Glenn Greenwald, the journalist behind much of the critical reporting on the NSA, is considered to be a bit… well, abrasive, in some liberal circles. Greenwald’s taken shots at MSNBC before for a pro-White House bias, and on All In Friday night, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes confronted Greenwald about his confrontational style and how plenty of liberals who watch MSNBC think he’s kind of a jerk. Hayes said, “There are lots of people who watch this show who hate you, frankly.”
More here, with video.
You're a sleazy weasel when you let your guy get away with stuff you'd NEVER let the other guy do. By this reckoning, there are a lot of sleazy weasels in both parties, maybe even majorities. As for me, the truth, reality, facts, whatever you want to call it, these things are far more important than loyalty to party or individual leader. That is, my guiding principle is what's best for the nation. Never winning, never beating the other side. I mean, they're Americans, too.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
Posted by Ron at 8:58 PM
Friday, May 30, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
From, of all places, Cosmopolitan, courtesy of Eschaton:
The photos show sleeves added to girls' outfits and low-cut tops made more conservative with retouching. The school didn’t even consistently edit the pictures; two students wore identical outfits and one got edited sleeves, while the other didn’t. Only female students' outfits were Photoshopped.
More here, with video.
I think some teachers and administrators are in their public school bubble for so many years that they end up totally losing touch with reality. On the other hand, this is Utah we're talking about. Where the women are modest and the marriages are polygamous. Now, if that doesn't make people confused, I don't know what does. Any other state, though, this would be near psychotic. Not uncommon. Just crazy. And sexist. Fairly typical for our schools.
Posted by Ron at 5:37 PM
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ seminal piece in The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations” (one of the few magazine articles you’ll ever read with chapters) paints a vivid picture of institutionalized racism: Race-based government policies conspiring with private interests, what Coates describes as pirates with their plunder.
“Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated.” He writes, “Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society.”
I would personally throw in one more extraordinarily important kind of racism. I'm not really sure what the best name for it is, but it's the kind of thing that both results in and supports institutional racism. That is, when we talk about "welfare queens" we invariably mean black people. Or when we talk about terrorism, we mean Arabs. Or when we talk about illegal immigrants, we mean Hispanics. Often whites are called out when they're too up front about this, but crossing the line is relatively rare when compared to how often totally racist ideas act as subtext to the overall discussions about welfare, terrorism, immigration, and countless other topics.
Back when the Paula Deen thing was happening I had a conversation with somebody, a Deen supporter, who strongly asserted that it wasn't fair to judge someone so harshly for using the n-word thirty years ago. Actually, I agreed with him about that. But I then told him that what really disturbed me about the whole thing was her utterly shameless celebration and glorification of the old South, something happening right now, not decades ago, manifest as her desire to put together a massive plantation-themed wedding for her son, complete with an all black waitstaff dressed in white. That's an attitude far more dangerous, I think, than anything she might have said thirty years ago. He didn't seem to get it at all, and I dropped the subject.
But that's what I'm talking about. There is nothing good about the old South, at least, nothing good about the plantation system, or the subservience of all black people. To celebrate it, in this day and age, is the kind of racism I'm trying to describe, a sort of conceptual racism, one that allows a white person to be friendly with black people, but which at the same times totally downplays and undercuts any and all real, historical understandings of how African Americans are socially situated in America today. That is, to glorify the old South is also to say that blacks should stop bitching about racism because slavery really wasn't so bad. I mean, just look at Scarlett and Rhett. They weren't racist. And isn't it just so romantic?
Maybe the best name for this is "cultural subtext racism." The point is that there are many, many ideas floating around out there that don't, at face value, appear to be racist, but which, in fact, ARE racist, and these ideas influence people. And they vote. Indeed, this is the entire basis for the left-wing critique of the inherent racism in conservatism: perhaps as much as half of the typical Republican Party platform is absolutely riddled cultural subtext racism. But it totally INFURIATES Republicans when you point that out to them.
Conservatives absolutely refuse, you see, to acknowledge any kind of racism but the interpersonal variety. As long as you're cool with sitting down for a beer with a black guy, from the white conservative's perspective, anything goes. Personally, I think that, deep down, the right wing knows what's going on. They know a lot of their ideas have racist components. I mean, it's a sort of smoke and mirrors head game they play with themselves, in their own heads, as well as with others. But at the same time, deep down, they also know racism is evil, and don't want to think of themselves as racists. So they lie to themselves, and when people say "bullshit" about it all, over-the-top outrage ensues. Really, it happens all the time.
Anyway, this is essentially the main reason that discussion about race and racism in this country is totally fucked up. The only kind of racism acknowledged by everybody is of the interpersonal variety, what the linked essay calls "casual racism." But that's only one manifestation of racism, and as good of a job of eradicating it as we've done, institutional and cultural subtext racism continue unchecked. The conservatives, as they do with global warming and evolution, insist there's no such thing, and totally freak out on anybody who suggests otherwise. So nothing is ever done.
Yet another way we're hopelessly screwed.
Posted by Ron at 8:04 PM
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
How does the gun industry keep selling guns and making money when the customer base for guns appears to be rapidly shrinking?
