The Senate gun control vote reveals our lizard overlords

sandyhookA few nights ago there was a segment on NPR about the demise of the most recent, tepid gun control legislation. The host had the standard breadth of guests to discuss this issue, and the portion i heard focused on how a relatively innocuous measure like universal background checks could fail. The host pointed out that recent polling showed support for universal background checks at more than 90%, with even something like 88% of gun owners in favor. She asked her guests how the Senate could ignore what clearly seems to be the will of the people. Right. That’s a stupid question, but the answers were still interesting.

Both guests explained that even though politicians look at the polls, on issues like gun control they factor in the ability of interest groups – especially single issue interest groups – to wield a congressional vote against them through fear-based advertising and voter mobilization. In this case it was suggested that the NRA and like-minded groups would take a vote for universal background checks and use it to stoke fear among a subsection of voters. “Universal background checks are the first step in a string of government actions to register and confiscate all the guns.” That sort of thing. There was general agreement among the guests that politicians look at issues like this and make the decision based on their personal, political future. Vote for universal background checks on gun sales and you probably lose your next election, even in a gerrymandered and protected seat.

It’s no surprise, but it’s still disheartening. All these people who’ve been told by God to run for office for the greater good of America, and it turns out that the Lord is only concerned with their career and the greater good of America is the same as their professional advancement. A career in politics is creepy. Imagine the type of person who pursues a career in politics. Or just turn on CSPAN. Any questions about why we live in a politically dysfunctional country?

These men and women aren’t concerned with doing what’s best for the you, me, or the nation as a whole. They’re not looking at the medium or long-term future of the country. They’re concerned about their career and their next promotion. They need the corporate donations and the good favor of the special interests groups. Our votes are an unfortunate requirement on the path to their greater good.

No, it doesn’t matter which party the politicians you like more belong to. There may be a few exceptions to this that prove the rule, but you didn’t see Obama go out on any limbs during his first term to do what’s right even if it cost him reelection. And you won’t see him do it now, even with no possibility for reelection because the political career is wedded to the flow of money into politics. Clinton became a rich man after his presidency, mostly from the special interests he helped to the detriment of the nation he supposedly represented. That’s Obama’s next step. I’ve heard long-serving Representatives after retirement talk about their move to lobbying and plainly say that it’s now time to make some real money.

We’re cooked, America. We’ve put people with the temperament of used care salesmen into power and allowed them to believe that what’s best for them personally is best for the nation. So while it sounds funny that something like 4% of Americans believe the country is run by lizard people, the fact of the matter is that the country is run by people who only use their lizard brain.

Happy Easter

I have a few questions.

If i have the story right, Jesus was crucified and then resurrected three days later. That is, Easter. Now that’s a neat trick and i suppose a good reason to celebrate … especially since he apparently didn’t resurrect zombie style and gnaw on the Apostles. Praise be that our Lord and Savior came back with a taste for souls rather than brains. Resurrection doesn’t have anything on ascension though. Yes i know, there’s still another 40 days before he pulled that one off, but nobody except Catholic school kids and maybe Congress will get that day off so this is the best time to discuss it.

After proving to everyone that he really was alive, Jesus eventually led the disciples to Mt. Olivet, gave them a little speech, and rose up into the clouds. “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke) In Acts, we get Jesus telling the assembled that they’ll get the power of the Holy Ghost and spread the word to all the known world. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

So, we’re talking about literal, bodily ascension into heaven. In Mark 16:19-20, Jesus is seated (past tense) at the right hand of God. But in Ephesians 4:10 we’re told that Jesus ascended “higher than all the heavens.” That’s presumably a very long trip in a very short amount of time, depending on our definition of heavens. It can’t be just up in the clouds, or on a sunny day we’d be treated to a lot of dead people floating in the sky and that would be weird. So we have to assume that “heavens” is likely at least as far as the moon, but that’s hardly higher than all the heavens any of the disciples could see with the naked eye. I don’t know, maybe heaven is located on the dark side of the moon and that’s why we never went back. Any further than that and we run into some problems.

