Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Here’s a good question for those who wish for a smaller, almost non-existent government in the United States.

I saw this question posed somewhere on the toobes at some point this week. I wish I had saved the address. I think this is a very good point.

To all those ultra-conservatives who believe that the federal government in the U.S. should be really tiny (e.g., Grover “drown it in the bathtub” Norquist), what exactly do you think would happen next? What form of society do you really want to have?

Do you, for instance, think that there would all of a sudden be a Garden of Eden where all us lovely individuals with lots and lots of freedoms from government would just get along swimmingly? Would all multi-national corporations suddenly behave themselves and have their customers’ satisfaction, money and safety in mind as their first priority? There wouldn’t be any big businesses that would, say, dump tons and tons of pollutants into rivers and lakes so that the entire region would be so polluted that human life might be endangered? Would, perhaps, financial institutions really care about their customers such that their financial interests were protected? Would insurance companies really insure everyone who needed insurance, or would they cherry pick those who didn’t need it? Would airlines, for instance, set up their own air traffic control system so that airplanes wouldn’t run into each other in the air or on the ground? Would electrical power companies build nuclear power plants that were really, really safe, so that an accidental release of radiation could never happen?

What do these people expect would happen if government really stopped paying attention to anything but going to fight wars overseas? Is this really what those people want? These huge corporations have proven, time and time again, that they only thing they care about is making massive amounts of money, and they don’t really care if they being unethical, unsafe or downright evil to do it. All they care is making tons of money, as fast as they can.

Is this really what the proponents of itty-bitty government really want to unleash on our society; a total abdication of oversight of huge corporations that affect our daily lives much more than does the federal government? That is what they want? You think that the rich and powerful would just sit back and “do the right thing” just because there was no federal government to check whether or not they were following the regulations?

That is a rhetorical question, of course. No, these cutthroats would not sit idly by. They would find every single method of being the “big dog” in the country, and if it means that normal people must exist in poverty, in hunger, in the cold and dark, for them to do it, well, that’s capitalism, the best economic system in the world!

I predict that by 2030, we will all own hover cats.

They don't get cat hair all over your sofa.

(I had to post something to get that really terrible "verse" off the top of the ladder...)

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Crazy things.

Monstrous things.

Things that hide underneath your bed at night.

Things that congregate in the dark recesses of your mind.

Things that make absolutely no sense in the world of the rational.


Stupid things.

Things that make people’s lives much, much more difficult than they should be.

Insane things.

Things that get said on television, on radio, on blogs.

Things that are specifically designed to anger as many people as possible.

Things that make people act illogically.

Things that are incoherent, delusional and contradictory.

Things that will eventually end up getting someone hurt or killed.

Things that make me hate our society today.

(Apologies to anyone who might mistake this for any sort of effort in an attempt at quality verse. This is just free form random associations, done in two minutes and with the first cup of coffee in the morning….)

Friday, March 26, 2010

I just had a birthday this week.

Here's my horoscope, courtesy of The Onion.

MAR 21 - APR 19
The stars would love nothing more than to reveal your future this week, but unfortunately, they're just large luminous balls of plasma held together by gravity in space.

Huh. That's actually not much of a joke, really. It's the sort of stuff that I say all the time, and people look at me with a very odd look on their faces.

I am convinced I would have made a pretty good Vulcan. O.K., so I am WAY too emotional to be a true Vulcan. Spock's raised eyebrows are the epitome of distain and surprise, but that was usually as far as it went with Spock. That's just my starting point. So, I doubt I could even make it with the "half human, half Vulcan" thing. Maybe I could be an honorary Vulcan...

Election Officials in Kentucky Found Guilty of Election Fraud, Vote Buying

The Bradblog has been doing some stellar work on this issue. Here’s is an excerpt from their latest story.

Convicted high-ranking officials include a circuit court judge, county clerk and school superintendent.

Each face up to 20 years in broad conspiracy that included manipulation of electronic voting machines...

All eight defendants in Clay County, Kentucky's election fraud trial have been found guilty today by a federal jury. Six of those eight were high-ranking election officials, including the county clerk, a circuit judge and the school superintendent. The conspirators were charged with having manipulated federal elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006 by buying and selling votes and manipulating electronic voting machines.

