Wrapped in the Flag and Carrying a Cross.

18 06 2016

That headline is from a quote by Sinclair Lewis which seems more and more to be chillingly prescient. Here’s another quote appropriate to the topic at hand:

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”- George Santayana

You may be curious about where I’m going with these quotes. I’m going to post a link to a news article here that will make my meaning crystal clear:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/14/politics/newt-gingrich-house-un-american-activities-committee/

Is everyone all through vomiting at the idea? Good. Let us continue.

For those who may have been living in a cave for the past few decades, there is an election approaching. This country has been mired in an election campaign for what seems like six or seven squintillion years. A campaign where the presumed nominee of one of the two major political parties has been openly espousing fascist ideology and overt racism to throngs of cheering supporters. Those same supporters who appear to be just fine with physically attacking anyone who vaguely hints at disagreement with their Leader or anyone with a less than lilly white skin tone. Supporters who have openly warned they would resort to violence if their Leader doesn’t win.

That’s bad enough, but now we have a retired politician from that same major political party saying- on camera- to a news organization that the country needs to return to the halcyon days of yesteryear in the form of the House Un-American Activities Commission. If you aren’t familiar with HUAC, go look it up. I’ll wait.

Here’s a bit of background for those unwilling to learn from history. In the 1950’s, a US Congressman names Joseph McCarthy claimed that he was in possession of a list of communists who had “infiltrated” the US government. He gleefully exploited public fear over the “Red Menace” (OMFG- the eebil rooshians are gonna come pollute our precious bodily fluids!) to establish the House Un-American Activities Commission in order to search out these communist infiltrators, wherever they might be- presumably including under your bed.

And so, the witch hunt was on. American citizens were accused to being communists or communist sympathizers, and the resulting public furor meant most of them lost their jobs and couldn’t get hired anywhere else. People were exhorted to inform on their friends, neighbors, and relatives if there was even a vague hint of “un-American activities”. Fear and prejudice and panic ensued, resulting in the director of the FBI investigating thousands of government employees to determine if they were sufficiently loyal to the United States- essentially based upon whether or not J Edgar Hoover agreed with their politics. Actors, writers, journalists, and publishers joined government workers in the endless search for the evil commies.

Please note that there was no burden of proof involved. Merely being accused was enough to destroy someone’s life and livelihood, and even successfully avoiding getting convicted in court wasn’t enough to undo the damage caused by being denounced.

This is what “the smartest man in the GOP” has publicly called for. On camera.

Never mind that HUAC was a cynically successful ploy by a small number of senior government officials and congressmen to gather more power for themselves. All these few people had to do was continually warn everyone they were in danger from godless communism and should therefore allow the power of the US government to be turned upon US citizens without check or hindrance. And the American people fell for it.

And a large number of Americans are being led down the same path to Hell today by their Leader.

Ooga booga! The evil moose limbs are coming to kill your children. Only we can protect you from this existential threat, but you gotta let us throw out that pesky Constitution in order to keep you safe. We pinky swear these powers will only be used against “them“. Them. The “others“. The people who don’t worship your god the same way you do. The people possessed of insufficiently white skin pigmentation. People who speak other languages. People who disagree with you politically. “Them“.

Shockingly, this message of xenophobia and bigotry is finding eager listeners among people who aren’t willing to use their brains much. Thinking is hard, and so is remembering lessons learned from long ago. Sure, it turns out that locking up tens of thousands of Americans who happened to be descended from Nipponese immigrants was stupid, expensive, wrong, and totally ineffective. Never mind that. This time is different, because … uh … because reasons.

Actually, there is a reason why dumb white people are buying into this line of thinking. There’s a reason why they have so much trouble articulating the source of their ignorant fear, and that reason is demographics. It turns out that white people will soon be less than half of the population. Oh, the horror! Rather than learning to treat other people equally, these dim-as-five-feet-up-a-pig’s-ass yokels are willing to destroy the very thing that made this country great: our non-homogenous society.

