Contributors

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Preview of Things to Come

On Christmas Eve it was 73 degrees in New York City. On Christmas Day people were playing beach volleyball in Central Park, wearing a Santa hat and no shirt.

But elsewhere the weather was much worse. Since Dec. 21st, tornadoes have struck Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Dozens of people died.

On New Years Eve the Mississippi and Merrimac rivers are flooding, flooding large areas of Illinois and Missouri. Dozens more died. Thousands have fled their homes for higher ground.

This past summer Asia and the Pacific were hammered by 16 hurricanes (cyclones), including the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western hemisphere (Patricia).

On Wednesday the same weather system that brought flooding and tornadoes to the United States brought temperatures 50 degrees hotter than normal to the North Pole. At the end of December the temperature at the North Pole was above freezing, reaching 35 degrees.

Why is this happening? Because ocean temperatures in the Pacific are extremely warm. The warmer Pacific air holds more water. When all that hot air and water vapor coming from the west meets more humid air coming from the Gulf of Mexico over the American plains and southeast, it causes extreme weather: tornadoes, thunderstorms and floods.

This has happened before. A few years ago we had tornadoes in January and February, but this year is particularly bad because it's an "El Niño" year. El Niño years also occurred in 1953 and 1980, causing a string of tornadoes in December. The combination of El Niño and climate change made 2015 the hottest year on record.

The people who have been hardest hit by tornadoes and floods come from states whose Republican representatives in Congress say that climate change is a hoax, that temperatures aren't rising: politicians like Ted Cruz of Texas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Last year Inhofe brought a snowball into the Senate to "prove" that climate change isn't happening. It was stupid stunt, because one snowfall doesn't prove climate change isn't happening (the large snowfalls that year were caused by a weakening of the polar vortex, when warm air intruded on the North Pole and pushed cold air into the Northeast). But long-term trends do, and beach volleyball weather on Christmas in New York is the culmination of trend that has been occurring for the past 50 years. We've seen it here in Minnesota: in the 1990s the beach volleyball season started in May and ended in August. In the past few years we've regularly started as soon as early to late March and played until late October and mid-November.

The tornadoes and floods hitting the Bible belt aren't God's wrath, or Nature's wrath, or the planet wreaking revenge on us for killing polar bears and whales. It's thermodynamics, plain and simple. Hot air has more energy and holds more water, causing more extreme storms.

This year's weather is worse than previous El Niño years because it's being exacerbated by global warming. As carbon dioxide from the burning of oil, gas and coal continues to build up in the atmosphere, the Pacific will continue to warm to the point where this year's high ocean temperatures will become the norm.

Before long every year will be an El Niño year.

Best Political Moment of 2015

Looking back on this year, I suppose I could note the various accomplishments that the president helped to achieve (Iran, final legality of the ACA, gay marriage legal in all states, ISIL long term strategy drives group out of Ramadi... among others).

Honestly, though, the best political moment of this year was all thanks to Donald Trump. He has singlehandedly laid bare the neo-fascist, ultra-nationalism that permeates a substantial portion of the conservative base. There can be no more denials of racism when the leading candidate for the GOP (now five months running) calls for no Muslims to be allowed in the country AND THE PEOPLE CHEER.

If you want to know how totalitarians take over a country, this is it. They use anger, hate and fear as a fuel to drive nationalism and pick a scapegoat. With the Nazis, it was the Jews. With the Soviets, it was capitalists. With the Italian fascists, it was socialists. With the Japanese, it was the imperialists...even though they themselves were imperialists.

It's this last example that makes me crack up the most. The conservative base bemoans state control and authoritarianism. Yet, that is EXACTLY what they want. They want a return to the aristocracy of the Antebellum South where the non whites remained at their lower station. Donald Trump is their perfect king, even using the word "reign" instead of presidency.

He is their hero and the Best Political Moment of 2015.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Getting What They Deserve

Paul Krugman put it best recently when he noted that Republicans are getting the candidate they deserve in Donald Trump.

Donald Trump as a political phenomenon is very much in a line of succession that runs from W. through Mrs. Palin, and in many ways he’s entirely representative of the Republican mainstream. For example, were you shocked when Mr. Trump revealed his admiration for Vladimir Putin? He was only articulating a feeling that was already widespread in his party…

What is consistently felt, Krugman notes, is bluster and belligerence as substitutes for analysis, disdain for any kind of measure response, and the continued dismissal of inconvenient facts related by the "liberal media." This isn't anything new. This is what the GOP has been training their followers with for the last 15+ years.

Why on earth do they seem surprised now that Trump is the likely nominee?

The Obama team has it right when they say that the GOP is getting what they deserve. I've been saying all along that being an adolescent is what they party is all about these days and they are incapable of behaving like rational adults. Hilariously, many pundits and prognosticators are saying that when the GOP gets their ass kicked (again) this year, they'll finally see the light.

No, they won't:)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

This Week in Gun Tropes

In the last week three stories hit the news that illustrate the silliness of the notion that more guns are more better:

1) In Chicago, cops killed a 55-year-old woman by accident when responding to a domestic violence call. Some mentally disturbed college engineering student with a baseball bat was also shot to death. They just happened to be black...

Cops are supposed to be trained to respond to these situations. If good guys with guns can't distinguish between dangerous nut cases and grandmothers, how can anyone expect a random dufus with a concealed pistol in his waistband or purse to be able to make snap decisions and avoid "collateral damage?"

2) The grand jury declined to file charges against the cop who killed Tamir Rice. A year ago two Cleveland cops pulled into a park where a 12-year-old black boy was playing with a pellet gun and shot him dead within three seconds.

It's an outrage that cops just whacked this black kid without first figuring out what the hell was going on.

But what should really worry gun nuts is that the cops whacked this kid without first figuring out what the hell was going on. Suppose this kid was carrying a real gun, like so many of those open-carry idiots roaming fast-food joints in Texas. People wouldn't be quite so outraged if the kid actually posed a real danger. This grand jury decision justifies cops just driving up and blowing away anyone who's carrying a gun, if they feel threatened.

And gun lovers shouldn't think that being white is going to save their hides. The vast majority of shooters in murder sprees are disaffected, gun-loving white guys, so few people will shed tears when cops shoot guys who are just one step away from becoming Dylan Klebold or Dylann Roof.

If you have a gun when something bad goes down, the cops are going to target you because you're not wearing a uniform. They can't tell good guys from bad guys who are carrying guns. After the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Tucson an innocent man was very nearly shot because he'd taken the gun away from the shooter, but wasn't because a man carrying a concealed weapon paused to figure out what the hell was going on. Maybe he should hold a training session for the cops in Cleveland and Chicago.

