Friday, February 27, 2015

Five years

I started this blog five years ago, today. It's been fun, though I've certainly slacked off this year. I'm not even trying to post like I was. (Yeah, I'm still posting a lot, but mostly just videos I stumble across.)

But that's the way it goes. I hope it's still entertaining for a few people, but it's not a job, and I'm not going to make it a duty. As I said earlier this year, you shouldn't expect anything. I'll post something when I feel like it (especially when it's easy, like YouTube videos), but that's all. Sorry.

I do appreciate my few readers - and, especially, their comments. And I don't plan to stop. But,... as I say, don't expect much. :(

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Obama hate-bubble: Republicans just get crazier, and crazier, and crazier, and crazier...

For a decade or more, I've been calling Republicans insane, but I meant it figuratively, not literally. I didn't mean they were clinically insane, in a psychological sense.

Now, however, I'm beginning to wonder. This isn't some lunatic fringe group. This is one of the two main political parties in America. How can this be possible? How can that many people be that crazy?

It just gets worse and worse, doesn't it? Is there really no limit to right-wing insanity? I see hysterical comments in the news media and at Yahoo Finance, from people who seem to be frothing at the mouth, and I think,... they can't really mean it. They can't be that crazy, can they? So many people?

But they really are. The Republican Party is batshit crazy these days. They were bad enough during the Bush years, but the loss of the White House - to a black man, at that - has apparently pushed them over the edge. They seem to have gone insane - literally insane.

What else can you think about this?

Jon Stewart challenges Fox News to a "lie-off"

Funny, isn't it? But the right-wing lives in its own little faith-based bubble. They believe whatever they want to believe (which is almost always what Republican leaders want them to believe, too).

BTW, here's the link to Jon Stewart's first 50 examples of Fox 'News' lies.

We won!

Sometimes, the good guys win:
Senior Republicans conceded on Tuesday that the grueling fight with President Obama over the regulation of Internet service appears over, with the president and an army of Internet activists victorious.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve regulating Internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the Internet. While the two Democratic commissioners are negotiating over technical details, they are widely expected to side with the Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, against the two Republican commissioners. ...

The F.C.C. plan would let the agency regulate Internet access as if it is a public good. It would follow the concept known as net neutrality or an open Internet, banning so-called paid prioritization — or fast lanes — for willing Internet content providers.

In addition, it would ban the intentional slowing of the Internet for companies that refuse to pay broadband providers. The plan would also give the F.C.C. the power to step in if unforeseen impediments are thrown up by the handful of giant companies that run many of the country’s broadband and wireless networks.

We couldn't have done this without President Obama, and no win is permanent:
The new F.C.C. rules are still likely to be tied up in a protracted court fight with the cable companies and Internet service providers that oppose it, and they could be overturned in the future by a Republican-leaning commission. But for now, Congress’s hands appear to be tied.

After decades of  Republican presidents, the Supreme Court is still controlled, 5 to 4, by right-wing zealots. After deciding that corporations are 'people' with their own religious beliefs and that buying politicians with untraceable money doesn't even give the appearance of corruption, it's really hard to tell what crazy thing they might come up with next.

And, of course, there will be other elections. If we don't actually get out and vote, we may well end up with a president who'll make George W. Bush look intelligent, and a Congress which will fall all over itself in an attempt to be crazy enough. As I say, no win is permanent. We can't ever think that.

But this is still very definitely a win, a huge win, for the good guys. We should be celebrating.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kenshi - a journey through the desert

Willam Pathfinder of Phoenix Rising, last man standing, facing a horde of dust bandits charging towards him

I mentioned Kenshi, the squad-based sandbox RPG, on Wednesday. (Check out the video there if you want to know more about it.)

At the time, I said I hadn't been posting about computer games lately, and I really didn't intend to change that. However, I'm having so much fun with this game, I thought I'd describe one recent journey from one town to another.

My character is Willam - not 'William' - Pathfinder, leader of the Phoenix Rising faction (which was just him when I started the game). Since then, he's hired nine female bodyguards, so there were ten of us traversing the desert wasteland from Brink to Catun.

It wasn't far, but it's easy to get lost when there are mountains or mesas blocking off a direct route. There are canyons throughout the mesas, but no roads. So it's hard to tell which canyons dead-end in impassible terrain and which don't.

Mau, our newest medic

Anyway, we were traveling in the desert along the edge of the mesa when sand ninjas ambushed us. There were only three of them, but they're very tough. Unfortunately, we couldn't see them coming, because they were hidden by the canyon walls until they were almost upon us.

Most of our party might have been able to outrun them, but we had some new hires who weren't very fast. In particular, 'Stinks' - our engineer - was lagging behind and clearly wouldn't be able to get away. So we turned around to defend her.

It was ten of us against three of them, but they went through us like a hot knife through butter. I kept my two doctors out of the fight, so they could patch up the fallen, but this isn't like most games, where characters can drink a magic potion or otherwise be instantly restored to health.

No, medics bind your wounds, to keep you from bleeding to death. But a badly injured character usually stays unconscious for a long time. And even after he - or she - can stand up again, it's a very slow process to recover completely (and that's assuming that they haven't suffered an amputation).

But once the rest of us were lying on the ground, unconscious or dying, the sand ninjas quickly dispatched my medics, too. Then, all of a sudden, they were struck by a roving band of dust bandits.

No, they weren't friends of ours. I hadn't realized that different factions of bandits would fight each other, if they had the chance, not just us. That was really neat!

'Stinks,' our young, and rather slow, engineer

Pretty soon, sand ninja bodies joined ours on the sand, and the dust bandits were leaving. My two medics were still bleeding badly, but the leader of my faction was already conscious, just 'playing dead' until his enemies left.

