Friday, April 29, 2011

T- Bag to T-Rump

"Listen, you motherfuckers, we're gonna tax you 25%"

-Donald Trump-

Rummaging in a desk drawer this morning, I came across a tin box with a picture of George Bush on it. It said National Embarrass Mints. Remember those more innocent times? Of course that eight year horror story wasn't the first time I've been embarrassed for my country, or by my country. Actually that has been my regular condition since the Johnson administration, but I suppose it's the sort of thing one builds up a tolerance for. If we had had the Tea Party decades ago, I'd like to think they would have been written off by most conservatives as ill informed, ill intentioned and just plain ill. We've reached the point where an admission that the country had been steered into a war longer than and more expensive than WW II on false pretenses, on borrowed money and people punished for trying to expose it, has disappeared into the background noise, drowned out by the screaming about Planned Parenthood and National Public radio. America hasn't had a sincere, informed and rational discussion about anything for years: witches, flag pins, racist accusations, lies, damned lies and religion and all the while they're selling our American birthright out the back door.

Each increment, each step downward, seems to be a bigger one. The distance between the T-Baggers raging about things they are totally misinformed about and T-Rump calling the Chinese government "Motherfuckers" because they make a profit on trade with the US is as least as much a demonstration of the accelerating madness as all the insanity about birth certificates and scholarships paid for by Islamic Communist terrorists. But it's the sight of the cheering throngs enthralled by a barking idiot with hair that would make Andy Warhol's wig maker cry that has brought me to a point far beyond the galaxy of mere embarrassment.

It's not the idiots and crooks and con men in Washington to blame, it's the howling apes and laughing hyenas who don't think they're bad enough or destructive enough to suit us. Foreign policy? Why what we need to do is what that Tucson lunatic did and shoot the bastards, tax the motherfuckers, show them who the big dog really is. Let's put on togas, get shitfaced and PAAAARRRTYY!

I'm disgusted, I'm offended, I'm done. Living in a country where some drunk, ignorant, low life braggart with a skull full of stupid can get cheers acting like a sociopathic barroom hooligan and be considered as a potential president of the United States? Fuck it. It's not worth saving if it can't save itself -- and I pretty sure it doesn't even want to.

What does the end of America look like? It looks like this and it sounds like this and people love it.

Rebels without a cause

To be honest, I've come to hate activists, even when I agree with them. The passion behind so many crusades has often rendered the crusaders irrational, intemperate and more than half blind. It prompts them to accept spurious facts and figures and sometimes to invent them and in too many cases there's a kind of regenerative feedback that mimics a PA system with too much gain. It begins to howl and screech. Whatever was said into the microphone and what the howling is about matters little, only the joy of crusading, which not only surpasseth understanding, but prevents it.

Take genital mutilation, for instance. On the list of people I hate well in excess of my general contempt for humanity are those who painfully slice up young girls in a way that is intended to prevent them from enjoying sex as an adult. Yes, we have a constitutional ban on government interference with "free exercise" of religion, but we have a long standing interpretation of it that limits that free exercise to otherwise legal actions. We are, even so, usually able to make fair decisions because we distinguish between minor cosmetic surgery and malicious mutilation without a lot of hysteria. We can sometimes tell whether a comparison is ludicrous or not. We're able to take notice of the testimony of close to a billion males that it's not an impairment; unless we're prone to activism, that is.

Is circumcision, demanded by two of the major religious categories, really the kind of "mutilation" that falls outside of constitutional protection? To the activists of San Francisco, there are no uncertainties and certainly no distinction between something that is initially agonizing and a cruel lifelong impairment and something that isn't either. And let me be clear, this isn't a subject that will be illuminated by our traditional, left-right dichotomy. It simply doesn't matter whether it's liberals or Conservatives behind it; whether it's neither or both. I'd go so far as to say that the stated justifications for banning the circumcision of male babies is irrelevant to the passion for it and has too much to do with "aesthetics" to be more than an excuse. So I'm not going to indulge myself in modern fashion by invoking the traditional straw men ( and women of course) and restrict my contempt for people who need to have a cause and need it so much they aren't quite scrupulous about the high contrast, black and white scenarios they use in their passion plays.

