Peak Wingnut Is The Lying-est Lie Ever

Posted June 11, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Republican follies, Republican knavery, Why Do They Hate America So?

Tags: , ,

Thought it couldn’t get worse/crazier than a unknown Randroid college “economist” knocking off the sitting majority leader?

Oh, no.  No. No. No. No.

There’s yet a Marianas Trench for these folks to dig.

Today’s case-in-point comes from the grea  batshit insane state of Oklahoma, where we meet this fine primate:

Tea Party state House candidate Scott Esk endorsed stoning gay people to death: “I think we would be totally in the right to do it,” he said in a Facebook post. Esk went on to add nuance to his position:

“That [stoning gay people to death] goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.”

Never mind the deep ignorance of a key foundational story from the faith in which he claims to live:

Cranach_the_Younger,_Lucas_-_Christ_and_the_adulteress

Not to worry, though. Pressed on the subject, Mr. Esk allowed as he merely accepts such a course of action, rather than actively planning to work to put Oklahoma squarely into the 5th century. Before the Common Era.

I never said I would author legislation to put homosexuals to death, but I didn’t have a problem with it.  [from here, with many more gory details here]

Glad that’s clear.

Also clear: these people hate America.

They are ignorant of its history and have no connection to the essential principles on which a pluralistic, free society utterly depends.

They must not be allowed near the levers of power.  And they are the base of the Republican Party.

I leave the rest of the exercise to the reader.

Image: Lucas Cranach the Younger,  Christ and the Adultress, after 1532.

And Another…

Posted June 10, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Guns, Republican knavery, The Way We Live Now

Tags: ,

Shots were fired  this morning at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon.  The shooter is dead, as is one student.  Oregonlive.com reports that a teacher was shot as well.

As news of the shooting hit, @PoliticalLine tweeted this:

6/5: Seattle U shooting

6/6: GA court house shooting

6/8: Las Vegas cops shooting

6/10: Oregon high school

not even a full week…

My son goes to high school next year.  We’re lucky in that we live in a state with relatively low incidence of gun violence – 17th out of 50 for gun murders as of 2010.  But Oregon experiences such murders at half the rate Massachusetts do, and statistics are no comfort when it’s your kid, your friend, your partner on the wrong side of someone’s gun.  And, to repeat the obvious, Vermont the state with the lowest rate of gun murders at .3/100,000 still pays a higher butcher’s bill than at least a couple of dozen countries.  We tolerate a level of threat to our kids, to all those we hold most dear, that our closest allies and competitors would see as utterly unacceptable…

…as, of course, it is.

Joseph_Wright_of_Derby_-_The_Dead_Soldier_-_Google_Art_Project

 

I got nothing, except this penetrating glimpse of the obvious:  domestic terrorists are holding us all hostage.

Those who fire their weapons get their grotesque fifteen minutes of … maybe local news, mostly, given the increasingly routine (read, less newsworthy) character of a story that, as the tweet above documents, repeats itself in all but location over and over again.

But the real terrorists, the masterminds, the ones for whom Guantanamo was built, are those who flood America with the weapons that leave our kids, our cops, folks out at a mall or wherever in literally mortal danger.  They would be, it seems to me, the NRA, the political elites, mostly but not exclusively from the GOP, the usual suspects — trading deaths of children, cops eating lunch, whoever, for market share and a grasp on the political power that can be distilled from fearful rage.

The consolation, if there is any, comes from the long view:  gun ownership is down as a fraction of the population.  And the Tea Party version of the GOP locks in the conditions that shrinks its base.  But any relief that may come lies in the long run… and you know how that quote ends.

I’m not totally without hope.  As folks commented in yesterday’s thread, the Supreme Court has not (yet) ruled that regulation of guns is out-of-bounds.  I can imagine a state-by-state tightening of the regulatory regime; I can see the culture of the gun shifting even now in parts of the country.  I don’t think we’re going to forever accept the demand to water the tree of liberty with the blood of school kids.

But damn, folks, we’ve got to get on with it.

Rambling, I know.  I’m just heartsick, sinking deeper and deeper in the hole with each day’s red harvest.   Like I said.  I got nothing.

Image:  Joseph Wright of Derby, The Dead Soldier, c. 1789

Do Organic Kitties Dream of Radioactive Sheep?

Posted June 5, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Energy follies, The Way We Live Now

Tags:

Someday — soon, I hope – I’ll get back to writing some meatier stuff.  Today ain’t that day.

So, just for now, let me share with you a cautionary tale, broadcast on NPR:

In February, a 55-gallon drum of radioactive waste burst open inside America’s only nuclear dump, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Now investigators believe the cause may have been a pet store purchase gone bad.