It seems the industry has figured out an ingenious solution to the problem: Convince people who are interested in guns to buy more guns. Indeed, having a bunch of highly invested repeat customers might make for an even more profitable strategy than simply trying to get a gun into every household. Convincing the small number of gun lovers in the United States to create individual arsenals has kept gun sales numbers high. The result is that gun ownership is becoming a highly concentrated activity. Nearly half of gun owners own four or more guns. Twenty percent of gun owners—around 7 percent of Americans overall—own a whopping 65 percent of the guns in this country.
The gun industry has clearly figured out how to make a lot of money convincing a small number of Americans to own a whole bunch of guns. Unfortunately, the result is a subculture of gun fanatics whose combination of masculine insecurities, paranoia and hostility to their fellow Americans make them quite possibly the people you least want to be around, armed and dangerous.
Click here for the rest.
I think there are a few very legitimate reasons for an American citizen to own a firearm. The example of the person living in a rural area and well outside of the police's ability to respond in a timely manner comes to mind. In contrast, the absurd notion of firearms as a check on government tyranny is NOT a legitimate motivation. After all, if the government really wants to take you out, it can rain hot death on you from hundreds of miles away, and you will never see your attacker's face, much less get an opportunity to fire a few shots. But I digress.
The point is that I've lived forty six years and I have NEVER perceived the need to possess a gun, nor found myself in a situation such that one would have come in handy. Actually, not having a gun may very well have made me behave differently than I would have behaved if I was a gun owner--as they say, when your best tool is a hammer, all your problems look like nails. So while I'm not a gun abolitionist or anything like that, I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of people out there who own guns for some pretty stupid reasons.
As the linked essay observes, feelings of masculine inadequacy may very well be the most common of those stupid reasons. How could you not feel like a total badass motherfucker when you're holding a device that can erase life at a whim? That gun makes you a big man. I mean, no, it doesn't, of course not, but it probably can make a loser FEEL like a winner. And, lemme tell you, given how the ongoing corporate squeeze on our government and economy is continually rubbing our noses into our powerlessness, there are definitely a LOT of men out there who feel like losers. This is, apparently, a growth market for the gun industry. Men who feel like their penises are too small.
My favorite blogger, Atrios, over at Eschaton, in an effort to get us to ridicule gun culture as a means to end it, has started referring to guns as "giant external penises of death." For the big loser who believes guns are just what he needs to win, this is, in fact, what guns are. Giant external penises of death. It's a shame so many people have to die simply because masculinity appears to be in crisis.
Posted by Ron at 7:00 PM
Monday, May 26, 2014
From the Los Angeles Times:
A law enforcement source told The Times that Elliot Rodger is the suspected gunman responsible for a shooting rampage in the Isla Vista neighborhood near UC Santa Barbara that left seven people dead, including Rodger.
Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials, who have not identified the man suspected of shooting and running people down with his BMW, said they believe the rampage was premeditated.
They have said they are looking at a video titled "Elliot Rodger's Retribution” in which a young man who identifies himself on his blog as a student in Santa Barbara threatens violence.
“I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am in truth the superior one, the true alpha male,” the man says on the video, sitting in a car.
It appears that no matter the carnage, the gun lobby isn't going to let us do anything about it. So that leaves me with this serious question for gun and "freedom" enthusiasts: is this the America we're supposed to have, large scale shootings and mass killings every other week? Must this be our lot in life? Because this seems to be the necessary outcome of our apparently absolute freedom to own whatever firearm we want, mass murders every other week.
How can this possibly be a good way to run a nation?
Posted by Ron at 5:55 PM
Sunday, May 25, 2014
AlterNet excerpts from former evangelist Frank Schaeffer's latest book:
Jesus certainly was not a “Bible believer,” as we use that term in the post Billy Graham era of American fundamentalist religiosity that’s used as a trade-marked product to sell religion. Jesus didn’t take the Jewish scriptures at face value. In fundamentalist terms, Jesus was a rule-breaking relativist who wasn’t even “saved,” according to evangelical standards. Evangelicals insist that you have to believe very specific interpretations of the Bible to be saved. Jesus didn’t. He undercut the scriptures.
The stories about Jesus that survived the bigots, opportunists and delusional fanatics who wrote the New Testament contain powerful and enlightened truths that would someday prove the undoing of the Church built in his name. Like a futurist vindicated by events as yet undreamed, Jesus’ message of love was far more powerful than the magical thinking of the writers of the book he’s trapped in. In Jesus’ day the institutions of religion, state, misogyny and myth were so deeply ingrained that the ultimate dangerousness of his life example could not be imagined. For example his feminism, probably viewed as an eccentricity in his day, would prove transformational.
Jesus believed in God rather than in a book about God.
Thirty years ago, when I was a teenaged Southern Baptist, a lot of the person I am today had already been established. For instance, I had a very strong interest in theology--the questions I was asking and comments I was making in Sunday school and church training classes were, apparently, not the typical fare with which church youth workers were usually confronted. Noting this, an education minister we had back in the day strongly suggested that I read some Frank Schaeffer, who, as the son of one of the principal founders of modern Christian fundamentalism, Francis Schaeffer, was a writer steeped in religious intellectualism, with a reputation for an ability to write compellingly about issues important to youth.
