"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday Science? Another Creationist Museum

They're everywhere. This one seems to be fairly standard:

The Dinosaur and Fossil Museum is the property of Otis Kline, who has some real fossils on display, but has used them to stitch together a very different narrative of the planet’s history than the one commonly accepted by scientists.

The Tribune sent a reporter to take a tour of the museum and reported back that guests are being told that:

•The Bible is an accurate, literal history of the world. The world is about 6,000-6,400 years old and a six-day divine creation.

•The flood of the Bible’s book of Genesis, the Noah’s Ark flood, split the continents apart with water called from the deep and set off a worldwide cataclysm that buried the creatures that would become fossils in one mass event. The long flood, ensuing volcanic eruptions and an ice age radically changed the planet.

•Dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time. Dinosaurs were on the ark.

•Life can not be traced back as branches to a trunk. God created “kinds,” like dog kind from whence sprung dogs, wolves, coyotes. Humans and primates don’t come from the same “kind.” Neanderthals, Cro-Magnon and humans are all of “humankind,” which came from Adam and Eve.

I've probably mentioned this before, but anyone who takes sacred texts literally is not playing with a full deck. Sorry, that's just the way it is.

Windows 10: The Story So Far

So, yesterday I had to restart twice before I could get an Internet connection stable enough for me to send an e-mail. This morning, it won't load Spider Solitaire and has knocked out my Dolby,* so I can't play any music (both of which are absolute necessities when I'm online).

So far, Windows 10 is slow, unreliable, sloppy, unreliable, balky, and a pain in the fundament: this may come as a surprise to real computer nerds, but I don't want to spend my mornings futzing with my operating system. I want it to be quiet, unobtrusive, fast, and reliable.

So far, Windows 10 is none of the above. Back to 8.1.

* It keeps telling me I need to re-install the driver, but doesn't give me any way to do it.

Cross-posted at Booklag.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Where Do They Find These People?

You may have heard about this guy, NC Sen. Buck Newton(R-Of Course) who's running for Attorney General and wants to keep North Carolina "straight." It gets better:

"We all know that the folks that wave the rainbow flags and things like that are politically very upset about the way things are today. They’re upsets about the way things have always been in this state," he said earlier in his remarks. "And they're bound and determined to try to change it, whether it’s by winning elections in the city of Charlotte on their city council or whether it’s wining elections in November in the General Assembly or whether it’s winning elections in November for our governor."

Winning elections? You mean, by actually voting?

It's called "democracy," Buck. You might want to try it.

(Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

Tech Note

I think I screwed up and inadvertently gave Window permission to upgrade me to Windows 10. So far it is no improvement over 8.1, and in a lot ways is worse.

So blogging is going to be iffy for a few days, until I either get the hang of it or go back to 8.1 (better the evil you know).

Today in Disgusting People

There are so many to pick from that I decided just to pick a few highlights (lowlights?). I'm not including anyone running for the GOP presidential nomination -- they all have permanent places on the list.

So, in no particular order:

NC State Sen. Tom Apodaca:

On Wednesday, senators Terry Van Duyn of Asheville, Jeff Jackson of Charlotte and Mike Woodard of Durham filed Senate Bill 784, which would repeal the controversial LGBT law in its entirety. The bill is identical to one filed Monday by House Democrats.

Senate leaders assigned the bill to committees on Thursday. Because of a budget item included, its first stop is the Senate Appropriations Committee. But if it got approval from that panel, its second assigned stop is the Senate Ways and Means Committee – which is something of an inside joke in the Senate.

The three-member Ways and Means Committee hasn’t held a meeting in years. It’s widely known as the graveyard of the Senate – the place where Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca sends legislation that he wants to kill.

Typical sleazy, underhanded Republican.

Oh, look -- another one!

A House Republican panel is trying to sneak a “religious freedom” amendment into a major defense bill that would undermine President Obama’s 2014 executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson reports:

The amendment, introduced by freshman Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla., pictured), would require the federal government when contracting with religious organizations to afford them exemptions consistent with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the American with Disabilities Act. Since neither of those laws prohibit anti-LGBT bias, the amendment would enable religious organizations doing business with the U.S. government to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Judge Roy Moore is another perennial candidate. He's presently the subject of an ethics complaint filed by the SPLC, among others:

On Wednesday Liberty Counsel founder and CEO Mat Staver stood before the cameras and droned on in support of his client, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Moore is under attack by the Southern Poverty Law Center and others for his actions surrounding the Supreme Court's marriage decision and his instructions to Alabama magistrates to not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The SPLC filed a complaint.

Staver, and later at the podium, Moore claimed the complaint was "politically motivated." At stake: whether or not the complaint leads to official ethics charges by the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama.

But it was their other language and attacks that were especially revealing and offensive.
Staver referred to one of the people who filed the complaint against Moore as an "admitted transvestite."

Moore slammed his critics as "atheists, homosexuals and transgender individuals." At one point he referred to a trans woman as "her," but "corrected" himself, calling her, "him."

