Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fuck Mordor

Photo credit: Jamison Wieser

So here's Erick Erickson comparing liberals to "the evil bands of Mordor." Erickson writes,
Some PR representative who should have known better joked on twitter that she was going to Africa and would not have to worry about getting AIDS because she was white. Prior to this, in her twitter timeline, she had railed against the actor Kirk Cameron because he dared express his Christian beliefs. 
The PR representative is Justine Sacco. Unfortunately for her,
the orcs of the left consumed one of their own. By the time the PR lady got to Africa, she was without a job and her reputation destroyed by her own side. 
Erickson seems to indicate in his reaction to this matter that he places a premium on loyalty:
It was a rather disgusting thing to watch the pretentious hipsters on twitter destroy a career over a tweet claiming she should have known better. Yes, she should have, but should we not also show some grace? Mordor never does.
Yeah. Fuck Mordor, right, Erick? If only people like Greta van Susteren and Megyn Kelly had shown a bit more loyalty to you when you told them that they shouldn't be breadwinners, then everything would be fine, I gather.

Check out this orc, consuming one of his own, David Frum. As the Navy Yard shooting was in progress,
Frum started up with anti-gun nonsense. As a shooter roamed the Navy Yard, a relatively secure facility, and as people who worked there were dead or dying or bleeding, David Frum became a twitter stream about gun control — comparing America to third world countries.
That orc, also named "Erick Erickson," recommends that people "grow the hell up. ... You too David Frum." What an asshole!

Erick is right. What we need is some grace. But there's this bad-ass orc out there who means business. Erick tells us, "if you flip to the end of the Bible we know that when Jesus 'Mr. Love' Christ comes back, he’s going to be loving with a sword in his hand, sending a whole host of souls into hell fire." (Never mind that this savior orc never said a word about homosexuals.) That's harsh, innit? An eternity in hell fire for part of a human lifetime spent in loving companionship with someone of the same sex? What an asshole!

Fuck Mordor indeed!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Finger

I know that Jennifer Lawrence doesn't need yet another person out there singing her praises. And I know that this image is almost a year old. (It is from the Academy Awards last February.) But this has got to be my favorite image from 2013. Oh, and I should mention that she's an incredible actor and I will somehow find the time to watch every movie she's ever been in. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Puzzle for "Pro-lifers"

Something occurred to me the other night when I should have been in bed.

The stereotypical Republican is anti-abortion but endorses the NRA's interpretation the 2nd Amendment, according to which any infringement on an individual's right to bear arms is unconstitutional. Why does this seem problematic to people like me? Well, how pro-life can you be when you're against any moderate measures to stem gun violence, and in particular the mass murder of children like we saw in Newtown? When I say "moderate measures," I mean universal background checks, a limit on magazine capacity, a ban on weapons that fire rounds at a certain especially lethal velocity, and increased funding for mental health. I don't want to take away all the guns, because our need to protect ourselves must be balanced against the right to bear arms, which is an important right.

The answer, it seems to me, is "not very pro-life." Anti-abortion activists are willing to allow abortions only in very few cases, and some of them aren't willing to allow any abortions at all. Now, if we assume that there is a conflict in the case of abortion between the right to bodily integrity and the right to life, the right to bodily integrity is usually or always overridden by the pro-lifer for fear that a person who can exercise it will abort a fetus and take a life. Analogously, however, if we assume that there is a conflict between the right to bear arms and the right to life, shouldn't the right to bear arms also be overridden usually or always, for fear that a person who can exercise it will kill a child and take a life?

Some people argue that there is no conflict here, because the best way to stem gun violence is to arm as many "good guys" as possible. There is surely a kernel of truth in this. (Though you have to wonder how effective the good guy can be when the bad guy is wearing body armor.) Notice, however, that the moderate measures I advocate would not deprive the good guys of their firearms. Well, not all of their firearms, anyway. What it would do is cut into the profits of corporations that are making a killing off of their killing machines. And that's what's really behind Congress's inability to act in the wake of Newtown. The corporations are running the show. Fortunately for you, pro-life gun lover, your interests and the interests of the corporations making your firearms just happen to agree. But for how long, I wonder?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Money must serve, not rule

I never thought I would ever quote a pope or find my views in near-perfect harmony with his. What follows is from Francis's first important papal text, which you can find here

I. Some challenges of today’s world

52. In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields. We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occuring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.

No to an economy of exclusion

53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

No to the new idolatry of money

55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

No to a financial system which rules rather than serves

57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.

58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.

No to the inequality which spawns violence

59. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.

60. Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"These are mountain people."

So I just got back from a wedding in eastern Tennessee, just a few miles south of the Virginia border. My father-in-law had lived there for five years or so, and when he described the area for us as he drove us around, he often condescendingly said of the locals, "These are mountain people." The bride, my sister-in-law, was marrying one of those mountain people, a very nice and responsible man, and she asked me to create a playlist of '80's music for the reception.