According to AP, each of the now-convicted felons could face up to 20 years in prison for what prosecutors had described as a conspiracy to manipulate elections for decades in the rural, heavily Republican county.

The BRAD BLOG has been following this story since the conspirators were originally arrested in March of last year, and as details of the election officials' manipulation of ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machines has emerged.

Supporters of unverifiable electronic voting, such as election officials and voting machines companies, had long argued that, though manipulation of such systems was possible, nobody had actually ever done so. While that dubious argument was difficult to independently verify one way or another --- since the private vendors make public oversight of such systems virtually impossible by blocking citizen inspection and oversight of such systems due to claims of "trade secrecy" --- the denialists arguments are no longer valid.

Furthermore, the verdict underscores what many critics of e-voting have long argued: the greatest security threat to such systems come from election insiders, not from the voting public and dubious claims of "voter fraud".

I just do not understand the motivations of people like this, who are actually elected officials that are sworn to uphold the laws of the land. It doesn’t matter what they, as individuals, actually think of these laws. That is immaterial. That is not a consideration. They are sworn to uphold the laws of the land, and anything less is unethical, hypocritical, and more importantly, illegal. How do people like this sleep at night?

This occurred in an extremely conservative part of Kentucky. Did these people really believe that their party was really in danger of losing control? I seriously doubt that would have happened. So, what is the motivation here? I just don’t get it. They can’t play the game without cheating? Is it that much a part of their psyche that they can’t abide by the rules if it means there is even a .001% chance of them losing? Sorry, but this sounds a lot like what used to happen in the Soviet Bloc countries or South American countries run by dictators.

It’s difficult not to resort to generalities on an issue like this. By that I mean, it’s difficult not to come out and state that Republicans are all a bunch of crooks who are only motivated by winning at any and all costs, even to the extent of fraud. They apparently just do not understand that what they are doing has absolutely no place in a true democracy. So, in all fairness, I will try to not make that leap from “these specific individuals” to the much larger category of All Republicans. But, given the things we are seeing these days, it is extremely difficult.

As this story in the Bradblog brings up, there are much bigger issues here than just what motivates a small band of elected officials to commit crimes just so they would be able to rest assured that their party would “win.” This has all sorts of implications about electronic voting machines in general, with their untraceable voting records and with ease by which those results can be manipulated. It also calls into question our society’s general assumption that our elected officials will actually act in an impartial manner and administer the laws of the land evenly handedly, even if that goes against their personal beliefs. Those kinds of basic assumptions for a society based on a system of laws seem to be going out the window at a frightening pace these days.

As I stated earlier, I am finding it very difficult not to attribute these kinds of beliefs that these individuals seem to have regarding democracy to the larger Republican Party. Or perhaps, just the “tea party” wing of the conservative movement, if that makes anyone feel any better. In truth, even though I disagree with most of their positions on issues, I cannot see someone like the two Republican senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, endorsing such actions. But frankly, I wouldn’t put it past some other Republican members of Congress. But the tea party set? Yeah, it is an unfortunate fact that I totally believe that a large group of people who think that President Obama is a Muslim and wants to overthrown the United States in the name of Islam also believe that they should do anything in their power, be it legal or illegal, to achieve their goals, no matter the cost.

This is really a scary time for the United States of America. I would say “fascinating”, but that would only be true if we knew what the ultimate outcome will be.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How soon before someone really gets hurt or worse?

The rightwing crazies are really going crazy, with the passage of healthcare reform by a Democratic majority who finally did what many of them had campaigned on doing. What fascism! Imagine the majority party passing legislation.

But I am reading some very scary stories. Lawmakers being threatened and have had racist and homophobic names yelled at them. Windows are being broken at Democratic offices across the country. E-mails and electronic posts are threatening the well-being of not only lawmakers, but their kids.

This country is really sick right now. Peaceful demonstrations against the war in Iraq resulted in many people being arrested and thrown in jail. But it is fine and dandy to threaten Congressmen and women who did what they were elected to do.

What a fucked up country we have right now. If these assholes ever do regain power in the White House and both Houses of Congress, then I really fear what could happen. I don't think these nutjobs recognize any sort of civilized restraint these days.

