely this year: Mike Huckabee)

Who will address the criminalization of our people? Who understands that we’re experiencing an economic crisis made worse by structural barriers to jobs and education? Who will bring us closer to real safety, freedom and power? Who has clearly shown us where they stand? The answer is someone who started this work well before campaign season, who understands our deaths as tragedies — not political talking points — and someone who will speak out against the wars being waged against our communities. Not someone who only pays attention to our concerns when it’s time to collect our votes. Not someone who gives us bread crumbs and expects us to be full. Black Americans — all Americans — need a leader with a record that speaks for itself. And to me, it’s clear. Of all the presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders is our strongest ally.

- Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, is Feeling the Bern

I like Bernie, but....

- The name of this website says it all. Bernie skeptics, check it out

"For Cam to make such a bold statement with his pants -- we'll have to see in the game -- but he might walk in there with supreme confidence that this show might not really be getting to him. You don't really wear pants like that if you're having a bashful moment."

- Come Sunday, will Cam Newton and his Panthers live up to Cam's pants' hype

"The kitten players," [Boomer Esiason, the Feline Football League commissioner] offered, "are so much easier to deal with than human players." 

- Mark your calendars: Kitten Bowl 2016, airing Sunday 7 February 2016 (image above)

Sunday's Starting Lineups

For Your Enjoyment #36

M.G. Lord, a Barbie biographer, once said she was designed “to teach women what—for better or worse — is expected of them in society.” [In 1963], a teen Barbie was sold with a diet book that recommended simply, “Don’t eat.” When a Barbie with pre-programmed phrases uttered, “Math class is tough,” a group called the Barbie Liberation Organization said the doll taught girls that it was more important to be pretty than smart. Mattel argues that the criticism was misplaced — that Barbie was a businesswoman in 1963, an astronaut in 1965 and a surgeon in 1973 when 9% of all doctors were women. Mattel has also long claimed that Barbie has no influence on girls’ body image, pointing to whisper-thin models and even moms as the source of the dissatisfaction that too many young girls feel about their bodies. A handful of studies, however, suggest that Barbie does have at least some influence on what girls see as the ideal body... Therein lies Barbie’s problem. As much as Mattel has tried to market her as a feminist, Barbie’s famous figure has always overshadowed her business outfits. At her core, she’s just a body, not a character, a canvas upon which society can project its anxieties about body image. “Barbie has all this baggage,” says Jess Weiner, a branding expert and consultant. “Her status as an empowered woman has been lost.”

- Barbie gets a much-needed body makeover...but is it too little, too late?

They gathered around a bonfire (there really was a bonfire) and presumably engaged in Robert Bly-style mythopoetic healing, getting back to their manly roots by stroking their rifles, wearing camo undies, and complaining about all the wrongs done to them by women/the federal government/wild birds/whoever. The Bundy militiamen are an extreme example of a type that's become common in America. Like the Tea Partiers, they seem to not only believe that they're the only people in history who've ever paid taxes, but that they're the only people who were ever sad about it. What they call tyranny on the part of the federal government just means putting up with the same irritating bills and regulations and other crap that we all put up with, only the rest of us don't whine about it in the front seats of our cars while posing in front of tripods.

- Matt Taibbi takes aim at the Bundy Bunch

The idea that satire from the left can serve as a bulwark against far-right ideas is provably false. #YallQaeda tweets might be some harmless fun, but liberal laughing along deserves no great celebration on its own merits. [This] reaction is an index of profound structural racism, for which comedy is an insufficient critique. If leader Ammon Bundy and company are a joke, then the joke’s also on us: We’re in such a pitiable state of affairs that laughable loons can express themselves politically with guns waving while unarmed people of color are deemed threats and are summarily executed. What’s even more troubling from a progressive perspective is that many of the tweets concerning the holdup in Oregon include low blows at white trash stereotypes — crackers, jerky, inbreeding, beer. In his critique of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s reductive Muhammad caricatures, Tim Parks wrote in The New York Review of Books that “the worst case is when satire reinforces the state of mind it purports to undercut, polarizes prejudices and provokes the very behavior it condemns.” Satire that deploys classism to skewer racists and conservatives is certainly such a worst case. Why not focus on their very real, very frightening beliefs? 