If Jesus ascended bodily into heaven, then heaven has to be a physical place. A mere gathering point for spiritual souls could be anywhere or nowhere, but you need space to house all the people who’ve ever lived … excepting the ones, like me, who go to hell. So where is it? We now know that “higher than all the heavens” is a really long way away, given the presumption that it’s all “up” from here. Did Jesus have to go to the edge of the solar system, the galaxy, where?

I’m willing to give Jesus a lot of credit. If anyone could reach the speed of light, it’d be that guy. On the other hand, i don’t know if he’s above the special theory of relativity. That would explain a lot actually. We’re all anxiously awaiting the return of Jesus, and in John 14:2-3, he explains, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus will return in the same manner as he left. At  roughly 149,896,229 cubits per second, our Lord and Savior can cover a lot of ground in a hurry, but according to the Special Theory of Relativity, our vantage point relative to his means that a short trip for him will seem much longer for us.

That’s a pretty big bummer. It’s been almost 2,000 years. The man would be covering 5 trillion cubits per year. No wonder his imminent return always ends up being further in the future, even if he’s almost back, the relative slowing down of time for us compared to Jesus probably means that we have a while to wait yet. Those are big numbers, depending on exactly where heaven is located.

Of course, the CERN scientists have accelerated a particle faster than the speed of light and some physicists theorize that not only is it possible to exceed the beard rippling 149,896,229 cubits per second but that a parallel universe exists where everything moves faster than that all the damned time. However, before arguing that Jesus is almost certainly the kind of guy who could go faster than the speed of light, remember that those theories calculate an odd phenomenon. The faster something goes beyond the speed of light, the more mass it loses. At infinite velocity, the object’s mass becomes zero.

Here’s where i get confused. Bodily ascension higher than the highest heaven but from the text it appears that Jesus made it to sit at the right hand of God almost instantaneously since it’s written in the past tense. If  he achieved infinite velocity, then he couldn’t have ascended bodily as he’d have no mass. If he’s constrained to the speed of light, he might still be on the road and we’re going to have wait a long time … or at least it will seem like a really time … for him to finish the round trip.

You’d think that the Church would have provided a cosmological map locating heaven by now. If it showed us that, we could track Jesus like NORAD does to Santa. Sort of a Distant Early Rapture Warning System. The least it could do would be to tell us how fast Jesus travels in a vacuum and which direction he headed off in so we can do the math. The universe is a big place, and i’ve spent too many Easters looking at pictures of the sky like a “Where’s Waldo” picture for a glimpse of Junior without success.

Gay marriage is a matter of church and state

It’s unlikely that the Supreme Court will side with common human decency and allow homosexuals to marry. My colleague is correct that we have more important issues to deal with and that support for the right to marry is growing, or perhaps more precisely opposition to it is also dying. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is likely to trail popular opinion, and this Supreme Court seems less likely to rule based on the constitution and law than on personal opinion and religious dogma. Ms. Palombo is also correct that it shouldn’t even be an issue, but that’s not because of its relative importance on our to-do list.

My understanding is that We the People have freedom of religion in order to protect us from the establishment of a state religion likely to persecute citizens who don’t hold the same faith. Establishing marriage as between a man and a woman is effectively making laws based on religious belief, and the “defenders” of marriage invariably end up at a Christian basis for their argument that stems from a Christian understanding of marriage. (To be fair, Jews and Muslims generally agree with this but since they’re siblings that’s no surprise.) It doesn’t matter if every religion agrees with the concept of marriage. This is a clear issue of the separation of church and state. We’d be lucky if the Justices are strict enough constitutionalists to recognize it as such and rule appropriately. If they don’t, then it’s clear that there’s less regard than lip service for our founding document.

Marriage is simply a state issued contract. It essentially combines two people into one under the law to include such holy issues as finances, taxes, inheritance, and privileging spousal conversation in criminal trials. We get confused about what marriage really is because somewhere along the line we were stupid enough to invest churches with state legal power. Your pastor, priest, rabbi, or whatever doesn’t marry you for legal purposes so much as act as an official witness and file the paperwork. Pretty much anyone can do that. I can and have. I’ve never even been baptized much less become a judge or captain of a ship.