If the crusade succeeds, much like the one that captured Jerusalem in 1099, the City by the bay will be as slippery a thing to hold on to. Jews and Muslims will simply use maternity facilities elsewhere or have the religious rite performed elsewhere. The Brit Milah, given in Gen. 17:10-14 to Abraham and in Lev. 12:3 is carried out on the eighth day. Muslims have a similar guideline. The law them would be only an inconvenience, like having to drive to the next town to purchase alcohol is in some places.

What then will it accomplish than, after all the sound and fury and obsession with penises wanes? Certainly nothing to stop what was intended to be stopped unless a further incursion by the dominant religion into the neighborhood of tolerance was part of the game all along.

Friday, April 22, 2011


As I've suspected, there's an increasing amount of evidence that one is born on one side of the fence or another; predestined to be what they call conservative these days or Liberal. Yes, I'm very wary of these terms, since they mean what their enemies say they mean and have little to do with conserving anything real, or with the concept of reform, but still, there seem to be two kinds of minds and it's hard to account for it as merely the product of experience or study or intelligence.

Yes, I've joked about the far right not having a sense of humor that differs from meanness and I can think of all kinds of nominally Liberal reformers who would crumble if they ever smiled, but that impression isn't unique to me and I find it compelling. Some people find their view of reality far too serious, too dangerous and threatening to find much to laugh about, unless it's to laugh about the discomfiture and humiliation of an enemy.

That there are indeed two kinds of minds; two predispositions toward political, religious and sociological poles, is compelling, not that I would suggest using any evidence for it to dismiss arguments from either side. Sometimes, Conservative is actually conservative and Liberal is just Liberal and the truth may be neutral.

There may be important evidence for physical differences between those who feel threatened, respond to perceived threats with more aggression, more disgust and less tolerance for uncertainty. A taste for strongly held credos about morality and politics almost defines such people and we usually call them conservatives. A distaste for absolute moral judgments; for saying something is "just wrong" without considering the results defines those we want to call Liberals.

"Liberal Brains" seem more tolerant of uncertainty than conservatives according to a study of brain scans of 90 volunteers at University College London. Brain scans revealed, or so it's claimed, physical differences
"Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual's political orientation, our study now links such personality traits with specific brain structure."
says researcher Ryota Kanai.
"People with a large amygdala are "more sensitive to disgust" and tend to "respond to threatening situations with more aggression than do liberals and are more sensitive to threatening facial expressions. Liberals are linked to larger anterior cingulate cortexes, a region that "monitor(s) uncertainty and conflicts"
So is this cause or effect? Are these findings real? Maybe it's too soon to tell and I can certainly identify some traits that would make me more conservative than the stereotypical Liberal. What I am is for others to say, but I certainly find fault in many standard Liberal shibboleths, even if I'm intolerant of certainty and that includes being certain that the study means anything.

"Our findings are consistent with the proposal that political orientation is associated with psychological processes for managing fear and uncertainty"
says the report and that feels right, even if many wrong things feel right. I'm just not afraid of the conservative bogeymen like net neutrality, graduated income tax, single payer health programs or Social Security. I am however concerned about the danger of inflexible creeds that seem to need a great deal of misplaced faith to follow and a government that follows such things without regard to the will of the electorate, the lessons of history or even the demands of common decency. I believe in uncertainty.

So is my anterior cingulate cortex bigger or smaller and does size matter? It's not as though I'm free of fear, I just fear the fearful and the things they do.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

God control.

I've said quite a bit about gun control; pretty much all I'm going to say, actually. There is something far more pernicious, more dangerous and more in need of control however and that's God. It's hard to deny although that doesn't prevent most people from denying it, God has been on the wrong side of things as often as the right side: slavery, conquest, persecutions, genocide. You name it; God has been the universal justification as often as the universal opponent.

So it isn't surprising that God now seems to be against Net Neutrality. Sure he is -- and our founding fathers who don't seem to have believed in the kind of god who gets involved in such matters as free markets thought so too. That's the thing about God's likes and dislikes and mysterious plans: people just make them up as they go along.

Take David Barton, for instance, allegedly one of the country's most influential Evangelicals. He thinks that government should stay out of the lives of selected people and should, in the name of freedom and less intrusive government, regulate the most private and personal consensual sexual behavior. That's nothing new, of course, but it may surprise you that according to the Gospel as invented by Barton, God hates net neutrality and wants the internet dominated by the powerful and rich. God and the Puritans brought us prosperity because we're not socialists. The rest of the world got their prosperity from the Devil apparently and Jesus was just joking about rich men and heaven. How can we question that?

