Saturday, January 31, 2015

Seahawks Mania

Okay, tomorrow is the Hyper Super Bowl and my team is there for the second year in a row. I'm not going to concentrate on anything except football and feeding my face, and then I'm done until next year.

Go Hawks! And I'll be back on Monday...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Kill the K-Cup

As you may recall, I've never been one to let a good meme go unabused. Here's Kill the K-Cup, a clever horror-movie parody of Godzilla, et al., featuring something I am just learning about now, the The K-Cup.

To show you how out of the mainstream I really am, I had no idea that such a thing existed. Or why anyone felt it was necessary. If you just want a fresh-brewed single cup of coffee, you don't have to go all earth-killer on the environment to brew one. All you need is a Vietnamese Phin Filter.

I fell in love with this little device the last time I was in Vietnam and brought one home with me. It's stainless steel, completely reusable, no waste and no ecological issues. Except of course for when you want to dispose of the stainless steel... But why would you want to? You have the means to a perfect cup of coffee right there.

Anyway, it really comes down to a question of getting the right grind. I experimented with it a bit with different grinds, and then I ended up taking it to my local barrista at my locally-owned and customer-centric coffee roaster company, and she took a practiced look at it, thought a bit and then did just the right kind of grind for it. She even brewed it up right in front of me, just to make sure.

Now when I need just a single cup, I have it in less than five minutes. You can get one for yourself at Amazon. Naturally.

Weasel coffee is, of course, optional.

The Day the Music Died

If you are of a certain age, you will recall 1972 when Don McLean's abnormally-long ballad, "American Pie", hit number one on the charts and was widely interpreted as being "about" the 1959 deaths of musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valenz and the Big Bopper.

But there are more connections, some that may be kind of fanciful and some not, and they've all been put together by a guy named James Waller in a "culture map" that is surely worth taking a look at, if not for the music-connection theories then for the clever use of Internet technology that illustrates them.

It's called, naturally enough, The Day the Music Died. See how Buddy Holly connects to Charles Manson and the Altamont Concert!

Oh, and while you are there, take a look at another culture map, this one called Propaganda by the Deed: Anarchism in Revolution.  Or take your pick from dozens of other culture maps -- they have a lot of them.

It's true that these are some ultra-simplified presentations of some super-complicated connections, but I'm a sucker for this kind of thing... See my New Years Eve post on apophenia.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Must-See Cinema: Punishment Park

Last night I watched Punishment Park from 1971. Because of its incendiary content, this film has been hiding in the shadows for the last 40+ years. Even I, with my vast reservoir of movie trivia and leftwing significa (the opposite of trivia), had never even heard of it before I read about it somebody's list of their favorite dystopian sci-fi films.

Here's the trailer:

It was directed by Peter Watkins, a pioneer of the docudrama genre, who also made another film I loved, Culloden. Given that I was familiar with Watkins already, it seems a cruel oversight by the fates that I hadn't seen this movie before.

The setup of Punishment Park is pretty simple. It's 1971 and the Nixon Administration, using the little-noted Section 2 of the McCarran Internal Security Act, arrests all dissenters, war protesters, civil rights activists, feminists and all others determined to be a "risk to internal security". They are rounded up, taken to a remote desert location and given a "hearing". Then they are faced with a choice: Do the prison time of ten years or more, or do three days in something called Punishment Park. There all they have to do is go through a barren and waterless wasteland in a desperate game of "capture the flag" -- in this case an actual American flag implanted at the top of a distant rocky outcropping. Distant as in over 50 miles away. Without water. In temperatures over 100 degrees...

Of course everyone chooses three days in the desert over the ten-plus years in prison. What they are not told initially is that they also have to dodge the cops and National Guardsmen who are doggedly pursuing them. With guns. And Jeeps...

Shot in a hand-held documentary fashion, this film intercuts between two groups, one that is already on the run through the desert, and one that has just arrived for the "hearing". The actors are all non-professionals, but it doesn't show except for maybe a couple of times. There was no scripted dialogue -- the actors were given their characters' back stories and it was up to them to come up with the appropriate responses.

Like Watkins' other work, the whole thing has the look and feel of a real documentary, and it was entertaining, gripping and disturbing. Most shockingly, what with all that is going on in the country now, it doesn't seem at all dated.

Highly recommended.

And, wonder of wonders, Netflix actually has it for rental. If you get the DVD, be sure to watch the intro by the director and the included short, "The Web", about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which Watkins apparently made as a student.

Further reading:
· Punishment Park on the IMDB
· Review on Slant
· Review on Rotten Tomatoes (100% on the Tomatometer)
· Culloden (full movie) on YouTube

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

War Is Not a Video Game

Yeah, so-called "first person shooter" video games on a slick X-Box can be kind of fun to play, but they are not "war". War -- real war -- is NOT a video game.

You wouldn't know it from the praise heaped on American Sniper by Fox News, who is creaming its jeans over it, while at the same time denigrating "Hollywood" for being a bunch of leftist Islamist-jihad-enabling brie-eating wine-snarfling elitists. You know, the same Hollywood that made this movie, the same Hollywood that hated America so much that they nominated this picture for about five hundred Oscars, including Best Picture.

The same Hollywood that provided a pathetically doddering old man to argue with a chair at the Republican national convention. The same pathetic old man who went on to make this movie. The same pathetic old man that must need money really really bad, so bad that he obviously can't afford to retire.

Yeah, I'm looking at you, Clint Eastwood. Jesus man, give it a break. Go back to arguing with that chair. It suits you.

Killing another human being is the absolutely worst thing that a human being can do. I don't give a flying fuck about how much the now-sainted-by-Fox Chris Kyle claimed that he enjoyed sending hajjis to their seventy-odd virgins, killing another human being, no matter who you are, takes a terrible toll on your very soul. I don't know anyone who killed someone in war (I was in Vietnam myself, and I know a lot of veterans who have) who wasn't fucked up by that to some degree. Anyone. If anyone isn't affected by it, they are a sociopath. We should not, as a society, exalt our sociopaths.

Going to war. It's not fun, it's not a video game, it's not "noble". It is, in fact, the veryworst thing that a country can do to its young men, and yet we still do it.  By "We" I mean the dickwad chickenhawks like George "Baby Doc" Bush and Dickhead "Darth" Cheney, to whom military service was something to avoid, and avoid talking about, because they (Cheney) had "other priorities", instead of answering their country's call when an actual war was going on, thereby letting one of 16 men from Midland Texas and one of 12 men from Casper Wyoming die in their place in Vietnam .

I've asked this question before and it is still valid: "Who Died in Your Place in Vietnam"?

I haven't seen American Sniper and I have no plans to see it. I don't have a problem watching most war movies, even those of the John Wayne variety, wherein every enemy soldier ("Japs" for the most part) gets what is seen as coming to him. But it seems to me that this particular movie glorifies the killing just a little too much, celebrates the death of another human being a little too eagerly, another human being whose only "crime" was being born an Iraqi and then exacerbating that misfortune by being in the way of a bullet screaming towards him from some hidden murder gun on a rooftop so far away that the sound won't even carry that far.

I don't need it. I don't want it. And I won't support it by spending my money on it. Fuck that shit.

Oh, and "fu_k you Sarah Palin". Just thought I'd toss that in there...

John Cleese on the Stupidity of Fox News

Brilliant -- just fucking brilliant.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I Guess a Little Flattery Is Supposed to Help

I was aware that Google Blogger has an automatic spam dump for questionable comments, but I finally went and took a look at it. It's amazing what some people will do to get a mention of their product's website into a blog. These are posts that I never see, since they go automatically into the spam dump before I even get a chance to "yea" or "nay" them.