Unfortunately, I needed to quit playing then, for awhile, but I made a big mistake in saving the game at that exact point. Because, when I loaded the saved game later, my character was no longer feigning death. The dust bandits, who'd already disappeared behind a bluff, immediately knew that he was awake and charged back to kill us all.

So I reloaded one of the automatic saves - the most recent one, which put me into the battle again, with only our two medics still on their feet. The sand ninjas were already chopping down one of them, but this time, I knew what to expect. I looked around and saw the dust bandits in the distance, heading our way.

So I sent 'Doc,' our remaining medic, running in that direction. She was slightly injured, but still pretty fast. And with the sand ninjas running after her, I figured that would get the attention of the dust bandits. Well, it worked! The dust bandits also ran towards her, and the two groups of bandits started fighting each other.


The result, however, was completely different from the first time that happened. Instead of the large group of dust bandits hitting the three sand ninjas en masse, most of them started chasing my medic, with only a few taking on the sand ninjas. She kept leading them around in a circle, drawing them back through the sand ninjas again and again, and each time, one or two would be tempted away by their other enemies.

But this time, when fighting only one or two dust bandits at a time, the sand ninjas had no problem. This time, the battle ended not with the sand ninjas bleeding into the sand, but with the whole party of dust bandits lying, and dying, there - at which point the sand ninjas turned their attention to my poor medic again.

They'd all been injured a bit, so they weren't as fast as they had been. 'Doc' had been injured, too, but she could still stay ahead of them, if not by much. Meanwhile, Neko had recovered enough to stand up, and she really is fast (short, but very fast, even after being injured).

So I let them lead the bandits away. Soon, I realized that I didn't need both of them as decoys. At that point, I let the sand ninjas chase Neko, while 'Doc' came back to help bandage everyone else (including Mau, her fellow medic, who was in very bad shape by then).

That was only the start of our adventures, though. Neko was faster than the bandits, but not that much faster. So she was already a long way away when she encountered a lone adventurer. Poor guy, I never got his name. He let Neko hire him for protection for six hours - which turned out to be about five and a half hours longer than he had to live.


Yeah, I suppose it was a surprise when three sand ninjas immediately came barreling over the dunes, huh? But he stood his ground and fought bravely. Neko couldn't help much, but she kept the attention of one of the bandits, while the other two fought her protector. Unfortunately, it was over very quickly, and she had three sand ninjas chasing her again.

They'd been injured a bit more, though, so she was able to gain some ground on them. Eventually, after a long run, they gave up. They turned around and started patrolling the desert again, back towards where we'd first encountered them.

That was, of course, in the direction of the rest of our party. Most of them had recovered enough to stand (and we'd taken the weapons of the dust bandits, just in case they recovered, too), so we picked up the others and started walking away.

We started towards the adventurer, to see if he was still alive, but since that was directly towards the sand ninjas, we reluctantly turned away before getting to him. Rest in peace, friend. Instead, we headed into a canyon, hoping that it would lead us to Catun after all.

Luckily, we stumbled upon a trade caravan going in that direction - a trader with a couple of pack animals and a large party of guards - so we joined them. (I tried, but couldn't trade with them.) Yes, we were moving pretty slowly, but so were they. They were heading in the direction of Catun, and they seemed to know where they were going. Plus, those guards looked like they could handle almost anything. Things were definitely looking up.


Switching back to Neko, I had her bandage herself. Then, since she was such a long way from us, on the other side of the mesa, I decided she'd just run to Catun and meet us there. Almost immediately, she ran into five huge wolves (feral dogs, actually, I think).

It was hopeless to try to fight them, but Neko was... well, not faster than they were, but fast enough. As long as she kept running, they couldn't seem to attack her. She certainly couldn't gain on them. They were too fast for that. In fact, graphically, it looked like they were leading and she was chasing them. (The game is still in alpha, remember. It's a long way from being finished.)

When I switched back to Willam and the rest of the party, I saw that the trader had gotten stuck on top of a small mesa. I don't know how, because there was no way up. But everyone else - my people and his - were stuck trying to go up the cliff after him. (Again, this game is still in alpha.)

Furthermore, there was a small party of slavers heading our way! Now, I don't suppose I want to make friends with slave traders. On the other hand, I was pleased to see that they weren't hostile. (You usually start the game with neutral reactions from the other factions - all except actual bandits, at least.) So now we had a bunch of armed men and women, all heading in the same direction.

As I say, I couldn't tell how to get through the mesa, but the game always can. And with two separate squads, I could see two separate parts of the world. So I switched to Neko and ordered her to run to my main party. Sure enough, she headed right into the rough ground of the mesa, taking a shortcut right towards us.


When I switched back to the main party, though, the trader caravan had disappeared. I suppose the game had finally figured out that they were stuck and just moved them where they were supposed to be. Unfortunately, my people were left behind. We still had four or five slave traders to party with, but there were now five huge wolves heading our way.

And Adi was still unconscious. Soo was still carrying her when Neko and the wolves arrived, and before I could order Soo to put her down, a wolf had brought them both down. I'd thought the sand ninjas were tough, but the wolves were worse.

Of course, my party was all bandaged and limping already, so we didn't even slow the wolves down. But even the slave traders didn't last long, though they dropped one wolf and badly injured another. Again, I kept my medics busy bandaging until they were the only two left, at which point the wolves nearly ripped them apart.

Still, we all survived. I could see another battle in the distance, I don't know between whom. (I couldn't see the people fighting, but only the green damage text from weapons striking home.) So as soon as the wolves finished with us, they ran towards the fighting there, and we never saw them again.


