Archive for the ‘bad ideas’ category

Annals of “If Anyone Was Offended” — Post-Racial America Edition

October 29, 2014

Via TPM I came across this repulsive story:

Officials have confirmed that an offensive Halloween display at a Fort Campbell residence has been removed.

A ClarksvilleNow.com reader sent a photo of the display, which shows what appears to be a black family hanging from a tree in a yard on Litwin St.

The child in the display has a knife in its back and one of the figures holds a sign that is not legible in the photo.

Officials at the base got in touch with the resident, and, as reported,

[Public Affairs spokesperson Brendalyn] Carpenter said it was her understanding that the display was not intended to be offensive, but authorities deemed it could be interpreted as such.

Zero_Hour-_the_Mareth_Offensive,_1943._Cameron_Highlanders_Art.IWMARTLD3398

Pretty on-target deeming there, I’d say.

The display itself is ne plus ultra of the insult here — but that “not intended to be offensive” is in some ways the longer knife.  That someone could  say that is at once a display of enormous contempt for those who know what that little tableau actually means, and, if it were in any way a sincere expression of someone’s regret, testimony to the “airborne toxic event” quality of 21st century racism.  How much awful stuff does one have to simply accept as the natural order of things to be unable to  see that putting up a lynching diorama in your front yard is the work of a thug, a vicious and actually threatening act.

Worst of all:  this is done in the context of Halloween, which means whoever did this was ok with a bunch of little kids — many of them (army base and all) African American — walking by.

But, of course, John Roberts with his co-conspirators have told us that race is no longer an issue in this country, and he is an honorable man. So are they all honorable men….

Image: Jack Chaddock,  Zero Hour- the Mareth Offensive, 1943. Cameron Highlanders1943.  I have to admit that I was at a loss as to how to illustrate this post.  What image captures without celebrating the wretchedness?  So I’ve opted for this:  how to be offensive intentionally.

Everything’s Bigger In Texas, Even The Stupid…

August 8, 2014

….hell, especially the stupid.

Exhibit ∞:   A top Texas official just announced that the state plans both to sue the EPA over its new carbon rules, and just because nullification has always worked out so well, ignore the hell out of them too [vie The Hill]:

The top environmental regulator in Texas said the state may choose not to follow the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules limiting carbon pollution from power plants.

At a policy event Thursday, Bryan Shaw said he is concerned the rules “are only the camel’s nose under the tent,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Edward_Lear_-_Camel_studies_-_Google_Art_Project

There are any number of ways to plumb the pure cretinism on display here, but if Mr. Shaw is really concerned about a camel proboscis poking across the line, he might want to think on this:

If Texas ignores the rules and refuses to write a plan to implement them, the EPA would have to step in and write a plan for the state.

IOW: stupid has consequences, as Texans have reason (if not apparently the willingness) to know:

Texas also ignored a 2010 federal rule requiring new industrial plants to obtain greenhouse gas permits. The EPA took over, leading to years-long delays for permits, which caused industrial interests to blame the state for its decision.

If they had Darwin awards for states…

Image:  Edward Lear, Camel Study, 1867

Bonus camel image after the jump: (more…)

Reason Number Gazillion I Thank The FSM For The 2008 Election Result

July 21, 2014

That would be that Lindsay Graham, the Republican senator who is totally not pandering for re-election.  The idea that this guy would have had any possibility of a role at the center of the national security and or foreign policy apparatus in a McCain administration should send jolts of terror through anyone who doesn’t think the war in Iraq has done so much good for the U.S. and the world.

Here he is talking to David Gregory, as covered by TPM.  His topic? The failings of those who actually do the hard work of trying to make sure that the US foreign policy has something more in its arsenal than the blow-shit-up option:

Easy enough to say I suppose.  Lots of places are in a bad way, and the news last week was flat out horrible.  But, as always, there’s the tricky bit to come. That ferocious interrogator David Gregory asked Graham what Kerry should have said about events in the Ukraine.  For some reason, this not exactly surprising query proved a bit more than Graham could coherently handle:

“One, he didn’t call Putin the thug that he is.

“And you’re ugly too!  So there!”

Laughing_Fool

I mean, seriously?  The way to advance the goal of constraining Putin is to say nasty things about him?  When, in fact, a US led effort to rally European nations to put real pressure on Putin is beginning to show force?

This is why someone whose strategic education seems to have come from games with toy soldiers should shut up and let the grown ups work.

