Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

The religious right – always good for a laugh:

Auto-correct can be a very helpful feature of any word-processing program. But when conservatives use it, they run the risk of embarrassing themselves.

Some far-right sites that subscribe to the Associated Press feed, for example, will use auto-correct to change “Democratic Party” to “Democrat Party.” This, of course, is because they have the temperament of children.

But the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow website takes the phenomenon one step further with its AP articles. The far-right fundamentalist group replaces the word “gay” in the articles with the word “homosexual.” I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems to make the AFA
happy. The group is, after all, pretty far out there.

The problem, of course, is that “gay” does not always mean what the AFA wants it to mean. My friend Kyle reported this morning that sprinter Tyson Gay won the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials over the weekend. The AFA ran the story, but only after the auto-correct had “fixed” the article.

That means — you guessed it — the track star was renamed “Tyson Homosexual.” The eadline on the piece read, “Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials.” Readers learned:

Tyson Homosexual easily won his semifinal for the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials and seemed to save something for the final later Sunday.

His wind-aided 9.85 seconds was a fairly cut-and-dry performance compared to what happened a day earlier. On Saturday, Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heat and had to scramble to finish fourth, then in his quarterfinal a couple of hours later, ran 9.77 to break the American record that had stood since 1999. […]

Every once in a great while, I get asked why I won’t cite right-wing religious nut sources as credible. There’s your answer. It’s not just the quote-mining, the creative misinterpretation, the completely batshit insane worldview, or the raving lunacy: now there’s autocorrect.

I wonder how the AP feels about having their articles “corrected”?

Well, it’s another day ending in “Y”. I wonder what incompetent fuckery will be revealed? Let’s check in on the war against Terrah and see how that’s going, shall we?

Oh, not too good:

In late 2007, Bush administration officials drafted a secret plan, giving the Defense Department’s Special Operations forces greater ease to go into the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the goal of targeted al Qaeda’s top leaders.

The plan, codenamed “Operation Cannonball,” sounded very encouraging on paper — it would sidestep turf wars between Washington and Islamabad, and target high-value targets where we know they are. So, what happened? More than six months later, the plan has not yet been executed, and the Special Operations are still standing by, waiting for orders. Bureaucratic
disputes within the administration have slowed the whole initiative down to a stop.

The NYT reports it’s all part of a broader problem with Bush’s counter-terrorism strategy.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a “war on terrorism” and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.

Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terrorist camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However, despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one retired C.I.A. officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as many as 2,000 local and foreign militants, up from several hundred three years ago.

Is there anything this Administration hasn’t managed to fuck up spectacularly? Anything at all? And why the fuck, in the fact of overwhelming evidence, do people still believe the Republicons are the ones who’re good at warfighting? These fuckwits should’ve been laughed off the national stage long ago.

Well, we’ve had our daily dose of incompetence. How’s about some corruption? Ah, there we are:

We learned a couple of weeks ago that several Western oil companies — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, Chevron, and BP — are putting the final touches on no-bid contracts with Iraq’s Oil
Ministry to service Iraq’s largest fields. More than 35 years after Saddam Hussein rose to power and threw the companies out, the Oil Ministry completed these lucrative and “unusual” deals at a convenient time.

As Daniel Altman put it: “Imagine. At the precise moment when demand for oil was the highest in history, a recently democratized country with enormous reserves had the chance to sell extraction contracts to the highest bidder. This was a country that desperately needed the revenue to help rebuild its schools, power grid and water supply after a long internal
conflict. So why did it hand out the contracts with no auction at all?”

And Andrew Sullivan answered the rhetorical question: “Because the US told them so.”

We didn’t know for sure, however, that this was the case. It certainly looked like the Bush administration had helped make the no-bid deals happen, but we didn’t have confirmation of the U.S. role. That is, unti
l today

A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.

The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.

It’s a helpful reminder that it’s hard to be too cynical when expecting the worst of the Bush administration.

At this point, I’m not going to be surprised at all if revelations emerge that Bush and Cheney really did hold baby-eating contests in the White House dining room.

Just remember, though: Iraq wasn’t about oil. Not. At. All.

I’d ask the Administration to pull the other one, but I’m already suffering from repetitive motion injuries in that leg.

Happy Hour Discurso

Taste of Chaos

The following is the result of a fugue state I reached recently after a combination of excessive work stress and not enough drinking. I am making no attempts to logically or ethically validate these thoughts. The world around me speaks in strange voices, and sometimes I can even make out the words.

Consider for a moment, how well the hallmarks of a rational, civilized society hold up in a modern context. Thirty people are born a second. Approximately 15-20 die in that time frame. Despite our wars, our environmental destruction, famines, plagues and natural disasters, we repopulate so quickly we may not actually be capable of human extinction with anything short of complete global destruction. There are over 6 and a half billion people, spawning little bastards at a near exponential rate.