Not long after the festivities began, it became clear that there had been a slight change of plans, as a large South Pacific islander from New Zealand (if I heard correctly) took the stage with his wife, several microphones, and a computer-assisted karaoke machine and sang "Can't Help Falling In Love" to the dancing couple. I love Elvis's version of the song, and I had suggested it to them for their first dance and brought it with me on my iPod. He also sang something by f-ing Engelbert Humperdinck. Anyway, we spent most of our time playing suicide karaoke. I gave my wife an assist on The Talking Heads's "Burning Down the House." And because my wife hates it so much, my sister-in-law wanted me to sing "Achy Breaky Heart" to her, and I gleefully did. (One of my brothers-in-law told me afterwards, "You're family, so I feel I can be honest with you: you're not a good singer, but you're one hell of a showman.") I got to try my first moonshine, and it was incredible. It tasted like apples and cinnamon and burned all the way down. My father-in-law complained that, at 40 proof, it was weak, but I liked it.

I think everyone had a good time, in spite of the two teen-aged girls in attendance who insisted on singing a few contemporary dirges like Rihanna's "Stay." And so did I, in spite of the fact that my playlist wasn't used, even though I had spent many hours and a significant amount of coin to put it on the iPod for everyone's amusement. Perhaps it was the sight of my 18-month-old daughter on the dance floor.

So here it is: my playlist for an '80's-themed wedding reception:
  1. George Michael, "Faith"
  2. Duran Duran, "Hungry Like the Wolf" 
  3. Bangles, "Walk Like an Egyptian"
  4. Depeche Mode, "Just Can't Get Enough"
  5. Dead or Alive, "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)
  6. Paula Abdul, "Straight Up"
  7. Dexys Midnight Runners, "Come On Eileen"
  8. Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes"
  9. Whitney Houston, "So Emotional"
  10. Thomas Dolby, "She Blinded Me with Science"
  11. Billy Ocean, "Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car"
  12. The Human League, "Don't You Want Me"
  13. Belinda Carlisle, "Heaven is a Place on Earth"
  14. Micheal Jackson, "Beat It"
  15. Bon Jovi, "Livin' On a Prayer"
  16. Heart, "Alone"
  17. Devo, "Whip It"
  18. MC Hammer, "U Can't Touch This"
  19. a-ha, "Take On Me" 
  20. Fine Young Cannibals, "She Drives Me Crazy"
  21. Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing in the Dark"
  22. Guns n' Roses, "Sweet Child O' Mine"
  23. Van Halen, "Jump" 
  24. Men without Hats, "The Safety Dance"
  25. Def Leppard, "Pour Some Sugar On Me"
  26. The Power Station, "Get It On (Bang a Gong)"
  27. Soft Cell, "Tainted Love" 
  28. Phil Collins, "Two Hearts"
  29. Cyndi Lauper, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"
  30. Simple Minds, "Don't You (Forget about Me)"
  31. Yello, "Oh Yeah"
  32. Janet Jackson, "When I Think of You"
  33. David Bowie, "Modern Love"
  34. New Order, "Blue Monday"
  35. Thompson Twins, "Hold Me Now"
  36. INXS, "New Sensation"
  37. Prince, "1999"
  38. Robert Palmer, "Addicted to Love"
  39. Adam Ant, "Goody Two Shoes" 
  40. Eurythmics, "Missionary Man"
  41. The B-52's, "Private Idaho"
  42. Talking Heads, "Wild Life"
  43. Aerosmith, "Angel"
  44. Big Country, "In a Big Country"
  45. A Flock of Seagulls, "I Ran"
  46. The Cure, "Just Like Heaven"
  47. Scritti Politti, "Perfect Way"
  48. The Police, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
  49. Talk Talk, "It's My Life"
  50. Frankie Goes to Hollywood, "Two Tribes"
  51. Howard Jones, "Things Can Only Get Better"
  52. The Psychedelic Furs, "Love My Way"
  53. Paul Simon, "You Can Call Me Al"
  54. ABC, "The Look of Love (Part One)"
  55. Oingo Boingo, "Weird Science"
  56. Wang Chung, "Dance Hall Days"
  57. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, "So In Love"
  58. Madonna, "Into the Groove"
  59. Billy Idol, "Dancing with Myself"
  60. The Buggles, "Video Killed the Radio Star"
  61. Vanilla Ice, "Ice Ice Baby"
  62. The The, "Infected"
  63. Electric Light Orchestra, "Hold On Tight"
  64. The Smithereens, "A Girl Like You"
  65. Gary Numan, "Cars"
  66. The Fixx, "One Thing Leads to Another"
  67. Adam and the Ants, "Stand and Deliver"
  68. XTC, "The Mayor of Simpleton"
  69. Tom Tom Club, "Genius of Love"
  70. The English Beat, "I Confess"
  71. Bryan Ferry, "Kiss & Tell"
  72. Roxy Music, "More than This"
  73. Golden Earring, "Twilight Zone"
  74. The Vapors "Turning Japanese"
  75. Asia, "Heat of the Moment"
  76. Daryl Hall and John Oates, "Private Eyes"
  77. Rush, "Time Stand Still"
  78. Wire, "Ahead"
  79. The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Maddow blogger shovels it

I really like Rachel Maddow. But even her bloggers can shovel it once in a while. Here's an example.