- While Taibbi's article (previous) certainly appears to hold some degree of truth, Al Jazeera counters his snarkiness with a necessary dose of the sobering reality behind the Bundy standoff 

Those looking to the Militia Movement as some kind of bulwark against government tyranny ought to look somewhere else, because if you really want to understand what it’s like to have your land rights violated by a tyrannical government, go talk to a member of a Native American tribe — and count your own privileges

- ... Does the Bundy Bunch even know what their beloved Constitution says? (h/t DM)

If you're looking for evidence of anti-Carolina bias in the Super Bowl, you can't do much better than this: grounds crews mistakenly painted BRONCOS in both end zones of Levi's Stadium. Making things easier on Peyton Manning? Giving Cam Newton an even higher hurdle to clear? Or just a case of bizarre miscommunication?

- Woops.

[Brandon] McManus, the Denver Broncos kicker, was telling the gathered [elementary school] girls and boys to be proud of who they are, and to stand up for themselves and others by reporting mistreatment to parents, teachers and guidance counselors. Don't ever be afraid to speak out, the kicker told them. "You hear horror stories on the news of young kids killing themselves after getting bullied at school," McManus said. "To be able to give someone guidance, someone to talk to, is much bigger to me than kicking a winning field goal. There's always going to be another game, so impacting a kid or a family always gives me my most rewarding smile." 

- Brandon McManus, ladies and gentleman. See also: Anti Bully Squad / Text to Report

 

That old New Jersey / it fills my memory of all those places that are gone 

- My dad posted a link to this video a bit ago on his blog; it's pretty neat for me to be able to see some of the things that my parents saw growing up in Jersey! (video above)

Willie was famous in North West N.J. For me he always represented this Norman Rockwell small town Americana ideal. Sitting there with his American flag being the friendly old guy, waving to everyone who drove past. Sometimes he would walk to the local A&P or to the Cranberry Lake Market and Deli (Krausers at that time) and would greet everyone coming in or out, telling them to have a great day. He spent most of everyday, sitting in front of his house on Rt 206 in Byram/Andover waving to every car that passed. Nothing, not rain nor snow nor heat nor wind, kept him in. Every single there he was there to wave, and everyone honked their horns and waved back as they passed. He is a legend in Sussex County, and a symbolic piece of our childhoods. He passed in 2000 from a heart attack, while waving. To this day his chair is still there on the side of 206, and people still leave flowers.

- After sharing the "Old New Jersey" video (above) with DM, he dug up this wonderful little tribute to Willy Sparinger

Is there any home purchase more confusing and fraught with anxiety than buying a mattress? Study after study points to sleep being vitally important to our health and happiness, and it stands to reason that a mattress is a foundational component of a good night’s rest. And yet to choose the right one, shoppers must navigate a Kafkaesque maze... It would help if mattresses were like couches or dining tables and came in easily distinguishable styles, shapes and colors. But as Brett Swygman, a vice president for sales and development at Simmons, admitted, the products his company and its competitors sell have a baffling visual uniformity. People walk into a store, Mr. Swygman said, “and see a sea of white rectangles.”

- This article pretty much sums up my recent hell of trying to buy a new mattress. 

"If it gets a little boring, if I see people starting to sort of, maybe thinking about leaving, I can sort of tell the audience, I just say, ‘We will build the wall!’ and they go nuts."

- Donald Trump knows he's talking out of his ass

“My question is, what are you going to replace it with?” Valde asked. “Sir, I promise you, I will answer your question. I’m laying out first of all the problems,” Cruz said. He went on to say that the “most pragmatic, the most prudent” thing to do is repeal the law and start over. When that is done, he said that competition in the marketplace should be expanded, people should be able to buy health insurance across state lines and that everyone wants people to have insurance coverage. “Your brother-in-law couldn’t afford it,” Cruz said. “Right. But he could afford it, he finally got it under Obama,” Valde told Cruz. Cruz repeated Valde’s story, that by the time Valde’s brother-in-law went to a doctor, he was already dying. “He would have gotten it earlier, if he could have afforded it earlier, but because of government regulations, he couldn’t,” Cruz said. Valde, a Democrat who said he will caucus for Hillary Clinton, said after the exchange that Cruz hadn’t answered his question. Valde said he knows there have been many problems implementing the law, but he said it allowed his brother-in-law to finally afford health care. “It’s a stump line, we’re gonna repeal Obamacare, every word, and then you get the crowd response,” he said. “I want an America with health care.”