But no:

He didn’t call for arming the Ukraine so they can defend themselves against rebel separatists supported by Russia,” Graham responded.

Because ramping up the deadliness of the conflict is exactly what you want to do at a moment when Putin’s own escalation has just dealt the Russian approach a terrible blow.  Graham’s demand makes sense if the only if you imagine that if you’re not shooting someone, you’re losing.

Again — thank the FSM that this clown has only a soap box to deploy.

Finally, the cherry on top:  Graham’s deepest complaint is that the present administration…well, let him say it:

“President Obama is trying to be deliberative. It comes off as indecisive. He’s trying to be thoughtful. It comes off as weakness,” he continued.

There you have it, folks. Why the current GOP can’t be allowed anywhere near the launch codes for the foreseeable future.  Heaven forfend that someone with life-and-death power should stop and think a bit about when and how to exercise lethal force.  Just go ahead and shoot, man!  Something — anyone! That way you won’t look weak…

…Instead, you will just become weak.  See, e.g., the way in which the shot-from-the-hip war-of-choice in Iraq has so strengthened the US position around the world.

Lindsay Graham is going to get his next six years in the Senate.  The country will be the poorer for it.  But it could have been worse — and yet may be, if we don’t ensure that the 2016 election consigns his worthless carcass to the green rooms and of the United States of Sunday Morning for another term.

Image: Netherlandish (possibly Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen), Laughing Fool, c. 1500

Too Dumb To Live: Meet The Pre-Darwin Award Contenders

July 7, 2014

I actually caught this phenomenon a couple of days ago (and was twitted on Twitter for being so late to the party), but the phenomenon of “Coal Rolling” is now an object of wonder and bemusement at a number of the usual suspects.

For those of you who have managed to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to this point without suffering the knowledge of this particular stupidity, here’s David Weigel to explain it to you:

Forty-five second YouTube clips don’t come any more American than “Prius Repellent.” It starts with a camera angled from the passenger side window of a truck, pointed at the namesake Japanese hybrid car. After 12 establishing seconds, the cameraman moves and points out the back window, where viewers can read the ominous decals:

←PRIUS REPELLENT→

At 23 seconds, the engine revs and the viewer finally learns what the arrows were pointing at. Smoke pours out of dual stacks, right in the path of the Prius, which retreats into the rear view. The truck’s passengers share a well-earned chortle.

That’s right.  These Real Americans™ pay good money to modify their vehicles so that they can run less efficiently and pollute more, because, you know, that’s how Hydrocarbon Jesus wants it.

I know, I know.  The good Lord must have loved assholes because he made so many of them.  But these folks are double-secret-probation cute that way:

There are videos of “hot babes” getting rolled on, and a mega-popular video (more than 3 million views) of an annoying Prius driver complaining about diesel. “She makes me want to do a John Force style burn out right in front of her,” observed one critic on DieselBurners.com.

The derp is deep here.  Let’s say you want to roll some of your own coal.  There are sites to help you do that.  Here’s one — complete with a bit of pure weasel DNA up front:

 

Disclaimer: This article has been published for entertainment/educational purposes only. We do not recommend you modify your truck in any manner for the sole purpose of soot/smoke production. Not only may excessively high EGTs cause engine damage, but these acts are having detrimental repercussions on our industry. Consider reading the article “Smoke Responsibly” for further information, including how you can help. There is a time and a place to roll some coal – don’t give the tree huggers any ammunition to support further emissions restrictions.

I’m trying to imagine the time and place…and too late re the tree huggers.  TPM reports today that this is (obviously) illegal as hell anyway.  But never mind, it turns out that there’s a way to roll coal the “right way”:

The best way to blow some serious black smoke is to go all out. Larger injectors combined with aggressive custom tuning will let you lay down some massive clouds of black smoke – the ultimate coal roll. Injectors increase the amount of fuel that can be dumped into your engine per injection cycle, while the tuning keeps the engine thinking it needs more diesel. Throw in a larger injection pump to keep fuel pressures high and add a water-methanol injection system to keep EGTs down and you have the perfect combination. With the flip of a switch, leave your challengers in a stream of thick black soot and then clean up the exhaust stream to keep the authorities happy.

I don’t know what’s most pathetic.  The idea of some strangers just trying to get from here to there as “competitors” — think of the terror hidden in that statement, the sheer gut-churning fear of the unknown — or the urge to spend the most possible money to spend more money doing nothing but half-burn all that $4-and-up diesel.