Steve Benen criticizes Republicans for complaining about the length of some pieces of legislation. You might remember when the Affordable Care Act was going through Congress and Republicans were complaining that the bill was so long that no one really knew what was in it. And you might remember a picture I borrowed and published of that zany congressman from Iowa, Steve King, carrying a copy of it on his shoulder.

Benen writes, "When opponents of a bill are reduced to talking about the literal, physical size of the legislation, they've completely given up on the pretense that public policy matters. If opponents of immigration reform want to debate the merits of the proposal, great. But focusing on pages and pounds is the absolute worst form of debate."

Benen makes some good points. He says that we live in a complex world, so legislation will also be complex, and it is the job of those in Congress to read, understand, and evaluate it. In addition, the format of legislation makes it look significantly longer than it actually is. "For example, if the immigration bill is about 1,075 pages, in terms of the number of words, it's about half the length of Sarah Palin's first book," writes Benen.

Benen goes wrong, however, in his penultimate paragraph. He writes, "So why does this talk persist? I think it speaks to the post-policy anti-intellectualism that too often plays a role in conservative commentary. Big bills must be bad bills because they're, you know, big."

That, I think, is unfair. The greater the length and complexity of a bill, the more time is needed to read, understand, and evaluate it. Now, Republican complaints about the Affordable Care Act were pure bullshit. They had plenty of time to study that bill. But I can imagine cases in which the length and complexity of a bill could be a legitimate concern, and certainly there have been actual cases in which it has been. The USA PATRIOT Act, for example, became law a mere one and a half months after 9/11, and it's 132 pages, single-spaced. Could our elected officials think clearly about that bill, while Attorney General John Ashcroft is warning them "that further terrorist acts were imminent, and that Congress could be to blame for such attacks if it failed to pass the bill immediately"? I doubt it.

But Benen seems to think that there are no good reasons for concern over the length of a bill. Well, I think he's shoveling it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

McConnell is whining

Here's something from Media Matters that I found especially interesting.

(Now before I start, I should say that I am well aware that Media Matters has its critics. Some people think that Media Matters should not have tax-exempt status. That has no relevance to the accuracy of its reporting, however. Since Media Matters targets only the conservative media, others consider them biased and therefore don't respect their research. But the fact that Media Matters targets only conservative media does not show that their research isn't worthy of respect. This blog focuses on the conservative media, but I have what I take to be very good criticisms of my targets and they must be judged on their own merits.)

Oliver Willis quotes Sen. Mitch McConnell's speech at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday as follows:
Last June I stood here and warned of a grave and growing threat to the First Amendment. That threat has not let up at all. Our ability to freely engage in civic life and organize in defense of our beliefs is still under coordinated assault from groups on the left that don't like the idea of anyone criticizing their aims. And from a White House that appears determined to shut up anybody who disagrees with it. Now on the outside there is a well-documented effort by a number of left wing groups like Media Matters to harass and to intimidate conservatives with the goal of scaring them off the political playing field and off the airwaves as well. An internal Media Matters memo from January 2010 showed the extent to which these tactics have been turned, literally, into a science. In it, we learned of the group's plan to conduct opposition research into the lives of on-air news personalities and other key decision makers over at Fox News. And to coordinate with 100 or so partner groups to pressure the network's advertisers and shareholders to, get this, by the threat of actual boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, shame, embarrassment and other tactics on a variety of issues important to the progressive agenda.
Willis writes that, in response to McConnell, Media Matters president Bradley Beychok said, "Mitch McConnell seems to be implying there is something underhanded or sinister about what Media Matters does. That is not the case. We monitor and correct conservative misinformation in the media." I have been reading Media Matters long enough to know that Beychok's assertion is generally true. And that, by the way, is good enough: absolute perfection in the pursuit of one's goal is too much to ask.

Let's think carefully about what McConnell said, granting, at least for the sake of argument, that Media Matters' mission is exactly what Beychok says it is.

McConnell complains that organizations like Media Matters are trying to "harass and intimidate conservatives" with the intention of "scaring them off the political playing field." How are they doing this? By using "boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, shame, [and] embarrassment" to apply pressure to Fox News advertisers and shareholders. Why? Because they disapprove of criticism of their liberal agenda. At stake is the freedom of conservatives to "engage in civic life and organize in defense of [their] beliefs."

Now, think about that, and ask yourself, what really is wrong with any of this? I know for a fact that there is much misinformation in the conservative media. Correcting it does not necessarily imply or require a political agenda. None of my criticisms of Lori Ziganto's anti-abortion posts, for example, took issue with her position; rather, I criticized her bad arguments and misinformation in support of her position. But suppose that Media Matters has a political agenda. Again, what is wrong with this? Fox News has a political agenda. Mitch McConnell has a political agenda. Shouldn't conservatives disapprove of criticism of their agenda? Why wouldn't they? Would there be anything wrong with conservatives using boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, and so on, to apply pressure to, say, MSNBC advertisers and shareholders? No. No activity McConnell mentions is against the law. And freedom of speech does not protect anyone from having to confront those who disagree with them. Rather, the "grave and growing threat to the First Amendment" is represented by those like McConnell who believe that they have a right not to be challenged in the marketplace of ideas. Seriously, who is a bigger threat to the First Amendment: those who protest against Fox News, or those who have a problem with such protests? And McConnell's claim that conservatives' freedoms are endangered is ludicrous. Conservatives have all the freedoms everyone else has. But conservatives also have to face the consequences of exercising those freedoms, just like everyone else. If you want to broadcast the crazy shit one is apt to find on Fox News, people are going to get upset. And by the way, isn't that what you're counting on? You want your own people to get upset so that they'll write those checks, right?