I never did get around to reading any Schaeffer. At least, not while I was still a Southern Baptist. But I never did forget the name of the guy who could supposedly appeal to my religious and intellectual sides at the same time. So when I started seeing his essays popping up over at AlterNet, the lefty clearing house for internet political writing I visit everyday, my curiosity was, needless to say, high. It turns out that fundamentalism's cruelty, sexism, anger, and hostility toward reason and science had finally driven Schaeffer away from the religious point of view into which he was born, just as it had done to me. But, as with me, Schaeffer continued to think deeply about the Bible, continued to find spiritual significance and meaning in Jesus, and struggled to find a new path in the wake of his rejection of his father's religion.
Let me tell you how profound this break was for Schaeffer: he and his father, almost by themselves, were the ones in the 1970s who persuaded American Protestants that they needed to join with Catholics in their opposition to abortion rights. That is, Frank Schaeffer almost single handedly created the pro-life movement. He was definitely a heavy hitter for the religious right, one of the heaviest. And he turned his back on them. Because he came to believe they were wrong.
I certainly don't agree with everything he's said about spirituality and politics in his post-fundamentalist period, but his spiritual journey hasn't been too terribly far from my own. When he writes, especially about Jesus and Christianity, I always pay attention. And you should, too. Whether you agree with him or not, he always challenges his readers, either to find new ways to support and explain what they already believe, or to reevaluate those beliefs wholesale.
Click through and read this passage from his latest. It's good stuff.
Posted by Ron at 7:11 PM
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Convicted criminal James O'Keefe, like his recently deceased mentor Andrew Breitbart, is a serial liar on such a grand scale I'm amazed that anybody at all, left or right, continues to believe his outrageous bullshit. Indeed, one should, at this point, simply assume anything he says is a lie, and dismiss his tainted propaganda accordingly--I mean, there's propaganda, and then there's James O'Keefe; good propagandists try to use as much truth as they can just because that makes for more effective propaganda, but this guy apparently doesn't even care. You're a fool if you take him even slightly seriously.
Click here for his latest line of dog crap exposed on MSNBC, courtesy of Crooks and Liars.
Posted by Ron at 9:51 PM
Friday, May 23, 2014
Thursday, May 22, 2014
That jockeying and obfuscation reveals that there are many similarities between the Bush and Obama administrations in their preferred means of going after those they judge to be terrorists. Superficially, President Obama may say the Bush-era tools and tactics are overreacting, which prompted ex-Vice President Dick Cheney to go on CNN as recently as 2011 and urge Obama to reconsider his words. However, on substance, both White Houses have embraced the same approaches.
Going deeper into the legal thicket, both McLeod and Preston said that the Constitution’s Article II gives the president all the authority he needs to take military action. That view was initially promoted in the Bush White House by David Addington, Cheney’s chief counsel, who constantly told his legal critics that you are either were with us or against us.
Conservatives, let this be a grave lesson to you. It doesn't matter if you think he's your guy. The point is that the Office of the President will not always be occupied by your guy, and when you hand expanded powers over to the presidency, they are there forever, and will be used eventually by people you don't like and don't trust. Actually, this was obvious at the time, so you guys really, really, really screwed up when you trusted W with more power than a president ought to have. The chickens have come home to roost. Obama's foreign policy is YOUR FAULT.
Liberals and moderates, you also should let this be a grave lesson. Do not give into fear. Do not allow fear to be your justification for abandoning the Constitutional principles that have guided this nation for nearly two and a half centuries. 9/11 was both startling and deeply disturbing. But it was not Pearl Harbor! It was not the first shot in a horrific total war. It was obvious even at the time that another terrorist attack on such a scale was highly unlikely. And terrorism was NEVER a threat to the nation's existence, which was also obvious at the time. But the vast majority of American liberals and moderates just rolled over and went crying to the great patron for protection, giving him pretty much anything he wanted. Because you guys were irrationally afraid and just gave up on thinking clearly. Bush's foreign policy was YOUR FAULT. And that means Obama's awful foreign policy is YOUR FAULT, too.
Another note to liberals. Obama was never one of us. He is not one of us. This was obvious to anybody who did, say, thirty minutes of actual research back in 2008. All you had to do was go look at his website. But you guys were so high on good vibes and "change" rhetoric that you let yourselves believe that he was your man. I mean, okay, a LOT of people allowed themselves to be fooled in this way, including the people who award the Nobel Peace Prize. But still. It's an appalling lapse in judgment and critical thinking, and that's what we liberals are supposed to do really well. Stop thinking with your hearts and start thinking with your heads or we're going to be made into chumps again and again.
And now the President can do whatever he wants. Good work, America. You suck.
Posted by Ron at 7:45 PM
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
From the Guardian via AlterNet:
Now that the warm weather is here, everyone is happily boxing away sweaters and breaking out their summer clothes. But as students across the country are bringing out their t-shirts and dresses, school administrators are ramping up their efforts to quash cleavage and "risqué" outfits.
According to educators and even some parents, young women's outfits – their bodies, really – are too distracting for men to be expected to comport themselves with dignity and respect. It's the season of the dress code - so instead of teaching girls math or literature, schools are enforcing arbitrary and sexist rules that teach them to be ashamed of their bodies.