Eventually, Willam Pathfinder recovered enough to stand up. Both of our medics were dying, bleeding out into the sand, but he got them patched up in time. Eventually, we had everyone bandaged and five of our ten people conscious and mobile (if not moving very fast).

It couldn't have happened quickly enough for me, either, because that wolf lying beside us was just unconscious, not dead. It didn't even look very badly damaged - not compared to all of us, at least. So we needed to get out of there tout suite. (I couldn't figure out how to kill the wolf or skin it or anything. I could loot the body, but it wasn't carrying anything.)

The slavers had been helpful, so we bandaged them, too - after looting their bodies of medical supplies. Then our five walking wounded picked up our five comrades still unconscious and staggered away.

Through sheer good luck, we made it to Catun without further adventures. All of us needed rest and recuperation, but there weren't even enough beds we could rent for all of us. Oh, well, we put the unconscious to bed, then drew straws for the remaining one. We'd need to stay long enough for everyone to heal, anyway.

Catun, at the west edge of the desert

We'd come to Catun to buy building material, since there wasn't any in Brink. We'd purchased a cheap house in Brink, and we needed to make some improvements. I'd love to start my own town, somewhere in the wastes, but it's going to take a lot of searching to find a good location.

Meanwhile, we can leave a few people behind to do research on what we'll need. It's possible we might even be able to make some supplies - either for sale or for our own use. Catun had the supplies we needed, and there's another female medic available to recruit here, too, if we want.

As soon as we recover from our wounds, it's back again through the desert. I hope the journey is less eventful this time! :)

Note: Check here for the rest of my posts about a variety of computer games.

Atheist hypocrites

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Scott Walker's plan to tap-dance into the White House

Amanda Marcotte at TPM points out how refusing to answer questions works to advance Scott Walker's presidential ambitions:
It appears that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin believes he can shrug his way into being the Republican nominee for president. ...

This entire situation is so comical that it’s hard to imagine it’s doing anything but hurting Walker’s chances. Yet there is actually a method to his madness. While Democratic-leaning voters can be driven to distraction by politicians who refuse to take a side on contentious issues like this, the dodge-and-weave actually plays right into the hands of Republican voters, both of the Tea Party variety and the people who don’t care for all that culture war nonsense and just want lower taxes on rich people.

Both stripes of Republican voters will likely take Walker’s shruggie act as an indication that he secretly views things the way they do. For the rightwing ideologues, hearing Walker punt on issues like ISIS or whether or not Obama is a secret Muslim feeds right into their paranoid narratives about how the evil liberal media is suppressing rightwing truths. “He secretly agrees with us,” the narrative goes, “but he can’t say so out loud without being crucified by the liberal media.”

For those Republicans who don’t actually buy the birther narratives about Obama or who don’t reject the theory of evolution, however, the signal sent by Walker’s dunno posturing is a little different. To them, it’s: “He’s not an imbecile, but he has to play to the rubes in order to win Iowa.”

That’s why there’s an excellent chance that Walker’s little dance will work. Tea Party types get to have their victimization narrative flattered and elites get to have their sense that they’re bamboozling the rubes played to. Just as importantly, Walker’s refusal to take a stand on any of this makes it easier for him to appear sensible and moderate to the public at large if he does win the nomination.

Frightening, isn't it? But it makes sense. Our media certainly won't pin him down.

And Republicans are nothing if not faith-based. They want to believe what they want to believe. If Walker said anything, one way or another, he'd piss off someone. When he refuses to answer, they can all imagine that he agrees with them.

As a Democrat, I find it absolutely infuriating when a politician says nothing in an attempt to appeal to everyone. (If that's not common among Democratic politicians, it certainly feels that way. Why not stand up for progressive values?)

Republicans, though, tend to think that everyone agrees with them, but just can't say so because of 'political correctness' or 'the liberal media' or some other wacky conspiracy. Remember, they're the 'moral majority.' If you don't believe it, just ask them.

So if Scott Walker tap-dances around a question, it's clearly because he agrees with them, but can't say so. As Marcotte points out, that feeds into their own narrative, whatever it might be. Unfortunately, it also tells rational - but uninformed - people absolutely nothing. (If you're rational and informed, there's no way you'd consider voting for Scott Walker, anyway.)

Monday, February 23, 2015


The last few days, I've been playing Kenshi, a squad-based sandbox (almost literally) RPG that's still in development.

Actually, I've been playing a lot of games lately that are still in development (typically available in Early Access on Steam). Unfortunately, I haven't been blogging about any of them. Well, I haven't been blogging about much of anything, except for posting YouTube videos.

So that's what I'm going to do here, too. Maybe someday I'll get back to computer game posts. I certainly have no shortage of games to talk about, or of things to say about them. But I'm not as enthused about blogging as I was. So for now, this will give you an idea of the game, if you're at all interested.

There are lots of game videos on YouTube, including many of Kenshi. That's how I discovered this game, in fact. This isn't the first one I watched, but it might work as an introduction.

As a bonus, I'm going to post a few screenshots of my current game. First, here's my all-woman harem army:

Note that you can have a lot bigger armies than that - the maximum is more than 200 people, I think, though it's hard to find that many to recruit. (Certainly, it's hard to find that many women.)

Note that you can modify the appearance of your initial character - your faction's leader - and of every person you recruit, too. I'm no artist, but I've been trying to design women of a variety of types and sizes.

Here they are without clothes on, to give you an idea of how different I've made them, so far. (Note that they do have pants on when you first hire them, and sometimes the lighting in the bar is so dark it's hard to see exactly how they're going to turn out.)