I don't know what kind of algorithms are being used here, but they seem pretty effective. Here are a few examples of some people earnestly striving to hit the "big time" by getting a mention in this blog (which, as you know, has literally dozens of readers):

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These are just the first four. There are lots more, over 100 of them, all pretty much in this vein. Oh, and the question marks? They represent non-standard characters, mostly Russian from the looks of them, that don't transfer over in the cut-and-paste process. Other misspellings, etc., are in the original.

I know I might be missing some legitimate posts with this process, but I guess I can learn to live with that. But if you ever post a comment that doesn't show up -- I approve pretty much everything I get, even things that are critical of me (especially the ones that are personal attacks on me) -- this is probably the reason.

Does a Rising Tide Lift All Boats?

We've been spoon-fed an economic concept since the Reagan administration, as part of that whole "trickledown economics"* thing, that a "rising tide lifts all boats". Well, it does seem to work that way in the real world of Budd Bay, one of the farthest-south reaches of Puget Sound, about a mile from my house. But, since boats that are lying on the bottom and stuck there don't get lifted, using that as a metaphor for anything except the rise and fall of water in an arm of the sea is kind of stretching it.

But that what's rightwing economists have tried to do since Reagan, and they are still at it, despite 30 years of facts -- inconvenient things, those damn facts -- proving the exact opposite when it comes to that "trickledown" bullshit.

BadTux the Snarky Penguin, whose blog I always read, has a startlingly simple analogy of his own, which involves the sellers of oranges. A lot of sellers of oranges coupled with just a few buyers. It illustrates a concept which was new to me, oligopsony, but which makes a lot of sense.

It's definitely worth the read, especially since it comes from a smart guy who is actually in a boat that's rising but who still sees the necessity to help those boats that are stuck on the bottom.

Dammit, now I'm using that metaphor... But never mind that. Go read his trenchant analysis of the whole thing.

 * Also known as the "don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining" school of economics.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Music Break -- Australia!

In 2004 we went on "holiday" (i.e., vacation) to Australia. It's someplace I'd always wanted to go, and we had the time and the money, so why not?

For nearly a month we roamed by rented camper-van the great Australian nation, from Sydney up to Brisbane out through the Outback to Broken Hill and then down to Port Fairy and along the spectacular Great Ocean Road to Melbourne (including, of course, a side trip to Phillip Island and its famous Penguin Parade and the Australian National Vietnam Veterans Museum, where I "bought a brick" by donation to support the endeavor and made a friend of a fellow Vietnam vet -- a tip of the ol' pint to Ziggy), and then we reluctantly circled back to Sydney for our flight home.

We did a lot, we saw a lot, we met a bunch of terrific people -- everyone went out of their way it seemed to welcome us -- and I felt we had driven millions of miles kilometers and had a "been-there-done-that" experience of Australia. But when I look at a map of Australia, it's a humbling experience -- we had actually covered only a small part of it, in the far southeast. That place is HUGE.

One thing I am glad that we discovered was Australian "country music". I grew up in Oklahoma and thought I'd had my full lifetime dose of country music by the time I was ten. I had no idea that Australia produced its own country music, that Banjo Paterson ("Waltzing Matilda") was not just a one-off, and I especially had no idea about a guy named Slim Dusty.

Here he is singing "Indian Pacific", about the famous railway line across Australia:

(Note: If you look carefully starting at about 0:58 you will see the same pointy peaks that appear in the classic dystopian sci-fi movie Road Warrior, still the best-ever Mel Gibson movie, which was filmed in the area around Broken Hill NSW. The Indian Pacific passes through Broken Hill on its long haul from coast to coast.)

Slim Dusty recorded an incredible 106 albums, and he had total sales in Australia of seven million -- in a nation of only 20 million people! It's kind of a shame that he is not more well-known in the United States.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Jane Fonda. Again.

You got to hand it to the Rethugs -- give them a pile of shit, they will make shitmuffins with it. And you get a muffin. And you get a muffin. And YOU get a muffin!

There's this Republican governor of Iowa named Terry Branstad, who was in the Military Police at Fort Bragg a long time ago, when Jane Fonda got arrested -- kind of -- for coming onto the post to hand out leaflets, without permission. In a USA Today story we learn that Rep Peter King (R-Moron) introduced Branstad at the so-called Iowa Freedom Summit by saying he was a hero -- the one who slapped the handcuffs on Hanoi Jane.

Wait for applause.

What apparently was never told to the red-meat-devouring GOP at that meeting, what with all that celebratin' freedom by castrating them some hogs and all, was that Branstad was not the one who actually arrested her. By his own admission to a reporter after the Big Event, "I was the provost marshal's driver."

He did say that he put together a dossier for his boss and that was the basis for denying her permission to come on post. So I guess to Peter King that's the exact the same thing as actually clamping those 100% American steel bracelets on the "red" wrists of that Commie-lovin' Traitor.

I tried to find a contemporary account of this arrest, but I was unable to find anything (if anyone knows of one, please post a link in the comments). But I am pretty sure that she was not actually put into handcuffs. This incident occurred in 1970, before she injudiciously went to Hanoi to become "Hanoi Jane", and she was at that time seen as just another rich and famous dilettante dabbler in the peace movement. She would have been handcuffed only if she tried to resist arrest and fight back. If she had done that, the big story would have been, and would continue to be, about that and not about just her "arrest".

I am willing to bet money ("my next paycheck") that she was just given some kind of a citation and then she left peacefully.

Presumably to catch the next plane  to Hanoi where where she had some POWs to torture, stopping by the San Francisco airport on the way to spit on some Vietnam veterans...

But I digress. As we all know, when it comes to the Rethugs, facts and them are complete strangers -- jeez, they've never even had as much as a One Night Stand. Plus, all you really have to to do is throw out a "Jane Fonda!" to the swarming mouthbreathers on the right and they start salivating like Pavlov's dogs, willing to eat the shit right out of your hand.

As you know, I've posted stuff on Hanoi Jane a few times before and, according to my stats, one of my posts, The Return of Hanoi Jane from November 2010, is still in the monthly top five page views.

Donald Trump Still a "Birther" -- This Time It's Ted Cruz

Jeez, I really don't know why anyone still listens to professional bloviating bad-hair buffoon Donald Trump, but he keeps getting invited to speak at "conservative" events. Including one in Iowa (not-coincidentally the first state to pick delegates to the party conventions), where he made the totally-not-cogent observation that Ted Cruz has an electile dysfunction, what with being born in Canada and all:

"It’s a problem. It could be a difficult problem, but he admits that he was born in Canada," Trump told reporters in Iowa on the eve of the first major gathering of 2016 presidential hopefuls.
"He’s a friend of mine. I have great respect for him. But …certainly it’s a stumbling block and he’s going to have to have it solved before he goes too far," Trump said.
Everyone else in the world has gone on from this "birther" shit except Donald Trump. It didn't work on Obama, but that's no reason to give up on it.

Did I say "everyone"? That's not true. I thought erroneously that the Obama Birthers had squirmed back under the rotten logs they had crawled out from, but I was wrong. If you read that story, scroll down to the comments, where you will see things like this:
It isn't about whether Cruz is a "citizen". It's whether he's eligible for the office of president (Article II, section1, Clause 5) or vice president (Article XII) of the constitution by being a "natural born citizen". A special status required by the constitution to be president or vice president period. In short, you have to born on U.S. soil by (2) U.S. citizen parentS [sic]. You should check this out about citizenship and this Inform yourselves, as I can see most of you posting are uninformed and/or misinformed.[Posted by "anonymous" ... and I can see why...]
. . .
The only reason Trump is coming out is because he's got the obots on his ass! They want him to stand on principle and not party and he BETTER DO IT! If we have to sacrifice Cruz to prove Obama ineligible, we will do it! I love CRUZ, but I think he knows the truth. He is smart and I think he is doing this to save America! That's how patriotic he is! He knows he is not eligible, but it will make the courts listen! The obots will file cases and the nedia will follow, not like they have with the 200+ Obama eligibility cases? 200? Yes, you snoozers, 200 cases against Obama and NONE hear on the merits! [Posted by someone calling him/herself "KenyanBornObama"; misspellings, etc., in the original]
Why do they do it? Why can't they give up? Because they are fucking crazy, that's why.

