Saturday, February 28, 2015

We Are Spock

Leonard Nimoy, best known for portraying Spock on Star Trek, has died. The character that NBC execs wanted to dump because he was too Satanic is among the most iconic in screen history -- perhaps in even all of fiction.

I was nine years old when Star Trek first aired in 1966. I don't remember when I started watching, but at one point my parents let me stay up late on Friday nights to see it. And I remember watching the last episode, the terrible "Turnabout Intruder," in 1969. I watched the show endlessly in reruns in the 1970s.

I'd always been interested in the space program. My uncle worked for Lockheed in California as a materials scientist and some of his work wound up in the Apollo spacecraft. He was a voracious reader of science fiction, and I aspired to be like him.

So when Star Trek came out, it wasn't surprising that Spock became my favorite character. One Halloween I used nose putty to make pointed ears. I shaved off half my eyebrows and my mom drew upswept eyebrows on my forehead with eyeliner. I sewed gold braid on the sleeves of a pale blue sweatshirt. I even bear a passing physical resemblance to Leonard Nimoy.

Like Spock, I strive to eschew irrationality and violence. But also like Spock, I have flashes of temper and sentimentality. But Spock is just a character in a show. He's a fiction.

As such, the fictional character and the men who play him -- Nimoy and Zachary Quinto -- are not heroes. They should not be adulated and admired just for doing a highly-paid and relatively risk-free job. Their on-screen exploits are entertaining, and maybe even inspiring and touching. There's nothing wrong with letting them know that we like their work. But the actors are not the characters.

That's the Spock in me talking.

For many years I had a peripheral connection  to science fiction fandom. I attended dozens of conventions, including five or six Worldcons in places like Miami, Phoenix, Boston and Chicago. But I've never attended any Star Trek or Star Wars conventions.

Leonard Nimoy was not Spock: he just played him on TV.
Why? Those show-specific cons promote the whole cult of personality, which I find repellant (I know, another Spock-like reaction). It embarrasses me that so many fans seem incapable of distinguishing the character from the actor. Leonard Nimoy was not Spock: he just played him on TV. When fans drill Harrison Ford about the minutiae of plot points in Star Wars and how they connect to the 23,000 Star Wars novels and he rolls his eyes and tries to explain for the six millionth time that he's not Han Solo and he has no idea what the producers are planning, I roll my eyes with him.

Nimoy was similarly peeved, so much so that he wrote an autobiography entitled I Am Not Spock, published in 1975. I never read it because, well, I'm not a fanboy.

The real brains behind Spock were Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the series, and the dozens of screen writers who worked on the scripts. Spock is the creation of a hive mind that pulled Nimoy's strings. They too were just regular guys doing a job, with a full complement of human frailties and failings: they weren't Spock either.

But in 1995 Nimoy published I Am Spock. I never read that either, not being a fanboy, so I must rely on Wikipedia for this insight:
Nimoy had much input into how Spock would act in certain situations, and conversely, Nimoy's contemplation of how Spock acted gave him cause to think about things in a way that he never would have thought if he had not portrayed the character. As such, in this autobiography Nimoy maintains that in some meaningful sense he has merged with Spock while at the same time maintaining the distance between fact and fiction.  
Those of us who watched him play the character also think about things differently. Anyone who adopts an ethos of logic tempered by compassion, the promotion of the common good, the belief that the future can be better, and an eternal search for the truth, is Spock in a meaningful sense.

Not many television shows have philosophical underpinnings, but Star Trek does in all its incarnations. And Spock embodied them all in a single character.

Leonard Nimoy has died. May Spock live long and prosper.

And There Goes Scott Walker's Candidacy...

The National Review’s Jim Geraghty...

…it is insulting to the protesters, a group I take no pleasure in defending. The protesters in Wisconsin, so furiously angry over Walker’s reforms and disruptive to the procedures of passing laws, earned plenty of legitimate criticism. But they’re not ISIS. They’re not beheading innocent people. They’re Americans, and as much as we may find their ideas, worldview, and perspective spectacularly wrongheaded, they don’t deserve to be compared to murderous terrorists.

When you lose the National Review...

The 12 Year Olds In The House

Yesterday's actions in Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, regarding DHS funding illustrate most clearly the maturity level of Republicans. They would rather have an adolescent temper tantrum than fund a department whose very reason for being is to protect our country from terrorists attacks.

In addition to seeing how 12 year olds behave while they are in charge, it also puts to bed which party really cares about national defense. Any comments about how Barack Obama is weak or leading from behind now ring completely hollow. What a pathetic joke these people are. Is there anyone out there who is still taking them seriously?

Put them in charge of Congress and this is what happens. Perhaps people who actually give a shit about what the federal government does should be in charge come the next election.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Mentality of the Climate Denier

Does this guy even understand fundamental concepts of science?

I thought we were done with this shit 500 years ago with Copernicus. Ah well....

Conservatives Have A Long Way To Go

A recent PPP poll shows that conservatives really have a long way to go in terms of...oh...I don't know...joining the rest of us past the 15th century!

Q16 (Republicans) Do you believe in evolution or not? 
Believe in evolution 37% 
Do not believe in evolution 49% 
Not sure 13%

Uh...not a matter of belief, folks, it's settled science (see: true, whether you believe it or not). Speaking of which...

Q15 (Republicans) Do you believe in global warming or not? 
Believe in global warming 25% 
Do not believe in global warming 66% 
Not sure 10%

Also, settle science.

So, with nearly half of conservatives not believing in evolution and more than half not believing in global warming, it becomes obvious that this is the party about IRRATIONAL BELIEF, not logic, facts, and evidence. If you look at where they stand on all of the issues of the day, it's really all belief.

Supply Side Economics? Proven to be a failed model and recanted by the people that came up with it (Bruce Bartlett and David Stockman). Still believe? Yep

Guns protect me and my family? Proven to be more likely that an accident is more likely in homes with firearms. Still believe? Yep

Immigrants-self deport! Shown to be completely unfeasible given the number of undocumented workers and how integral they are to our economy. Still believe? Get the fuck out, crime breakers!!

It's no wonder that so many conservatives are very religious. They have tied up all of their beliefs into one, gigantic, epistemically closed ball of intransigence.

And there is nothing more dangerous than ideologues. Why? This...

Q17 (Republicans) Would you support or oppose establishing Christianity as the national religion? 
57% Support establishing Christianity as the national religion
30% Oppose establishing Christianity as the national religion
13% Not sure

Thursday, February 26, 2015

How To Govern An Economy

Minnesota got another shout out for having a great economy despite the "destruction" that raising taxes, increasing the minimum wage, and increasing government spending brings with it.

Between 2011 and 2015, Gov. Dayton added 172,000 new jobs to Minnesota's economy -- that's 165,800 more jobs in Dayton's first term than Pawlenty added in both of his terms combined. Even though Minnesota's top income tax rate is the 4th-highest in the country, it has the 5th-lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.6 percent. According to 2012-2013 U.S. census figures, Minnesotans had a median income that was $10,000 larger than the U.S. average, and their median income is still $8,000 more than the U.S. average today.

Take note that the predictions from Republicans were completely wrong.

I wonder if they'll get the message in Wisconsin...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Keystone Should Happen, But Only If America Benefits

President Obama has vetoed the Keystone pipeline bill, but it won't be the last we hear of it. I think that eventually he will sign some kind of bill. But it should be one that benefits Americans, not foreign oil companies. In the original House bill, the particularly nasty crude coming through the pipeline would have been exempt from the oil spill tax!

The current method of transporting oil via trains is unacceptable because of the constant derailings and explosions of oil cars (now forecast at 10 a year). A pipeline is much safer in principle: it has fewer moving parts, it's out of the way under ground (or can be), it's not as prone to collisions, and so on.

The problem is that pipelines have a history of poor maintenance and there's a tendency to route them through areas that are the cheapest for the pipeline company, disregarding local ecological concerns and property owners' rights.