As a once and future educator, I don't believe in dress codes. Well, okay, I think students should wear clothes to school, and maybe that such clothing shouldn't be consciously intended to disrupt academic proceedings, you know, like maybe a suit of armor or a gorilla costume. Otherwise, wear whatever you want. Why not? For that matter, we live in a culture so hellbent on robbing all individuals of their personal creativity that the way we adorn ourselves has, by default, ended up being pretty much the only means of creative self-expression available to the vast majority of the population. It is a crime to quash this profoundly important and necessary manifestation of the human spirit. There are no good reasons for doing so. School uniforms are even worse.
And, oh yeah, it turns out that school dress codes are over-the-top sexist, too. Click through to the essay to get the full analysis on this, but I was shocked to realize that embracing the notion that boys are "distracted" by the clothing some girls wear to school is tantamount to teaching kids that women wearing short skirts are "asking for it." We ought to be teaching boys to treat women with respect, certainly not coddling them and instilling the message that women's clothing makes men do bad things.
Man, revisiting the "logic" of public schools is leaving a bad taste in my mouth and reminding me of why I got out of the business ten years ago. Serenity now, serenity now, serenity now...
Posted by Ron at 6:20 PM
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
From the Environmental News Service via AlterNet:
Physicists at the Imperial College London have thought up a way to convert light directly into matter in a new type of high-energy physics experiment, using technology already available in the UK.
“As we are theorists, we are now talking to others who can use our ideas to undertake this landmark experiment,” said Professor Steve Rose at the Department of Physics, Imperial College London.
Something uplifting for a change.
Apparently, scientists haven't actually done the deed, but feel like they've got a very sound approach to making it happen, and will be doing so in the near future. But don't get too excited, at least, not just yet. The matter they're creating isn't ham sandwiches or gold bullion; it's just some particles. But do get excited. This is pretty major, I think, and opens up the door to all kinds of groovy cool science fiction stuff, and making ham sandwiches or gold out of energy is chump change. I mean, okay, creating sandwiches and gold is significant in itself, but I'm talking matter transportation, at the speed of light, potentially across vast distances.
It's probably worth mentioning that matter transportation, conceptually speaking, isn't really transportation so much as it's converting matter into digital code, which presumably destroys the original matter, and then beaming said code as energy through space to whatever its destination is, where it then uses the code and energy in said beam to create a perfect copy of the original, which no longer exists because it was destroyed during the encoding process.
Actually, I suppose you don't have to destroy the original, but then it would simply be a replication process, and if we started doing that with human beings, it would get pretty weird pretty fast. On the other hand, any human being transported in such a way is effectively dead, and the person on the other end of the matter transport process is, in fact, a completely different person, albeit exactly like the original in all respects.
You know, Dr. McCoy was always right to bitch about the transporter on Star Trek. It's a pretty creepy idea. Creepy but cool.
Posted by Ron at 7:27 PM
Monday, May 19, 2014
You might think that understanding what makes each generation unique, and how those factors end up shaping historical challenges would be of endless interest and concern to parents, educators and politicans. Instead, what we’re seeing today is a rising wave of ill-informed and ugly generational warfare mongering. Led by people such as billionaire investor Pete Peterson, who has long wanted to privatize Social Security, they are trying to incite anger and jealousy in younger Americans by erroneously suggesting that older Americans are stealing their futures.
Newcomers to this bandwagon include MSNBC’s Abby Huntsman, whose commentaries seek to foment Millennial anger; Pew Research Center special projects chief Paul Taylor, who told NPR while hawking his book on the coming Boomer-Millennial clash, “We’ve got to rebalance the social safety net so it’s fair to all generations;” and even Salon.com, which writes headlines like, “Waiting for a millennial revolution: Could baby boomers’ worst nightmare finally come true.” The list goes on.
So, as a good Gen Xer I have to admit to being highly influenced back in the day by Douglas Coupland's 1991 book Generation X. In the book, Coupland lambastes what he perceives as Boomer arrogance and self-righteousness coupled with their seeming lock on decent bourgeois jobs, all against a backdrop of what, at that point, appeared to be a rather bleak future, economically speaking, for the generation born between 1965 and 1985. I spent more than a few years pissed off at the Baby Boomers, especially as I gravitated politically toward the left, holding them responsible for giving up on the attitude that made the 60s so earthshaking.
As I got older, however, that anger started to fade. Sure, the Boomers, as a group, certainly were, and to some extent still are, arrogant and self-righteous. But the seeming lock they had on all the good jobs was never what it appeared to be: rather, in 1991 we were in the midst of what was a multi-decade corporate pushed dismantling of the American middle class. And the Boomers, as a group, didn't have anything to do with that--sure, a few individual Boomers shared some responsibility, but the vast majority did not; it was about raw political and economic power making the rich richer and more powerful at the expense of regular people like you and me. Really, the Boomers have just been doing what we've ALL been doing, trying to live our lives, to build something lasting, to raise families, in the face of ever more pressing circumstances.
I mean, how can you make the 60s go on and on when it's always more difficult to put bread on the table? Arrogance and self-righteousness can only take you so far, so it's no wonder at all that the hippies became soccer moms and stock brokers. Only the very desperate and the very idealistic can sustain a revolution, and paying the bills when your company keeps threatening layoffs, while not necessarily a desperation inducer, is decidedly an idealism killer.
