Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!
From the Houston Chronicle:
They came out by the hundreds from Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, mostly women and children, girls with silver-bowed shoes and pink owl backpacks. They sang the national anthem and prayed.
But less than 20 feet from where the group of Texas Muslims gathered on the steps of the state Capitol in Austin, a small handful of protesters told them exactly how they felt about their visit.
Christine Weick, who said she was originally from Michigan but now is "on the road," at one point stormed the succession of speakers, grabbing the microphone and yelling, "Islam will not dominate the United States, and by the grace of God, it will not dominate Texas."
She was carted back to her spot with the other 12 to 15 protesters holding vigil behind a wall of law enforcement officers. "Muhammad is dead!" she and other chanted, referring to the Muslim prophet.
Trashy. Just straight up trashy. I mean, these are the same kind of jerks who trip out if you don't salute the Christmas tree in the right way, who insist they're being persecuted if you don't give extra special respect, extra special privileges to their religion. Clearly, this isn't a two way street for them. Going off on Islam is just fine. Participating in the oppression of a religious minority is just fine.
And it wasn't just Islamophobic protesters getting in on the act, either. One legislator wanted them to come to her office, where she displayed an Israeli flag just for the occasion, in order to take, get this, a loyalty oath. Can these people possibly be bigger dicks?
I fear we will never learn to get along, and, very sadly, it appears a number of my fellow Texans are doing as much as they can to make sure we never learn to get along.
Posted by Ron at 7:27 PM
From the Huffington Post:
"'Reality is complicated and messy,' he told The Huffington Post in an email. 'Ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simpler solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies.'"
It is important to note that this works both ways. That is, I think a pushy and doctrinaire Marxist is as big of an idiot-dick as the most drooling and raving Tea Party extremist. Of course, there are lots more of the latter than the former running around the country these days.
Posted by Ron at 6:55 PM
...along with the comments I attached when I shared them.
Posted by Ron at 6:11 PM
From Talking Points Memo:
"We cannot survive as a republic if we do not become, once again, a God-centered nation that understands that our laws do not come from man, they come from God," he said on the show "Life Today."
When Huckabee added that he wasn't demanding a theocracy, host James Robison said, "We have a theocracy right now. It's a secular theocracy."
"That's it!" Huckabee said, describing the current political order as "humanistic, secular, atheistic, even antagonistic toward Christian faith."
Watch it here.
Given that there is such profound disagreement about what God actually tells us, I mean, even within Christianity, even within Protestantism, it strikes me as an extraordinarily bad idea to assert that "laws come from God." You know, maybe they do, but there's just absolutely no way to establish that here on earth, one way or the other, for sure. So we really need to keep the slippery, vague, and subjective notions about what God tells us out of government. It's an invitation for total national disaster.
Actually, this is a very old idea, that there ought to be a "wall of separation between church and state," an idea our founding fathers saw fit to enshrine in the US Constitution. But some people are just too freaking stupid to understand what being an American is all about.
Posted by Ron at 5:28 PM
A comment I left in a long, long facebook discussion thread about "Je suis Charlie":
If the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoon is for an audience of non-Muslims, then what's the point? It's highly likely that everyone is already in agreement with the artist that it's just fine and dandy to make a Mohammed cartoon. So it's just one big circle jerk of agreement and masturbatory love for free speech.Excelsior!
Well, okay. Art can be anything. But such art strikes me as nothing more than self-congratulatory jingoism, and, worse, it also ridicules a dispossessed minority, for reasons unknown. So under these circumstances, assuming your audience is already in agreement with you about Mohammed, and where offending millions of Muslims is just sort of a byproduct, either intentionally or not, I assert that this is bad and somewhat pointless art. It's certainly not well thought out.
Now assume that Muslims are your audience. Again, what's the point? Are you trying to convince them that it's actually a good thing to depict Mohammed as a cartoon? Well, offending them is, at least, counterproductive. That is, you stand no chance at all of convincing Muslims that visually portraying their prophet is a good idea when they're all pissed off at you. So, like the circumstances I described above, this is bad and pointless art, in that it can't possibly accomplish what it's presumed to be trying to accomplish.