Yes, you recruit people in the bars. Apparently, they have to be drunk before they'll agree to join my faction.

I played around with my faction leader, too - the only man in the group. Admittedly, this isn't really how he looks in the game. I saved the game first, then played around with his image, trying to make him look as absurd as possible. (There are 'plastic surgeons' in every bar, so it's cheap and easy to change the appearance of any of your people.)

Still, he looks just like me, doesn't he? No wonder he's having a hard time recruiting women! :)

Finally, here's a picture of my squad running across the desert, just because I happened to take the screenshot. You spend a lot of time running across the barren wastes in this game!

For such a detailed combat and construction sim, the developer has certainly put a lot of effort into the graphics, hasn't he? And that's particularly unusual because you frequently end up playing the game zoomed way out. (While running across the desert, I can barely even see my characters, they're so small. But that's necessary so I can keep an eye out for bandits.)

It's a fun game, but it's been in development for years already, and it's still only in alpha. Then again, I play other games that have been in development a lot longer than that. And as I say, this is fun.

The clown car cometh

I commented on this Saturday, but Josh Marshall at TPM made a point better, and certainly more succinctly, than I did. (Note that the title of this post is his, too.)
Is Rudy Giuliani bored or feeling ignored? Is he suffering from some sort of age-related agitation? Or is he simply upset that people are not respecting the trademark he was granted to Terrorism (TM) and the study of Islamic radicalism after he personally tracked down and killed the culprits who perpetrated 9/11? Over the last handful of days Giuliani has said that President Obama does not love his country; lacks patriotism; wasn't raised like "us" and now, in fact, is driven by communist sympathies that were inculcated in him as a boy. It's rancid and gross. But it's also Rudy Giuliani, so hard to get surprised over. But there's a bigger story here about the entire 2016 presidential cycle.

This Rudy drama is a sign of the dangers of the GOP clown car going into the now nascent 2016 GOP presidential primary campaign. Whether it's intemperate or unhinged folks on the margins or nominally normal people who have no skin in the game and thus simply don't care, you'll have more and more examples of these kinds of polarizing remarks or excursions into the crazy which blow up across the media-political horizon. The 2016 hopefuls will have to stay silent, jump on board or risk getting RINO'd if they don't go along.

"RINO" - Republican-in-name-only - is the equivalent of "moderate" in the GOP and a real kiss of death, especially in the Republican presidential primary, where the loony GOP base calls the shots.

Republican politicians - and especially aspiring presidential candidates - can't speak out against the crazy, since the crazy is what's going to decide Republican primaries. So we see the normal pattern of GOP politicians running like hell to the right before the primary contests, then trying to moderate themselves as best they can before the general election.

That's not just in the presidential race, either. As Marshall points out, these things cost them control of the Senate in 2010 and 2012 - both years in which Republicans were heavily favored. Still, I can't feel sorry for them, since Republican leaders created this situation, and they've been steadily nurturing it with manufactured outrage, and even hysteria, about Barack Obama.

I'm only upset that this isn't keeping them from winning elections.

Incidentally, if you want to read a superb take-down of Rudy Giuliani, take a look at this. From his multiple marriages to his multiple draft deferments keeping him out of the Vietnam War ("even getting the federal judge he was clerking for to write a letter creating a special exemption for him"), Giuliani seems to have the typical conservative idea of "do what I say, not what I do."

And when it comes to his criticisms of how Obama was raised, the column notes this:
Giuliani went so far as to rebuke the President for not being "brought up the way you were and the way I was brought up through love of this country," a bow no doubt to the parenting prowess of Harold Giuliani, who did time in Sing Sing for holding up a Harlem milkman and was the bat-wielding enforcer for the loan-sharking operation run out of a Brooklyn bar owned by Rudy's uncle.

Though Rudy cited Harold throughout his public life as his model (without revealing any of his history), he and five Rudy uncles found ways to avoid service in World War II. Harold, whose robbery conviction was in the name of an alias, made sure the draft board knew he was a felon.

Check out the column. It's all good. Rudy Giuliani is in the same hypocritical company as right-wing Republicans like David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, and Dinesh D'Souza posturing on "family values."

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Republicans support ISIS

On Wednesday, I noted that ISIS and right-wing Christians share the same goal. Both want to define our fight as a 'holy war.' It's not terrorists against sane, peaceful, civilized people, but Muslims vs Christians.

Here's another example. Republican leaders and ISIS both want to promote ISIS. ISIS wants to be seen as the leader of Muslims, and Republicans want the exact same thing.

America is secular. Our government is secular, and our political system is supposed to be secular. Your religion is your own business, not the government's. But these days, that's not how the religious extremists in the Republican Party see it.

The Republican Party has adopted 'God,' and if you're not a right-wing Christian, you'd better be a right-wing Jew (and even then, you'd better watch yourself). Republicans also love to have enemies to fear, and what better than to have 1.6 billion Muslims as America's enemy? Onward Christian Soldiers!

Say what you will about Barack Obama, at least he's sane. He has no interest in making America any more enemies than we already have. He's certainly not interested in creating billions of terrorists, by convincing the world's Muslims that this is a Christian holy war.

And indeed, ISIS kills Muslims just as eagerly as it kills everyone else. They want to lead Islam, but no sane Muslim wants them to do it. Only insane Muslims and insane Republicans, apparently.

Republicans take racism to a new level

This is racism, pure and simple. Republicans are taking racism to a new level - well, for the 21st Century, at least.

Why? For one thing, they're not going to get any black votes, anyway. They lost African Americans when they started their 'Southern strategy' of deliberately wooing white racists. By now, you have to be completely insane to be a black Republican.

