Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Need For You to be Serious for a Second Here, OK?

Today's been surprisingly cool for July in the NY metro area, but global warming has been all over the news lately. A recent Rolling Stone article is absolutely terrifying in it's implications. Less dire, but not too reassuring is a recent NPR piece on the "weirdness" that climate change is creating. Meanwhile, a horrific drought is threatening U.S. farm yields. A serious talk about the effects of our fossil fuel dependence is long, long overdue. What's this? A front group for the fossil fuels industry compares a climate scientist to a child molester? A major national conservative publication has reiterated the odious comparison? Wow, that's as bad as comparing hardworking scientists to a terrorist.

Shit, it's time to get serious about climate change, but the denialists are too mendacious and well-funded. They even lie about a plan begun as a "market-based solution" now being a communist plot (much like the current "Obamacare" with its mandate started off as a "market based" alternative to single-payer healthcare). I would say that there's a glimmer of hope, seeing that a prominent "skeptic" has had a change of mind, but scientists don't buy politicians, and the goddamn rubes in the states affected by the drought will blame the queers and shower hucksters who tell them to pray for rain with their dwindling disposable income, and NOTHING WILL GET ACCOMPLISHED.

I harp on this subject from time to time, but the confluence of pieces about global warming, and the idiotic attacks from denialists forced my writer's hand today.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Queen: "We Are Not Amused" Bastard: "I Am Amused"

I finally got around to watching some of Danny Boyle's opening to the London Olympics with a co-worker who hails from Croydon (which is famous for its plastic surgery clinics). When the video got to the 1:40 mark, I doubled over in laughter as the intro and first line of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols was played. Too bad they didn't play the whole song for QB2 (Monarchic Boogaloo):

"They made you a moron" may be a good excuse for Mitt's missteps in London. Sure, blame that old lady in Buckingham Palace for your misfortunes... you'll get the last laugh when she croaks and you baptise her so she can work for you as a scullion on Planet Kolob.

Also in the opening ceremony- a snippet of Pretty Vacant, accompanied by weird pogo-ing performers wearing giant mohawked puppet heads. Here's a nice rendition of the song, which was used as one of the sources for the mashup Ray of Gob:

Well played, Mr Boyle, you sick boy!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

On the Work Front

I had planned to write a really geeky post about purslane today, but I had to spend a few hours making up the work schedule for August and this threw me off of my groove. Making up the work schedule? Uh, yeah, I, uh, got promoted to supervisor at work recently. My boss, who is pretty high up in the organization, told me not to mention it to anyone, but I sorta spilled the beans last night to a co-worker who informed me that the previous supervisor wouldn't be making the schedule up anymore. I chalk my promotion up to the fact that my predecessor has absolutely no facility working with computers, and doesn't know a spreadsheet from a bedspread and a sheet. Me? I did my time at the saddler's trade in a cube farm, so I kinda know how those binary numbers mills work.

I'm usually pretty coy about work here at the blog. Suffice it to say, I work in an extraordinarily beautiful setting with wonderful co-workers both human and otherwise. I've had interesting run-ins with visitors both human and otherwise. I've always enjoyed my job, which makes me an extraordinarily fortunate man.

I started off here five years ago as a part-timer... the job was a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks as I waited months for pokey clients to send checks. Before that, I'd done some per diem work for a friend of mine who is one of our site directors- yeah, I got a foot in the door through connections, but I proved myself early on. I've worked a considerable number of all-nighters, and I've worked holidays. I've always seen my role as "having everybody's back", and I certainly don't plan on that changing now that I'm the supe. Hell, in conscience, I could never ask anyone to do something that I am not willing to do (acts of fellatio are a notable exception, but that's got nothing to do with work). If the schedule demands that someone is going to have to take a beating, I've got to be willing to take it on the chin (not a fellatio reference).

Nothing really changes with the job, I just have a few extra duties, but, as I often say, my job is really cushy, except when it's not.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

From Romneyshambles to Romneyshonda?

After an auspicious beginning to his transatlantic tour, Mitt Romney is leaving the land of his Anglo-Saxon kin with whom he shares a special relationship that is special to travel to Israel. I, for one, can't wait... I'm expecting that Mitt will follow his "Romneyshambles" with a "Romneyshonda and I can't wait.

I imagine Mitt will start off by telling his hosts that their deceased relatives are now Mormons, which, oddly enough, would make them gay. Sorry, boychik, your bubbe is engaged in tribadism on the planet Kolob now... if she's lucky, she may hook up with Sarah Silverman in a few decades.

I imagine that he will visit the Wailing Wall, which is just the right height, and comment on the ingenuity of the Jewish people, who could hunt whales so far from the sea.