- What exactly IS Ted Cruz's plan for health care "reform", anyways? 

30BB862E00000578-3424453-NASA_s_Curiosity_Mars_rover_snapped_this_selfie_which_is_a_compo-a-2_1454183962707.jpg
The rover typically collects sand and examines particles on Mars - and once a year it stops to sing 'Happy Birthday' to itself - but the car-sized rover has also dedicated time to snapping pictures. And many of them have been of itself.

- I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I think Curiosity's selfies are the best - and how great is it that it sings "Happy Birthday" to itself ever year?? (image above)

Upon waking up, [kayaker Ben Orkin] casually checked his email one last time and received the last note he ever expected to receive. Another team had, quite literally, just broken the record. “The email said, ‘Hey, good luck out there. Our time is around 35 hours. Just thought you should know,’” Orkin said. “I was on my way to the put-in. I was like, ‘Oh, man, I can’t believe I wasn’t the first person to break the Emerald Mile record!’”

- The Emerald Mile's 33-year-old speed record for the Grand Canyon has been broken twice in the last few days; much respect for these guys, but I for one am looking forward to spending more than 35 hours on the river!

How is it possible that National [airport], which sits on the banks of the Potomac practically in the shadow of the Washington Monument, had about half the amount of snow as the other two [airports, Dulles and BWI]? We all know Washington is famous for fudging numbers and subjective math, but even in a town where climate change is a flash point, both sides of the aisle could agree: This sounds fishy. So what went awry? Turns out, the culprit was reportedly the measuring device. As in, it got lost in the snow.

- Just how much snow was dumped on the DC area during last week's Snowzilla? Maybe we'll never know.

The former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency, John C. Inglis, even described the squirrel threat as one of the greatest dangers facing mankind, according to the squirrel-tracking website Cyber Squirrel 1. “I don’t think paralysis [of the electrical grid] is more likely by cyberattack than by natural disaster. And frankly the number-one threat experienced to date by the U.S. electrical grid is squirrels.”

- Cyber Squirrel 1 tells me that the squirrel threat is real

Now that dogs are getting acupuncture, there's a space open for chickens to move up from incubators to actual trainable pets. Thanks to Chicken Camp PDX, a four day class in April, your chicken will cross the road because you told it to. 

- Hurry and sign up for Chicken Camp PDX to reserve your (and your chicken's) spot ASAP! (image above)

The Doctrine of Christ

On November 5, 2015 the policy change to LDS Handbook 1 regarding homosexual members became known to the public. Since then, in the US, 34 LDS LGBT young people between the ages of 14 and 20 have committed suicide. The numbers are being tallied by Wendy and Thomas Montgomery, leaders in the Mama Dragons and Dragon Dads support groups for LDS LGBT families. That’s 1 suicide every 60 hours, or every 2 ½ days. That number does not include a count of suicide attempts, nor of suicides by any closeted LGBT young people. Twenty-eight of these suicides occurred in Utah, a state that averages 37 youth suicides in a 12 month period. Thirty-four in 84 days is a stunning statistic. It’s horrifying. And gut-wrenching. It is also telling. It tells us we adults are not successfully supporting our LGBT youth. 

Here’s the newsflash: every one of us has culpability for these deaths if we are not actively, openly doing all we can to reduce them. Step one in that quest is to make sure your adult voice is heard by all our youth so that every one of them knows exactly who among us will listen, love, and let them lean on our shoulders. The more voices they hear in their congregations – voices that rise not to preach, but to love and support – the lower the odds become that they will choose death. These kids are a gift from God. Let them hear you say that, clearly and often, without qualification. Save a life, starting today.

We, the members of Christ’s church, are the hands our Heavenly Father reaches with, the voices He uses to calm and reassure, the hearts that beats in time with the suffering child. None of us in the proverbial trenches of Mormonism have the right, power, or influence to change a policy, establish doctrine, or institute any kind of official church-wide outreach of healing toward our LGBT brothers and sisters. But we have the right, power, and influence to cause change within our sphere, to show our desire to include, to love, and to understand. We must be the embodiment of God’s love for these young people.