A lot of us liberals pointing and laughing at these assholes have noted that the whole idea is a way for the carbon-industrial-complex to screw more cash out of the credulous, but a lot of folks seem to have missed the other point.

Black_Country_–_Borinage

Partially combusted diesel is…no way to put this gently…not good for you.  Not at all:

Exposures have been linked with acute short-term symptoms such as headache, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, coughing, difficult or labored breathing, tightness of chest, and irritation of the eyes and nose and throat[citation needed]. Long-term exposures could lead to chronic, more serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cardiopulmonary disease, and lung cancer.[11][7][8] The NERC-HPA funded ‘Traffic Pollution and Health in London‘ project at King’s College London is currently seeking to refine our understanding of the health effects of traffic pollution. Ambient traffic-related air pollution was associated with decreased cognitive function in older men.[10]

Mortality from diesel soot exposure in 2001 was at least 14,400 out of the German population of 82 million, according to the official report 2352 of the Umweltbundesamt Berlin (Federal Environmental Agency of Germany).

Since the study of the detrimental health effects of nanoparticles (nanotoxicology) is still in its infancy, and the nature and extent of negative health impacts from diesel exhaust continues to be discovered.

Obviously, the goal of the hardcore coal roller is to give angst and maybe a whiff of the nasties to the fearsome folks who presume to traverse America’s roads in a Prius.  But as videos like this one show — the most likely consumers of soot and other particulates produced by the deep need to f**k up one’s own nest are the folks who want to show the world how much smoke they can blow.

The wheels of Darwin grind slow…but very sure.

By the way — all of this can be considered a distant early preview of my conversation on Wednesday.  In this month’s edition of my rotating gig as host of  Virtually Speaking Science, I’ll be speaking (again!) with Naomi Oreskes, now a professor of the history of science at Harvard.  Naomi was my first guest on the show, back in 2011.

That’s when we talked about the lessons of her book (written with Erik M. Conway) Merchants of Doubt, on the ways a handful of Cold War anti-Communist scientists figured out how to sell lies wholesale, leading to the implausible success of a tiny handful of people in casting enormous doubt on the reality of climate change.

Now she and Larsen have followed that work up with a novella, The Collapse of Western CivilizationThis little work — it’s just fifty pages, not counting notes and such — imagines a future historian analyzing how 21st societies allowed them to fall victim to climate catastrophes that they/we knew/know are in prospect.

It’s a depressing work, and speculative, and the more important for all of that.  If we do go down the road of catastrophe as Oreskes and Conway lay it out, folks like our coal rollers will be a (small but exemplary) part of the reason why.

Tune in.  It should be a useful downer — and funny too.  Naomi is a hoot, the more so given the pathologies she studies

Image:  Constantin Meunier, Black Country–Borinage, before 1905.

I’m All For The Rule Of Law. It’s The Judges I Can’t Stand

July 7, 2013

Via today’s The New York Times,* some big-time journalism on how the FISA court is creating an alternate judiciary — at least potentially more powerful, than the already compromised public one by which we thought American citizens encountered the law:

In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say

….

“We’ve seen a growing body of law from the court,” a former intelligence official said. “What you have is a common law that develops where the court is issuing orders involving particular types of surveillance, particular types of targets.”

In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.

Pedro_Berruguete_-_Saint_Dominic_Presiding_over_an_Auto-da-fe_(1475)

The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.

That legal interpretation is significant, several outside legal experts said, because it uses a relatively narrow area of the law — used to justify airport screenings, for instance, or drunken-driving checkpoints — and applies it much more broadly, in secret, to the wholesale collection of communications in pursuit of terrorism suspects. “It seems like a legal stretch,” William C. Banks, a national security law expert at Syracuse University, said in response to a description of the decision. “It’s another way of tilting the scales toward the government in its access to all this data.”

I’m once again crashing deadlines, so I’ll leave off trying to write (n) words on a subject in which I have no particular expertise (the sound you hear is the peanut gallery cheering).  The only thing I can say both quickly and with a reasonable shot at validity is that we already know how this kind of thing, unchecked, plays out.  Secret courts trump even secret police as a threat  to both democracy and freedom of thought and expression.

We’ve seen how this works in plenty of prior examples — and not just in the bad decades of the 20th century either.  This isn’t where we should be now.

