Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Fat Man's Protest

So did you hear Mike Huckabee's opinion on laws requiring one to have a birth certificate to confirm one's gender at birth before using public toilets?  Did you cringe, like I did?  With recent advances in upholding the civil rights of gay people, the "Christians" seem to be running scared and that usually means trotting out the hyperbole, the ridiculous analogies and the bogus scenarios.

"I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today'"

Said the chubby man who would be President.  That's not a pretty picture and not a picture I enjoy holding in my mind, but the point is that the rabble rousing that involves scenarios of some guy dressed as a woman raping your daughter in the Lady's Room is fiction. If some dude wanted to dress up and explore the fabulous world of toilets, there would be no law likely to stop him, no DNA test or passport control at the door.  Indecent exposure laws, where they apply, are still in place.

Transgendered people have been using washrooms of choice  for decades and so far, I don't know of a problem, nor (and I've asked) do women normally walk around naked in public toilets.  Sorry, Mike, the athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner isn't going to molest your wife or your darling daughter nor will anything be exposed outside of a toilet stall.  You'll never know. 

Frankly, remembering the alarming record of Republican politicians who rant about sex and gender and protecting the world from homosexuality being caught doing naughty things to boys in cloakrooms or sitting with "wide stances" in airport mens' rooms and sleazy motels, I'd rather not share a bathroom with Mike at all.  Methinks the fat man doth protest too much.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Yer Heathen Laws

Today he shall be lifted up and tomorrow he shall not be found, because he is returned into his dust, and his thought is come to nothing.

-1 Macabees 2:63 -

It's no surprise that the nattering nabobs of nullification and true haters of the secular Constitution  are resisting the Supreme Court's latest ruling forbidding the Confederacy to ban some marriages on Christian grounds. I'm talking about Texas, but the Lone Star State is hardly alone.  It's a "lawless ruling" says Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and if clerks are fined for refusing to issue marriage licences, he will defend them in court.  Like many a snake of fable, he doesn't have a leg to stand on.

"God don't want me to obey yer heathen laws!"  I can't wait for that defense to show up in Federal Court, and just try to wrap your mind around that convoluted logic,  Not that it would be the first time we've heard it and who could be surprised if we don't start to hear that toothless old Rebel Yell again.
Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood says gay marriage won't be legal in the state until the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals gives the go-ahead. A court of Appeals? And here we thought the Supreme Court had the final say.

Bobby Jindal tells his constituents:

"I think it is wrong for the federal government to force Christian individuals, businesses, pastors, churches to participate in wedding ceremonies that violate our sincerely held religious beliefs, We have to stand up and fight for religious liberty. That's where this fight is going,"

That "fight" is going precisely nowhere of course since the government isn't forcing any church or Pastor or Priest or anyone else to do anything, and a county clerk is free to resign if he doesn't like his job, just as any Muslim, Jew or Hindu can decide not to work for McDonalds if he won't serve pork or beef.   Anyway I suspect "Fightin' Bobby" would look real good in his Rebel grey uniform fightin' for the Ol' South. I think the irony could be measured on the Richter Scale.

Those of us of a certain vintage will remember when these God forsaken blowhards made the same arguments about interracial marriage and racial integration as well, and George Wallace based a presidential candidacy on undoing integration, " 'cause God don't want the races to mix."  Then as now, their miserable religious rage and sexual obsession  has come to nothing, leaving them to thrash around like a catfish on a sandbank . That pleases me no end and when they complain that it's a violation of  our "Freedom"  for the state not to be controlled by some state-sanctioned religious doctrine, I'm more than amused to watch these stinking turds of history slowly swirling down the porcelain bowl of justice.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Do the Hokey Pokey

"Words no longer have meaning" says Justice Scalia and he should know, being a major contributor to the vocabulary of Right Wing babble.

Chief Justice Roberts' reasoning in yesterday's decision on the Affordible Care Act was "Argle-bargle. The decision against the Defense of Marriage Act was "Jiggery-pokery."  That's the power of words to hide the embarrassing truth and in Scalia's case,  the truth is he's arguing the reverse of last years' Bargerly Argle.