Some of you probably are shouting in your heads, “But the Bible says acting on homosexuality is a sin!” or “Homosexuality is contrary to the plan of salvation!”

Let me clue you in. The kid that is dead? His parents? Her parents? Each of these kids is the one Christ told us to leave the 99 to find and save. THAT is the doctrine of Christ. To expend your efforts denouncing homosexuality when that one kid is staring in the mirror, thinking he’d be better off dead, places you squarely in the temple with the Pharisees. Stop arguing doctrine and go live the gospel. Stop trumpeting “righteousness” and start ministering to the wounded.

Trust me. These LGBT kids are in your ward and your stake, many gasping for air in the shadows. Love them into your arms in precisely the way you know Christ would. No people are better prepared to do exactly that than are the Mormon people. Pray for guidance. And then go do it. Go love the children. Love them with your full heart and full voice.

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matt 25:40

- Read this in its entirety (See also: LDS Handbook 1 policy changes, 2015

 

For Your Enjoyment #35, Race to the White House 2016 Ed.

It's Western civilization's very own car wreck. Even if you don't want to watch it, you will... The irony is that this was supposed to be the year when the Republicans opened the tent up, made a sincere play for the Hispanic vote, and perhaps softened up a bit on gays and other vermin. But then the lights went on in the race and voters flocked to a guy whose main policy plank was the construction of a giant Game of Thrones-style wall to keep rape-happy ethnics off our lawns. So much for inclusion! ...It may not seem funny now, because it's happening to us, but centuries from this moment, people will laugh in wonder. America is ceasing to be a nation, and turning into a giant television show.

- "Go Crazy or Go Home": Matt Taibbi takes a look into the 2016 GOP Clown Car (image above)

If someone did make a movie about the 2016 presidential race, who would play the candidates? …The funniest suggestion I received for the role of [Bobby] Jindal was the empty chair from Clint Eastwood's infamous convention speech.

- Taibbi gathers suggestions for a Hollywood casting call 

In all the hysteria, however, what's often missed are the qualities that brought Trump here. You don't do a fraction of what he's done in life — dominate New York real estate for decades, build the next grand Xanadus for the super-rich on the far shores of Dubai and Istanbul, run the prime-time ratings table for more than 10 years and earn a third (or sixth) fortune at it – without being immensely cunning and deft, a top-of-the-food-chain killer. Over the course of 10 days and several close-in encounters, I got to peer behind the scrim of his bluster and self-mythos and get a very good look at the man. What I saw was enough to make me take him dead serious. If you're waiting for Trump to blow himself up in a Hindenburg of gaffes or hate speech, you're in for a long, cold fall and winter. Donald Trump is here for the duration — and gaining strength and traction by the hour.

- Rolling Stone heads on the campaign trail with Donald Trump

There has been a lot of talk this campaign season about how women pols bring superior qualities to the table: collegiality and listening skills. But Sarahcuda shows that we are truly the equals of men, capable of narcissistic explosions, brazen hypocrisy and unapologetic greed. She had barely finished the endorsement Tuesday when she began using it to raise money for SarahPAC, so she can take her show on the road... Palin has done us a favor by proving that a woman can stumble, babble incoherently on stage and spew snide garbage, and it isn’t a blot on the female copybook.

- Maureen Dowd thanks Sarah Palin for saving feminism in her wonderfully snarky Op-Ed in the Times

 

Let's Take a Quick Chris Christie Interlude, Shall We?

Chris Christie is, even in moments of tranquility — of which, in his life, there seem to be none — a torqued-up, joyously belligerent, easily baited, and preternaturally exuberant son of New Jersey, so bringing him to a Bruce Springsteen concert is an exercise in volcano management. Christie, in the presence of Springsteen — whom he would marry if he were gay and if gay people were allowed to marry in the state he governs — loses himself... “No one is beyond the reach of Bruce!” [Christie] screams over the noise of the crowd, and then screams it again, to make sure I understand: “No one is beyond the reach of Bruce!”  There is something odd about this assertion, beyond the obvious, which is that there are, in fact, people who don’t like Springsteen, who find his singing akin to hog-calling; others find his Tribune of the Downtrodden persona a bit of a pose. But what is strange about this statement is that it is an inversion of a central, dispiriting truth of Christie’s life: Bruce Springsteen is beyond his reach.