At any rate, I've decided that these generational tensions the press likes to construct and shove down our throats every five or six years are mostly bullshit. Well, I continue to be annoyed by Boomer snottiness, but, you know, whatever. The bottom line is that we really are all in this together. Boomers are hurting. Gen X is hurting. And as Millennials enter the workforce in increasing numbers, they're hurting, too. The plutocrats don't give a shit when we were born. They're happy to rip us all off.
Indeed, that's what this new generation tension bullshit is about. Playing us against each other on Social Security. Don't buy it. The people pushing this are the ones who want our money. That is, it's not stupid human interest anymore. It's lying propaganda of the divide and conquer variety: the ONLY way Social Security will fail is if we let Wall Street take over. It has nothing to do with greedy Boomers. But it have everything to do with greed.
Posted by Ron at 8:33 PM
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Lawyers Guns and Money responds to an establishment lament that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided not to speak at a college graduation in the face of protests, courtesy of Eschaton:
Don’t Want A Torture Facilitator to Get $35K for a Bad Speech? Why Are You A Bigot?
So, Rice played a major role in a war fought on false pretenses that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and 2 trillion dept-financed dollars. Her administration also arbitrarily tortured people. No major figure involved with this has faced the slightest punishment. And not only am I supposed to be upset that she decided not to give a commencement address for a large pile of money after some protest, but I’m supposed to believe that people who protested are comparable to climate troofers? Are you shitting me?
This REALLY reminds me of the attitude displayed by the establishment media back when Stephen Colbert made laughingstocks out of them at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner back in 2006. Clearly, the press was outraged because Colbert called them out for the utterly lousy job they had been doing covering the Bush administration's countless failures, but the way they spun it, you'd never know. I mean, of course they couldn't attack him for what actually pissed them off because that would open up the door, you know, to talking about how pathetic they are. Instead, they came up with something else entirely. For the mainstream media, Colbert's sin was talking about issues (gasp!) at what was supposed to be a decidedly genteel, professional, and friendly affair.
But what the fuck kind of rule is that? A lot of people were dead at that point, with still more to come, because of Bush's horrifically failed presidency. Never mind the fact that pretending everything is just dandy when it's far from it is the opposite of journalism. That's bad enough. But expecting a freaking comedian to follow your stupid nihilistic rules of decorum because you're all "professionals" is just too much. I mean, it's beyond too much. It's insulting and patronizing. And evil.
In a democracy, when something horrible is happening, it is every citizen's RESPONSIBILITY to condemn it as loudly and as often as possible until democracy's machinery gets to work ending the horror. Failing to do so makes you a part of the problem, an enabler of the horror. Your "professionalism," your expensive suit, your big paycheck, your social status, all that shit's meaningless when all you do is hang out smoking cigars and drinking brandy in the study with your Ivy League pals. Screw you. Stephen Colbert is one hundred times the American any of you are.
For god's sake, you people are JOURNALISTS!!! What good are you?
This New York Times editorial lament that Condoleezza Rice decided not to deal with people potentially protesting her war criminal status at the graduation ceremony where she was slated to speak is essentially the same thing. I mean, why isn't Mr. Elite Journalist out there protesting her himself? Is he afraid his Gucci suit might get sweaty? Why didn't he write instead an angry essay condemning her role in the debacle that was the Bush administration? Why isn't he in solidarity with the protesters?
Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, indeed. Disgusting. And to think, people believe the NYT is liberal. Go figure.
Posted by Ron at 7:16 PM
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Friday, May 16, 2014
Thursday, May 15, 2014
From the Houston Chronicle:
Scientists say Antarctic melt now unstoppable, Gulf must prepare for change
Conservative predictions put a rise at 2 feet by the end of this century and Anderson said that could potentially double as the ice sheets melt.
A 4-foot increase would mean much of the Galveston island that we know would disappear. It could also have a dramatic impact on industry that relies heavily on coastal infrastructure.
"People have been looking at that Western edge of the Antarctic for a long time," said Jim Lester at the Houston Advanced Resource Center. "The only practical thing is to retreat from the coast in the long term."
HARC studies air, energy and water with a view toward maintaining a sustainable economy. The group said long-term planning is now the key defense against rising sea levels.
It's not simply that Galveston, Padre, and no doubt New Orleans, too, will disappear, which will be horrible enough. It's also that everything associated with these areas will be gone, too. Indeed, we're going to lose miles and miles of coastline, and all this will equal profound economic disruption, which will, in turn, equal profound disruption of civilization as we understand it. And that's just from permanent flooding associated with the rising oceans. Now throw in changing climate patterns, turning fertile agricultural lands into deserts, allowing ever more frequent wildfires, supercharging hurricanes and tornadoes, and we have an AWFUL future in store for our children and grandchildren. Hell, if we live long enough, this stuff is in OUR future. Really, we're starting to see these effects already.
We might be able to adapt to some extent, thereby mitigating the severest effects. Of course, we'll need to have some of that government interference in the economy that gets libertarians and the Tea Partiers all full of piss and vinegar, if we're serious about the survival of our civilization, but given the fact that said piss and vinegar has successfully kept us from doing anything about the global warming causing these effects in the first place, I'm not terribly hopeful.