"Three years ago, when the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality was challenged, Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Sam Alito read the law in such a way as to see all eligible consumers receiving subsidies, regardless of state or federal exchanges. In today’s dissent, these three had to read the law in the polar opposite way" writes Steve Benin

Contradictions like these say a lot. They say that the Court's most "conservative" spokesmen see the law in a rather situational way, That is to say it's right or wrong depending on who's doctrinal ox is being gored.  In this case maybe we can call it argumentum ad Obama, or "whatever he does is wrong."  If words have lost their meaning, which in a sense is true, perhaps it has much to do with the kind of rhetorical  wriggle-wragle or humpity-bumpidy defenders of  antiquated hoogely-boogely use to justify their dishonest HokeyPokey

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The power of Myth

Combine it with the hipster love of supercilious snark and what's old is new again. The driving force behind it is ignorance, or at least one of the driving forces. The other one is the same force that makes us love conspiracies to the point where our brains blow a fuse.

 There are far too many new examples almost every day to be able to comment on them all but one that's been annoying me for some time is the one about Edison "stealing" the light bulb by infringing on someone's patent -- someone by the name of Henry (formerly Heinrich) Goebel, formerly a gardener and chocolate salesman.  Goebel made that claim some years after Edison patented the carbon filament, high resistance light bulb.  There had been attempts to make a practical device from the known phenomenon of electric current heating things up to the point of glowing, but those mostly used a low resistance, carbon rod instead of a filament, making them unusable and enormously inefficient.Many suits were filed as often happens after a breakthrough invention.  All eventually failed when none of them could be shown to work. 

What Goebel really did accomplish is to invent some improvements, as he claimed, to the manufacturing process. When Edison didn't want to buy them, Goebel then began to claim that he had produced a carbon filament bulb way back in the 1850's but was never able to come up with any examples or other evidence. Although some patent attorneys, seeing a windfall, visited Goebel, he was unable to present evidence for his claims.  All lawsuits were eventually settled in Edison's favor by the 1890's and no evidence was every produced showing any prior work in electricity at all much less in light bulbs prior to Edison's patent.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

E pluribus unum

It's hard to believe that a small group of misfits titling themselves the Council of Conservative Citizens has a fraction of a percent of the influence and followers old Father Coughlin once had.  I think his eventual discomfiture had much to do with the rise of the Nazi threat when Germany declared war on us in 1941 and made Fascism and anti-Semitism temporarily unfashionable, long after their program of extermination had begun.  Nothing on that scale has happened here to make our masses of uneducated, unenlightened yet firmly convinced Americans turn completely against the preachers of hate and intolerance and smug self-righteousness. Indeed such groups and individuals do prosper. It would be hard to believe however that such hate groups as the Council of Conservative Citizens represents any significant number of Americans. I was not aware of Kyle Rogers or his hate group until yesterday following all the reportage about the Charleston shooting. I'm aware however -- very aware of others fond of blaming all of our ills, real and imagined on some scapegoat.

Is Dylann Roof a scapegoat, a "self-radicalized lone wolf" or is he a disciple?  If not why do his words seem so familiar? and if not, why do we ignore the instigators?

We're not the same country as we were 75 years ago.  Not by a long shot, even though the meme is being spread by certain folks that nothing has changed, that we need to have a one sided "discussion," that the Civil Rights movement was a failure and worst of all that "white people" are telling themselves that there is no more racism. What better way to oppose positive change, to alienate needed allies - to engage in hate speech-lite!  A pretty damn good way to increase the animosity and bellicosity as well of course, and of course it's just not true.  But remember, organizations of all sorts, good and bad have less interest in solving the problems they are all about than we do,  No sir or madam, I do not believe racism has ended, but I do believe that government sanction and support of racist policies is far less and that justice and opportunity has improved. Agreement is hardly universal.  Activists and the media need to earn a living after all.

