Saturday, November 30, 2013

Charles Krauthammer: Political Hack

Yes, it should go without saying, but let's all say it anyways: Charles Krauthammer is a political hack.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Insane Clown Party

Yes, that political party would be the Republicans. For instance there's this from GOP Senator Lindsay Graham:

"We won't be the last political party to overplay our hand. It might happen one day on the Democratic side. And if it did, would Republicans, for the good of the country, kinda give a little? We really did go too far. We screwed up. But their response is making things worse, not better."

Or perhaps this from GOP Representative Peter King:

"This party is going nuts. So many people I run into who are normal people -- and I hate to use that term -- they just can't understand what's going on. On this one they can't even see both sides. They just think Republicans are crazy. That's it. They see no justification for any of this."

"Even if this bill passed tonight, what would it have done? After shutting down the government for two and a half weeks, laying off 800,000 people, all the damage we caused, all we would end up doing was taking away health insurance from congressional employees. That's it? That's what you go to war for? That's what we shut down the United States government for?"

This government can't function when one-half of it is clinically insane. It's time to schedule an intervention for anyone you know that is even considering voting for the Insane Clown Party.

Monday, October 14, 2013

One Delta Ten Tango

14 october, 2013 -- TalkingPointsMemo

Discussing Sarah Palin at the "Million Vet March" (that drew about 500 people).

"It’s time for the president to be honest with the American people for a change. Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense," she wrote. I see Palin is as adept at Constitutional law as she was governing the State of Alaska (albeit briefly).

Notice by this logic that no matter what he does, he should be impeached!!!

Well sure, because either way he's still black.

Yep, wbramh pretty much nails the opposition to the wall. Either way he's still black - and there are millions of conservatives that simply can't handle that truth.

Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Louis Gohmert, Paul Ryan, etc., etc. One Delta Ten Tangos.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Letter From An Antarctic Scientist

The whole letter can be found at DailyKos, but here are the closing paragraphs:

Mostly we are sad. Frustrated. Angry at our government and ashamed to be Americans.

We are part of an internationally codependent Antarctic system. What happens in the US, and therefore to us, could fuck science in Antarctica for so many stations and countries around the continent. McMurdo Station is a logistics hub for Australian, Russian, French, Italian, and New Zealand stations (and often others). When the French helicopter went down a few years ago? We sent one of our LC-130s to look. When other stations have a medevac, or a fire, or an emergency, we are often mustered to help them with our Air National Guard aircraft and crews. We get them from NZ to their stations for the summer. I cannot count how many times a 25+ strong crew of Russian or Italian or French or Australian station crew members have stayed with us for many days while they awaited the right weather window to fly to their own stations, delayed and housed and fed here. We work together. We are one big community when things go wrong here. And we are shutting down for the season.

So, I do not know what my future is. Few of us do.

But I do know one thing for sure: Who to blame.

Fuck the fucking Republicans for getting us into this mess with their intransigent selfish right wing ideological idiocy.

Fuck them for fucking up one of the most amazing things in the world, the US Antarctic Program.

Fuck. Them.

This government shutdown brought to you by the letters GOP.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Paid Shills

ESPN's investigative series, Outside the Lines, profiles a new book - League of Denial - about the National Football League's attempts to downplay and deny the amount, severity, and long-term consequences of concussions among professional football players.

Former NFL players number in the thousands - not the tens of millions of tobacco smokers affected by the tobacco industry's similar tactics. Still, it just drives home the point that industry-funded research should always be taken with a grain of salt. Oh hell, just pass me the entire salt shaker.

Of course we see the same thing in climate science; a few industry connected shills willing to put their names on anything in an attempt to shed doubt on reality and the work of real scientists. Fred Singer? Yeah, you're one of them. Heartland Institute? NIPCC? Yeah, they get to play the role of the sham committees the NFL organized to 'study' concussions.

I really can't feel any outrage. I mean, what would you expect? There's a lot of money involved and businesses and corporations will do practically anything to keep that revenue coming in. If it means tossing a few people aside along the way, slandering a few scientists, misleading their workers and the general public - well, so be it. We've seen this play often enough we should recognize it by now. The outrage would be if we're surprised by it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

There Oughta Be A Law

Oh wait, there is!

It's called the Affordable Care Act.