What's really going on here is that McConnell is whining. Never have I heard as much whining and moaning from Republicans as I've heard since Obama was elected in 2008. They complain about NPR because NPR refuses to lean to the right and consequently they want to defund the CPB. (You might think that NPR has a liberal bias. I listen to NPR every day, and I can tell you that you are wrong.) Broadcasting should be privately funded, they surely believe, especially tea party types. Well, if Fox News has to compete in the marketplace with everyone else, then they will have to put up with consumers, some of whom are well organized, who don't like them.

Now, you might say that my reasoning is good, but the assumption that I began with is false: Media Matters' mission is not what Beychok says it is, but is in fact some other sinister thing. My challenge to you is this: show me that you're right. Show me your evidence. Make a case for your point of view. I am open-minded enough to consider good arguments, and I have in the past gone where the evidence has taken me and changed my mind. (Once, I thought that the death penalty is morally justified. How wrong I was about that!)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Here's what shuffle play spat out at me

So a friend of mine published an iTunes shuffle play playlist on Facebook the other day. I told him that I couldn't publish a similar list because I have too many guilty pleasures on my iPod. He said that if I like a song, I have no reason to feel guilty about it. He may be right. So I thought about publishing a shuffle play playlist here, and here it is.

It's not very interesting. I like progressive rock, alternative or college rock, and classic rock most. And that's what's on the list. And no guilty pleasures, so publishing this was easy.
  1. Oceansize, "Remember Where You Are," Effloresce
  2. Simon & Garfunkel, "The Times They Are A-Changin'," Wednesday Morning, 3am
  3. Astra, "Quake Meat," The Black Chord
  4. Coldplay, "Viva La Vida," Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
  5. Mr. Bungle, "Retrovertigo," California
  6. Death Cab for Cutie, "Company Calls," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes
  7. Moby, "Inside," Play
  8. The Left Banke, "Lazy Day," There's Gonna Be a Storm
  9. Bjork, "Isobel," Post
  10. Foo Fighters, "Everlong," The Colour and the Shape
  11. Pink Floyd, "Sysyphus: Part Three," Ummagumma
  12. Tom Petty, "Time to Move On," Wildflowers
  13. A Perfect Circle, "Lullaby," Thirteenth Step
  14. The Chameleons UK, "John, I'm Only Dancing," Strange Times
  15. Ultra Vivid Scene, "Medicating Angels," Rev
  16. Electric Light Orchestra, "Everyone's Born to Die," On the Third Day
  17. Daniel Amos, "It's Sick," Vox Humana
  18. Sonic Youth, "Shadow of a Doubt," Evol
  19. Frank Zappa, "The Man from Utopia Meets Mary Lou," The Man from Utopia
  20. De La Soul, "Eye Know," 3 Feet High and Rising
  21. The Wolfgang Press, "Question of Time," Queer
  22. Dead Kennedys, "I Am the Owl," Plastic Surgery Disasters
  23. Rush, "Limelight," Different Stages
  24. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, "Heart In Your Heartbreak," Belong
  25. Stan Ridgway, "Drive She Said," The Big Heat
  26. Thinking Fellers Union Local 242, "Cup of Dreams," Strangers from the Universe
  27. Andy Partridge, "The Tiny Circus of Life," Fuzzy Warbles Vol. 6
  28. Peter Schilling, "Fast Alles Konstruiert," Fehler Im System
  29. Interpol, "Wrecking Ball," Our Love to Admire
  30. Killing Joke, "Wintergardens," Brighter than a Thousand Suns
  31. Todd Rundgren, "Word Made Flesh 1.0," No World Order
  32. This Moral Coil, "Loose Joints," Blood
  33. Fleetwood Mac, "Hypnotized," Mystery to Me
  34. Mew, "Reprise," No More Stories Are Told Today...
  35. Electric Light Orchestra, "Letter from Spain," Secret Messages
  36. Ben Folds Five, "Steven's Last Night In Town," Whatever And Ever Amen
  37. Thomas Dolby, "Dissidents," The Flat Earth
  38. The Futureheads, "Skip to the End," News and Tributes
  39. The Cure, "Bananafishbones," The Top
  40. Elbow, "The Fix," The Seldom Seen Kid
  41. The Smiths, "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side," The Queen is Dead
  42. Chevelle, "Closure," Wonder What's Next
  43. The Cure, "I'm Cold," Join the Dots
  44. Ride, "Here and Now," Nowhere
  45. Big Country, "Wonderland," The Crossing
  46. The JV Allstars, "Today's Going to Be a Long Tomorrow," Take Me Back to Spectre
  47. Sigur Ros, "Avalon," Agaetis Byrjun
  48. Cheap Trick, "Oh, Candy," Cheap Trick
  49. The Cure, "Jumping Someone Else's Train," Boys Don't Cry
  50. The Cure, "The Baby Screams," The Head on the Door

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Fine Art of Bullshitting 5: Please do not be mesmerized by this woman.