On top of this, we live in a time where information is near-instantaneous and so abundant that if you took every file, bit of information, reportage and commentary compiled into the Internet, books, audio files, television, video files. et al., a single person would spend a lifetime and likely not sort through the entirety. And that’s just one day of information.

In these third world countries where there is virtually no infrastructure, there are still many who have wireless phones and computers with direct satellite wifi. I have literally seen pictures from Zimbabwe and the Congo uploaded from a village with no paved roads or running water and posted on blogs. Teenage girls in Myanmar/Burma who spend their days blogging about shoes and American pop stars become vital journalists when military dictators decide to stamp down hard on protesting monks with iron-shanked boots and the only photo evidence is a few phone cam pictures posted to a Myspace page. See the military gunning down unarmed monks. See an airheaded teenager do more political damage to the tyrant than the U.N. and every major news corporation combined could manage.

Think of it, you spend years clenching your little nation in a brushed-steel grip, choking off dissent and preventing even sunlight from entering your country without prior authorization just to get totally pwned by a fourteen year old Paris Hilton fan. LOLZ indeed.

The downside is that warfare and military strategy is now rendered obsolete in the obscene. A terrorist cell can coordinate efforts without its members having to meet in person, using GPS locators, and readily available public information available on the intrawebz to conduct affairs, carry out money-making schemes through simple information theft and e-mail scams. Through simple codification, a website can direct people on a global scale into a process for strategic implementation of militant insurgency.

Porn is not just free, the very nature of voyeurism has evolved to be a post-post-modernist participatory event. Through blogging, social networking, and real-time video, chat, and broadcast, millions now create spectacle in conjunction with others, a simultaneous audience and performance in which the boundaries of what is real and who is involved no longer exist. We aren’t just fucking and watching people fuck, we’re simulcast fucking.

Simply stated, the world has changed. This is perhaps where most conservatives completely fail, clinging to the traditions and mores of an age that no long exists except as a memory. Their hope, as always, is to slow if not downright stop the momentum of this change. In their sick fantasy worlds, somehow we may even be able to reverse it, unlearn the past 20 years and pretend that the whole Internet thing was just a really bad fucking dream spawned from snorting coke off the asses of cheap D.C. hookers. You can almost hear that Nixon voice saying “Oh thank god, TCP/IP is just the acronym for a new long range nuclear missile. Johnson, hand me the Scotch and lets bomb a Southeast Asian country that’s thinking about going Communist. And make sure to get out the press-releases so that everyone reports exactly what we want!”

However, there is a deeper consideration, beyond just the usual anti-progressionist brigade’s battle cries against change. It will be necessary for us to seriously reconsider some of the most fundamental assumptions we live with as we continue to move forward.

Without seriously reconsidering our notions of acceptable cultural, legal, and social norms, the constant fight against restriction of freedoms and opportunities aplenty will be lost in a very unpleasant manner. Organized religions the across the globe espouse the blasphemy of birth control practices. “Marry and fuck with god’s blessing, you know, so long as you make more Catholics/Muslims/Hindus/Capitalist Assholes.” We use non-renewable resources at such a rate that we may very likely see them entirely depleted within our lifetimes, but oh well, the kids can deal with that later. Except we promote sports teams above teachers and celebrity above science. Most of the largest medical breakthroughs are all built around our creation of anti-aging, beauty-enhancing, mortality-denying culture. So of course, the same assholes who used up the resources so prodigiously will likely still be around to bitch about it when they run out.

The average fat-ass in a first world country will eat ten times as much as someone in a third-world nation, and still be considered a victim of malnutrition because nothing s/he ate actually had actual vitamins or nutrients. Solution: we’ll drop money on pills to make us less fat and make sure we get our vitamin C so we don’t have to get up from the fucking desk and unplug from WOW.

And we will continue to make unreasonable laws which continue to diminish our radius of freedoms in attempt to somehow fight a losing rear-guard action against the inevitable chaos, all the while somehow pretending the real problem is that we can no longer cling to outdated modalities of thoughts and broken down social paradigms.

There are certain deconstructionist arguments that, to generalize, view morality as a social construct reflective of societal needs. Beyond even utilitarianism which would determine the course of right by what serves the greatest portion of the population, the argument is that a society creates a premise of what is reasonable and acceptable, and moral behavior will either coincide with this normative, or it will exist in opposition and thusly be “wrong.” Needs change, to varying degrees, but when circumstances change dramatically, what was moral and required can become counterproductive at best, and downright destructive at worst. But what comes

I don’t propose a solution as such. It will take much greater thinkers than myself to recognize exactly how we can continue to function as a species in the coming years. And as an advocate of chaos and change so violent and vicious it would make the Gods’ sphincters clench tighter than a choir boy’s in room full of bishops, I frankly welcome the awesome madness and bloodshed.

