Welcome To Hell’s Nightclub

Posted August 9, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Mental Health Break

Tags:

Ladles and Jellyspoons!  I give you 36 seconds of the Guitar Center in Times Square.

(h/t @jodyavirgan)

Pity the poor workers there?

In that vein:  what’s the worst job you ever held? How long did you last?

Everything’s Bigger In Texas, Even The Stupid…

Posted August 8, 2014 by Tom
Categories: bad ideas, Climate follies, Republican follies, Republican knavery, Stupidity

Tags: , , ,

….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: Read the rest of this post »

The Lambs Still Scream…

Posted August 7, 2014 by Tom
Categories: American Inquisition, Decline and Fall, Fundamentalisms, religion, Stupidity, Two Parties -- Not the Same

Tags:

…for the performance artist formerly known as Ann Coulter [via TPM]:

In the column, titled “Ebola Doc’s Condition Downgraded To ‘Idiotic,’” Coulter called Dr. Kent Brantly’s humanitarian work in Liberia nothing more than the efforts of an ego-driven Christian and “the first real-world demonstration of the economics of Obamacare.”

…Coulter then said Brantly left the country to provide health insurance for Liberians because he wanted “his membership in the ‘Gold Humanism Honor Society.’”

“There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism,” she wrote.

I guess this is what you write when you hear that anguished sound inside your head, the one that asks “why aren’t they paying attention to MEEEEEE!!!???”

At least that’s what I hope.  Worse, by far, would be the thought that what Ann Coulter says does in fact reflect broader opinion; that within our great polity, a substantial number of people believe that the suffering of others merits no concern; that there are “right” people to care for, distinguished from those wrong ones — wrong by geography, class, color, what have you.

I’m no Christian myself, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, and in the tradition that I inherited we have a term “tikkun olam” — to heal the world.   From earliest Hebrew School — at least at the commie-liberal orthodox synagogue in Berkeley, California in which I was brought up and become bar-mitzvah — we were taught to view tikkun loam as the singular obligation (one most of us meet terribly imperfectly, of course — but it matters that it’s there as the challenge/demand).  I’ve spoken since with rabbis and other teachers who render the essential demand of Judaism on its adherents in almost-Christian terms, a formula in which the law secondary to action:  keep the Sabbath* and do tikkun olam.  That much, and there you have the sinews of a good life.**

571px-Gustave_Doré_-_Dante_Alighieri_-_Inferno_-_Plate_9_(Canto_III_-_Charon)

There is, of course, a Christian formulation of the same idea, one that comes to much the same point.  Matthew 25:34-40 puts it pretty plainly:

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Which leads me to a last thought.  If Ann Coulter thinks that the Jesus of Matthew 25 is a narcissistic Christian, and she does in fact speak for any recognizable segment of the American conservative movement, then you know all you need to know about the theology of those self-proclaimed guardians of values.  If there is in fact a Christian God, a Christian heaven, and especially, a Christian hell, then it would take a Dante to describe the destination for which Coulter and her ilk are bound. It’s beyond me.

*Which I also do most indifferently, though I find that creating what Abraham Joshua Heschel Abraham Joshua Heschel called sacred time is always restorative, on those rare occasions when I can actually bring it off, even for a couple of hours.

**And so it is, I believe; certainly, as an atheist Jew, that’s where my religious tradition retains its claim on my head and my heart.

Gustave Doré, illustration to Dante’s Inferno. Plate IX: Canto III: Arrival of Charon“And lo! towards us coming in a boat / An old man, hoary with the hair of eld, / Crying: ‘Woe unto you, ye souls depraved!'” (Longfellow’s translation), 1857

Quick Heads Up For Some Spooky Action At A Distance Talk

Posted July 30, 2014 by Tom
Categories: good books, Science, science writing, Self-aggrandizement

Tags: , ,

Late, late, late I am in getting this out to you, but I’m doing another webcast/podcast for Virtually Speaking Science today.