I am immediately skeptical of anything I hear or read that comes from a conservative news source. Why? Allow me to present an example.

I saw a link to this on my Facebook news feed. (By the way, I'm not sure why so many of the suggested posts I see in my news feed are for conservative Facebook pages. Zuckerberg knows me better than that. He must be trying to sell me something.) According to the author, Kristin Tate,
It must get exhausting constantly dancing around the numerous scandals currently engulfing the White House. President Obama needs a vacation!  
The president and his family are taking a vaca to Africa later this month. It’ll only cost us taxpayers $60 to $100 million — gotta love how frugal those Obamas are!  
Most of that taxpayer money for the trip will go to security for the President and his family. Hundreds of US Secret Service agents will be joining the family in Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania during their extended trip. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, fully staffed with a medical trauma center, will also be stationed off shore. Ya know, just in case of an emergency!  
Also on the receipt: military cargo planes, lifting 56 support vehicles into the air. This includes 14 limousines (gotta travel in style!) and trucks fully packed with sheets of bullet proof glass, to cover windows of the first family’s hotels.  
Fighter jets will be flying in shifts giving the family 24-hour security. From airspace, they will be able to intervene if a threatening plane gets too close. 
Where did Tate get all of this information? Tate writes,
The Washington Post obtained a confidential internal planning document, that outlines the incredible security provisions. 
Really? So I did a few simple searches at Google and The Washington Post and found the story here. Could Tate have failed to mention any pertinent information, I wonder? Why, yes, I believe she did! According to the Washington Post,
The elaborate security provisions — which will cost the government tens of millions of dollars — are outlined in a confidential internal planning document obtained by The Washington Post. While the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past, the document offers an unusual glimpse into the colossal efforts to protect the U.S. commander in chief on trips abroad.
So the measures are like those taken to protect previous presidents. Go on.
The first family is making back-to-back stops from June 26 to July 3 in three countries where U.S. officials are providing nearly all the resources, rather than depending heavily on local police forces, military authorities or hospitals for assistance.
Really? And why wouldn't they depend on the locals for the necessary resources?
“Even in the most developed places of Western Europe, the level of support you need for mass movements by the president is really extraordinary,” said Steve Atkiss, who coordinated travel as special assistant for operations to Bush. “As you go farther afield, to less-developed places, certainly it’s more of a logistical challenge.”
Because the locals are not able to provide them. I see. How could the need to vacation justify this great expense, though?
White House officials said the trip was long overdue, marking Obama’s first visit as president to sub-Saharan Africa aside from a 22-hour stopover in Ghana in 2009. The emerging democracies on the itinerary are crucial partners in regional security conflicts, Rhodes said.  
Obama will hold bilateral meetings with each country’s leader and seek to forge stronger economic ties at a time when China is investing heavily in Africa. He also will highlight global health programs, including HIV/AIDS prevention.  
The first lady, who toured South Africa and Botswana without the president in 2011, will headline some events on her own during the week. The stops will add to the logistical challenges, because she will require her own security detail and vehicles, the planning document shows.
So the first family is not going on vacation? They're actually working during this trip? But Kristin Tate told me that it was a vacation! You mean I can't believe everything Kristin Tate tells me?

Still, what about that safari the first family had planned during this trip? That doesn't sound like work to me!
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also made trips to multiple African nations involving similarly laborious preparations. Bush went in 2003 and 2008, bringing his wife on both occasions. Bush’s two daughters went along on the first trip, which included a safari at a game preserve on the Botswana-South Africa border.
You mean W. and the family went on a safari in Africa, just like the Obamas had originally planned? Well, good for them, I suppose.

So, here's what we have. The first family is not going on a vacation. Rather, in an effort to promote the United States' security and economic interests, the first family is going on a diplomatic mission to Africa. Since the host countries cannot themselves provide the resources needed for the trip, the president will bring them with him, and this contributes to the trip's relatively high price tag.