Every group of immigrants has made America richer. They bring in new ideas, new foods and drink, new attitudes, new beliefs, and America gets better and stronger from adopting the globe-spanning range of new stuff brought here by immigrants. And every single one of those immigrant groups is treated like shit by the descendants of previous immigrants. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the Irish being vilified by descendants of English and Dutch immigrants.When Italians began arriving on our shores, the descendants of those Irish immigrants who been the subject of bigotry treated the Italians the same way. Asians, Africans, and Jews have been perennial victims of American xenophobia, along with anyone from any cultural background who doesn’t belong to the right religious group. They’re different, and therefore suspicious- if not outright evil.

Here’s a clue chit for the small-minded bigots among us: Different does not equal evil. Stranger does not mean enemy. Those “foreigners” you’re wetting your panties about aren’t foreigners anymore- they’re Americans. What are you imbeciles afraid of?

I want you

WITCH HUNT by Rush

The night is black
Without a moon
The air is thick and still
The vigilantes gather on
The lonely torch lit hill

Features distorted in the flickering light
The faces are twisted and grotesque
Silent and stern in the sweltering night
The mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right
Confident their ways are best

The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill

They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand…

Current status: Appalled

Current music: We Belong by Pat Benatar

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Reality vs Fantasy

19 11 2012

When I was in High School, I used to spend lots of time creating worlds. I mapped out continents, developed what I thought were internally consistent climate and weather patterns, designed and built centers of population, created languages and religions, and wrote extensive backgrounds (history) for all of the above. All of this was part of my responsibility as game master for my group of friends when we played role-playing games. As I grew older and learned more, my creations grew ever more complex. This had the effect of consuming huge swaths of time which ate into my social life, such as it was. Much of that work was apparently lost on the players in my games, who never seemed to wonder why a particular dungeon was where it was, or why a particular warlord acted the way he did. This took away from my enjoyment of the labor somewhat, but I still enjoyed it. As an intellectual exercise, it requires at least a cursory knowledge of history, geography, geology, linguistics, biology, physics, and a host of other disciplines. Role-playing gaming, then, was the “gateway drug” for a lifelong interest in science.

The point of this blather is not merely shameless self-congratulation. Despite my often intense focus on building “realities” for fantasy universes, I never thought they were real. They were mental playgrounds, a shared experience with my friends in which we could exercise our imaginations, nothing more. My position as game master did not grant me any special status or authority with my friends outside the game, nor did I expect such. The games were fantasy, not reality, and we all knew the difference. As a side note, we never allowed our fantasies to unduly interrupt the reality of such things as girlfriends or parties. All this is as it should be. The fantasies we built and shared during the game were no more than fantasies, and the fantastic realities of “real life” always reigned supreme. Since High School, I have continued to indulge in my hobby of building fantasy worlds, but I am far more intrigued and awed by the sheer spectacle of the real world, which is far more fantastic than anything I’ve created.

That brings me to the real point of this rant. My political views haven’t changed much over the past couple of decades, and I was always considered fairly conservative until the last ten years or so. The “conservative” portion of the US political dimension has shifted so far to the right that I’ve been recently accused of being a democrat. So far, not much of a problem. Political winds are always shifting, and political labels are- in my opinion- largely a waste of time.

The problem arises from the flavor of the red shift. Far too many who call themselves conservatives conflate that term with “religious”, and specifically with a particularly vexatious form of evangelical christianity. You can believe whatever you want to believe, and even try to convince others of the rightness of your beliefs. If I want to believe that the current republican party should rename itself the christian nationalist party, that’s my privilege. Likewise, it is the right of the fanatical christians currently infesting the conservative position on the political graph to consider me a communist because I refuse to allow them to make my country into a theocracy. You have the right to your beliefs, but you don’t have the right to your own facts.

Let us take a look at what makes the US the preeminent military and (for the moment anyway) economic power on Earth. Science, and the technology that pursuit of science gives us is what made the US a superpower. The pursuit of science has enabled and sustains our current extravagant way of life. So why, then, are the christian nationalists republicans so hell-bent on destroying our scientific and technological edge?