The solution to this issue is simple. Properly separate church and state. Remove state contract powers from the clutches of churches. Homosexuals and those of us who don’t give a rat’s ass about God’s approval will get married by the state and gain the rights and privileges that come from the contract. The religious among us can choose to be married in front of God and also through the state or forgo the state part depending on how they feel about rendering unto Caesar.

The benefit to Christians in this solution is that they can skip the state part and then cry about being persecuted. Nothing makes a Christian happier than being persecuted except maybe persecuting others.

Rand Paul filibuster: If a Senator talks to an empty chamber, does he make a sound?

Rand Paul is still talking after almost 8 hours. One wonders how he has managed to not leave the floor for the Senate lavatory in all that time. It’s ok to dislike Rand Paul and still think he’s currently doing a public service. It’s probably not correct to suggest that this was prompted by standard GOP obstructionism. They’d use the modern, silent filibuster to demand a more warlike demeanor, and it took hours for even a few other GOP Senators to show up and give the guy a break from talking. (Like Cruz is now by simply reading Tweets about the filibuster.) There are also the small issues of Paul having previously sponsored a bill that would require issuing a warrant before using a drone for surveillance in the United States as well as this being the culmination of his pecking at the administration over drone issues. It appears that the final prompt for this filibuster was the letter that Paul received from AG Holder which claimed that the executive branch has the authority to run a targeted killing program inside the US against US citizens, though it probably never would.

So the eye of this storm is the administration’s wishy-washy statement that the President can kill Americans without legal process but that he won’t. Filibustering the vote for John Brennan’s nomination as director of the CIA is an appropriate place to force the conversation, given that Brennan is largely the architect of the administration’s targeted killing program.

Paul, however, has not kept to such a narrow issue. He’s been questioning the whole concept of Battlefield America and its place in the unending War on Terror. He’s questioned the lackluster and expansive definition of al Qaeda that includes anyone “affiliated” with al Qaeda. It hard to be sure whether following the wrong link on the internet would classify you as affiliated. Just now, he’s talking about how most of the drone strikes have not been against people who are actively involved in combat. Of course the big example is Anwar al-Aulaqi, the Yemeni-American who was killed in a drone strike.

What little we do know about the targeted killing program, and it’s very little since the administration only releases information under extreme pressure, is that it’s based on the concept of imminence. Targets are supposed to be an imminent threat, which most would read as actively planning an attack. Nothing i’ve read indicates that al-Aulaqi was actively involved in any imminent threats against the United States. If he was, the administration never bothered indicting him for a crime. Instead, it launched a Hellfire missile from a drone, which not only killed al-Aulaqi but also his 16 year old son (also an American citizen). The administration’s response to questions about the son were basically, “He had an irresponsible father.” Of course the son was affiliated with someone who was affiliated with al Qaeda, which by our War on Terror definitions make him a terrorist. In any case, at 16 he’d be considered a combatant by the Obama administration because he was of “military age.”

The al-Aulaqi case pretty succinctly sums up the targeted killing issue, though there are enough examples, discussions, and nuances to fill books. Paul’s not addressing every one or getting them all right, but that’s not enough reason to discount him. It all boils down to the Executive Branch deciding that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere, for reasons that it alone knows. AG Holder has written that “due process” doesn’t involve courts. It can be nothing more than President Obama and John Brennan sitting in an office deciding who lives and who dies.

It’s disturbing. It’s been disturbing for the last 11 years, and it’s only grown larger and more malignant to whatever is left of our Republic. Until 2008, Democrats and liberals who generally vote for Democrats would probably be up-in-arms if they found out that Bush was doing the same things Obama does today. So far there’s only one Democratic Senator involved in this filibuster. I’m no fan of Rand Paul, and i won’t be a fan of his when this filibuster ends. But on this he’s right, although 11 years is a long time to wait for even a glimmer of Congressional oversight on Executive power. What’s most unfortunate is that it had to come from Senator Paul, and that liberals and Democrats appear willing to allow a Democratic president to trample the rule of law … never mind morals.