Still, those of us who leave the process of getting involved and informed to the news media are hardly aware of the hate groups out there, from Jew Watch to the Klan to the Aryan Nation to the Westboro Baptist Church to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are countless groups and media blowhards trying to make us afraid of and hate almost everyone, and they're not all composed of tattooed sociopaths with Swastikas and Confederate battle flags. Just listen to Donald Trump accuse Mexicans of being diseased criminals smuggling drugs,  Some are preachers and priests, others are members of respected political parties.  Organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center have lists and descriptions of many of them.

The SCLC of course has it's vehement detractors and attractors as much hate as anyone, Most of its opposition are "conservative" Republicans, usually so quiet when tragedies like the Charleston Massacre occur and usually so able to inject their pet obsessions into any discussion and so end it: obsessions like claiming that people need to bring guns to church and that hate speech should have no limits in the name of freedom.

Look, we're never going to reform mankind.  We're never going to be a utopia and we're never going to make everyone happy, but one of the obstacles to making the American promise reality is ourselves; our hysteria, our insistence on protecting often misinformed opinion, on dehumanizing disagreement and upon not voting for less than perfect candidates.  We have to unite against hate speech and the people who do it. Shout them down not shout at each other. We need to recognize who our enemies aren't, we need to examine our most angry and passionate thoughts and we need to recognize that: be we Mexican, Jewish, African American, Apache, Lakota, Atheist, Muslim -- be we gay or Greek or German or anything else, we're all in it together as Americans. Most of us, nearly all of us are not bigots, not haters and not shooters of the innocent. Those people are in retreat and we need to admit it.  Most of us aren't even Republicans, yet we let them get away with murder while we throw fits in the street. United We Stand. Seems simple, almost banal but it's on such things the future depends.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Alas, We Babble On

"Make haste while the sun shines," it says on the sales brochure.  It goes right in the recycle bin because I don't buy stuff from illiterates.  The weather matters, you see, when you're making hay, not haste, but what sounds similar means the same thing and our English teachers seem to approve.  Language is not just about description,  it's about suggestion, it's about class identification or class aspiration.  It's not about communication but about being cute, being hip, being humble, being haughty.  and these days, when bad is good and badder is better, it's about pretense. Doesn't it sound elite to the ignorant to "embiggen" something rather to enlarge it?  Does it make me sound more masculine to add "ass" as a suffix to most adjectives?  Is it more business schoolish to gift things rather than give them?  Am I being  "hip"or simply sheep-like to think I am by substituting "fail" for failure, or am I just defining myself as one?

"Make haste while the sun shines" is a Malapropism unless it's a conscious parody and I suspect this isn't one.   The same goes for pushing envelopes, towing lines,  proving things with pudding and "impactful" collisions which is an oxymoron as well.  We don't seem to think much about what we're saying and these twisted tropes and mangled metaphors are so ingrained and habitual we don't notice the anachronism when an actor in a drama set in  Regency England says a disease has impacted someone's faculties.  A bullet impacted Lincoln's brain, effectively affecting history. Monkey hear, monkey say, monkey don't think much.

Maybe B.F. Skinner was right and we are better off looking at behavior and not talking about rational cogitation, something that seems a bit uncommon and out of style.  I observe that we can't ever get up close without getting personal. We can't say record without putting "track" in front and in neither case are we making the phrase more accurate, clear or understandable.  Classical conditioning, Operant Conditioning, I don't know.  Maybe I'm getting it all wrong.  I'm not the psychologist after all, I'm the rat in the maze looking for a way out and not finding it, but we learn by listening and more and more, we listen to people who should not be examples instead of reading those who should.  We hardly read literature. We hardly read anything older than the loaf of bread we bought this morning and too often we read and listen to people trying to sell us a product. No one corrects us when we say irregardless, when we say 'complected' instead of complexioned.  Where are the English teachers?  Have they gone away or are they trapped in a doctrine of "anything goes or are they off studying video clips on Youtube?