Case in point: Current US Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the science and space subcommittee in the US Senate, was recently asked if he knew the age of the Earth. I don’t know about you, but everyone I know could easily answer that question with a modest margin of error- including my teenage niece. Rather than directly answering the question, Senator Rubio decided to try and waffle his way out of the issue. You see, if he had given the right answer (defined as the one with mountains of physical evidence and scientific consensus), he would have angered the christian nationalists, and this would have a deleterious effect on his future political aspirations as part of the christian nationalist party. On the other hand, if he had given the preferred answer of the christian nationalists (the wrong answer), he would anger the entire rest of the voting population. So he waffled, and tried to please both sides. This satisfied no one, of course. Perhaps the Senator should take a hard look at the demographics of the christian nationalists and realize that they are (fortunately) a dying breed, and act like a well-educated US citizen with at least a middle-school grasp of basic science.

And it is basic. You are reading this tripe courtesy of advances in quantum mechanics, astrophysics, and electronic theory. It is a fair bet that at least a few of those reading are eating something recently warmed up in a microwave. That microwave is not powered by magic or witchcraft. If your textured-vegetable-protein burrito got hot when you hit the “start” button on your microwave, then quantum mechanics, physics, and electronics all work the way they’re supposed to. All of those same disciplines work because they’re based on fundamental principles of science developed from observation and experimentation over centuries. Those same fundamental principles also govern the scientific disciplines which tell us the age of the Earth with a fair bit of precision (4.54 billion years, plus or minus about 30 million). All of these disciplines together give us things like the global positioning system satellites, which would not work if those fundamental principles were wrong.

Despite all of this, the rabid god-botherers among us refuse to accept objective reality. They have built a fantasy world wherein bronze-age mysticism is somehow equivalent (or superior) to what they can see with their own eyes. They refuse to believe that their particular version of their sacred texts is anything less than the Laws of the Universe. The fact that they aren’t even following their own texts doesn’t make a lick of difference to these people. They have decided to live in a fantasy world which they like better than the real one.

Okay, so what? They can believe whatever they want, right?

Up to a point. That point is where they try to force the rest of us to live in their fantasy world. The religiously deluded are convinced that they have the duty to force everyone else to believe as they do, and they are working very hard to make their fantasy a reality. Several political candidates in the latest demopocalypse even went so far as to say out loud beliefs they normally don’t mention outside their little circles of like-minded co-religionists. Note carefully that every one of those candidates got treated harshly by the US electorate. Note also that, in the aftermath of the electoral kick in the balls the christian nationalists suffered on November 6th, the refrain from the religious conservatives has not been calls to bring their party in line with objective reality, it has rather been calls to stop saying what they really believe in public.

These people are literally deluded. They really believe that they can enforce their religious totalitarianism on the rest of the country, and they cast their votes accordingly. Altogether, they aren’t that numerous, but they can all be reliably counted upon to vote, and this gives them influence far beyond their numbers. Thus we have a US Senator with possible hopes for a future run for the Presidency trying desperately to avoid causing these irrational people any distress.

If that doesn’t scare you, perhaps you are living in a fantasy world.

Current status: Profoundly irked

Current music: Long Cool Woman by the Hollies





Telepathic Hookers and Ping Pong

5 11 2012

Relax- I haven’t gone insane. Make that, I’m no more insane than usual. The headline is a tongue-in-cheek  reference to some of the political parties available on various state ballots around the country. As far as I know, there are no “Hooker” parties out there, but there really is a Telepathic party, as well as a Ping Pong party. You may wish to look them up for the lulz.

The reason I mention these political-parties-located-only-in-the-Hubble-Deep-Field of American politics is, of course, the impending electopocalypse tomorrow. I urge you to properly exercise your national franchise and vote, if you haven’t already. There may not be anyone you want to vote for, but there are lots of people worth voting against. The two major party candidates are implicitly included in that last option.

Some people say they refuse to vote, because that implies that they’re buying into one side or another, and they’re all a bunch of crooks. I utterly reject this argument. In the first place, crooks can possibly be converted into productive citizens, where politicians are all irredeemably lost. Secondly, if you are able to vote and don’t, you are basically handing the country’s political future over to the senescent old geeps who have nothing better to do than complain about their kids not calling more often and voting. Don’t believe me? Check out who is actually voting for people like Joe Arpaio- it’s the frightened-into-incontinence old fogies (almost all of whom are white) who are deeply concerned that brown people are after their Hover-Rounds™. They all vote, in every election. Very few of them actually read what they’re voting for, they usually rely on whatever xenophobic nonsense they’ve heard on various AM radio stations or in church. If you don’t vote, then every one of those pasty codgers becomes a major player in every election. You are basically surrendering control of the country to a group of people who think the internet is a series of tubes. Do you really want this country’s political landscape dominated by your senile elderly relative who sends tons of emailed drivel with “fw;fw;fw;fw;fw;” in the subject line?

