The Republicans’ ‘trolley problem’

by djerrid

ap127726410The “trolley problem” is a classic philosophical moral dilemma. The thought experiment is as such: A runaway trolley is speeding down the rails where it will hit a group of people, propbably killing them. But you are standing next to a switch that will change the direction of the trolley to another set of rails. On these rails there is another, smaller group of people. Would you switch the track so that a lesser number of people are killed?

This is a much more difficult question than it first appears. If the trolley is barreling down on the smaller group of people, the answer is simple. Of course you wouldn’t switch the track and intentionally kill the larger group. But with the original example, you are making a conscious decision to kill a group of people. Taking an action to intentionally kill a bunch of strangers who never did you any harm to a painful death. Could you live with yourself if you did so? If you left it on the same track, you could make up a story that you couldn’t make it switch quickly enough and didn’t have time to think. You would have a choice.

The Republicans and their constituents have this choice as well.

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Random thoughts about the record album – part 6: one last hurrah…and into the mystic

“There hasn’t been anything real since grunge. That was the last movement led by music or an art form.” – Daphne Guinness

(Read part 1, part, 2, part 3, part 4, part 5)

Grunge rock’s great, tragic star, Kurt Cobain (image courtesy Twitter)

The last great movement in rock music – and the last great flowering of the album, an art form inextricably tied to rock music’s rise – was Grunge. Its rise in late ’80s Seattle and its explosion into a national and international phenomenon in the early ’90s produced a wave of albums that most Xers and early Millennials know as well as their Boomer predecessors know Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Let It Bleed, or Tommy.

Pearl Jam’s Ten, Alice in Chains’ Dirt, Soundgarden’s Superunknown, and Stone Temple Pilots’ Core are all albums that both epitomize the Grunge sound and convey Grunge’s vision: powerful music played loudly with lyrics filled with tales of misery and dark thoughts. In some ways this is brilliant music, capturing as it does both the misery of Xers who felt keenly traumas such as their desertion by parents (through divorce and the perceived economic necessity of two income households that created “latchkey” childhoods) and anticipating as it does (which perhaps explains its powerful appeal to older Millennials) a world dominated by technopolistic forces.

No force from the Grunge movement captured the angst of Grunge more acutely than Nirvana’s album Nevermind and its chief architect, Grunge’s icon, Kurt Cobain. Continue reading

Spotify’s “sponsored content”: payola by any other name…

by Amber Healy

SpotifyIt’s too soon to know whether the new “sponsored content” policy helps artists or harms them.

Payola is the practice—the illegal practice—of a record label paying a broadcaster to play a song or artist at a higher rate than other artists.

There was a massive scandal decades ago in which radio stations were found to accept bribes to favor this artist or that one. It brought down some of the biggest names in the then-fledgling industry, including Alan Freed, the man credited with coining the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll,” and Dick Clark.

But times have changed. Things are different. And there’s no law governing the use of cold hard cash to encourage streaming platforms to promote artists for the right price. It also indicates a change in practice for Spotify, which called for a halt to payola-type practices back in 2015. At that time, the Swedish company announced it would “explicitly prohibit” users from taking cash to include songs on its curated playlists, the Financial Times reported.

Tech Crunch first noted this week that there was a new opt-out feature on Spotify, titled “Sponsored Content.”

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Score one for the First Amendment: The Slants win

by Amber Healy

In writing for the entire eight-member US Supreme Court Monday morning, Justice Samuel Alito told Simon Tam and his band, The Slants, that they were correct in their fight and justified for refusing to accept that their name was disparaging to Asian Americans and therefore ineligible for trademark protection.

“The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech. Because the ‘Free Speech Clause… does not regulate government speech’…the government is not required to maintain viewpoint neutrality on its own speech. This court exercises great caution in extending its government-speech precedents, for if private speech could be passed off as government speech by simply affixing a government seal of approval, government could silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints.”

This was a case eight years in the process. Continue reading

US Supreme Court rules in favor of The Slants

The Slants

The Slants

by Amber Healy

In a unanimous decision Monday morning, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of The Slants, the Portland, Oregon-based band that’s been fighting for years for the right to trademark their name.

In a statement released by their publicist, bassist and band founder Simon Tam says that after the

“excruciating legal battle that has spanned nearly eight years, we’re beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court. Continue reading

Climate Science for Everyone: How do scientists measure the temperature of the Earth?