I was confused for a moment because Republicans keep saying we need to "delay this bill," "defund this bill," or "we don't want this bill." Apparently they weren't paying attention when Schoolhouse Rock covered the subject in the episode titled "I'm Just A Bill."

Short version: A bill is proposed legislation. Once a bill has been passed by both houses of congress and signed by the President it becomes law. It's no longer a bill.

You would think that professional politicians might actually know some of the basics of American politics - especially when we had it drilled into us as elementary schoolers. Here's a refresher course.

Schoolhouse Rock : I'm Just A Bill

I'm just a bill
Yes, I'm only a bill
And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill
Well, it's a long, long journey
To the capital city
It's a long, long wait
While I'm sitting in committee
But I know I'll be a law someday
At least I hope and pray that I will
But today I am still just a bill

I'm just a bill
Yes, I'm only a bill,
And I got as far as Capitol Hill
Well, now I'm stuck in committee
And I'll sit here and wait
While a few key Congressmen discuss and debate
Whether they should let me be a law
How I hope and pray that they will
But today I am still just a bill

I'm just a bill
Yes, I'm only a bill
And if they vote for me on Capitol Hill
Well, then I'm off to the White House
Where I'll wait in a line
With a lot of other bills
For the president to sign
And if he signs me, then I'll be a law
How I hope and pray that he will
But today I am still just a bill

Saturday, September 28, 2013

An Unholy Trinity

Gun Control

Do you want to alienate 2/3 of the country? Then have a deeply held opinion on those three topics. Of course those topics aren't unrelated - at least not in America. If we ignore the cause du jour that is The Affordable Care Act (pejoratively known as Obamacare), these three topics are the litmus tests that conservatives must pass to be admitted as members in good standing into the Republican Party. Global warming has actually risen to almost the same level as this unholy trinity, but I suspect that will change in relatively short order.

Just so there's no misunderstanding, I have my own personal views on each of these topics (surprise!) and I'm now going to share them (surprise! again).

Abortion: I am neither priest nor doctor, so I have no religious or medical grounds to influence my beliefs. Moreover, I'm a man; I'll never have an abortion or even consider having one. Given these circumstances, if all the women of the country want to get together and pass laws restricting or forbidding abortion, then I'll not likely complain. But I'm not copacetic with a bunch of men (usually old, usually white) deciding the matter. And I am an old, white man.

I can glimpse the rationale of religious fervor against abortion. Glimpse, but not fully understand. Religious freedom means you are free to practice *your* religion; it does not mean you are free to impose your religious beliefs on me. Hindus believe that cattle are sacred. Are these same Christians willing to pass laws banning the slaughter of cows? No, they're not. They want their specific religious morality imposed on everyone, but would be the first to scream, "Unconstitutional!" if another religion's beliefs were imposed on them. In other words, after due consideration, if your grounds are religious, if someone tried to force you to have an abortion I'll be one of the first to defend your rights. Until then, kindly STFU.

Gun Control: This is really a twofer; I get to piss off both sides :)

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

No, this does *not* mean you have the right to own a gun for self-defense.
No, this does *not* mean you have a right to own a rifle for hunting.

Sorry, NRA-types. There were versions of the 2nd Amendment that had clauses explicitly including hunting and self-defense as part of the rationale. Those versions were voted down. Got that? They were rejected. As a consequence, laws banning handguns or hunting rifles are *not* unconstitutional.

What it *does* mean is you have the right to own an M-16, AK47, Uzi, etc. And no restrictions on whether it's fully automatic, either. Magazine size restrictions? Nope. Grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons, Stinger missiles - I'd probably allow those as well; if your militia is going to defend against a modern invasion it needs to be able to take out tanks and helicopters.

Now, the weapon(s) you own may not be your personal choice. We can haggle over the practical implications of "well regulated," but the general gist is clear: military weapons need to be in the hands of the citizenry. Turn in your hunting rifle and get a .50 cal machine gun.

Taxes: Taxman, taxman don't tax me, tax that man behind that tree ...

First, no one wants to pay more in taxes.

Second, balanced-budget amendments betray a basic ignorance of how an economy works.