Finally, I imagine that he will be asked for his opinion of a two-state solution in the Holy Land, and he will state that a successful two-state solution has already been accomplished in the Holy Land because its greatest city straddles two states.

And do I even need to speculate that he'll insist that he isn't sure about the falafel? Oy gevalt!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Romney, Rich Rube

I know this post will be a virtual repeat of previous posts this week, but I just can't let go of the "Romney in London" debacle. I've been spending altogether too much time at #AmericanBorat and #RomneyShambles, and I'm not even a Twitter fan! One thing that strikes me about Mitt's gaffes, both in the UK and at home, is that they expose Mitt Romney as an inexperienced rube... British Prime Minister David Cameron hinted at this:

"We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere.”

It's funny, with all of Mitt's money and international business experience, he's really a n00b and a rube. He's the kind of guy who travels to a foreign country not to experience the culture, but to change it- all the while dodging the draft he supported. Yay, Mitt, trying to sell an abstemious belief system to a nation of oenophiles. Sure, he may have picked up a smattering of the language, but his missionary activity argues for a contempt of the culture he lived among, like a tapeworm. As an aside, can we stop calling him a "vulture capitalist"? He was a "parasite capitalist", taking over healthy companies and feasting on them while killing them.

As much as his overseas trip has exposed this provincial plutocrat side, even his campaigning in the States has revealed him to be a barbarian who denigrates the local cuisine and puts "the help" in awkward situations. He is an abrasive, overprivileged prick, who has never had to make an effort to respect the attitudes and mores of others. It will be interesting to see how this oddly sheltered, intellectually incurious twit will fare in Israel and Poland, two countries which don't share his Anglo-Saxon heritage.

POSTSCRIPT: In terms of Simpsons' characters, Romney is a mash-up of the worst characteristics of C. Montgomery Burns and Ned Flanders- he combines Burns' ruthlessness and lack of understanding of the commoners with Flanders' excess of piety and goofball white-bread cluelessness.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Romney Adviser

In the wake of the "Anglo-Saxon heritage" controversy, Mitt Romney has made a decision to retain the services of a new adviser, who he hopes will appeal to the youth and female demographics. Let's see what she's got to say:

“We are part of a European heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.

At least it's a little more inclusive!

UPDATE: Mitt should consider hiring her, because his own efforts to charm his hosts have all turned to custard.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

He'll Lose the Jute Vote for Sure!

Oh, great, here we have a report of a Romney adviser making a statement which is a prime example of race-baiting:

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.

Funny, I may be as white as the Ace of Teeth, but I sure as hell don't identify with an "Anglo-Saxon heritage". This "adviser" can K.M.R.I.A. Hell, what the fuck does "Anglo-Saxon heritage" even mean in this century? The last Anglo-Saxon ruler in England was Harold Godwinson who was killed in 1066. The nobility of England since the Battle of Hastings have been a mixture of the descendents of Norman French and thin-blooded German aristocrats. Reflecting on that, it's probably a pity that England ceased to have an Anglo-Saxon heritage, because the Anglo-Saxon social structure was less stratified than that of most other contemporaneous societies. Also, Harold Godwinson had a fine way of turning a phrase. For a good basic overview of the last days of the Anglo-Saxon rule in England, I recommend David Howarth's 1066: The Year of the Conquest. I'm also a fan of King Harald's saga, which chronicles the first invasion of England in 1066, which occupied Harold Godwinson before his death at the Battle of Hastings.

Getting back to the original quote about the White House didn’t fully appreciating the shared history that those Anglo-Saxon Heritage glorifiers have, I imagine that the speaker is referring to President Obama's anti-colonial ideology, which is to say, his blackity, black, blackness and general negrotude. It's a loud, lousy dogwhistle, which can only appeal to bigoted old "nativists". I can't see it working with younger, more multicultural demographics... I think President Obama has the Jute vote pretty much sewn up.

Aww... now Romney's camp is denying that the individual making the comment is involved with the campaign. Does this mean that Romney's disavowing his English roots?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blasting Through the Glass Ceiling

It's with considerable sadness that I read of the death of Dr Sally Ride at the entirely too young age of 61. Besides being the first American woman in space, Sally Ride earned a PhD. in astrophysics, with a concentration on X-Ray imaging and the physics of lasers. She was also involved in designing the robotic arm in the space shuttle. Her university work involved expanding humans' detection abilities beyond the limitations of our perceptual organs... leaving behind the bonds of human senses as she left the bonds of gravity in her career as an astronaut. After her NASA career, she became a champion of science education and an advocate of international cooperation and arms control.

