Wednesday, December 31, 2008

If the GOP is going to do some “soul searching”, they need to admit a few things to themselves.

Namely, they need to understand the difference between personal attacks and political criticism. Republicans have so blurred the distinction between these two very different things that they actually do not understand there is a difference. Catch the last quote in this bit from HuffPo.

In private, GOP officials admit to being at a politically dangerous crossroads when it comes to minorities. Reaction to Chip Saltsman's distribution of a CD including the song "Barack the Magic Negro" has been mixed. James Richardson, a former RNC staffer, called it "political suicide." Current RNC chair Mike Duncan said he was "shocked and appalled." But Ken Blackwell, the African-American former Ohio Attorney General and another candidate for the chairmanship, dismissed criticism as "hypersensitivity in the press."

"Look, the GOP needs to be inclusive and more sensitive," a high-ranking Republican explained to the Huffington Post. "On the other hand if we are going to fall apart in pieces every time someone yells racism than we are going to lose the next four years.... Because that means that the left is allowed to talk about race but we are not. There has got to be a way to talk about the president's agenda without falling into this trap."

This guy seemed to be talking about whether or not something gets tagged as racism. Fair enough. If I were him, I wouldn’t like it if a valid criticism of the Obama administration was met with cries of “racist!” That would sort of be like what the Republicans do now with cries of “class warfare!” in response to any criticism of their social policies, such as, oh, any attempt to privatize Social Security. That kind of knee-jerk response is classified as an “inappropriate red-herring” in my mind, no matter which side is doing the freak-out cries of victimization as a way of clouding the issue. So, as far as this goes, I am with this guy. But then he says this.

“There has got to be a way to talk about the president's agenda without falling into this trap.”

Uh, excuse please? It seems to me there are unlimited ways of talking about (soon to be) President Obama’s agenda without bringing race into it. It’s called “discussing the issues.” Republicans really ought to try it some time. It actually might work and we might actually get something done here for the actual good of the country that isn’t being tallied as scoring political points off one’s enemies. And a debate about whether or not a political “joke” song titled “Barack, the Magic Negro” is or is not racist is not “discussing the issues.”

Jerk... Even when a Republican is trying to make sense and make a good point, they usually seem to screw it up.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A homophobic fundamentalist pastor gets bashed by a really insane fundamentalist pastor.

Boy. I am just so amazed that so many fundamentalists seem to have a direct pipeline in to God, such that they know exactly what He is thinking on any particular subject. Sarah Palin seemed to have an understanding that God wanted her to get a pipeline built that would go from Alaska to the lower mainland, through Canada. Up until that, I wasn’t sure that God was really that interested in energy projects.

Rick Warren has been in the news a lot lately, due to his views on many things and also by the fact that he will be speaking during President Elect Obama’s inauguration. Lots of gay and lesbian people are not very happy with that choice. It turns out that some people on the extreme right are none too pleased, either. This is from the Orange County Register, via The Washington Monthly.

Southern Baptist Pastor Wiley Drake bashed Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren this week, saying "God will punish" Warren for agreeing to give the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration next month.

"I pray He is kind to you in this punishment that is coming," Drake wrote in a widely-released e-mail. In it, the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park pastor criticizes Warren's "recent plan to invoke the presence of almighty God on this evil illegal alien," a reference to Obama.


Drake said Warren, also a Southern Baptist minister, is "hurting our denomination, and the Lord's work."

He continued: "God will deal with you on this … God will not wink at this."

Warren did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

"It's an abomination before God and God's going to deal with that," Drake, in an interview, said about Warren's role in the inauguration. "I've gotten several e-mails in response, and overwhelmingly, they have been supportive."

I always get a little thrill of excitement when I see someone from the extreme right turn upon their own. It just shows how little tolerance these people have for anything that doesn’t conform, exactly, to their own points of view. “What goes around, comes around”, I always say. And they deserve it. But it is also interesting to note that Drake, while calling on God to blast Warren into sub-atomic particles, throws in this. "I pray He is kind to you in this punishment that is coming." Uh huh. Yep. That proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Drake is really a caring and compassionate person.

It is just so disheartening to think that idiots like Wiley Drake actually have a pulpit and people listen to him. I swear, people like this would sound at home during the 16th century, going around the countryside and condemning people for consorting with Satan and denying God’s Will. It’s a good thing that accusing people of witchcraft and burning them at the stake or crushing them with rocks has gone out of style, because the mindset behind those actions is still alive and well. Anyone that gets out of line, well then, God is going to take care of you, and fast!

I am not a believer in God, Christian or otherwise. So, as long as the ravings of these lunatics do not affect me or the people and ideas I hold dear, then they can do whatever they like. If they were to all suddenly turn into Whirling Dervishes , that would also be entertaining and just about as useful. But really, if I were a moderate Christian who really cared about my church, I might start fighting back against these fundamentalists. They are really giving God a bad name, you know?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hey, global warming was great for the Vikings! So why should we worry?

Jeez. I cannot believe some people can be so obtuse. And this isn’t in some fifth tier conservative blog. This opinion column was in the LA Times!

Via the Denialism blog.

The vikings clawed their way back into the national conversation recently, and for those of us who believe they have never gotten their historical due, it was not a moment too soon. Last heard from when they unexpectedly popped up on horseback in last winter’s anachronistic, factually suspect action film “Pathfinder” – a rip-roaring affair that sadly found only a negligible audience – the Vikings often go whole decades without being talked about in any meaningful way on these shores.

All that changed a few weeks back when the Wall Street Journal published an essay on the subject of global warming by environmental sciences expert Daniel B. Botkin. Throwing down the gauntlet in the wake of the Nobel committee’s surprise decision to award Al Gore its coveted Peace Prize, Botkin kicked off his piece with this plucky assertion: “Global warming doesn’t matter except to the extent that it will affect life – ours and that of all living things on Earth. And contrary to the latest news, the evidence that global warming will have serious effects on life is thin. Most evidence suggests the contrary.”

To buttress this admittedly controversial theory, Botkin, president of the Center for the Study of the Environment and professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at UC Santa Barbara, cited studies proving that global warming would not result in huge numbers of species disappearing, would not result in an epidemic of tropical diseases and would not result in a catastrophic change in the way humans lead their lives. While not denying the reality of global warming, Botkin said that its effects have been vastly exaggerated, and that people should worry more about species disappearing forever because of deforestation in the rain forest rather than global warming in the Arctic.

But the real haymaker, coming right out of left field, was his contention that global warming would not necessarily be a disaster for humanity. Citing Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie’s “Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate Since the Year 1000,” one of those books that we all have on our nightstands but never seem to find the time to read, Botkin pointed out that it was the warming that occurred between 750 and 1230 that encouraged the Vikings to break out of their harsh climate and sail west. Particularly impressive were Erik the Red’s voyages, resulting in the colonization of the previously inaccessible and inhospitable Iceland and Greenland. Chortled Botkin: “Good thing that Erik the Red didn’t have Al Gore or his climatologists as his advisors.”

Those of us who adore Viking lore, those of us who never cease to marvel at their daring exploits, those of us who resent the way the first Europeans to set foot in North America have been completely upstaged by Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Ponce de Leon and the rest of those over-praised Johnny-come-latelies cannot help feeling a frisson of glee – nay, vindication – now that Botkin has gone where no Op-Ed page contributor, not even in the Journal, has gone before and singled out the voyages of the Vikings as a reason to stop being obsessed with global warming. Never in our wildest dreams did any of us seriously expect the Vikings to enter the global warming debate, not only because they have not been heard from for almost 1,000 years but because of their behavior.

Ah, yes. That’s a great argument. Vikings were the first people to discover North America, but were later upstaged by Columbus. That proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that global warming isn’t harmful.

Um, I’m searching for a word here… It’s on the tip of my tongue. Oh, yeah. Dumbass. That’s it.

Well, at least many people have stopped denying that the phenomenon of global warming is real. However, the lame excuses about why it doesn’t matter are even more bizarre than the rationale for the non-existence of global warming. And boy, if someone can get in a shot about Al Gore, or even two, then that REALLY proves their point!

I swear, if Al Gore and a bunch of liberals ran in to one of these people’s house, yelling at them that they need to get out because their house was on fire, they would sit there in their jammies, arguing with them and pointing out that Al Gore is fat.

You know, I am beginning to doubt evolution. Strict Darwinism should mean that all these idiots died out long ago.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dick Cheney; Worst Vice-President ever?

I have seen this story a couple of times, based on a survey from CNN. Here is part of the story from the Nation.

Twenty-three percent of Americans surveyed by CNN say Dick Cheney is the worst vice president in history.

Another 41 percent say Cheney has been a poor No. 2.

So, as the draft-dodging, corporation-coddling, obscenity-spewing, torture-sanctioning shredder of the Constitution prepares to leave the position he should have been forced from by Congress, almost two-thirds of Americans rank Cheney as bad or worse than Spiro Agnew.

But that was before Cheney acknowledged on national television that he had violated his oath to defend a Constitution that bars cruel and unusual punishment by promoting the use of waterboarding.

I am glad that Cheney is getting the recognition he deserves. In my estimation, he is a monster. This guy ran a shadow government, declared all sorts of things that are not supported by any sort of rational reading of the Constitution, and I firmly believe that he was responsible for pushing for “normalization” of torture as an everyday tactic. I believe that the last eight years would not have been as disastrous as they have been, except for the presence of Cheney and his legal attack-dog David Addington. He deserves all the negative accolades that he gets.

However, I am unsure about the validity of such a question. Outside of Spiro Agnew, who most people under 50 don’t really remember, there haven’t been any memorable Vice Presidents in our collective memories by which we could make such a comparison. Sure, there’s Dan Quayle, but he was memorable only because of the fact he came across as a doofus. He was most certainly not evil. My point is that most Americans have no frame of reference of past Vice Presidents by which to judge Cheney. That’s the relative judgment, i.e., a judgment is being made on the basis of a comparison. However, there is also an absolute judgment. No comparisons are being made. Without any sort of comparison to any past VP, Cheney is certainly the most devious, malicious, paranoid, hard-hearted anti-Constitutionalist that I would ever hope to see again in my lifetime.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ah, geez!!

It's Christmas, dad is running around acting like an idiot, everyone's really happy, and all Santa brought me was this stupid roll of toliet paper.

Photo from here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Dick Cheney, I am the Ghost of Christmas Past...."

I have several hundred things that I would like to show you.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wall Street Rogue Fund Manager: There goes another 50 billion dollars, more or less.

More investors, large and small, lose billions of dollars of investments.

From the NYTimes:

But on Friday, less than 24 hours after this prominent Wall Street figure was arrested on charges connected with what authorities portrayed as the biggest Ponzi scheme in financial history, hard questions began to be raised about whether Mr. Madoff acted alone and why his suspected con game was not uncovered sooner.

As investors from Palm Beach to New York to London counted their losses on Friday in what Mr. Madoff himself described as a $50 billion fraud, federal authorities took control of what remained of his firm and began to pore over its books.

But some investors said they had questioned Mr. Madoff’s supposed investment prowess years ago, pointing to his unnaturally steady returns, his vague investment strategy and the obscure accounting firm that audited his books.


Now thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of investors confront losses that range from serious to devastating. Some families said on Friday that they believed they had lost all their savings. A charity in Massachusetts said it had lost essentially its entire endowment and would have to close.

According to an affidavit sworn out by federal agents, Mr. Madoff himself said the fraud had totaled approximately $50 billion, a figure that would dwarf any previous financial fraud.

At first, the figure seemed impossibly large. But as the reports of losses mounted on Friday, the $50 billion figure looked increasingly plausible. One hedge fund advisory firm alone, Fairfield Greenwich Group, said on Friday that its clients had invested $7.5 billion with Mr. Madoff.

I find it very interesting and coincidental that this is just about the same figure, or even more, that was being bandied about to help save the domestic automobile manufacturing industry. That’s a topic for another post, of course. But this one is just staggering, especially coming on the heels of all the bailouts on Wall Street and the out of control governor of Illinois.

It really is beginning to seem as if there is not a single honest person who controls the power and wealth of this country. All of them are out to get as much as they can for themselves, without regard to what happens to anyone else. Now, of course, this is a vast oversimplification. There are many honest, hard working people out there. But it is getting increasingly difficult to emotionally believe that. It really is beginning to feel like the entire “ruling elite” of this country (both political and corporate) are a bunch of bald faced lying thieves.

I can only hope that this absolute deluge of bad news recently causes the entire country to rethink how things have been done in the last 15 years or so. Regulation and oversight are not evil; they are absolute necessities. There is an old saying (I can’t remember the attribution right now) that goes something like, “Great powers are not destroyed from the outside until the are destroyed from within.” Unfortunately, that is what I think is going on right now in the country. Unless we do something to reverse this trend, the history of the United States of America is going to be documented in books and placed on the library shelves, right next to “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Governor Blagojevich of Illinois: The new “Stupidest Man of the Face of the Earth.”

Douglas Feith has relinquished his crown. I am not going to try to summarize all the revelations about this asshat. This statement from an editorial from the NYTimes summarizes everyone’s feelings about him, though.

We have seen a lot of political hubris, scratch-my-back politics and sheer stupidity over the years. But nothing could prepare us for the charges brought Tuesday against Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois.

From my knothole, “hubris” doesn’t even come close to it. Although I have no training from which to judge such things, I would say that this guy is a sociopath. No, he doesn’t go around killing people, but from all indications, he has absolutely no moral compunctions at all. None. Even armed with the knowledge that he has been under investigation by the authorities for about three years, this guy STILL tries to make money for both him and his wife by selling political “favors”. He tried to shake down Warren Buffet, which doesn’t sound like a really great idea to me. He thought that he could just appoint himself to the open Senate position vacated by Barak Obama, if he got into trouble, as he would have access to more tools to keep his butt out of jail.

Where do these guys come from, and how come they end up with power and money? To be honest, this guy was probably just missed his window of opportunity. He would have gone far in the Soviet Union, circa 1970.

I hope Fitz throws his butt in jail for 800 years.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Is the Earth’s magnetic field getting ready to flip polarities?

There is some very interesting and somewhat alarming data being collected on the Earth’s magnetic field. Here are a couple of items that fit into that category. The Earth’s magnetic field is about 10% weaker now than it was 150 years ago. That’s pretty staggering. 150 years in geologic time represents a blink of the eye, and 10% of anything is a pretty significant percentage, especially something as powerful as the planetary magnetic field. That change represents a huge amount of energy. The other interesting data point is that there is a very weak spot in the magnetic field over the southern Atlantic off the coast of Brazil where the local magnetic field about 30% of the normal strength of rest of the field.

I have discussed the importance of the Earth’s magnetic field before, in the context of how crucial it was for the formation of life on Earth. It protects the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and all the life on the surface of the planet from the solar wind. The term “solar wind” is a pretty benign sounding, given how much havoc it can wreak on anything left unprotected. The solar wind consists of massive amounts of highly energized particles streaming off the sun’s corona. Normally, the Earth’s magnetic field funnels all these particles into the polar regions, which results in spectacular displays called the Northern Lights. A planetary atmospheric system left unprotected from the solar wind for millions of years would result in the atmosphere blasted off the surface of the planet and into space. The oceans would eventually evaporate. The result would be a dead, barren planet like Mars. In fact, that is exactly the scenario being discussed among planetary scientists to explain why Mars obviously once had large amounts of water flowing on the surface. Evidence is showing that Mars may once have had a magnetic field protecting it, but it does not now.

If Earth’s magnetic field continues to decay, it could suffer the same fate as Mars. Put on a liner scale, given the present rate of decay, the entire magnetic field could be gone within 1500 years. Global warming and widespread climate change would be a minor annoyance compared to this apocalyptic scenario. Global climate change might be catastrophic to mankind, but many of the current species on Earth would adapt and survive. The Earth, as a living entity, would survive in some form. However, the loss of the protective magnetic shield and the subsequent loss of the atmosphere and oceans would result in a dead planet.

Thankfully, many scientists are predicting that this doomsday scenario is unlikely. Fluctuations of the magnetic field appear to be the norm. Another scenario is that the Earth’s magnetic poles are getting ready to flip. That is, what used to be the “+” magnetic pole on the northern axis of the globe, after some rather wild fluctuations, will end up at the south pole. This has happened many times in the past, and will undoubtedly happen again in the future. The instability of the field before this occurs could lead to loss of radio and satellite communications, the possibility of intermittent failures of power grids, etc. for possibly years. However, compared with the possibility of the slow death of the entire planet, these effects should be considered relatively minor.

Photo from here.