- The reason behind this tangent: we need to revisit Chris Christie's unrequited love for The Boss

"We gotta get out but we can't. We're stuck in Governor Chris Christie's Fort Lee, NJ traffic jam."

-  I still can't stop watching Springsteen and Fallon's 2014 ode to Bridgegate (video above)  

[I]n many great love stories, some will be punished and some will be pardoned. In this tale of woe, though, the punishment was meted out on national televisionGov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was scorned, in his hour of need, by the man whose embrace he had so fervently sought and only recently secured... At venues large and small, the populist rocker seemed to go out of his way to snub the governor. Still, Mr. Christie never wavered in his devotion. “Just because we disagree doesn’t mean I don’t get him,” Mr. Christie said. Love runs deeper than disagreements. It would take a hurricane to bring the two men together. They embraced at a benefit for Hurricane Sandy victims at Rockefeller Center. For Mr. Christie, it was more than just a hug. He later relayed the experience to President Obama, who had himself played matchmaker, arranging a call between the two men. “I told the president today actually that the hug was great and that when we got home there was a lot of weeping because of the hug,” Mr. Christie recalled after the trip. “And the president said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Well, to be honest, I was the one weeping; everyone else was fine.’ ” At a town-hall-style meeting not long after the embrace, Mr. Christie told voters, “We hugged and he told me it’s official: We’re friends.” But it would not last.

- In the post-Bridgegate Springsteen spoof world, the end of Christie's one-sided love affair

In a videotaped interview, when asked to choose between Mr. Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, also from New Jersey, Mr. Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, both picked Mr. Bon Jovi without hesitation. 

- ...Bon Jovi now?  At least the feeling is mutual

 

... And we're back to The Present

To hear the pundits and experts in Washington tell it, the problem with Ted Cruz is that he doesn’t play well with others in the Senate, he’s too hardheaded and he doesn’t compromise... But there is a far bigger problem with Cruz: Donald Trump is not the most self-absorbed Republican running for president — Cruz is. Whether you like Trump or not (and I don’t), at least Trump makes no effort to hide his narcissism. Cruz, on the other hand, takes great pains to be whatever he thinks you want him to be. And the troubling thing is he’s really good at it. Occasionally, he offers a glimpse of his vanity and his need to be loved — such as the hilariously painful 15 hours of B-roll footage his campaign put on the Web for use by his super PACs. My favorite part of that footage is the multiple times he and his family practiced the prayer scene before a meal… The other revealing scene is when Cruz is sitting on the couch with his mom and he says, “Not a day goes by that my mom is not lifting me up in prayer.” Then mom agrees saying, “It’s true.” But then, Cruz can’t help himself and he adds, “for hours at a time,” after which mom can’t take it anymore and very tellingly gives us a roll of the eyes that says it all... There is no denying that Cruz is a smart and gifted orator. But if you listen closely you will find that he sells everything with the exact same level of zeal. Whether he is condemning the Islamic State or ordering a ham sandwich, the invective is identical.... Cruz’s view of himself was on full display in the CNBC debate in Colorado in October. All candidates were asked to show some vulnerability by sharing a few thoughts on their biggest weakness. Cruz answered first with a joke by saying, “I’m too agreeable, easygoing.” But then Cruz got down to business, telling the watching nation about his biggest weakness — “You know, I think my biggest weakness is exactly the opposite. I’m a fighter. I am passionate about what I believe. I’ve been passionate my whole life about the Constitution.” There you have it. His biggest weakness is that he is wonderful... In fact, Cruz has failed in every cause he has championed — and it is never his fault. Failure to defund Planned Parenthood, failure to repeal Obamacare, failure to stop the Iran deal—and the list goes on. Of course, all conservatives want these battles to be fought, even if we lose. But it’s not really the issue or the cause that Cruz is championing. No, he just wants to be the one leading the cause—and wants you to see him doing it. Cruz is a perpetual martyr. 

- Ted Cruz: The Televangelist Candidate?

"His commitment to overcomb any obstacle."