Throughout her life, Dr Ride pushed against sexist preconceptions, as her New York Times obituary notes:

But there were still rough spots. Speaking to reporters before the first shuttle flight, Dr. Ride — chosen in part because she was known for keeping her cool under stress — politely endured a barrage of questions focused on her sex: Would spaceflight affect her reproductive organs? Did she plan to have children? Would she wear a bra or makeup in space? Did she cry on the job? How would she deal with menstruation in space?

The CBS News reporter Diane Sawyer asked her to demonstrate a newly installed privacy curtain around the shuttle’s toilet. On “The Tonight Show,” Johnny Carson joked that the shuttle flight would be delayed because Dr. Ride had to find a purse to match her shoes.

At a NASA news conference, Dr. Ride said: “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It’s too bad our society isn’t further along.”

One sad fact is that the Soviets launched a woman into space twenty years before the U.S. did. In 1961, NASA trained thirteen women for eventual space flight, but the program was scrapped because of an "old boys' network" at the agency. Sally Ride's groundbreaking career was a personal triumph for her, but it serves as an indictment of the slowness of progress in our society.

Preoccupied with science education, equality of the sexes, and world peace? We lost one of the good ones, folks. Perhaps the best way to remember Dr Ride's life work is to push back against the reactionary forces which are trying to limit women's accomplishments, including those which would denigrate her relationship with her long-term partner. Dr Ride's entire life work was devoted to human progress, we should honor her by working towards that end ourselves.

As a coda, I just want to mention some of the women who have been working to further the cause of science education, women such as Eugenie Scott, Danica McKellar and my great and good friends Dorian Devins and Margaret Mittelbach. Keep Dr Sally Ride's legacy alive- support science, support education, support women's rights.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Needed a "Pick Me Up"

I've been so disgusted by the news lately, both national and local, that a little escapism is in order here. Local radio has been playing the hell out of the latest single by Brooklyn-based The Walkmen, and it's a hell of a song:

Blast it, people! Another reason for this somewhat perfunctory post is a busy schedule- I had a meeting with my supervisor at work this afternoon (future blog post!), and will be meeting a bunch of friends for dinner tonight. Again, no time for research, but I figured a post was warranted, because I slacked off yesterday.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bat Dance

I am fortunate enough to work at some genuinely beautiful sites, and I get to see a lot of unusual things. Being bummed out by the general state of the world, I was able to find some solace around sundown.

I've always been enchanted by bats, ever since I was a small child. Well, as the sky was darkening, I noticed that an unusually large number of bats were flitting around the property. They weren't shy at all, often swooping close enough to me that I could hear the "whirring" of their wings. It was a really magical moment, especially considering all the mosquitoes they were devouring.

While I was enjoying the aerial dance of these cute chiropteran cutups, my friend and co-worker Fred was being driven... uh... batty by these unholy bird/mouse hybrids. Hilariously, I caught him jumping a couple of times, in an ambitious effort to catch one of these aeronauts. Poor thing, he was so out of his element.

What were you expecting? Huh?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Heartland Horrorshow

The main story dominating the news here in the States is the horrific mass shooting in a suburban Colorado movie theater. To me, sitting in my safe Northeastern home, the mass killing is a surreal nightmare... a bunch of suburban "heartlanders" gather to watch a violent movie which takes place in a dystopian riff on NYC's outer boroughs, even though New York City is one of the safest communities in North America, and fall prey to an unhinged gunman. It's a weird thing, the discrepancy between where actual violent crimes occur, and preconceived ideas about high crime areas. Meanwhile, the reactionary representatives blame "godlessness" for crimes which largely occur in the parts of the country they hold sway over.

On today's Ed Schultz Show, a psychotic wingnut caller blamed the shooting on "bloodthirsty" liberal gun-control advocates (yeah, what the fuck? was my reaction as well), and spun a typical right-wing fantasy about armed moviegoers taking the gunman down as soon as his spree started. At the mothership, sadlynaught Thread Bear sums up my feelings rather well:

Also, the scene that plays out in my head that the wingnuts just can’t come to terms with is:

A lunatic steps into a dark, crowded theater, throws out a couple tear gas cannisters and opens fire. Unfortunately, this guy picked the grand opening of Atlas Shrugged in the middle of Wingnut City, so everyone in the theater is armed. So naturally a wingnut pulls out his gun and starts firing back. Immediately followed by 60 other wingnuts pulling out their guns and firing at whoever they see firing a gun. It would only take a few minutes for all these armed wingnuts to take down all these armed wingnuts and the only one left standing would be the lunatic who had the foresight to bring body armor. Heck, after the wingnuts do all the dirty work for him the lunatic would have plenty of ammo left over to slip into the next theater at the multiplex and start all over again.