"Admitted transvestite"? Pfft!

Remember Kevin "Death to Gays" Swanson? He's Ted Cruz' favorite crazy preacher. Well, he's at it again:

Repeating his biblical warning that it would be better for someone to have a millstone hung around their neck and be drown in the sea rather than cause a child to sin, Swanson warned that this nation "is on the cusp of judgment."

"Woe to the man that transgenders the restrooms in the public schools," Swanson declared. "Woe to the man who opens up the floodgates to every form of sexual perversion for 12-year-olds, 14-year-olds, 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds. Woe to the parents that open up the floodgates, the opportunities, the discipleship programs for children to attend the gender-blendered schools, the GLSEN kindergarten program."

"Johnny Cash was right," he said. "God is going to cut you down."

"Yeah, I know homosexuals love each other," he concluded, just like "cannibals love their victims" because "they taste good."

This would not be the first time that Swanson made such a claim.

Audio at the link, if you can stand it.

And finally, remember Linda Kathehi? Hint: She was the Chancellor at UC Davis during the infamous pepper spray incident, who then tried to cover it up. Well, karma will getcha, honey, and it doesn't always wait until your next go-around:

At long last, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi has been removed from her position, pending administrative review of a few untoward things, including spending students' tuition money to scrub social media of the image of a cop pepper-spraying students.

And to think parents and students could have saved themselves well over a million dollars if she had simply been suspended after the horrendous way she handled the pepper spray incident a few years back.

It gets much worse. Read the whole thing.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I really don't know what's happened to this country, but I could make a good guess, starting with the rise of the "religious" right, who seem to have no standards and no integrity.

That's all I can stand for today.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Scary Part Is

He's the Republican front-runner. No wonder the party establishment is freaking out. From Digby:

Huffington Post Highline has put together a comprehensive look at Trump's history and pronouncements about military matters. He's been foolish on these issues for decades, but now he's getting very close to becoming the Republican nominee for president and it's getting serious. Don't read it if you scare easily:

[W]hen Trump has weighed in on national security questions, his remarks often reveal either ignorance or disdain for military expertise and the codes of conduct that govern the armed forces. “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me,” he boasted in one speech, adding, "I’ve had a lot of wars of my own. I’m really good at war." His foreign policy prescriptions include proposals to “bomb the shit out of ISIS,” to “take out” the families of ISIS members and to torture terrorism suspects. (“Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would,” he told one crowd. “And you know what? If it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway, for what they're doing.”) When it was pointed out that soldiers couldn’t legally carry out those last two actions, Trump was unconcerned. "They're not going to refuse me. Believe me.” (He walked back that last statement the next day.) The Geneva Conventions, he recently observed, have made American soldiers “afraid to fight.”

It goes on to survey the military's reaction:

Trump’s pronouncements on foreign policy, combined with his years of broadsides, have set off a very real fear within military circles about what might happen were he to become president. In the last two months, I spoke with dozens of people in the national security realm—current and retired officers, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and former White House, State Department, Pentagon and CIA officials. The words they used to describe their mood: Terrified. Shocked. Appalled. Never before, they say, has a candidate gotten so close to the White House with such little respect for the military.

One former Marine infantry officer described Trump as a “fake-bake-ing chicken hawk.”

He is a chicken-hawk -- in fact, he's the chicken-hawk.

It's more than a matter of Trump not understanding the military, its codes of conduct, and the constraints under which it operates. It's that he has no regard for common decency, much less standards of civilized behavior.

And the scary thing is that so much of the Republican base is right with him. Whether Trump becomes president is not really the point -- it's that the uncensored American id is coming out and -- well, remember the book The Ugly American?

The Ugly American depicts the failures of the U.S. diplomatic corps, whose insensitivity to local language, culture, customs and refusal to integrate was in marked contrast to the polished abilities of Eastern Bloc (primarily Soviet) diplomacy and led to Communist diplomatic success overseas.

Jump that up a couple orders of magnitude: I mean, we're talking about an element that thinks diplomacy means having bigger bombs. I remember one truism from my days as a history minor in college, with a concentration on European diplomatic history: War is the last resort, after diplomacy has failed. And one more, regarding the Pax Britannica, and later the Pax Americana, which gave substance to Teddy Roosevelt's dictum, "Speak softly and carry a big stick": The whole point of having the strongest military in the world is to not have to use it.

I know I sometimes sound like Lindsey Graham on this question but I think it's warranted. A country with as much money, firepower and influence as this one looks like a very dangerous nation to the rest of the world in the hands of a demagogic proto-fasicst like Trump.

I have visions of this cavalcade of idiots, led by The Hairpiece, marching us off to Armageddon. Granted, Trump himself is a cartoon -- he's more than 99% bullshit, but as a figurehead, he's pulling all the scarier elements of the American body politic out of the woodwork. Even without Trump in the White House, wanna bet there will be enough teabaggers in Congress to be pushing that sort of agenda?