“It was the wrong kitty litter,” says James Conca, a geochemist in Richland, Wash., who has spent decades in the nuclear waste business.

Wait! Pet litter? Isotopes? Kitten Strangelove?

The_Monkey_and_the_Cat_by_Abraham_Hondius

Well, kind of:

Cat litter has been used for years to dispose of nuclear waste. Dump it into a drum of sludge and it will stabilize volatile radioactive chemicals. The litter prevents it from reacting with the environment.

Excellent! It is both a dessert topping and a floor polish.  But what went wrong?

Why, the decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts.  Did you know you can get organic kitty litter?  Why yes, you can…and the radioactive waste folks chose to do so:

“Now that might sound nice, you’re trying to be green and all that, but the organic kitty litters are organic,” says Conca. Organic litter is made of plant material, which is full of chemical compounds that can react with the nuclear waste.

“They actually are just fuel, and so they’re the wrong thing to add,” he says. Investigators now believe the litter and waste caused the drum to slowly heat up “sort of like a slow burn charcoal briquette instead of an actual bomb.”

After it cooked a while, the barrel couldn’t take it any more…

But don’t blame  Alice Waters or the slow food movement.  Ultimate responsibility for the safe disposal of radioactive waste falls to the Department of Energy.

Oh — and one more thing. There are over 500 barrels that were likely packed with the wrong stuff.  Precautions are being taken, but dang….

PS:  Organic carrots I get. Organic kitty litter?  This is a thing?  People actually pay money so that Fluffy can poop green?  #yesImanold #grumpytoo

Image:  Abraham Hondius, The Monkey and the Cat1670.

 

 

It’s Tough To Be A Man In This Woman’s World

Posted May 20, 2014 by Tom
Categories: American Inquisition, Conservatives, Republican knavery

Tags:

A quick follow-on to Doug J’s post below.

To point out the obvious:  in the new narrative of sexual violence on college campuses, conservative writers, like the one Doug J cites, like Ross Douthat, like the richly informed social commentators he references (McArdle rising from her Bloomberg obscurity! The American Enterprise Institute’s Caroline Kitchens…) find the heart of the story clearly in the true victims of the rape crisis:  the accused.

The complainants?  The default in this new/old conservative commentary is that the accusation of rape is simply a tool — a way to get revenge for one slight or another, or simply to impose matriarchy on a society that has already abandoned its men.  Because universities are so cowed by feminist moral relativists, no accused male stands a chance.

GENTILESCHI_Judith

Ummm….no:

Sulkowicz [a student at Columbia] said that she didn’t want to report her attack to the police because she was embarrassed and ashamed of what had happened to her.

“When it first happened, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t even tell my parents. … I didn’t even want to talk to my best friend,” she said.

Sulkowicz decided to file a complaint against Nungesser through the University when she met two other women he allegedly assaulted. “I realized that if I didn’t report him he’d continue to attack women on this campus. I had to do it for those other women,” Sulkowicz said.

After Sulkowicz reported her assault to Columbia in April 2013, the University ultimately found him “not responsible”—the same decision it later gave the two other women who filed complaints against him, Sulkowicz said.

Sulkowicz has recently filed  a police report, and a DA is looking into the matter.  But the larger point is, I hope, obvious.

Rape is not a joke, a game, something that virtually everyone faced with the question of what to do after a sexual assault will bandy about.  (Sexual violence isn’t all rape, and rape doesn’t define the universe of such harm too, of course.)  Claims of rape are terribly hard on those who make them.  I’m stunned that I write these words at this late date, but folks on the right seem to have missed the bit where you talk to folks who actually know about sexual harm — so I guess we must.

I’m not saying an accusation is truth.  I’ve spoken with Title IX coordinators — and just received a briefing at MIT on my responsibilities as a graduate officer under that law — and there is no doubt that these are hard investigations to perform and difficult judgements (sometimes) to make.  Procedure is important; real commitment on the part of institutions to investigation is important; the establishment of a full suite of responses to help a victim of assault is vital and much more besides.

But the notion that the the risk of false accusation tops the list of concerns, and not paying due attention to sexual violence itself speaks volumes of the default to authority of the folks on the right.  Men deprived of power by an accusation are victims; the women who make up the vast majority of victims of sexual assault are the abusers for the act of talking out loud of the harm done to them.

This, friends, is how entrenched social power stays that way — or tries to.

Image: Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1614-20.

And the GOP Outreach Effort Continues

Posted May 17, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Republican follies

Tags: ,

Via Martina Navritalova’s excellent twitter feed, I found this:

House Republican leaders intervened Friday to prevent a vote on immigration legislation, dealing a severe blow to election-year efforts to overhaul the dysfunctional system.

The move came after a Republican congressman from California announced plans to try to force a vote next week, over strong conservative opposition, on his measure creating a path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children and serve in the military.

Rep. Jeff Denham labeled his bill the ENLIST Act and said he would seek a vote as an amendment to the popular annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. [Original at Huffington Post. You've been warned]

Jacopo_Tintoretto_-_Conquest_of_Zara_-_WGA22631

Of note, beyond the obvious — Cantor and his colleagues are killing a Republican sponsored immigration bill — is the fascination in watching the tail wag the dog:

Denham’s measure was widely popular and seen as perhaps the likeliest area for compromise.

But in recent weeks prominent conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, announced their opposition. Heritage Action, the group’s political arm, announced it would include the vote in its ratings on lawmakers and called Denham’s legislation “deplorable.”

What does Jim Demint possess along with those two little spheres in his hands?…(answer to come in the comments, no doubt).

Truly amazing.  I know the coming election looks tough, but it really does help when the opposing party hands its fortunes over to the likes of Heritage.

Image:  Jacopo Tintoretto, The Battle of Zara, (detail), 1584,

Single Stupidest Thing I’ve Read Today…

Posted April 29, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Republican follies, ridicule, Stupidity

Tags:

…although it’s just gone 2:30, so there’s time.

That monument to stupidity? This John Hinderaker quote in which he describes Douglas “Magic Johnson’s too black for me” Sterling thusly:

“[a] pathetic figure: a reverse image of Othello, a doddering old man with a young black mistress who cheats on him.”

Quentin_Massys_030

Bad Shakespeare, bad simile, and a terrible argument (being old and pissed off means you get a get-out-of-racist-shit-free card?).  The best (worst) of it for me, though, lies with entire conceit.  Sterling-as-Othello (with a touch of Lear — that doddering bit) is at once tragic and heroic.  Sterling as a vicious f**k  who has merely committed the ultimate Kinsey gaffe, revealing the truth about himself that never quite escaped in court or from sealed settlements….that guy never seems to trouble the spotless sunshine of Mr. Hinderaker’s mind.

Seriously — this guy is taken, by some, as an exemplar of learned and rigorous right wing thought.  Subtle bigotry of low expectations, I’m afraid.

Image Quentin Massys, An Allegory of Folly, early 16th c.  And yeah, I’ve used this one before.  Fits, doesn’t it?

 

For A Good Time On The Intertubes Today (And Forever): Annalee Newitz Takes Survival To Extremes

Posted April 23, 2014 by Tom
Categories: evolution, Exploration, Extinction, good books, Science

Tags: , ,

Very short notice this time, folks, but once again, I’m doing the funny intertube-radio thingee.  Today’s broad/podcast brings io9 founding editor Annalee Newitz in to talk about her book Scatter, Adapt, And Remember.*

We’ll be talking at 5ET, 2PT (about an hour and half from now).  Listen live or later on Virtually Speaking Science, or join us in the virtually live studio audience at the Exploratorium’s joint in Second Life, where an implausibly tall and fit Levenson avatar will interrogate Annalee’s robot self.

The focus of our chat — death, destruction, and the possibility of slipping the noose.  Annalee’s book looks at what it will take for the human species to survive another million years — avoiding the threat of mass extinction along the way.  Her book really does two things.  For one, it provides a very good short introduction to the science of mass extinction, what we know and how we’ve figured out about the five times in Earth’s history that ~75% or more of all species on the planet went caput.  Then in the second half, Annalee examines the threats humankind have already confronted, looks at what that history tells us about current dangers, and writes about the ways we can now think about near and long term escapes from the worst outcomes.  It’s a combination (as you’d expect from the mind behind the “We Come From The Future” brigade over at io9) of bravura science writing — imaginative and rigorously grounded accounts of current inquiry — and plausible, exciting speculation.

David_Teniers_(II)_-_Apes_in_the_Kitchen_-_WGA22060

To emphasize:  this isn’t a work of speculative writing, fiction or non-fiction.  It’s an argument that includes speculation, given its weight through the third element of  Annalee’s title:  “Remember.”   There’s a beautiful section in the middle of the book in which Annalee discusses the science fiction of Octavia Butler.  There, she grapples with the nub of the book.  Whatever actual path(s) we take, should descendents of 21st century humans persist for geologically noticeable swathes of time, they will do so as one or many species increasingly divergent from our own.  What will be human about them, Annalee argues, will turn on the power and persistence of memory.  That sounds exactly right to me.

Come join us for the chat.  Should be fun…and more than that too, I hope.

*You can take up that title’s Oxford comma-hood in the comments, if you’re that kind of person.  Me, I’m an agnostic.

Image:  David Teniers the Younger, Apes in the Kitchen, c. 1645.


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