3) When Republican state lawmaker David Ramadan responded to one of Donald Trump's moronic tweets with the disdain it deserved, Trump's followers accused him being a Muslim, demanded his citizenship be revoked, told him to "go back home" to Lebanon and made not-so-subtle threats of violence against him. He responded with typical conservative bravado:
“I think I can protect myself,” he said, chuckling. “Second Amendment guy here.”
Ha ha. Good one.

The thing is, neither the Second Amendment nor a handgun will protect you like a flak jacket and a ballistic helmet can. Guns are pretty worthless "protection" because you can't shoot what you don't see coming.

The guys threatening him aren't going to meet him at high noon in front of the saloon on Main Street. They're going to throw a brick through the window of his office, or a Molotov cocktail through the front window of his house, or terrorize his children at the bus stop, or ambush him with a passel of their punk-ass pals, or shoot him from a safe distance with a rifle, the way other political figures such as JFK and Martin Luther King were assassinated.

As long as guns are everywhere, bad guys will always have the upper hand: when a trained shooter picks the time and place for an attack he can unload a full magazine (6, 7, 10, 17, 20, 30 or more rounds) into a person or a crowd long before anyone can possibly react. Even if you've got your weapon in your hand and a round in the chamber, people will be dead on the floor before you can get a single shot off.

The only way to reduce the carnage wrought by guns is to reduce the number of guns in the hands of nitwits who shoot people when they get scared or pissed off.

Trump is...Colbert?

Check this out...

Seriously!!

Monday, December 28, 2015

America Is Already Great


Weak and Paranoid

This piece from The Trace is the best gift I've received this holiday season. I had no idea that there was this much progress on the issue of guns in this country. Take some time to look through each of the stories on the 10 Americans and how they are helping shift our nation's attitude about guns.

I think my favorite was Chris Lane's fantastic post entitled "3 Reasons I Went From Being A Gun Nut To Supporting Gun Control." Choice cuts...

Americans aren't completely free in many ways, and most gun owners don't seem to worry about the many laws and social customs that place limits on other aspects of their lives. I'm not free to walk down the city street completely naked (have no fear folks, that's not something I want to do), yet there are open carry advocates walking around stores with AR15s on their backs.

People willingly submit to rules and limits on their personal freedom in countless ways; it's the price of living in a civilized society without being a huge nuisance to other people. One day I realized that nudity is controlled more tightly than ownership of deadly weapons, and that seemed absurd to me. 

Indeed. It is absurd. But one has to understand that people that feel this way aren't really rational. They feel powerless without their guns. It's pretty fucking sad when you think about it. Worse...

They seem to believe that the reason a lot of people are in favor of gun control measures is because they don't value freedom and are "Sheeple," somehow rejecting the fact that more and more mass shootings and gun crimes seem to be happening and worry the rest of us. 

Some of the hardcore gun owners I met were convinced that America is heading towards an Orwellian future where no one is free and the government controls every aspect of our lives. To many of them, the only thing standing in our evil government's way is their personal stockpile of AR15s. They seem to ignore the fact that if the government went to such an authoritarian extreme, it would have the resources to effectively vaporize any suburban "patriots" who decided to raise an armed resistance against it. 

Thinking the government is out to get them is a very simple and fairly stupid way of looking at things, and not something the majority of responsible gun owners buy into, but once I found myself encountering a bunch of those characters, I decided I didn't want to be part of that culture anymore.

Bravo! Way to deprogram yourself and wake the fuck up. Why would anyone want live their life that way? Gun bloggers and the commenters that post on such sites seem to lack the capacity to reason at all. They are so overcome with emotion that it astounds me they can even function in society at all.

Too often guns are shown to be totems of power, the only way to deal with a conflict, and as a symbol of masculinity. It's stupid. I personally began to feel less powerful whenever I carried a gun. Living in fear while going about my business just made me feel weak and paranoid.

Exactly right. And it's self feeding as long as they are armed.

I challenge all gun owners to stop living in fear and being weak and paranoid. It's no way to go though life.

Here's a much better idea.













Sunday, December 27, 2015

Good Guy With A Gun


Panic!

Politico has a piece up about the whole boiling pit of sewage message from the GOP and how easily they can fall into disseminating it.

For a moment, it looked like the fever that had burned since the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 had broken. But then came the Mexican rapists, and Benghazi, and the plot to “Islamize” America, and Planned Parenthood acting as an agent of holocaust. We heard endless dark warnings about Obama the Nazi, Obama the ISIS apologist. We learned that the Affordable Care Act is tantamount to slavery and the Holocaust could have been averted if the Jews just had guns, and that the Iran deal will trigger the second Holocaust (so many holocausts!). 

Once the Paris attacks happened, the panic tightened its grip, with two leading Republican presidential candidates suddenly possessed by dueling hallucinations of celebratory Muslims in Jersey on 9/11. Then came San Bernardino. Donald Trump, who had previously contented himself with talk of an authoritarian state in which Muslims were made to register and neighbor spied upon neighbor, doubled down, calling for a ban of all Muslims trying to come to the United States. The rest of the field, while not quite scaling such rhetorical heights, hardly distinguished itself with steely Churchillian reserve, opting instead for a flurry of muppet arms. 

When Obama gave a speech emphasizing calm and fortitude, Marco Rubio responded by saying that, on the contrary, Americans are “really scared,” John Kasich said “our way of life is at stake,” Chris Christie proclaimed that World War III had begun, and Jeb Bush said ISIS is “organizing to destroy Western Civilization.” 

They seem to have real difficulty calming down, don't they? Do we really want people with this much fear and panic running our country?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Message of Peace

Reprinted in its entirety...