Of course, in the wingnut mind, no real American would ever be confused or scared by the dim light, the smoke or the suddem surprise of such and attack. They know that every God-fearing, gun-toting American would automatically target only the bad guy and with pinpoint accuracy find the weakness in the body armor and bring the lunatic down.

Predictably, the right wingers think the solution to the periodic mass murders which occur in our country with distressing regularity is GUNS! GUNS! GUNS! Any talk of sensible regulation is characterized as tyranny.

The most influential gun lobby in the country is the National Rifle Association, which claims to champion Second Amendment rights, pointedly omits half of the amendment from the facade of its headquarters. Let's take a look at the actual Second Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The vast majority of gun ownership advocates ignore the first part of the amendment, the bit about a well regulated militia. Personally, I think that gun ownership should entail stringent background checks and periodic training, preferably handled by state governments. Unfortunately, current interpretations of the Second Amendment throughout much of the U.S. allow for woefully lax standards for the ownership of consumer goods which are, on a fundamental basis, designed to kill human beings. Until our society develops a sane gun policy, these horrific incidents will take place with shocking regularity.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Secret Science Club Post-Lecture Recap

Last night, I traveled to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus Section of Brooklyn for this month's Secret Science Club lecture with Mathematical Sociologist Duncan Watts, author of the book Everything is Obvious* *Once You Know the Answer.

After a brief discussion of his career trajectory, Dr Watts made a wry observation about the sciences, riffing off the cliche "It's not rocket science." Considering the success rate of rocket science, rocket science is easy compared to the social sciences- it's a lot easier to launch a satellite into orbit than it is to predict human behavior. One pitfall in describing human behavior is a tendency to make appeals to "common sense". The utility of common sense is limited to simple day-to-day activities. Much of our perception of the utility of common sense comes from hindsight- Dr Watts cited Paul Lazarfeld's "American Soldier" study, in which assertions made about men serving in the armed forces were justified post hoc- for example, if the adaptability of soldiers from rural backgrounds was posited, it could be justified by stating that they were more comfortable living outdoors for long durations, while an assertion that urbanites adapted more readily to military service could be justified by asserting that it was due to their living in close proximity to others.

Because it is so difficult to predict trends (unless, as Dr Watts observed, you're Nouriel Roubini), it's easier for a company to roll out a variety of products on a limited basis, and discontinue the unsuccessful products while ramping up production of the popular product line.

Another cognitive bias that can cause problems when evaluating something is the halo effect, often we base our judgments about an individual's intelligence or moral character on their physical attractiveness or likeability.

Since I'm a bit pressed for time, here's an article about common sense by Dr Watts. I should mention, however, that he spoke extensively about the role of the internet, and how the sheer vastness of the data that is now available about internet users will revolutionize the social sciences. Some bastard asked a question about the possibility of epistemic closure if consumers choose to seek out "information" that adheres to their personal biases. Dr Watts did indicate that filter bias could occur, but he indicated that the increased amount of information could help to counteract such bias.

On the whole, the lecture was great, but I'm more comfortable with writing recaps in which I can regurgitate a bunch of factoids, so this recap seems perfunctory to me. Dr Watts was an extremely engaging speaker, and I imagine that his new book is an entertaining, informative read with subject matter that is very accessible to the layperson. Getting your hands on it would be a common sense move.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Or You Could Get Your D-Bag Supporters to Pay Them Decent Wages

Reading this has me utterly flabbergasted. Mitt Romney decided to weigh in on the plight of "the help":

“It’s tough being middle class in America right now,” Romney said. “The waiters and waitresses that come in and out of this room and offer us refreshments, they’re not having a good year. The people of the middle class of America are really struggling. And they’re struggling I think in a way because they’re surprised because when they voted for Barack Obama…he promised them that things were going to get a heck a lot of better. He promised hope and change and they’re still waiting.”

Of course, the real problem faced by the waitstaff is that the donors who paid "$2,500, $10,000 or $50,000" to hear Willard speak is that the rich d-bags who attended the fundraiser pay them miserable wages. Just imagine that you're one of the "little people" listening to the Rombot blather on about how the president's policies are what's ailing them... I imagine that snotchos were on the menu for this fundraiser. Also, since when are country-club waiters "middle class", rather than "working class"?

As an aside, I worked in the food service industry for years, and never once did it occur to me to adulterate anyone's food. For one thing, I think it's pretty chickenshit- if I were going to lower the boom on some asshole, I'd hate myself if I didn't do it to his or her face. More importantly, I was working in a local deli, and I came to know and like the vast majority of the people who came in through the door. Of course, they tended to be working stiffs on their way to the job, or guys coming in for a beer and a snack after work. Only once did I deal with overly entitled customers, when my boss decided to institute lunch delivery, and my boss discontinued deliveries when I told him the customers were assholes.