Either way, with a sympathetic audience or a hostile audience, the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons are just senseless. And that's why I call them what they are: bullying, a hypermasculine pissing match about what ought to offend people. And I think that also makes it bad art.
This is criticism, not censorship. I'm not saying they can't do it because it's offensive; I'm saying they shouldn't do it because it's badly planned, badly executed, confused, and intellectually dishonest art. If you don't really need to offend millions of people to get your message across, but do so anyway, or if doing so destroys your message, or it's a message that doesn't really need to be gotten across, all these things make for bad art.
And this particular art, the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons, does nothing but make the world a worse place. And I think that makes for bad art, too.
Posted by Ron at 7:03 PM
From Think Progress:
The official website for House Republicans has posted on YouTube a version of President Obama’s State of the Union address which cuts out comments where the President was critical of Republican rhetoric on climate change, ThinkProgress has learned.
In the website’s “enhanced webcast” of the State of the Union speech, President Obama’s comments criticizing Republicans for saying they are “not scientists” when it comes to climate change are erased.
A buddy of mine posted the above linked article on facebook. Here's my comment:
I can pinpoint the moment when I found out for sure that a lot of Republican rhetorical strategy involves straight up lying: it was that first Obama/Romney debate, the moment when Obama referred to something or other Romney had said countless times during the Republican primary, which was then immediately denied by his opponent.Excelsior!
I was, like, okay, that's it, that's how you emerge from the psycho-circus of Tea Party hate called the GOP primary without having to pay a price for all the crazy shit you said in order to make it to the general election. You just lie. You straight up lie, which is exactly what Romney did. It was an obvious lie, a transparent lie, one that anybody who had been following the campaign even casually would spot. And the prick totally got away with it.
Republicans learned long ago that "the liberal media," cowed as they have been by years of conservative hissy fits, ROUTINELY lets Republicans get away with the craziest fucking lies imaginable, you know, "Shape of the Earth: Opinions Differ," all because of being fair and balanced. It's gotten so bad that the GOP just depends on it for political strategy.
The truth, facts, all this, one really can make a persuasive case these days that they're in danger of just not mattering at all.
Posted by Ron at 6:00 PM
From the New York Times:
Last year was the hottest on earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and undermining claims by climate change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.
So...tonight's low temperature trumps this, right? Sometimes I wish we really did live in the right wing's fun-house version of reality. We could all do whatever we want without consequence, and everything would work out just fine for people who are hard-working and honest. But I don't believe in Santa Claus, either.
Posted by Ron at 6:13 PM
From the AP via AOL:
Victims of one of Mark Wahlberg's racially motivated attacks as a teenage delinquent in segregated Boston in the 1980s are divided over whether he should be granted a pardon for his crimes.
Kristyn Atwood was among a group of mostly black fourth-grade students on a field trip to the beach in 1986 when Wahlberg and his white friends began hurling rocks and shouting racial epithets as they chased them down the street.
"I don't think he should get a pardon," Atwood, now 38 and living in Decatur, Georgia, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
A friend of mine posted the above linked article on my facebook page, and asked me what I think. Here's what I said:
I'm all for forgiveness, generally speaking. And Wahlberg really does seem to have turned his life around. So there's that.Excelsior!
But there's also the question of what it means "to be a racist." I'm of the opinion that there is a massive component of psychological/social conditioning as far as racism goes, which means I've got racism down deep inside of me, too, in spite of the fact that I have consciously chosen to reject racism as a point of view. That is, you can't just decide to end your own personal racism. It's much more complicated than that. You can only make an effort to be vigilant about what might pop into your mind at any minute given the circumstances.
However, I would guess that Wahlberg's doing at least as well as I am in that respect. So give him a break.
Of course, there are thousands of black guys convicted as teens for doing stupid shit who will definitely never get a pardon for their stupid shit. Why does Marky Mark get this privilege when they don't?