I envision a world where the problem of over-population and hunger are solved with the same solution, and cannibalism is the new fast food chain. Welcome to McDahmer’s, would you like to try our new French-Canadian wraps? Only fresh-imported Quebecers used.

I envision a world where half the population lives through Second-Life avatars, interacting in wholly virtual societies that look identical to the ones they left behind, only everyone is a millionaire, looks like Brangelina but with giant cocks and fake tits. The rest of us keep their feeding tubes unclogged and empty their piss bags for ten dollars an hour. We get a quality dosage of mood-suppressants to keep us from being to unhappy about our glorified janitorial work.

A world where news events are broadcast ten minutes before corporations enact the events, and nothing happens that hasn’t been scripted or story-boarded. The line between reality and reality TV will cease to exist entirely.

A future where war is literally scheduled between various factions and sponsored by global multi-national corporations to help boost the economy and make sure the constantly exploding populations have a proper control. Nations exist only to give people a sense of national identity but every politician, is that much more the personal whore of whichever CEOs are in power (okay, so that’s pretty much already true.)

I want to see a whole generation of bored, juvenile hooligans who have replaced tattoos and piercings with weekly body-modification surgeries that change race, gender, and features as easily as we change clothes now. I see them listening to music that only they can actually hear, in frequencies they have tuned implants to pick up, super/subsonic atonality that exists as a song only with digital interpretation. They raid across cities for cans of gasoline and drinkable water, new bits of metal to keep their digitals working. The same devices implanted in their brains at birth so that they no longer need to speak words to socially network and have rendered geography meaningless. They review the archives of our culture, sort through to find the good bits, and recreate them en mass, recreating an asymmetric, asynchronous hybrid from the stuff we fucked up, only better.

But that’s just me. Hopefully, a few people out there will keep fighting the good fight and we’ll find a place of balance despite the chaos. Idealism. I love it. But I never forget the reality. Film effectively came into being around the last decade of the 19th century. The first pornographic film followed it within a few short years. “Oh neat, we have the ability to capture history… dude, let’s see if we can record someone fucking!”

Taste of Chaos

Damn You, Morals! I Could've Made Millions…

Confession time: I used to be into woo, big time. I’d been a right little skeptic as a kid, despite loving fairy stories. People would tell me about how accurate their horoscopes were: I’d look at more than just mine and notice that a) every single one could apply to me and b) that amazing romance projected for this month somehow never happened. Not to mention the astrologers seemed to leave themselves an awful lot of outs.

People were always making extraordinary claims. I wanted evidence. Unfortunately, no one bothered to teach me much of the scientific method, so evaluating evidence turned out to be a whole other story. Couple this with some supreme boredom, and you had a recipe for woo. In high school, I fell in with a guillable group that believed a lot of crazy things, including the power of rutilated quartz to fortell the future. I still trot that out for fun sometimes – when people don’t understand the way pendulums work and how tiny muscle movements can have a large effect, you can really impress them. Especially when you ask questions you have a high probability of guessing the correct answer to.

Dream interpretation, blowing coincidences out of proportion, channelling, all that rot – had immense amounts of fun with it all. I wouldn’t trade those days, either. I wouldn’t have gotten into SF without that silly belief in magic and powers beyond human ken. Without SF, I doubt I’d have fallen in love with science. I’d probably be writing pedestrian mystery novels by now – which is where I’d originally envisioned taking my writing career. So no science aside from forensics. No excuse to study absolutely everything in the entire universe. No Pharyngula. No En Tequila Es Verdad. No you. And I really like having you guys around.

SF remained, but I abandoned woo a long time back, after learning enough about science to be able to reevaluate my “evidence” and laugh myself sick over how silly and guillable we’d all been. Woo just irritates me now. People don’t think. They don’t examine. They’ll believe nearly anything. And if I wasn’t a moral person, I’d be making an assload of money about now.

You see, I’m good at this woo shit. Being a writer means having to lie convincingly – fiction is nothing more than a pack of lies, salted with enough truth to make it taste good. Back in my woo days, I could persuade nearly anyone of nearly anything: I can see into your dreams. I can see into your future. I can channel. I can wield powers beyond the imagination. Don’t even have to break a sweat.

My morals won’t let me use that power of persuasion for anything other than fiction. And that’s really too bad, because there are a lot of people out there who would pay cash money to have me lie to them. Writing’s damned hard. Woo is easy.

Just take Sylvia Browne.