Giant corporations always spin off the subsidiaries that build such risky and large projects as separate companies so that they can declare bankruptcy when it blows up figuratively in their faces, and literally in American backyards. All too often these companies leave the local people and local and federal governments holding the bag for their disasters.
It's even worse in this case because the company building the pipeline is foreign, which means the guys responsible aren't even Americans and don't give a damn if an oil spill in the Ogallala Aquifer poisons all the wells in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and north Texas. They're treating the American Great Plains like it's some third world country where they can do anything they damn well please.

The real question isn't whether the pipeline should be built, but where and how to build it to be safe enough. We also have to ensure that the company that builds it will be held responsible for the damage it will inevitably cause when it leaks. Because it will leak, and they know it. The people responsible for it shouldn't just be able to skate away and not pay for the destruction they will have wrought.

It's not clear that the people building the pipeline really understand how corrosive this Canadian crude is. It's not clear that they're willing to spend the money necessary to build an adequate pipeline and will monitor and repair it adequately for next 20 years. And then pay to have it decommissioned 30 years from now when the tar sands and the Bakken oil field are depleted, and we've got a thousand miles of filthy, leaky pipeline cutting through the middle of the country.

If some foreign company wants to pump a zillion barrels of oil in a pipeline through the heart of America to the Gulf of Mexico so that it can be shipped off to China, then the United States should be profiting from that.

Will this foreign company be paying American taxes? Or will it siphon off all profits to some Cayman Islands bank account, putting all the risk on American property owners and taxpayers while keeping all the profit?

If we're going to be building something like this through America, then Americans should benefit.

The President Goes 3 for 3

The President had a good day yesterday. He vetoed the Keystone Pipleline legislation, put the GOP in a corner on DHS funding, and got Republicans to cave on net neutrality.

The Keystone Pipeline has pretty much become joke so it's really not a big deal that he vetoed the bill. The issue is largely symbolic now yet I still question the value of the project. It will only create temporary jobs in a market that is really not doing very well right now. The DHS funding battle perplexes me as well. The president's immigration action is on hold pending court action so the GOP doesn't have to fight about it in Congress. They should be putting their energy into the court battle. Why put the people at DHS out of a job?

The net neutrality action is the big one out of this bunch. The internet should be regulated like a utility and the idea that the various providers should be allowed to slow down speeds or offer fast lanes for certain customers would eventually end up eroding consumer surplus. The internet is indeed a public good and should be governed as such.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Our Violent Nation

We hear an awful lot these days about how the violent crime rate has dropped in this country. Yet, in looking at the numbers, the "drop" is really from an insanely high number to just a high number. Our murder rate is higher than nearly all other developed countries. So, what is it about culture that makes it such a violent place?

I'm sure it has to do with a combination of several phenomena but what are those key ingredients? I think the numbers in my first link illustrate that we haven't really done a very good job identifying our addressing what these key ingredients are that make us so violent. Obviously, there have been multitude of studies but perhaps it's time to erase the entire board and start over.

Monday, February 23, 2015

On Love of Country

Rudy Giuliani has been drawing attention for saying that President Obama doesn't love America:
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country."
Po' Wudy... The pwesident doesn't wub him. 

So Obama doesn't love America because he doesn't love Rudy Giuliani, Scott Walker, and the Wall Street fat cats who are vetting Republican presidential candidates to see which one will march to their tune? Is there anything substantial for Giuliani's claims?
Giuliani continued by saying that “with all our flaws we’re the most exceptional country in the world. I’m looking for a presidential candidate who can express that, do that and carry it out.”
In other words, Giuliani believes that Obama doesn't think we're special.

But Giuliani is clearly being hypocritical here. He and Scott Walker and the fat cats in the room clearly don't love the president. The clearly don't love liberals, they clearly don't love people demanding everyone be paid a living wage and the people demanding Wall Street bankers be held responsible for the economic catastrophe they caused in 2009.

Does it even make any sense to talk about loving a country? It's clear you can love your spouse, your children, and your pets. You might even be able to love the mountains, skiing, poker, history, porn, mathematics, science, religion, god, your AK-47, and any number of singular things.

How can you love an amorphous collection of 300 million individuals?
But how can you love something that is an amorphous collection of more than 300 million individuals, and a myriad of ethnicities, religions, political parties, businesses, local governments, and a hodge-podge of inconsistent laws and regulations, and its evil history of slavery and lynchings?

Clearly, you can't. You can only love a subset of those things. And when people like Rudy Giuliani say they love America, what they really mean is that they love themselves and the people who are like them, and the policies that promote the things they want to happen.

Conservatives claim to love the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, yet they selectively pick and choose a very limited and specific subset of history and law that bolsters only their beliefs. They minimize, ignore and deny everything that doesn't comport with their extremely limited and self-serving view of history and law.

These days it's common to hear people on both the left and the right say things like, "I love America, but I hate what it's become." I.e., I don't like the changes the other guy is making.

Lectern pounders like Giuliani don't love America, they love the sound of their own voices.
The only people who truly love this country are geeky poets who wax rhapsodically about the contradictions and conflicts inherent in a democracy, people who can accept everyone for who they are despite their warts. People who wish the best for everyone in the country despite their ethnicity, economic status, and political leanings. Lectern pounders like Giuliani don't love America, they love the sound of their own voices.

I don't trust people who boast loudly and proudly that they are patriots who love their country. Being a patriot is like being a hero: it's not a title you can bestow upon yourself, it's an honor that is bestowed upon you by others for your selfless actions. "He was a patriot," is something that only someone else can say about you after you're dead.

"He was a patriot," is something that only someone else can say about you after you're dead.
People who claim to be country-loving patriots are just puffing up their own importance by attaching themselves like leeches to the simplistic concept that is what they want America to be, not what America the real country actually is.

What Rudy Giuliani is really saying, "I love the great country of America, so I'm great too. Obama doesn't think America is great, so he's not great." This is the rhetoric and mindset of a five-year-old.

People like Obama don't run around chanting "USA! USA!" constantly because it's phony boastful jingoism that means nothing. This country has a lot of problems (something which Giuliani readily admits), but chief among those problems is the attitude of the Republican Party that they can spend the entire eight years of the Obama administration torpedoing Obama at every stage, constantly threatening government default, sabotaging foreign policy with the Adoration of the Netanyahu, without harming the fabric of this country.

In modern history Democrats have never displayed such unanimous and unalloyed animus against Republican presidents (even as ones as incompetent as George W. Bush, whom Democrats supported even as he railroaded us into war in Iraq) as Republicans have displayed against Obama. You have to go back to the Civil War, when southern Democrats reviled Lincoln like the devil. But of course, that's misleading, because all the southern Democrats have now joined the Republican Party and all the Lincoln Republicans have become Democrats.

Even during the Watergate hearings, Democrats displayed far more decorum toward Richard Nixon, a paranoid thug who had to resign in disgrace for his criminal activities, than Republicans have displayed toward Obama. A president whose greatest crime in their minds -- as witnessed by the Republican legal and legislative agenda -- is a law expanding health care for the American people.

If Republicans really love America, they should prove it by working with the president to make this country a better place, rather than sitting back and incessantly sniping.

This Gun Toting T Shirt Comes With A Warning

Don't reach for the fake gun on your, really? How about not buying the fucking thing in the first place!!

I will admit that, given the advent of social media, the whole open carry thing is now being spread far and wide. This can only result in good things:)

I'm afraid there's still one thing I don't understand, though, If I walk into a Chipotle or department store and I see a dude with a gun slung over his back, how do I know he's not a "bad" guy? What if there are several people with open carry guns? How do I know if they are "good" or "bad?"

If guns are allowed in schools and universities and there is a shooting, how can I tell who the "good" guys are and who the "bad" guys are?

Comments Will Now Be Moderated

After careful consideration, I've decided to start moderating comments. The biggest turn off for new readers that find my site is that comments aren't controlled. I have learned, via email on the feedback form, that people don't want to bother with a site where they are going to be harassed by other commenters. They don't feel safe, given the nature of comments on this site, so here are our new policies.