Really, like I said, I'm all for forgiveness, and we should offer pardons to black guys, too, who were stupid when they were teenagers. That would be fair.
Posted by Ron at 6:22 PM
From the New York Times:
34-year-old man who on Saturday hit a car while drunk, injured the other driver and subsequently praised the acts of the gunmen when the police detained him was sentenced Monday to four years in prison.
Vive la France! The greatest defender of free speech in the entire universe, throughout all history going back to the Big Bang! Je suis France! Vive la République!
The hypocrisy underneath this whole "Je suis Charlie" thing is just nothing short of astonishing. I mean, in France, Holocaust denial is a crime. As deplorable as denying the Holocaust is, if you throw someone in jail for it, you are NOT a defender of free speech.
The West is once again on a narcissistic kick of self-righteousness. Look out world. When that happens, historically, people get killed.
Posted by Ron at 6:19 PM
Posted by Ron at 7:19 PM
From the Washington Post's Wonkblog:
There is little empathy at the top.
Most of America's richest think poor people have it easy in this country, according to a new report released by the Pew Research Center. The center surveyed a nationally representative group of people this past fall, and found that the majority of the country's most financially secure citizens (54 percent at the very top, and 57 percent just below) believe the "poor have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return." America's least financially secure, meanwhile, vehemently disagree — nearly 70 percent say the poor have hard lives because the benefits "don't go far enough." Nationally, the population is almost evenly split.
One of the big reasons this country is so f'd up: apparently, having lots of money interferes with the brain's synaptic pathways. And people with lots of money own and operate the country. So we're screwed.
Actually, it's interesting that half the population thinks this way. I don't know what to make of it other than as a result of conservative anti-poor mass propaganda going back to the Reagan era. You know, if you're poor it's because you're a lazy, mooching asshole, regardless of the facts. Needless to say, a lot of this propaganda effort has been funded by the rich, who actually believe their own bullshit, probably so they can look at themselves in the mirror without self-loathing.
And they've taken about half the country down the path of hateful narcissism with them. The people have been made callous and wicked.
Posted by Ron at 5:48 PM
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Florida authorities say George Zimmerman, whose acquittal of murdering an unarmed black teen sparked a national debate on race and self-defense laws, has been arrested for allegedly throwing a wine bottle at his girlfriend.
The Seminole County Sheriff's Office says the 31-year-old Zimmerman was arrested for aggravated assault at his home in Lake Mary about 10 p.m. Friday.
Zimmerman was released on a $5,000 bond Saturday afternoon. At a court appearance earlier Saturday, he was ordered to avoid contact with the woman, who was not identified.
Just your typical upstanding citizen patrolling the neighborhood for typically upstanding reasons of citizenship. Not violently natured at all. Just ready to do his solemn duty as an American.
Either that, or he's a maniac who is fated to kill again. One of those two.
Posted by Ron at 5:57 PM
From CBS's 60 Minutes:
"Obamacare is a government takeover of health care, that's what the Republicans say. Obamacare is the OPPOSITE of a government takeover of health care. Obamacare is the taxpayers intervening to pay the private sector for their already inflated prices that they charge for health care."
Watch or read the rest here.
This is why I hate the ACA, in spite of the fact that I have personally benefited from it: it's one of the worst examples of crony capitalism I could ever possibly imagine, exceeding, just in terms of balls, the bank bailouts and the notion of "too big to fail." That is, you, the taxpayer, are paying for most of my health insurance, and it's like buying a McDonald's hamburger for five hundred dollars.
People who call Obama a "socialist" are among the most flibgibberty idiots in human history. Instead, our President is one of corporate capitalism's biggest whores. You conservatives would love him if you weren't so blinded by your own weird psychological issues.