To read other articles in this series, click here.

Figure 1: Weather station (image credit: Blundells.org)

Before we answer the question in the title above, I’m first going to ask and answer a different question: how do you measure the temperature of a glass of water?

I’m guessing that most people will answer the question with some variation of “use a thermometer.” Stick a digital or glass thermometer into the cup, measure the digital reading or look at the colored bar inside the glass, and write down the number. Done, right?

Wrong.

We didn’t measure the temperature of the cup of water at all. We measured the temperature of the water that was next to the thermometer at a time just before we looked at the thermometer. But when we put the thermometer into the water, that act changed the temperature slightly as energy flowed between the thermometer and the water.

We can try again, of course. Let’s put the thermometer into the water again and let it sit for a little while, until we think that the probe and the temperature of the water have equalized, write down the number, and we’ve got it, right?

Nope, I’m afraid not. We’re still only measuring the temperature of the water that’s next to the thermometer. Continue reading

A bitter son’s reflections on Fathers Day

I envy those of you with great fathers more than you will ever know.

It’s Father’s Day. In the past I have reposted my story on the day my father died. It’s a funny story, a sad story, an OMG story, a no fucking way that couldn’t really have happened story. If you haven’t seen it and want to, click on over.

Today, though, I want to say how happy I am for those of you who had great dads, and also to say thanks, on behalf of kids everywhere, to those of you who are great dads. I don’t know if you fully understand how much of a difference you make.

My father was not a great dad. He wasn’t the worst guy in the world, but… Continue reading

The blood-red Shimbashi dress: a photopoem

In Tokyo, the mama-san is smarter than you…

Part of my S&R Tokyo Series

I am the gorgeous dress

of your beauty,

and I have loved you for a very long time.

You are nothing to me

if not

the reflection in which I see myself

and the glitter of my age

that has sparkled in

all the ice cubes

in all the drinks I ever poured in Tokyo’s slush-fund winters.

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I’ll go where Ted Nugent just led. Zero violence!

ted-nugent-80650_960_720I just heard the most amazing interview, the Curtis & Eboni show at 77WABC:  Ted Nugent Accepts Responsibility; Says Tone Down Rhetoric

It is exactly what it sounds like. There’s a couple of moments toward the end of the twelve-ish minutes where it almost sounds like he’s tempering his statement a little, but I think if you listen for yourself and not rely on anything taken out of context later, you’ll hear a clear admission of going too far in the past and a clarion call to take it down a notch, everybody. Continue reading

Where is my tribe?

drums-2026535_960_720In the last two days I’ve been tone policed for being unkind, uncool, and tribal. Mind you, the single person doing the tone policing had nothing to say about what I signified. Typical of tone policing, it’s all about style over substance, the signifier, not the signified.

So I confess. Surprising nobody, I’m both unkind and uncool. Looked at across the great spectrum of human behavior where, oh, let’s say Hitler occupies one extreme, lacking in both kindness and coolness (well, there’s that whole fashion sense/propaganda style thing, but I digress), and on the other end there’s some saint or other noted for both kindness and coolness. Bono, maybe? I’m sure the tone police will pardon me for falling somewhere closer to the middle than not.

But am I tribal? Damned skippy. Let me tell you a little about my tribe.

We abhor political violence. Continue reading

Bay of Whigs – time’s up

us-flag-distressOn Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the United States Senate voted 97 – 2 in favor of sanctions against Russia, with one abstention, a majority so overwhelming that it invokes comparison to the congressional response to the Terror attacks of September 11, 2001. To say that the majority is veto-proof would be the very model of comedic understatement.

Early on the morning of Wednesday, June 14, 2017, the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, Steve Scalise, was shot while playing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia. Continue reading

Horror on Capitol Hill starts at home

Scalise ShootingAs a blogger, I’m generally accustomed to crickets. The last round of chirping silence? Entirely predictable. After all, I merely wished people to stop wishing other people dead on political grounds. Silly me. I thought, given how very topical it was, maybe some folks would actually try spreading the message. Don’t worry. If you reserve the right to turn a blind eye, you’re not alone. Not even remotely.

After this morning’s news of the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia? Ghouls on the left. Ghouls on the right. Continue reading