God wills it -- just like God willed the Crusades and the extermination of European Jews: just like he willed the divine right of kings and the right of the Church to approve their power. He demanded a secular Democracy in the Colonies, some of them, while simultaneously mandating the power of George III, Rex Dei Gratia.

Face it, it's long since been far out of hand and the will of god has become indistinguishable from the background noise of commerce. Did God have an interest in boosting tobacco sales. He obviously, if we're to believe this radio troll, has an interest in the rights of corporations which exceeds his concern for the poor. Does God like free markets, or does he like kings? Does the Bible speak against Net Neutrality or call it Socialism. Does God hate Socialism or does he like you to share everything you have with the poor and sick? Depends on who you ask and of course I won't be asking the Religious right who I can't tell from the Religious wrong of late.

One thing our constitution does uphold, is the free exercise of religion, so lunatics and tyrants and even evil men like Barton get to rave on unmolested. The government can't really exercise God control and more than God can control the evil spewed out by Barton's forked tongue. It's up to me and you to be aware that whether or not it was God, Guns and Guts that made America "great" those things will serve any master with equal ferocity. Mention God and nobody can shut you up, nobody can really contradict you and millions will follow you through the gates of hell, raging and bellowing, cheering and jeering like the lost souls we are.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Slow Train Coming

One of the most frequently recurring themes echoing inside the bubble of Obamahate culture is that the President, although handily elected, was somehow thrust upon us by mistake and is an unelected tyrant.

It takes a special kind of person to believe that. It takes a special kind of person to attempt to profit by that belief and it takes a special kind of specialness not to be able to smell the boot polish and Cordite when reading about Wisconsin Governor Walker's plan to take over municipal governments ( duly elected) as part of his plan for prosperity through penury.

Forbes' Rick Ungar calls it Financial Martial Law and the Walker plan
"would empower the governor to insert a financial manager of his choosing into local government with the ability to cancel union contracts, push aside duly elected local government officials and school board members and take control of Wisconsin cities and towns whenever he sees fit to do so,"
I have no doubt that's just what the Tea-Shirts would like and little doubt that they will be able to reconcile that with their flimsy facade of Constitutional reverence.
"Such a law would additionally give Walker unchallenged power to end municipal services of which he disapproves, including safety net assistance to those in need."
That's not tyranny, that's not the kind of shredding of the constitution the baggery would love to attribute to the President: at least not to the Tea-drunk masses longing to break free of any remaining bonds of civilization.

It'll never happen? It's Liberal hyperbole? Think a State Government can't simply strip a municipality's elected government of all power by Gubernatorial fiat? You say this isn't possible in America? It's already happened in Michigan. Perhaps it's coming soon, to a state near you.

I'll spare you a rant about Fascism and Mussolini, the perils of "special emergency powers" and Orwell's eternal boot heel, I suspect you've read enough 20th Century history to know what I'm talking about, but I suspect too that the years I have left to me will be years of counting up the mounting victories of barbarism, and the steady descent of our empire. Perhaps it's high time that I got back to studying Chinese.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Funny, funny, funny

" I didn't stop to think about the historic implications and other examples of how this could be offensive"
said Marilyn Davenport from the Orange County Republican Central Committee. Oh, of course not. It was just too much fun paling around with the rest of the bigoted bastards, sending them pictures of President Obama as a Chimpanzee, titled "Now you know why no birth certificate." Funny, funny, funny.

But She's a "Christian woman" says she, and an active Tea Party Twit and likes to put Biblical references into her excuses. Maybe God will forgive her, but then he's probably fed up with excuses too.

Is there any excuse for this "birther" crap? Even Bill O'Reilly has asked that this nonsense stop and the president be given some basic respect, but he'd have more success asking a pack of alligators to share that piece of rotten chicken like nice little reptiles.

No, the Koreans didn't pay his tuition, he's not a Muslim, he wasn't born in Africa and the last thing he is is a Marxist. Face it, you never even heard of Trotzky before 2008. Yes, he is the real president, no he didn't defy the War Powers Act and if he's a tyrant, a wet noodle is an icepick.

Just get over it, he's black, he's too middle of the road and corporate influenced for Liberals, too willing to compromise with enemies of Liberal politics and too unwilling to do what he was elected to do in many cases -- and he's black.

And stop telling me, he's not your president unless you're willing to admit you don't give a damn for Democracy and the rule of law.