- A few of the funniest things said about Donald Trump

'It's actually a flannel moth caterpillar, they're really rare, I've seen this type of caterpillar before but never one of this colour. We put the picture of our Twitter and Facebook page and immediately people started comparing it to Donald Trump. We didn't see the resemblance when we first saw the caterpillar but looking at the photo it's certainly similar to his hair... I think if Donald saw it himself, he'd find a reason to come down and check the caterpillar out. It's not the most approachable of caterpillars either - if you touch that thing it would seriously hurt, it has these little hairs that can poke into your skin and release a venom."

- Caterpillar or Trump Toupee? (image above) On a related note: TIME Magazine has discovered the secret behind Trump's 'do

"I'm here for all you teachers and teamsters, you farmers and charmers, whether you're a mom or Two Broke Girls or Three Men and a Baby, or a rockin' roller, holy roller, pushing stroller, pro bowler with an abscessed molar..."

- Tina Fey nails Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump (video above), complete with That Cardigan and a spot-on speech

He would email them at all hours of the night, causing many to avoid meetings at which they believed Cruz would in attendance, lest they be added to his list of correspondents.

- Ted Cruz has been annoying people for decades

Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Thursday's Fox News Channel debate was treated like a bombshell, a surprise move from a candidate who has patented the mid-week swerve. But it was entirely predictable.

- Oscar Wilde was right: There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

Among the whole sample of Republicans, Trump led Cruz by 11 points, but among those who caucused last time, Cruz led by 2. On the Democratic side, the effect was even more stark: Sanders led Clinton by 8 points among all respondents, but among those who caucused in 2008, Clinton led by 17.

- Just how representative will Monday's Iowa Caucuses be? 

One factor that may entice Mr Bloomberg into the race is a rising number of Americans who are seemingly disaffected with the two-party system. Gallup poll numbers show the number of independents has climbed to 43% of the electorate. If Mr Bloomberg’s fiscally conservative but socially liberal platform could galvanise these middle-of-the-roaders, he could stand a chance. But, again, it all depends on who wins the two major party nominations. In a battle of extremes between Mr Trump and Mr Sanders, Mr Bloomberg could conceivably peel off enough moderate voters from both parties to build a winning coalition. But in a contest featuring a centrist and a polarising figure like Mr Trump or Ted Cruz, Mr Bloomberg would likely share the reasonable-person vote with Mrs Clinton — to the benefit of the GOP nominee.

- The Economist considers who would vote for Michael Bloomberg should he consider a late entry into the race

So, let's have it. Run, Mike, run. Would it be in the best interests of the country for him to run? Probably not. Would it be in the best interests of the country for him to be president? Oh, hell no. Would it be a heck of a lot of fun? You bet.

- Speaking of Bloomberg: The Week describes what would be at stake in a Trump-Bloomberg rivalry

This election is about changing the parameters of what’s feasible and ending the choke hold of big money on our political system. In other words, it’s about power – whether the very wealthy who now have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well... I have worked closely with [Hillary Clinton] and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s clearly the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have. But the political system we now have is profoundly broken. Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have because he’s leading a political movement for change.

- Robert Reich gets to the heart of the Sanders-Clinton debate (See also: this piece)

"I frankly think that in our system of mainly bought elections, [Bernie Sanders] doesn't have much of a chance. But if he were elected I think he would - of the current candidates -  be the one who would have, from my point of view, the best policies."

- Noam Chomsky doesn't appear to have much faith in a Sanders win...but has he read Reich's response(s)?

With Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz battling for the Republican nomination, two powerful factions of their party are now clashing over the question: Which man is more dangerous?

- I think we all know the answer to this one

The Year In Review: 2015

This past year was a crazy whirlwind, to say the least. 2015 will forever to me be remembered as a year of goodbyes and a year of hellos - goodbye to my life as I knew it for ten years in the Bay Area, and hello to an entirely new start in SLC. I owe a huge "Thank you" to my family, to my friends and to D, for providing me with the support and stability I desperately needed last year - it's because of each of you that I found the strength to start this new chapter in my life, and to learn how to appreciate and enjoy every step along the way.  Below is a collection of a few of my favorite memories from the past year - ones that make me cry, ones that make me laugh, and, most of all, ones that make me smile. ♥

Hello, 2016.

Started off the new year by dog sledding in Bridger-Teton National Forest, snowshoeing around Grand Teton National Park and snowmobiling though Yellowstone; follow along in detail over here. Dear 2016, you're looking good so far.