Who would have ever thought that greed would be the deadly sin that did us in? Greed coupled with head-in-assed self-righteousness among the global warming deniers. And to think these people get pissed off when I call them fools. Whatever. They're fools. And they've helped to destroy us.
Posted by Ron at 7:14 PM
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
From the Los Angeles Times business section, courtesy of Eschaton:
But let's get to the nub. Does Social Security "contribute to the deficit"?
The answer is, bluntly, no. By law, it can't contribute to the federal deficit, because Social Security isn't allowed to spend more than it takes in. Those who claim -- as Geithner has at one point or another -- both that the program contributes to the deficit yet will be forced to reduce benefits to retirees once its trust fund is depleted are trying to have things both ways: The reasoning behind the threat of reduced benefits is that Social Security can't engage in spending money it doesn't have, i.e., deficit spending.
Geithner either knows that, or he was an amazingly inattentive T-secretary. You see, every year he served in Washington he put his signature to the Social Security trustees' report that listed the program's T-bond purchases, in numbing detail.
This is what I keep talking about. The people who get paid the big bucks to understand economics DON'T FREAKING UNDERSTAND ECONOMICS. And this is a real nuts and bolts issue, pretty simple, not rocket science, not vague, abstract, or weird. Social Security is on a completely separate accounting system from the one used when we talk about federal deficits, and it's that way by design. Indeed, as the article observes, the Social Security trust fund is prohibited by law from running deficits. So any political figure who talks about the need to cut Social Security benefits as a way of dealing with the deficit is either totally stupid or just straight up lying.
Actually, I'm not sure which is worse. If Geithner and his ilk don't know what they're talking about, then our nation is being run by total incompetents who need to be tossed out on their asses immediately. Because, you know, we could probably do just as well with a four year old child in charge. That's pretty bad. Chances are very high that the ship of state will be sinking soon, and it's kind of amazing that it hasn't already. But if they're lying, which I assume would be for various ideological reasons, or for subservience to the vastly wealthy class who own the nation and our political system, or both, then we can be pretty certain that we citizens simply don't matter, and our concerns are seen as nothing short of contemptible.
Stunning incompetence or deep seated malevolence, which is worse? I suppose in the end it doesn't matter. The nation is totally screwed no matter how you slice it.
Posted by Ron at 7:52 PM
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
From NBC News courtesy of a facebook friend:
By the time I was older, and had started to learn about the history of antisemitism, it started to make more sense. Okay, the Holocaust on many levels continues to be senseless, but the different cultural customs of Jews in Europe and elsewhere, at least, made it easier to understand how, as a minority, it was easy to target them. Fortunately for me, by the time I was figuring this out, I had already started to lean liberal, and had developed a decent knowledge of racism and how it functions socially, so I was ready to absorb the concept of Jews-as-other without it weirding me out.
That is, even Hasidic Jews are just like me, even though they speak, dress, and behave very differently from everybody else I know. I mean, so what? Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
Antisemitism continues to be extraordinarily irrational to me. I have only an intellectual understanding of why so many people hate Jews, and that understanding is, by and large, a simple one: people fear and loath what they don't comprehend. It is very disturbing, indeed, that, in this day and age, when information is omnipresent and cheap, and comprehension is just a few mouse clicks away, a quarter of the human race hates Jews. It seems to me that a lot of people actually prefer to live in a state such that they don't understand the world around them, which is what one needs, willful ignorance, in order to harbor antisemitic attitudes.
Posted by Ron at 7:45 PM
Monday, May 12, 2014
From Americans Against the Tea Party, courtesy of a facebook friend:
The recent Greece v. Galloway Supreme Court decision, which affirmed the right of groups to offer sectarian prayer at (government) meetings has caused quite a stir. Not only has it smashed a gaping hole through the wall between church and state, but it has opened the door to non-Christian groups offering said prayers.
For instance, Florida resident Chaz Stevens has requested to deliver a prayer to his lord and master (Satan) at a legislative meeting–something he can now do under his newfound “religious freedom.”
Unfortunately that right of any religion to offer sectarian prayer will not be honored in Roanoke County, Virginia. Al Bedrosian, a member of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors has decided, despite that ruling, that only Christians will be allowed to offer invocation prayers at their meetings from this point forward.
More here, with video.
I really bet this is eventually going back to the Supreme Court. I mean, it shouldn't because, as the article observes, the SCOTUS ruling was crystal clear that such prayer shouldn't be all Christian. But with militant attitudes like this guy's pushing things forward, it's only a matter of time. You really expect Bible Belt school board officials to tolerate Muslim prayer at their meetings? Wiccan prayer? I think not. But right now, that's the law of the land: you can officially pray at public meetings, but it cannot be confined to simply one religion.
This is why the ruling on this is so f'ing stupid. It's opened up a MASSIVE can of worms that will drive militant Christianists insane--I say "Christianist" to invoke the word "sexist;" it's like sexism but with Christianity. The whole point to separation of church and state is precisely to calm such civic unrest as this, but the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, or in its stupidity, one of those two, has decided that revisiting the national strife that tore England apart in the seventeenth century is a darned fine idea.
Why must we always be fixing things that aren't broken?