Discovering the true story was easy. All it took was a few searches and some light reading. Yet I'm confident that the fine folks who commented on the story couldn't be bothered to do the slightest bit of research, as the following sampling shows:
Janice Simpson
It would be worth it if they only receive one-way tickets, then lock and bar the doors! 
Kim Triesler · Madison, Alabama
Sounds like they're life style is "Let 'em eat cake!" while the economy is on the skids, unemployment is still way too high (I should know, I'm in that rut myself and it sucks!), and yet they go out and about like they haven't a care in the world. 
Dan A. Zembsch · Washington High School, Cherokee, IA
Come on folks he just wants to take his family to his native country. Maybe he wants to show them where he was born and where the next presidential library will be. 
Eric Kessen · North texas horseshoeing institute
I find it totally disgusting the way they are abusing their positions to get free stuff ! This shouldn't be allowed period ! Besides ; why all that security when all they got to do is go native since they would blend in so well with the locals and according to him guns don't keep us safe ? Lol . 
Walter Sterling · Account Executive at Country Legends Radio
Can't he just stay with his brother in his shack or his family hut that he grew up in? 
Jack Eaton ·  Top Commenter · Truck Driver at Old Dominion Freight Line
Let him go visit his homeland on his own money. He has swindled enough out of us already.
The problem for conservative news sources, however, is that even independents will eventually learn that they are being deceived by the bullshitters, and will no longer trust them. That's one reason why conservatives aren't doing so well in elections for national political office. More and more, the only people who believe what conservative bullshitters tell them are conservative voters, i.e., the people who were going to vote for Republicans anyway. They can thank motivated skepticism for that, along with a bit of racism, I think. (Our former, whiter presidents stayed in hotels and traveled in limousines. This uppity one should stay in a shack and take taxis, I suppose.)

Kristin Tate's most conspicuous redeeming quality is that she would be conventionally regarded as incredibly hot:

(At first, I thought, "This picture is part of an ad for a dating website, right?") So, good for you, Kristin! Now instead of trying to keep conservatives' "partisan donors in a constant state of agitation to keep them ignorant, jumpy and writing checks," why not put your writing skills to good use and stick with the facts?

Gentleman: please do not be mesmerized by this woman. She is part of the conservative media's strategy of shutting your brain down while they shovel the bullshit. Not everything that is beautiful is good and trustworthy. Believe me, I know this from experience.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Two more reasons why I hate The Weather Channel

If you visit the Weather Channel online, you will find the following videos, all of which are labeled as Top Stories:
  • Cat Really Doesn't Want Bath
  • Wow, Bridge Moved in 6 Hours
  • A TARANTULA as Big as Your Face!
  • Gate To Hell Discovered! 
  • Oddest Tax Deductions Ever! 
  • Wild and Wet Videos! 
  • Cat Plays Mom To Puppy
  • Fish Has Human Teeth!
  • The Adventures of Mighty Bug! 
  • What Next? Nests for Humans! 
  • Ever Been to Pig  Beach? 
  • Watch: ATM Blows Up!
  • Dog Walks on Grass for First Time
  • Baby Does Pull-Ups
  • Otter Teaches Baby to Swim
  • Sea Lion Pup is Backseat Driver 
And if you look for the video about a possible tornado outbreak this week, you will find this:

If "Millions At Risk" isn't hysterically alarmist, I don't know what is.

Good thing I'm on meds now.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Let the adults do the blogging

I have never seen a good argument against gay marriage. This is my word of caution to you: if you ever see an argument against gay marriage, be very skeptical.

Here's an illustration: Erick Erickson's recent post "Why Not Incest?" defending Jeremy Irons' recent comments on gay marriage. The argument is that if gay marriage is acceptable, then so must be homosexual incest:
If life comes down to who you love and who loves you back, if a father and son love each other so much they want to get married, there is little moral difference between two people of the same sex getting married who are not related and want to be and two people of the same sex who already are related becoming closer.
Notice that Erickson is attributing to those of us who support gay marriage something like the following argument:
  1. If two people love each other, then they should be allowed to marry. 
  2. Many persons in homosexual relationships love their partners. 
  3. Therefore, homosexuals should be allowed to marry. 
The problem is that supporters of gay marriage do not endorse this argument. To deny the right to marry to persons who love each other is wrong, but certain other conditions must obviously be met if they are to be allowed to marry, and those conditions are met by many homosexuals in committed relationships. One condition is that both partners freely consent to the marriage. So gay marriage supporters would reject (1).

Erickson is doing what many who oppose gay marriage have done for years: attribute straw men to the opposition. Either Erickson knows that his argument is fallacious, or he lacks to intelligence to see that it is fallacious. So, for his edification, and the edification of all those who are manipulated by Erickson's argument, allow William Saletan to explain how someone could support gay marriage but oppose same-sex incestuous marriage.

According to Saletan, "[Six] years ago, Ohio's Supreme Court upheld the incest conviction of Paul Lowe, a former sheriff's deputy, for what the court called 'consensual sex with his 22-year-old stepdaughter.'" The conviction was upheld because "'a sexual relationship between a parent and child or a stepparent and stepchild is especially destructive to the family unit.' This destructive effect, the court reasoned, occurs even if the sex is adult and consensual, since 'parents do not cease being parents … when their minor child reaches the age of majority.'" This puts same-sex incest and gay marriage on a different moral plane. As Saletan explains:
Morally, the family-structure argument captures our central intuition about incest: It confuses relationships. Constitutionally, this argument provides a rational basis for laws against incest. But it doesn't provide a rational basis for laws against homosexuality. In fact, it supports the case for same-sex marriage. 
When a young man falls in love with another man, no family is destroyed. Homosexuality is largely immutable, as the chronic failure of "ex-gay" ministries attests. So if you forbid sex between these two men, neither of them is likely to form a happy, faithful heterosexual family. The best way to help them form a stable family is to encourage them to marry each other. 
Incest spectacularly flunks this test. By definition, it occurs within an already existing family. So it offers no benefit in terms of family formation. On the contrary, it injects a notoriously incendiary dynamic—sexual tension—into the mix. Think of all the opposite-sex friendships you and your friends have cumulatively destroyed by "crossing the line." Now imagine doing that to your family. That's what incest does. 
So how can the supporter of gay marriage oppose same-sex incest? By appealing to this or that utilitarian moral principle. Gay marriage maximizes happiness, and same-sex incestuous unions do not. Gay marriage is therefore permissible, and same-sex incestuous unions are not.