By way of Bad Astronomy, I came across StopSylviaBrowne.com, and this little gem of a takedown. Robert Lancaster went to her show in Vegas and totally pwned her. It’s an entertaining read.

There are two things here that make me wish I could meet my morals in a dark, deserted alley and strangle them to death.

One, in order to make buttloads of money being a psychic, you don’t even have to be good at it. Her show starts with Astounding Insights. Now me, being a writer who likes to deliver upon what is promised, I would think the Astounding Insights should at least be within the neighborhood of astounding. However, this is how “astounding” is defined in the psychic shyster lexicon:

She then proceeded to spend a few minutes complaining about the weather in Vegas, and said that the dryness was what made her voice
sound the way it did (which sounded to me just like her voice always sounds), and complained that she woke up in the morning hacking and coughing just like a

She then proceeded to give what was, in effect, a commercial for her upcoming cruises, including ones to the Caribbean, Ireland and Egypt. She then proceeded to give a plug for her “Farewell Lecture Tour”, and assured us that she would not be like Cher, and have “fifteen of them.” She then went on to plug her upcoming book, End of Days.

But wait! There’s more. More of the same sort of shit you’d get from your crazy Aunt Dottie. There’s no need to pay for this kind of crap when you can collar any woo-loving relative and get it completely for free.

She then moves on to “readings.” She’s not even trying anymore. Check these unbelievable psychic powers:

These people generally asked the same types of questions that the audience members on the Montel Williams Show do:

What is my spirit guide’s name? (Sarah, Raul, Martha, Tiffany, Corinne, Doreen and two Elenas were mentioned, among others).

When will I meet Mr./Ms. Right? (two years, three years, two years, next spring, one year, two years, five years)

What will my true love’s name be? (Keith, Joseph, Peter, Carl)

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Two Elenas? Read a baby name book, for crying out loud! It’s a spirit guide – shouldn’t we be talking more along the lines of Ramtha? Shouldn’t there be some zing and zip, some jazz, something a little more fucking interesting than a list of whitebread names that fucking duplicate?

Look, if people ask the same sorts of questions every bleeding time, you could at least get a little creative with the answers. Jeez. As an SF author, I’d have the best spirit guide names evah.

That brings me to the second reason I wish I could murder my morals. The clientele make this job cake. Absolute cake. They ask silly questions whose answers can’t be proved or disproved, and they want so much to believe they’ll swallow anything you feed them. Even when three – three – skeptics got up and asked questions she got absolutely wrong, a woman still followed those skeptics out to the parking lot claiming Sylvia’s the greatest psychic in the whole wide world.

Are you fucking kidding me? People are really this lame? Cha-ching! I could be raking in the dough.

Sylvia’s not even a good cold reader. I am. I’m a pretty damned good one. And I know better than to try to give specific answers that could be debunked.

The thing is, though, I can’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t live with myself, fleecing people. Fiction writing is one thing – it’s advertised as fiction, it’s got “NOT TRUE!!!” written all over the disclaimer (This book is a work of fiction, all resemblance to people living or dead, blah blah). People know I’m lying to them, but that’s what they’re there for – a good story.

What Sylvia’s providing isn’t even a good story. My little high school woo-group, we told good stories. We could curl the hair on a billiard ball. We could make nearly anyone believe the most ridiculous shit possible, and we came up with more creative names for spirits – there wasn’t a Martha to be found, and you can be damned sure there weren’t two Elenas. We fucking amateurs were so much better at the game. And I could take that, parlay it into a fortune, if I didn’t care for people too much.

You see, I do
n’t think people s
hould be duped.

I don’t think their vulnerabilities should be exploited.

I don’t think it’s right to charge someone $100 a pop to lie to them and say their dear dead dad is very happy on the other side and is still watching over them.

I think people should be encouraged to be skeptical, to think critically, to see the world for what it is, not snookered into believing that all of this marlarkey is really truly true.

I’d have to start every show with a disclaimer: “This is all just fun and games, folks. I’m joshing you. I’m having you on. I’m pulling your leg. Don’t believe a single fucking word that’s emerging from my mouth.” And that would either kill the show or make everybody believe I’m the most genuine psychic in the universe. That last is just not something I could face.

So the easy money’s right out. Can’t do it. Which is really too bad, because I’d love to see Sylvia’s furious face when I stole her believers away….

Damn You, Morals! I Could've Made Millions…

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Tom DeLay needs moolah for his wanna-be Move-on.org scheme:

Disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been making noises for a couple of years now about creating his own MoveOn.org-for-the-right activist group, which presumably would offer him a vehicle for, well, whatever it is DeLay does. Last November, he made it official, launching the “Coalition for a Conservative Majority.”