Hell, I tell the story of this one-day foray into lunch delivery... I had to deliver a bunch of lunches to the office staff of a major retailer, and the total of the order was, for argument's sake, $33.45. I carry a box full of sandwiches and salads to the office, and one of the workers hands me $34, telling me, "Keep the change." Frankly, I was more offended by the paltry tip than I would have been by no tip at all. I got back to the deli, and put the entire amount into the cash register. My boss asked me, "Did they give you a tip?" I replied, "Rick, they gave me the whole shaft!" That was the end of lunch deliveries.

I didn't blame then-president Reagan for the stinginess of the customers.

Monday, July 16, 2012

This One's for Brando

Every once in a while, a guy gets sick of politics, and needs to indulge in some frivolity. Well, this post is dedicated to Brando and to my cousin **REDACTED** (I should refer to him as "Big Leo", because I seem to remember that it was his alias when my brother Vincenzo and his cohorts pulled off the hilarious "Midnight Landscapers" prank). Last week, I met my cousin at a local bar for a couple of beers (we would have met for lunch, but I made the cardinal mistake and ate a breakfast bigger than my head). In the course of our conversation, my cousin mentioned the time-sink that is Skyrim. I'm not that familiar with the game, never have played it, but it has spawned at least one meme. Combining that with the unfortunate phenomenon of catassing, I hereby present a lickle something I cooked up Meme Generator:

Good excuse, no? You don't have to blame yourself for your lack of self-control, you can always blame a cute, lethal pixie for your sedentary habits:

With the popularity of The Hunger Games, expect more coverage of cute girls shooting bows in the near future. Just don't cross them, or you may find yourself confined to the basement, unable to use the loo.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pack of White Lies

Vixen Strangely and her Rumproast cohorts have been doing a good job with skewering Mitt Romney's speech at the NAACP convention. While much attention has been focused on the moment when Romney was booed, I want to focus on another portion of the speech. I'll be annotating the portion that I've excerpted.

As you may have heard from my opponent, I am also a believer in the free-enterprise system. I believe it can bring change where so many well-meaning government programs have failed. I’ve never heard anyone look around an impoverished neighborhood and say, “You know, there’s too much free enterprise around here. Too many shops, too many jobs, too many people putting money in the bank.”

Of course, contrary to the muddle-headed thinking of Libertarians, the free market historically didn't work for African-Americans. Additionally, while noone's looked around an impoverished neighborhood and claimed that there was too much free enterprise, too many shops, too many jobs, hostile whites have looked around thriving black neighborhoods and have done just that, with fatal results. It seems that Mitt's ignorance of his personal history is merely a reflection of his ignorance of world history.

What you hear, of course, is how do we bring in jobs? How do we make good, honest employers want to move in and stay? And with the shape this economy is in, we’re asking that more than ever.

Free enterprise is still the greatest force for upward mobility, economic security, and the expansion of the middle class. We have seen in recent years what it’s like to have less free enterprise. As President, I will show the good things that can happen when we have more – more business activity, more jobs, more opportunity, more paychecks, more savings accounts.

Of course, Mitt is asking how we bring in jobs when no matter what weasel word he uses, Romney was responsible for sending high-paying jobs overseas, while any jobs that he created in the U.S. were low wage service industry jobs. Also, Romney's assertion that "free enterprise is still the greatest force for upward mobility, economic security, and the expansion of the middle class" ignores the black experience... the reality is that , since the 1940s many blacks found work in the public center, which was less hostile to them than the private sector. Of course, public sector workers have been under attack by GOP governors, who have slashed government jobs.

Romney continues with his five point economic plan, which is pretty much GOP boilerplate bullshit:

On Day One, I will begin turning this economy around with a plan for the middle class. And I don’t mean just those who are middle class now – I also mean those who have waited so long for their chance to join the middle class.

I know what it will take to put people back to work, to bring more jobs and better wages. My jobs plan is based on 25 years of success in business. It has five key steps.

First, I will take full advantage of our energy resources, and I will approve the Keystone pipeline from Canada. Low cost, plentiful coal, natural gas, oil, and renewables will bring over a million manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

Second, I will open up new markets for American products. We are the most productive major economy in the world, so trade means good jobs for Americans. But trade must be free and fair, so I’ll clamp down on cheaters like China and make sure that they finally play by the rules.

Third, I will reduce government spending. Our high level of debt slows GDP growth and that means fewer jobs. If our goal is jobs, we must, must stop spending over a trillion dollars more than we earn. To do this, I will eliminate expensive non-essential programs like Obamacare, and I will work to reform and save Medicare and Social Security, in part by means-testing their benefits.