There will be at least a few of us who will remember this day. When America elects another Republican to the White House and he uses these new powers in such a way that upsets Democrats, we’ll be here to remind you that your party didn’t stand up for what was right. It didn’t stand up between 2001 and 2008, and it kept extremely quiet after 2008 when it was a Democrat doing the evil. You won’t listen. After all, you voted for for these people, just like all the Republicans who voted for Bush twice and never raised a voice in defense of what are supposedly our most cherished principles.

For now, i’m going to go back to watching the Senator from Kentucky continue pushing through this. He seems to be one of the first to say a lot of things that need to be said on the Senate floor. That’s probably why the place is empty.

Sequestration days

Welcome to March, the first day of which is the moment the government set to make itself look incompetent if it couldn’t manage to “fix” its finances. This is also called a shakedown, given that a good percentage of our elected representatives get elected by talking about how the government doesn’t work. Most of the rest of them get elected by talking about how it might be able to work if we can fix it without upsetting anyone. This second group has a strategy of working with the first group. The stupid and/or evil question probably should be explained as the first group is evil and a little bit stupid, while the second group is stupid and a little bit evil. These are the wise leaders who devised a program that depended on them doing things they’ve proven themselves incapable and unwilling of doing to avoid uncontrolled financial chaos at the national level … or something like that.

The big worry seems to be what will happen to our National Security Socialism economic system. It’s been hard to avoid news that some guy with a lot of stars who’s made a career on the taxpayers’ dime warning us gravely that he needs more taxpayer money, or, you know, we might all get killed by terrorists or the Chinese or something. Oh, and the jobs. National Security Socialism always falls back on the jobs that will be lost if cut defense spending. As it turns out, Sequestration Day #1 started by hearing that sporting event flyovers will be cancelled.

Of course those flyovers are just part of regular pilot training, so it’s not as if anyone’s paying extra to have NASCAR rednecks buzzed by a B2. The Air Force and Navy say that training is being cut under sequestration, and that’s why flyovers will be cut. The same organizations also say that a flyover might be 90 seconds of a several hour training sorte. What they’re trying to say, but won’t say directly, is that they’ve cut public event flyovers to make their sequestration cuts as visible as possible to a public that’s grown accustomed to incredible displays of, um, patriotism unrelated to the sporting event they’re paying to attend.

“Even for just 90 seconds, it is awareness,” [Wendy] Varhegyi said. “It’s just a great way that we can have connection with the American people and have that awareness to large groups of people, not to mention how patriotic everybody is.” (from The USA Today) Oh how patriotic everyone is. No, Ms. Varhegyi, it’s called jingoism. It’s like how we can’t have any major event with out football field sized American flags and endless blather about our veterans. I can think of a few other nations that behaved the same way, but none makes a favorable comparison for the land of freedom and democracy. Even the Islamic-Socialist-Usurper-in-Chief is worried about these sequestration cuts affecting our mighty military that hasn’t won a war against an enemy that shoots back since 1945.

We’re all Socialists now, i guess. Vacuum up the surplus labor value of the people and redistribute it via the government to direct employees of the government and a collection of fancy toys purchased by the government. And when all that’s set and done, make sure that we all thank the brave Workers that form our shock brigades of National Security Socialism. I’ve come to the conclusion that unless a veteran was drafted and sent to war, it should be the veterans doing the thanking for the training, the education, the pay, and the retirement and health benefits. After all, it’s really not much different than taking any other job except that the decision can be declared pure by intent of patriotism to mask the underlying Socialist characteristics.

I say we cut at least 50% and more like 75% of the military budget. If the Chinese invade we’ll all take up our enormous stock of arms, form militias, and go all Red Dawn on their assess.  Get the 3,000 or whatever the number of general staff we now carry off the government payroll and let them experience the glory of the free market and Capitalism instead of a career of government teet suckling. I’m sure that the CEOs of our defense contractors are no fans of Socialism, so they’ll certainly be happy to go out into the free market and prove their Randian mettle rather than rely on hundreds of billions of dollars of big government money.

Come on, Republicans, stand with me against Big Government.

…oh, that’s not what you meant? You’re really talking about stealing the money the rest of us are required to put into retirement and geriatric health savings plans? Got it, where do i sign up for the mandatory Subbotnik?