So, go forth and vote. I don’t care if you vote republican, democrat, libertarian, socialist, communist, albigensian, jedi, left-handed shroom-harvester, independent, or green (note that all but two of those are real political parties), but you must vote. Read up on the candidates and their stated positions before you decide. Don’t listen to speeches, read their policy statements and party platforms. Read up on all the local ballot measures and state initiatives, too. If you can’t be bothered to actually pay attention to what any of the turd sandwiches running for office actually stand for, I have a cheap and easy way to help you decide how to choose. Find some well-meaning fool (this should prove simple, as humanity is amply supplied with such creatures), and ask him or her how they plan to vote. Then vote the other way.

As for me, I plan on writing in a candidate for president of the United States. The person I have in mind is extremely intelligent, passionate, amusing, and not obviously affiliated with any regular political group. The only problem with voting for this person is the very real possibility that his regular job would suffer if he were to win. The person I have in mind is Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium. For his running mate, I suggest Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. Between the two of them, they have more intelligence, integrity, and demonstrated usefulness to society than all the other candidates combined. Besides, Dr, Tyson hangs out with Superman.

A lot of people are screeching that a vote for any candidate other than the two main ones is a vote for the other major party candidate. These people are deluded, insecure, or merely well-meaning and wrong. They keep hoping that they can change the major parties by giving them their votes. This is analogous to feeding your arm to a shark in hopes it will be satisfied and go away. If you give a politician your vote, you’re only encouraging the bastards.

One more thing before I sign off- don’t forget that there are several hundred Congress-critters and a couple of dozen Senators up for election this year, too. Those positions may not get all the glamor of the presidency, but they’re the ones who actually run the country. Take a look at your designated Representative and Senators and see how they’ve been voting. If you don’t like what they’ve been doing to the country (and the world) in your name, perhaps it is time to bring in some fresh faces.

Current status: Fed Up

Current music: Life’s Been Good by Joe Walsh





Old White Guy Syndrome

19 08 2012

I have been trying to stay out of the political shitstorm sweeping the US these days. I really have. Even to the point of not posting for weeks on end lest I start ranting about the industrial-strength idiocy which passes for political dialogue in the US. This bit, however, sent me over the edge.

It seems there is an OWG running for US Senate in Missouri who publicly “misspoke” this afternoon. Many of you may be asking why this would piss me off- politicians mis-speak all the time. It happens so often, in fact, that anyone using the words, “I misspoke”, can be reasonably interpreted as actually saying, “Oh, crap! There were cameras running when I said that shit?” This particular OWG turns out to be a current US Congressman from Missouri named Todd Akin. You may remember Representative Akin from his 2011 co-sponsorship of a bill restricting access to abortion by anyone receiving tax benefits from the federal government- including tax-exempt health savings accounts. Buried in the bill’s text were some interesting mental contortions on defining “rape”. This bill died a lonely death in committee, but that didn’t seem to break Congressmoron Akin of his antediluvian thought processes.

Once upon a time, it was commonly thought that women could only conceive a child if she had an orgasm. Using this logic, any woman who had been raped but still conceived must have enjoyed her attack, and therefore had not really been raped. This incomprehensibly stupid notion had a stake put through its heart back in the 1700s by some actual medical science, but Representative Akin seems to think it’s still in play.