First Flight of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two

Virgin Galactic, the private aerospace company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, successfully tested the passenger space-plane SpaceShipTwo today. SpaceShipTwo (SS2), is also called the Virgin Space Ship Enterprise, or VSS Enterprise, an obvious tribute to another space vehicle of some note. SS2 was carried to 45,000 feet (13.7km) by its mothership, named WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), or 'Eve', after Branson's mother. In this initial 'captive carry' test of the space plane, it remained attached to the mothership for the duration of the flight.

The SS2/WK2 combo took off from a runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, and flew for approximately three hours over the deserts of the Antelope Valley. SS2 is a prototype passenger vehicle that is designed to take astronauts to suborbital flight. If the remaining tests go as planned, it will eventually take a crew of two pilots and up to six passengers to the edge of space, at just over 100km (62 miles).This may happen as early as the end of 2011.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Detailed View of a Solar Eclipse Corona

Photo Credit & Copyright: Miloslav Druckmüller (Brno University of Technology), Martin Dietzel, Peter Aniol, Vojtech Rušin
Only in the fleeting darkness of a total solar eclipse is the light of the solar corona easily visible. Normally overwhelmed by the bright solar disk, the expansive corona, the sun's outer atmosphere, is an alluring sight. But the subtle details and extreme ranges in the corona's brightness, although discernible to the eye, are notoriously difficult to photograph. Pictured above, however, using multiple images and digital processing, is a detailed image of the Sun's corona taken during the 2008 August total solar eclipse from Mongolia. Clearly visible are intricate layers and glowing caustics of an ever changing mixture of hot gas and magnetic fields. Bright looping prominences appear pink just above the Sun's limb. The next total solar eclipse will be in July but will only be visible in a thin swath of Earth crossing the southern Pacific Ocean and South America.

ABC Radio News is certainly not part of the "liberal media."

The story they were leading off yesterday, on their "top of the hour" newscast, was about the Tea Party protests in Washington D.C. over healthcare reform. Spent a bit of time on that, then moved on to the Republican response from Mitch McConnell, which was pretty predictable. They made absolutely no effort to give the Democratic side of the story and what is actually in the bill. Just a story about having healthcare reform "rammed down the throats of Americans."

The problem for ABC Radio News? That Tea Protest protest was estimated somewhere between 300 and 1000 people. That's all. And that is what ABC Radio News lead off their NATIONAL news updates with.

This just makes me sick.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Remember when pulling our troops out of Iraq meant the end of the world as we know it?

I do. According to Republicans, pulling out of Iraq was equivalent to “surrendering to terrorists.” Anyone supporting such as action was labeled as being a traitor. We had to “win”, no matter the cost or the time involved. If the U.S. were to remove our troops, then we would have “lost.” Terrorists were going to come in and take over and the U.S. would suffer catastrophic attacks, worse than those of September 11, 2001. John McCain’s presidential campaign was substantially based on “winning the war in Iraq.” Remember that? I do.

I also remember that no one raised any sort of alarm about how much this spending to maintain two overseas wars was doing to our deficit. Anyone who brought up that was branded as a traitor, a hater of our troops. Dick Cheney famously said that “deficits don’t matter.”

So, what has happened since then? The Democrats, now that they have nominal control of both Houses of Congress as well as the presidency, have decided one of their main objectives is to reform how the healthcare system takes care of our citizens. How do the Republicans respond? Healthcare reform is the worst possible thing that could ever happen to this country. It’s socialism. It’s communism. It will kill old people. It will cause a huge deficit. It will be the end of democracy as we know it. That’s just about all that we hear from Republicans these days.

Here’s the latest news on the war in Iraq. From CNN:

Ambassador Christopher Hill told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the timetable for withdrawing all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by next August and all troops from the country by 2011 is "absolutely achievable."

I do not see any wailing and garment rending by Republicans about “losing the war in Iraq.” What is happening is what those Democrats who weren’t completely cowed by the shouting pro-war masses were advocating.

Where is the outrage that we are losing the war? Where is the concern that the U.S has officially adopted a pro-terrorist position?

The outrage on the Right is limited right now to the healthcare debate. And some left over for attempting to address global climate change. Horrors! Haters of America! Socialists! Nazis!