I’ll be talking to my MIT colleague, David Kaiser, who is a physicist and a historian of science in our Science Technology and Society program.  He’s also an excellent popular science writer, and we’ll use the hour today (and whenever you might choose to listen) to talk Higgs, Bicep2 and gravitational waves (did the very early universe inflate? Are there butt-loads of universes?  How freaking hard is it to make cosmological measurements?*).  And we’ll talk about his wonderful book How the  Hippies Saved Physics — about the Fundamental Fysics group at Berkeley and their engagement with quantum entanglement, Bell’s theorem, spooky action at a distance and the discovery that yup, the universe does behave that strangely…which is why we are now, almost 50 years later, thinking seriously about quantum computing, encryption and the like:  actual this-world technologies that exploit properties that Albert Einstein thought no properly behaved universe should exhibit.

An_Experiment_on_a_Bird_in_an_Air_Pump_by_Joseph_Wright_of_Derby,_1768

David’s a great explainer — so the opaque shorthand above will become much clearer very soon.  We go on the air at 6 ET — half an hour from now.  Listen here live or later (also on iTunes — search for Virtually Speaking Science and or Levenson and Kaiser) — or join us as part of the virtual studio audience in Second Life, hosted by my favorite (as in, my childhood) science center, San Franciso’s Exploratorium.

*Spoiler:  Very, very hard.

Image:  Joseph Wright of Derby,  An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump1768

How Is This Not Manslaughter?

Posted July 28, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Guns, The Way We Live Now

Tags: ,

How?

William DeHayes was showing Hoover his gun collection. While he was showing her his .22 caliber revolver, it accidentally fired and shot Hoover in the head, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. [More at the Tampa Bay Times.]

Hoover died in the ER yesterday; the child she was carrying died with her.

This is, of course, merely the ordinary awful that necessarily flows from Second Amendment fundamentalism.  I’ll say one thing:  anyone who chalks an incident like this to the necessary cost of preserving freedom cannot be said to be pro-life.  If abortion by gun is OK by you…

In any event, the blunt fact of unfettered gun ownership and the celebration of a culture of the gun is that those most at risk of gun violence remain those who own them and their friends and family.  Put together the gun-suicides, “accidents” like these,* and shootings of intimate partners and or others known to the shooter, and you have well over half of all gun deaths in the US — a number which in total is essentially the same as those we lose to road accidents.

The fantasy of the gun? It’s all fun and games until the reaper lays hold of its victim’s cloak:

Hans_Baldung_-_The_Knight,_the_Young_Girl,_and_Death_-_WGA01179

There’s more.  Here’s the bit that I just can’t stand:

Police are still investigating the incident, but believe it was an accidental shooting, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

An accident? Not a charge of involuntary manslaughter?

Maybe that’ll come, but sweet FSM! You pick up a gun and shoot someone dead — even if you didn’t mean to — and that’s not a crime?

The NRA, ammosexuals, and all their enablers in politics and the media tell us that the term “responsible gun owners” has actual meaning.  It doesn’t, as this case demonstrates .  I’ll update this post if it turns out that Mr. DeHayes faces actual consequences for taking another person’s life, but until then, I’m going to vent:

Responsible means that whatever happens with your gun is your fault.  Period.  You accidentally discharge it and no-one gets hurt? How’s this:  big fine, confiscate the weapon involved, lose the right to bear arms for a year for the first incident, forever if you repeat.  Someone gets hurt or dies?  Jail. Civil liability.  Loss of gun rights for life.  That’s responsibility.

But of course, I dream.  That’s not how we roll.  Instead, we’ll just  water the tree of liberty with a newlywed, and celebrate life by burying her fetus — and wait (not long) for the next red harvest.

a disregard for human life while engaging in wanton or reckless behavior.  The state may be able to prove involuntary manslaughter by showing the defendant’s recklessness or lack of care when handling a dangerous instrument or weapon, – See more at: http://statelaws.findlaw.com/florida-law/florida-involuntary-manslaughter-laws.html#sthash.4lq9WNmn.dpuf
an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence, or from an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or low-level felony (such as DUI). – See more at: http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/involuntary-manslaughter-overview.html#sthash.wd8fjq3H.dpuf
an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence, or from an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or low-level felony (such as DUI). – See more at: http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/involuntary-manslaughter-overview.html#sthash.wd8fjq3H.dpuf
an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence, or from an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or low-level felony (such as DUI). – See more at: http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/involuntary-manslaughter-overview.html#sthash.wd8fjq3H.dpuf

*Scare quotes because such shootings are not acts of god — the deer that darts across the road just at the moment when you have to swerve into a tree or take a 400 pound antlered rodent through the windshield.  They are the statistically predictable outcomes of handing guns out freely to a population in which only half of the folks are above average.  That is, even though there is no way to predict that Ms. Hoover would fall victim to this awfulness, we knwo we can expect some number per year or month of folks felled by stupidity, carelessness, and general fuck ups with a gun.