Since then, the group has had a real impact by … well, there was the one time it …. the CCM certainly made a splash when the group …. OK, no one’s heard a word from DeLay’s outfit since it started begging for cash last year. But Bob Novak reported today that DeLay is still
out there, pushing his little group, and imploring right-wing activists to send him a check.


DeLay, who has endorsed John McCain after expressing misgivings, takes positions to the right of the Republican presidential candidate in his fund-raising appeal. DeLay asks: ”Are you concerned by the growing evidence that there are powerful forces inside our government and out who are quietly moving to have America absorbed into a globalist style ‘North American Union’ with Canada and Mexico?”

Yes, this is what DeLay has been reduced to. The former House Majority Leader wants people to believe — as Tom Tancredo, Lou Dobbs, and Ron Paul fear — that U.S. borders will be dissolved and we’ll have one big continental country. But if unhinged conservatives send the former exterminator a check, DeLay will step up to take on the “powerful forces inside our government.”

Yeah, right. This is how the right envisions grassroots movements: one big, powerful pol comes up with an idea, and then starts begging funds with ridiculous conspiracy theories. Brilliant. I think they’re a little unclear on the concept of a “grass-roots movement.” And when you send out a man as discredited as DeLay with hat in hand, well, is it any wonder his pet project has failed to make any impact at all?

And in other scared-shitless Republicon news, Carpetbagger reports that the “tie Dems to Obama” meme has been abandoned in favor of “tell local people you give two shits about them – in other words, lie” meme:

Now, conservative candidates are being urged to follow a very different tack.

A new playbook for House Republicans urges them to run essentially as independents, showing empathy for voters, emphasizing local issues and ignoring many traditional party campaign practices. [emphasis added]

The advice for House candidates is part of an effort to minimize Republican losses in a year when voters are exasperated by the economy, the Iraq war and President Bush:

“Encourage Republican candidates to establish themselves in a personal manner, emphasizing local issues whenever possible.”

The playbook added that Republican candidates should “develop an issues matrix that is different than in years past.” The party lost its special elections in the spring because its candidates failed to successfully establish “themselves and their local brand in contrast to the negative perception of the national GOP.”

So what they’re trying to do is take a few quick steps away from the national GOP. It’s equivalent to a teenager trying to walk far enough away from a parent to pretend that they’re in no way associated with the remarkable dweeb who happens to be walking in the same direction. Cute, aren’t they?

CB also noticed how allergic Republicons have become to the party name:

It’s striking, though, to see the advice in action. In some instances, Republicans no longer even want to tell voters which party they belong to.

Eric Kleefeld had a report from Washington state, where some statewide Republican candidates are running “without that pesky R-word next to their names.”

This was made possible by the recent adoption of a new electoral system for the state, known as “Top-Two.” All candidates will run on the same ballot, and the top two will go to a runoff election, regardless of party. The tricky part is that each candidate will get to choose the party label next to their name.

All of this means a Republican can list himself as something else — and one of the two candidates even acknowledged to us that he’s doing so precisely because he knows the GOP brand is lethal.

Dino Rossi, the 2004 Republican nominee for governor, is choosing to run as “GOP Party” for his second try. Then there’s Curt Fackler, the county Republican chairman in their stronghold area of Spokane County — he’s running for insurance commissioner as an independent, or “No Party Preference”! [emphasis added]

When even Republicons in Republicon strongholds have to say, “What me, a Republican? No! Really, I’m not! I’m an… um… independent!” you know the brand is in the deepest of deep shit.

Dana is pleased.

Drinks are on me tonight.

Happy Hour Discurso

Sunday Sensational Science

Accidents sometimes lead to glorious things, especially in science. Consider Sir Alexander Fleming and the mold that contaminated his bacterial experiment – penicillin. Penzias and Wilson, employing Bell Labs’ ginormous new antenna as a radio telescope, got driven batty by a uniform background noise that didn’t go away even after they chucked out the pigeons – cosmic background radiation, the remnant of the Big Bang. Antoine Henri Bequerel needed bright sunlight in his hunt for x-rays, but after he’d gone to all the trouble of sprinkling his crystals of potassium uranyl sulfate on a photographic negative, Paris got cloudy. Bored off his arse, he developed the film anyway – and discovered the existence of radioactivity.

Science history is full of those chance events, happy accidents and lucky juxtapositions that open up whole new vistas. And I mention this because of my own happy accident – I discovered an incredible site celebrating the sheer beauty of science because I was looking for an interesting equation to illustrate COTEB #2 with.

Paul A. Titze runs Wizlab.com, an extraordinary place filled with glorious science photos and quotes. Opening that page instantly kicks the sense of wonder into overdrive. Science and art aren’t separate entities there: science is art, and I don’t think I could’ve been struck any harder by awe if I’d stepped into a gallery full of the greatest paintings, sculpture and poems in human history.