Second, if you despise racism, you're not going to vote Republican no matter what your own race is. The GOP has already lost those people, too. If you really care about racism, you're not going to vote Republican. (I'm not saying that all Republicans are racists, but they're all quite willing to use racism to achieve their political goals.)

Third, the Republican base is racist - virulently racist. The GOP base hates Barack Obama, our first black president, to the point of hysterics. And the base reliably votes in Republican primaries.

That's why Republican politicians are terrified of contradicting Giuliani. I know that Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck have actually backed him up. (Beck isn't a politician, but they're both staking out the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe that's the GOP base.) But most Republican politicians don't want to say something this stupid and this racist. On the other hand, if they want to run for president in 2016 as a Republican, they don't dare come out against it.

So they punt. By and large, Republican leaders have been trying to say nothing, while still giving the GOP base reason to think that they're just as racist, as hateful, and as crazy as Giuliani. Well, they have to. As I've said before, this is the French Revolution all over again, only with the mob rushing to the right, not the left.

Republican leaders started this mad stampede to the right, and they've certainly been encouraging it. But stampedes take on a life of their own, and Republican politicians are struggling to stay in front. The absolute worst thing you can call a fellow Republican these days is "moderate." On the other hand, there seems to be no way to be too right-wing, too extreme, too crazy.

Although this is raising the stakes, it's fundamentally the same thing we've seen for years now. Republican leaders have always used coded language to paint Barack Obama as... um, not like us. Well, just look at him. He doesn't look like any other president America has had.

He's just... um, foreign. He even drinks tea! How exotic is that? (Not very. Many Americans drink tea. But they're white. Clearly, they're American. Unfortunately, even tea-drinking Republicans will get the message here.)

That birther nonsense was part of this, as well. Of course Barack Obama was born in America! Republican leaders have never had any doubts about that. But they could still use the birthers. The birthers, as crazy as they clearly were, kept the idea afloat that Obama was 'not like us.' He's not a real (i.e. white) American. He's actually a Kenyan (i.e. black). Every time this claim was made, white Americans were reminded of Obama's skin color.

That's the kind of thing they've trumpeted for years, and they've known exactly what they were doing. They were using racism. I've heard Karl Rove himself push this kind of thing, and Rove knows exactly how to appeal to the worst of Americans.

You can't go too far. Racism isn't politically correct, and even racists aren't eager to embrace their racism. Not most of them, at least. Not these days. But you can be as obvious as hell as long as you just don't use the 'n' word.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bill O'Reilly and ISIS share the same goal

Isn't that something? Muslim terrorists and right-wing Christians share the same goal. They both want to make this a holy war.

They have many other similarities, too. They're both faith-based, both thinking that their own religion should be given special privileges. They both hate President Obama. They both think that men should control women (only for their own good, right?). They're similarly bigoted, automatically disliking people who are different from them. And they both love the idea of killing.

Primarily, in the short-term, both are desperate to create a holy war between Muslims and Christians. They're actually partners in that. Their real enemies aren't each other, but the people on both sides who'd rather live together in peace.

Certainly, ISIS should be opposed militarily, and that's exactly what we're doing. But this is a criminal organization, not Islam. Sure, they want to represent Islam, and right-wing Christians here in America want them to represent Islam, too. But just because two extremist groups agree about something, that doesn't mean the rest of us have to go along with them.

Remember the 9/11 attacks? That was a criminal act, but the Bush Administration didn't want to treat it as a crime. Instead, they wanted war. They yearned for war (as long as they didn't have to fight in it or pay for it, themselves). So, instead of doing the smart thing, they started the "war on terror."

They invaded Afghanistan. Why? Supposedly, that was to get Osama bin Laden, but was it, really? If it was, it was a huge failure. They failed so badly they stopped looking. It took Barack Obama, a decade later, to show us how we should have gone after Osama bin Laden in the first place.

And then they invaded Iraq! Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. It was just something the Republicans had long wanted to do, and 9/11 gave them an excuse (even though that excuse was based entirely on the lie that Saddam Hussein had WMDs). Of course, then we had to torture prisoners of war in a desperate attempt to justify the invasion, after the fact.

What happened was, we took a criminal act and turned it into "Onward Christian Soldiers." Republicans used the attack for their own purposes. They're still doing that. Certainly, they're still trying.

They created ISIS, and they love their creation. It gives them an enemy to hate, it gives them an excuse to spend more money on America's military, it gives them an excuse to wage more wars (what fun!), and it lets them paint America as a Christian nation engaged in a holy war with Muslims - exactly what ISIS wants painted, too.

They're partners. And yet they criticize same-sex marriage?

The TRUTH, guaranteed* (*some restrictions apply)

Monday, February 16, 2015

#JeffWeCan vs a big pile of horseshit

I've seen this horseshit my whole life. When I was young, smoking was everywhere and completely inescapable. I was around it so much, I didn't even notice. (Now, it stinks so bad I can't even imagine that. But it's true. I never used to notice it at all.)

Medical researchers and other scientists talked about the dangers of smoking, but Big Tobacco fought back with every trick in the book - just as Big Oil fights back today against the reality of global warming.

In both cases, many people wanted to believe them - both the people addicted to tobacco/fossil fuels and the people addicted to the industry money they were receiving.

As a kid, I used to wonder how anyone could believe the tobacco industry. Of course they were lying. They were lying because they made money - a shitpot of money - selling tobacco. How could it have been any more obvious?

Well, it's equally obvious today that oil companies and their paid politicians are lying about global warming. But who's going to believe those egghead scientists, huh? What do they know? They're just a bunch of elitists with their fancy education and evidence and peer-reviewed research. Who would believe them over someone being paid to think differently?