Fourth, I will focus on nurturing and developing the skilled workers our economy so desperately needs and the future demands. This is the human capital with which tomorrow’s bright future will be built. Too many homes and too many schools are failing to provide our children with the skills and education that are essential for anything other than a minimum-wage job.

I'm going to address the final paragraph of his jobs plan, because I think it's the biggest bullshit of the lot:

And finally and perhaps most importantly, I will restore economic freedom. This nation’s economy runs on freedom, on opportunity, on entrepreneurs, on dreamers who innovate and build businesses. These entrepreneurs are being crushed by high taxation, burdensome regulation, hostile regulators, excessive healthcare costs, and destructive labor policies. I will work to make America the best place in the world for innovators and entrepreneurs and businesses small and large.

Here's Mitt, standing in front of a black audience, and singing the praises of deregulation when such regulatory bodies as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have been instrumental in curtailing the abusive and discriminatory policies of the largely white male "employer class". By "destructive labor policies", he's probably alluding to unions, which have been instrumental in allowing a black middle class to emerge in postwar America. Mitt is pretty much telling a crowd that has traditionally been at the bottom of the economic heap that a further race to the bottom is a good thing. Meanwhile, in the real world, just about at the time Romney was speaking one of the biggest banks in the U.S. was settling a lawsuit stemming from its policy of unfair lending practices towards minorities... this asshole really believes that decreased regulation would help African-Americans?

Of course, Romney's actions after his speech were even more odious than the speech itself... Mitt stated that he expected to be booed during his speech, which pretty much means that he was just trolling the NAACP. Even worse, Mitt then appeared in front of a bunch of his donors and said:

"Remind them of this: if they want more stuff from government, tell them to go vote for the other guy -- more free stuff. But don't forget, nothing is really free."

Factually, if applied to the healthcare reform act, this is false- Romney himself was the father of "mandated" healthcare coverage, so he knows that there is a penalty paid by uninsured persons. On a more visceral level, Romney's repeating the racist calumny that African-Americans are a bunch of freeloaders- it is his "welfare queen" moment. Romney's awful statement, like the movie Birth of a Nation, was meant to slander and vilify a race. Beneath his blandly handsome Ken-doll looks, Mitt Romney is a nasty piece of work. Forget his soft, manicured hands, he's as much of a brute as the nastiest Southern sheriff out of Central Casting.

Vixen Strangely has been on fire all week with posts about Mitt, and she'll soon have to drop the word "slackerish" from her tagline.

In a comment at Roy's place, mortimer knocks it out of the park with an observation about a desired effect of Romney's speech:

The goal of conservatives is to frame the PPACA as something to "make blah people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money." The more white suburbanites think that Obamacare is yet more welfare for those people the more they will oppose it and Obama, despite knowing almost nothing about the law or how it works -- Democrats and the "liberal" media to blame for the latter, IMO. Romney's mission wasn't just to get an NAACP audience to boo him, it was to directly tie Obamacare around the necks of black people -- metaphor chosen deliberately. Mission accomplished.

Finally, Matt Taibbi's piece on Willard's white lies is another must read.

I know Mitt's got new problems now, but I've been working on this post for a few days, and I really needed to write it to express how much I despise this nasty, duplicitious d-bag.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Busy Mother Has Time for Helping Jennifer

Ever have one of those moments of synchronicity, an uncanny coincidence that demands to be acknowledged? I got to work around midnight, and my awesome co-worker told me that he had something to show me, something that I would appreciate greatly. Boy-howdy, he was right- he introduced me to this leggy beauty:

Unfortunately, the picture is a bit blurry and overexposed, because it was taken with my cell phone camera, with illumination provided by my co-worker's ultra-powerful flashlight (he's a bit of a "gadget man"). This baby could have comfortably straddled my ear. Note the round object that she's carrying... she'll be expecting cute little baby speedras any day now.

When I finally got a moment to log on and check out the bloggerhood, I saw that Jennifer put up a speedra post. As they say, mi carrera fue clara, my post topic chosen by circumstances. I'd like to thank my leggy friend for taking the time out of her busy schedule to help Jennifer and, by doing so, help me.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another Day of Slacking Blog-Wise

I spent much of today picking wineberries when I should have been researching a post about Romney's offensive speech to the NAACP (Rumproast is seriously on the case, though). I figure that, since I've been a slacker, I'd try to get away with simply posting a link to a wonderful documentary about New Zealand's Flying Nun Records which was brought to my attention by all-around good guy Another Kiwi. The linked page is part one of a six-part retrospective. If you've ever wondered about the pop music scene in New Zealand over the last three decades, you're in for a treat. I was reminded of this documentary when A.K posted the video for the... uh... heavenly Heavenly Pop Hit by The Chills.