I've posted many times before on this particular form of Obama Derangement Syndrome. I guess I had hoped that by now even the most rabid Obama-haters had calmed down a bit. But I was wrong.

At this point Obama is in the last half of his last term. What do they hope to accomplish? But never mind, you don't have to answer that. They want to be "right" -- better to be right than to be factual.

Sad isn't it, that some of them are still willing to waste their lives, waste their time, waste their "precious bodily fluids" on such utter bullshit?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rescued WWII Photographs

People of my age grew up re-fighting WWII. Our fathers, uncles, even some older brothers all went off to fight in The Big One, and came back to spin all the yarns we heard growing up. We watched all the movies (and there were hundreds of them), bought "Army stuff" cheap at one of a dozen or more war surplus stores -- some of them no more than tents set up at roadside -- and managed to work out some credible small-unit tactics fighting the other kids in our neighborhoods. (The first thing to work out was who was going to be the Allies -- nobody wanted to be the Axis.)

So with that background, it was with more than a little excitement that I discovered a website devoted to "rescued" photographs, including a lot from WWII. It's called The Rescued Film Archive, and consists of photographs developed from old and in some cases damaged negatives, taken by GIs mostly, of the places they were and the things they were doing.

WWII has a section all its own that any WWII buff will spend some time scrolling through. There are other sections as well. The only complaint I have is that it wants context -- you don't know what or where you are really looking at in most of the pictures. I swear that one of the photos of a row of barracks was taken at Ft Lewis WA, where I spent basic training -- in some of those same buildings!

Recommended for all history buffs and everyone interested in WWII.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Back-to-the-Land Hippies and The Lost Generation

A long, long time ago, in 1974, I was a graduate-school dropout from The University of California at Santa Babara and an "official" member of the Hippie movement. Admittedly, I was in it mostly for the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, but there were a lot of people I knew who were really into it, who really talked up the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and the casting aside of the old ways of belief and thinking. (For those of you who want to explore the whole Hippie phenomenon further, there is, naturally, a website called Welcome to Hippyland devoted to that.

We were Hippies. We drove -- and lived in -- our vans VW , we wore our hair long, we wore our clothes weird, and we wore our smells patchouli (in the mistaken belief that the overpowering scent of patchouli would cover up the odor of the marijuana smoke in our cars when we got pulled over by The Man), and we grabbed up so many copies of the Whole Earth Catalog that, ironically, the printing of which laid waste to entire forests. The book was great, and even Steve Jobs eventually characterized The Whole Earth Catalog the Google of the 60s.

One dream that everybody had was to go "Back to the Land". Everyone was lulled into a patently false sense of "we can do this, we can really do this!" by publications like the Mother Earth News magazine ("Five Acres and Independence!"), the Foxfire magazine and book series ("Make Your Own Bacon!"), and a thick yellowish-pulp-paper national catalog of land for sale at ridiculously low prices, the name of which escapes me now (and for which an Internet search turns up so many false positives that it would be like finding a straw in a haystack to identify it -- maybe one of my literally dozens of readers can help here...).

So it was decided we would some buy some plot of ground out of this catalog, then all move onto the property, start a commune, raise our own food (vegetables, chickens, pigs) and, in the words of Lenny in the 1939 film of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, "Live off the fat a the lan'!" There was even some vague talk to house the whole commune in a built-by-hand "sweat equity" geodesic dome, based on the "plans" in Steve Baer's Dome Cookbook, or move into in a amateurly clobbered-together house constructed on the concepts in Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher's Art by Art Boericke and Barry Shapiro.

As most of you know, I grew up on a farm, so I knew how much work running that rural paradise was really going to be. It was at that point that I more or less delicately excused myself from the deliberations. I knew that these slacker layabouts would likely starve to death the first winter, since none of them wanted to get up before noon, they couldn't slaughter a pig if their life depended on it (which it would), and the only "crop" they were interested in harvesting off that five acres of independence was marijuana.

One of my favorite writers, T.C. Boyle captured this whole idea masterfully in his novel, Drop City, which was kinda-sorta based on the very real commune of Drop City in Colorado, and springboarded off of the idea that somebody back then had had that all free-thinking, free-spirited hippie-types ought to move to ... Alaska(!). Because Alaska had such a small citizenry population that it was theoretically possible to get enough of the "right kind of people" to move there and register to vote so that a true "Hippie Haven" could come into existence. Legal pot! Yay!


A lot of that catalog land, it turned out, was for sale so cheap because it was in such remote locations that it would require a week of backpacking just to get to it. But there were a few places that were not so remote -- the more civilized parts of Montana and Idaho featured prominently in these dreams, despite the fact that, like Alaska, pretty much none of these "new homesteaders" had actually ever been there.

Finally they settled on Ferry County, Washington. It had it all -- remoteness, cheap land, a leave-'em-alone attitude from the local authorities, and a county seat, Republic*, that had fewer than 1,000 residents.

There were some reasons for that. In winter Ferry County gets socked in deep by ice and snow, and in summer the heat is enough to melt the bumper off a Buick.

About that time I had had enough of the Californian neo-bohemian Hippie lifestyle, and hightailed it back to Washington State, where I eventually got a job working for The Man (i.e, the state), and settled into a nice lower-middle-class existence. But there was always a part of me that kind of wondered what I had missed by bailing out.

So. Fast forward a couple of dozen years, and I found myself in Republic, Washington, for my job (for a while I was in the state administration of Americorps), where I thought I recognized someone from those days. I was reluctant at first to approach her -- wary of the whole "So you're working for The Man now, huh?" thing, I guess.

But approach her I did and asked her if she had lived in Isla Vista, California, in 1974. Turns out it was her, but she didn't really seem to remember me clearly -- she seemed as spaced out then as she was back in the day.

She was the only one of that group who had made good on the plan to move to Ferry County and get back to the land (by getting in with some other people, who actually knew what they were doing), but here she was 25 years later, still living in poverty, still acting distracted and spacey, still smelling of patchouli and pot, even still wearing the same clothes! And living on a commune nestled between two anti-government bunker-building gun-toting food-hoarding deer-poaching survivalists.

I asked if all the neighbors got along with each other. "Better than you'd think," she said. "We don't trust the state, they hate the state, and we all just leave each other alone."

Good advice, that last part. But that whole situation vis-à-vis the hippies and their survivalist neighbors didn't really surprise me. Both groups shared many common goals and ideas and ways of looking at the world. But one is fully armed and the other isn't... If a fight starts, who do you think is going to win it?

So that's pretty much how the whole Hippie experience played out. Most people finally grew up, decided that society wasn't so fucked up after all, ended up getting jobs and mortgages and living in the real world, i.e. "selling out". But some didn't, and while I'd like to believe that everyone made the choice that was right, for them, I know that for every Ferry County Suzy Starburst happily settled into a bucolic Hippie paradise there are ten homeless street drifters living in cardboard boxes, chugging 40s and spare-changing at shopping-mall-entrance curb-cuts The ones who aren't dead from Agent Orange, drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning, exposure or just plain poverty.

Sadly, in many ways, they really did turn out to be, like their forebears, the young people in the 1920s, a "lost generation".