To our Christian brothers and sisters:
Out of our shared love for the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, Peace Be Upon Him, we greet you with peace and joy during your celebration of his life.
The Bible refers to him as the Messiah and describes the annunciation, his miraculous birth and his numerous miracles.
The Qur’an refers to him as the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. It teaches about his miraculous birth and how his mother Mary was honored above all the worlds. Muslims are instructed to invoke peace upon him whenever his name is mentioned.
The Qur’an narrates the story of the angel who visited Mary, saying “O Mary, indeed God has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of all the worlds.” (Qur’an 3:42)
The angel said, “O Mary, indeed God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. He will be honored in this world and the Hereafter and he will be among those closest to God. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and he will be of the righteous.” (Qur’an 3:44-45)
She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” The angel said, “Such is God; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” (3:47)
The Qur’an describes how the baby Jesus, immediately upon birth, looked up to his mother and comforted her: “Do not be sad; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented.” (Qur’an 19:24-26)
The Qur’an describes many instances in the life of Jesus: how he preached the worship of God and compassion to people, how he healed the leper, how he healed the blind, and even how he brought the dead back to life.
Our two religions, Christianity and Islam, which both profess love and reverence for Jesus as a central figure in each of our religions, constitute over half of the population of the world.
Mercy and compassion, charity and love are the divine attributes that the Christmas season evokes among Christians. A mother’s devotion, a child’s love, and the promise of God’s mercy and grace in the coming of Jesus to us are sentiments that Muslims can share and appreciate.
In the Bible, we are told that Jesus, in response to a question about the most important commandment, is said to have answered: “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is similar. You should love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40) Jesus added that those whose hearts are filled with such love of God and neighbor live not far from the kingdom of God. (Mark 12:34)
Similarly, the Qur’an teaches us that to “worship God being sincere to Him in faith, to incline towards the truth, to establish prayer and to give alms to the poor is the essence of the religion.” (Qur’an 98:5) “ … And you should forgive and overlook: Do you not like God to forgive you? And God is The Merciful Forgiving.”  (Qur’an 24:22)
The Prophet Mohammad, Peace Be Upon Him, taught: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
In the words of St. Paul, let us put on the armor of light which is the teaching of God that we are to love one another that we might together better confront the dark that lies within some human hearts which are far from God. (Romans 13:12)
As Jesus taught so movingly, let our lights so shine together before all people that they may see our good works which glorify our God in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Jesus taught us that we should not live by bread alone but by every word of God. (Matthew 4:4)
Thus, we applaud the good hearts and loving deeds seeking to please God in His mercy and compassion that are befitting for us not only during this Christmas season but also every day of every year. Let all people, Christians and Muslims, who love Jesus, peace be upon him, come together to practice what he preached. Let peace and goodwill spread among us all.
We invite all our Muslim brothers and sisters of goodwill to join us in this open letter at this Christmas season and throughout the year as peace and joy, love of God and neighbor, are to be with us always.
This article was submitted by Imam Asad Zaman, Muslim American Society of Minnesota; Dr. Odeh Muhawesh, Imam Hussain Islamic Center; Shaykha Tamara Gray, Rabata/Daybreak Bookstore; Dr. Tamim Saidi, Masjid Al Kareem; Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota; Dr. Shah Khan, Islamic Center of Minnesota; Dr. Onder Uluyol, Islamic Resource Group; Zafar Siddiqui, Al Amal School; Imam Sharif Mohamed, Islamic Civic Society of America — Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah, and Owais Bayunus, Islamic Center of Minnesota.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Child's Christmas In Wales

In what has become an annual tradition here at Zombie Politics,  we turn to Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales." (full text here).

There are so many elements that I love to this story that they are just too numerous to count. I suppose my personal story is the one that resonates the most. I was part of a dramatic ensemble that read it a church on Christmas Eve, 1984. I had never heard the story before and was sort of dragged into doing it by our drama teacher. I even forgot to read a line!

Yet, by the end of the reading, something magical happened to me. "All the Christmases rolled down" in a wonderfully warm bundle of memories and, as I left the church, the words cemented themselves in my soul. I realized this story would be with me forever...especially at Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cruz Against Political Correctness Except When He's for It

Last week Ted Cruz released a video in which he pimped his daughters to make a political point ("How Obamacare Stole Christmas").

But when Ann Telnaes of the Washington Post ridiculed him for bringing his young daughters into the tawdry business of politics with a cartoon that depicted him as a Santa Claus organgrinder with a pair of dancing monkeys, that was beyond the pale for the tough-talking Texan.

Cruz whined that the cartoon attacked the girls, but it's really attacking him for forcing his children to parrot his partisan lies. The cartoon is really about children being the victims of a father who will stoop to anything to get elected president.

The Post withdrew the cartoon, but it shouldn't have. The Telnaes cartoon wasn't an unmotivated attack on the Cruz girls; it was a parody of a political ad that Cruz himself put out there. That makes it fair game. It's Cruz's fault for exposing his own daughters to this; this is on him, not Telnaes and the Post.

What makes it doubly ridiculous is that nearly every parent refers to their children as monkeys: it's a term of endearment. I'm sure Cruz and his wife are no different. If you could stomach watching the 15 hours of excruciating Cruz family videos his campaign shat on YouTube, you could probably find multiple instances of Cruz calling his children monkeys. Perhaps there should be a Senate hearing to look into the matter of whether Cruz now calls, or has ever called, his daughters monkeys.

The real subtext here is that for years Republicans have been circulating cartoons depicting President Obama as a monkey. By carping about the cartoon Cruz is underlining the "injustice" of his minions getting called for portraying the president of the United States as a monkey, while "liberals" do the same thing to his children.

The difference, of course, is that Republican portrayals of Obama as an ape are motivated by racism, while Telnaes is using the common organgrinder trope that is completely inoffensive when applied to white children.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are always the first ones to start screaming about the tyranny of political correctness every time they spout derogatory nonsense about Mexicans, Muslims, women, the disabled, and every other group they insult to get elected. Yet they're the first ones to pretend they're the victim when they talk trash and prostitute their children to further their own political goals.

These guys are such whiny little bitches...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Moving Left

The main reason why the Right are so out of their minds right now is this.

Why America Is Moving Left

It means that on domestic policy—foreign policy is following a different trajectory, as it often does—the terms of the national debate will continue tilting to the left. The next Democratic president will be more liberal than Barack Obama. The next Republican president will be more liberal than George W. Bush.

Yep.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Deadly Trap of Opioid Painkillers

In the Democratic debate one of the questions dealt with the epidemic of heroin overdoses that has hit the country in recent years. But it's not just heroin: a lot of it is other opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin and Percocet. Heroin use is way up because people addicted to those prescription drugs turn to street when their pusher doctor stops handing out scrips like candy.

Last year more than 47,000 people died of drug overdose; almost 30,000 of those deaths were from opioids -- as many people as were killed by guns and car accidents. The three candidates in the debate all agreed that more has to be done to prevent doctors from overprescribing addictive drugs. But it's not just doctors: patients have to stop asking for them.

And doctors do hand these drugs out like candy. About 10 years ago I came down with pneumonia. I didn't even know I had it -- I just had a terrible headache and couldn't sleep, but had no congestion or even a cough. After a false start with the wrong antibiotic, they finally gave me the right stuff -- Zithromax -- and without my asking for it, a prescription for Percocet.

I don't generally bother with drugs to treat headaches -- they never work anyway. But I hadn't slept for days, so I took the antibiotic and one tablet of Percocet. However, as soon as I started to drift asleep I stopped breathing: I'd overdosed on a single pill. So now I had to force myself to stay awake and concentrate on each breath, and the headache was still killing me. Fortunately the Zithromax worked almost immediately and I was better the next day.

And it's just getting worse: every time I or my wife have even the most minor surgery, the doctors are always eager to push some more Vicodin or OxyContin on us.

My system is probably hypersensitive to the effects of opioids, but these drugs -- Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin -- are inherently dangerous. The difference between a useful therapeutic dose and an overdose is fairly small. People who rely on them to alleviate severe pain for years on end build up an addiction and a tolerance to opioids. They have to take larger and larger doses, inching over the years toward an eventual deadly overdose.