My dad, a salesman, used to say "everyone's a salesman" and I suppose that's true. Perhaps American English is the last remaining trace of Democracy devolving to mob rule, but perhaps too, it's more of a marketing tool of consumerism.  The politician, the guy with a lot of used cars, a warehouse full of snake oil -- the advocate for a cause, your defense lawyer: everyone. Their object is not to paint an accurate picture but to frame reality, to direct your thought by tailoring the language the way Barnum drew us to go see "the egress" as though it were some sort of bird.  We're allowing people to dictate what we say and how we say it all under the rubric of "language has to change." We're allowing people with causes to tell us what's proper, permissible or not and it seems we've acquired the habit of following along without question even when we're lead into contradiction.  We know we must never refer to the Orient unless it be in a Christmas carol but we don't wonder, we don't ask lest we be labelled -- we accept. We're uncomfortable talking about boys and girls lest we insult someone and someone has taught us to refer to any residence as a "home" in order to give it a warmer image so that we're more likely to buy or rent it, be it trailer, tenement or tent. The language has to change and I'm the one to tell you what to say and not to say, says the activist.

Do any of us still cringe when people say "the reason is because," or "the reason why I did it?"   Does anyone shed tears to hear merit and meretricious confused? I've long given up on telling people there's a difference between "because of " and "due to" although it's a  big one. Go forth and multiply, says the school system.  Say what you will shall be the law, not that we can see or discuss any difference between shall and will, of course. Too fussy to hold the interest of the LCD.

Yes, of course usage changes but to offer that fact as a denial that there is any importance to what you say or how you say it.has become common -- perhaps universal.  Sure Shakespeare did all kinds of things to English but Shakespeare was aware and competent and a poet.  That you don't know torturous from tortuous from tortious doesn't make you Shakespeare or even Charles Bukowski, nor does the addition of adulimubab make up for the loss of so many words.  Our declining vocabularies have made us resort to nudge, wink, body language, inflection and tone: IN-vite for invitation, for instance: Dee-fense as opposed to defense.

Certainly most of us know the word 'beginning.'  We recognize dawn, birth, inception, conception, origination, genesis, emergence, rise, start, commencement, starting point, launch, onset, outset, opening, and several more metaphoric synonyms, but what we usually get is Git-go.  It's not all ignorance, it's pretense too as I've suggested already although it's been a very long time since the folksey affactation produced the desired result.   Have we forgotten the difference between waiting for Godot and waiting on Godot?  Perhaps not.  Whether it's selling something or selling ourselves as country or gangster, upscale or proletarian, smart or smart-ass, American English is possibly the most poorly used, misused and abused language it's ever been. I weep for poor Ophelia incapable of her own distress, floating on the water. . .

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Just the Facts, Ma'am

"Three dead, Several injured during a rampage in Graz," reads the headline in the Austrian newspaper Die Krone. The driver of an SUV drove wildly through a crowd on a busy street in Graz, the hometown of  Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger;
skidding wildly back and forth on street and sidewalks.  When the driver finally stopped, he came at the police and bystanders with a knife.  "The exact reason for the rampage is unknown" says the paper.

Is there ever an exact reason?  Is reason a word with any application here at all?  No place, no population is free of such incidents and they only differ in the kinds of things one uses when one runs amok.  It might be a machete, a gun, an explosive vest, a vehicle, a bomb, a cooking implement or a canister of poison gas.  We've seen all of the above and more. How we define, how we describe, how we react says more about our society and says more about us than about the mass killers we produce.

Missing from the Newspaper account is the call for grieving and mourning and outrage, demands for more laws of an unspecified nature and any demand that it be called "terrorism."  No attempts to tie it to history and tradition and ethnicity or to make of it anything not immediately apparent. Neither the vehicle nor the knife were described as "military style"

How unlike America. Indeed the friend who posted this on Facebook asked Americans not to comment, to leave it to the Austrians and just let it be what it was.  I know what he means.

Fight Fire With Fire and Everyone Burns

Blacks are a "hated people" writes Is there no safe place? Our Racist History Isn't Back to Haunt Us. It Never Left Us. Rebecca Traister wrote in the same issue.