 Republic WA, by the way, is famous for something else: The Stonerose Interpretive Center, which is a sure-'nuff fossil bed that is, amazingly, open to the public. That means that you can drive there and pick away at an Eocene Epic fossil site. And it doesn't take long at all to actually find a real fifty-million-year-old fossil! That you can keep and take home with you! And this, as far as I know, is the only site of this kind anywhere in the world. I think the only reason it hasn't been picked away completely by now is that it is so remote -- it takes a whole day to drive there just from Seattle. Plus it is so easy to find a fossil that most people chip away only a foot or so of the strata before they find their fossil and get tired.
But it is a real thrill to chip away carefully at a flat piece of sandstone until you get it split and reveal the perferctly formed ghost leaf from fifty-million-years ago. There's nothing else like it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Restricting the Minority Vote

Back in the bad ole days, there was a joke that went something like this:

A black guy in Mississippi goes in to register to vote.
"No problem, boy," Bubba, the local yokel election official says. "All y'all gots to do is pass a little lit'racy test."
"No problem," the black guy says. "I managed to graduate from high school."
"Then there ain't no problem with your readin'?"
"Uh, I means 'No, suh.'"
Bubba hands him a newspaper from Shanghai -- in Chinese. "Well, let's see ya read that, boy."
The black guy says "I can't read the small print but that headline's pretty clear."
Bubba is flabbergasted. This isn't going the way he thought at all. "Unnhhh, so what's it say?"
"It say that black folk ain't gettin' to vote this year, either."

That is funny, in one of those "it's-funny-'cause-it's-true" Homer Simpson moments.

It turns out that, surprise, it's not so funny to the minority residents of 22 states, all controlled by (wait for it...) Republicans, who have started erecting it's-modern-so-it's-so-not-racist roadblocks to voting that have the effect of preventing minorities and other assorted non-persons from voting.

It should come as no surprise that voter ID legislation originated in the Koch Brothers-controlled fully-owned-subsidiary ALEC.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Joni Ernst's Fact-Free Response to the SOTU Speech

Jesus, you don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Joni "Nutcutter" Ernst, the earnest junior senator from Iowa, had the hearts thumping and the dicks jumping over at Faux News after her maiden speech (full text here) to the nation following Obama's State of the Union address last night (which, as an aside, William Rivers Pitt described as twenty pounds of shit in a ten pound bag. But never mind that; we kind of expect that in our SOTU speeches. Dubya was famous for it.).

She kinda-sorta-but-not-really pissed and moaned about her hardscrabble life on the farm, where she had to plow the fields (in an air-conditioned tractor, no doubt, but never mind those nitpicky kind of details), her family couldn't afford but one pair of shoes for her, and her mother had to wrap her little farmer-girl tootsies in bread bags to keep her feet dry. No word as to whether she actually had to use a privy for her personal ablutions, or walk to school ten miles in the snow, uphill -- both ways! and we were glad to do it! -- because in those deep dark years of her childhood, when Ronald Reagan was president from the time when was 10, life was hard. And it's still all hard and stuff, and Obama just doesn't get it. So there.

But there was no indication from her that the "hardscrabble farmers" who comprised Ernst's family actually received over $460,000 in Federal farm subsidies over a ten-year period. You also won't find out that fact from the major media. Not Faux News, of course, but none of the others are seeing fit to talk about it.

Oh, and she never used the accepted term "Islamic terrorism" in her speech, either. But still, Faux News loves them some Joni Ernst -- she is a Republican, she is a rare female Republican, and especially she's proud of the fact that she cut her some hog nuts once upon a time. That in itself was enough to make Faux News totally fall in love with her.

Oh, that and her shoes.

Who Killed Gary Webb?

The other day, when I wrote about the Crimes of Ronald Reagan, Constant Reader Yellow Fringe asked if I had seen the movie or read the book Kill the Messenger. I hadn't done either one, so I went to Netflix and put it into my "want" list -- it won't be released on DVD until Feb 10 -- and then I scouted my local library and was able to get a copy of the book.

It is, to give it its full title, Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb, by Nick Shou. It tells the story of investigative reporter Gary Webb and how he was destroyed by the very media he worked for, print journalism.

Webb was in the investigative reporter game for many years, with several different papers. Along the way he picked up a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on a California earthquake, but that "shaker" wasn't the biggest one to hit Gary Webb. It was his three-part series "Dark Alliance" in the San Jose Mercury-News in 1996, about the CIA-Contra-crack cocaine connection, that blew up in his face.

Even though Webb never said that the CIA was behind the sudden crack cocaine epidemic that hit the US, and especially Los Angeles, in the early 1980s, the mainstream papers climbed all over him. Leading the charge was the LA Times -- smarting over the "scoop" Webb got on them, no doubt -- which vilified Webb and fed into the other papers "discrediting" Webb, for claiming something that he did not claim.

All Webb did was ask a few pointed questions about some curious connections between the CIA, the Nicaraguan "contras" and the drug shipments that were coming into the US from Latin America. The CIA of course denied any participation in, or knowledge of, any thing of the sort, and their lackeys at the LA Times and the Washington Post bought the whole story. Back in those days, even after Watergate(!), big media were still in bed with government, and, according to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, especially the CIA. It likely still goes on.

It wasn't until several years later that a CIA internal investigation established that, yes indeed, whoops!, there were some connections, the same ones that Webb had `questioned. The report was "coincidentally" released the first weekend that our old friend Monica Lewinsky made the news, and even then the neo-yellow-journalism papers were slavering over reports of a sex scandal involving the president of the United States, and not so eager to follow up on some boringly tedious report from an "uninvolved" government agency.

Reading this book, I was constantly reminded of the whole "Rathergate" incident from 2004 -- never mind the content of the story; instead make the story about the reporter covering it. Dan Rather vanished into oblivion, and we never did manage to settle the whole question of G.W. "Baby Doc" Bush's alleged military service.

I've heard it described as "censorship by noise". If one person is telling the truth, let him, but drown him out with a thousand people calling him a liar. Kill the messenger.

And that's what happened to Gary Webb. His life was ruined and he spiraled into depression and unemployment (no one was willing to hire a "disgraced" journalist, even if he did have a Pulitzer), and finally in 2004 he was found dead from two shots to the head. It was ruled a suicide.

So who killed Gary Webb? It is possible that it was a legitimate suicide; he may have pulled the trigger himself but it was his fellow journalists in the media, along with the shadowy government world of the CIA, and the contras, the amoral "founding fathers" of Nicaraguan death squads, who loaded the gun.

Highly recommended for its insight into a very ugly slice of our history.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2016 Dream Ticket

I just watched Jon Stewart interview Mike Huckabee on The Daily Show from last night. Jeez, that fucker has packed on some pounds -- he's gotten fat!

He's flogging his new book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, and it's a safe bet that he's overdosed himself on at least two of those things.

Watch Stewart tear him a new one over his hypocrisy and his "reverse elitism", and especially on why, in Huckabee's world, Beyoncé is bad and Ted Nugent is good:

So, even though the Blunt-Boehner ticket has the bumpersticker for a great campaign, I'm now considering supporting the Fatboy Ticket: Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie. Even though the structural engineers will have to get busy now to construct a platform that will hold up the two of them at the inauguration.

Kent Hovind: The Flintstones Was a Documentary

I really like having the Internet. For an information junkie like me it is heaven-sent. All of the information you reasonably need on pretty much any topic you want -- and some you don't want -- is just a click or two away.

Unfortunately there is a down side. People whose only influence before the World Wide Web would have been limited to the few-mile reception range of a low-watt AM station in South Knucklesville suddenly can have a voice that spans the world. All you need is a clever shtick, a low opinion of the intellectual abilities of your followers, and a craven willingness to fleece your sheep in the name of The Lord.

My related researches over the last week into the intricacies of The Turner Diaries led me to an examination of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and that led me to the fantastical world of one Kent Hovind.

You may not recognize his name, but Hovind was the founder and creator of something called "Dinosaur Adventure Land", an ultra-cheesy low-rent fact-free Creationist theme park, apparently based on the idea that The Flintstones was a documentary, that he built behind his house in Pensacola, Florida. He is of course a Young Earth Creationist.

He is also, as you might expect, 100% wackjob nutso crazy.