Image: Hans Baldung, The Knight, the Young Girl, and Death, c. 1505.

 

Stupid..and Smart

Posted July 25, 2014 by Tom
Categories: good writing, Republican follies, Stupidity, The Good Fight

Tags: , ,

Here’s a yin and yang post for your afternoon delectation.  I’m still trying to get some time to do a big honker post for y’all, but day job and a true 1st world problem — the start of a massive kitchen remodel on Monday — mean that I haven’t two thoughts to rub together.

So, given that we all need good stuff at which to foam at the mouth, I thought I’d just clip a couple of pieces to give us all a really good look at why its so much better not being a Republican.  Just imagine trying to defend this.

In an intensely awkward congressional hearing Thursday, freshman Rep. Curt Clawson misidentified two senior U.S government officials as representatives of the Indian government.

The two officials, Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, are Americans who hold senior positions at the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively. Although both Biswal and Kumar were introduced as U.S. officials by the chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, Clawson repeatedly asked them questions about “your country” and “your government,” in reference to the state of India.

Arthur_William_Devis_-_Emily_and_George_Mason_-_Google_Art_Project

“I’m familiar with your country; I love your country,” the Florida Republican said. “Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I’m willing and enthusiastic about doing so.”

Apparently confused by their Indian surnames and skin color, Clawson also asked if “their” government could loosen restrictions on U.S. capital investments in India.

Face, meet palm.

Head, meet desk.

America, meet your legislators.

Oh, and Florida? Thanks.  Thanks a lot. (Sorry Betty.)

On the other hand, sometimes you just get to kvell* when you read something at once smart and beautifully rich on snark.  Here’s Kareem Abdul Jabbar opining at Time.com on unionizing college athletes (an obviously good and just idea, IMHO):

new survey finds that 60% of incoming college football players support unions for college athletes. The horror! Were such unions allowed, our glorious cities would crumble to nothing more than shoddy tents stitched together from tattered remnants of Old Glory; our government officials would be loin-cloth-clad elders gathered in the rubble of an old McDonald’s passing a Talking Stick; our naked children would roam the urban wilderness like howling wolves, their minds as blank as their lost Internet connection. We would be without hope, dreams, or a future….

…Most Americans agree that the athletes are being short-changed. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll concluded that 51% of Americans believed that universities should be required to cover medical expenses for former players if those expenses were the result of playing for the school. A whopping 73% believed athletic scholarships should not be withdrawn from students who are injured and are no longer able to play.

But when it comes to these same student-athletes forming a union, an HBO Real Sports and The Marist College Center for Sports Communication poll showed 75% of Americans opposed to the formation of a college athlete union, with only 22% for it.

Why such a difference between wanting equity and supporting the best means to achieve it? Despite 14.5 million Americans belonging to labor unions, we’ve always had a love-hate relationship with them.

The Love: Unions can be like a protective parent arguing with an arrogant teacher over their child’s unfair grade. The Hate: Unions can be like a bossy spouse who complains about all the work they do for you while shoveling corn chips into their maw from the La-Z-Boy.

Our relationship with college athletes is much clearer. We adore and revere them. They represent the fantasy of our children achieving success and being popular. Watching them play with such enthusiasm and energy for nothing more than school pride is the distillation of pure Hope for the Future.

But strip away the rose-colored glasses and we’re left with a subtle but insidious form of child abuse.

Go read the whole thing.  It’s righteous, vicious, and above all, smart.

Discuss.

*I’m guessing WordPress doesn’t do the Sabbath on Saturday.  It wanted to change “kvell” to “knell” — which is really not the meaning shift you want.

Image:  Arthur William Devis, Emily and George Mason1794 or 1795.

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

Posted July 21, 2014 by Tom
Categories: bad ideas, Republican follies, ridicule, Stupidity, War

Tags: , ,

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


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