You know those moments when your breath catches, and a smile takes over your entire self? I had one of those, all the way down the page.

He’s captured it all: the beauty, the power, the philosophy and the sheer poetry of science. Why do we do science, what meaning does it have beyond the practical considerations, where did it come from and where is it going – all of those questions and more are answered there. I’ll never have to explain why I love science ever again. All I have to do is give inquirers a web address. If they don’t leave there awestruck, I’ll know that nothing I could possibly say is ever going to explain how science feels to those who truly love it.

Paul Titze’s no mean poet, either. Along with the evocative quotes from centuries of sensational scientists, along with the incredible photos, graphs, and animations, you can find his lines:

For I marvel of countless wonders in this Universe, and wonder,

Will the milky ocean reveal its secrets at such faraway isles,

Will the Lighthouse Keepers help me answer the riddle,

And if I lose my way, follow the Wandering Albatross, he knows the way.

-from “The Riddle”

And then there’s the equations.

I was going to use this one for COTEB, but decided to filch the Mandlebrot Set instead. I found a lot of pictures of Maxwell’s equations that were bracketed by Genesis in my searches – this photo says more. Can you hear it?

Science sings on this site. Lash yourself to the mast before you head over there, my darlings, or you may never return.

Sunday Sensational Science

Fourth Amendment Gets a Stay of Execution – File Your Amicus Brief Now!

The FISA zombie lurches on, which gives us some hope of defeating the thing. It’s the same hope I have of getting an email from a publisher this year saying, “Oh, hey, saw your blog, went to your website, how about a million dollar advance so you can quit your job and write that book, eh?” But it’s still hope, and I shall grasp it.

The vote on this disgusting bit of fuckery has, through the heroics of Dodd and Feingold, been delayed until July 8th. Time for us to get busy.

Here’s a petition from CREDO Action asking Obama to wake up and smell the coffee:

On July 8, the Senate will vote on H.R. 6304, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

If the bill passes, it would mean a blank check for President Bush to continue his warrantless wiretapping program and a get-out-of-jail-free card for the telecoms suspected of helping him illegally spy on Americans.

There will be no filibuster. The only way we can stop this catastrophe is to get a majority of senators to vote no.

You can also urge Obama to do the right thing on his own website. Some of his supporters started a group called “Senator Obama – Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity – Get FISA Right.” Joining it takes about ten seconds, and tells him on no uncertain terms that while he’s not as appalling as the alternative, he’s still got some ‘splaining to do. At this moment, 2,139 folks have done so. That’s a lot of pissed-off Obama supporters.

Once you’ve told Obama to stop being a fuckwit, it might be a good idea to tell your senators the same.

More to come, I’ve no doubt.

Fourth Amendment Gets a Stay of Execution – File Your Amicus Brief Now!

Happy Hour Discurso

Ah, I knew there’d be some blinding incompetence in the Bush Regime to laugh about:

We were somewhat astonished this week to learn that the Pentagon had awarded a $298 million contract to arms dealer AEY Inc. despite the fact the company and its then-21-year-old president were on the U.S. State Department’s Arms Trafficking Watchlist.

An Army general said, quite simply, they don’t typically check that watchlist before awarding big contracts.

Now we’ve found evidence that the State Department might not be checking its own list.

Well, gee, you know, obviously it’s not like an arms trafficker would ever try to go after big, fat, juicy government contracts. Why would you bother to check a watchlist, right? We’re the Bush White House: we just take things on faith ’round here.

Fucking morons.

And speaking of fucking morons, the Republicons are so out of issues they have to harp on dead ones:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling on gun control, Republicans are optimistic that they’ll be able to put guns back on the political world’s front-burner, and make the 2nd Amendment a key campaign issue this November.


I suppose the motivation is obvious enough. Republicans don’t have a lot of issues that a) they’re anxious to talk about; b) put Dems on the defensive; and c) generate excitement with the GOP base.

What I’m less sure about is what, exactly, Republicans and the NRA are going to say about the issue. They won — the Supreme Court ruled their way, and Democrats have effectively given up talking about gun control altogether. So what is there to campaign on?

Oh, I’m sure they’ll think of something. They’re experts at making shit up, after all. Reality is a very foreign land to these obnoxious assclowns. And they’ve damaged the Republicon brand so badly even Sen. Chuck Hagel – yes, a dedicated conservative – is fed up:

On Bloomberg TV this weekend, host Al Hunt asked Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) whether he is considering changing parties. “I don’t know forever, but right now I’m not considering changing my registration,” Hagel said, while declining to endorse John McCain. He then floated the possibility that there could be a “new party” created to replace the GOP:

Parties are bigger than individuals. It happens that George Bush has been the leader of a party. I think the party has veered, and shifted, and come loose of its moorings. It’s not the party that I first voted for in 1968. I’m an Eisenhower Republican, and the party today is not an Eisenhower Republican Party.