Of course, New Zealand is still putting out some fantastic music these days... my particular favorite recent-ish antipodean song has got to be Happy as Can Be by Cut Off Your Hands, which came out a few years ago:

Sorry about the perfunctory posts lately, but the berry season is perishingly short, so I've been preoccupied with my usufructary endeavors.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mom's Birthday, Belated Telstar Anniversary

As is customary, I take a moment to wish mom a happy birthday on this date. This is mom's first birthday as a retiree, and she is currently gallivanting around Switzerland with my brother Sweetums and his family. Pretty sweet deal, eh? It sure beats being stuck in traffic on Route 66 and not the good one, commuting to the office.

Because I slacked off yesterday, I missed another birthday, the fiftieth anniversary of the launching of Telstar. I really wish I had known this yesterday, because I totally would have posted the retro-futuristic, earnestly nerdy Telstar by The Tornados:

Hat tip to the orange one, and not the bad one.

For some reason, I thought I'd posted a video for Telstar, which teh wiki sez was the first single by a British band to hit #1 on the U.S. record charts, before. Ya gotta dig the soaring, nerdy-yet-cool vibe of the song... it really captures that feeling of optimism and wonder that characterized much of the "Space Age". Unfortunately, composer/producer Joe Meek didn't have such a happy life... here's a 1991 BBC4 documentary about this eccentric, talented figure:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Extending the Bush Tax Cuts?

I listened to President Obama's speech about extending the Bush Tax Cuts for middle-class taxpayers, and I'm just a little miffed. While I realize that he probably wants to set a "trap" for the Republicans, who will fight any increase on taxes to the ultra-wealthy tooth-and-nail, but I still can't help but think that he's tacitly buying into the Republican "taxes are a burden" frame.

I've always maintained that taxes are the price for living in a functional society, and I don't mind paying them. In fact, I'd rather give up my tax break of a few hundred dollars and help pay for infrastructure than to end up paying that same amount of money for expenses incurred because the infrastructure is bad- is a tax cut good for Joe Schmo when he has to use the money to pay for a broken axle?

Let all of the tax cuts sunset, as they are supposed to do at the end of the year. Stop using GOP "framing" language when making policy pitches. If you want to make a clear distinction between yourself and your opponent, talk about his accounts in offshore tax havens.

How about an appropriate number from the fantastic music film Urgh! A Music War?

Don't lower my taxes, make the mendacious looters pay theirs.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ouchy Bounty

Today is the last day of our major summer fundraiser, but I lucked out, and got to work another site today. Sheesh, yesterday, with it's "pushing triple digits" heat, was enough of an ordeal.

The site that I worked today has plenty of wineberry brambles, so as soon as everyone else left, and I locked up, I went to work, gathering as many ripe aggregations of drupelets (hey, I'm a pedant!) as I could. It was ouchy, ouchy work with all those spiny brambles, but it's worth it, even though I wasn't making fifty dollars an hour doing it. Tomorrow, I'll be making jam with friends again.

Many of the brambles still bear their fuzzy unripe fruits, so I imagine I'll be able to gorge myself on wineberries for at least another week. It's a pretty damn good fringe benefit!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bon Voyage, Momster!

Today, mom is leaving the sweltering heat of Virginia and flying to Zurich to spend three weeks with my brother Sweetums and his family. It's nice to know that her retirement is filled with such unalloyed coolness.

Meanwhile, on the home front, it's promising to be a scorcher here, and it's the last weekend of our big summer fundraiser. I'll be able to split my time between being indoors and outdoors, so I won't suffer too much. Hopefully, the forecast thunderstorms will hold off until after the event winds down. I really don't look forward to having to herd visitors into shelter in case there are dangerous weather conditions.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Speaking of Squirrelsaurus...

So... Thunder has posted a picture of "Squirrelsaurus" just about the time that a downy dinosaur dubbed Sciurumimus "squirrel mimic" has been revealed to the public. I, for one welcome our Squirrelsaurus overlords. The interesting thing about Sciurumimus is that, as a megalosaur, it is a basal theropod, so the presence of feathers indicates that feathers were not confined to the coelurosaurs. There's even evidence suggesting that at least some of the ornithischian dinosaurs were feathered.

Of course, it's been known for a long time that many of the smaller coelurosaurs were feathered, and there have even been educated guesses about the color of their plumage in some cases.

It's been a good week for science stories, so I have been extraordinarily happy boy lately!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Massively Cool

The most exciting news of the week has got to be the discovery of a particle which may be the Higgs boson. Of course, the scientists at CERN's Large Hadron Collider have couched this discovery in a characteristically cautious manner (while boobs speak with certainty, the wise speak soberly). Here's a good overview of what the Higgs boson is thought to be. The best thing about this discovery is that it marks the beginning of an entire field of scientific endeavor, rather than a culmination.