Over to you…

*This kind of piece is the reason I maintain my (Sunday) subscription to the Grey Lady.  The opinion pages may be a howling desert of intellectual mediocrity (w. the Krugman exception and a few others worthy of honorable mention) and outright mendacity (looking at you BoBo)¹.  But there is no substitute for the quality of journalism backed by real resources that the Times is capable of when it chooses.  I know it doesn’t always do so (Judith Miller, anyone).  But it still is the home of more of this kind of stuff than any other MSM outlet (that I can think of).  So, yeah, we still need the place, much as we need it do a whole lot better a lot of the time.

¹I’m not even going to go into the “It’s not nice, child, to point and laugh” division populated entirely by Master Ross Douthat.

Image:  Pedro Berruguete, Saint Dominic Presiding over an Auto-da-fe, 1475.

Proceed, Whack Jobs

January 14, 2013

Via TPM, I was sent to this website, [fair warning:  crazy people on the other end of that link] to find this image:

aerialConcept_lg

There has been plenty of ridicule directed at the project depicted here — see, for example, posts by others at my alternate blog-home, Balloon Juice.  If you haven’t been keepign up, it’s called the Citadel — that Wingnut fantasy of a Dungeons-and-Dragons-and-Bushmasters retreat in Idaho where no liberals need apply.

All fine — if it were up to me, I’d encourage every gun nut to retreat to their bastions — whether up in the Idaho panhandle, where generations of actually competent folks have found it so easy to construct self-sustaining livelihoods …or in GlennBeckistan, that to-be self-sustaining (sic!) entertainment and intellectual hub to be constructed somewhere in Texas.

Go! Here’s your hat; what’s your hurry?

Seriously:  if they would only do the rest of us the favor of retreating to their own private Somali-o’s, our politics and our societies would be that much saner and safer.

But we knew that already, and that’s not what caught my eye.

Nah.

Here’s the story:  As I’d just opened the picture above, my son happened to come into my study.  He asked what I was looking at — it seemed to him a sketch from one of the medieval combat games he likes and knows I don’t, and he wondered what would possess me to bother with such a thing.

I told him that, no, this wasn’t history or fantasy,* but rather somebody’s actual idea of someplace that would serve to protect them from an overweening federal government.  He just looked at it pityingly, wondering, and he asked me, “have these folks never heard of cannon?”

And damn if that hadn’t been literally my first thought on reading the caption “Interior Defensive Walls & Towers.”  I mean, artillery much?

The stupid.  It burns. With the white-hot-heat-of-a-thousand-suns.

*Well, it is.  But not that kind.

Roland, The Campus Thomson Gunner

August 30, 2012

Add any Colorado public university as a place I do not wish to teach:

Jerry Peterson, a professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder and chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said he would cancel classes if he found that someone had brought a firearm to class, according to the Daily Camera.

Although Peterson said he was only speaking for himself, Philip P. DiStefano, the chancellor at UC-Boulder, sent out an e-mail Tuesday to faculty members that they could not shut down a class if a student with a concealed carry permit brought a gun.Uh.

I really don’t know what to say.
I’m just not sure how it improves the educational environment if during a discussion session, a student might hesitate to criticize an idea from someone packing a Glock.
How about having to decide which kevlar print went best with my slacks on days I was handing back papers?  A “C” can powerfully irritate some folks, I know…
Of course, any constraint on the pedagogical process is secondary to the exercise of Founder-given rights, right?  So said the Colorado Supreme Court last March, thus ensuring that all Colorado public higher ed students can go to class every day secure in the knowledge that if a psycho shooter does show up, they can expect defense in the form of fellow students with much less firearm and incident training than, say, the New York Police Department offers its officers.
I mean, seriously.  What the F**k, America.  You don’t think that there is any zone in which the imminent threat of deadly force might be, you know, inappropriate.
Not to mention the inherent badness of the idea of putting young folks, stress and all the powerful emotion and mood swings that college can evoke in close proximity with firearms.
Holy FSM, am I glad I live in the great pagan-pinko-commie-health-care-providing-gay-marriage-pioneering non-gun-fetishizing Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The winters may suck here, but sweet baby Jeezus and his dumber younger brother,* at least I don’t have to check my students for holster bulges.
I’d make a crack about Darwin awards and all that, but this really is too damn depressing to think about.
PS — Other states are crazy this way too.  It’s not going to be that long before I’m actually going to check on each institution’s policy before deciding whether it’s prudent to accept speaking invitations. Consider this bit of woe:

More than 200 campuses in six states currently allow concealed carry in some form, Burnett said, be it campuswide or only in certain areas.

*The one who turned wine into water.
Image: Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, The Suicide, c. 1836

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