Sadly, it's easy to believe what you want to believe, and many people really wanted to believe the tobacco industry. Today, people want to believe the fossil fuel industry, because they want to continue using fossil fuels and they don't want to spend any money fixing the problem.

I find it absolutely incredible that 18% of Americans still smoke. In 50 years, the rate has only dropped from 43% to 18%? I realize that most smokers today are probably just kids, but that still blows my mind. How stupid can people be? And the tobacco industry is still making money hand over fist. How depressing is that?

The worst thing is, Big Oil has learned a lot from Big Tobacco. The fossil fuel industry is a lot smarter about global warming than the tobacco industry ever was about smoking. They haven't messed around. They've just flat-out purchased the Republican Party - and a good number of Democrats, too.

These days, to be a good Republican, you have to disbelieve in science. Wow, why didn't the tobacco industry think of that? But then, they're still making a ton of money selling tobacco, so why bother, huh?

Luckily, we've got John Oliver. With Jon Stewart leaving, and Stephen Colbert already gone, we should be very thankful for that, shouldn't we?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fighting Islamaphobia in the 1780s

I thought this was interesting:
By the time of the American Revolution, a sizeable Moroccan Muslim community—known as “Moors” in the language of the era—had developed in and around Charleston, South Carolina. Some of the community’s members were likely former slaves, but many others had chosen to immigrate from Morocco, with which the U.S. had a so-called “Treaty of Friendship.” Morocco, indeed, was the first African nation to recognize the new United States during the Revolution. Worried about being denied rights due to South Carolina’s system of slavery, a group of Muslim Americans petitioned the state’s courts requesting that they be recognized as white. A tribunal of judges led by prominent South Carolinian Charles Pinckney agreed with their petition, and the state legislature passed the Moors Sundry Act (1790), designating this Moroccan Muslim American community white for purposes of the law.

That law was as complicated as race in American history has always been. It allowed members of this community to be counted more fully for state population and federal representation purposes. It also gave these Muslim Americans the opportunity to vote, to serve on juries and to gain and enjoy the benefits of citizenship, even as Black Americans were largely denied those same rights.

The Revolutionary history gets broader and deeper still. The only passage in the body of the Constitution as drafted in 1787 that references religion at all is the paragraph in Article VI that makes clear that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.” This profoundly progressive phrase, written in an era when every other constitutional government around the world featured an official state religion, was drafted by none other than Charles Pinckney.

After the Constitution was drafted, Pinckney was tasked with taking it before the South Carolina legislature for that state’s ratification debate. During the debate, he was asked by one of the legislators about that exact Article VI paragraph, and more exactly about whether it would mean that “a Muslim could run for office in these United States?” Pinckney’s answer? “Yes, it does, and I hope to live to see it happen.” His words are inspiring, and a challenge to those who say they believe in inclusion today. How many white, Christian elected officials today would say “I hope to see more Muslim Americans in elected office” the way Charles Pinckney did?

Frankly, I wonder if they could even pass that law in South Carolina today. And, of course, it's depressing how important it was to be considered officially "white" in the South back then.

But that's our history, and it shouldn't be forgotten - neither the good nor the bad.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wingnuts have taken over the GOP

In my previous post, I wondered if there were any limits to the right-wing insanity of Fox 'News.' Well, here's a column by Amanda Marcotte which points out how far the insanity has spread:
On March 4, the Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in the latest legal attack on the Affordable Care Act in a case dubbed King v. Burwell. The plaintiffs are advancing an argument against federal subsidies for health insurance that is almost comical in its bad faith, but even if the justices eventually decide not to sign off on pretzel logic, the fact that King got this far in the first place should cause us all to worry. This case represents the final dissolution of the once-formidable wall between serious conservatives and the mouth-breathers who worry that fluoride is a mind control agent created by communists.

Just reading the so-called arguments of King should be enough to demonstrate that the wingnut wing of the Republican party is running the show these days. But Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones went a step further and actually sought out the four plaintiffs that the Competitive Enterprise Institute shook out of the trees to claim that they are somehow harmed by the government making health care subsidies available to those in need. What Mencimer found was a veritable rogue’s gallery of rightwing nuttery. The plaintiffs were largely unable to explain their own case against the ACA. Instead, they are all motivated by the inchoate rage of the reactionary crank, a burning hatred of the president that has little to do with his health care law and more to do with fury at having to share a country with hated liberals.

Don’t get me wrong. The cranks and wild-eyed lunatics of the right have always been with us, as anyone combing through old John Birch Society materials can tell you. But there has usually been an attempt by mainstream conservatives to put some distance between themselves and the nutters, from William F. Buckley denouncing the Birchers in 1962 to the 2012 election, when charlatans like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were squeezed out in the Republican primary in favor of Mitt Romney, who is reasonably sane.

The distinction between a mainstream conservative and an outright wingnut has been crumbling in recent years, however. Take the issue of climate change, for instance. To believe that climate change is not a real problem is necessarily to be a conspiracy theorist, because how else can you explain rejecting global scientific consensus without believing that it’s being arranged by a secret cabal trying to impose a hoax on the world? And yet the entire Republican Party is in the thrall of this Alex Jones-level conspiracy theory, as evidenced by the fact that they appointed Sen. James Inhofe, who credits Barbra Streisand with organizing this global conspiracy of climate scientists, to the head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

And the less said, the better, about Obama being put in a situation where he had to actually release his birth certificate to satisfy the expanding conspiracy theories around his citizenship.

This ACA lawsuit is just further capitulation to the Benghazi-birther-militia crowd. That a rightwing think tank would exploit a handful of Tea Party bottom-feeders in a feeble run at Obama’s signature legislation isn’t, perhaps, all that remarkable. Exploiting the obsessions and fantasies of rightwing cranks to make money and marshal political support has the standard operating procedure of conservative leadership for decades now. But that the Supreme Court is elevating this kind of talk radio madness to the highest court in the land takes this to another level.


As with Fox 'News,' is there any limit? How crazy can these people get before there's a backlash from sane conservatives? Heck, are there any sane conservatives left these days?

The Republican Party has been using the wingnuts since their 'Southern strategy' of deliberately wooing white racists, following the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Politically, that worked great. They took the entire South from the Democrats.

More than that, they attracted racists from all over America - even people who didn't think they were racist. Remember those so-called 'Reagan Democrats'? They were convinced to put economic issues in racial terms, thus supporting policies which were not in their own best interests under the mistaken impression that black 'welfare queens' were getting their tax dollars.

This worked so well that the GOP started using it elsewhere, too. They started wooing not just racists, but religious fundamentalists and cranks of all kinds. At first, they just had to throw the crazies a bone, occasionally - and usually just a rhetorical bone, at that.

But as they filled the party with loons, they started losing sane people. This 'self-deportation' caused the crazy to become more and more concentrated. With the GOP base completely crazy, even mainstream Republicans had to demonstrate sufficient insanity, too. Soon, 'moderate' was the worst label you could apply to a fellow Republican.

By now, the Republican Party has completely lost control. It's like the French Revolution, only with the fanatics rushing madly to the right, rather than the left. Leaders frantically try to stay in front of the mob, but it gets harder and harder when you simply can't be too far to the right.

Republican politicians still have money, because for all the crazy, it's the wealthy who bankroll the party. Thanks to the Republicans on our Supreme Court, it's legal to buy politicians these days - even anonymously. And with enough advertising money - to say nothing of talk radio and Fox 'News' - they can still convince the ignorant.

And by gerrymandering election districts, they've managed to take full control of the House of Representatives, despite being a minority party which regularly receives fewer votes than the Democrats. (The Senate, of course, is already weighted to favor rural states.)

So, even after the complete and utter disasters of George W. Bush, the Republican Party continues - crazier and crazier and crazier, but still winning elections. Is there any limit? For America's sake - and the world's - there'd better be!

Fox wishes our president were a Muslim dictator

Tell me, how crazy could Fox 'News' get before they'd lose their audience? Is there any limit? There really doesn't seem to be.

Fox has long been a laughingstock for anyone sane - well, sane and well-informed, at least. But they just seem to get crazier and crazier, while still making money hand over fist. I ask again, isn't there any limit?

Incidentally, PZ Myers calls Jon Stewart "the only news source worth listening to anymore" (re. Stewart's Monday night clip about Brian Williams). I'm not sure he's wrong, but given that Jon Stewart is a comedian, not a journalist, that says a lot about the state of America's media, doesn't it?

Sadly, Jon Stewart is leaving the Daily Show. After losing Stephen Colbert earlier this winter, this is especially going to hurt. As far as I'm concerned, John Oliver is the only person who comes close to those two, and I doubt if he's going to come back to the Daily Show.

But who knows? I wasn't expecting John Oliver to be as good as he is, either, and look what happened. (Last Week Tonight is on HBO, which I don't get, but they do post clips on their YouTube channel.) When they replace Jon Stewart, we'll just have to see...

Monday, February 9, 2015

GMOs - science vs belief

The last part of this is the sad part. There's anti-science faith-based thinking on the right and on the left. In both cases, ideology tends to trump science.

Of course, on the right, it's mainstream. On the left, by and large, it's not. Anti-science ideologues control the Republican Party. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, generally accepts science, even if individual Democrats sometimes don't.

That's not a reason to let the latter off the hook, but it's still a noteworthy difference.

Sean Carroll and the 'Fine-Tuning' argument

This is Sean Carroll debating William Lane Craig, apparently in New Orleans last year. (Here's the full debate.)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mr. Unclean

What's with these libertarians, anyway? I see a lot of young people buying into this idiocy, too. I just don't get it.

These are middle-class people, often enough (not just the Koch brothers, who expect their political donations to turn a profit), who don't seem to realize the advantages they've had living in our society. Well, I suppose that fish don't think of water much, either, until it becomes foul.

We have regulations for good reason. As a nation, we've learned what the lack of regulations can do to us. But in many cases, regulations have apparently been so effective that we've forgotten why we have them in the first place.

Or else it's just that faith-based ideology is resistant to the evidence of history. I'd always assumed that we'd learned from the Great Depression, too, but even after 2008 showed the dangers of forgetting all that, Republicans are still pushing to deregulate the banking industry. Well, that's the problem with faith-based thinking.

And libertarian ideology is faith-based. Senator Dunghands von Fecalfingers demonstrates just how ridiculous it really is.

Les Measlesrables

This is from two nights ago - I didn't get it posted yesterday, as I'd intended - but still funny, not least because of how Jon Stewart pokes fun at CNN.

Less funny is how it's not just the right-wing that's faith-based, but all too many people on the left, too. How did we Americans get to be so ignorant about science?

For the record, we need all children vaccinated in order to protect people who can't get vaccinations (infants, primarily) and because vaccines aren't 100% effective. There's enough individual variation among human beings that a few kids will still be susceptible even after receiving a vaccine. As a society, we rely on "herd immunity" to keep deadly diseases out of our country.

That's why libertarians are wrong - dead wrong - about this issue (as they are when it comes to so many other issues, too). We don't live as isolated hermits. We're social animals. We live in a society. We survive, or not, among others. We thrive, or not, in that society. Pretty much nothing we do doesn't affect other people in some way.

As far as Rand Paul goes, he's a complete idiot.

Chris Christie isn't much better:

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mike Huckabee: gay marriage just like bacon-wrapped shrimp in a Jewish deli

Mike Huckabee, Southern Baptist minister, ex-governor of Arkansas, former Fox 'News' star, and Republican presidential candidate (before and after his Fox News stint), is one of the crazier people in the GOP. Of course, that's not much of a distinction.

But he's personable. If you don't listen to what he says, he comes across as a pleasant, easy-going kind of guy. He's not a wild-eyed, crazy-looking, right-wing Christian nutbag. He's just a right-wing Christian nutbag.

Now, Huckabee has said crazy things before, certainly, but I want to focus on his latest comment about gay marriage:
Huckabee said that for him, same sex marriage is a religious issue.

"This is not just a political issue. It is a biblical issue. And as a biblical issue, unless I get a new version of the scriptures, it’s really not my place to say, ‘Okay, I’m just going to evolve.’ It’s like asking somebody who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped-shrimp in their deli. ... or asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him or to have dogs in his backyard," he said. "We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they’ve had for over 2,000 years."

The former governor also affirmed his view that the Supreme Court cannot change states' laws on gay marriage.

"We don’t change law because some people in a black robe just decide they don’t like the fact that 70, in some cases 80 percent, of a state’s population have affirmed natural law marriage," he said.

First of all, this is exactly - exactly - what right-wing Christians said about the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, racial integration, and allowing people of different races to marry. All of those things were Biblical issues to them, and the Bible was always on their side - the wrong side.

We couldn't have blacks and whites intermarrying, because scripture told them that was wrong. Of course, no one was going to force Christians - or anyone else - to marry someone of a different race, but that wasn't good enough for them. No, if their god didn't like it, no one should be allowed to do it.

And keep in mind that that didn't change until 1967!

Second, as with every issue, 'God' is on both sides. Huckabee apparently needs a "new version of the scriptures" before he'll accept gay marriage (or the abolition of slavery, or equal rights for women, or interracial marriage, I assume?), but the old version doesn't stop other Christians from vehemently disagreeing with him.

As I've noted before, God, if he exists at all, must be the world's worst communicator. Even Christians (after 2,000 years, still only 30% of the world's population) can't agree among themselves about anything, even when they base their arguments on the same 'holy book'!

This isn't a religious issue or even a Christian issue, but an issue of Huckabee's own interpretation of his own Southern Baptist version of Christianity. This is why we have freedom of religion in America - so that religious nuts can't force everyone else to obey whatever it is they happen to believe.

Would you prefer the Taliban way of doing things? Apparently, Huckabee would.

Third, let's look at the specifics of Huckabee's argument: "It’s like asking somebody who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped-shrimp in their deli." Is it? Really?

Obviously, no one is going to force a Jew to eat bacon or shrimp. No one is going to force a Muslim to drink alcohol. No one is going to force a Mormon to drink coffee. We've come that far, at least.

But you are going to prevent two consenting adults from getting married, because your own interpretation of your own particular religious text tells you that people of different races of the same sex shouldn't marry? What business of that is yours, in a free country?

No one is going to force Baptist minister Huckabee to marry people of different races or of the same sex, either. No one is going to force his church to hold the ceremony, no more than forcing his Christian church to hold Muslim or Hindu services. That's his right in a free country.

But suppose a Jew gets a job in a deli, while refusing to sell pork or seafood products? Suppose a Muslim gets a job in a liquor store but refuses to handle alcohol? Suppose a Mormon gets a job checking out groceries, but refuses to check out coffee?

Suppose you open a grocery store, but refuse to serve black people? Suppose you open a furniture store but refuse to serve Jews? You're not required to approve of Jews. You're not required to like black people. I'm sure that neither Jews nor black people give a crap whether you approve of them or not.

But we live together in a society which requires a certain minimum of minding your own business. If you don't want to deal with the public, don't start a business and don't get a job which requires dealing with the public. (It's your choice. Many jobs don't.)

Of course, no one is going to tell a deli owner that he has to sell bacon-wrapped shrimp. But if he sells bacon-wrapped shrimp, he'd better sell them to every customer who wishes to buy. No one is going to tell a Muslim that he has to get a job in a liquor store. But if he does get a job in a liquor store, he has to be willing to do his job.

If you're a Mormon, no one is going to force you to drink coffee. But it's none of your business if other people want to drink coffee, and if you choose to work in a grocery store, you have to be willing to sell people coffee. If not, work somewhere else.

Huckabee, and Christians like him, are generally on board with that. They just want special privileges for their own religion.

They'd be aghast at letting Muslims get a job in a liquor store while refusing to handle alcohol. If a Mormon in a restaurant refused to let them drink coffee, they'd be the first to complain. But they want to let Christians get a job in a pharmacy while refusing to dispense birth control. They want to let Christians work in a county clerk's office - being paid by the government, no less! - while deciding on their own which complete strangers should and shouldn't be allowed to marry.

This is the kind of thinking that's widespread in the Republican Party - especially within the GOP base. For the 2016 campaign, every Republican candidate for president will have to demonstrate to the base that he's just as crazy as they are (because those are the people who reliably vote).

But many of the candidates, including Huckabee, don't have that problem. Huckabee is already a darling of the extreme right, so he just has to demonstrate that he can appear harmless enough to everyone else. Remember how people supposedly voted for George W. Bush because he seemed like a nice guy, the kind of guy they'd like to have a beer with?

Mike Huckabee's words matter. But given our current profit-driven media and profit-driven political system, will they?

Gazing into the abyss