During an interview published Sunday, Congressman Akin claimed that women who were “legitimately raped” had some sort of secret, super-ninja woman-magic which would prevent them from getting pregnant. It is his belief, therefore, that any woman who gets pregnant as a result of rape was not “really raped”, and should not have the option of terminating the pregnancy.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

How does this chronically-stupid waste of resources get to decide what constitutes “legitimate” rape? Worse, why does this OWG seem to think he can get away with using 18th century thinking in a 21st century political interview? What exactly is this shit-for-brains a “representative” of anyway? Do the people in his district actually agree with this horrible example of humanity? How can any allegedly rational human in 21st century America still believe this superstitious twaddle, let alone allow such verbal diarrhea to bubble forth from his mouth? Even more incomprehensibly, how can this sort of raving imbecile be considered a viable candidate for Federal office? By the way, this prehistoric jack-ass is a ranking member of the House Science Committee. Think about that, and weep for the future of our country.

Once the media began sinking their collective teeth into Congressman Neanderthal’s comments, he made a very lame attempt at walking his comments back. If you read the actual text of his “I misspoke” explanation, you’ll note that he doesn’t actually deny that his comments reflect his actual beliefs. On the contrary, he tries to express his “empathy” for raped and abused women, then digresses rapidly into vague platitudes about protecting the vulnerable and helpless, and follows the whole thing up with an attempted deflection to the economy. That doesn’t even rate a “nice try” on the Misspoke-o-meter.

Here’s hoping that the voters in Missouri emphatically kick this unrepentant misogynist to the curb. Anyone in a modern democratic society who clings to such antiquated beliefs long since disproven by science deserves nothing but ridicule and derision.

Current status: Shocked and dismayed

Current music: Chuck Al Hashib by Pain





Sic Semper Tyrannis

14 06 2009

For those of you who get all your news from the regular media sources, this may come as a bit of a shock: There is widespread civil unrest throughout Iran in the wake of their election on Friday.

The oafishal Iranian media has declared Mahmoud Ahminadinnerjacket the clear winner. Everybody else is declaring shenanigans. Protesters were out in the streets last night and this morning (US Eastern time), shouting “Down with the dictator!” The government has shut down most internet and phone communications, and has ordered all foreign journalists out of the country. BBC Persia- a satellite broadcast into Iran- is reporting multiple jamming attempts by someone within Iran. Thousands of Iranians are posting videos and real-time reports of the chaos via Twitter.

But the regular media outlets in the US are silent.

The news is out there. Here are a few links I’ve managed to get from FARK.com:

Protesters vs police.

Police attacking protesters.

Call for a general strike.

Reports in Farsi from Iran.

Khatami’s brother arrested.

Here are some Tweets from the same source:

RT @Change_for_Iran: Students fighting back a large group of police & Basij right now at university of physics! I’m going to join them. 15 minutes ago from twhirl
RT @StopAhmadi: “some anti riot forces are speaking in Arabic! apparently imported from Lebanon” #IranElection
20 minutes ago from twhirl
News: Source in Rasht say there are many police w/ civilian clothing, and ppl getting beaten up badly #IranElection
4 minutes ago from Seesmic Desktop
NEWS: Source in Rasht say person w/ Asthma got killed by teargas. #IranElection

solidadrocks Huff Post: “Sharif Univrsty…riot police firing rubber bullets,storming thru dorms.” (not yet confirmed) #IranElection http://bit.ly/3x210o half a minute ago from Tweetie

A very big student and alumni demonstration against the fraud in the election started in Sharif University of Technology from 3 hours ago. (367 دقیقه قبل)
Mousavi asked for permission to set up a demonstration on Monday #IranianElection (369
Basij militia members chanting God Bless Hezzbullah (1141 دقیقه قبل)
Mobile network is back, please reset your phones. (1149
Mir Hossein Mousavi is house arrest, has no access to anywhere. (1252 دقیقه قبل)
Basij Militia attacking people with teaser, stone, stick and knife like rabid dogs. (1272 دقیقه قبل)
Top members of the National Participation Front (the most important reformist party) arrested. (1305 دقیقه قبل)
Northern part of Tehran is on fire, people attacked a gas station to explode it (1306)
My Internet is back again. Things outside is horrible, people fighting with stone, Basij Millitia armed with cold weapon (1328

I’m just a regular guy with a computer hooked up to the internet. If I can get this stuff, what the Hell is wrong with the alleged “journalists” here in the US? This is one of the pivotal moments in history, and very few people in the US are getting told about it.

Current status: Concerned

Current music: Bad Company by Bad Company