When their doctors finally cut them off they turn to the street to buy prescription meds illegally, like Rush Limbaugh did, or they buy heroin. The quality of street drugs is extremely uneven, increasing the likelihood of an overdose.

The CDC has now recognized opioid overdoses as an epidemic, and has been working to revamp the guidelines for prescribing these drugs. But drug companies are fighting this tooth and nail. CDC has now delayed a plan to issue new guidelines. Big Pharma doesn't want their opioid cash cow gored.

People who have severe pain feel they have no alternative but to take drugs. But opioids like oxycodone were originally intended as a temporary stopgap for cancer patients; people in acute pain who were either being cured of their disease or dying from it. These drugs were not intended to be taken for years on end for chronic pain from mundane conditions such as ruptured discs or diabetic nerve damage.

Now, I'm not saying that people plagued by severe back pain should just suffer. But painkillers can only ameliorate pain temporarily -- they cure absolutely nothing. If patients have severe neuropathy, the goal should be to remedy the underlying physical condition. Not dope them into a stupor for the rest of their lives.

Real cures require expensive and/or risky surgery, or extensive changes in behavior or ongoing physical therapy and exercise. Health insurance companies don't like the former and patients don't like the latter. And in some cases we don't have any viable cures yet.

So the cheap, easy and lazy thing to do is hand out painkillers as if they were M&Ms.

Taking painkillers will never fix what's really wrong when people suffer from pain. But drug companies like that. They have no incentive to find real cures for the underlying causes of chronic pain, because their business model depends on hooking more and more people on opioids and milking their pain for the rest of their lives. Just like any pusher on the street.

Martin Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who was recently arrested for securities fraud, became infamous for jacking up the price of a sixty-year-old life-saving drug by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 to $750 dollars per pill. He saw nothing wrong with telling AIDS patients and mothers of sick newborns, "Your money or your life!"

Shkreli is a disgusting imitation of a human being, but at least he was being honest. The CEOs of drug companies hawking opioids are doing the same thing, saying, "Pay us or suffer the fires of hell for the rest of your miserable life!"

This is the problem when capitalism intersects with medicine. Corporations, as Shkreli told us, aren't in the business of making people healthy. They're solely in the business of making money. More money. More quickly.

Americans should stop putting up with expensive, half-assed solutions to medical problems: painkillers are not the answer to chronic pain. The medical-industrial complex is making trillions of dollars off our suffering.

We should be getting real cures for all the money we're spending. Not a temporary fix that addicts us to dangerous drugs that will eventually kill us.

Why Aren't You Working On White Men With Guns?

Yeah, why aren't we?

And Then There Were 13....

Well, Lindsey Graham is out of the GOP race. Does anyone really care? I for one will miss his little seen performances in the undercard debates:)

That leaves the following candidates:

Jim Gilmore: Who? Or, more appropriately, why?

George Pataki: He must be looking in horror at what his party has become. See also: extinct species, Northeast Republican

Rick Santorum: The evangelical vote is no more
Mike Huckabee: see Rick Santorum

Carly Fiorina: She has her 15 minutes. Now she's trying to repeat them over and over again.
Rand Paul: There aren't enough sensible libertarians out there.
John Kasich: Probably the most qualified and reasonable GOP candidate in the mix which is why he'll never get above 2 percent.

Jeb Bush: He does indeed remind the entire nation of your awkward father.

Ben Carson: When he finally showed some energy, he was just...weird.

Chris Christie: I think this guy could surprise some people in New Hampshire.

Marco Rubio: Currently down or flat lining but still in the top three. If he can win an early primary, he might catch fire.
Ted Cruz: He will win Iowa. After that, it depends on his organization to get out the vote in the Southern states.
Donald Trump: Still the front runner and proof positive of maturity of the conservative base.

Note how I ordered and grouped each of the candidates. One of the last three will likely be the nominee, At this point, I'm hoping that it's Cruz. "Real" conservatives have assured me that if a true, deep red Republican were nominated, magic will happen and the silent majority will turn out to vote.

I can't wait.



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Old Dixie Hwy. renamed for President Obama



I'd say this is a metaphor for about eight zillion things...:)

Racism and Bigotry on Full Display

Rip Donald Trump all you want but I think his "block all Muslims" comment was the best thing that ever happened. Why? Check out his poll numbers. What we see here is fantastic proof that conservatives are fucking bigots. Examples.





Rather than being pissed off about these view, I'm actually pretty happy that it's out there now on full display so we can now deal with it.

And deal with it we will. There simply aren't enough bigots out there to win a national election. When you add this stuff in with the anti-immigrant garbage, how can any GOP nominee possibly win?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Thoughts on the New Star Wars Film

Here are my thoughts on the new Star Wars film The Force Awakens 

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)

I give it an 8 out of 10. I gave the other films as follows:

Episode IV: 10. The first one is still the best. I'll never forget that feeling of wonder I got my first time I saw it. 
Episode V: 8. I realize I'll lose my fan boy cred by not giving a blowjob to Empire every other minute but I hated that I had to wait to find out what happened to Han. And it was such a downbeat film.
Episode VI: 9. Only one point off for the stupid Ewoks. The space battles at the end just blew me away.
Episode I: 7. I realize the prequels get a lot of shit but this movie was really great. It had been years since Star Wars had come out and it was so amazing to come back to this universe again.
Episode II: 2. Barf. Really fucking bad rehash of Titanic. Multiple plot points vague and silly.
Episode III: 4. Mildly better but still lacking plot wise in many ways.

Force Awakens gets an 8 overall for several reasons...the complaints first.
-I realize JJ Abrams means lingering questions (see: Lost) but I was mildly irritated about the mystery around Rey. They don't need to hook anyone to stick around.
-Too much happened in the 35 years since VI to gloss over in just a few lines of dialog. The whole Kylo son gone bad with Leia and Han lamenting felt too light. It needed another scene or two.
-Han dying sucked. I realize why they did it but it still was hard to take.
Other than those very minor issues, the film was great. The three new characters are incredibly fascinating. Give me some more Poe Dameron, baby!! Finn was really cool and Rey is just a fucking boss. And what about Snoke? I think he's actually really small in real life (Wizard of Oz dealio).

I'm very excited to see the future films!!.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Happy Star Wars Day!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

We're Exceptional!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Trump Aspires to Turn Americans into Baby Killers

In the Republican debate last night Donald Trump defended his monstrous idea to murder innocent women and children to retaliate against ISIS.

So, let me get this straight, Mr. Trump. If you were president today, you would have the infant daughter of the San Bernadino terrorists killed. A baby who happens to be an American citizen.

And you'd have her grandmother killed too, because she must have seen those pipe bombs on the floor of the apartment. And the baby's grandfather too, on general principles.

Because if you didn't have that baby executed after promising that you'd kill the families of ISIS terrorists, you'd be caving in to them. You'd be making idle threats that you'll never carry out. You'd be exposed as a gutless braggart who can't back up his big mouth with big actions.