Let's suppose that Erickson, for some reason, does not understand this important difference between gay marriage and same-sex incest. Perhaps he simply lacks the intelligence to grasp it. Or perhaps, due to the influence of religious indoctrination, he refuses to attempt to grasp it. Or maybe he's simply phoning it in. In any event, he should consider a career change. And let's suppose that Erickson does understand this difference but writes posts like "Why Not Incest?" anyway. Again, I say, he should consider a career change, because he is manipulating his readers with bullshit. He's clearly not someone to be trusted.

Erickson closes by saying, "The truth is, many, many, many of the same people who are now in support of gay marriage, but would oppose this or polygamy will, once the next step is advanced, support these things too." No, they won't, asshole, as I have just explained.

Erick, why don't you go away and let the adults do the blogging, all right?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

An hysterical Erickson predicts

According to Erick Erickson,
There are many, many people denying that gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible. Many of those who deny it are, in fact, hostile to religious freedom to begin with or, when the fight becomes more clear, will be against the church.
I am one of those people who believe that gay marriage and religious freedom are compatible. It's actually pretty simple. Churches should be allowed to marry whoever they want, without interference from the state. (This freedom cannot be absolute, of course.) Analogously, the state should be allowed to marry whoever it wants, without interference from the church. That's what the separation of church and state is all about. Gay marriages would be sanctioned by the state, not by the church. What's the problem?

But I am not hostile to religious freedom. Indeed, even though I am an atheist, I consider religious freedom to be one of our most important freedoms, because I wish to be free to be atheist. I must therefore respect the freedom of others to worship, or not worship, as they choose. (This freedom can't be absolute either.) Freedom of religion is just a species of a more general freedom of thought which believers and non-believers should be able to enjoy.

Now, a lot of people seem to think that legalizing gay marriage will infringe on the religious freedom of Christians. For example, John Hawkins writes:
The moment gay marriage becomes the law of the land, all sorts of First Amendment freedoms involving the free exercise of people's religion will likely be infringed upon as a consequence. No pastor should be forced to marry a gay couple. No wedding photographer, cake maker, caterer, or wedding planner should be forced to be involved in these weddings. No church or any other location should be forced to be the site of a gay wedding. Children will be taught in schools that gay marriage is normal, legal, and moral -- and it directly contradicts the teachings of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. To create this special privilege for gay Americans would mean impinging on the First Amendment rights of more than 200 million Americans. 
This passage is terribly confused. As conservatives know, progressives defend the separation of church and state. And that doctrine would prevent many of the consequences Hawkins mentions! Churches would be free to marry who they wish. Wedding photographers and others aren't forced to be involved in any weddings now; why suppose that they would be if gay marriage is legalized? Children may be taught in schools that gay marriage is normal, but churches aren't allowed to dictate what is taught in the public schools now, and they can redouble their efforts to teach homophobia in their Sunday school classrooms.

Erickson predicts a similar catastrophe. He claims that if gay marriage is legalized, "churches will not be able to open their doors to the unchurched unless they include everyone." Cities will "pass anti-discrimination laws that would prohibit churches from being able to say no to sin without running afoul of the law."

But here's the main problem with this sort of argument. People like Erickson and Hawkins assume that they have a religious right to persecute those with whom they disagree. Now, they call it a right to religious freedom. But they are already free to practice their religion and worship freely. What they really want is a right to dictate to others how they shall lead their lives. And that's persecution. Further, they assume that this right overrides the fundamental right of another person to marry whoever her or she loves. This has to be one of our most important rights: to decide with whom we shall spend the rest of our lives. If there is a conflict of rights here, it seems obvious to me that the right to marry is more important and fundamental than any other right Erickson and Hawkins might have in mind. It is therefore overriding.

In defense of his own conception of marriage, Erickson appeals to the authority of the Bible, and claims that liberal Christians "willfully ignore Christ’s definition of what a marriage is — one man and one woman united to become one." This is itself incoherent. Erickson complains that the left will silence conservative Christians in their campaign to impose their conception of marriage on the state, and yet that is precisely what Erickson wants to do, i.e., impose his own conception of marriage on the state. In addition, Erickson seems unaware of the difficulty of explaining why anyone should give a flying fuck what Jesus allegedly said or did not say about marriage, and why the state should conform to Erickson's religion. I personally couldn't care less what Matthew 19: 4-6 or the rest of his fucking religion says, and he hasn't given me a reason to care.