Tesla vs. The Times: Elon Musk dusts up with the doubters

The tiff between Elon Musk and the New York Times has turned into one of the most entertaining car reviews of all time. In case you’ve missed it, Tesla has installed “Supercharger” stations strategically along the East Coast. These are capable of quick charging batteries with the idea that Tesla owners will be able to drive from New Jersey to Boston in a manner similar to owners of liquid fueled cars. To prove it, the company gave reviewers a brand new Model S and company support. The New York Times reviewer didn’t make it, and the Times published a photo of the Model S being put on a flatbed truck. Elon Musk doesn’t like bad reviews. He once sued Top Gear for filming the hosts pushing a Roadster that wasn’t actually and completely dead. Yes, he sued a scripted comedy show known for its willingness to trash $100,000 sports cars because they weren’t properly deferential to his baby. In his petulant way, Musk personally fired back at the Times and accused the reviewer of purposefully sabotaging the review. The Tesla fanboys and electric car geeks created a run on torches and pitchforks in comment sections across the internet, pointing to the graphs based on vehicle data logs that Musk published. CNN and Tesla car club members repeated the trip successfully as evidence that the Times reviewer is in the bag for the oil industry, except that nobody else really repeated the Times trip.

The point of the charging system and reviews, as i understand it, was to prove that you can use your new $100,000 Model S (base price is $60,000) like any other $100,000 car. The failure of the Times review was that it attempted to do so, and took notes like a car review rather than a technology review. Musk complained that the reviewer used the heat too much and once even went 80mph! So CNN’s conclusion that the Model S is every bit as good as a BMW or Audi falls a little flat. At $100,000 i would expect the vehicle to be well composed at speeds far above 80, and i’m damned well going to exceed the speed limit most every chance i get. If Musk doesn’t think owners should drive so fast, he should limit the Model S to 75 or some other battery and environmentally friendly speed. The Germans generally limit at 155.

I admit to being something of a petrolhead, though a quirky one (one of my aspirational cars is to import a Lada 2104, the Riva Kombi, to be my daily driver), but i’m not philosophically opposed to electric cars. If i wasn’t philosophically opposed to buying new vehicles and had a garage to charge, i’d consider buying an electric because most days neither driver needs to exceed 20 total miles. I’d consider it even though i’d never recoup the cost premium in fuel savings. The problem would be that where we use the most fuel is to make the 450 mile drive to Detroit. In a Model S with the largest battery pack, there would need to be a supercharger in roughly Gaylord, MI and likely multiple spots along the way given that for a significant portion of the year it’s cruel and inhumane to drive the length of Michigan without heat. Even the fast charge would add significant time to an already long trip, and i would gouge my eyes out with the turn signal stalk if i had to drive the speed limit the whole way just to be able to make it. … not to mention the rage if i pulled up to the supercharger and had to wait an hour for someone else to finish before i could even start to recharge.

For $100,000 i could build a large enough garage to purchase and hold the whole collection: my BMW, import the Lada, buy/build an electric conversion Porsche 914, and a nice used VW TDI wagon for the better half and  road trips. But even for $100,000, i cannot buy an electric car that could be my only car.

Musk doesn’t appear to be interested in building a practical electric vehicle at a realistic price point for something approaching mass adoption, so his petulance when someone says that a $100,000 toy isn’t always practical mystifies me. I’d feel the same if Pagani got all bent out of shape because a reviewer decided that a Zonda is a really bad car for taking the family to visit Grandma at Christmas. We don’t need proof of concept for electric vehicles. The White Zombie Datsun proves that a properly sorted electric car will destroy most gasoline powered cars in a drag race, and that was built in a garage by a guy who converted another Datsun to electric for daily driver use. Color me unimpressed that Elon Musk did the same thing with a Lotus Elise.

The problem with electric car adoption is the charging infrastructure. Musk has successfully installed a hobby level of charging infrastructure in a few places. That’s great. It’s a start, but it’s not an achievement that makes him a world-changing genius who should never be questioned or criticized. Making something expensive and impractical is just eccentric, no matter how cool it is. So as much as it pains me to compliment General Motors, the technological platform in the Volt is a far more profound advancement in electric vehicle progression than anything Musk has ever done, because it is a fully usable vehicle at a realistic price point. While it is not technically an EV, it’s the electric vehicle i’d buy, except that i won’t even buy a used General Motors product, much less a new one. For this car guy, Musk’s antics and self-perception put Tesla in the same group as GM.