What the Protocols have to do with Young Earth Creationism is a connection that exists only in Hovind's mind, but he is also an adherent to any number of insane rightwing fringenut ideas and a proponent of the "sovereign citizen" movement (aka the "I don't got to pay you no stinkin' taxes!" movement -- which I have bloviated about before), a belief for which he was ultimately sent to federal prison for tax evasion. Evading taxes on the many thousands of dollars of income that stupid people sent him to continue doing The Lord's work. And his defense was that it was never his money -- it was The Lord's money.


People like Hovind, like I said, would likely not be well-known outside Escambia County FL back in the good old days. But give a man free access to the most democratic of media (the Internet) and he'll pull in the sheeple like a wool suit pulls in cat hair.

Hovind is also notorious for positing this challenge on his website: "Show me irrefutable proof of evolution and I'll give you $250,000".

Of course he is the sole judge of this "contest" and all rulings by the "judges" are final.

It got to the point that even the rest of his fellow Young Earth Creationists have backed away from him. That's got to hurt, when even your fellow wackjobs think you are too far "out there"...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King: It Was More Than a Dream

Today is Martin Luther King Day, and it has been 50 years since he gave the "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. That speech and maybe a couple of marches are pretty much all he is remembered for any more by the majority of Americans, but that's not all that he did.

Over at The Daily Kos there's an excellent and thought-provoking piece called Most of You Have No Idea What Martin Luther King Actually Did that is well worth reading.


...Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished. He gave this great speech. Or some people say, "he marched." I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.
At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn't that he "marched" or gave a great speech.
My father told me with a sort of cold fury, "Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south."
Go ahead and read it all. It will likely change the way you think about Martin Luther King.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Go Seahawks!

Last week and today I got a reminder as to why I don't watch regular season football: It's too much work and it's too hard on me.

I spent four hours today yelling and screaming at the television, throwing anything loose across the living room and generally making an excitable ass of myself as my team managed to get itself down by a score of 19-0 in a game they were supposed to win handily. My voice is scratchy and it's leaving me rapidly.

After much weeping and wailing and sending She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed diving for cover, the Hawks finally, late in the 2nd half, turned it around and scored on a Special Teams fake-kick stunt, and then immediately recovered their own onside kick -- something which never happens -- to go on and ultimately win the game in overtime in what was I think the greatest comeback in a playoff game that I have ever seen.

At the end I was a steaming mass of sweat, covered by a damp Seahawk #12 jersey, shaking off onto the rug the shattered bits of fried pork rinds, and sitting in a puddle of spilled beer on the couch, while I was kicking aside the dropped empties.

Not a pretty sight.

I had a real mess to clean up, and don't think that She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed was about to help me with it, either. Better not to ask...

I get really into it during regular season games, too. And that's why I had to stop watching them. But I am willing to put up with it for three championship games a year, which are always the best football games.

Now there's just one more Game Sunday to go through, when they play in the Superbowl on Sunday Feb 1. THEN I can relax back into my regular other 49 weeks of the year.

Do Mormons Still Believe in Polygamy?

A casual scan of the public face of Mormonism, as shown on their websites and through their many apologists, would indicate that they do not still believe in polygamy. Any more, they are very careful to try to cover up and hide the history of their polygamous past. That's understandable. It was polygamy that prevented Utah from becoming a state in the late 1880s, and the Federal Government had worked hard to disband the church by taking its assets and arresting many polygamous church leaders.

The issue of polygamy, understandably, was a Very Big Deal to the other Christians in the country -- it was seen as immoral, base, evil, irreligious, and generally just a nasty business all around. They said this even as they exhibited a morbid fascination with it. Because, you know, human nature...

Finally it came down to this: The church was going to have to stop the practice or face extinction and have its leaders spend years in prison. Plus Utah was not going to become a state -- and therefore it would miss out on the many monetary opportunities that statehood would provide.

So in 1890,  the "Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church", Wilford Woodruff, issued a manifesto that advised church members not to enter into any marriage "prohibited by the law of the land". That essentially ended all polygamous marriages -- but only the ones that had been planned. Existing church polygamists could still keep their wives intact, and most of them did. Several families stole away in the night to settle in Alberta, Canada, and across the Mexican border where they set up many Mormon colonies, including something called "Colonia Juárez" in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, in the totally mistaken belief that neither Mexico nor Canada had laws against polygamy. Mitt Romney's grandparents were in the group that went to Juarez, where his father, George, was born. In 1968 the question came up as to whether he was a Constitutionally-required "natural-born" citizen of the United States when he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

The Mormon Fundamentalist movement said that Woodruff got no such revelation and was therefore a "false prophet" -- anathema to Mormons -- and they split off from the One True Church, and eventually splintered into several offshoots, the most noteworthy of them being the one headed by the notorious Warren Jeffs.

Later on, though, the pre-manifesto marriages to multiple wives had to stop as well. The church members, who always choose to follow the "Prophet", had divested themselves of the supernumerary wives, mostly by attrition, by the end of the first decade of the 20th Century, and the church joined the rest of society on the "one woman one man" bandwagon. To the point that it became Holy Writ  by the time they were campaigning for the passage of Proposition 8 outlawing gay marriage in Califormia -- "It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"

But, since the Prophet did not issue this as a "divine revelation" but rather as a "manifesto", the question remains as to whether The Lord commanded it, or did he just make it as a suggestion. None of the passages in the Doctrine and Covenants, LDS scripture authored by Joseph Smith himself, were altered to remove the whole "plural marriage" revelations by The Prophet in the 1830s. But True Believers naturally think that their Prophet is more infallible than the Pope, and many took the manifesto as though it were a new commandment.

But polygamy still exists in the church in a weird kind of way. In order to get into the top tier of Heaven (the "Celestial Kingdom") a person has to be married. And not just married -- they have to be "sealed" together in a Mormon Temple so that they will be husband and wife not only here on earth but also for "time and all eternity". Those who do not receive this "sealing" will not get to go. Sorry.

But there is a loophole. A man who is already on his way there (i.e., a good Mormon who obeys the commandments, upholds The Prophet and the General Authorities, exalts Joseph Smith, and has already been sealed to one wife) can, out of the goodness of his heart (or for a monetary consideration), take on many more women to be sealed to him. By the time he gets to the Celestial Kingdom, he can have a virtual harem of women who are his "wives". Of course those women also have to be good Mormons -- not just any Jane Doe/Street Ho will do. Usually these are women who didn't manage to snag a husband while they were trying to get their MRS degree at BYU, or women who married shiftless "Gentile" (i.e., not Mormon) louts outside the church, etc. Weirdly, woman can also get themselves "sealed" to a man who is already dead (well, the Mormons baptize for the dead anyway; why not get them married off as well? It's not like they are going to complain about it...).

And that still sounds a lot like polygamy to me. It just happens on a different plane.

I am not making this up. And I wonder if I am on that Mormon blacklist yet.

BTW, if you are a Mormon who is questioning your continued belief in the church, you don't have to suffer your spiritual crisis alone. There are people over at who can help you.  Drop by and see what they have to offer.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

165 "Lyrically Questionable" Songs

Quick, what do all of these songs have in common?

New York, New York by Frank Sinatra
Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap by AC/DC
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da by The Beatles
Wonderful World by Sam Cooke
Johnny Angel by Shelley Fabares
I Feel the Earth Move by Carole King
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
There doesn't seem to be any common thread tying these songs together, does there? Yet they are all on a list of 165 songs dubbed "lyrically questionable" in a memo that Clear Channel Communications sent to the radio stations it owned.

The date? Shortly after September 11, 2001. Talk about overreacting.

To be fair, Clear Channel didn't come out and say that the stations couldn't play any of these songs -- it was just a "suggestion".

But Jesus, Frank Sinatra, Carole King and Shelley Fabares? Really?

The Crimes of Ronald Reagan

You could probably guess that I was never a fan of Ronald Reagan, not even when he was a "B" movie actor lamenting his missing leg in King's Row or playing straight man to a chimpanzee in Bedtime for Bonzo.