Posted by Ron at 7:53 PM
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Neil deGrasse Tyson Sends Right-Wing Flagship Newspaper Into Tizzy Over Evolution and Climate Change
The Washington Times' Rusty Humphries says he loves science, but only if that science includes his creator of choice. Moreover, his love for science doesn't extend to accepted scientific theory, the television show "Cosmos," and its host Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Humphries took to the paper to espouse his support for "theistic-based science,"—you know, the kind that eschews and supplants evidence and research with “God did that!”
Science isn't theology and theology isn't science. Both are legitimate lines of philosophical inquiry, but they just aren't the same thing. Combining the two doesn't create Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, either. Rather, putting them together ruins what's good about both, kind of like putting ketchup on a nice filet mignon or a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Theology and science are not two great tastes that taste great together. And scientists, to the best of my knowledge, appear to understand this; they don't run around publicly telling theologians how to practice theology. Lots of theologians, or, at least, people who are clearly coming from a theology-based point of view, in stark contrast, do NOT seem to understand this, and continually try to mix science and theology.
I just don't get it. I mean, I get it, sure. When scientific conclusions come into direct conflict with theological conclusions, which are really important to the people who embrace them, you know, people want to reconcile the conflict. But it strikes me that the way to do that is with some more theology--why do observed physical phenomena differ from what our theology tells us ought to be happening? What I don't get is why these people try to mix theology with science instead of furthering their theological inquiry. It seems totally insane and/or intellectually dishonest, and it will never offer any satisfying conclusions.
Also, as the linked essay observes, it betrays an obvious religious insecurity and a profound weakness of faith. Think about it this way. God is omnipotent. If He wanted to do so, he could easily and without effort create a physical reality that is totally at odds with his revelations to mankind in Scripture. Actually, that's what appears to be the case. The Genesis creation story appears to be totally at odds with what the physical evidence tells us about the origins of life and the universe. So, okay, go use your theology to figure out why this the case. Unless you think your theology isn't up to the task. If that's the case, I guess throwing up your hands in frustration and attacking science becomes an appealing course of action.
But when you do that, you clearly don't trust your own theology to provide answers. That is, you're running scared.
Posted by Ron at 7:33 PM
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Friday, May 09, 2014
Thursday, May 08, 2014
A friend of mine posted the pic below on facebook. Another friend called me in to explain how anybody could ever think of Nazi Germany as being capitalist.
Here's the comment I left:
It really depends on how you're defining capitalism and fascism. Fascism, at it's power structure nucleus, and before you throw in nationalistic trappings and militaristic fetishism, is about a very cozy arrangement between big business and the government. You had exactly that in fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, not to mention various other Central and South American dictatorships throughout the twentieth century.Excelsior!
So if you're defining "unfettered capitalism" as being about mega-corporations and big business, then yeah, definitely, Nazi Germany was a nightmare combination of oppressive government and capitalism. On the other hand, if you define capitalism as also including medium and small business, then no, Nazi Germany was not about that. It left smaller business out of the loop. Especially Jewish business.
What's frustrating is how people take an all-or-nothing approach to understanding capitalism as a concept. A lemonade stand run by kids can be loosely defined as capitalism, but so can Exxon. Clearly, the two are NOT the same, but whenever I criticize capitalism in terms of big business running roughshod over everyone, including smaller business, everybody thinks I'm trying to collectivize the population and take away their televisions and ice cream.
There's got to be a better way.
Posted by Ron at 6:43 PM
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
From AlterNet (actually, a few weeks ago):
Not to be upstaged, another foul-mouthed Ted—dinosaur rocker Ted Nugent—sprang up on the Texas campaign trail on Tuesday and spewed more predictable right-wing filth to boost Republican Attorney General Gregg Abbott’s bid for governor. The Detroit-born Ted answered Texas Ted’s prayer for discrimination by calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel,” among other things. It wasn’t the first time he’s said it. However, this time the national media took note.
More right-wing insanity here.
Would it invoke Godwin's Law in some way if I observed that Ted Nugent referring to President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel" is one of the ways that Nazis described Jews? It seems that there ought to be good faith exceptions to GL, you know, situations where comparisons to the Nazis are entirely appropriate. Like this one. Because Ted Nugent is a total racist who thinks the President is a "subhuman mongrel."
And he ripped off Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water."
Posted by Ron at 9:05 PM
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
From the Guardian via Alternet:
Once a distant threat, climate change is a present-day danger, the report warns in stark language.
The scientists singled out sea-level rise, especially in Miami, drought and wildfires in the south-west, and heavy downpours as the biggest threats confronting Americans. The report, intended to be the definitive account of the effects of climate change on the US, is expected to drive the remaining two years of Barack Obama's environmental agenda.
“What this report shows is that climate change is happening now in our own backyards,” Thomas Karl, the director of the climatic centre at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Guardian. “There are a number of changes that have become faster and more apparent and stronger than we first anticipated.”
I put global warming deniers into two categories.
The first category is comprised of capitalists. I'm not talking about people who simply support capitalism. I mean real capitalists, people with buttloads of money, people who very likely accept the science on global warming, but who also just don't care because dealing with it potentially means a loss of revenue, and, in any case, they're filthy rich so they can probably shield themselves and their families from the worst aspects of climate change--that global warming in the long run also means that they may very well face revenue losses, anyway, because the phenomenon will DEFINITELY be disruptive to capitalism as an economic system overall, is simply not considered; capitalists are notoriously oriented toward short-term gain, which creates a sort of cognitive blind spot when it comes to the long run. In short, capitalists are the ultimate selfish sociopath-assholes, and that's why they deny global warming, even though they might actually believe it in private.