Comments that refute points or ideas presented in the posts or by other commenters are just fine. Criticisms about groups of people (liberals are all blah blah blah...conservatives are all blah blah blah) are also acceptable. Criticism about public figures are fine (Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim! John Boehner is a corporate shill!) as well. Personal remarks about posters or other commenters that take the form of insults, childish baiting, answering questions with questions or arguments about arguments will not be allowed. Here are a couple of examples...

Types of comments that will be allowed:

Huh, I guess if you pick individual items, he has some bright spots. Of course, additional parts of the equation:Worst 8 year Run for EconomyOrWithout Texas, US is net negative jobsOrBig Unemployment liesStock market by many accounts is in bubble territory. Economic competitiveness is getting worse. 

The underlying economic factors are all weak. US debt will have doubled by the time Obama leaves office. Lower Gas prices (lately) and Shale Oil drilling have provided massive benefits for the US that prop up the economic condition.There are bright spots but there always are, even in a recession. I hope things are turning for the better but lots of warning signs look ominous


Gun 'Cult' Ideology: RULE 1 ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED RULE 2 NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO DESTROY RULE 3 KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER TIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET RULE 4 BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET Always treat all firearms as if they were loaded. Never allow the muzzle of any firearm to point at anything you are not willing to destroy. Never put your finger near the trigger until you are ready to fire. Do not depend on any mechanical device for safety! Always be sure of your target, and what is behind and in front of it. 

So, despite you claiming this is 'gun cult' stuff - the actual 'gun cult' ideology specifically forbids it. How many ideological rules of the 'gun cult' were violated for this to happen?

Note that both comments are counterpoints to ideas presented in a post and in no way focus on a poster or a commenter. They are defending their viewpoints which is perfectly acceptable.

Here are some examples of the type of posts that will be deleted from now on. They are all from the same thread.

What drugs are you fucking on?

God only knows what sort of mass murderer an enraged Nikto-anus would turn into if he actually had one of the Evil Instruments of Doom (tm) in his possession.

You want to play games, you leave me no choice but to treat you like the idiot you are acting like.

Because you are an idiot, you are wrong that this would have changed a thing.

So, clearly these are personal insults. Here's an example of singling out a poster or commenter with childish baiting that would lead into an argument about an argument.

I don't have any problems with guns, per se, if they are in the hands of professionally trained people like Army rangers or police officers. -Markadelphia 

I have stated repeatedly that I have no problem with trained police or private security being in school buildings-Markadelphia 

Guess not.

My hope is that comments will now become an area of more serious discussion and an exchange of more intelligent ideas and thoughts. Perhaps we can finally attract some new commenters now that there is some sort of structure.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Another False Meme About Guns

Apparently, there is a meme moving around the inter webs that states that George Washington said the following words...

"When government takes away citizens’ right to bear arms it becomes citizens’ duty to take away government’s right to govern."

As Politifact accurately notes, there is no evidence that he ever said these words. Now, what Washington did say was this...

"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined." (State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1790)


The academic consensus is that Washington was referring to a trained militia to defend the new nation, rather than anticipating citizens seeking to head off perceived governmental tyranny. Ron Chernow, whose Washington: A Life won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for biography, told PolitiFact Texas that Washington was "talking about national defense policy, not individuals arming themselves, and the need for national self-sufficiency in creating military supplies." 

Some post-Revolutionary lawmakers did expect citizens to own firearms, but Washington does not appear to have been among them, experts said. "The idea of resistance to tyranny being dependent on a nation of gun-wielding individuals acting at their own behest or even on local initiative would have been anathema to Washington," Lengel told PolitiFact Texas. "Indeed, during the (Revolutionary) war he very frequently lamented the crimes carried out by armed civilians or undisciplined militia against their unarmed neighbors. The solution to these crimes, as he understood it, was to increase the power of the government and the army to prevent and punish them -- not to put more guns in the hands of civilians."

Most interesting...

The Growth of Organic Farming

The Christian Science Monitor has a great piece up about the growth of organic farming around the world.

 According to the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM), 2 million of the world’s 1.5 billion farmers are now producing organically, with nearly 80 percent based in developing countries. India boasts the most certified organic producers, followed by Uganda and Mexico. Currently 164 nations have certified organic farms, powering an industry worth $63.9 billion. (In 2000, there were 86 countries with certified farms producing $15.2 billion.) With this growth come opportunities for farmers to add value to their products and access expanding markets.

Pretty cool!

The Intent of the Operator

Climate Denier Caught!

Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.
The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

I tell you I am this discovery!

Fact Checking Obama's Economy

Recently, President Obama asked for a fact check on his statements on the economy. Politifact obliged. Here are the facts compared to what he asserted.

• The "economy kept growing." Official data on gross domestic product from the Commerce Department shows that the economy has been growing robustly in recent months.

In fact, it’s been growing so robustly that Republicans have been trying to claim credit for it, a view we have been skeptical of.

• The "stock market has more than doubled." On Jan. 20, 2009, the day Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 7,949.09. On Feb. 19, 2015, it stood at 17,985.77. That’s more than twice as much.

One would think people would be more grateful to the president as any American with a stock portfolio and/or 401K has massively improved their investments on the president's watch. Their adolescent bullshit simply won't let them, I guess.

 • "Deficits are down by two-thirds." We recently checked Obama’s claim that we've seen "our deficits cut by two-thirds" and found it Mostly True.

• "America is creating jobs faster than at any time since the last time a Democrat was president." We recently checked Obama’s claim that the economy is "creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999," which is when Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was president. We rated Obama’s claim True.

• "Our manufacturers are creating jobs for the first time since the last time a Democrat was president." We didn’t check this claim before, but a quick look at Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that, except some small and brief upward blips in 2004, Obama is right. Manufacturing employment has been rising, slowly but surely, since 2010. We have also checked Obama’s claim that "factories are opening their doors at the fastest pace in almost two decades." We rated that Mostly True.

• "Health care inflation is running at the lowest rate in almost 50 years." We have reported that data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis that shows health care inflation, as of the end of 2013, was about 1 percent per year — the lowest since the early 1960s.

• "Our deficits are falling faster than they have in 60 years." When Obama claimed that "our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years," we rated it True. (And for readers seeking a refresher course on the "deficit" and the "debt," here’s a rundown.)

Given all of these facts, why won't opponents of the president simply admit that he's done a damn fine job? After all, they do pride themselves on logical, fact based, rational thought, right?

Grand Indeed (Best Picture Nominee #8)

If it were up to me, The Grand Budapest Hotel would in in every category in which it was nominated. Wes Anderson is a genius and it makes me very happy that he and Richard Linklater are making films and being massively appreciated these days. Odds are that Birdman or Boyhood will be the winners for Best Picture tonight but Grand Budapest is my pick.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Republicans Take Credit For Economy

I'm happy to report that Republicans have finally admitted that Barack Obama is no longer destroying the economy. They are, however, now of the mind that the improvement of the economy is due to them winning back all of Congress last fall. This little ditty started last month with Mitch McConnnell who has since been taken to the mat over his bizarre version of reality.

I guess we can safely tuck away the boiling pit of sewage:)

What's In A Name?

As the adolescents in the political world snipe at President Obama for not calling ISIL "Islamic Terrorists, I think it's important to take a step back from this latest in a far too lengthy and nauseating series of "Gotcha, Mr. President" childish games and realize that it's actually a very smart idea not to tie them to Islam at all. Why?

First, that's exactly what they want. If the president did this, they would gain more recruits and funding, making it easier to frame the war as an Islam v Christianity battle. Second, there are Islamic extremists in the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia, whose help we need to fight ISIL. Bringing Islam into the battle more prominently would alienate some of our allies. Third, the last thing in the world that we need here at home is Christian Conservatives (our own nutball extremists) on our fucking side. Their emotions about their belief system and ideology makes them incapable of rational and logical thinking.