You know, I think it’d be fair to force the current Republicon party to change it’s name, and let the Eisenhower and other varieties of Republicans who were complete and total assholes have their party back. So what’s a good name for the new party, which would contain all of the batshit-insane, reality-blind, power-mad fuckheads?

It would have to be something that would capture the essence of party whose credibility with voters is so shattered that they’re shit-scared of a man who’s only on the ballot in 30 states so far and doesn’t even have a fucking campaign to speak of:

The Republican establishment is putting on a brave face, but Barr is clearly making them nervous. In particular, Barr is expected to do relatively well in Alaska, Colorado, and Georgia, and in each instance, Barr’s role might help Barack Obama win these traditionally “red” states.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) said of his home state of Georgia, “If Barr got 8 percent, and you’ve got the higher African-American turnout from Barack Obama, then you’d have a significantly close race in the state.”

Robert D. Loevy, a professor of political science at Colorado College, added, “If Bob Barr gets it up to 3, 4, 5 percent of the vote, it could definitely throw Colorado to Barack Obama.”

For Dems, this all sounds pretty encouraging. But before either side takes Barr’s role too seriously, it’s probably worth remembering that the former congressman is barely running for president at all.

Carpetbagger’s got a list: No money. No name recognition. No campaign operation in any state. No fucking friends in the Libertarian party, even so. And yet he’s dangerous enough in Republicons’ minds that they’re actually trying to talk him out of running for fear he’ll blow McCain’s chances clear away.

Is anybody else enjoying this spectacle? I’m enjoying it immensely.

Happy Hour Discurso

The American Electorate: "I'm Voting for Stupid"

American anti-intellectualism could end up destroying this country within the next decade.

Our decades-long assault on intellect is turning us into a backwater. Just consider these results from a Programme for International Student Assessment study: the United States ranked nearly dead last in math, smack in the middle of the below average column. Search for our educational rankings, and you’ll find article after article talking about our failing grades. We’re becoming a nation of idiots.

Something tells me the neocons are rather counting on that.

Consider this series of columns by John Dean, former Nixon lawyer turned enthusiastic Republican basher. Dean first analyzes Obama’s speech on race and comes to some depressing conclusions, revealed right there in the title: “Barack Obama’s Smart Speech “A More Perfect Union”: Did It Reveal Him To Be Too Intellectual To Be President?”

Computers have made it rather simple to determine the intelligence or grade level of a speech by measuring it with the Flesch-Kincaid test, which is found on the Tools/Options menu of Microsoft Word. This widely-employed measurement device determines the degree of difficulty of the written (and spoken) word.

Enterprising linguists and others have applied the test to a wide variety of material. For instance, the folks at youDictionary have tested the inaugural addresses of presidents. They discovered that no president since Woodrow Wilson has come close to delivering speeches pitched at a 12th grade level. Bush II’s first inaugural address was at a 7.5 grade level, which ranked him near Eisenhower’s second address (7.5), Nixon’s first (7.6), LBJ’s only (7.0), and FDR’s fourth (8.1). Clinton’s two addresses, by contrast, scored at the 9th grade level (9.4 and 8.8 respectively).

I tested Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech and it scores at a 10.5 grade level, which by current standards is in the stratosphere. But maybe he was being too smart to win the presidency.

This, Dean says, is because “Republicans have spent the past half century dumbing-down the American presidency, for it has helped them win the White House .” Apparently, Republicans think it’s a fantastic idea to have only the finest dumbasses in charge of the nuclear weapons.

Obama’s ranking on this scale was one of the things that convinced me to vote for him. I’m sick to death of people talking to Americans like they’re nothing but a bunch of rubes and utter morons. All evidence to the contrary, it would be nice to have a president who believes we can think our way out of a brown paper bag. One of the secrets of creating smart people is to actually expect people to be smart.

Intelligence, however, is anathema to the neocons, because five minutes’ critical thought can blow enormous holes in their “reasoning.” I point you to eight years of miserably failed Bush policies and the overwhelming evidence that McCain’s policies are merely more of the same. Magical thinking abounds in Republican circles. We can still win in Iraq if we stay there 100 years. The tax fairy will pay for all the tax cuts and dramatically increased spending. Drilling for more oil in our pristine national wild areas will lower the price of gas practically instantly. I could go on, but you’ve got the picture: pick at the shiny gold coating Republican policies, and what you find underneath is bullshit.