The second category is comprised of conservatives, you know, normal Americans who would rather die than ever vote for a Democrat. And, actually, that's a pretty key point in considering this. By and large these people deny global warming simply because, in their minds, they associate it with Democrats and liberals--I mean, it gets complicated, with some understanding that dealing with climate change means government interference in the economy, which they hate almost as much as they hate liberals, but with others not thinking it through at all and simply denying it because they hate liberals. Either way, though, it's all about personal identity, anger, and hate. They strongly and tribally identify with conservatism, ergo anything "liberal" is of the Devil. It doesn't matter whether something is actually liberal. If they think it's liberal, they hate it. So they absolutely reject global warming as some sort of liberal plot against "freedom" or some such.
I mean, the "skeptics" HAVE to be understood in this way because global warming really is happening. The scientific consensus is overwhelming. And it's happening RIGHT NOW. Anybody who denies it is either sociopathic and doesn't care, or his identity and world view makes accepting reality virtually impossible. What this all means, of course, is that when you put the economic might of capitalists together with the over-the-top zeal of hate-driven conservative boots on the ground, you get just enough political opposition to prevent any real action on the matter from being taken.
That is, all rational and psychologically well adjusted Americans, you know, most people, understand how freaking dangerous this is, how we're essentially fiddling while Rome burns, but a minority of evil and/or deranged Americans have gone out and done the right-wing equivalent of environmentalists chaining themselves to trees.
How the hell are we ever going to pull ourselves out of this one?
Posted by Ron at 7:15 PM
Monday, May 05, 2014
If ever there was a perfect example of how employment discrimination against gay people operates on a day-to-day basis — and why Congress needs to outlaw such discrimination — the National Football League just provided it.
Following SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam's announcement that he is gay, the league issued an official statement saying: "We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."
That's all well and good. However, in a Sports Illustrated story about Sam, other league officials hiding behind anonymity declared that NFL teams will likely punish Sam for his sexual orientation.
Wait. This is for real? NFL players can't handle an out gay man among their ranks? Seriously? The toughest he-men in the nation would experience discomfort playing football with a gay man? They use gay slurs so often that it would affect their playing abilities to stop doing so?
Man, if that's true, what a bunch of whiny wussies.
Posted by Ron at 5:48 PM
Sunday, May 04, 2014
From Crooks and Liars:
The right-wing media tried to sell Americans on the idea that the antigovernment “Patriots” and militiamen who gathered to block the roundup of Cliven Bundy’s illegally grazing cattle in Nevada were well-meaning lovers of liberty. However, Bundy’s most ardent defenders have revealed themselves to be a volatile collection of hotheaded, paranoid men (and a few women) with big egos and even bigger guns.
The situation at the Bundy ranch, where armed militiamen and “Patriots” are camped out, has deteriorated so badly that competing factions apparently drew weapons on one another during heated arguments.
More here, with video.
A thug draped in an American flag is still a thug.
Also, this is almost as funny as when a gun nut at a gun show accidentally shoots himself. These people got into an argument about whether Obama was sending a drone strike to wipe out their encampment. One group wanted to get out; the other group called the first group "deserters" and drew their weapons. I mean, that scene in Life of Brian when the rival anti-Roman factions face off with each other comes to mind. But this is real life, which is virtually always more psychotic than fiction.
Good times, good times.
Posted by Ron at 8:38 PM
Saturday, May 03, 2014
Friday, May 02, 2014
Thursday, May 01, 2014
From Pressing Issues, courtesy of Daily Kos:
Today marks the 11th anniversary of Mission Accomplished Day. Sadly, it comes amid more sectarian violence in Iraq--and further attempts at Bush revisionism upon the opening of his "art" show at his Library.
In my favorite antiwar song of this war, “Shock and Awe,” Neil Young moaned: “Back in the days of Mission Accomplished/ our chief was landing on the deck/ The sun was setting/ behind a golden photo op.” But as Neil added elsewhere in the tune: “History is a cruel judge of overconfidence.”
When Bush’s jet landed on the aircraft carrier, American casualties stood at 139 killed and 542 wounded. That was over 4300 American, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, fatalities ago.
I don't know if this was the worst moment of the entire post 9/11 era, but it's certainly a candidate. It was certainly the highpoint for "American exceptionalism" and arrogance, Bush declaring victory just as the sectarian bloodbath in Iraq was getting warmed up. It was also certainly the highpoint in US history for image trumping reality. At the time, Americans loved this stunt, and, as the linked blog post observes and documents, the news media were cheering it on.
I wonder if anybody who was inspired by it then feels like an idiot now. They should. The invasion was clearly in heavy violation of international law, clearly based on lies, and clearly fueled by the sense of national emasculation so many people felt after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, an attack which had absolutely nothing to do with Iraq. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found, either. And, even as Bush played dress-up for this massive photo op, it was quickly becoming clear that the occupation was a failure.
We were total chumps. And we were fooled by a bland and ineffective rich frat boy playing army man. So much for "American exceptionalism."
Posted by Ron at 7:19 PM