I will, however, disagree with the president on why ISIL is ISIL. It has absolutely nothing to do with poverty and everything to do with ideology. We win this battle, not with financial aid or guns, but with our hegemonic force. Our economic, soft power is what ISIL fears the most. Their stated end game is the apocalypse and a return to good ol' 7th century values so we beat them by illustrating the power of free markets combined with 21st century technology.

After all, they are using social media to spread their insanity. We need to meet them on that battlefield and pummel them into submission. We invented this technology so let's use it to our advantage and lure away those angry young men from potential ISIL recruits towards the reality of real freedom and ideological prosperity.

Boyhood (Best Picture Nominee #7)

Richard Linklater's Boyhood is pure genius. Think about the commitment that 12 years on a project must bring. I've always enjoyed Linklater's films, especially Dazed and Confused and the "Before" series. This one brings him into a whole new level of auteurism. Watching the progression of the actors, especially Ellar Coltrane, is heartfelt and amazing. The story that is told is also wonderful.

It's truly stunning and that's why I think it's going to win Best Picture and Best Director.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Fucked Up Wonderful Mess (Best Picture Nominee #6)

Birdman is a fucked up wonderful mess of a film and currently the front runner to win Best Picture on Sunday night. I don't really have many words that describe what it's like watching this film. It most certainly stretches the limits of how to tell a story and I think that's always a good thing as Hollywood continues to recycle the same old stories over and over again.

Prepare to have your mind blown away when you see this film.

The Power of Market Forces

Wal Mart has caved. With the economy improving as much as it has (see: Obama, destruction of economy, not happening except inside the bubble), labor was being drawn away from Wal Mart so they had to raise their pay scale to $9 an hour. Next year, it's going to be $10 an hour and managers are getting raises as well. There will also be fixed schedules available for the lower wage employees.

Man, you really gotta love the free market!!

Where is the Joy? (Best Picture Nominee #5)

I have to admit that there are plenty of days when I'd like to be the kind of teacher that J.K. Simmons is in the film Whiplash. This was especially true after my 4th block World Studies class last semester.

Yet, after I watched this film, I couldn't help but wonder...where is the joy? Music is about love, peace, happiness and joy, not a military style regiment that sucks all the fun out of playing. I've played guitar for nearly 30 years and never had anywhere near the obsessive desire to be the best that is on display in this film.

Simmons is going to win Best Supporting Actor, though. His performance is stellar!

Crack the Code! (Best Picture Nominee #4)

The Imitation Game is a great film and I truly enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as Alan Turing. Even though the film took some historical liberties, it didn't seem to bother me as much as it did with Selma. I'm sure it will get lost in the race between Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel but you should still check it out!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Selma (Best Picture Nominee #3)

The film Selma isn't good. In fact, it's poor. Most of the reason for this is Ava DuVernay, the director of the picture. In looking at her past credits, it's clear why the movie is so uneven. The pacing is horrible and the story is more interesting if you just go out and watch a documentary like Freedom Riders.

The historical accuracy is Selma is also way off. Lyndon Johnson is played as an inept villain who seemingly tried to block the Voter's Rights Act from being passed. That never fucking happened. I'm no Johnson fan and think, in fact, that he was our nation's worst president but get the guy right, for pete's sake.

Don't waste your time with this film.

No Charges

There will be no charges against William DeHayes, the Florida man who was twirling his gun around and accidentally killed Katherine Lynn Hoover who was five months pregnant at the time. The baby died as well.

What is it with the gun twirling? My nutso aunt was doing it recently and this kind of thing could have easily happened to my mom who was standing right across from her. I suppose we can just chalk it up to life in America with responsible gun owners because this sort of thing happens all the fucking time.

Gun Cult Ideology Claims Another Victim

Michigan Republican official fatally shoots self in eye while adjusting gun in her bra holster

Her Facebook page is filled with Bible verses, and information about organizing for the Republican Party. Several recent posts complained about Common Core education standards, and about President Barack Obama. Other posts depicted black protesters in Ferguson as dangerous rioters.

At least she didn't harm anyone else...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Theory of Everything (Best Picture Nominee #2)

I quite enjoyed the film, The Theory of Everything even though it tended to focus more on Dr. Hawking's personal life rather than his scientific theories. Eddie Redmayne was simply phenomenal in the main role and Felicity Jones...well, what can I say? She's a petite brunette who also happens to British which means deadly for me.

Don't go into this film thinking you will see long explanations of Dr. Hawking's work. That's what A Brief History of Time is for. This is a personal story about how a family dealt with a very serious illness and emerged, most unexpectedly, triumphant.

What American Sniper Really Tells Us (Best Picture Nominee #1)

As is usually the case at this time of year, I catch all of the Best Picture nominations before the ceremony on the last Sunday in February. Last weekend, I took both of my kids (now age 15 and 13) to see American Sniper, the bio pic of the late Chris Kyle and that's the first of eight films I will comment on in the run up to the Academy Awards.

All three of us thought it was good film but didn't live up to the hype surrounding it. I didn't agree with Michael Moore's assessment before the film and I still don't after the film. Snipers aren't cowards. They are very effective strategic tools, many of whom are heroes. My problem with it centers around the mental health issue.

Clint Eastwood had a real opportunity to showcase how horrible PTSD is and the effect its had on an entire generation of young men who have been at war. Instead, he turned the plot line into a "manhunt" format with Kyle returning again and again to Iraq to kill "Mustafa," a Syrian sniper who has continually taken out US Armed Forces personnel. Kyle's obsession with stopping him is really the focal point of the film.

Worse, however, is the glossing over and soft pedaling of how Chris Kyle died. Kyle, along with a friend named Chad Littlefield, were killed by a fellow veteran named Eddie Ray Routh at a shooting range. The film does show that Kyle was helping other vets with PTSD by taking them out to shoot. What the film doesn't show was how incredibly myopic this was.

Because the real story of this film is its irony. How is it that a guy who survives four fucking tours of duty (1000 days)  in one of the most dangerous places in the world (with a bounty on his head) end up being a victim of gun violence in his own home state?

The horribly misguided ideology of the Gun Cult.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Derail and Catch Fire

The derailment yesterday of a North Dakota oil train in Mt. Carbon, WV, made national news:

The tank cars exploded and fell into a river, causing a water treatment plant to shut intake valves. They were still burning 21 hours later. Thousands of people may have their water turned off. Charleston is downstream of the spill

What didn't make national news was a derailment in Ontario of a train carrying crude oil from the tar sands of Keystone XL fame:
The train, heading from Alberta to eastern Canada, derailed shortly before midnight about 80 km (50 miles) south of Timmins, Ontario, a CN spokesman said. Canada's largest rail operator said 29 of 100 cars were involved and seven were on fire.
Another oil train fire killed 47 people in Quebec in 2013, and several other trains have exploded in North Dakota and on the east coast.

The cars carrying the crude oil in West Virginia were the new, supposedly safer, tank cars that the railroads didn't want to use because they cost too much. Turns out they aren't much better than the flimsier ones they want to continue using.

Oil prices are really low now because of the glut of oil coming from Canada and North Dakota. Now is the time to take a step back and reevaluate everything about the way we're getting oil out of the ground. And it's not just train accidents.

Oklahoma used to have two or three earthquakes a year. Now they're having two or three a day. It's due to injecting massive quantities of fracking fluid into fault lines, which lubricates them and allows them to slip. But oilmen insist that it's not their fault:
But Kim Hatfield of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association says he's not convinced there's a connection. He says oil companies have been pumping brine down wastewater injection wells for decades. More than 3,200 of the wells dot the state.
They've been pumping this crap into the earth for decades and they don't think it has something to with the 100-fold increase in earthquakes. Right...

Clearly we need to continue to drill for oil for the foreseeable future. But we don't need to drill so manically fast that we kill innocent people who live along railroads and pipelines, and destroy the houses and property values of people who live near injection wells.

The oil coming out of the tar sands and the Bakken formation is much more flammable than other types, according to that liberal rag, the Wall Street Journal. The sulfurous chemistry of Canadian tar sands oil may also make it more likely to eat through pipelines, which is one reason many land owners along its route are skeptical.

Cleaning up oil spills, compensating land owners, shutting down water treatment plants, repairing damaged track inflict significant economic costs on people who aren't profiting from the sale of this highly flammable oil. It's the tragedy of the commons all over again.

It's obvious that pipelines should be used to transport this oil, but they have to be up to the task. The right technical solution isn't clear yet: putting highly corrosive and flammable crude into a pipeline may never be feasible. It could be that the right solution is to filter out the problematic components of the crude first. (And then where do you dump that?)

In the long run what will stop an oil company from ignoring that requirement in 10 years, once all the shouting is over, and start pumping explosive acidic oil across America? How do you make pipeline owners strapped for cash because of low oil prices keep their lines properly maintained?

When these companies violate these agreements and everything explodes in their employees' faces the execs just have that subsidiary declare bankruptcy and then go off and form another subsidiary to do it all over again.

Building a Consensus by Letting ISIS Be ISIS

The reason Saddam Hussein was so easily defeated in the Gulf War after he invaded Kuwait in 1990 was because almost literally the whole world -- including the rest of the Middle East -- was against him.

The United States led a coalition of international forces that prepared for months before attacking in January. By the end of February Saddam was completely defeated.

After the debacle of Vietnam the United States finally got one right.

Sadly, Dick Cheney, the Secretary of Defense who led the successful campaign to unite the world against a tyrant, completely forgot the lessons learned in the Gulf War when he and President George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. W and Cheney were either duped by Iranian spies who wanted to destroy Saddam with the American hammer of death, or conspired with them. This resulted in another war in which the United States went it alone and invaded a country on false pretenses.

The American body count in Iraq was lower than the Vietnam war, mostly because of improvements in body armor and field medicine. But the worst outcome of the Iraq War was its effect as a recruiting tool for terrorists. Here was proof positive that the United States was a Christian nation (Republicans keep telling everyone America is a Christian nation) bent on repeating the barbarities of the Crusades, bombing women and children, torturing Muslims in Abu Ghraib, forcing Western culture (i.e., democracy) onto a Muslim country after ginning up phony evidence that Saddam was making a nuclear bomb and was involved in 9/11.

Since then, the same neocon chicken hawks who invaded Iraq in 2003 have been champing at the bit to invade other countries: Iran, Libya, Syria, and Iraq again; you name it. They have been relentlessly criticizing President Obama for "not doing enough."

But invading yet another Middle-eastern country without the support of the rest of the world would backfire just as surely as W's Iraq invasion.

The new threat that has Lindsey Graham convinced that "we're all gonna die!" is ISIS, a Muslim terrorist army of foreign invaders that have been attacking Syria and Iraq. ISIS has been financing its war with oil from captured refineries and ransoms paid for people they've kidnapped, plus cash from religious fanatics in countries that are supposed to be American allies.

Lately countries have stopped paying ransoms, and in response ISIS has been murdering people of all nationalities in grisly fashion: they've beheaded Syrians, Kurds, Afghans, Frenchmen, Iraqis, Americans, Britons, Japanese, Egyptians and even their own soldiers who deserted. They burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive.

In response Jordan and Egypt have launched air attacks against ISIS in Syria and Iraq and Libya.

The same sort of thing is now happening in Pakistan, which had long supported the Taliban in Afghanistan, sabotaging American efforts. Now the Taliban is murdering Pakistani schoolchildren by the hundreds.

ISIS is harder to fight than Saddam because it's not a country: it's just a terrorist group with cells all over the place. That makes it impossible to attack and defeat in a purely military fashion. A consensus has to be built to attack ISIS not just on the battlefield, but in the banking system, the oil markets, and on Twitter and Facebook.

What Republicans call "inaction" on ISIS is no such thing. President Obama is building a consensus in the world that ISIS is evil incarnate and must be destroyed.

True, ISIS is running rampant and killing innocent people in the Middle East: mostly Muslims in Iraq and Syria. And they're taking all the heat for it.

But if the United States had started a major bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq when John McCain demanded it, there would be thousands of innocent Syrian and Iraqi civilian deaths from collateral damage from mistargeted American munitions. That's just the way war is. We would be blamed for all those deaths, as we are for drone attacks that kill innocents in Yemen and Pakistan.

That collateral damage is what turns the residents of the Middle East against us.

It's likely ISIS has killed the same number of innocent people that would have died as collateral damage from American bombing had we invaded when the chicken hawks first started squawking. The difference is that the blood is on ISIS's hands.

It's sad, but we have to let ISIS be ISIS to convince the rest of the world to act against them. The actions that Egypt and Jordan have taken show that this course of action is working. Timing is important. If the rest of those countries don't act fast enough, they will be the ones to suffer. But they have to make the decision -- if the United States forces the issue yet again, it will backfire.

ISIS cannot be defeated until the recruitment of foreign fighters is stopped, their oil sales are blocked, and the cash flow is cut off from their financiers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar -- ostensible American allies.

And bombing the hell out of Syria and Iraq won't solve those problems.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ranking the Presidents

Given that it is President's Day, I thought I would put up list ranking our nation's presidents from best to worst. It's a hard list to make when you consider that from van Buren through Pierce there isn't much to really say one way or another. And the Gilded Age presidents basically all phoned it in (which is why they are towards the bottom). But, hey, it was a lot of without further adieu, he is my list.

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
3. George Washington
4. John F Kennedy
5. Theodore Roosevelt
6. Harry S. Truman
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. Bill Clinton
9. Dwight D Eisenhower
10. John Adams
11. James Madison
12. Barack Obama
13. James Monroe
14. Jimmy Carter
15. George HW Bush
16. Ronald Reagan
17. Woodrow Wilson
18. Ulysses S Grant
19. John Quincy Adams
20. Gerald Ford
21. Grover Cleveland
22. Grover Cleveland
23. John Tyler
24. Calvin Coolidge
25. Martin Van Buren
26. Zachary Taylor
27. Millard Filmore
28. James Polk
29. Rutherford B Hayes
30. James Garfield
31. Chester Arthur
32. Benjamin Harrison
33. Franklin Pierce
34. William McKinley
35. William Howard Taft
36. Warren Harding
37. William Henry Harrison
38. Herbert Hoover
39. Richard Nixon
40. George W. Bush
41. James Buchanan
42. Andrew Johnson
43. Andrew Jackson
44. Lyndon B. Johnson

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How Conservatives Win in 2016

Law Enforcement Concerns Create Unlikely Alliances in Missouri and Beyond

So when a measure was introduced recently in the Republican-held General Assembly calling for sharp limits in the revenue that Missouri towns can derive from traffic fines, it was not surprising that black lawmakers voiced support. What was unexpected were their allies in the cause: white, suburban Republicans, a former St. Louis County police chief and leaders from several conservative groups.

As the article notes, this is happening on a national level as well. If they can lose the old white bigots on their side, conservatives have policies that will appeal to black voters that are aligned with their less intrusive government ideology. The same holds true for Latino voters.

The Democrats better take note of this and watch out.

Concealed Carry Body Count

Looks like we have some data on concealed carry permits and gun violence. The data is very detailed. Here is an example...

Circumstances: On January 8, 2008, concealed handgun permit holder Joshua Noel Jones, 22, shot and killed 15-year-old Daniel Wayne “Danny” McKinnon. According to news reports, the two were traveling in a Chevrolet Z71 pick-up truck with two other friends—Alicia Algier, 23, and Justin Whiddon—after having visited a Wal-Mart and getting breakfast at a Waffle House restaurant. According to news reports, the three males were apparently “dry-firing” (pulling a gun’s trigger presumably without a bullet in the chamber) handguns at one another in the truck when Jones shot McKinnon with his 40 caliber handgun. When Algier was asked why she didn’t do anything to stop the males from dry-firing their guns, she stated, “It concerned me. They’re guys, I been told they do it all the time, dry firing their guns.” Whiddon also dry-fired a .22 handgun—owned by Algier—at Jones. In court, Algier stated, “I keep it for safety because I’m a woman.” Police retrieved three handguns and four rifles from the truck after the shooting. After allegedly shooting McKinnon, Jones did not give police an official statement, instead asking for an attorney. According to police he did, however, state that the handgun went off accidentally. Jones was charged with manslaughter and was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Responsible gun owners rejoice at "dry firing."

The Demographics of 2016

From a recent Real Clear Politics piece...

Among voters 18 to 34 years old — men and women who will be an important force in American politics for another half-century — Republicans are in serious trouble. By a factor of more than two to one, according to the latest NBC News/​Wall Street Journal poll, those voters take a negative view of the GOP. Indeed, Republicans find the most support among voters 65 and over, and even this group is split between those who have a positive view of the party and those who view it negatively.

So, how does the GOP appeal to that younger demographic? And what happens when those older voters pass away?

Really Bad Words

From a conversation with a gun "enthusiast"

"If you convince me 100000 will die from guns in the USA every year, unless we have gun control... And zero will die with gun control.... I still choose freedom. No matter who dies, I take the high road of freedom and justice for all."

Amen! It's a good thing we live in such a black and white world.

And don't we already have gun control?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Here Comes the Sun

This is a really cool video of the sun:

All that is going on over our heads all day long, and we never see it. The sun just seems like this bright and silent unblinking eye, but in reality it's an incredibly violent place constantly exploding with the force of ten thousand billion nuclear bombs every second.

And the galaxy is filled with billions of stars just like it, circled by billions of planets very much like our own, except ours is probably the only one that through some accident of chance has not been wiped clean of intelligent life by an asteroid, or a comet, or volcanoes, or a collision with another star, or a supernova, or a deadly beam of radiation from a gamma ray pulsar halfway through the galactic disk.

Meanwhile, most of us sit down here and snipe at each other, arguing over whose god is bigger, in a vain attempt to puff up our egos and make ourselves seem important in this infinitely huge and beautiful universe.


A long time tennis friend recently defriended me on Facebook. I suppose it was a long time in coming after his wife did a couple of years ago. He divorced and remarried an absolute hard right wing psycho three years back and has slowly been descending into the anger, hate and fear that comes with that territory (side note...he told me after he married this woman that she liked to have her hair pulled and be smacked around while he fucked her...why is it always the conservatives that are so weird with sex?:))

Two days ago he posted a rant about a form letter he received from Senator Amy Klobuchar. He had written to her about welfare reform and was pissed about the letter he got in return. I queried...

What exactly were your concerns about welfare reform?

He responded...

Mark - Here is my concern about welfare - well, why don't I just recant a conversation I had with someone trying to rent my townhome from me:

Me: I see your section 8 status expires soon. Person wanting to rent townhome: that's okay - as long as I find a place to rent by the deadline I will get the section 8 housing credit for life..... Maybe it's just me but I don't think that person really needs my tax dollars...but Mark - if you want to pay for them maybe they could just set up a payroll deduction out of your account. They payroll deduct my donation every week.

Apparently, he doesn't know what the word recant means but oh well. I needed some more information because there is no such thing as "section 8 housing credit for life."

Well, why does he have section 8 status? Is he disabled in some way or, perhaps a veteran? And is the government paying you his rent money? Was he or she even telling you the truth? I guess I don't have enough details here to make a more fully detailed comment but you are obviously frustrated so here are some possible solutions. 

First, you could contact Al Franken. He has always been more approachable than Senator Klobuchar. He's called me personally on more than one occasion. Second, you could contact your congressional representative. I'm not sure who that is but I'm guessing it's either Erik Paulsen (R) or Keith Ellison (D) if you still live southwest. Both are very approachable. Representative Paulsen is a great guy. I used to coach his daughter in tennis. Section 8 is federally funded by run by the states themselves. Another option might be to contact your state rep and/or state senator. They would have more hands on experience with this. 

You also might want to check the data in the photo I've attached as it mirrors the overall problem with welfare in our country. Most of our tax dollars go to wealthier people in the form of tax breaks and subsidies. It's actually the people that own homes that are leeching more off of us, Chris. This is true with welfare across the board and why you don't hear much about welfare reform these days. We'd have to start with the hundreds of billions of dollars of handouts that corporations and wealthy people get from the federal government.

He responds...

Yeah - Do you really think I would post a section 8 issue about a vet - I have all the respect in the world for our vets...No it was not a vet. Call me and I will tell you about it. Oh and Al Franken - Yeah he's useless. The only thing he's good at is marching in the 4th of July parade in Eveleth. A nutless monkey could do his job.

A nutless monkey...this is when I realized just how truly awful the right wing hate machine is and what a good job it does at fomenting rage. I responded...

Well, then perhaps you should run for office and try to bring about the changes to welfare that you would like to see. If you think his job is so easy, try it out. Actually, you don't even have to do that. You could organize a group of like minded people and start a serious lobbying effort. All it requires is your time and effort. That's what is great about living in a free country. I sense a lot of anger here, 

I would urge you to not let right wing media take advantage of it. One of the greatest myths (also known as lies) ever put on the American people is that poor people are lazy and spoon of our tax dollars. The biggest deadbeats in this country, in terms of dollar amount out of our tax dollars, are corporations and wealthy people. 

Here are the numbers from the Cato Institute, a right wing organization. $100 billion a year compared to the $60 billion a year spent on traditional welfare programs. This does not include government contracts or tax breaks which makes the handouts even larger.

And then he defriended me...

If there is one thing that has become crystal clear to me over the years it's that conservatives don't want their fantasy land of hate to be fucked with in anyway. They like it for the fiction that it is and if you confront them facts, they will get even angrier. Perhaps it's just best to leave them alone in their land of unicorn farts.

Yet, I still find myself perplexed by the visceral anger that these folks have. It usually starts with the president and then extends to all Democrats. There is nothing out there that is more pointed than right wing anger and, considering that they are also well armed, I'd be a fool not to be concerned that they are going to do something about it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Montana Says No to Fashion Police, or Sharia Law Defeated in Montana

A lot of people consider yoga pants to be a crime of fashion. David Moore, a Republican lawmaker in Missoula wants to make wearing them a crime punishable by five years in prison. Thankfully, Moore's law was tabled unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee.

According to the Billings Gazette:
The proposal would expand indecent exposure law to include any nipple exposure, including men’s [emphasis added], and any garment that “gives the appearance or simulates” a person’s buttocks, genitals, pelvic area or female nipple.
Yes, to show how egalitarian he is, Moore would turn men who don't wear shirts into criminals. Would they also wind up on the sex offender list?

Moore literally wants to create fashion police.
Under current Montana law persons convicted of indecent exposure three times can be sentenced to life in prison. Ergo, wearing yoga pants three times could make you lifer. Though to be fair, Moore did want to reduce the maximum penalty five years in jail and a fine of $5,000 as an enticement to get more lawmakers to vote for it.

But how would such a law be enforced? Indecency is in the eye of the beholder, after all:
Moore said he wouldn’t have a problem with people being arrested for wearing provocative clothing but that he’d trust law enforcement officials to use their discretion. He couldn’t be sure whether police would act on that provision or if Montana residents would challenge it.
In other words, Moore literally wants to create fashion police. He wants to give individual cops license to harass attractive women with threats of being prosecuted for indecent exposure based on their choice of garments. Yep, no way this law could possibly be abused.

I can just imagine how traffic stops would play out in Montana: "Ma'am, I was checking you out, and I noticed that you have nipples and buttocks. That's a crime punishable by five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. But there's a way you can avoid all that drama..."

"Ma'am, I noticed that you have nipples and buttocks. That's a crime punishable by five years in prison."
In the end it wouldn't just be yoga pants. It would be any tight clothing, such as bikinis, or even clothing that rested against the body without constricting it, such as a light cotton blouse, or a sweater. Yes, this upstanding conservative American wants to criminalize women for getting cold and wearing skinny jeans.

The essence of his proposal is that women should be required by law to wear loose clothing. Exactly how is this different from the Taliban and the ayatollahs in Iran who force women to wear hijabs and chadors?

What caused this guy to want to outlaw yoga pants? Well, there was a nude bike ride that made him mad. In other words, one group of people offended him, so now he wants to punish a completely different group -- mostly women -- who have absolutely nothing to do with the first group.

Why are conservatives so hung up on women's bodies in the first place? What are they so afraid of? Are they incapable of controlling their lust? Do they hate women so much they can't stand seeing what they really are?

If Moore doesn't want to be bothered by yoga pants he should stop staring at women's crotches.
It's not like there's some deep dark secret. Everyone knows what human bodies look like -- we all have one. Anyone with an Internet connection can see everything that yoga pants cover up, in much greater detail and in living color.

The answer is really quite simple: if Moore doesn't want to be bothered by the clothes women wear, he shouldn't go to the gym and stare at their crotches and chests when they're in yoga class.

And they keep telling us the war on women is over...

Weather Vs. Climate

The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not...

The Gun Toting Atheist


Charged with three counts of first-degree murder is Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who has described himself as a “gun toting” atheist. Neighbors said Wednesday that he always seemed angry and confrontational. His ex-wife said he was obsessed with the shooting-rampage movie “Falling Down” and showed “no compassion at all” for other people.

Falling Down, for those of you who have not seen it, is old white man's porn. Michael Douglas plays a man who just can't take it anymore and goes on a shooting spree across Los Angeles. Here's the trailer.

I wonder how many other members of the Gun Cult get a boner when they watch this film.

Yet They Still Went To The Gun Range

The Eddie Ray Routh trial is underway and information is starting to come out about that day at the gun range.

Shortly before he was shot to death by a troubled former Marine at a Texas gun range, legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle texted a buddy, "This dude is straight-up nuts," a defense attorney told jurors Wednesday. 

A lawyer for Eddie Ray Routh said in opening statements of the man's murder trial that Routh's insanity was so evident that Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield exchanged texts expressing alarm as the three rode together in February 2013 to a Texas shooting range. "He's (sitting) right behind me, watch my six," Littlefield texted back, using a military reference for watching one's back.

Yet they still went to the gun range. Why?

Because being a member of the fucking Gun Cult makes you that fucking stupid.

Responsible gun owners my ass!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Answer to the Most Pressing Question of the Day

Conservatives are now presented with a dilemma: in the wake of the murder of three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, should they support the killer, who was a middle-aged white guy simply exercising his right to Second Amendment solutions? Or should they support the victims, who were kind-hearted Muslim dental students that volunteered to help the homeless, and were brutally gunned down by a fanatical atheist?

Speculation is rife about why Craig avowed atheist Stephen Hicks killed a Muslim newlywed couple and their 19-year-old Muslim female friend: was it a hate crime, or just an angry white guy mad about a parking spot?

Well, the answer is staring us in the face: he killed them because he had a gun. No gun, no murder.

Guns are a powerful mind-altering drug like PCP. They represent sheer naked power, power that corrupts quickly and absolutely.

If you put a gun in the hands of the most coldly rational atheist or the gentlest Christian they quickly become raging maniacs.

In so many murders and suicides the gun itself is the motivating factor. Without the weapon and the ability to kill someone as easily as turning off a light switch, thousands of people in this country would not have to die needlessly every year.

Ending A Deeply Flawed Ideology

My mom told me a story about her sister recently that disturbed me profoundly. My aunt has always been a little crazy and has gotten worse since my uncle died 3 years ago. He was staunchly conservative (save for being pro choice) and considered himself a southern gentlemen. He had a very aristocratic nature about him which made sense since he lived in Southern Illinois. My aunt still lives there and most of the people in her town are very conservative as well.

They lived in the house that belonged to my uncle's mother, oddly residing upstairs in the servant's quarters while she was alive. When my uncle's mother died five years ago, they took over the rest of the house. In all the time they lived there, no one else in the family was ever invited over for holiday gatherings or even a short visit. It was very strange. My uncle kept a very tight rein on my aunt and didn't allow her to do many things because he was very traditional. He wouldn't even let her pack a car! I think this had an effect on her over the years and made her mental issues even worse.

I used to get into all sorts of political debates with my uncle. He loved President Bush and hated Barack Obama with all of his heart. The absolute nonsense that used to come out of his mouth was ridiculous. But until he died, I had no idea just how far gone he was, ideologically speaking. As she has been helping my aunt clean out the house, my mother has discovered, much to her horror, that my uncle and my aunt were doomsday preppers.

In the last few months, my mom has found hundreds of canned goods, boxes of food, and many rounds of ammunition. She has also found many guns, including one that was kept loaded by the bedside. My aunt recently showed my mother this and, much to her horror, began twirling it around to "show off her skills." Thankfully, my mom moved out of the room quickly and then had my other uncle come over to the house and take all of the guns out of there.

My aunt is an example of someone who should never be allowed to have a gun. I'm not even sure if she has a license to have one. After my mom told me this story, I understood with much clarity how there are so many accidents with guns ever year. Of course, banning guns isn't going to solve anything. What I'm calling for is the ideology that is at the root of this problem to go away.


Time will take care of some of this for our society. When the old white men die off, I think the fevered dreams about totalitarian governments and playing apocalypse will fall away somewhat. In the meantime, I want to see the people of this country reject the idea that having a gun in your house protects you. You don't need to keep a loaded gun by your bed. No one is coming to get you. The statistics show that you are much more likely to hurt yourself, a member of your family, have a member of your family hurt themselves or others, or have it taken away from you if someone does come in to your home. Honestly, people should be more worried about their diet then home invaders. Americans should also worry less about protecting themselves against the government. If the federal government wanted to dominate us with weapons, they could do it easily.

Leave the fear behind, folks, and let's start focusing on actual threats out there like climate change and health issues.

(So Many) Good Words

From a recent question on Quora...I find it childish for people to persist saying " it's just a tool." No, it's a weapon. I find it childish to walk around in a Starbucks or a chipotle with a long armed rifle slung on your back and act like you're it doing it be threatening.

I find it childish to bring ted nugent to a state of the union address when he talks about threatening the president and secretary of state. I find it childish to pretend that a gun is not a weapon, and mock people for being histrionic or irrational for not liking it or feeling nervous because they don't know you and don't know if you're a " good responsible gun owner" or a showboat with an itchy trigger finger. I may have to accept the level of cray-cray on guns in this country ( it hasn't always been like this is my lifetime) but I do not have to like it.

Bigotry against gun owners. Maybe one day I will get to where I get this concept as you do, that being a gun owner is somehow akin to a religion, disability, ethnicity or gender. But I'm nowhere near at that point. As I see it, gun owners in America have so much going for them: a 2d amendment, lots of money, lots of elected officials in their corner. 

To think of myself as a bigot because I have a negative response to the amount of guns that are in this country, and the not-so-rare irreverent attitudes I see ( definition : mine) of people to who own them is hard to swallow. You have the law on your side. You even have numbers in your side. I wasn't aware that gun owners across America were experiencing employment discrimination, or bullying, or social isolation. Owning a gun is owning a possession. If it were a samurai sword, I'd likely think the same thing. Weapons are not a part of your body. You can be welcome places that your gun is not.

Sing it, sister!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Riker Sits Down

Lies About Iraq

The pile on of Brian Williams over the last couple of days is pretty ironic when you consider that Fox News and other right wing media outlets are gleefully dancing about lies told about Iraq. Actually, ironic isn't the word for it.