If we don't do what Erickson tells us to do, and if we legalize gay marriage, an hysterical Erickson tells us what we can expect:
Within a year or two we will see Christian schools attacked for refusing to admit students whose parents are gay. We will see churches suffer the loss of their tax exempt status for refusing to hold gay weddings. We will see private businesses shut down because they refuse to treat as legitimate that which perverts God’s own established plan. In some places this is already happening.
This is just another manifestation of Republican leaders' lack of connection with reality. We saw in in November when Dick Morris, Karl Rove, and even Mitt Romney couldn't believe the election returns they were seeing. We saw it more recently when Gary Bauer declared that polls showing support for gay marriage are "skewed." And now we have Erickson's ludicrous, apparently hallucinogenic-induced prognostications.

Erick Erickson, are you out of your fucking mind?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I saw this on Facebook. It was the text of a picture posted by Pro Labor Alliance Inc. I have edited it a bit: 


You are not a machine.

Your natural genetic design does not tolerate 2-4 hours of travel per day, 8-12 hours of slave labor, 5-6 days per week for whatever monetary compensation on 5-6 hours of sleep in a system built on a penalistic principle and a life under judgmental surveillance.

Like it or not, you are human.

Stress, harassment, constant financial worries, fear, and a sense of inadequacy destroys the health of any human.

This is a scientific fact.

So why is it we accept and tolerate a system that in actual reality demands that you erase your needs, and in effect commit a slow joyless suicide for someone else's profit?

You have a choice.

Stop pretending you don't.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Your Horoscope

Aries. I guess you want to know what your day’s going to be like. How the hell am I supposed to know? Aries, lemme give it to you straight: astrology is complete bullshit. I don’t know anything about you and I don’t care. So please stop bothering me.

Taurus. Oh, you too? Look, celestial objects have absolutely no effect on you or what happens to you. They exert some gravitational pull on your body, but that’s about it. Wait, I got it. Here’s your horoscope: get a life. Read something else, you nitwit. Jesus.

Gemini. What’s the matter with you people? Hey, Gemini: Aries hates your guts. He said that you’re a pussy, Gemini. That’s right. Do you want to fight him? Go ahead. Go punch his lights out. Oh, by the way, I have your horoscope: you will get in trouble with the law today.

Cancer. All right, here it is: your horoscope is a work of fiction. Oh, why so horrified, Cancer? Why don’t you just go to China House Buffet and crack open a fortune cookie? It’s just as reliable! Here’s what your fortune cookie says, Cancer: “You disappoint everyone with your irrational belief in astrology.”

Leo. Does Leo have to be the life of the party again? Leo, I know you think you’re the bomb, but being born between July 23 and August 22 isn't some great accomplishment, all right? It means absolutely nothing. So why don’t you do something productive and leave the rest of us alone, you attention whore?

Virgo. Prepare, for the Day of Judgment is at hand. Just kidding! Look, the sun and the planets have nothing to do with you. You’re not nearly as special as you think you are. Are you crying, Virgo? There’s no crying in astrology!

Libra. Jesus, I am so sick of this crap. Libra, I don’t know if that boy will have intercourse with you today. I don’t care, the sun doesn’t care, and none of the planets care either.

Scorpio. Hey, Scorpio. I know a lonely, hot Libra. Tell her that her horoscope says, “You will make sweet love to a Scorpio today,” and wait for the fireworks. Oh, and by the way, you’re an idiot.

Sagittarius. You will read your horoscope today, just like you do every day, you moron. Except that today, you will feel insulted for some reason.

Capricorn. You will wake up today. And then you may or may not do all that stuff you usually do, and you might even do some stuff you don’t usually do. You may or may not eat or drink anything. Then you will go to bed. Maybe.

Aquarius. Hey, ever heard that song about the dawn of the Age of Aquarius? That was astrological bollocks with some drug-induced hippie bollocks thrown in. This isn't the Age of Aquarius. This is the Age of Gullible Scientifically Illiterate Fools. I know, it’s depressing. But with any luck, you’re peaking at this point and you can cry into that groovy beer you’re nursing.

Pisces. That’s it. I’ve had it. I’m out of here. All of you morons can go fuck yourselves.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tribute or theft?

Back in 1987, I was a volunteer DJ at a college rock station. And I fell in love with The Ophelias' self-titled debut. The Ophelias were a short-lived college rock band from San Francisco featuring Leslie Medford on vocals. Here's "In America the Other Day," a song from that album:

Fast-forward to 2012, 25 years later. Now I'm a volunteer DJ at another college rock station, but this time I'm doing a progressive rock show. And I'm exploring the genre, listening to lots of progressive rock that I've never heard before, like Van der Graaf Generator, with Peter Hammill on vocals. And I hear this song, "Scorched Earth," from the 1975 album Godbluff:

Certainly, Leslie Medford is a fan of Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator. The similarities, down to the feedback-drenched song endings, can't be a coincidence. I don't know whether to call Medford's vocal style tribute or theft.

When I first heard The Ophelias, I was impressed with the freshness of their sound. It wasn't quite as fresh as I thought, as it turns out. The same could be said for most music, I'm sure.

I have a thing for spaceflight.

See the spaceships that have launched astronauts and cosmonauts into space in the first 50 years of human spaceflight.
Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Search This Blog


What I'm Following

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson