Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The socialists among us

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Communist Central
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

"Obamacare" - developed by Republicans as the private market solution to health care reform - "is the crown jewel of socialism." Heh, heh. Yeah, right. How crazy can these people get?

Of course, these right-wing politicians and political pundits know how stupid it is. But they're confident that their supporters are even stupider - and gullible enough to believe almost anything.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Communist Central - Obama's Socialist Scheme
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

(PS. Still busy here. Now my raspberries and cherries are ripe. And, as usual, I'm behind in just about everything. So I'll continue to be slow in posting - and everything else - I'm afraid.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pastor Worley's defender

That's church member Stacey Pritchard. Isn't she something? "Yes, he said that, but... he would never want that to be done."

So, he's just lying? Is that what you're saying?

"OK, just to make the short of it, yes, I agree with him. If they can't get the message that that's wrong, then, um, you know..."  Yes, clearly concentration camps are the only answer, huh?

And she wants gays and lesbians in concentration camps so they can't reproduce! You think maybe she's a little confused about that whole "birds and bees" thing, or what?

Anderson Cooper looks like he doesn't know what to do with her. How do you interview someone this dense?

"You see, it's all taken out of context..." Right, they meant concentration camps in a good way. :)

And of course she believes that adulterers should be put to death. Not that it would "really happen," though. Damn that separation of church and state!

Just that one church has seats for 1200 people! Think about that. Do you think she's the smart one of the congregation, chosen to speak for the group? Heh, heh. Imagine that!

But I have to question Cooper about one thing: all this seems very Christian to me. Clearly, she agrees. Of course, people are just "harping, harping, harping" on that electric fence. Hard to believe, isn't it?

Oh, and look at the expression on her face, how she raises her eyebrows, skeptically, when he says, "If some people were talking about putting Jews behind electrified fences,... I imagine that would be of concern to you." Heh, heh. Very clearly, that's exactly what she thinks should be done with Jews, too.

But remember, this is a pastor who "speaks the word of God." (And you worship that son of a bitch?)

Oh, if you didn't hear Pastor Worley's exact words, they're here.

How to tell shit from shinola

I could have sworn I already posted this, but I sure can't find it. Anyway, it's too good to pass up. If it's a duplicate post, I apologize.

This is Terence McKenna, apparently. That seems rather odd, given his Wikipedia entry, but here's what the video creator says:
As I replied to a similar comment earlier, this speech does indeed stand in stark contrast to much of what he said and believed, both then and later. It's a good reminder that we must guard ourselves against irrationally far more vigorously than we even do others.

License to kill

Have you ever seen someone drive too fast through your neighborhood? Of course you have. We all have.

So what did you do? Did you track them down and kill them? You didn't even consider doing that, I'll bet - not seriously, at least.

Have you ever seen someone driving erratically? Did you follow them home and shoot them? Did you even think about it? Too bad you didn't have your gun handy, isn't it?

Have you ever been in a fist fight? Who died? Oh, no one died?

I once worked with a man who sucker-punched another man outside a bar. My co-worker got his ass kicked. (It couldn't have happened to anyone who deserved it more.) He did get his nose broken, and needed medical attention. But no one died. No one was even threatened with death.

I've seen other fights - dumb, drunken things, usually. (I haven't been in a fight myself since I was 13, I think.) No one died. And the vast majority of people were smart enough to avoid them. It is, after all, a remarkably dumb thing to do.

But not as dumb as taking your gun and looking for trouble, no matter how brave your gun makes you feel.

Obviously, not every person with a concealed carry permit is going to do this, and certainly not every gun owner. But having a gun at hand makes it very easy to be stupid. And it seems to me that you're not going to be carrying a gun at all unless you're easily frightened. Or maybe you've just been watching too much television.

The question to ask is what kind of society we want. I prefer civilization, myself. Criminals with guns don't scare me nearly as much as morons with guns. (And the more guns, the more likely criminals will be armed, too.)

Of course, I'm not likely to take the law into my own hands. And I don't want some random idiot on the street to be doing that, either.

You can already defend yourself, with or without a gun. We don't need these "shoot first" laws. If you really want to shoot people, join the army.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Is Barack Obama a big spender?

I like how Cenk Uygur puts this:
If they [the media] were doing their job, what they would say is, 'Here's what the Republicans claim, and here's reality. And you can see that they do not match up.'

They never do. They never do.

Why do you believe?

Why do you believe what you believe? The vast majority of people believe what their parents believed, what the majority of people in their society believed.

If you'd been born somewhere else, you'd be just as convinced that an entirely different religion was true. Oh, some people do change religions - usually not too drastically - but the vast majority follow the same general faith that they were raised to believe.

And that's a very poor reason, indeed.

Romneys have problems, too

Mitt Romney shares your pain. No, he's never felt it himself, but he'll gladly spread it around, sharing it with all the other little people.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The center of all things

Another great video. Is it my imagination, or are these things just getting better and better?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mr. Deity and the rights

Gay rights are an Obama-nation? Another mistranslated passage from the Bible! Heh, heh. Funny, huh?

Record numbers don't understand 'pro-choice'

(image from Dear Baby G)

From Indecision Forever:
According to Gallup, the number of Americans who identify as "pro-choice" has fallen to a record low of 41%, down from 47% last July. The 50% of Americans who regard themselves as "pro-life" is just one percent short of the highest figure polled. However, the number of Americans confused about what these labels mean is at an all-time high
Gallup's longest-running measure of abortion views, established in 1975, asks Americans if abortion should be legal in all circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances. Since 2001, at least half of Americans have consistently chosen the middle position, saying abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, and the 52% saying this today is similar to the 50% in May 2011. The 25% currently wanting abortion to be legal in all cases and the 20% in favor of making it illegal in all cases are also similar to last year's findings.

As always, there's a large partisan divide on the self-identification question. Democrats remain pro-choice by a 58 to 34% margin, while Republicans are in favor of terminating first-term Democratic presidencies, but little else. ...

Perhaps this divide can be bridged by clever framing: Since fetuses aren't U.S. citizens and Republicans aren't keen on granting non-citizen "illegals" any rights, maybe pro-choicers can start referring to abortions as fetal deportations. Even the most ardent evangelicals might have to get on board, as they're not sure one becomes an American until he's Born Again, let alone born the first time.

Funny, but weird, too, isn't it?  77% of Americans think that abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances, but only 41% consider themselves "pro-choice."

Only 20% of Americans think that abortion should be illegal in all cases, yet half the country claims to be "pro-life." Well, no one is "pro-death," so I suppose the label is appealing. But do we actually understand what we're saying?

I suppose much of this is the divide between "pro-life always" and "pro-life except in cases of rape or incest." I must admit that the later position seems to make no sense at all. If you really think that a fertilized egg or a blastocyst is a baby, then why would you make an exception for rape?

Of course, I don't think that any of it makes much sense. You can believe that a fertilized egg has a 'soul' if you want (a soul which will automatically go to heaven upon death, supposedly - which hardly seems like a bad thing), but we have freedom of religion in this country. That means that you can't force your own religious beliefs on other people.

I can't think of a secular reason for prohibiting all abortions, and considering that women very definitely are people - whatever you think of fetuses - I wouldn't want to tell them what they can or can't do with their own bodies, not without a very good reason!

On the other hand, this doesn't seem to be a case for black-and-white thinking. Birth is an obvious time to decide when a new "person" legally begins, as it has the great advantage of no longer requiring the mother's participation, but human development is gradual. A new-born infant isn't greatly different from the late-term fetus just an hour before.

So I have no problem with certain restrictions on late-term abortions, though I don't want anyone to get between a woman and her doctor. Obviously, no woman is going to want a late-term abortion. So, if a woman and her doctor decide that a late-term abortion is medically necessary (for whatever reason), who am I - who are you - to say otherwise?

The Bain presidency

Deep sea jellyfish

You might have seen that video clip of a gelatinous blob, undulating around the camera of a deep sea oil rig, which recently went viral. (It's had more than 5 million hits on YouTube.)

Well, this is the one which really should go viral. That blob was apparently Deepstaria reticulum, a deep sea jellyfish. To my mind, the explanation makes the whole thing even more fascinating.

You'd better learn to enjoy jellyfish, anyway, because as we're destroying the ocean - through over-fishing, habitat destruction, and global warming - jellyfish seem to be benefiting (maybe not this particular species, of course).

We may end up with nothing but jellyfish. Of course, a lot of human beings will likely starve to death before then. But that's not stopping us, is it?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cutting government jobs

Why does this matter? Because slashing government jobs does the same thing as slashing private jobs in a recession - it makes the recession worse by lowering demand.

It's the exact opposite of what we should be doing, since we need that demand in order to get private businesses hiring again.

Heck, we've known all this since the Great Depression of the 1930s. That's why government hiring has gone up during recessions under Republican presidents, even when they had Democratic Congresses to contend with.

Today's Republicans know it, too, but they don't want the economy to get better as long as there's a Democrat in the White House. They're willing to damage America and to harm American families in order to help their own political ambitions.

And they're faith-based, too, so they find it easy to believe whatever they want to believe (in this case, that the end justifies the means).

You're goddamn right I care!

I'm a little late in posting this - I'm a little late with everything these days - but I especially liked Steve Oh's remarks here:
I'm going to go over the top the other way. I don't think Obama is politicizing it enough. I think he should be like, he should say, 'You're goddamn right I got bin Laden. Because George W. Bush wasn't going to get him.'

And I'd play the tape of George W. Bush saying, 'Bin Laden? I don't really care about bin Laden. He's not really my concern anymore. I don't really care. I don't think about it.'

I'd play those fucking tapes over and over again, and then I'd play the tape of me - Obama - saying, 'I got him. What now? ... Yeah, I do care. I care! That guy masterminded the worst terrorist attack on our soil, and guess what? I care! I cared the whole time that Bush was in office, and I cared the whole time that I'm in office. I did everything I could to get him, and guess what? I got him!'

Yup, me, too. I like the way this guy thinks. The Republicans had no problem with spiking the football during the Bush years, even when they hadn't accomplished anything at all! Remember that notorious 'Mission Accomplished' banner? No, the mission had not been accomplished (unless the 'mission' was merely to create a photo op for Bush's re-election campaign).

Well, Barack Obama did accomplish the mission. Remember 9/11? That was supposedly our excuse for the invasion of Afghanistan (and, practically speaking, the only reason Bush was able to invade Iraq, even though Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attack).

I disagree with Lucas Lilieholm here. Mitt Romney and other Republicans specifically said they would not go into Pakistan to get bin Laden. In fact, they made it a campaign issue in 2008. It wasn't just a casual remark, but a wholesale attempt to criticize Barack Obama on just this issue.

So damn right they should be held accountable for that! Mitt Romney specifically said that he would not do what he's now claiming that any president would have done. He's only doing that because it was successful, of course. If the mission had failed, he'd be saying just the reverse right now.

So he was either lying then or he's lying now. Either way, he should be held accountable for it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dwarf Fortress: Summitspear 253

Fire sweeps across our trading post. (Click image to embiggen.)

This is the fourth in my latest Dwarf Fortress series (but just the third year). The beginning of Summitspear is here. If you're looking to get started in the game yourself, check this out.

253 was a year of triumph and tragedy here at Summitspear. It began just like the previous year, with a huge immigrant wave: 33 dwarves, ten of them children.

Several were highly skilled loners, and having learned our lesson, we immediately locked them up. As it turned out, though, none were vampires. Well, better embarrassed than dead, right? We apologized, and there seems to be no hard feelings.

(Note that our four vampires are still locked away, still healthy and even content, despite months without food or drink - or blood. Our dwarves even voted Ingish Touchedrooms mayor again, though none were foolish enough to let him out. Perhaps we should put a more solid barricade on his cell...

(Actually, I suspect that this was just a protest vote against Urdim Lovedmetal. A leader, after all, must often make unpopular decisions. She simply ignored the vote and continued as our mayor, but I think she was angered by it. At least, she had old Urist Quakecudgel beaten bloody for missing a production mandate, even though Urist had absolutely nothing to do with that.)

Mid-spring, a troll surprised us, suddenly appearing in the heart of our fortress (written up here). We must count that a triumph, despite our errors, as not a single dwarf was so much as scratched.

Then, just before summer, six goblin spearmen and a crossbowman ambushed us, and we came out of that remarkably well, too. Well, we were lucky. We recognize that now. But at the time, our soldiers got to feeling pretty cocky.

In fact, we didn't even see the goblins until the crossbowman was foolish enough to shoot at a badger, just outside our southwest gate. And then he proceeded to walk right into a cage trap, which eliminated our most dangerous enemy right off the bat.

The spearmen were smart enough to stay at a distance,... but not smart enough to stay quite far enough away. Apparently, they didn't want to leave their leader. Unfortunately for them, our marksdwarves crept out on top of the wall (we're still building our defenses), ambushing the ambushers.

It was a glorious triumph, again without injury to our own people. And another, smaller ambush in late summer was no more successful. Even the industrial accident, shortly thereafter, which knocked Mistem Craftedglides off the wall, two stories down into our (dry) moat, left her with just scrapes and bruises. At this point, it was looking to be a pretty good year!

Meanwhile, our miners kept digging, finding yet another cavern system - or the same one, perhaps - just above a vast lake of magma, far, far beneath our fortress. This time, we were very careful to keep any openings blocked up.

And it's a very good thing we were, because we discovered far worse dangers than trolls, deep underground. Several times our people spotted a Forgotten Beast wandering the caverns.

Fubag the Flood of Slivers is a gigantic three-eyed lizard with antennae sprouting from its head. When first spotted, it was covered in blood - not its own, unfortunately. Later, we discovered the scene of a battle where the beast had wiped out a whole tribe of serpentmen. We couldn't inspect the scene very closely, but it looked like Fubag had used some kind of chemical attack. It was really very gruesome.

We've spotted the beast several times, but never in the same place twice, so it will be hard to set up an ambush. We're pretty sure it can't fly, but we don't know if it can discharge its noxious secretions as a ranged attack (another potential problem with the ambush idea). Clearly, anything which can take out a whole tribe of serpentmen is a deadly danger to us.

We also discovered part of a smooth stone structure, obviously artificial, just above the magma. We haven't been able to get a good look at it yet. What we can see doesn't tell us much. Maybe it's just more serpentmen? For the time being, we're leaving it alone.

But we did carve out some rooms down there, so we can use the magma for smelting ore and forging metal. We haven't been able to find any coal here, so we've been forced to burn wood for charcoal. And even in a jungle setting, that's not very efficient.

Unfortunately, the magma is far, far below the rest of our fortress, and our iron deposits tend to be near the surface, too. We could move our fortress, of course, but that would mean abandoning what we've struggled so hard to build. Just to save us a little effort? I don't think so.

However, we've recently heard of new minecart technology which would let us haul large quantities of ore and other materials on a track. It's still experimental, but it sounds intriguing. [Note that minecarts have just been introduced in the latest Dwarf Fortress release, though I have yet to install that one. They do seem to be quite... challenging - and very dangerous.]

I mentioned tragedy, as well as triumph, so I suppose I should get to that. In late autumn, just when we were expecting a dwarven caravan (which never arrived), we were besieged by the goblins. This was no minor ambush, but a war party of 15 bowmen, a maceman, and a trained giant olm.

As I mentioned previously, our defenses were (and are) incomplete, but it was our own mistakes which really hurt us. The goblins came from the north, where their bowmen lined the far riverbank. So our marksdwarves were ordered to the second-story fortifications to shoot back.

But we'd gotten too cocky. Our marksdwarves apparently thought they were invincible. Instead of staying behind the fortifications, they kept moving into the open, where they could be shot full of arrows. Two died, and two others were badly injured.

It was a long battle. When we raised the bridge, the maceman and the giant olm (which, as an amphibian, was perfectly capable of swimming the river) fell into our moat. They were only stunned, but it let us concentrate on the bowmen.

With the bridge up, the bowmen tried to ford the river. Four goblins were swept over the waterfall. Several others were caught in traps. Our people finally finished off the last of them, then stood at the edge of the moat and used the giant olm for target practice. It was a victory, but an expensive one.

Then, in early winter, we were attacked by a dragon. Yes, an actual, fire-breathing dragon! Luckily, the creature couldn't fly (although it swam quite well). As I mentioned, our walls aren't complete. So when the dragon neared our fortress, it breathed a vast gust of flame far across the moat, roasting our livestock and setting the jungle inside our compound afire.

That initial flaming was absolutely incredible! With that kind of ranged attack, I don't know what we could have done. Luckily, the dragon stumbled into a cage trap - and thankfully, a metal cage trap, at that.

But meanwhile, fire raced through our compound, killing even more livestock. Unfortunately, this was the dry season, and the jungle went up like tinder. The image above shows the flames sweeping across our trading post. (The image below is just a little later, when the fire reached the west wall.)

Luckily, the walls, the stairs, the floor hatches are all stone, and wouldn't burn. But the fire raced through our cage stockpile, burning up all of our wooden cages - and the goblin prisoners inside them.

Stonesense image of our compound, covered in ash. Flames still burn to the west.

Again, we were lucky. The jungle will recover. We will recover. Indeed, fire wasn't our biggest danger this year. Water was.

The river to our north has always been treacherous. The banks are slippery, the current is swift, and it ends in a waterfall which drops down a tall cliff. We'd lost dwarves to the river in previous years, but it became an absolute deathtrap in 253.

In late summer, we lost three of our people in quick succession. In the fall, another two - and these among our most skilled. Warnings of the danger didn't seem to help. Prohibiting access to that part of the river didn't stop it, either.

We built floor grating at the bottom of the cliff, so we could at least collect the remains of our dwarves. (It's bad enough to lose a loved one. When we can't even recover their remains, when the bodies lie rotting at the bottom of a river, rather than entombed - returned to the stone - as dwarves should be, it's especially depressing.)

The river didn't just grab dwarves, either. All manner of creatures have plunged over the waterfall. With the grating, they tend to live, though they're battered pretty badly. But all of those goblin bowmen survived the fall well enough to still fight. Not any of our own people, though. It's a long way down.

Anyway, we finally decided we had to do something. We were just losing too many of our people. So we built a bridge over the most dangerous stretch of the river.

But even then, the river reached out for one more sacrifice. Endok Silverbristled, one of our original founders, skilled mason, mechanic, and architect, slipped as he was building the bridge and fell to his death.

Stonesense view of the new bridge over the waterfall.

We had only beginners left to finish he job, but it was finally accomplished, just before the year came to an end. It's a retractable bridge, so it will double as a trap - not a very safe trap, admittedly, since it will dump enemies down into our residential section (but they probably won't be too healthy by then).

We ended our third year in Summitspear with 126 residents, including 38 children and four vampires (sealed away in their little cells). We also have a memorial hall with a long line of coffins bearing our honored dead - and stone slabs memorializing those whose bones we couldn't recover.

Our miners are already working to enlarge that space. It's a dangerous land. We're only just starting to realize how dangerous.

Note: Part 5 is here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Draw Mohammad Day III

Today is the third annual Draw Mohammad Day (or Mohammed, Muhammad,... whatever).

I can't draw, and I really don't have time to mess with it right now (still picking strawberries). And I'm not on Twitter. But I thought I'd post this video clip, at least.

The issue is not about making fun of Islam. Yeah, it's silly, but so are most religions. The issue is about freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Other people have the right to believe whatever they wish and to say whatever they wish, even if it hurts your feelings. Get over it!

If you don't like what I say - and that includes drawings, cartoons, and videos - the civilized response is free speech of your own, not violence or threats of violence. You god must be really, really weak, if he needs you to bully people for him.

The really funny thing about this is that the prohibition was meant to keep Muslims from making graven images, and eventually starting to worship Mohammad instead of Allah. Well, I'm an atheist. You don't have to worry about me worshiping Mohammad!

Indeed, it's the Muslims who get so crazy about this who are doing exactly what the prohibition was meant to counter. These Muslims have started worshiping Mohammad.

Well, I don't care if they worship their morning dump, as long as they respect the freedoms of other people. You can believe anything you want - and try to persuade me to believe it, too - as long as you don't try to force it on anyone else.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Straight white male: the lowest difficulty setting

For us gamers, here's a great post by science fiction author John Scalzi about The Real World, where straight white males automatically play the game on the lowest difficulty setting:
In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

Now, once you’ve selected the “Straight White Male” difficulty setting, you still have to create a character, and how many points you get to start — and how they are apportioned — will make a difference. Initially the computer will tell you how many points you get and how they are divided up. If you start with 25 points, and your dump stat is wealth, well, then you may be kind of screwed. If you start with 250 points and your dump stat is charisma, well, then you’re probably fine. Be aware the computer makes it difficult to start with more than 30 points; people on higher difficulty settings generally start with even fewer than that.

As the game progresses, your goal is to gain points, apportion them wisely, and level up. If you start with fewer points and fewer of them in critical stat categories, or choose poorly regarding the skills you decide to level up on, then the game will still be difficult for you. But because you’re playing on the “Straight White Male” setting, gaining points and leveling up will still by default be easier, all other things being equal, than for another player using a higher difficulty setting.

Likewise, it’s certainly possible someone playing at a higher difficulty setting is progressing more quickly than you are, because they had more points initially given to them by the computer and/or their highest stats are wealth, intelligence and constitution and/or simply because they play the game better than you do. It doesn’t change the fact you are still playing on the lowest difficulty setting.

It's quite clever, don't you think? You might want to check out the entire post. This just gives you the gist of it.

If you don't play computer games - especially role-playing games - you might not get it. Well, the automatic advantages of straight white men ought to be easy enough to understand, anyway. But I thought this was brilliant.

The thing is, you still have to play the game. You can play well, or you can play poorly. And there's enough randomization that the game can be very tough or very easy, no matter how well you play. The game of life isn't guaranteed to be easy for you as a straight white male. But you do play on the lowest difficulty setting.

As a gamer - and as a straight white male - I thought this was brilliant.

Alan Dershowitz on religion's role in society

This is quite prophetic, since it's from a year before the 9/11 attacks.

This debate, between Alan Dershowitz and Alan Keyes, took place on September 27, 2000. The entire debate - "Does organized religion have the answers to 21st Century problems?" - is here. This is just Dershowitz's opening statement.

I did watch the whole thing. Keyes is an excellent debater and a superb speaker. He's wrong, I'd say, and he deliberately misinterprets Dershowitz in order to win points with the audience, but he's quite skilled.

I didn't find Keyes very likable, but I was impressed at his abilities. Of course, Dershowitz is no shrinking violet. As the debate continued, the fur really started to fly.

As I noted, this was a year before the 9/11 attacks. It was also four months before George W. Bush was inaugurated as our 43rd president. I thought it was interesting to hear Keyes comment, in his opening statement, on the great economy - how wonderful everyone was doing at the tail-end of the Clinton years. (He didn't put it like that, of course.)

This was a time when the right-wing was pushing tax cuts for the rich because the economy was doing so well, instead of, a year or so later, when they were pushing tax cuts for the rich because the economy was doing poorly. (It's interesting how tax cuts for the rich are the perfect solution to every situation, don't you think?)

Anyway, it seems almost old fashioned these days to hear that optimism about America's economy. Well, it's amazing what eight years of George W. Bush can do to a country!

Richard Feynman - the key to science

This is Richard Feynman in 1964. Simple, isn't it?

From Robert Krulwich:
Think about what he's saying. Science is our way of describing — as best we can — how the world works. The world, it is presumed, works perfectly well without us. Our thinking about it makes no important difference. It is out there, being the world. We are locked in, busy in our minds. And when our minds make a guess about what's happening out there, if we put our guess to the test, and we don't get the results we expect, as Feynman says, there can be only one conclusion: we're wrong.

The world knows. Our minds guess. In any contest between the two, The World Out There wins. It doesn't matter, Feynman tells the class, "how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is, if it disagrees with the experiment, it is wrong."

This is why you can trust the scientific consensus - oh, not to be true, necessarily, because it's not always true. But scientists change their minds when the evidence indicates that they've been wrong. So the scientific consensus is always the best guess we've got.

Compare this to religion. Religion does the first part just fine, the guessing. Then it stops. If the evidence indicates that their guess was wrong, they cling to that guess anyway. They just know that guess was right, whatever the evidence indicates.

They accept any evidence that backs up their guess, but deny any contrary evidence. They rationalize it. They build great edifices of religious logic to explain it away. In religion, changing your mind is heresy. The guess is everything, the evidence nothing.

This is not just in organized religion, either. It's natural in human beings to want to be right. It's natural to cling to our guesses, despite the evidence. That's why the scientific method had to be invented, because it's not natural. And even scientists are human.

So you won't get every scientist to go along with the consensus. Partly, that's the natural human response to cling to our preconceived notions. But partly, it's the fact that science rewards heretics - successful heretics, at least. You become famous in science by overturning established orthodoxy.

It doesn't happen very often, but the rewards are great to a successful heretic. So that, too, helps keep a certain percentage of scientists doubtful, even when there's abundant evidence backing up the consensus. That's a good thing, because it keeps science honest.

But for us laymen, there is no better explanation than the scientific consensus. If there's a consensus, that's the best explanation we've got, and the only rational position is to accept it, tentatively (as all science is tentative).

It doesn't matter if the consensus is about evolution, global warming, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth, or... whatever. We laymen should accept the scientific consensus as the best answer we've got. (In cutting edge science, where there is no clear consensus, we should simply reserve judgement.)

Is this so hard to understand? I don't think so. But apparently, it's hard to accept. We just really, really like our guesses.

PS. If you're wondering what "Feynman Chaser" means (I was), check this out.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Even the pros don't like stocks right now

Worried about the stock market? You're not alone. From CNBC:
Wall Street strategists are the most negative they've been on stocks since the bull market began more than three years ago.

The consensus view of U.S. equity strategists from major banks is for investors to allocate just 52 percent of their portfolio to stocks and the rest to fixed income, commodities or cash, according to a Bloomberg survey.

This is the lowest allocation for stocks since the nearly 50 percent level that the survey reached back in March 2009.

Well, we've been hearing a lot of bad news lately, from China to Greece. In America, banks seem to be up to their old tricks, with JP Morgan behaving more like a hedge fund than an FDIC-insured bank. And clearly, Republicans are still determined to sabotage the economic recovery, no matter what it takes.

This is also, typically, a bad time of year for stocks. "Sell in May and go away" is the old adage. And according to this article, the S&P 500 is already near a three-month low. Scary, huh?

But note the last time the pros were this negative - March, 2009. That was one of the best times ever to invest in stocks. I've been worried, but this article actually seems like good news to me. (Note that the pros rarely get too negative, because they make money from other people investing in the market. You have to look at this in relative terms.)

As Warren Buffett says, you have to be greedy when other people are fearful, and fearful when other people are greedy. When no one likes stocks, prices tend to be low and there's a lot of money sitting on the sidelines, available for investment. When everyone loves stocks, prices tend to be high, with little extra money available to push them higher.

Well, I have no idea where the market is going from here - and neither does anyone else. I can't be overly optimistic, but I'm very glad to hear there's this much negativity.

We've been in a bull market since the last time stock market strategists were this negative, just a few weeks after Barack Obama took office. (Just think of how much Wall Street would hate him if they hadn't been making money hand over fist all this time!) Bull markets don't last forever, but this is a very good sign.

I don't give investment advice, and I don't know how I'd advise you if I did. But if you only invest in the stock market when everything looks wonderful, you'll be pretty much guaranteed to pay too much for what you get.

Of course, it's a whole lot easier to go along with the crowd. Then, if you're wrong, you won't be alone. If you lose money, everyone else will be losing money, too. No doubt that's comforting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Barack Obama is gay

Well, of course Barack Obama is gay. You wouldn't support civil rights for other people, would you?

Obviously, you wouldn't support civil rights for blacks and Hispanics if you're white. You wouldn't support women's rights if you're a man. You wouldn't support freedom of religion if you're a Christian. (Oh, you'd support freedom of religion in majority Muslim countries, just not here.)

I mean, it just goes without saying that your own civil rights are all that matter to you, right? At least, if you're a right-wing nutcase, anyway.

The rest of us recognize that our whole society benefits when civil rights are extended to everyone. And yes, we live in that society, so we tend to benefit, too. But does that mean I don't care about people in other societies? Of course not!

But we're seeing more and more of this libertarian attitude that nothing matters but your own individual benefit. Greed is good. Selfishness is good. No one else matters, just you.

These aren't exactly the same kinds of right-wing crazy, but they're very close. (That's why Ron Paul is a Republican.) We'd still have slavery if we'd always thought like this. And that would be just one of our problems today, if our forefathers had thought like this.

The religious nuts want to force everyone else to think as they do. The secular libertarians just fail to recognize that we're a social animal, that our society is critical to our well-being, that we all benefit when each of us benefits. Both lack empathy. Both lack common sense.

The Ten Commandments

Ann Widdecombe got her ass handed to her in the Intelligence Squared Debate with Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry. (This was in 2009 - here's a link to the hour-long debate itself.)

In this clip, she mentions herself how the audience voted against her position at the end of it. So she interviews Hitchens and Fry backstage afterwards, trying to salvage something from the debacle. From this excerpt, at least, she didn't succeed in that.

Well, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry are always great. (They're also right, which does help a great deal.)

I think I posted the debate previously, but I'm not sure. Well, you can always watch it here, if you want. And if you're curious, here's how a Catholic saw it:
I have just witnessed a rout – tonight’s Intelligence Squared debate. It considered the motion “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world”. Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry, opposing the motion, comprehensively trounced Archbishop Onaiyekan (of Abuja, Nigeria) and Ann Widdecombe, who spoke for it. The archbishop in particular was hopeless.

The voting gives a good idea of how it went. Before the debate, for the motion: 678. Against: 1102. Don’t know: 346. This is how it changed after the debate. For: 268. Against: 1876. Don’t know: 34. In other words, after hearing the speakers, the number of people in the audience who opposed the motion increased by 774. [Note: that's an increase of 70%!] My friend Simon, who's a season ticket holder, said it was the most decisive swing against a motion that he could remember.

Yeah, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry did a great job. And as I say, they were also right.

Presidential debate 3012

I guess it's going to be a long millennium!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I thought this was funny. I don't know how long these clips stay available on Hulu, but I figured it couldn't hurt to post it, anyway.

Monday, May 14, 2012


(image from 77 Ingredients)

Strawberries have been one of the easiest fruits I grow here in Nebraska. They don't seem to require any spraying at all, and even a dozen plants will spread all over the place. But note that they're not entirely work-free, either.

I started a few years ago by planting some ever-bearing strawberries in the northeast corner of my lot. That was a mistake. It might seem nice to have strawberries for an extended period of time, but only the birds and the squirrels got any.

Even with "June-bearing" strawberries (the Earliglow variety works well for me), which ripen en masse over about a month, they have to be netted to keep the birds from destroying my crop. And it's hard to keep the netting up for long.

Even a small hole will be enough for birds to get inside (though not out again). In fact, I'm not even sure a hole is necessary. I've had birds seemingly teleport into my strawberry patch. At least, I've never been able to find out how they got inside.

And netting, of course, won't keep the squirrels away. I had to put up an electric fence for that. Even then, it didn't work all that well until I put strawberry juice on the wires. Now that worked! :)

My squirrels are very tame. I feed them peanuts from my pocket (only in the front yard, these days), and they'll come running up to get one when I'm outside. But two years ago, I had strawberry juice on my fingers when I tossed a peanut to a squirrel, and he wouldn't touch it. Apparently, that strawberry-juice-on-the-electric-fence idea was excellent aversion therapy!

(Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to work with anything else. I've put peach juice on the wires with no result whatsoever. I don't know why. But the strawberry juice works very, very well. Even when they get into my backyard these days, they don't bother the strawberries.)

My original planting shrunk as my fruit trees got bigger. The strawberries would still grow just fine under the fruit trees, but then I couldn't spray when the strawberries were blooming. And although the strawberries don't need spraying, most everything else does. So I had to cut it back.

But I heard that strawberries don't need much sun, and that they'll grow on the north side of a house. So I put a new, larger patch there. I have a tall house, so they're shaded quite a bit, but they still grow great.

They might not produce quite as many strawberries, and they're a bit later ripening, but the plants in that patch are still loaded with berries. And it's a good location for another reason, too. Strawberries are very shallow-rooted, and they suffer terribly in our hot, dry summers. These on the north side of my house do especially well then, since they get some shade.

Anyway, I picked strawberries for three hours yesterday, and my back is killing me. I always have to unfasten the bird netting and crawl under it, then reach out to pick strawberries that can be very hard to find in the dense vegetation. I'm getting too old for this!

And it didn't help that my snakes just love the strawberry patch. They're just garter snakes, but my yard is full of them. I stood on the back porch yesterday and counted nine at once.  And that was just where I could see them. Inside the strawberry patch, they're effectively invisible.

Now, I like having the snakes around, but they can still surprise me. (Even a shed snakeskin can surprise me, sometimes.) A half dozen times yesterday, as I was picking strawberries, I'd be stretched out trying to reach the berries in the middle of the patch and a snake would poke its head up right next to me.

Well, they're harmless, of course, but I couldn't help but flinch each time that happened. We seem to have an instinctive response to such surprises - at least I do. Anyway, if the stretching to pick berries wasn't enough to make my back ache, the sudden jerk when I was surprised by a snake certainly was!

Ah, but it's worth it! These strawberries are much better than what you can buy in a grocery store (which are picked green, pretty much). They're red all the way through, and just wonderful. The earliest strawberries are the nicest - the biggest, certainly. So I give all of those away.

The later strawberries are much smaller, and they start to get more slug and ant damage. So I keep those for myself, freezing most of them for the winter.

Later, I'll have to remove the bird netting, then refurbish the plantings. You're supposed to mow off the leaves on the entire patch, then plow up half of it (alternating which half each year) and let new runners colonize it again.

That doesn't seem to work too well here, because it's always so hot and dry by then. It would be different if I could keep it irrigated, but I've got too much to do already. So I'm still experimenting with different techniques.

We don't seem to have leaf problems here - probably because it's so dry - so I think I can skip the mowing. And I think I might have to pull the old plants by hand, since my plants struggle to put out runners when it's really hot and really dry.

I don't know. My original patch didn't do very well last year, and I might end up tearing it out and replanting it next spring. But I'd rather not, if I don't have to.

At any rate, strawberries are work, but a lot less work than most of the stuff I plant. At the very least, it's easier putting bird netting on strawberries than over grapevines and fruit trees - a lot easier!

And I get a lot of strawberries from a relatively-small space, too. I give strawberries to neighbors, friends, and family - pretty much anyone who wants some - and often still have enough to freeze to last me most of the winter.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The case for naturalism

This is just the opening statement by Sean Carroll at "The Great Debate: Has Science Refuted Religion," March 25, 2012, but I thought it was very good.

The whole debate is available here, but I haven't managed to find the time (just over two hours) to watch it all.

"Honor's Paradox" by P.C. Hodgell

(cover from

Honor's Paradox (2011) is the sixth volume in P.C. Hodgell's Kencyrath fantasy series. I described the series in my review of the previous volume, Bound in Blood, and I won't repeat that now. But I guess I'm left with not much to say here.

Honor's Paradox concludes Jame's experiences in Tentir, the randon college, which has been the focus of the previous two volumes as well. And apparently, it wraps up her experiences as the Earth Wife's Favorite, too. All of this seems to indicate that the next volume will move on.

But there's really nothing new in this volume. As a continuation - and conclusion, hopefully - of the Tentir thread, it's fine. I enjoyed this trilogy dealing with the randon college. (The first book of that, To Ride a Rathorn, might be my favorite of the series.) But this series is 30 years old now, and I suppose I'm getting impatient. Will the story ever end?

I'm struggling to think of anything new we learned in this book. I guess we learned the reason why assassins targeted the Knorth women, so many years ago, but that's about it. Even the relationships among the main characters don't advance much.

OK, I had the same complaint with Bound in Blood, which may or may not have been valid then. If anything, there's even less that's new in this one, but at least the story advances - or, rather, seems ready to advance. Jame appears to be finished with Tentir and ready for new adventures. That's welcome.

But Hodgell's fantasy series has been especially appealing because of how imaginative it is. In fact, it's really bizarre in places. So a volume - or two - with nothing new loses that particular appeal. Jame is still a great character, but unless the story advances, we're left with just... reruns.

In this case, there's nothing new, but the story seems like it might be ready to advance. That's something, anyway.

I don't want to leave you with the wrong impression. Honor's Paradox is still entertaining. I read it in a single day. It's disappointing only because of my expectations for the series. It's still a fun read, and if you've followed the series this far, you won't want to stop now.

PS. I just have to comment on the cover of this book (shown above). Presumably, that's Jame, along with an Arrin-ken. But in the book, Jame is supposed to be very thin. She and her twin brother are constantly being mistaken for each other (admittedly, that's very hard to believe when it happens, not least because he's ten years older than she is). And to the dismay of her followers, she's quite plain in her clothing choices.

Now me, I rather doubt that the buxom woman on the cover would ever be mistaken for a man, especially with such a plunging neckline. That's so far beyond poetic license that it seems completely nuts, don't you think?

At the same time, the Arrin-ken are supposed to be catlike,... but that's just a lion with funny ears. A little bit of poetic license - or at least imagination - would have been welcome there.

OK, I rarely pay much attention to the cover of a book. (Indeed, Jame was wearing the same thing on the cover of Bound in Blood, I guess) But I had to comment about this one. It's colorful, and certainly eye-catching, but it really seems to bear very little relation to the book.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The crazy in Lincoln, Nebraska

Yup, this is right here in Lincoln, NE.

However, according to her family, this woman, Jane Svoboda, suffers from schizophrenia and lives in an assisted-living facility. She's incompetent to manage her own affairs, so her brother is her conservator.

Note that she regularly testifies at city council meetings, and she's even a registered lobbyist at the state legislature. But it seems she's not really some crazy right-wing fanatic, she's just mentally ill. (I know it can be hard to tell the difference, sometimes.)

Bill Maher at UCLA

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I think that Bill Maher is wrong, very wrong, about some things. And I don't always approve of his language, even though he's attacking public figures who can give as good as they get.

But often enough, he hits the nail right on the head. And this is one of those times.

The self-licking ice cream cone?

International Space Station (NASA/2009)

After 12 years and $100 billion, the International Space Station is complete. But where's the science?

From the Los Angeles Times:
More than a quarter of the area that NASA has designated for experiments sits empty. Much of the research done aboard the station deals with living and working in space — with marginal application back on Earth. And the nonprofit group that NASA chose to lure more research to the outpost has been plagued by internal strife and recently lost its director.

And more broadly, questions remain about whether NASA can develop U.S. capability to send experiments up and bring them back to Earth — and whether, in fact, the station can live up to the promises that were used to justify its creation. ...

This "incredible potential" is what NASA used to justify the decision to build a space station, which had been in the works since the Reagan administration.

"When we finish, ISS will be a premier, world-class laboratory in low Earth orbit that promises to yield insights, science and information, the likes of which we cannot fully comprehend as we stand here at the beginning," said then-NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin during a 2001 congressional hearing. ...

But then — as now — some questioned the station's future as a center of science. They note that much of the research done aboard the station deals with surviving the space environment.

Privately, some NASA officials worry the outpost could feed into the agency's reputation as a "self-licking ice cream cone" in that space-based experiments help NASA keep doing space-based experiments.

First of all, I'd say there's no question that NASA can develop a U.S. capacity to reach the space station (replacing the space shuttle, in other words). The only question is if we will.

We live in an America where we'd rather give tax cuts to the rich than educate our kids! We'd rather give tax cuts to the rich than see that our elderly get fed! We've got the ability to do great things. But do we have the will?

But what about the rest of this? Is it valid?

There's no doubt at all that we've made huge mistakes in America in recent decades, culminating with the biggest mistake of all (so far), the election of George W. Bush. If we haven't make huge mistakes in NASA, well, that would be the only place we hadn't.

But what about these particular objections? If we've been researching the effects of living and working in space, isn't that pretty much a prerequisite to everything else? We can't have scientists working in space if we can't keep them healthy and safe.

And it's not exactly worthless knowledge, anyway. Sooner or later, we human beings will have to leave this planet - or at least some of us will - if we expect our species to survive long-term. The Earth is a wonderful place for human beings, but it's also just one fragile basket.

There have been mass extinction events in the past, and there will be mass extinction events in the future. Heck, we're in the middle of a mass extinction event right now, and if we keep doing what we've been doing, that may come to include human beings, too.

So the ability to live and work in space is also a prerequisite for anything else we wish to do in space or on other planets, moons, or asteroids. It's valuable research, even though it might seem like a "self-licking ice cream cone."

For other scientific research, I don't know how valuable the International Space Station might be. Perhaps we would have been smarter to choose a different direction for our efforts. Well, as I noted, we Americans certainly have no shortage of mistakes to regret.

But now we've got the ISS. We've already spent that $100 billion. Are we going to just waste that investment?

To some extent, it's immaterial whether or not the ISS was a mistake. We've already spent the money. We're not getting that back. Yes, it will cost money to continue operations there, but shouldn't we at least attempt to get something back from that investment?

Well, as I say, research on living and working in space isn't nothing. We needed to know that, and we still do.

Furthermore, until now, we've been building the ISS. Logically enough, that's where we've focused our efforts. We seldom get much research out of a laboratory while it's still under construction. So it's a little early to be judging all this, isn't it?
NASA officials, however, say research is just beginning and already there have been advances.

Scientists at Johnson Space Center in Houston have taken advantage of the station's lack of gravity to develop "micro-balloons" the size of red blood cells that can carry drugs to cancer tumors. And the European Space Agency is looking to help doctors better diagnose asthma by using an air-monitoring device developed for astronauts.

"It's the tip of the iceberg," said Marybeth Edeen, NASA manager of the station's national laboratory.

The inability to completely fill NASA's science racks, she said, is simply one of the priorities. Up until now, NASA has been focused on building the station. Indeed, the station crew, which expanded from three to six members in 2009, now spends about 50 hours a week on science, as opposed to three hours a week in 2008.

We rarely know what we're going to get from scientific research. (If we did, there probably wouldn't be any reason to do it.) Knowledge is valuable. In science, even failures are valuable. If we know what doesn't work, we'll be better able to focus on what does.

Science is about evidence, and you have to do the research to get that evidence - or to confirm the evidence you've already got, or think you have. But look what science has given us. You wouldn't be reading this without science. You probably wouldn't even be alive without science.  I know I wouldn't be.

But these days, half the country doesn't "believe" in science. Science tells them the truth, and they'd rather believe fantasy. And that same half of the country would rather give tax cuts to the rich than anything else, apparently.

When tax cuts to the rich have a higher priority even than your own children or your own grandparents, then you know that science is going to be pretty far down the list.

Stephen Fry on science and religion

OK, there's some Hugh Laurie in this video clip as well, but it's mostly Stephen Fry. Indeed, it should have been Fry alone, not because Laurie's comments aren't interesting, but just to focus the clip on a single subject.

At any rate, after listening to this, I suppose I feel a little better about losing Christopher Hitchens. It's not that Hitchens can be replaced, of course. But I love listening to Stephen Fry, too.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Lost World

Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World is still a great read 100 years after it was first published. There's a lot of humor in it, and it really holds up very well.

You might be more familiar with the various movie and television treatments of it, but the basic idea behind the story is pretty well known: Professor Challenger finds living dinosaurs on a high plateau in the heart of the Amazon jungle.

Anyway, until today, I guess I never realized that the story's setting was real. Oh, not the dinosaurs (unless you include their little feathered descendents). But those high plateaus really exist.

From the New York Times:
Looming over the northern edge of the Amazon rain forest are some of the most remarkable mountains on earth. Known as tepuis, or tabletop mountains, they are typically ringed by sheer cliffs that rise thousands of feet from the surrounding lowland jungles. Instead of peaks, tepuis have enormous flat expanses at their tops. To reach the tops of many tepuis, the only choices are scaling the cliffs or flying in a helicopter.

For all their isolation, the tops of tepuis are not barren. They are like islands in the sky, covered with low forests and shrublands that support a diversity of animals likes frogs and lizards. Many of the species that live on top of the tepuis are found nowhere else on the planet. ...

Tepuis owe their fame in good measure to “The Lost World,” Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel, in which he drew from accounts of early explorers to imagine an isolated ecosystem on top of a tepui where dinosaurs and pterosaurs still lived. Tepuis have also figured in Hollywood movies, from the 1925 dramatization of “The Lost World” to the 2009 animated film “Up.”

I just thought this was neat. Why did I never realize these were real? I guess I just assumed it was all fiction, instead of just part of it.

I'm sure you already knew this, but somehow, I'd missed it. Well, you learn something new every day, huh? :)

Making a deal with the GOP

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Nice, huh? Democrats and Republicans made a deal, so they'd have some chance of success with that deficit-cutting "super committee."

To encourage both sides, both would have something to lose. For the Democrats, it would be big cuts in Medicare and other social programs. For the Republicans, big cuts in defense spending. If they couldn't come to an agreement, cuts would be made in both.

Well, they couldn't come to an agreement. Republicans on the committee refused to accept any extra taxes on the wealthy, even in exchange for massive cuts in domestic spending. With the GOP refusing to give an inch, compromise was doomed.

So what do Republicans do now? They renege on the agreement. Instead of cuts in the military budget, they're going to cut social programs again, including Meals on Wheels! Note that that's on top of the cuts the Democrats were required to accept under this deal.

Obviously, it's not as though we can't afford cuts in defense spending, as we're spending more on our military than the rest of the world combined, while our only enemy is a rag-tag bunch of religious nuts armed with improvised explosives.

But Republicans won't agree to a dime in extra taxes for the wealthy, even when people like Mitt Romney pay a far lower tax rate than you do. And they won't accept cuts to military spending, even when they already agreed to it.

So how do you expect our government to function, when you can't make a deal with Republicans and you can't trust them to keep their end of the bargain even if you could? And you're wondering why we're struggling to climb out of this economic collapse they created?

Republicans aren't just dragging their feet, they're deliberately being dishonest. In fact, they're doing everything possible to make sure that America's democracy fails.

Fox News evolves

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Lord of the Rings - The Right Side of History
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Note that there was a brief introduction to this clip here. And a followup here. But this was easily the best. And there were a couple of things I wanted to say about it...

First, that Shep Smith is too good for Fox 'News.'  He's absolutely right that Republicans are on the wrong side of history when it comes to civil rights (when it comes to everything, I'd say). And this isn't the only comment he's made that makes sense. Really, he's much too good for Fox, don't you think?

But secondly, even Fox 'News' evolves. Gay marriage has gone from leading to turtle orgies to Democrats simply pandering to what's popular. Well, I don't know how "popular" gay marriage is among average voters, but America has come a long way.

And we've seen this before. Remember "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? That went from being an abomination on the right (since conservatives wanted too root out homosexuality in our military like McCarthy era crazies focused on rooting out communists) to becoming the right-wing position itself, just a few years later, when the rest of us finally decided that the sexual orientation of our soldiers wasn't any of our business.

We do progress, and when it comes to gay rights, we're progressing remarkably quickly. I'm sure it doesn't feel that way to gay people, but this is fast compared to almost any other cultural change. And even the right-wing has been dragged forward a bit (kicking and screaming all the way).

Speaking of dragging the right-wing along with us, how many conservatives these days fight against racial integration? How many want to go back to separate water fountains? Heck, how many want to ban interracial marriage? That's what they might still think, but it's certainly not what they say - not their leaders, anyway.

And that's been a huge advance, too. Jon Stewart's interview with Robert Caro, in this same show, talks about Lyndon B. Johnson's efforts to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed state-sponsored segregation. Johnson certainly had his faults, but I have to give him a lot of credit for that.

Conservatives, especially from the South - which was solidly Democratic back then - were bitterly opposed to racial civil rights back then, even more than they're opposed to gay rights now. Johnson's stance was politically unpopular, but he did the right thing, anyway.

Well, the Democratic Party suffered greatly for that, but their sacrifice was one of the best things they could have done for America. The GOP cynically took advantage of it, deliberately wooing white racists in their "Southern strategy" and quickly capturing the entire South. And America has suffered for decades because of the political power the right-wing gained.

Nevertheless, it was the right thing to do. America needed to become a free nation for all, not just for white men. And even conservatives - most of them - recognize that now. At the very least, they give lip service to it. We dragged them forward, kicking and screaming, and we'll do the same when it comes to gay marriage.

Republicans are again on the wrong side of history, and are again trying to take advantage of bigots. If they win, we'll suffer greatly. But if progressives don't take a stand, we'll never progress. Sometimes, it takes courage to do what's right.

Lyndon B. Johnson did that in 1964, and Barack Obama has done it now. Johnson wasn't perfect, and neither is Obama. The Democrats might well pay a political price in both cases. But as much as the Democrats frustrate me sometimes, I've got to give them a lot of credit for things like this.

And I would be horribly embarrassed to be a Republican.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Marriage is too gay now?

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Oh, yes. Now that Barack Obama has come out in support of gay marriage, the institution is doomed, huh? No one will want to get married, because it will seem too gay!

Well, don't worry, because I'll still want to marry ice cream. Heh, heh. Can you get any stupider than these people?

It's the 21st century - high time we decided that someone else's marriage is their own business, not ours. Wish them well and get out of the way. It hasn't been long since we went through all this with interracial marriage. Didn't we learn anything from that?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Romney takes the credit

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Cognitive dissonance. Frankly, I suspect that's pretty much permanent in Republican brains, don't you think?

I commented on this yesterday, about Mitt Romney trying to take the credit for bailing out the U.S. auto industry, but Jon Stewart does such a great job with it here.

And, yeah, I suppose Romney will be taking the credit for killing Osama bin Laden next, huh?

PS. Doonesbury had these quotes on its website this morning. I think they're pretty much self-explanatory:
"If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye."
-- Mitt Romney, 2008

"Bailout of enterprises that are in trouble, that's not the way to go. I know President Bush started it with the auto industry. I thought it was a mistake."
-- Mitt Romey, 2009

"I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy, and finally when that was done, and help was given, the companies got back on their feet. So, I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back."
-- Mitt Romney, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Romney takes credit for auto industry survival

Do you wonder how dumb Mitt Romney thinks American voters are? Well, here he is taking credit for saving the U.S. auto industry:
Campaigning in the backyard of America's auto industry, Mitt Romney re-ignited the bailout debate by suggesting he deserves "a lot of credit" for the recent successes of the nation's largest car companies.

That claims comes in spite of his stance that Detroit should have been allowed to go bankrupt.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee told a Cleveland television station on Monday that President Barack Obama followed his lead when he ushered auto companies through a managed bankruptcy soon after taking office.

"I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy, and finally when that was done, and help was given, the companies got back on their feet," Romney said in an interview inside a Cleveland-area auto parts maker. "So, I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back."

Crazy, isn't it? Of course, Mitt Romney opposed Barack Obama's efforts, during the depths of the Bush economic collapse, to revive the American auto industry. But now he wants to take credit for such a huge success.

As Joe Biden has repeatedly said, "Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive," both thanks to Barack Obama. What's next, Romney taking credit for the death of Osama bin Laden?

Note that this isn't ancient history, either. Does he think we won't remember what he really said? Or does he just think, with all his big-money backers, that enough advertising will get people to believe anything?

Well, Republicans have seen that repeatedly work on Fox 'News,' I suppose.