 It's to be expected that those who see a senseless murder and respond with such passion about it will be in the headlines for a while and those who try to put it in another perspective will have a hard time avoiding criticism, but is there any safe place for anyone?  We have a history of senseless violence in America and as coverage of it around the world screams at us all day and all night we all know about it, we all fear it no matter how small the odds for any individual.   School children, Muslims, Jews, gay people get attacked, always by disturbed and probably demented and deluded young men -- it's a long list and it grows.  Random samples of the population have been involved in mass shootings in recent memory.  Movie theaters, restaurants, schools, office buildings and the streets.of Boston,  Deadly explosions, aircraft hijackings and shootings.  One might correctly think Americans are a hated people.

But he's right, of course, there are people who hate anyone with any African ancestors, like our current president -- and his election and re-election has released some hate gas from the muck, but the unspoken implication is that everyone hates black people:  The White People hate Black people, that is. That's not only untrue as election results prove, but it's a statement that is needlessly divisive and inflammatory.  It serves to heighten hatred and fear as well as it serves to sell magazines. It's a racist sentiment.

I do not doubt the sincerity of either writer and I do share the anger and a disgust with racism of all sorts, but it's very very hard in the atmosphere we have been given to breathe even to discuss the possibility that outrage is just another form of the same thing we're angry at -- that fighting bad doesn't make everything you do good or true or helpful. This isn't the old South, the murderer has zero chance of getting away with it.

Is this latest tragedy really the result of intransigent racism or the story of  another young man slipping into madness and choosing a "cause" that's a relic of the Old South?    I have heard people say you can't go to the movie theater any more, you can't send your kid to school any more and even that our laws provide an open season on black children.  Irrational and untrue and hyperbolically out of proportion Black people are still more likely to be shot by a black person. Domestic acts of terrorism have been quite random when it comes to the race of the victims.   Every time something happens we're told this changes everything, but the truth, the sad truth is that it doesn't.

Again did Dylann Roof  shoot up a church because we have a tradition of racism or because we have a tradition of letting the insane go unconfined?  Would one cause have been as good as another?  Was it really all about suicide?  He did claim he was going to kill himself after all.  We don't know and perhaps some don't want even to talk about it because they're on a mission of their own and don't want the passion play watered down or its passionate elements soothed. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rachael Dolezal, Racism and Denialism

So someone working to advance the interests of people of 'color' doesn't seem actually to have any African or otherwise dark skinned ancestry. If that offends you, if you think someone with say 10% African ancestry would be better at the job, are you a racist?  Just asking because I don't know what a racist is any more and I'm afraid to ask,  Everyone has a different opinion and often a self-contradictory one.

It's not actually something I'm very concerned with, I care about what people do, and not who their great, great, great grandparents were, but for those people, like Bill Nye who insists there is "no such thing" as race it must cause some dissonance. If race is non-existent, how does one select which one to belong to except at random?  As far as I know, there is no legal standard and if there, as some say, no scientific standard, how can there be a problem? If Rachel Dolezal "identifies with Black?"  why complain?

After all as I heard the Bow Tie Science Guy say, all of us humans can cross breed and the offspring will be human so there's no such thing as race, which argument of course depends on a false definition of race closer to Species.  If you're reading this, we're certainly all the same species, The official catechism is that we can't tell a man from a Manatee by looking at the genomes which again is a falsehood.  Looking at my own genome it's apparent where my ancestors came from over the last thousand years or so without looking at my face or hair or eyes. Some from the British Isles, others from what is now Germany, France, Italy, etc, etc.  Many of us have had our genomes mapped for various reasons.  The results can be what you expected or otherwise, but if you're blessed with sub-Saharan ancestors, the percentage thereof is apparent as is the location within Africa.

If your ancestry is Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western European -- Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, it's as apparent. as your gender is, with or without the "operation"  Just to poke Nye in the eye, I've found that almost three percent of my forefathers were Neanderthalers who were not actually the same species as modern humans. Lions and tigers can produce offspring with characteristics of both parents.  They are not the same species as any science guy should admit.

Is it that some academics need so much for things to fit the dogma they make a living from or that they think we just can't handle the truth?  Because if one controls the definition of race, one controls the definition of racism and if one gets to say who is or isn't a racist one has a lot of power in today's world. It's the "you can't handle the truth" approach to science that smells so much like religion to me however.  Like most religious rhetoric I find it an insult.  I'm insulted by those who demand I accept that there is no difference between male and female, Indian and Italian and it's all the product of culture and so all distinctions are null and void and usually bad.