At least one article has said that Musk and Tesla are understood by the techies but not by the car guys when it comes to reviews, and i think that may hold true beyond reviewers to some degree. I don’t want a rolling iGadget, i want a car. So as good as this Truth About Cars post is,  and it’s the most interesting take on the situation i’ve read because of its perspective from automotive PR, it may miss the point if Musk isn’t building a car company but a self-propelled-tech company.

Defending slavery with the Second Amendment

The pivotal question of why the Bill of Rights includes the Second Amendment is one of those fun, Constitutional arguments that anyone can interpret. We most often get treated to an armed population being the last defense against tyranny as the sound, and forward looking theory behind the amendment. This argument presupposes certain aspects of the Framers’ philosophy which we are generally quite certain was centered on freedom and democracy. Except that it probably wasn’t and there’s very little in the Constitution to suggest that it was. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson didn’t want you to be able to defend yourself against the US Government. After all, nobody raised much of a stink when Washington sent the army to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion, a popular rebellion trying to stop Big Government from taxing small businessmen into oblivion. So if the favored reasoning for the Second Amendment wasn’t even operative within the first eight years of the Constitution’s reign, what other reasons might have prompted its inclusion?

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The perils of self rule

Either these elections are getting worse or i’m getting more cynical, or maybe both. Look, i can respect opinions other than my own so i can see a healthy republic that isn’t a model of my political views. But there’s nothing to salvage here. The political system is well and truly fucked. We’ve got two candidates who will gut the social contract to the full extent of their ability. Both will continue solidifying and expanding the imperial presidency. We’re all inside the disposition matrix now. The poor, a healthy economy, the environment, these truths we hold to be self-evident and whatever else gets in the way will be sacrificed for the power and wealth of the few.

And if all that shit wasn’t enough, the answer to a dysfunctional political system appears to be ballot measures. Now i’d be in favor of a little direct democracy, but these ballot measures are even more easily manipulated than our politicians. For example, we’ve got one about building a second bridge to Canada on the ballot. The ballot language is such that if you’re against it, then you have to vote “yes.” Granted, ballot language is always confusing but the new wave of direct democracy seems particularly well designed to confuse the average voter…who is likely to be ignorant, irrational, and willfully misinformed, because that’s what makes us great. These measures are written and fought over in the public square by the dreaded “special interests.” They’re the ones buying the commercials and sending me flyers. We complain about politicians not reading the bills they vote on, but I can’t imagine that my fellow Americans are reading (and understanding) the measures they’re voting on. They’re doing what they’re told by liars, based on whose lies most comport with their personal feelings.

We’ve also got a “collective bargaining” measure that sounds good if you’re for the Platonic ideal of organized labor. But it may only be for public sector unions, admittedly under the gun of our new breed of Randian superheroes and self-made men with public educations collecting a paycheck from the State. See, i haven’t read the amendment either, and i know that i should as well as likely being capable of understanding it … which says nothing about whether my understanding will have anything to do with the implementation of the amendment.

And then there’s one about renewable energy mandates, which if the eyes of the actors in the commercial are to believed, will cause you to have a stroke when you open your electric bill. I like the idea of renewable energy and I get that without significant prodding, the holy market can be slow to react and accomplish what needs to be done. The problem is, do i trust the people writing the measure that we can pass into law to be doing it honestly and without corruption … and well … any more than I trust voting for assholes who think that rape is just all part of god’s plan?


I voted for our medical marijuana amendment four years ago, enthusiastically, and cheered when the results came back showing that dope is significantly more popular than hope and John McCain is a distant third in that popularity contest. I don’t have a card. I just saw an opportunity for the people of my state to end run the colossal stupidity of the war on drugs. But as it turns out, that was a horribly written amendment. It left all sorts of loose ends like not establishing a legal distribution network beyond decriminalizing the black market network. So of course the politicians and cops have attacked that glaring loophole in addition to trying to find a way to overturn the will of the people. The same thing is happening with Arizona’smedical marijuana law. And if Colorado passes its brave decriminalization bill you can bet that all holy hell will break loose. Either of the liars that may win the presidency will come down with the full force of the federal government on Colorado for daring to practice democracy.