Posted by Ron at 4:12 PM
From the Guardian:
Australian musician Sia has apologised to anyone “triggered” by her video for Elastic Heart, featuring Shia LaBeouf and 12-year-old dance prodigy Maggie Ziegler, dancing together, in flesh-coloured outfits (Ziegler sporting a platinum Sia wig), in a cage. The video has caused uproar in some quarters. Fame-averse Sia (who generally performs with her face hidden) tweeted: “I anticipated some ‘paedophilia!!!’ cries for this video. All I can say is Maddie and Shia are two of the only actors I felt could play these two warring ‘Sia self states’”, adding that her intention was to “create some emotional content, not to upset anybody”.
One of my facebook friends posted the above linked article on my page, sort of in response to comments another facebook friend had made in another discussion about how she thinks all child molesters should be executed within minutes of being charged. Of course, I championed due process, myself, but it opened up a can of worms that seems impossible to discuss. Because it is impossible to discuss.
Here's what I wrote in response to my first friend posting the Guardian piece:
It's a really sad state of affairs. So bad, in fact, that I generally avoid the topic altogether, simply because it's impossible to have a frank and honest discussion about it. I also stay away from children, and keep whatever dealings I do have with them brief and superficial. When I was teaching high school, I just assumed people were going to make assumptions if I didn't go out of my way to appear innocent, even while I was and am innocent.'Nuff said.
For at least twenty five years, our culture has been in a state of irrational hysteria about not only molestation, but also the concept of child sexuality itself. We're at a Salem witch trials level of paranoia on this. It's bad, and I don't think I can personally do anything about it, except try to stay out of the way.
You remember the whole Woody Allen thing last spring. It was horrible, and I lost a couple of high school friends because of it. Calling out Israel about Palestine is a tiptoe through the tulips compared to talking in any way at all about children and sex.
So I remain silent for the most part. It's bad.
Also, this book is great.
Posted by Ron at 6:01 PM
From the Guardian:
Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1m riyals or about $266,600.
Rights activists say Saudi authorities are using Badawi’s case as a warning to others who think to criticise the kingdom’s powerful religious establishment from which the ruling family partly derives its authority.
London-based Amnesty International said he would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks. The US, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, has called on authorities to cancel the punishment.
So...why is the US so cozy with the Saudis again? I always need reminding, especially when everybody's nose is rubbed in the fact that, you know, the Saudi government totally sucks. Oh yeah, the oil, that's right. And who cares about lashing when Americans apparently love torture? No wonder they hate our freedom.
Posted by Ron at 8:34 PM
From Dangerous Minds:
If you need any proof of how much Country pop music sucks nowadays, look no further than this video which dissects and mashes-up six Country songs. All of them sound alike. There ain’t nothin’ “original” added to the mix. “Original” never got anywhere close to the these songs to begin with!
Click here to check this out.
Some fifteen years ago, when I was in my early thirties, I had a conversation with an old college buddy about the state of what was then today's pop music. Of course, I was asserting that it sucks. He shot back with the standard assertion that older people never understand the kids' new music. I conceded that, to an extent, but observed that there have also been massive changes with how the music industry is structured as a business: music has become corporatized, and the big boys consequently now offer bland consumer product, simply because that's how massive corporations sell stuff. You see the same thing with Hollywood, too.
My buddy was not convinced. But I haven't heard anything in the last fifteen years that would change my mind, either. That is, I've heard SHITLOADS of great new music over the years, but the vast majority of it isn't coming down from the mass market mega music biz--it's coming from people playing in bars, or garages, or mixing stuff in their bedrooms. Big time pop music, in stark contrast, is now seemingly indistinguishable from Christian contemporary music. It's also increasingly indistinguishable from country and western music. It's all starting to sound alike.
Maybe I'm just too old. But big businesses really did start buying up medium sized record companies back in the eighties and gradually applied a corporate business model to everything. Changes really did happen with how these entertainment products are developed and marketed. And any sense of artistry once accompanying pop music necessarily took a back seat to the new way of doing business. Surely, that's had some effect.
It can't just be me becoming culturally oblivious, can it? I have a master of fine arts for god's sake!