Or varied genome is our history and each of us is a grand travelogue of our long and various journeys that separated us and then brought us back together. To deny it is to deny our mothers and fathers and to deny them is to deny our common humanity.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


 Listening to Bill Clinton on Bloomberg this afternoon and marveling at the rally in the US markets today, I reflected about all the dire predictions the Republicans made when he was elected and again after they had to face the fact that he was not the one-term wonder they worked hard to make him.  None of them came true of course, just like the professional prognosticators' (that's a euphemism for liars) record for Obama predictions.  Reading the 'crawl'  I saw that  tax revenue has increased at twice the rate of government spending and the deficit is at 7 year lows.  Think the torrent of wisecracks about "tax and spend" will slow down?  Of course not.

Will I bother to confront all those "drill baby drill" nitwits who told us Obama the "Moooslim" was against oil production and was gonna weaken the country?  Same crawl tells me we're now the world's biggest energy producer, not just the biggest user.  Yeah, sure, all those oil resources Obama wasn't going to let the oil company's exploit are now in full production, like it or not, from the Bakken deposits to the Arctic.

He's a socialist, Commie spreader of wealth and is gonna take our guns and  raise our taxes -- yada yada as Lennie Bruce used to say. Unemployment has recovered Job creation is way, way up.

It's hard no to see that everything promised by the supply side shell game economics of the GOP was a total failure, a tragic failure and not one damned thing we were warned against, from another 9/11 to another 1929 (remember the double dip warnings?)  never came true.

Hey, it's not just climate change, the Republicans live in a dream world and nothing will pry those lies from their cold, dead lips.

Graham Crackers

I have to wonder about people who spend their days thinking about other people's sex lives and denouncing them for what usually is consensual and often loving behavior between consenting adults.  It not as though people like Franklin Graham are hormone-addled adolescents after all and it's not as though the world doesn't have other, more serious problems, like all those folks at present killing each other to please some god or other,  but like his father Billy, this extraordinarily rich man seems to have appointed himself, by virtue of some declared holiness,  as God's scourge and protector of mankind's morality. By morality, I mean the neo-Christian concept of it which has little to do with anything other than sex.   Excuse me, but that holiness is far more lacking in evidence than anything that ever spoke from a burning bush or whirlwind.  Rich men, camels and sewing implements, etc. You've heard it all before.

Unless money, scriptural inconsistencies notwithstanding,  is proof of God's approval, which would say something rather odd about God if true. Maybe he doesn't care if he, like Don Corleone, gets a 'taste.'  At any rate, at my last reckoning Frank made about a million a year working for "charity" and whether or not he is tax exempt by virtue of holiness, that's a good deal of money.  Having a barn with a large cross on his property might serve to make real estate taxes nugatory as well and cause God to let him off the eye of the needle thing, but I'm speculating and this isn't about money earned, but money that earns us all a good laugh at his expense.

Frank, you see, was terribly offended by a Wells Fargo commercial featuring a gay couple, so he moved his "ministry's" massive accounts to  BB&T, No word about his private accounts of course, lest God notice how rich he is.  

Can't fool God though, he knows and as with all good humor, the truth or the proof if you prefer is in the punch line. 
BB&T, you see, and unbeknownst to our Bad Samaritan is the sponsor of the Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade, along with the chief sponsor of Miami Beach Gay Pride’s “Legacy Couples” program, which celebrates same-sex couples in “committed relationships of 10 years or longer.

The company hopes to “support the individuals and organizations that broaden our perspectives and strengthen the diverse fabric of our communities. That’s why BB&T is proud to be a part of this day of pride and celebration of the 2015 Legacy Couples.” 
As MSNBC tells us.  Is God having a laugh?  I certainly am. Is God's word somehow in teh punch line? Camels, needles and rich men, but maybe self-righteousness, rage and the grease of slick piety can let him squeeze through, even though he hasn't shown inclination to sell his clothes and give the money to the poor. And besides God was really only joking about rich men.  I mean it's really all about sex, isn't it?