Welcome to America in the 21st Century: The Republicans bought it, and now the rest of us are stuck with it.

Dodging and Weaving

Gov. Pat McCrory (NC-Bathroom Bill), is, as might be expected, blaming everyone else for the backlash over North Carolina's sweeping discrimination law:

This hornet’s nest, he argued, was first kicked not by him, but by the Democratic City Council in Charlotte, which passed a nondiscrimination ordinance in February allowing transgender people to use men’s or women’s bathrooms. Before it passed, he said, he emailed the Council to warn it that if it changed “basic restroom and locker room norms,” he would be forced to support a state law overriding them.

On Thursday, he said he suspected that the entire matter had been orchestrated by Democrats and the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, to give Democrats an advantage in a tight governor’s race.

It's the Charlotte' City Council's fault, for passing a non-discrimination ordinance that protected not only gays and lesbians, but trans folk. He actually said that.

Oh, and of course it's the Democrats and the Human Rights Campaign orchestrating the smear campaign. Right. The HRC can organize a cocktail party, and that's about it. And from the looks of things, the Democrats don't need to do much to make him look bad -- he's doing quite well on that score by himself.

Maybe if he hadn't been so quick to take ownership of the bill, he wouldn't find it sticking to him now.

Sheesh! Where do they find these people?

Footnote: It's getting worse.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Today's Must-Read (Again)

This, from Mahablog:

I’m old enough to remember when Harry Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt were still alive and still influential in party politics. I was in middle school during the Kennedy Administration. For all his flaws regarding Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson initiated genuinely progressive domestic programs. I was in high school when Bobby Kennedy ran for President and was assassinated. I cast my first vote for POTUS for George McGovern. So that’s the Democratic Party I remember — flawed and messy, but still a vehicle for doing the right thing, at least part of the time.

But that party died a quiet death some time back. I’m not sure that other people my age realize this. The Democratic Party now is closer to where the Republicans were during the Nixon Administration than they are to being the party of Truman, Kennedy or even LBJ.

But at least the Nixon Republicans sort of stood for something. You knew where they were coming from. The current party Democratic Party stands for nothing.

I think she's right, in broad terms. There are Democratic officials who stand for something -- a few -- but the party itself, and most of its office-holders, don't.

See this post about the difference between FDR liberals and neoliberals.

Today's Must-Read

Let's just privatize everything! (I have to admit, I've made the comment more than once that I'm expecting to hear any day now that the mayor is selling off the Chicago Park District to Disney. I'm only half joking.)

But, on a more fundamental level, the push to privatize municipal water systems has been pretty much ignored by the press. Granted, the press in this country has given into a fascination with shiny things, but someone, somewhere, should be dealing with some real issues, right? Well, some are:

City leaders and a group of organizers here have been fighting state efforts to take over our city's water system for several years. City of Asheville v State of North Carolina, et al. goes before the state Supreme Court next month. The originator of the bill (an ALEC board member before he lost his state House seat) insisted transferring control to a regional authority was not the first step towards privatization. You know, we just didn't believe him. The water situation in Flint, Michigan is sure to come up in oral arguments on May 17.

This is just one effort; there are others throughout the country. What's really sobering is just who is involved:

[Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI)] is not happy about the International Finance Corporation, a branch of the World Bank, promoting water privatization and profiting from it. She wrote a letter to Dr. Jim Young Kim, President of the World Bank Group:

The letter, addressed to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, describes the failure of a World Bank-backed water privatization project in Manila, Philippines—the “success story” the IFC uses in marketing around the world—as the foundation of her concern. In Manila, the IFC advised the government to contract with two private corporations to manage the city’s water system, which it did in 1997 in a concession deal that favored one corporation, Manila Water Company, with less debt and better infrastructure. The IFC subsequently took part ownership in MWC only.

Since taking over, MWC has raised rates nearly 850 percent, and has even brought the Manila regulator—and the Philippines Department of Finance—into arbitration in an attempt to hike the cost of water even higher.

As part owner of MWC, the IFC is now in direct opposition to the government’s efforts to keep water affordable for its people. And while the IFC has stood by MWC, it has made $43 million from its initial investment.

Yes, those wonderful people who destroyed the economy of Greece are now investing in private water management companies while they push local governments into selling their water systems to those very companies.

This is, as I noted above, a trend -- charter schools/school vouchers, municipal water systems, city parking (in Chicago, you now pay for parking 24/7 -- you used to be able to park on streets free on Sundays and overnight -- but they do make it really easy to pay), you name it, it's being privatized, or someone's trying to.

Of course, these efforts are all being touted as leading to greater efficiency and lower costs, but that's patently ridiculous. I mean, you start by introducing another layer in the cost structure and introducing the idea that, for example, city services should be profitable. For someone. Like the World Bank. And frankly, anyone who thinks that non-government corporations are necessarily more efficient than government-run services has never worked in the private sector.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but it just seems to be that some things should not be subject to the profit motive -- like the things we're paying taxes for.

In an emailed statement, Moore connected the issue to U.S. water issues:

“Yes, we’ve just now started shedding light on this local and national issue in the United States, but there are global implications to think about as well,” Moore added, pointing to the World Bank’s investments in private water companies. “It has become clear that there are those in positions of great power who are all too willing to prioritize profits over public safety.”

The people of Flint would agree. As I've said for years, we are dealing with the kind of people who would sell you the air you breathe if they could control how it gets to your nose. And if you cannot afford to buy their air, well, you should have worked harder, planned better, and saved more.

Capitalism is not a human-oriented system. It is a commodity-oriented system; people are just consumers. When you stop to think about it, it's pretty immoral.

They Don't Give Up

And the arguments get more and more ludicrous:

A federal court rejected the argument from a Christian group in Kansas which said that evolution was religious "indoctrination" and should not be taught in schools.

After the state of Kansas adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) argued that teaching science without a religious explanation for the creation of the universe would indoctrinate children into atheism.

COPE said that teaching evolution took children “into the religious sphere by leading them to ask ultimate religious questions like what is the cause and nature of life and the universe – ‘where do we come from?’”

“The purpose of the indoctrination is to establish the religious Worldview, not to deliver to an age appropriate audience an objective and religiously neutral origins science education that seeks to inform," the group insisted.

Actually, the argument that evolutionary theory is a religion is an old one. It's nonsense, of course, but they still keep trying.

But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver last week upheld a lower court's ruling which said that COPE lacked standing to bring the suit because it could not show that it had been harmed.

“COPE does not offer any facts to support the conclusion that the Standards condemn any religion or send a message of endorsement,” the court decision stated. “And any fear of biased instruction is premised on COPE’s predictions of school districts’ responses to the Standards—an attempt by COPE to recast a future injury as a present one.”

In a statement, Americans United for Separation of Church and State said that COPE feared that scientific facts would cause "Kansas schoolchildren will be subtly manipulated into rejecting their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

In point of fact, most Christian denominations accept the theory of evolution, starting with the Roman Catholic Church. There's no real conflict, unless, like most fundamentalists, you don't understand the role of metaphor in religious texts.

The real point is that these characters are still trying to get creationism taught in public schools, after years of losing every court case. And it's the tactic they'll use on every other "social issue" that they hold dear -- after all, they're still fighting against Roe v. Wade two generations after the fact, and they'll keep chipping away at Obergefell and keep trying to get exemptions to nondiscrimination laws for their peculiar "religious beliefs."

No, the fight's not over, and won't be until all these idiots are safely buried.

Monday, April 25, 2016

How Others See Us

Ran across this at Balloon Juice (Thanks to Betty Cracker) and had to share it:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Newspeak, Republican Style

The right wing has been speaking in code for a while now, but it's become somewhat desperate lately. This article at The Hill is illuminating (via Hullabaloo).

Conservative Republicans are worried that political correctness is creeping into their party.

They point to the decision by a House committee to replace 50 state flags — including Mississippi’s, which is emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag — with 50 state coins from the U.S. mint.

Separately, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sidestepped the controversy this week raging over a North Carolina law barring transgender people from using bathrooms that do not match their born sex, saying he didn’t know enough about what he said was a state proposal.

And while conservative Republicans grumble that President Obama’s decision to pull Andrew Jackson off the front of the $20 bill is playing politics with currency, they feel there’s scant motivation in their ranks to stop him.

“Political correctness has crept into the Capitol,” said David Bozell, president of ForAmerica, a conservative advocacy group.

Brian Darling, a conservative Republican strategist, accused House GOP leaders of caving in to the PC police.

It occurred to me recently that "politically correct" has become code for "socially acceptable," with the added dimension of trying to make social acceptability a negative. (Remember, we are talking about figures who are past masters at flipping reality on its head.) The culture has moved on, as cultures tend to do, and the attitudes that conservatives hold and espouse -- prejudice in general, which is no more than a general fear and distaste of anything unfamiliar -- simply don't cut it any more with most Americans. Case in point: it's no longer acceptable to be openly racist, so we get code, also known as "dog whistles." I think a big part of Donald Trump's appeal is that he dispenses with the code and comes right out and says what his supporters are thinking -- he voices the right-wing id -- and slams "political correctness" whenever he can. That's also what make him repellent to most Americans.

Conservatives fear that squeamishness on social controversies is linked to what they see as a lack of full commitment to confront Democrats on major policy issues, such as defunding Planned Parenthood.

They are also making the case that if the GOP cannot fight President Obama and Democrats on those issues, it is no wonder they can’t take more basic steps in governance.

“If you can’t say that guys should be going to the bathroom in men’s rooms and women should have the privacy they’re entitled to, if you can’t make that case as a leader of the Republican Party, no wonder you can’t get a budget through,” Bozell said this week.

They just don't get it: their positions on social issues are non-starters at this point. In functional terms they seem to understand that -- they've lost on gay rights, including marriage, so now they've targeted trans people -- but they don't get the implications: if most people don't agree with you on marginalizing one group, maybe you should rethink your whole philosophy rather than just trying to marginalize another group. But then, if they moderate their stance on social issues, they have nothing left.

(Sidebar: I think the corporate wing of the Republican party found the social conservatives useful for several decades, as a distraction from their takeover of the government. Now, however, their extreme positions on social issues are eroding support for the party as a whole -- the bible-thumpers are not only an embarrassment, they've become a real threat to the party. And of course, anything that hints of pragmatism -- "softening" on marriage equality, letting people decide for themselves whether they are men or women -- is a no-go for the "Christian" extremists.)

So, whenever you hear a conservative railing about "political correctness," think about what they are actually advocating.

Getting Ready For November

And practicing on New York Democrats: Can you say "election fraud"?

In the lead up to the New York Primaries this past week, an alarming situation was discovered when hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters found themselves unable to vote for the candidates they wished. Some found themselves listed as Republicans or Independents, while others were removed from the voting rolls entirely. This voter purge hit the hardest in the borough of Brooklyn, traditionally a stronghold of Democratic values and a strong base of support for the party. That this voter purge, which affected people across the state, happened at all was a shock to elected officials and observers alike. And the voter purge happened so quickly, it was impossible to address in time before the election, demonstrating a coordinated plan behind it.

As the stories came in, what was revealed was something far more insidious than some kind of voter purge used to eliminate voters who had died or moved out of the area. Instead they found fraudulent documents with forged signatures. And when the voter purge was looked at carefully, it became clear that the purge was being very specific, targeting people by street and apartment building. And there were only a handful of people with access to the data and tools needed for performing such a well-coordinated voter purge.

This has a history, and guess who was involved?

In 2012, Mitt Romney with Karl Rove developed a voting tool the likes of which had never been seen before. This tool, called Orca, was a database so massive and finite that, using it, they could identify people on a street by street, or building by building basis. Orca worked in part by collecting data gathered by poll watchers, which would be funneled into a central database for processing. As a result, Orca gave the Romney campaign a tactical ability to target people not only who Romney wanted to show up to the polls, but to deny access for people who Romney did not want to show up to the poll. Unfortunately for Romeny in 2012, the hactivist collective Anonymous killed that plan, by overloading and crashing the central servers.

However, the data collected remains intact, and available to GOP insiders – insiders such as Diane Haslett-Rudiano. With access to such data, such a voter purge becomes trivial to perform.

The GOP Secretary for the district is the only one implicated so far, but I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg. I just wonder how far up into the party hierarchy this reaches.

This is just a hint of what we can expect in November, unless something happens to disrupt it -- the Republicans have gotten as crooked and venal as the Democrats in Chicago used to be. Where's Anonymous when you need them?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Today in Gun Safety

Sometimes, as I'm surfing through the news in the morning, I run across stories that comment on each other. Let's start with this, from Digby:

Apparently at least 60 kids under 18 have accidentally killed themselves and or other people already this year. It's a horror story. Here's the latest.

A 2-year-old Indiana boy fatally shot himself Wednesday evening after discovering a gun in his mother’s purse, authorities said.

The boy retrieved the gun when his mother “momentarily stepped away,” leaving her purse on the kitchen counter, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said in a news release.

I don't think I need to comment on the idea of leaving a loaded gun around where a two-year-old can find it. C'mon, people -- kids get into everything, usually when you're not looking.

Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars had the same reaction I did to the "solution" proposed by an NRA apologist:

Mamas, please rush right out and get some toddler-size body armor for your little darlings, because the NRA has decided the best way to avoid getting shot by some lunatic (or responsible gun owner) is to wear body armor.

Your little darling will look adorbs in a size 4T bulletproof vest. I'll bet you can even find one with Hello Kitty on it.

Seriously -- this idiot -- someone named Colion Noir, which has got to be a pseudonym -- is actually suggesting that we all go out and buy body armor to keep from being killed by some 2nd Amendment nutcase. A sample:

Look, if you don’t like guns and want nothing to do with them, you have every right to make less than smart decisions with your life, but I can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot than owning body armor. I’m not saying you have to channel your inner 50 Cent and wear a vest general purpose. But have armor in your home or bag, you have nothing to lose. You may not like guns or me for liking guns, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about your safety.
MediaMatters has a full post. It gets really, really bizarre.

Friday, April 22, 2016

I Wonder, Sometimes

The Guardian is generally, in my estimation, one of the more sensible and reliable news sources out there, but sometimes. . . .

Technology giants including Facebook and Google face the prospect of their prestigious Silicon Valley headquarters becoming swamped by water as rising sea levels threaten to submerge much of the property development boom gripping San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Sea level forecasts by a coalition of scientists show that the Silicon Valley bases for Facebook, Google and Cisco are at risk of being cut off or even flooded, even under optimistic scenarios where rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions avoid the most severe sea level increases.

OK, granted, it's in their "Technology" section, but still -- I mean, we stand to lose most of the world's major cities, and in the U.S. all of Florida.

I mean, Google will move. That's no problem for them -- or, all things considered, a relatively minor problem.

In Memoriam: Prince

In case you missed the news somehow, Prince is dead. Here's a brief overview of his career.

I can't say that I was ever a real fan, although I did enjoy his music. I certainly can't deny, though, that he had a huge impact on American popular music.

Today's Must-Read

This somewhat lengthy post by Digby, especially the commentary on the Washington press corps vis-a-vis Paul Ryan:

But this desire to turn right wingers into statesmen based upon very little evidence is a common phenomenon among media observers. Perhaps it's because they can't believe the ego-driven ineptitude and/or ideological extremism could possibly be as bad as it seems so they look for any small sign of competence and run with it in the vain hope that they'll awaken from this nightmare and the Republican party will be normal again. If so, no Washington figure has benefited from this phenomenon more than House Speaker Paul Ryan.

For years he has been the up and coming "it boy" of the Republican caucus, leader of the young guns, the captain of the "deep bench" of new leadership that was going to lead the Party to the promised land.

Ryan is, as far as I'm concerned, the type specimen of the empty suit. As for his accomplishments (aside from budgets that didn't add up -- literally):

Paul Krugman memorably tried to remind everyone that Ryan had always been less than meets the eye:

The fact is that Ryan is and always was a fraud. His plan never added up; it was never, contrary to what people who should know better asserted, “scored” by the CBO. What he actually offered was a plan to hurt the poor and reward the rich, actually increasing the deficit along the way, plus magic asterisks that supposedly reduced the debt by means unspecified.

His genius, if you can all it that, was in realizing that there was a role — as I said, that of Honest, Serious Conservative — that self-proclaimed centrists desperately wanted to see filled, so that they could demonstrate their bipartisanship by lavishing praise on the holder of that position. So Ryan did his best to impersonate a budget wonk. It wasn’t a very good impersonation — in fact, he’s pretty bad at budget math.

And now you know why the Eagles' "Hotel California" reminds me of Washington. (If you need a refresher, scroll down to yesterday's "Culture Break" post.)

Happy Birthday, Queen Elizabeth

Just because.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

About Those Bathroom Bills

I just had to post this. Via Joe.My.God.:

Sounds like one of my cousins. Sounds like most of my cousins.

Culture Break: Eagles: Hotel California

For some reason, I've been listening to the Eagles lately. So, this:

Somehow, this one seems appropriate, what with the Eternal Election Cycle and all.

(No, it has nothing to do with Glenn Frey's passing, although I knew about it.)

NC's "Not Discriminatory" Bathroom Bill: Oops!

Via Joe.My.God., this item from NC Capitol:

A coalition of religious groups that pressed the General Assembly to pass House Bill 2 last month quickly scrapped a plan Wednesday to have state lawmakers sign a pledge to support it. . . .

The pledge called for signers to oppose any legislation that "would allow men to use women's bathrooms" or "would force private persons and businesses to participate in events, engage in speech or promote ideas that violate their sincerely held beliefs." The pledge also called on lawmakers to oppose efforts to repeal any provision in House Bill 2 or to add the terms "sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression" to any state statute or policy.

They probably could have kept up the charade -- I mean, no one believed them to begin with, but they hadn't actually come right out and said that the whole point was to legalize discrimination against LGBTs -- if they hadn't included that last item.


Rep. Darren Jackson (D, of course) called them out.

The response is -- well, this is what you say when you get caught:

John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, sent the pledge to all members of the House and the Senate. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, he had emailed lawmakers, saying the pledge was circulated "inadvertently" and should be ignored.

It becomes "inadvertent" when it blows up in your face.

And it couldn't happen to a more deserving group of people.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

So It Wasn't Hunters With Stone Tools

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
There's a school of thought -- if you want to call it that -- out there that credits human being with all the extinctions throughout prehistory, particularly the North American megafauna at the onset of the latest interglacial period. I've pointed out time and time again that, in most cases, the populations concerned were already under stress from environmental changes (as in the onset of the interglacial). Well, that seems to have been the case with the dinosaurs:

Sixty-five million years ago, a massive asteroid slammed into Earth, causing tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, a global winter and the end of the age of the dinosaurs.

But what if the asteroid had glided safely past our planet? Would dinosaurs still be here today?

New research suggests the answer is probably not. Instead, scientists have found evidence that dinosaurs were in the midst of a long, slow decline that began millions of years before the asteroid struck. . . .

The authors are not sure what caused the speciation rate to slow down, but they have a few ideas. They explain that the Cretaceous period (145.5 million to 65.5 million years ago) was a time of drastic geological changes. The global climate was cooling down, there was prolonged volcanic activity and the continents were breaking apart.

Like I keep saying, environmental changes will do it every time.

Today's Must-Read

Now that the pain is over (for most of us), a very interesting article from Gaius Publius at Hullabaloo:

The following is another instance of the difference between neo-liberal governance and FDR-liberal governance. At present, tax filing — filling out and sending in a prepared multi-page tax return — is complicated and in most cases requires third-party software to complete. The government could do this for you, by filling in your forms with the information they have already, making those forms available online at a secure government web site and letting you add the rest of the data yourself.

But under our current neo-liberal government, the IRS doesn't do that. Instead, the IRS has agreements with vendors in the software industry, including the TurboTax giant Intuit, not to cut into their profit by "competing" with them in "providing free, on-line tax return preparation and filing services to taxpayers." Even though, as you'll see below, the IRS is compelled by law to do just that.

(Of course I was talking about taxes -- I mean, what's the worst thing that happens in this country in mid-April? Give or take a late-season blizzard.)

It's lengthy, but read the whole post. I found the differentiation between "FDR-liberal" and "neo-liberal" very interesting. Needless to say, as an amateur anthropologist, I'm in the FDR-liberal camp.*

And on that score, see also this from Mahablog:

Bill and Hillary Clinton are the quintessential American centrist neoliberals. American centrist neoliberaism isn’t as far Right as the European neoliberalism George Monbiot complains about. Call it soft neoliberalism. But it’s still neoliberalism, and it still feeds into income inequality.

There are a lot of different definitions of neoliberalism, but ultimately it’s about sacrificing the standard of living of working-class men and women for the sake of global corporate profits.

The article is mostly about Hillary Clinton and her history, but it's all really about her neo-liberalism.

* I should probably explain that: Government is simply the institutionalization of our less formal (but no less real) social organizations, something that we've inherited from millions of years' worth of our simian and anthropoid ancestors. Government, then, functions as "the group," or in some cases, the alpha male, keeping things orderly and functioning smoothly. The basic purpose, and the whole reason sociality has an adaptive value, is that it serves to ensure the welfare of the group. When one component becomes too powerful and/or forgets the basic purpose of society -- today, it's multi-national corporations, in the 18th Century is was the aristocracy -- you have a disaster in the making. Sadly, the correction, if things get too far out of hand, is usually violent and destructive.

Anyway, that's why I'm an FDR-liberal.

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Just Get Over It"

John Kasich, the sitting governor of Ohio and dismally trailing for the GOP presidential nomination, is, I guess, trying to sound statesmanlike in his interview. It doesn't go well:

Oh, man -- where to start?

There is a legitimate concern for people being able to have their deeply held religious beliefs, religious liberty.

No, there's not a "legitimate concern." There is an effort to assert the primacy of a particular religion over all other rights. There's a basic principle underlying the viability of any society that hopes to survive: all rights have limits. We know that one well: Free speech does not include yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, the right to free assembly does not include a right to start a riot, and on down the line. Apparently, Kasich didn't get the memo.

We need to have a balance.

We've established that balance, in the adoption of nondiscrimination laws aimed at providing an equal status to those groups that have been historically discriminated against. Once, again, rights have limits, and what those laws do is establish those limits in certain areas: your religious beliefs don't allow you to refuse service to a paying customer, refuse housing to a potential tenant, or fire an employee because they don't conform to your beliefs. It's worth noting that in every case of "Christian martyrdom" -- the two bakers, the florist, the photographer (and have you noticed it's always the same core group held up as examples of "Christians" being persecuted?) -- they have attempted to hold themselves exempt from nondiscrimination laws because of their religious beliefs -- bringing their personal beliefs into the marketplace, where the law has said they are inappropriate. (I could go on at length about these bigots, starting with the idea that baking a cake is somehow "participation" in a wedding ceremony, but I won't.)

And if you feel as though somebody is doing something wrong against you, can you just, for a second, get over it, you know, because this thing will settle down.

Oh, right. Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Washington, Paine -- not to mention King, Ghandi, Mandela -- should all have just gotten over it -- it would have settled down.

I suppose this is all supposed to make Kasich sound reasonable, which, considering his competition, isn't all that difficult. Don't believe it for a minute -- he's just as bad as the others.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Congratulations, Republicans!

You've managed to turn us into a nation of paranoid freaks:

On April 6, UC Berkeley senior Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was supposed to fly from Los Angeles to Oakland, get to campus and go to class. Instead, Makhzoomi was removed from Southwest Airlines flight 4260, detained by security officers, questioned by the FBI and refused service from Southwest after speaking Arabic before his flight took off.

Makhzoomi is a refugee from Iraq whose father, an Iraqi diplomat, was killed under Saddam Hussein. He'd been in LA to attend a dinner with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and was trying to get back to Oakland to attend his classes at Berkeley.

This whole story is pretty gruesome:

On his way back to Berkeley, Makhzoomi, a loyal Southwest premier rewards member, boarded his flight to Oakland and called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about Ki-moon’s event. At the end of the phone call, conducted in Arabic, Makhzoomi said goodbye to his uncle with the phrase “inshallah,” which translates to “if God is willing.”

When Makhzoomi hung up, he noticed a female passenger looking at him. Once he made eye contact with her, she got up and left her seat.

“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he said. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”

She was, actually. Read the whole story, if you can stand it.

Frankly, Southwest should get a lot of high-profile blowback from this, but it's probably not going to happen. What I would like to see happen is for that woman's name to be plastered all over the Internet, but then, I'm kind of cranky lately.

Karoli Kuns, who did this story at Crooks and Liars, is a lot more charitable:

This is what all the fearmongering has wrought. I guess I could rip on the passenger who thought she overheard something she didn't, but she's just as much a victim of the crap that gets tossed around against Muslims as everyone else is. Although, she might consider learning Arabic rather than pretending she understands a language she clearly didn't.

It's OK -- you can rip the woman as much as you like -- she obviously doesn't have the brains that god gave a doorknob, but she feels free to screw up someone else's life without having the vaguest idea what's going on.

This is the result of fifteen years of Republican anti-Muslim fearmongering, or one of the results. (The real result is Donald Trump, but he bores the bejeezus out of me: he's just not an interesting figure. I was going to say "person," but he's really more of a symptom than anything else.)

One thing that came up in the comments to Karoli's article is that Americans are woefully ignorant of the rest of the world. By way of illustration, when I was in high school, one of the requirements for graduation was two years of a foreign language. Ditto college. (Most of my classmates took Spanish, because it's easy to learn; being me, I took Classical Latin, German, and Russian. If I were doing it now, I'd probably take Chinese and Arabic.) That's a state requirement; some states, apparently, don't require knowing anything about the world outside our borders at all.

But I digress.

One can almost excuse the woman who reported this poor guy, if one can excuse being an ignorant git. What's even worse is the behavior of airline security and the FBI: I would expect them to display a bit more in the way of reasoned judgment. Apparently. that's not a job requirement for any sector of law enforcement.

Welcome to Donald Trump's America.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Today in Stupid

I know, there's almost too much to choose from, but this story stuck out a little bit:

The lawsuit says many are either placed on what's called a Selectee List, which subjects them to extra scrutiny, or the more stringent No-Fly List, which prevents the traveler from flying.

One of the plaintiffs is a 4-year-old baby from California, listed in the lawsuit as "Baby Doe."

"He was 7 months old when his boarding pass was first stamped with the 'SSSS' designation, indicating that he had been designated as a 'known or suspected terrorist,'" said the lawsuit. "While passing through airport security, he was subjected to extensive searches, pat-downs and chemical testing."

"Every item in his mother's baby bag was searched, including every one of his diapers."

Remember that your basic TSA agent is not known for actually thinking -- remember the five-year-old handicapped boy who was forced to crawl through the security station without his crutches?

As for the list itself, it's become nothing more than a sick joke, as might have been expected, seeing as how it was first instituted by John Ashcroft when he was Dubyah's AG. According to the article, there are now over 1.5 million people on the list. I doubt there are 1.5 million terrorists in the whole world, but rationality is no longer part of our security establishment's repertoire.

OK -- the stories behind the lawsuit are bad enough, but the rationale -- well, I don't know whether to laugh or scream and throw things:

The FBI says on its website that "the TSC (Terrorist Screening Center) regularly conducts comprehensive and case-specific quality assurance reviews of its data to ensure the U.S. government’s substantive criteria for watch-listing are met and to ensure the records maintained in the Terrorist Screening Database are current, accurate, and thorough. The TSC also participates in redress procedures established by agencies that perform terrorist screening."

Can you say "bullshit"? I wonder how many of that 1.5 million are on the list because someone doing data entry can't spell?

Via RawStory.

And a foonote: more on our culture of paranoia.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Today's Must-Read

This headline brought on one of those "Aha!" moments about the 2016 presidential campaign:

Sanders may be bad on details but he has what Clinton lacks — the spirit of protest

That's what the whole election is about, on both sides:

Not that the fuzziness mattered to Sanders supporters. His devoted following, mostly white and young, will remain steadfast to the end. Their loyalty to him is reminiscent of the Donald Trump supporters who don’t seem to care whether anything that comes out of his mouth is based on fact.

This is because both of their campaigns are rooted in the narrative of protest. Sanders has erected a big social justice tent that can fit in just about everyone on the left who responds to a call for revolution. But the Daily News session revealed that the revolution may be as impractical and unachievable as Trump’s promise to Make America Great Again.

In spite of what you've been hearing from the corporate media, it's not just Trump's supporters that are unhappy with the status quo -- there's a large proportion of the left that's equally unhappy (and, in my own personal opinion, with much more justification). To Sanders' credit, he's attacking some of the real problems, rather than throwing up straw men to generate anger. I don't think he has a real handle on policies to address those problems -- not in a real nuts and bolts sense -- but at least he's focusing on something real, rather than deporting everyone who's not white and old.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Well, Finally!

Google had me locked out of Blogger for about 10 days. I'm still not sure what I did that got me back in, but here I am.

Let's hope it sticks.