We like to think of ourselves as a nation of laws rather than men, but when you go to the polls tomorrow, stop and think about the men you’re electing to write and implement those laws. Think about your fellow men (and take a long look in the mirror) who are crafting and voting on these ballot measures. It is men who will be enforcing the laws. It is men who will take your vote as an enthusiastic acceptance and support for them doing whatever the hell they want to do. And don’t forget that it is men who will look at the results of your experiments in direct democracy and decide whether you’re right, wrong, or incompetent to make those decisions. Unfortunately, we probably are incompetent to make those decisions, and since we vote for politicians based on who we’d like to have a beer with and which church they attend, those assholes are every bit as incompetent as we are.

I’ll go vote. I was raised to view it as an obligation. But it won’t be for Obama or Romney. It won’t be for Stabenow or Hoekstra. It won’t be for McDowell or Benishek. I don’t know what i’ll do with the constitutional amendments on my MI ballot. I should probably abstain, because i’m old, cynical, and apathetic enough to realize that none will be what they seem and most will be the equivalent of voting Democratic or Republican. I won’t vote for a Democrat or a Republican for the rest of my life. i wouldn’t vote for Obama if i knew ahead of time that mine would be the deciding vote. Let it end in a tie and they can fight to the death for it. And more, and more, i’m coming to the conclusion that my compatriots who vote for either of these parties hate America, freedom, Democracy. That you tactical, strategic, and disturbingly ideological voters are what’s wrong with this nation; it’s you that allow the foxes into the henhouse and the chickenhawks to rule the roost.

God Bless America. We’re gonna need it, because the people entrusted with maintaining the Republic sure as shit aren’t up to the task.

Look out, Godwin

I don’t know, this might sound a little too familiar and if anyone comments on this, i’m sure that someone will chime in to tell me that none of our candidates are like Nazis because they don’t have plans to kill every Jew, Slav and person of color on the planet. And that may be true. Nonetheless, on February 20, 1933 a certain mustachioed Austrian met with a list of German luminaries, mostly from industry but perhaps also a board member of Allianz AG. He needed to win an election. You see, Communism could only be stopped if he won. In fact, his pitch to the cigar smoke-filled room blamed democracy for Communism.
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#Occupy Oakland: an injury to one is an injury to all

So Twitter is abuzz with the news that the Port of Oakland has been shut down; major news sites are either ignoring the act or standing with reports from earlier in the day that the port is operating. That makes it sound like the general strike, focusing on the port, has been a failure. But then there’s this:

The Port of Oakland was chosen as the protest site because the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has a rare contract clause that allows workers to honor certain community picket lines. If workers arriving for a 7 p.m. shift decide not to cross the line, a shutdown could result. LA Times

So i suppose that neither sort of report is true, or even knowable yet.
There are also reports of wildcat strikes inside the port, but those may well be work related. It’s possible that the longshoremen will walk out when the Occupy protesters form their picket line outside the port. Continue reading

The kids are alright

Sometimes the best education is the one found in everyday life. Not a few wide-eyed foreign students in Pennsylvania got more education than they bargained for in signing up for a J-1 visa to the United States. Instead of the land of milk and honey, it looks enough like blood and tears for 200 hundred afternoon shift workers to walk off the job at a Hershey’s facility and be followed by others coming off first shift. Across language and cultural barriers they organized themselves to present a petition of grievances to management; apparently, it did not result in a satisfactory response. And that’s when they left. Such lack of gratitude for the opportunity to see America, earn some money and participate in a cultural exchange.