When he ran for president the first time, in 1976, challenging and losing the nomination to the incumbent, Jerry Ford, I thought it was some kind of sick joke. Sure he had been governor of California, but everyone I knew in California thought he was a joke even then, what with the inane comments like his "if you've seen one redwood you've seen them all", his "trees cause pollution" and his answer to student protests, "let the bloodbath begin".

Then in 1980 when he swept out of near-oblivion and not only won the nomination but also the fucking presidency, it was like I woke up in a bad dystopian science-fiction movie. But "the Amurrican peeple" apparently disagreed with me. They LOVED them some Ronald Reagan, and even then he was being deified as a living god.

Even in the latter years of his presidency, when he looked to me like someone's doddering and senile grandfather, rambling on about nothing, pissing his pants and drooling food out of the corners of his mouth at the dinner table, everyone pretended not to notice and still just LOVED him. Not everyone, of course, but there were enough St. Ronald idolators around to quash any criticism of him, and even today there are people will mutter a sotto voce "bless-ed be his nay-um" whenever he is mentioned.

It didn't really come as a surprise to me when it was announced, several years after he left office, that he had Alzheimer's. Suddenly a lot of his distracted behavior, his lack of memory about certain aspects of, say, Iran-Contra, made sense. It really was a case, to paraphrase Senator Howard Baker about Richard Nixon, "What did the president know and when did he stop knowing it?"

Reagan enablers/apologists insisted that he did not have it while president, but his own son disagrees.

Recently I rewatched the terrific 1985 movie, Salvador, which I still think is Oliver Stone's best film. If you haven't seen it, make sure that you correct that oversight. You can get it from Netflix if you can't find it elsewhere. Be sure to watch the documentary "making of" feature on the DVD as well.

Anyway, that movie does a number on American foreign policy in El Salvador and touches on how the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 signaled to the corrupt leaders of that country that they could wantonly kill as many of their "rebels" as they wanted to, with no repercussions from the United States. Major Bob, unleash the Death Squads.

And you already saw my "pallin' around with terrorists" photo of Reagan and the Taliban yesterday. Coincidentally, a writer for Listverse, a site which I read daily, came up with a list of 10 Reprehensible Crimes of Ronald Reagan. It's quite a spread, from the casting of mental patients out of hospitals into the streets to tacitly approving South African apartheid to openly supporting Latin American genocidal terrorists. It's all there and it's a healthy antidote to the fawning lickspittles who still cross themselves when He is mentioned.

Also be sure to glance through the comments. There are people even now who are just frothing at the mouth to spew a stream of invective against anyone who dares to profane The Name of The Prophet Saint Ronald...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Today is Religious Freedom Day

Read all about it here, and be sure to check out the main page of that site, Americans United for Separation of Church and State for ideas about what you can do to get involved.

Sarah Palin: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Sarah Palin just can't stand being out of the spotlight. Today I learned that she publicly called President Barack Obama "chicken" for not labeling all terrorists "Islamic terrorists", and also for not going to Paris for a photo-op at The March, where he would have met with world leaders that she despises, e.g., Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the socialist president of France François Hollande, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Instead she calls the President "chicken". So the caliber of political discourse has dropped to the level of schoolyard taunts? Really?

But if he had gone, I am also 100% dead certain that she would use that against him, saying he was "pallin' around with terrorists". The President just can't win against the brain-dead nattering nabobs of negativism at Faux News.

In other news, Palin is bringing back her television show on some channel that is so far up the line that most remote controls can't handle the large number of punches it takes to get to it. I don't know what kind of knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing moron-American audience she gets, but they can't exceed about 75 on the IQ scale. And the total viewership surely can't make a nudge, or even a burp, in the Nielsens.

I hope she does stay in the spotlight as much as she can. It's like shooting fish in a barrel making snarky comments about her. They practically write themselves -- hell, she actually writes them for us.

It's probably too much to hope for that she'll make a run for the presidency next year.

Oh, and speaking of pallin' around with terrorists:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Review of The Turner Diaries

I finally took my own advice (I'm good at dishing it out, not so good at taking it myself) and read The Turner Diaries. I was fully prepared to hate it -- I was looking forward to talking about a constipated writing style, cardboard cutout characters, a stumbling plot and wooden prose descriptions. I was actually more than a little disappointed when I got none of that stuff. It is, very surprisingly and for the most part, well-written.

The very first chapter, in which the narrator describes four "Negroes" from the "political police" kicking down his door to search for guns (which are of course outlawed), is a Wayne LaPierre wet dream. Soon our "hero" and the members of his group, The Organization (as "the resistance" is called), organized like a series of communist-like "cells", blows up the FBI building with a truck bomb containing ... ammonium nitrate. It's not a coincidence that Timothy McVeigh had two pages from this book in his getaway car after the Oklahoma City bombing. They were the very two pages that describe the preparations for blowing up the FBI; I won't provide it here --it's a workable blueprint for bomb making.

Ultimately, I think that it's really an inversion of, and a through-the-looking-glass take, on the Weather Underground's journey in the early 70s. Take away all the White Supremacy stuff and you have a ripping good tale, a dystopian alternate history/sci-fi take on the future as imagined in 1978. All of the wackjob stuff you would expect is in here: Confiscation of guns, requirement to have an electronic ID to buy stuff, the need to go "underground" and fight against The System, the stockpiling of weapons and bomb-making materials.

I'm generally a big fan of the dystopian fiction genre (e.g. The Iron Heel by Jack London, 1984 by George Orwell, It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis). But this is really beyond the pale -- I've never read anything that is so matter-of-fact about the necessity to elevate the White Race by killing off all "subhuman mongrels", e.g. the blacks, the Jews, the Chicanos/Hispanics, the Asians, the mixed-race whites, etc. The list of intended victims runs into the billions.

While in the main the book is a gripping narrative of the actions of one Earl Turner, in the last quarter of the book or so it veers off into racist and anti-Semitic polemic that is hard to take. Besides (spoiler alert), all non-whites die in the end. And I do mean all. It's not a pretty prediction, but it's one that the Neo-Nazis and others of their ilk salivate over. This book really does enact the "Final Solution", on everyone that isn't white. Not surprising, since William Pierce, the author, was a Big Shot in the Neo-Nazi movement in this country and founded the National Alliance white-separatist, white nationalist, anti-Semitic organization. That fact was the only thing that kept me from believing that it was intended as a overblown, over-the-top satire on Nazis. You remember Poe's Law. The notorious fascist group, The Order, took its name and behavior directly from the book, which had an organization with the same name and the same designs.

This book is definitely worth reading. if only to get a chilling insight into the thinking of these people.

NOTE: As a sidebar, while I was reading it, I could not help but notice some eerie parallels between this book (1978) and The Talking Heads' song,  "Life During Wartime" (1979) -- was the song inspired by this book and not, despite what David Byrne claimed, the Weather Underground? I can see why he'd try to keep that part to himself.

It's an interesting question. The descriptions of life on the run in the song can be equally -- and is some cases, better --  applied to the events in this book.

Check out the lyrics, especially this line: "Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit? Heard about Pittsburgh, PA?" That line has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. Until I read this book. The first bomb set off by The Organization (as "the resistance" is called) was set off in Houston. (On September 11, wrong year. Make of that what you will...) Later on, a bomb takes out Detroit, and there is also a surprise and deadly race riot in Pittsburgh by the non-whites who are not willing to kowtow to their new overlords.

It's in the book. I tried to find anything on the Internet that makes this correlation, and I couldn't find it. Maybe I am one of a very few people who have both heard the song enough to remember the lyrics and read this book. It doesn't seem to me that there would be a lot of crossover audience...

You can download The Turner Diaries free in a variety of formats, if you want to read it for yourself. I'm not recommending it as proper reading, but we must know our enemy!