But I do not hear one single peep about pulling our troops out of Iraq. After all the noise that was generated from the right during the presidential campaign, you might think that such a potential calamity might warrant a mention now and then, wouldn’t you?

No, it’s healthcare! That’s the most important issue confronting this country, that Obama’s attempt at reform will destroy this country.

Is there any doubt, whatsoever, that the Republicans and their out-of-control mouthpieces Rush Limbaugh, Shaun Hannity and Glenn Beck, will go absolutely stark raving mad about anything that the Democrats attempt to try while they are in power? It doesn’t matter what. We have already seen that Republicans will do that for things that, in the past, they have supported! Iraq no longer matters. The Democrats have moved on, so they must move on as well. There are new battles to be fought, no matter that they came out of the old battles looking like complete idiots.

Republicans either do not understand what it means to govern, or else do not care. The only thing that matters is to win all political battles, big and small, and to embarrass your political “enemies” at every single opportunity. If there are no battles to be fought, no opportunities to embarrass, then manufacture some. The media doesn’t care and the public has a very short memory.

And these people consider themselves “patriotic.” I consider them pathetic.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Ya gotta read the fine print these days.

All the important details in our society today seem to be hidden in the fine print. It's the obvious or really unnecessary crap they tell you about.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Yes, THIS is the man who should be on the 50 dollar bill!

"And THIS is the secret sign we used at our fraternity at Whatssamatta U."

"What are you smirking about? Of course I love you! But Bonzo gets lonely if he sleeps in his own bed!"

Action Item to the rescue!!

(Click on the picture and get the enlarged version. It's much clearer that way, don't know why it's so fuzzy.)

I've felt like this too many times during my career.

The secret life of Spiderman.

Apparently, Peter Parker is an orthodox Jew and is married to Mandy from Animal House.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

R.I.P. "Jon Swift"

"Jon Swift's" real name was Al Weisel. He ran an hugely popular and terribly funny blog, the link is over in the column at the right. He had political satire down. His posts were enormously funny and very pointed. He also was very kind in his efforts to help out the "little person bloggers" like myself, where he would give us a link and, every year, ask us to contribute our "best post of the year." Barking Rabbits picked up quite a bit of traffic during the couple of weeks when his annual post ran.

That's terrible news. I will really miss his posts. I wish his friends and family well.


Mars moon Phobos

Photo from Bad Astronomy.

That's a very cool photo from the European Mars Express. There should be more very interesting photos in the near future, as the closest approach to Phobos will be on March 3 (which is actually today, the day I am posting this).

I am very intrigued by the parallel grooves on Phobos. The text from Bad Astronomy says that the current thinking is that they are cracks due to a previous collision. That's not really what they look like to me. And I am not sure they would all end up being parallel like that. It looks like to me that many items were orbiting so closely to the moon that they actually begin to touch the surface and cut grooves into the surface before those items (perhaps debris from a previous collision or encounter) eventually came to rest on the surface. Whatever those are, they certainly are interesting. The entire presentation looks like a misshapen potato that has been put in one of those do-dads that cuts curly fries out of the potato by rotating the potato along the major axis and putting a cutting tool on the surface while its rotating, but the process came to a halt right after the cutting surface just grazed the surface.

Boy, was that a deeply scientific explanation or what?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

More unusual art: melon art!

From Epic Win.

Graphic evidence of just how Republicans view their role as the opposition party.

This is from Crooks and Liars. Absolute evidence that requiring 60 votes in the Senate for every single vote on every single subject is NOT the norm. These morons vote no and try to obstruct absolutely everything that the Democrats attempt to do, even if they happen to agree with whatever is being debated, even if it might be good for their own constituents. Their one and only goal is to obstruct Democrats so they can "win", whatever the hell that means. They just cannot let Democrats be right about anything. For what reason, I have no idea. But that's where our country is today. And what makes me just insane is that they are getting away with it, the tea partiers love it and the mainstream media isn't calling them on it. God, this country sucks at the moment.

The sidewalk artist guy is at it again.

I posted some of this guy's work before, here, here and here. Here's more, although I am still not totally convinced something like this which would be incredibly difficult and require lots of time and good weather isn't a photoshop effort. I didn't include a couple I saw that I think are fakes, as they look computer generated and ran the entire length of the street. Still, the ones that I have included here are pretty neat.