Posted by Ron at 7:16 PM
Some notes about the horrible terrorist attack today in Paris.
1. Killing is almost always wrong. In almost every case, "justifications" for killing never really justify the killing. Typically, they're bullshit rhetoric.
2. Free speech, for a democracy, must be near absolute. There can be no playing around with this. People must be able to express themselves however they want, with only a bare minimum of restrictions--yelling "fire" in a crowded theater comes to mind here.
3. Free speech is not a license to be a dick, either. There are consequences, whether you think there should be or not, for being a dick with your free speech. I'm not saying the terrorist attack was in any way justified, but when your goal is seemingly nothing more than pissing people off just because you can, then it's very likely you will succeed.
I wonder why this French satire publication, as well as other publications throughout the West, feel so compelled to piss off Muslims. What's the point?
4. Religion does not get a free pass from criticism just because it's religion. We should be respectful towards people's religions because not only is religion something extraordinarily near and dear to people's hearts, but also to people's very sense of identity. When one criticizes religion, it is very easily misconstrued to be a personal attack. So we shouldn't be dicks. HOWEVER, religion is also ideology, specific ideas about how people should live, how society ought to be structured. It would be crazy NOT to criticize religion. Because that's what citizens in a democracy should do with all ideologies.
5. While the US and the West should not and cannot be held responsible for any individual act of extremist Islamic terrorism, there are some very real and reasonable grievances the Muslim world has toward the West. We support repressive regimes there, all for oil. Indeed, the entire Middle East regional map was drawn by the West for the express purpose of imperial exploitation. We benefit economically because Muslims are suffering.
And then there's Palestine. While Europe has been generally more supportive of the Palestinians than the US has, it cannot be denied that the longstanding double-dealing of Israel toward the nation it has occupied for decades is the main driver of tension between the West and the Muslim world. We here in the US praise Israel for pretty much anything that nation does to the Palestinians. And we pay much of the bill for it, too.
It is not unreasonable to say that if the US decided to lead the way in condemning Israel's brutal treatment of Palestine, if we ended all financial support, if we allowed various resolutions to get through the UN Security Council, the Israelis would very quickly reconsider the nature of their occupation of Palestine.
End the repression, and things will quickly get much better for both the West and the Middle East.
Posted by Ron at 7:08 PM
From Daily Kos:
The Republican Obamacare repeal assault will begin this week, when both chambers are expected to vote to exploit workers and take employer-sponsored insurance away from as many as 1.5 million people. What Republicans say they are doing is restoring full-time work, what they're really doing is giving incentive to employers to make people work an almost 40-week without health insurance benefits. The employer mandate in Obamacare kicks in this year. It requires companies that have 50 or more employees either provide insurance to 95 percent of their full-time employees or pay a fine, and defines full-time work as 30 hours per week. Republicans want to change that definition to 40 hours.
I'm not sure if this bill would affect me personally or not; at the moment, the corporate chain restaurant for which I work has me going to the government exchange for my health insurance, which leaves my hours unaltered. But the employer mandate does, indeed, kick in soon, and my employer has not yet announced how it will be reacting. Fortunately, this latest GOP attack is not likely to make it past Obama's veto pen, so I probably won't get the chance to find out.
But the real deal on this is that what the Republicans REALLY want is to just end Obamacare completely. This newest legislative swipe is just part of what appears to be a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach.
Now, I'm no big fan of Obamacare, myself. It's a horrid plan that allows medical industry blood suckers to feast and feast and feast on both tax dollars and a captive customer base with relatively little governmental oversight. It almost totally sucks. But it has gotten me and millions of others such as myself access to health care. So there's that. And given that health care is a basic human need, I'll take it, warts, skinny legs, and all.
Here's what I want to know. Why do conservatives think I shouldn't have access to health care? Why do conservatives think I should go deeply into debt the moment I have a health crisis? Why must I die of a preventable disease simply because I get my hands dirty for a living?