But this is fine with them. Republicans still have a chance at winning, because Obama’s smart and the electorate wants dumb. Consider Dean’s further evidence on this point:

In recent years, Democrats have nominated presidential candidates who are far more intelligent that their Republican counterparts. Common sense might suggest that high intelligence is necessary to be president,
and conclude that we should applaud such nominations. Election politics, unfortunately, usually punishes the more intelligent nominee.

He points out that the only Democrats to win in the last several decades have been Jimmy Carter (who was super-smart but whose Southern drawl makes him sound like a goober) and Bill Clinton (who played down his smarts, also spoke with a twang, and chased skirts for good measure). When it comes to electing a president, Americans seem to have an irresistible impulse to pull the level for the dumbest-seeming bastard they can find.

If this is truly what elections come down to in this country, Obama has absolutely no chance at the White House. He’s not only smart, he doesn’t hide it. And, horror of horrors, he expects Americans to be smart, too.

I’m afraid this may be too much for a nation of terminal under-achievers to handle.

So is Dean. And he’s got studies to back his pessimism:

Dr. Drew Westen, a clinical and political psychologist who teaches at Emery University, has literally looked inside the mind of partisan voters with MRI scanning equipment, and confirmed that emotions dominate our voting decisions. Westen writes about our emotionally-driven democracy in his recent book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotions In Deciding the Fate of the Nation (Public Affairs, 2007), and his findings are not good news for Democrats, unless they change their ways.

Westen and his colleagues found “[t]he political brain is an emotional brain. It is not a dispassionate calculating machine, objectively searching for the right facts, figures, and policies to make a
reasoned decision.” Democrats, however, like to appeal to reason. While this resonates with many key elements of the Democratic Party, it simply does not work across the board with all voters.

In short, voters are going to react to McCain and Obama in the general election this fall with their hearts, not their heads.

If that’s the case, we are so fucked.

This country can’t afford another four years of stupid. Dean has some faint hope
that the last eight years of utterly spectacular dumbfuckery has jolted the American electorate enough to realize that voting for the person who seems closest to you in general ignorance is the wrong thing to do. So do I. And yet both of us realize that many of our fellow countrymen are going to go for the man who throws a good barbecue rather than the man who has the intelligence to make the tough decisions and start picking up the shattered fragments of our nation. So what if McCain wants to keep us in a hideously unpopular war for a century, can’t tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shi’ite even if they’re wearing badges, and whose economic policy is guaranteed to bankrupt the nation? He doesn’t talk above the understanding of the average dropout, and his dry rub is to die for.

We just might.

America has to wise up. Somehow, we have to convince our fellow citizens to stop treating elections as popularity contests and start treating them as job interviews. The presidency is the most important job in America: it’s vital it doesn’t go to the dumbest candidate. We need a super-intelligent person in the White House, someone capable of running a complicated, dangerous, and threatened country. We need someone in charge who can think his way out of a brown paper bag.

The problem is, even if we end up with such a man, I’m afraid the below-average idiots who treat elections as an extension of American Idol are going to end up forcing him to tack stupid. We’re beyond a left-leaning politician having to tack right: if what John Dean and his sources are saying is correct, America will accept a left-leaner as long as he’s stupid enough not to threaten their fragile egos. They’ll forgive any number of idiotic mistakes – they’ve proven that time and time again over the last eight years – but they’ll never forgive a man for being smarter than they are.

That’s why we need to work hard to create a smarter America, my darlings. Intelligence needs to be prized again. Americans need to be encouraged to excel in academics, value smarts over personality, and above all learn how the fucking well think again.

This country is not going to survive as a superpower, or even a power, if it doesn’t get smart. If Bush’s idiotic antics have made our electorate realize that, then it’ll be the only good thing he’s ever done.

Let’s don’t vote for stupid this time, okay, America?

The American Electorate: "I'm Voting for Stupid"

Argh! Tagged Again!

And it feels a little strange to be suffering a meme courtesy of Progressive Conservative by way of NP.

The idea is to write your memoir or epitaph in six words. If you can add an image to go along with it, so much the better. Then, simply sneak up behind 5 unsuspecting friends and whap them in the back of the head with it. Links need to be provided to the person who whapped you and to the originator of the meme, so they can see how far the thing goes. You can check out the place where it all began for a better explanation of the rules.

Well, the rules basically say I’m supposed to do a lot of things I never do. Such as tag people. My philosophy is that people can bloody well tag themselves, so if you want to take on this six-word meme madness, let nothing stop you.

Not even finding the right bleeding picture.

Right. Brilliant. More decisions to make. Which could have been my six-word memoir right there, but I’ve got something a little better, I think:

“Writing consumed me. So did cats.”
That really is the story of my life in six words.

All of you reading this blog who find this meme irresistible, consider yourselves tagged. I’ll shout “You’re IT!” in your comments after the fact.
Argh! Tagged Again!