Hypocritical, pathetic, and disgusting are more like it.

"It's Just Made Up"

From Ronald Reagan's chief economist...

As for the idea that cutting regulations will lead to significant job growth, Bartlett said in an interview, "It's just nonsense. It's just made up." Government and industry studies support his view.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks companies' reasons for large layoffs, found that 1,119 layoffs were attributed to government regulations in the first half of this year, while 144,746 were attributed to poor "business demand."

I think things being just made up are a cornerstone of conservative economic theory.

Good Words

I got a message on Quora from someone who has recently been engaging Kevin Baker in a discussion.

This Kevin Baker guy can be difficult to take! :) My goal in my discussions with him is to have fun, to improve my skills making arguments, and to learn. I absolutely agree his arguments are largely semantic (he seems quite satisfied to zero in on minor discrepancies to "prove" his point), and his need for sharing his "wins" on his site frankly makes me a bit sad. I've commented on that site as well as here, and he (along with his followers) aren't shy about making personal attacks or snide remarks.

Sound familiar?:)

I wonder if Kevin will take anything from this and, perhaps, change.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Again with the False Equivalences on Science

With the measles scare and the question of vaccinations in the air, making false equivalences between the left on the right is again in vogue.

Fred Hiatt at the Washington Post has a column doing it with regard to science. This time his bugaboo is that in poll of scientists and the general populace, the right disagrees with scientists on most everything, while the left disagrees with scientists about vaccinations and eating genetically modified organisms (GMO foods).

First off, GMO foods are not about science. They're about corporate profits. More on this later.

Concern over GMOs isn't just about eating them. It's about the host of other problems the GMO-based agricultural-industrial complex engenders.
Second, the poll results don't represent what the pollsters say they do. When an average person answers a poll question they don't respond to the actual wording -- they're giving their overall reaction to the subject. A question like, "Are GMO foods safe to eat?" will be answered instead as if the poll asked "Do you think GMO foods are good?" The average person has heard a litany of reasons (monocultures, genetic contamination, toxic pesticides and herbicides, agribusiness crushing the family farm) about why they're bad, but can't enumerate them on a poll because polls don't allow for nuance. So they just vote GMO foods off the island.

A more specific example is climate change. Everyone over the age of 50 knows without a doubt that the climate is changing. So when conservatives say they don't believe in global warming, they're really saying A) I don't care because I'll be dead by the time it really starts to matter, B) I hate liberals and their stupid causes, C) Who gives a damn about polar bears?, D) It will cost too much to do anything about it, E) I don't want to give up my riding lawn mower and my Hummer for a bunch of tree huggers, and F) I'm afraid I'll lose my job when the Koch brothers pick up their ball and go home if they don't get what they want. Since they can't say all that on the poll, they just say they don't believe in climate change.

The scientists, however, will answer that GMO safety question honestly. Because, well, they're scientists. "Yeah, eating Bt corn is probably safe; i.e., it will probably not give you a heart attack tomorrow or a brain tumor next month."

Then the scientists would hasten to add (unless employed by Monsanto), "GMO crops like Bt and glyphosate-resistant corn engender a vast industrial-agricultural complex that creates many risks with the excessive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, all of which contribute to bee die-offs, mutated wildlife, algal blooms in lakes and streams, Parkinson's, autism, and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, and I wouldn't be surprised if eating Bt corn contributed to the obesity epidemic or the alarming spread of food allergies. More unbiased research is needed to answer that."

That "But" will never get on a poll because polls aren't intended to give detailed results. They are, almost always, paid for by someone who wants a particular result to prove the point they want to prove.

The real question is whether the positive aspects of raising GMO crops outweigh the negative aspects.
The fact is, the science says that GMO foods have many negative aspects. These bad qualities are rooted in real science, not silly prejudice. The real question is whether the tradeoffs between the positive and negative aspects of GMO crops make them safe and sustainable on the whole. Monsanto doesn't care about the overall picture, they just care about their bottom line.

Most genetically modified crops are not engineered to make them more nutritious. They have genes inserted in them to make them poisonous to insects (Bt corn), or resistant to herbicides (Roundup Ready Corn).

In other words, the ag giants want to sell GMO crops so they can sell more Roundup and atrazine, as well as lock farmers into buying seed from them every year.

It took decades for scientists to realize that DDT was bad for humans. We haven't been eating Bt corn long enough to have enough data to know with absolute certainty that it's completely safe. The people doing the research on the safety of GMO foods are paid by the companies that produce them. Companies are known to cherry pick their data (mostly by burying studies that disagree with what they want). It's therefore not unreasonable to be scientifically skeptical about their findings.

Monsanto sells GMO corn so they can sell more Roundup and create a seed monopoly.
Furthermore, there are serious problems with industrialized agriculture, and GMO crops allow these bad practices to be used ever more widely.  In particular, the overuse of chemicals on crops.

The herbicides used on GMO crops are known to cause developmental problems in animals (atrazine is notorious for what it does to frogs) and human fetuses. The pesticides used in agriculture are toxic not only to insects, but also to humans, even in relatively small doses. They are neurotoxins known to cause diseases like Parkinson's.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are implicated as at least a partial cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, the condition that is killing bees across the world. Bees are essential to many types of agriculture, such as apples, apricots, almonds, all kinds of vegetables like cucumbers and watermelon, cotton, alfalfa, even okra. Is it wise to risk all those other crops so that some farmers can spray Imidacloprid indiscriminately?

When farmers buy GMO seeds from corporations like Monsanto, they are forbidden to use that crop as seed the next year. They must buy more seed from Monsanto. They can be sued even if they accidentally plant some seed they didn't pay for. This is a huge expense, and it means more money is being transferred from the pockets of farmers into the coffers of big business.

To exacerbate the problem, weeds frequently develop resistance to herbicides on their own. Even worse, the genes inserted into GMO crops are sometimes transferred to weeds, making them resistant to the herbicide and defeating the entire purpose of GMO crops.

Monoculture GMO crops represent a huge gamble that will likely result in a massive crop die-off one day.
Furthermore, when farmers across the country -- and the world -- all plant the exact same crop, we wind up with a genetically identical monoculture. When a disease or pest attacks the entire crop can be wiped out.

This is happening more and more frequently. Within the next few years most of the orange trees in Florida will be affected by citrus blight. The price of orange juice is projected to go way up. In the next few years chocolate prices will go up due to a combination of demand, drought (caused in part by higher temperatures due to global warming) and disease (witch's brew and frosty pod).

So, in the future, when some form of corn rust mutates and infects GMO crops, it will be carried by insects across the country. It will infect a huge fraction of the corn in the country, because there only a couple of companies selling seeds. Because the corn crop will be a monoculture, all from the same seed produced by one or two companies, all the plants will be infected.

This isn't idle speculation. It's something that will happen if we continue to plant a monoculture of corn. And because it can take years to develop new GMO crops, we could have famine that lasts for years because everyone foolishly planted the identical crop world-wide and there isn't enough genetic diversity in the seed banks to find a plant that is immune to the plague.

The problem with GMO crops isn't the science. The problem is with the corporations that use the science to make products without regard to the negative effects that product causes, which may extend far beyond the product itself (such as GMO crops that encourage overuse of fertilizers which winds up killing all the shrimp off the coast of Louisiana).

GMO crops are really an argument for letting the world's population grow without bounds.
In the end, Hiatt's defense of GMO crops doesn't rest on the science. It rests on the assumption that the world's population is going to continue to grow unabated, and unless we use GMO crops to increase yields we will have mass starvation.

Which is incredibly short-sighted. Clearly the population cannot grow unbounded. There are seven billion people in the world. GMO crops may be enough to support nine billion. But about 12? Or 15? Or 20?

Clearly the world survive just fine if there are only seven or five or three billion people on it. But at some point everything will collapse if we continue to increase the population, depending on a scientific infrastructure that requires monoculture crops and the massive use of toxic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers that we know will fail at some point.