Except the first two turned out to be false advertising and the third is not the exchange of culture they were expecting.
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Binge and purge

I’ve come to the conclusion that the London riots are far too complicated to be described, analyzed or understood in the pithy conclusions our media and politicians are only capable of functioning with. Though they clearly started because of police/race issues that were initially approached by the people in a peaceful way … and completely ignored by the police/state nexus of power, the spread and manner of the riots have buried that in a complicated web of motives and behavior. We’re now finding out that a great many rioters are not “young” in the traditional sense; they’re like me and come from the Reagan/Thatcher generation. This information lends some credence to analysis i’ve read saying that initial loss of control by the authorities opened up the flood gates for everyone who thought they could get away with whatever they wanted to do.

Here comes the Fight Club Generation…
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Will the checks go out?

So there i was trying to enjoy my udon noodle bowl and read some St. Augustine on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, Wolf Blitzer was there too, and he wouldn’t shut up. So i got to hear the latest updates on the crisis of the moment; insightful stuff too, like how i’m supposed to be offended because the Speaker of the House used the word “ass” in public. Oh dear… Sure, i laughed at the footage of the Tea Partiers marching with a sign describing the US government as a many “uttered” beast. And i shook my head in disbelief that we pay people like Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell a good salary for being ass-hatted dumb fucks. But the real kicker was Wolf worrying if “their checks will go out.” Continue reading

Reinventing ourselves again

Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird … it’s a plane. Nope, it’s Super Congress. Where caped, congressional crusaders will wage the battle between good and evil far above the heads of mere mortals and senior citizens living on Social Security. It will be where the “leaders” of both parties (and they’re not leaving any room in this Super Congress for a desperately needed third party) get together to make the big decisions, so it will also function as a reward for years of dedicated ass-kissing, lying and soul-selling. There’s a good reason why the leadership of both parties is for this Super Congress idea; they always manage to find common ground when it’s time to screw you and me. And the best – by far – way to grind the American people into destitution is to enshrine the oligarchy with extra-political rights.

Never let a crisis go to waste, even if you have to invent the crisis to seize.
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Zuckerberg is not your savior

After the Iranian elections, the Department of State formally asked Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance so that Iranian activists could continue to tweet each other and the outside world. The internet will, apparently set you free. Now there’s some evidence that early communication between activists in Egypt was facilitated by Facebook and Twitter. The condemnation when Mubarak’s regime shut down the internet was much more muted. It didn’t stop the protests, suggesting that the internet is, at best, capable of being a tool of freedom but far from a necessity.

There are more than a few reasons why the meme of Facebook revolution is silly, not the least of which being that social networking moguls have neither declared nor proven that a fundamental aspect of their tools is to facilitate freedom. Continue reading

The wrong side of history

So what about Egypt, eh? Is there anything more amazing than the relatively spontaneous gathering of humanity to peacefully declare freedom for itself? This following Tunisia must bring up comparisons to Eastern Europe in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Unlike the “color revolutions” of the 00’s which looked like foreign policy set plays to elevate friendly leaders and haven’t amounted to much beyond the adoption of neo-liberal economics. As Kissinger said, the US doesn’t have friends, it has interests. Consequently, we have a long history of supporting “friendly” dictatorships and one-party states. The equipment used by the Egyptian military and police that proudly proclaims “Made in U.S.A” proves the point. Mubarak’s Egypt is a cruel police state, but that’s ok because he serves our interests. He’ll take our terror suspects who need to disappear. He’ll do what he can to enforce the blockade of Gaza. And he’ll keep his own people in line, quiet about any feelings the 40,000,000 of them might have about US behavior in their neighborhood. All while preaching ceaselessly about freedom and democracy.

We’re standing on the wrong side of history.
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S&R asks: What's in your heavy rotation?

Every great once in a while, procrastination pays. It was procrastination that got me a free iPhone…well that and Apple wanting to get rid of 3Gs models to make room for the next greatest thing. Being a step or two behind the times doesn’t matter to me; hell, AT&T hasn’t gotten off it’s lazy, corporate ass and brought 3G service to America’s social and evolutionary cul-de-sac so half of what makes an iPhone cool doesn’t even apply to me. What i wanted was a free 8Gb iPod Touch that i could use as a phone. Not a fan of many things in my pocket, and i haven’t had a music player for something like a year now. Because i’m lazy and procrastinate, that’s why.

So i’ve been music shopping and ripping old CD’s with a fervor.

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