Third, no man is an island. If you think there's a single wealthy individual or company in this country that 'made it' without government assistance or support, you're wrong. If you think that 'innovation' is the result of private enterprise, you're wrong. It is basic science research paid for by TAXES that has fueled discovery, innovation, and invention.

Fourth, did you learn anything from the Clinton years, the Bush tax cuts, or the fiscal crisis of 2008? What did conservative/libertarian/free market economists predict in 1993 when Clinton's budget was passed? The exact opposite happened. What did they predict in 2001 when the Bush tax cuts were passed? Kind of just pissed away all the gains made in the Clinton years, didn't we? And what did they predict would happen with the stimulus package passed under Obama? Seen skyrocketing interest rates, *increased* unemployment, and HYPERinflation? Anyone? Hello, hello?

I'll close with this: The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

Friday, September 27, 2013

Are You An Idiot?

A couple of years ago a co-worker shared with me this quote:

President Barack Obama speaking about America's veterans : "Look, it's an all volunteer force. Nobody made these guys go to war. They had to have known and accepted the risks. Now they whine about bearing the costs of their choice? It doesn't compute."

"I thought these were people who were proud to sacrifice for their country," Obama continued. "I wasn't asking for blood, just money. With the country facing the worst financial crisis in its history, I'd have thought that the patriotic thing to do would be to try to help reduce the nation's deficit. I guess I underestimated the selfishness of some of my fellow Americans."

He then asked me what I thought.

I was driving, we were an hour from our destination. I spent most of that hour telling him he was a complete fucking moron.

I'm not sure if this problem is more endemic to conservatives than it is to liberals, but it sure seems to be. How many instances have we seen where an article from The Onion gets cited as real news? How many times has the moron citing The Onion been a Republican? The willingness to believe anything derogatory about a political opponent shows their bullshit detectors are either non-existent or non-functional.

When facts don't fit their prior beliefs they don't change their priors, they discount or disparage the facts. There's no way to put it politely, this is insanity. Consider a public opinion survey conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland 10 years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center:
-38% believe that we have clear evidence Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda
- 31% believe that Iraq gave substantial support to Al Qaeda but was not involved with the September attacks
- 15% believe that Iraq was directly involved in carrying out the September 11 attacks.
- 16% believe that WMDs were found in Iraq.

How much rationalization, self-delusion, and/or belief in conspiracy does it take to generate these results?

Unfortunately, it now permeates just about every important policy domain; global warming, macro-economics, healthcare - you name it and there's a sizeable portion of our populace that is, frankly, bonkers.

Update 10-2-2013 from TalkingPointsMemo
According to the findings from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, a large majority of Republicans — 62 percent — said they believe that the Obama administration is "secretly trying to take everyone's guns away..."

A poll in May showed that 44 percent of Republicans believe that an armed rebellion "might be necessary."

PPP's survey also showed that 42 percent of Republicans believe that Muslims are secretly implementing Sharia Law in the U.S. judicial system...

and from The Hill back in 2012
...Republicans are particularly likely to believe that the polls are unfair, reporting by a 71-13 percent margin that polls are biased against their candidate. Members of the Tea Party suspect intentional skewing by a remarkable 84-5 percent margin.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Incrementalists

"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign ..." -- Five Man Electrical Band

The Incrementalists may not have five coauthors - just two, Steven Brust and Skyler White, but it is a semiotic adventure. The protagonists are part of a secret society that has existed throughout human history trying to make the world a better place through subtle manipulation.

Secret societies usually come in pairs, whether it be The Illuminatus! Trilogy's Order vs Chaos (Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson) or The Da Vinci Code's Freemasonry vs Opus Dei (Dan Brown). The Incrementalists doesn't rely on the typical duality of good versus evil. Instead it is a call to let our humanity overrule our more basic natures. While not a polemic, The Incrementalists is colored throughout with a progressive, liberal, socialist worldview. It is this world view, to individually and collectively make the world a better place, that drives the protagonists and serves as the novel's final twist.

I am not familiar with the previous work of Skyler White, but I have long been a fan of Steven Brust. Those familiar with Brust's Vlad Taltos novels will often recognize his narrative voice in the words of Phil,one of the two main characters. Phil supports himself playing poker, specifically Texas Hold 'Em, in the casinos of Las Vegas. Brust also has a personal affection/obsession with poker and with two main characters, one male and one female, and with the story told from their alternating points of view, it's easy to tie the male coauthor to the main male character and the female coauthor to the female main character. While it's easy to make this inference, I would be surprised if that's really how simple the collaboration worked.