My God's Better Than Your God

Naturally after the massacre in Paris it's been all over the media again that Islam is a religion of hate, that Allah commands the murder of infidels, that the enemies of Islam must be put to death, etc. etc. etc.

But I think that Allah is a piker when it comes to this stuff. He's like a junior high basketball player trying out for the NBA. The God of the Old Testament (i.e., "our" God) is, to paraphrase General William Boykin, way more badass than any other god.

For example:

Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death.  Such evil must be purged from Israel.  (Deuteronomy 17:12)
If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.  (Leviticus 20:13)
If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death.  (Leviticus 20:10)
But any prophet who claims to give a message from another god or who falsely claims to speak for me must die.'  You may wonder, 'How will we know whether the prophecy is from the LORD or not?'  If the prophet predicts something in the LORD's name and it does not happen, the LORD did not give the message.  That prophet has spoken on his own and need not be feared.  (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword.  Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes.  Their homes will be sacked and their wives raped by the attacking hordes.  For I will stir up the Medes against Babylon, and no amount of silver or gold will buy them off.  The attacking armies will shoot down the young people with arrows.  They will have no mercy on helpless babies and will show no compassion for the children.  (Isaiah 13:15-18)
This is just a small sampling of the many, many times "our" god has acted like a murderous sociopath. Read more about this in Murder in the Bible on the Evil Bible website.

And don't get me started on the Book of Job. You remember Job. God, in one of the biggest dick moves of all time, tortures him for years and kills all of his children, just to win a fucking bet with Satan!

So Christians, before you start telling me about how evil Islam is, take a look at your own house. As your Great Prophet, Yeshua bar Yosef said, don't worry about a mote in your neighbor's eye when there is a two-by-four in your own.

That's good advice. Too bad more "Christians" don't follow it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Whole Story on Bowe Bergdahl?

In this 15-minutes-of-fame world, where we want it all and get it now and instant gratification takes too long, the story of Bowe Bergdahl is so yesterday that a lot of people won't even recognize his name.

Bergdahl was the US soldier in Afghanistan who somehow wandered off from his remote outpost and was taken prisoner by the Taliban. Five years later he became the subject of intense scrutiny when his release was engineered at the exchange rate of five-to one for Talibani prisoners of war detainees held in Guantánamo.

It's an extremely interesting story, and Robert Young Pelton has written a lengthy but incredibly detailed article on it, "Finding Private Bergdahl", over at Vice.

Because the details of Bergdahl's leave-taking and the five years he was held captive are still not clear, and because his name and his face bear a more-than-passing resemblance to those of the traitor/Islam-convert/terrorist Nicholas Brody, the former US prisoner of war held in Iraq, in the HBO series Homeland, it was easy for the nonthinking wingnut media to conflate Brody with Bergdahl and paint him as a traitor as well.

They are still at it. A Google search for the words "Bowe Bergdahl traitor" yields nearly 80,000 hits, the vast majority of them from wingnut sites. You know, the usual suspects: World Net Daily, Breitbart, Western Journalism Review, et al.

Will we ever know all of the details? Probably not, but Pelton's article likely comes the closest to describing the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's disappearance and the Byzantine governmental -- and non-governmental -- machinations behind his ultimate release.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Tie a "Necktie"

As I was searching through my book case the other day I caught another book I hadn't looked at in years. It was called "The Handbook for Boys", the 1957 edition. It was actually the Boy Scout Manual. and aside from the crap about being brave, clean and reverent, it has a ton of practical information on building campfires, field cooking, setting up animal traps, keeping warm, etc. for the teenage outdoorsman.

Yes, I was in the Boy Scouts for about a year when I was 12, and there is even a photo of me in my Junior High yearbook wearing a dumb scout uniform and looking stupid. I didn't last long in Scouts, what with all the marching and crap and the quasi-Nazi-Hitler-Youth aspects to it, but I did manage to hold on to the book on the chance that it would stand me in good stead some day.

There's a great section on how tie various knots, such as a bowline and a bowline on a bight, a clove hitch, a half-hitch, etc., but one thing it did not show you how to tie was the one thing you wanted:  A hangman's noose. My friends and I tried it, with varying degrees of success, but as you can see here (from a different source, of course), it's quite simple:

The only thing you had to remember was not to put 13 loops in it -- that was against the law (or so we believed). But once we wrapped it up with 12 or 14 loops, we were ready to mete out some well-placed amateur justice, should the occasion present itself, even with our slipshod tied-in-ignorance granny knots pretending to be a noose.

As you might have guessed, the situation never came up. There was only one black guy in my class, and he would not have taken kindly to being the honoree at a necktie party. Plus he was way bigger than the rest of us...

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Islamophobic Wingnut Media

Over at Media Matters, one of the few Internet sites that keeps an eagle eye on Fox News and other wingnut media, there's an extensive list of Right-Wing Media's Worst Islamophobic Rhetoric, and it contains some lulus:

  • Fox's Eric Bolling: "Every Terrorist On American Soil Has Been A Muslim." On the June 6, 2012, edition of Fox News' The Five, host Eric Bolling advocated for police surveillance of Muslims and falsely claimed that "every terrorist on American soil has been a Muslim."
  • Fox's Brian Kilmeade: "Not Every Muslim Is An Extremist, A Terrorist, But Every Terrorist Is A Muslim." On the October 15, 2010, edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, host Kilmeade defended his Fox colleague Bill O'Reilly's statement that "all terrorists are Muslim," asserting that "Not every Muslim is an extremist, a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim. You can't avoid that fact." 
    [Note: These are of course "mistakes", i.e., flat-out lies; see When is a Terrorist Not a Terrorist?, my post from the other day about rightwing terrorists.]
  • Fox's Sean Hannity Likened Use Of Quran In Congressional Swearing-In Ceremony To Using Mein Kampf. On the November 30, 2006 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity likened Rep. Keith Ellison's (D-MN) intention to use a copy of the Quran during his congressional swearing-in ceremony to the use of the "Nazi-bible," Mein Kampf.
There's more, all of it equally stomach-churning. Be sure to check it out.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Robertson Family Values

They may have exhausted their 15 minutes of fame a while back, but since I had this picture just kind of laying around, I had to use it.

Thanks to for the image.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Sovereign Citizen Movement, the Turner Diaries, and How They Destroy America

I was looking through that list from The Southern Poverty Law Center that I linked to in yesterday's post, and something kind of jumped out at me.

There is something called The Sovereign Citizen Movement, taken up by a pack of lawless morons on the right with the belief that they are not citizens of any states, but are "sovereign" unto themselves.

They refuse to pay taxes, refuse to license their vehicles, refuse to get Social Security numbers or drivers' licenses, or pretty much any of that avalanche of normal personal identity papers that come tumbling out of your wallet when a cop asks for them.

The are, indeed a bunch of wackos. And they are a large bunch -- over 100,000 hard core members and another 300,000 around the periphery. Many of them have already been sentenced to long prison terms for tax evasion, but that fact has only served to make them martyrs in the movement.

They are also known for stockpiling weapons and ammunition, plus the chemicals and other necessities to build various types of bombs.

So what we have is a large crowd of unhinged Rambo-wannabes who seem to think they can successfully overthrow the government of the United States by armed insurrection.

The fact that they are out there, that they believe in this shit, and that they seem willing to put their plans into effect, that some of them are willing to die for their belief in this pile of porcine excrement is scary. It is so scary, in fact, that something called National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, an academic study group out of the University of Maryland, has cited a survey of law-enforcement officials and agencies across the United States and concluded that the movement was the single greatest threat to their communities, ranking above Islamic terrorists and jihadists.

One of the "Holy Writs" of the movement in a 1978 novel called The Turner Diaries, written by William Luther Pierce (former leader of the white nationalist organization. National Alliance) under the pseudonym "Andrew Macdonald".

It has somehow slipped out of copyright, so you can get a copy of it for FREE at The Internet Archives at this location, in a variety of formats.

When you see the format you like, e.g., "epub", just put your mouse on it, right-click and choose "Save Link As..." You will be able to place a copy on your computer in a location of your choice and then open it with any standard e-reader.

It's definitely worth reading, just a much as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is worth reading -- it is another one of their "source documents", also available free from the same site in the same formats.

May you live in interesting times, indeed.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

When Is a Terrorist Not a Terrorist?

The answer, according to Faux News coverage anyway, is when he is not a Muslim. The recent events in Paris brought the foaming froth to the mouths of the talking assheads on Faux News, who are insisting that Obama is a fascist-communist-Nazi-America-hating-Islam-enabling atheist traitor for not calling it "Islamist terrorism".

Leave it to those fuckers to politicize any tragedy and blame it on Obama.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has compiled a list of the rightwing terrorist plots against the United States and its people in the 20 years since the 1995 terrorist bombing of Oklahoma City, and it's a fucking long one!

All of them have a couple of things in common, though. There are no "Islamists" on that list, but it is way top-heavy with "Christianists".

And the second thing?

As far as I can tell, Faux News did not describe a single one of these as "terrorist".

I guess it depends not just on what is getting blown up or how, but more on who is doing it.

What again was that thing about Christianity being the "religion of peace"?

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Book of the Month: Auschwitz: A New History

It's time to bring back the One Pissed Off Veteran Book of the Month, and to start off the New Year, may I present Auschwitz: A New History by Laurence Rees.

At this point in our history, 70 years after the end of World War II, you'd think we already knew everything about the Holocaust and its ultimate symbol of man's inhumanity, the death camps at Auschwitz-Berkenau. But you'd be wrong.

This book is based on years of interviews with not only survivors of the camps but also former guards and Russian "liberators". Rees also spent a lot of time in the archives of the former Soviet Union after its fall and managed to dig out some fascinating previously-unknown facts.

For example, when the Russian soldiers liberated the camps, the inmates were, in many respects, little better off -- sure, they were not going to be gassed, but they were going to die of starvation, exposure and physical abuse at the hands of their Russian "liberators". Many of the inmates, Jewish and Russian, were taken to Russia and immediately sent into the gulag. Those Jews who were not sent to Siberia ultimately tried to go home, only to find that there was no home to go to. Their village neighbors in Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany, etc., had moved into their houses and taken over their businesses. Even former "friends" gave them the cold shoulder -- No Jews Wanted Here. The deep strain of Anti-Semitism that had enveloped Europe for centuries was still alive, even after the Nazis were defeated.

There are a lot more surprising and little-known details surrounding Auschwitz, including the shockingly eye-opening interviews with former guards, many of whom still felt no remorse at what they had done. They truly believed that they were helping to rid the world of a pestilent scourge that was, at best, only half-human.

Note: If you buy this book, or anything else from Amazon through the search portal in the left-hand column, they'll kick back a few cents to me. I figure that this is the most user-friendly way to get some money out of this blog. I certainly don't want to "monetize" it by allowing Google to throw up some random ads. Thank you for your support.

An Open Letter to Obama Haters: You Just Wasted Ten Years of Your Life

Thanks to bernardpliers over at The Daily Kos, here is Dear Obama Hater - You Just Wasted A Decade Of Your Life:

Lots of you  continue to get unhinged emails from people on Facebook, your drunk uncle, and various Tea Party relatives. Here's a gentle response to them....
Pretty soon Obama will be gone and you will have to face up to the fact that you will have lost a whole decade of your life passing around conspiracy theories and whipping yourself into a frenzy of hatred.  All of you lost friends, severed relationships with family members, and some of you even lost your job or your marriage due to your unhinged behavior.
You lost that decade wailing about Obama the gay Communist Muslim narcissist dictator who was going to let the UN invade America and various hoaxes like "death panels," birth certificates, and the "Ground Zero Mosque" (remember how you wasted two years of your life over that?).  Just think of what you could have accomplished if you hadn't wasted all that time.  You could have gotten a college degree, you could have written a book, you could have run your first marathon, you could have built a boat and sailed it around the world. You could learned to speak another language - oh wait, you never would have done that.
You kept waiting for Obama to be impeached or for the GOP candidates to "take off the gloves." But they never did because your favorite stories were hoaxes, and the GOP can't impeach or win the White House based on hoaxes. No doubt you were waiting for someone, anyone,  in the White House to be indicted or arrested, like all those people under Nixon and Reagan and Bush, but no dice.  
Many of you will never recover from this experience.  Physically, your health is no doubt worse for having lost a decade watching television and whipping yourself into a frenzy of hatred. Your ability to reason is probably permanently damaged, and nobody really wants to listen to your opinions anyway. Yes, you can successfully annoy the waitress at the diner, because she can't run away from a customer, but that doesn't mean she agrees with you. Some of you will be going into nursing homes because people gave up on you a long time ago and nobody can stand to listen to one more day of you babbling about Saul Alinsky (who died in 1972, by the way).
Some of you have no doubt suffered financially from all the time you wasted hating Obama.  But some of you have actually done very very well under his "anticapitalist," "communist," "dictatorship." You do know that the economy usually does much better under Democrats, right? And that the best four years of job creation in the last 50 years was under Jimmy Carter, right?
The next two years would be a good chance to start making amends to your families and trying to rebuild relations with people in your life.  Yes we know there's another election in 2016 and you'll be falling down the next rabbit hole of insanity, but try to leave your families with a few memories of you acting like a normal human being.
And the next time there is a GOP president, just remember that there will be fatal embassy attacks under the GOP president, just like the dozens of fatal embassy attacks that occurred under previous Republican presidents.  Except Democrats won't be working themselves into a frenzy of conspiracy theories when it happens, they won't be cheerleading for the terrorists, and they won't be trying to overthrow the US government every time something happens.
I'm taking the unusual step of quoting it in its entirety. I think it's that important.

A Solution for Botched Executions in Capital Cases

Let me say up front that I, like most liberals, am against the death penalty. I think it's clear that all of the customary justifications for using it are bogus. If the leading death penalty state, Texas, who has executed 474 persons since 1976, still has a homicide rate of nearly 1200 murders a year, it doesn't appear that the death penalty is really any kind of deterrent.

The families of victims who have watched the executions of those who murdered a member of their family, with the hope of getting some kind of closure -- or revenge -- out of the experience mostly come away dissatisfied, without that feeling of closure. Many of them agree after witnessing it that, despite the crime that took away the life of their loved one, two wrongs don't make a right.

I am also not of that peculiar Orwellian mindset characterized by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Mormon), who once stated that "the death penalty is how we demonstrate our respect for human life."

Just last year, in Oklahoma and in New Mexico, executions by lethal injection (that's the "in" way to do it now -- even Utah did away with its firing squad) were botched so badly that it took hours for one of the condemned to die.

Now drug companies are running the other way because they don't want it known that they supplied lethal drugs for executions. I'm sure that wouldn't be good for the bottom line or for their stock valuations.

There is an easy solution to this. If we really are hell-bent on executing "the bad guys", there's a simple way to take care of it. Every police department of any size confiscates pound upon pound of heroin every year. After it is no longer used for evidence, that heroin is destroyed. By burning, mostly.

Everybody knows that the human body can take just so much heroin shot into it before it will shuffle off this mortal coil. Take some of that seized heroin and inject it into the body of the condemned man (or woman). Any street junkie can tell you what would be a normally fatal dose. Just double that amount -- or triple it, to be safe. It still won't be a tremendous amount. No drug companies are involved, no lawsuits by the families of the condemned man because of the botched execution, no "cruel and unusual" punishment. Just a long slow slide into a blissful oblivion.

If we are still going to insist on this barbaric 19th Century holdover, let's try to be a little smarter about it.

Member of Congress and State Legislators: You can have this idea for free. I won't even expect a shout-out when it is adopted.

You're welcome.