If the answer is along the lines of "market, yadda yadda, get a better job, yadda, capitalism is great, yadda," then I have only one response: fuck you, conservatives, you hate me, so I hate you. You want me to die in the street. So just go to hell. You are a blight on this country, and we will not be a great nation until every last one of you is gone.
I mean, maybe there's another answer to why I should die in the street, one I'm not considering, a good answer perhaps. But I seriously doubt it.
Posted by Ron at 6:48 PM
I think I've recently gotten a glimpse into what it must be like to be a pro-lifer. Well, let me qualify that statement. I mean, what it must be like to be a very specific kind of pro-lifer.
For starters, I'll just straight up say that I really don't buy that most pro-lifers are motivated because they think abortion is "child killing." I get this from conversations I've had with these types. Actually, I've gotten this from MOST people identifying themselves as pro-life with whom I've spoken about the topic.
It's not something they just come right out and say. You've got to sort of read between the lines. Sure, "child killing" is always part of the official rhetoric, but most of the emotional bombast associated with the issue seems to come from outrage about women having sex they shouldn't be having, you know, anything outside of the fundamentalist Christian understanding of sexual morality, that is, pre or extra marital sex. It's, like, "child killing, yadda, yadda, bad, yadda," but when the talk inevitably turns to sex, which it almost always does, that's when the pro-lifer becomes really animated, really emotionally engaged.
That's how you know the "child killing" thing is bullshit for these people. Instead, it's all about the sluts. Sluts, sluts, sluts. Make the sluts pay. You had wrong sex, so now you've gotta have a baby, to pay for your wrong sex. Wicked slut.
Never mind the insane level of misogyny here for a moment. Since when is having a baby to be construed as God's punishment? But I digress. I'm not talking about those people, who are very likely the vast majority of pro-lifers. Rather, I'm talking about a distinct subset of pro-lifers who genuinely believe that we are currently living in an era of masses of mass murder, an era when killing babies is encouraged and common, something on the level of Sodom and Gomorrah. An era of near total moral corruption among the people.
That's how the recent news about more than half the American population supporting torture makes me feel. I feel like we are in severe decay as a nation. Like the people have turned callous and wicked. Like we don't deserve to think of ourselves as being good anymore.
Indeed, torture is, without a doubt, one of the most evil things one human being can do to another. To support torture, as official national policy, is certainly an evil, too. And most Americans support torture. That makes us an evil nation.
And here I sit at my computer typing this. In my evil nation. A place where the people crave vile and unspeakable acts against human beings they don't even know. A place where good is only something to which the people give lip service. Needless to say, this is very weird and surreal. America the Wicked. I can barely comprehend it. This is how that minority of pro-lifers must feel. Like everything's gone totally to hell.
So we've got some common ground now. Of course, let's not get too crazy with this: it is entirely likely that the pro-lifers I'm talking about here, the ones who really do think abortion is "child killing," are torture supporters themselves. But still. I feel like I'm getting an emotional sense of what they're about with this.
Posted by Ron at 6:54 PM
From the Houston Chronicle:
But, some people in certain places have a bit more to deal with than people in other places. Case and point: one ZIP code in Houston was ranked among the most stressed out in the country.
Real Estate company Movoto recently compiled the data from nearly 30,000 ZIP codes nationwide. Economic factors such as poverty levels, commuting, unemployment, and the population without health insurance determined the ranking.
Click here for more.
Not surprising for a state as red as Texas is--for that matter, I don't think that Mayor Parker, presumably a Democrat, and a longtime oil industry professional before entering politics, is too terribly friendly to working people herself. That is, this is what you get when you fully embrace pro-big business attitudes and allow corporations to run rampant.
I mean, man, up to forty percent of certain zip codes in this town live life below the poverty level. Forty percent. That's a total shame.
Posted by Ron at 5:54 PM
I'm still in holiday mode, especially what with my birthday coming up on Saturday. So instead of dazzling you with my clever thought or facebook debate skills, I give you Chris Hedges interviewing Noam Chomsky. Good stuff, to be sure.
Posted by Ron at 7:13 PM