Regardless the mechanics of collaboration, The Incrementalists is seamless and fast-paced. It's a page-turner that keeps you interested and is difficult to put down. An interesting story, well-crafted, with a steady, but light, call to all to become practical utopians.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Nuclear Option: Congressman Kevin Cremer Edition

"For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."

North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cremer posted this passage from 2 Thessalonians 3:10 to his Facebook page as justification for cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The comments that immediately started piling up were not kind to the congressman. They exposed Cremer for being wrong on so many levels that within 48 hours he deleted his Facebook page. The nuclear option was the only viable solution.

How wrong is congressman Cremer? Let me count the ways.
1) Don't use bible quotes to justify your political actions.
Despite your preference or predilection we do not live in a Christian theocracy.

2) Don't use bible quotes if you don't understand the context of the quote.
Congressman, in 2nd Thessalonians, Paul is chastising those who have stopped working in anticipation of the rapture.

3) Don't use bible quotes when the quote contradicts the teachings of Christ.
This is Paul speaking in 2nd Thessalonians, has the congressman never read Christ's Sermon On the Mount? Is he a Christian or a Paulite?

4) Don't use a quote unless you understand the full implications.
I guess it's just too much to expect a congressman to know any political history. He could start with a Wikipedia article. Is this really where Congressman Cremer wants to go? Alert the presses, Bernie Sanders is no longer the only Socialist in congress -- though I doubt Bernie would be too thrilled at the prospect.

5) Don't bring up the phrase "willing to work" when you're a congressman.
The House of Representatives is in session how many days this year? 126.

6) Especially don't bring up the phrase "willing to work" when you're a *Republican* congressman.
42 votes to repeal the Affordable care Act. 42! I guess if at first you don't succeed, then try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again. Not working.

7) Don't mischaracterize the SNAP program.
... able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 must register for work, accept suitable employment, and take part in an employment and training program to which they are referred by the local office.

8) Don't mischaracterize the recipients of SNAP
Most of the poor in the U.S. are working poor. They work more hours than a congressman, they just earn a lot less money.

9) Don't mischaracterize the unemployed.
Most of them *want* to work. And regarding the long-term unemployed, half of them did nothing wrong other than work for companies that had to fire people during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

I'm sure there are more, but I've tired of the subject. The comments in these articles will probably add a few to the list.

I'm Everyone I Ever Loved

It's Sunday morning and there's a quotation I've used a hundred times, "Damn, I missed church again - makes almost seven years in a row."

This Sunday morning was no different than most - except I suddenly realized I could no longer remember where the quote originated. Pretty sure it was a song lyric, but who? John Prine seemed like a possibility. David Allan Coe? Of course the most common bit of advice I've given over the last decade is: Why think when you can look it up? So I took my own advice and used the Google.

I came up empty. Huh, what? Google said, "No results found." Now that's annoying. I guess I'll be forced to think after all.

Maybe it wasn't a song lyric; it could be from a book. No, I'm pretty sure it was a song lyric. Those first two names, Prine and Coe, didn't feel right. Martin Mull? That sounds better, but what song? I haven't listened to any of Mull's music albums in years, but it had to be off of I'm Everyone I Ever Loved. I didn't have a melody to go with the words and couldn't place it any of the songs I could remember. It was also possible it came from a spoken intro. Mull's intros were often as funny or funnier than the songs themselves.

Thinking time was over. I went back to the Google and searched for "I'm Everyone I Ever Loved track listing." A couple of clicks later and I was listening to the first track, Honor Roll. From the land of the lost I was suddenly back in familiar territory - except my memory of the lyric doesn't quite match reality. Upon further review the full line is: "Damn it, Jesus Christ, I missed church again, makes almost seven years -- God save my soul."

Now all of this from start to finish took maybe 5 minutes - and 1:40 of that was the intro for the song. Still, finding out a piece of trivia or filling in a blank spot in memory usually takes so little time when you have access to the internet that 5 minutes seemed like an eternity. It may be trite to say the internet has changed the world, but it has and I occasionally still marvel at it.