Monday, April 18, 2011

World Amateur Radio Day

I've often said that history could rightly be called The Revenge of the Nerds. After all, who else has relegated the huge brutal guy with the horned helmet to the football field and wrestling match and wrested the control from their hands? Some guy with a tube of Clearasil in his pocket operating from a cubicle in Fort Knox wields more power than all the Vikings, the Hordes of Genghis Khan and the generations of Crusaders added together and more.

Nerds rule and of course nowadays, it's hip to be a nerd. As with all hipdom, however most of what you see is imitation and pose. That "tech-savvy" kid who just walked out of the cell phone store with a new gadget, quacking app, app, app like the AFLAC duck? a real nerd? I don't think so.

I'm increasingly often the recipient of obnoxious snark from people whose fragile egos depend on the complexity of their cell phones, knowledge of the features of the latest Japanese consumer toy and number of things owned with the letter i tacked on to the front. Most couldn't read the schematic for a flashlight much less tell you how semiconductor devices work or how they're made, yet they proudly assume the mantle of nerd. Tell you how a Hartley differs from a Colpitts or how to calculate the resonant point of a tank circuit? That's kid stuff to a real nerd. You can't even get a Technician license without knowing such things. Real nerds were making phone calls from their cars over 30 years ago, sending text messages a hundred years ago and are doing things today you wouldn't understand if I told you about it.

Is it a big deal that I can talk to someone in Australia with a hand held device? Not any more, but doing it for free is still a lot of fun. I got a kick out of contacting a Yuri Gagarin special event station in Kazakhstan the other day and some Mexican guys on an uninhabited volcano in the Pacific and that sort of thing is even more fun when you're doing it with something you designed and built connected to a wire up in the palm trees. But that's just me and it's a me who isn't interested in what the pierced and tattooed kids at the mall are doing at the moment, which of course is how we nerds are.

Anyway, it's April 18th and that's World Amateur Radio Day, which commemorates the founding of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) this year on it's 78th anniversary. There are about 3 million of us in the world; over 600,000 in the US, and we've pioneered and developed nearly every form of electronic communication there is, most of which you're unaware of, thank you very much. We have our own satellites, we bounce signals off the moon and the Northern Lights and the ionized trails of meteors. We can send a photo of the grand kids and text messages to Timbuctu with 20 watts and keep in touch when all else fails, but for the most part we can communicate anywhere and without the fragile and expensive infrastructure you need to send gibberish to the kids at the other end of the hall.

But hey, I gotta go. ZB2FK is CQing from Gibraltar on 10 and that's a new one for the log book.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

If you don't get the joke, you might be a Republican

Well no wonder they don't think The Daily Show is funny and don't notice when Colbert rips them to pieces.

Some scientific folks at UC San Francisco have completed a study indicating that people in the early stages of dementia have lost the snark detection system most of us were born with and can't tell when you're lying or being facetious. It explains a lot of things, actually, from why people send their life savings to Nigeria to why they can support a candidate who changes his entire philosophy from hour to hour to negate whatever his opponent says.

"Divergent Neuroanatomic Correlates of Sarcasm and Lie Comprehension in Neurodegenerative Disease," a paper presented Thursday at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Hawaii, suggests that dementia can be detected earlier by noting this telltale disability. Fans of Blade Runner will smile and those of us baffled by the thought processes of Sarah Palin disciples will say "AHAH!" Perhaps we can now begin to understand why there are no really funny conservative comedians and how John McCain can flip and flop faster than a Cray supercomputer without fostering the slightest cynicism from the right.

After all, what has been eroded by disease in some people may simply not exist in others.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Free exercise

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

All well and good, but as it so often happens, the ignorant, angry rabble the constitution was designed to prevent from directly controlling our country disagree. According to a CNN poll this morning, 64% of Americans responding, support a federal ban on garments that hide the face; garments which are required by the free exercise of some religious denominations. So much for our constant squealing about Freedom.

Where are the cries of too much government I have to listen to constantly? There's a move here to eliminate licensing for professions that now require them, like Yacht brokerage -- in the interest of "less government" and because, as the local paper says, "it will make it easier to get into the business." I'm sure it will, especially for the unscrupulous.

I had to listen to a tantrum in Miami International Airport the other day, when a man decided the overly long walk to the customs hall was the result of "too much government," but telling us how to constitute our families, who we may marry, what clothes we may not wear, what religion we may not freely exercise? Well, now, that's different!