And you couldn't do this in secret, and just have the news report that you'd had a baby executed. No, you'd have to put the whole sorry spectacle on YouTube, just like ISIS does when it beheads foreign aid workers who are just trying to help the people displaced by war.

And you couldn't have some hooded executioner kill the little girl. No, to prove you're not a pussy, you'd have to pull the trigger yourself and blow her brains out. Or better yet, you'd use an AR-15, like the terrorists did in San Berdoo, and unload a full clip into that tiny body, splattering blood all over, maybe even getting some of that sweet, sticky baby blood on your face...

Is this is the sick fantasy of Donald Trump and the people who support him?

How will Trump respond when one of his sick sycophants carries out Trump's threats of retribution against the infant daughter of Malik and Farooz, or some other innocent Muslim child who's easier to find?

Trump and his sycophants just don't get it: ISIS terrorists are suicidal maniacs who believe the Apocalypse is nigh and that those killed by their enemies are martyrs and will go straight to heaven without passing GO, and will collect 72 virgins. That includes their families, who will be with them in heaven that much sooner if Trump murders them.

Carrying out Trump's threats of intentionally killing babies and grandmas would be the greatest gift the U.S. could give ISIS: millions would sign up, rather than thousands.

The way to get these guys is not to make them martyrs, but to show them as the cowardly scum they really are. Adopting their tactics legitimizes them, lowering us to their level. Doing that would bring the murderous chaos that daily fills the streets of Iraq and Syria to the streets of America.

Once you uncork that bottle, the genie won't go back in.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Red Alert!

Quite coincidentally, when the climate change conference was in full swing in Paris last week, the Chinese government issued a "red alert" smog warning:
Starting Tuesday and continuing for three days, the more than 20 million residents of Beijing will have heavy limitations imposed on their daily activities. Schools will be closed, outdoor construction will be halted, and as the BBC reported, “cars with odd and even number plates will be banned from driving on alternate days.” It’s the first time China’s highest alert has ever been enacted in the city. 
Beijing, December 2015
In recent years cities in China, India and Iran have been socked in by suffocating smog, often for days at a time. Scenes like the one on the right are becoming increasingly common.

We used to see these sorts of things here all the time in the United States and in Europe. In 1952 London experienced a "killer fog" that killed about 12,000 people. On December 7th visibility was reduced to one foot. At noon it was pitch dark. The air was so filthy that the coal smoke penetrated people's clothes and made their underwear filthy.

London, December 1953
For decades Los Angeles had terrible problems with smog. New York City experienced killer smogs in 1953 and 1966 that resulted in the deaths of hundreds. Donora, PA had a killer smog that killed 20 in 1948.

As in China today, most of the smoke in London came from burning coal. Londoners heated their homes with coal, in addition to using it to generate electricity (China has the same problem today).

In the United States, the pollution that caused deadly smogs came from automobiles, industry (steel plants and smelting), coal-fired power plants, and so on. By the late Sixties it was clear that business as usual was no longer possible. So on January 1, 1970, Republican Richard Nixon signed the legislation that created the Environmental Protection Agency.

New York, November 1966
The EPA drafted regulations to clean up power plants and industry. The EPA enacted standards to reduce emissions from automobiles and increase mileage.

Because of the EPA, cities like New York and Los Angeles have much lower smog levels, and our skies are blue most of the time. Literally millions of American lives have been saved because of EPA regulations.

Yet when you hear Republicans, especially Republican presidential candidates, talk about the EPA, they just bitch about "burdensome" regulations or the "war on coal."

The same pollution that causes the smog that kills vulnerable adults with asthma, children, and the elderly also causes climate change. The same coal plant emissions that poison our lakes and rivers with mercury and other heavy metals also cause climate change.

Republicans like to think of themselves as rough and ready individualists. They idealize freedom as driving a big 4x4 pickup truck that gets 10 miles a gallon and belches black smoke. They cast it in terms of the lone hunter going hunting on the back 40.

But the Republican ideal of individualism doesn't scale up in modern life with antique fossil-fuel technology. We can't all drive inefficient pickup trucks to work in New York and LA and Houston and Chicago, or even Minneapolis and Milwaukee. We can't build that many freeways -- or parking lots -- and the atmosphere can't absorb that much pollution and CO2.

The same thing is true for generating electricity: you can't generate electricity for 350 million Americans with coal: it's just too dirty and inefficient. Natural gas is better, but it still generates CO2, which is causing climate change.

Now, nearly every Republican elected official denies the fact of climate change. They pretend scientists are perpetrating a gigantic hoax and a conspiracy, but we all know for a fact they deny it because they're paid to do so by the oil, gas and coal industries. How do we know this for certain? Because they also want to eliminate EPA regulations that regulate power plant and automobile emissions that were originally enacted by Republican themselves because, as we saw for decades since the industrial revolution, pollution kills people. By calling for repeal of EPA regulations, they are denying that pollution kills people in exactly the same way they're denying CO2 causes climate change.

Our population has simply grown too large to continue to burn things for energy and heat: just as we had to move away from wood-fired fireplaces and coal-fired pot-bellied stoves to oil- and natural-gas-fired furnaces, we now now have to move away from all forms of combustion.

We could continue to burn fossil fuels -- if the population of the United States and the world were what they were five centuries ago: the earth's natural systems can absorb a limited amount of CO2 and other air-borne toxins. But to do so we'd have to wage a major campaign of limiting population growth, but also of actively reducing the world's population.

Are Republicans advocating we commit mass genocide so they can continue to burn coal and drive gas guzzlers?

In order to maintain and perpetuate the kind of individualistic lifestyle that Americans are accustomed to -- and the rest of the world wants to attain -- we have to turn to renewable, clean sources of energy. We have to drive cars that run on electricity or renewable fuels, like hydrogen generated by non-polluting carbon-neutral processes.

Republicans still refuse to acknowledge this reality, but the business world already has: the stock of coal mining companies has tanked and several have gone bankrupt. The prices of gasoline and natural gas have dropped precipitously as demand has dropped and supply has spiked. However, they'll almost certainly go up again as drilling companies go bust, the production bubble bursts and demand increases. (Market economies are notoriously volatile and unstable, aren't they?)

Now is the time to begin phasing out coal completely, because there's nothing good about burning coal: it's dangerous to mine, it leaves wretched scars in the earth, it's bulky and expensive to transport, it produces toxic pollution and CO2 when burned, and presents a huge waste disposal problem with millions of tons of toxic ash that spills on regular basis, killing millions of fish and poisoning our waterways.

We can replace all the jobs lost in coal mines with better jobs building, installing and maintaining wind and solar facilities: instead of working in dark and filthy mines, workers can build wind turbines and solar panels in high-tech factories and install them in the clean, fresh air.

Rugged American individuals can install their own solar panels and Tesla Powerwalls, achieving their own energy independence, something that's impossible with fossil fuels. A clean renewable independent energy future is much more in line with historical conservative ideology, rather than toadying to oil barons like the Kochs and petro-dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia.
In any case, we're going to run out of oil, gas and coal at some point. Fossil fuels are dinosaurs, literally and figuratively. We need to switch to the next thing while we still have the energy and resources to do so, instead of descending into war and chaos over dwindling fossil fuel supplies.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The End of Fossil Fuels

Great piece from CNN about the climate agreement in Paris.

The Paris Agreement, which came out of two weeks often-sleepless negotiations at a conference center here in a Paris suburb, is just the type of blaring signal the world needs that the era of fossil fuels is coming to a rapid close. Countries around the world pledged to do the near-impossible -- limit warming "well below" 2 degrees, and below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels if feasible. That basically requires the world to move rapidly toward 100% clean energy, producing zero net greenhouse gas emissions between about 2050 and 2080.

Yep.

If I were a firm in the fossil fuel industry, I'd think about getting out now. Oil is bad for business.

Perhaps that's why I haven't heard any of these lies lately. No one is listening.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

WWJD?

What would Jesus Do?

It's a question every Christian ask themselves at one point or another in their lives. I think that Canada just showed us what He would do.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Look In The Fucking Mirror

Since Barack Obama was elected president, we've heard quite a bit about fascism, Hitler, and totalitarian states from the Children (aka conservatives in the United States). They've foamed at the mouth and fretted their little noses about fascist states and re-education camps.

Yet, their support for Donald Trump and his call to ban all Jews...oops...I mean Muslims from the United States shows just how adept they are at the art of projection. As the Times recently noted, this attitude has spread across Europe and it's all rooted in that same insecure, "appeal to fear" nationalism that we saw in the late 19th century.

It was this same nationalism that gave rise to Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. A key ingredient to this form of totalitarianism is a scapegoat and, boy oh boy, do we have one now. As I have said for quite some time now, conservatives are deeply bigoted and support the policies that Trump is espousing.

Thankfully, we have people like Doris Matsui to remind us when our country has made horrible mistakes.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Combat Vets Torpedo Good Guy With A Gun Myth

Some combat veterans recently torpedoed the good guy with a gun lie and it was fucking brilliant.

“I think there’s this fantasy world of gunplay in the movies, but it doesn’t really happen that way. When I heard gunfire [in Iraq], I didn’t immediately pick up my rifle and react. I first tried to ascertain where the shooting was coming from, where I was in relation to the gunfire and how far away it was,” said retired Army Sgt. Rafael Noboa y Rivera. “I think most untrained people are either going to freeze up, or just whip out their gun and start firing in that circumstance. I think they would absolutely panic.” 

Many combat veterans believe that civilian “good guys” taking on the “bad guys” during an active shooting isn’t as simple as it seems in movies and video games. Although more weapons owners are taking weekend-long tactical weapon training, that doesn’t instantly make a “good guy” ready for combat.

Considering that many in the Gun Cult play video games and use its lingo ("target rich environment") to strategerize how they would save people, rationality and logic are way past gone.

I think about all the gun bloggers and commenters out there and I have to wonder...would their tits get in the way when they tried to pull out their penis extension? I doubt they would even be able to walk a few steps without huffing and puffing.

Don't have to be in good shape to use a gun effectively?

The NRA's Vision is Anarchy

Check out what this former gun rights supporter and police chief of Milwaukee had to say recently....

The result is a huge increase in guns and violent crime in Milwaukee, Flynn contends, and a situation where police safety is in jeopardy. Under the current law, he says, “we are doing everything we can to make sure our criminals have unfettered access to high-quality firearms and get to carry them in record numbers. There are more guns out there every year.”

“The law was dictated by the NRA,” Flynn charges. “The NRA’s vision for America is anarchy. We are supposed to believe the founding fathers wanted to arm our pirates, the highwaymen and anyone else who wanted to tear down democratic institutions. It’s insane.”

Yep.

How About A Mock Mass Shooting?

Any doubt that the Gun Cult should be locked up or neutralized should be gone now after this pile of shit.

Gun rights groups, in protest at Texas campus, plan mock mass shooting

I say we give these assholes what they are the most afraid of...a re-education camp. Maybe somewhere in San Francisco? :)

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Our Terrorism Problems Aren't in Afghanistan and Syria, They're in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

Republicans have been criticizing the president for "not doing enough" to stop Daesh, as ISIS hates to be called. But what more can be done? We're already bombing the hell out of Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and we're backing Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian ground troops, as well as sending in special forces to conduct various missions.

Trump wants to carpet bomb the entire region and destroy every oil production facility in Iraq and Syria to prevent Daesh from making money from smuggling oil. Numerous Republicans have demanded we mount another full-scale invasion of Iraq and Syria, apparently having forgotten that we just did that in 2003, which is what created Daesh in the first place.

On the home front some Republicans are demanding we ban all Muslims entering the country. Tashfeen Malik, the female half of the terrorist couple behind the San Bernadino attack, entered the United States on a K-1 visa a couple of years ago. Authorities now believe that she had been "radicalized" for a considerable time.

Malik was a Pakistani who had spent more than half her life in Saudi Arabia. This one woman embodies the real source of the current terrorism problem: conditions in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The war in Afghanistan has dragged on now for 14 years. This is in large part due to the fact that Pakistan is a haven for the Taliban, and Pakistan has been actively backing the Afghan Taliban for decades. The Pakistani secret service believes that a free Afghanistan will somehow come under the control of India, and Pakistan has an unreasoning fear of India.

But we're afraid to do anything to Pakistan because they've got nuclear weapons (they also sold the technology to North Korea that gave the Kim dynasty the bomb).

Osama bin Laden was from Saudi Arabia, as were most of the terrorists in the 9/11 attacks. Back in the day, the king of Saudi Arabia cut a deal with the Wahhabi sect of Islam. In exchange for endorsing his claim, the king gave the Wahhabis free reign to establish religious schools, making it the de facto state religion. Wahhabism is an extremely conservative sect that teaches other Muslims (Shiites, Sufis, etc.) are not real Muslims, and should all be killed for their heresies. The fact is, Daesh kills thousands of times more Muslims than Christians -- their main goal is to establish a caliphate and wipe out Muslim "heretics."

The only way to stop Daesh and the Taliban for good is to cut off their supply lines of money, weapons and ideology from their benefactors in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The problem is that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are ostensibly our allies. We're afraid of doing anything to piss off Pakistan because they've got nukes. And we're afraid of pissing off Saudi Arabia because they've got oil, and could trash the world economy if we don't play ball with them.

The solution to the problems of Daesh and the Taliban is much more complicated than just bombing the hell out of the Middle East and Afghanistan. Republicans who spout more hatred and fear against Muslims so are not only turning Muslims around the world against the United States, but are also turning American Muslims against their own country. Donald Trump's unconstitutional rants are only creating more Syed Farooks.

To destroy the Taliban we need to get Pakistan and India to resolve their issues. To destroy Daesh, we need to eliminate the monetary and moral support they receive from Saudi Arabia.

The first is a very tall order, but since Afghanistan, India and Pakistan are all our allies, we have some leverage. The second is actually a whole lot easier.

Most Saudis don't have to work because the country is awash in oil money. The Saudi government just hands out cash to citizens (like Alaska used to), and all the work is done by immigrants. So instead lots of Saudis spend all their time studying the Qur'an, under the tutelage of Wahhabis.

If Saudi Arabia didn't have so much oil money Saudis would actually have to work, and wouldn't have so much free time to get all bent out of shape about heretics. Plus, they wouldn't have all that oil money to give to terrorists.

The best thing we could do to stop Daesh, therefore, is to make sure the Paris climate talks are successful. The sooner we reduce our dependence on oil, the sooner we stop funding countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia, who fuel international terrorism and war.

A Good Comparison


Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Convicted Rapist Endorses Trump

Man, the opposition research teams for the Republican presidential candidates are really incompetent.
 
It didn't get much play at the time, but convicted rapist Mike Tyson endorsed Donald Trump in October. This is salient not just because Trump has characterized Mexican immigrants as rapists, but because after Tyson was convicted in 1992 of raping beauty queen Desiree Washington, Trump proposed that Tyson instead just pay a lot of money and get off without doing any prison time. At the time Trump was trying to arrange a boxing match between Tyson and Evander Holyfield that would make Trump millions.

Republican candidates are getting slaughtered by Trump in the polls, yet it took Mother Jones magazine to dig up the dirt on Trump's plan to let rich rapists get off. Trump's got tons of dirty laundry like this, but his opponents just let him suck up all the media time with his insults against female reporters and proposals to deny Americans their basic rights.

The Tyson episode illustrates clearly that Trump's line about being against the "elites" is total bull. A Trump presidency would be the worst sort of corrupt oligarchy, where justice is apportioned not by guilt or innocence, but by how rich and how useful you are to Donald Trump.

If Trump is elected, how much will he charge for luxurious presidential pardons?

Ban 'Em All!!!

I find it hilarious that people are shocked by Donald Trump's recent call to ban all Muslims from entering this country. I have no doubt that his poll numbers will go up as a result of this exclamation. As I have been saying for quite some time, Trump is popular because he is the living embodiment of the GOP-xenophobic, adolescent tantrums.

This is they guy they want to be their nominee and I think now, after several months of polling in all the early states, he is going to be their pick and I think that's absolutely perfect. The part of the country that doesn't pay much attention to politics...the independents and casual voters...need to see what the GOP has been about for the last several years.

Without a doubt. Donald Trump is the poster child for conservatives in 2015.

Kinda Like Grandpa


Monday, December 07, 2015

The Profiling We Should Be Doing

In the last several months we've had mass shootings and terrorist attacks committed by a white supremacist in Charleston, an anti-abortion nut in Colorado Springs (where a kook with a gun walked down the street shooting random people not long before), an angry white loser in Umpqua, Oregon, another angry white loser in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Muslims in San Bernadino.

There are so many that it's impossible to remember them all: they're coming so fast and furiously that flags are still being flown at half-mast for the victims one of mass shooting when the next one goes down.

Republicans, naturally, only paid attention to the San Bernadino attack. They are on a rampage, demanding that we profile Muslims, put them in computer databases and surveil mosques.

Clearly, that would do little to stem the tide of mass shootings: most of them are committed not by Muslims, but by "regular" Americans, mostly white, mostly male.

But all mass shooters have one thing in common: guns.

So instead of wasting time and manpower surveiling mosques and churches, or collecting the phone and Internet search records of all Americans we should be profiling people with an interest in guns.

This idea came to after I saw this article about about the San Bernadino shooters practicing killing people at a gun range.

We should be watching people who frequent the temples of death: gun stores, shooting ranges, and gun shows.
Instead of harassing people at their places of worship, where the vast majority of people abhor all violence, we should be watching people who frequent the temples of death: gun stores, shooting ranges, and gun shows. We should be watching who buys lots of weapons, and large quantities of ammunition. Instead of monitoring everyone's Internet activity, we should be watching who visits websites that sell guns without background checks, bulletproof vests and other tactical gear. We should be monitoring people who visit Internet forums that discuss weapons, especially ones that describe how to modify semiautomatic weapons for full auto.

The right argues that such surveillance is unconstitutional, that it would violate our right to privacy and the Second Amendment. Which is interesting, because ever since Row v. Wade, the right has insisted that the Constitution doesn't include a right to privacy. And monitoring all email and Internet traffic, which the vast majority of Republicans think we should be doing, is a completely unwarranted invasion of privacy. And surveiling mosques and churches (because churches are a haven for anti-abortion terrorists) would infringe on several clauses of the First Amendment.

We also need to crack down on straw purchases of guns. The San Bernadino shooters got some of their weapons through friends. The vast majority of guns used in crimes in big cities come from states with lax gun laws (Georgia, for example). How can gun store owners selling weapons to shady characters in Southern states be certain that those guns will never be resold to terrorists?

Another source of guns used in crime is burglary: criminals break into people's houses for the express purpose of stealing cash, jewelry and guns. All gun owners should be required to store all their weapons and ammo in locked safes. This would also reduce the number of accidental shootings by children, as well as cut down on the number of suicides. (I mean, a house flying the Confederate flag might as well have a sign out front that says "Come steal my guns while I'm at work!")

Monitoring the Internet and mosques for terrorists is an impossible task. Flagging every jerk who writes a flaming "Obama should be gunned down like a dog"  or "Death to Amerika" post, or attends Friday prayers will generate millions of leads, far too many to track down.

Monitoring people involved with guns will help to narrow down the pool of suspects to people who have the wherewithal to commit terrorist acts. And it will also help law enforcement stop idiots like the one who shot up the theater in Colorado.

Finally, it is the height of idiocy that Congress forced the FBI to delete records of gun purchase background checks. These records should be retained indefinitely and cross-checked against anyone who is subsequently put on the terrorist watch list, listed as mentally ill, commits domestic abuse or any other crimes.

Guys like Trump like to think they're tough when they say, "We're going to have to do some hard things to stop terrorism." They're referring to torturing suspects and violating the privacy of every person in the country. They say, "If Muslims aren't doing anything wrong, they shouldn't be worried about the government watching their mosques."

But when it comes to keeping an eye on people who buy and use weapons of mass murder, conservatives suddenly get all squishy and liberal about violating Constitutional rights.

Gun Idolatry


Sunday, December 06, 2015

From The Qu'ran?

This video made me laugh my ass right off of my socks...

Saturday, December 05, 2015

"George, is everybody in outer space white?"

When the first trailers for the new Star Wars movie came out there was a lot of carping from some Star Wars fans. One scene showed a black man is in stormtrooper armor. They complained because in a previous film it was established that the stormtroopers were all cloned from the same guy, played by Temuera Morrison, who is Maori. (I think these complaints are bogus, as discussed below, but let's run with it for now.)

These objections in turn raised numerous reactions from others who have called such comments "racist." But this is misguided: when people said, "What's a black guy doing wearing stormtrooper armor?" they weren't necessarily complaining that he was black, but that he looked nothing like the original actor that all stormtroopers were supposed to be cloned from. It's not unreasonable to mention that the actor was black to emphasize the fact that no attempt whatsoever was made to maintain continuity with the facts established in the previous film.

However, the original complainers were wrong to object in the first place: one of the plot points in the original movie was that Luke and Han don stormtrooper armor and infiltrate the Deathstar. During Leia's rescue she comments about Luke being a little short for a stormtrooper. He wasn't shot on sight, so it's clear all stormtroopers are not identical (and if you watch the film you can clearly see that stormtrooper height varies).

Furthermore, the events of the latest film take place half a century after the establishment of the clone army. Is it so hard to believe that, with so many political and military upheavals, the military, in order to meet quotas, was forced to recruit normal human beings instead of relying on a limited number of factories to pump out expensive clones? Clones that can't hit the broad side of a barn with their blasters? That alone is reason enough to start looking for a new source of stormtroopers.

One of the criticisms of the original film was that the actors were all white. This raised eyebrows at the time:
There’s a famous story about the first Star Wars film told by filmmaker John Landis, director of Animal House and a close friend to George Lucas. “I remember after George Lucas shot Star Wars in London, he showed it to all of us and I said to him after the screening: ‘George, is everybody in outer space white?’”
In later movies Lucas cast actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Billy Dee Williams, Jimmy Smits and Morrison in major roles. The latest movie is simply continuing that trend.

But it raises the question: what skin color would people in outer space have?

If they're like humans here, it depends on the environment they originally came from. Skin color correlates with UV exposure. People who live near the equator have darker skin, due to higher concentrations of melanin. This is a protective mechanism that lessens skin damage due to UV exposure, preventing skin cancer. Most humans have the ability the boost the melanin in their skin to increase their UV protection. This is how tanning works.

But there's a downside to melanin: the human body produces vitamin D through exposure to UV radiation. Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, a disease marked by soft bones and skeletal deformities, as well as asthma and cardiovascular and cognitive problems.

When humans migrated northwards from Africa their exposure to UV lessened. At some point evolution began to select for lighter skin to counteract the vitamin D deficiencies caused by melanin in excess of what was required for UV protection. Vitamin D is especially critical for women of child-bearing age -- for this reason women typically have lighter skin than men of the same population. Scientists estimate that it takes about 10,000 years for natural selection to adjust the amount of melanin in a human population at a particular latitude, balancing vitamin D production against UV shielding.

Skin color is one of the most easily observed aspects of human evolution. Similar variations in human evolution exist, including the ability to drink milk in adulthood and the adaptation to high altitude that evolved separately in Tibet and the Andes.

With this background we can address the question about skin color in outer space. A human society with a high level of technology, who wear clothing, use sunblock (dark-skinned people are still vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer) and spend significant time indoors and on spacecraft would tend to develop lighter skin. It would probably take longer than 10,000 years because people with high melanin would simply take vitamin D supplements, instead of letting natural selection kill them off. Finally, over many thousands of years, intermarriage would tend to homogenize skin tone.

Of course, that presumes these humans in outer space don't engineer their own DNA. And considering that they cloned an entire army of soldiers and can create perfectly functioning cyborg hands, they obviously have the wherewithal to select the skin color of their children and change their own skin color on a whim. Which makes the whole argument moot. It's science fiction; all of these things are possible. It's therefore not unreasonable that all members of long-lived homogeneous technological society would all have the same skin color. So Lucas was not technically wrong to use all white actors in the first Star Wars film.

But that misses the underlying point: the Star Wars movies aren't made for people in a galaxy far away -- they're made for us right here on earth. Rightly or wrongly, people look to movies and books not just as mindless entertainment, but as a source of inspiration and self-validation. For whatever reason, lots of people have an easier time empathizing and identifying with people who look like them.

Does it really make any difference whether Jimmy Olsen or Captain America are black, or Spider-man is Hispanic, or Thor is a woman? What matters is not their ethnic background, but the events that shaped their lives and how they deal with their own shortcomings and the challenges life throws at them.

But the fact is, life in America throws a lot more challenges at women, blacks and Hispanics than it does at white men. And your ethnicity affects how other people treat and react to you.

Rich white men love to say that race shouldn't matter, that blacks and Hispanics and women and gays shouldn't get special treatment. So let's take them at their word: if race shouldn't matter, then why not cast a black man as the Human Torch, or Idris Elba as the next James Bond? If Bond can be a Scot or an Englishman or an Australian, why not a Sierra Leonean?

Australia Enjoys Another Peaceful Day Under Oppressive Gun Control Regime

Local cinema attendant, Christina Upton can’t believe it has been a whole 19 years and 7 months since a heavily armed white Australian male decided to shoot at a crowd of unsuspecting Australian civilians for no reason. 

Fantastic piece.


End It Now

End The Gun Epidemic in America



What a fantastic call to action. The New York Times editorial board is sounding a lot like yours truly:)

Friday, December 04, 2015

Thursday, December 03, 2015

#emboldeningterrorists

Conservatives are always big on showing force to your enemies, right? Yet they want to take no action when it comes to gun violence in our own country, even if it is the "radical Islam" that they foam at the mouth about so often. Man, the terrorists must look at us and wonder, "How many of them can we slaughter before they can be arsed to do anything?"

I never thought I'd say the day when the Right was so fucking pussy on a national threat to security. They must really love those guns!!!

Why?

The shooters in San Bernadino have been identified. They are Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a husband and wife who left their 6 month old baby with grandmother before killing 14 people and wounded 17 more. Farook worked at the Inland Regional Center and was attending a holiday party there before leaving briefly and then returning with his wife. The couple was wearing body armor and had assault rifles, shooting them indiscriminately into the crowd.

At this point, authorities don't know if this was a lone wolf, ISIL type attack or a disgruntled employee. Anything I say at this point would be pure conjecture but I do know that the guns were purchased legally by someone else and then passed on to the couple.

Regardless of any the details that will come out in the future, this is yet another nauseating example of how we need to adopts gun laws similar to Australia. We have now had 355 mass shootings so far this year. We've lost another Iraq War vet in Colorado Springs where it's supposed to be "safe." The 2nd amendment no longer functions in our society.

The dystopia that is predicted by the Gun Cult is already here.

And they are responsible for it.