I wrote a Secret Science Club post-lecture recap about the search for the Higgs boson last year, with a couple of embedded videos. Of course, whenever I hear "Higgs boson", I can't help but think of The Higsons, which reminds me of Uncle Robyn's goofy song. Of course, the Higgs boson, and the Higgs field, is thought to be responsible for the existence of mass, which is not to be confused with weight, but I figure this song would not be inappropriate to post:

Anyway, that's the coolest news of the week, and I am one happy, happy bastard.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July Fourth

Since I have to work today, I set this post up yesterday... but in reality, I'm recycling a post from a couple of years ago. One of my all-time favorite songs is Fourth of July originally released by LA's X, but written by Dave Alvin, originally of The Blasters, who joined X for their See How We Are album. Here's a video of Dave performing the song with a reunited Blasters:

The song resonates today, with its tale of a couple struggling with economic privation, and the effects that it has on their relationship:

On the lost side of town, in a dark apartment,
We gave up trying so long ago.

The song ends on a hopeful note, as the narrator tries to rouse his significant other with the prospect of actually deriving some enjoyment on the holiday. Of course, his success, and the ultimate success of the couple's relationship, is never revealed in the song, but I like to view it as an optimistic song.

That being said, one of the biggest cultural problems facing the United States is the conflation of economic system "Capitalism" with the political system "Democracy". Free-market blatherskite notwithstanding, an autocratic society can embrace capitalism (China is a perfect example) while a socialist society can have a population with more freedom than the U.S. population (the Scandinavian countries are a perfect example). The old English jurist Lord Henley observed that "Necessitous men are not, truly speaking, free men, but, to answer a present exigency, will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose upon them."

I often rib one of my vanishingly few libertarian friends that Socialism will save Capitalism from itself. I think that it could also save Democracy from Capitalism as a side effect. Of course, even an incremental reform of healthcare is being fought tooth-and-nail by corporate feudalists, so we can look forward to Freedumb! ringing for the next four months. For one day, though, we can ignore the idiocy, and enjoy at least some measure of freedom, even if it just boils down to a one-day beer bash.

Enjoy your Fourth of July, and don't blow any digits off, now.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beloved Socialist Andy Griffith Dies

Beloved American icon and ardent socialist Andy Griffith has died at the age of eighty-six. While best known as the homespun sheriff of idealized, fictional small-town Mayberry, Griffith also played small-town lawyer and catnip-for fogies Matlock.

In a more atpyical role, Griffith played amoral opportunist and rabble-rouser Lonesome Rhodes in the frighteningly prescient A Face in the Crowd:

In his subversive Andy Griffith Show, Griffith portrayed a gentle Southern sheriff who lived in a sanitized, all-white town... a role antithetical to the tradition of the Southern lawman embodied by Bull Connor. While superficially all-American, Griffith's Sheriff Taylor represented the tyranny of the state and a soft-on-crime belief in the power of rehabilitative jailing:

Of course, in later years, Andy Griffith didn't even bother to hide his socialist, statist tendencies:

Funny how such a rabid pinko came to be known as the ultimate representative of small-town, Heartland values... he even had the temerity to disguise himself as a good, Christian man. Of all the tools of teh Debbil, deception is the greatest.

Uh, if I can turn off the snark for a while, I have to say that my favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show was the episode in which Gomer Pyle tried to effect a citizen's arrest of Deputy Barney Fife... it cracks me up every time:

Damn, if only small-town sheriffs were as gentlemanly and competent as Griffith's Sheriff Taylor... I prefer the fictional version of America's sheriff to what's passing for America's sheriff nowadays. Rest in peace, Mr Griffith.

UPDATE: I just found this, and it makes Andy's passing even sadder to me:

Now, those are some real American values that I can get behind 100%.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Had a Weird Dream Yesterday...

I got home yesterday around 9AM after working from Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning. Needless to say, I was knackered. I'm not the sort to recall my dreams, but I had a vivid dream yesterday, a whimsical dream of diaphanous nymphs in dramatic outfits and happy toddlers. Funny, my dreams usually aren't so pleasant, so if I had been receiving telepathic messages, it must have been from a benevolent entity...

vacuumslayer said...
Hey, B^4, we're gonna be bypassing your city soon--just wanted to give you a virtual wave!
July 1, 2012 10:29 AM

It's a shame that I was zonked... If I had been awake, I could have lowered a basket of pla choo chee down from the McLean Avenue bridge. Hope all is well with the move, VS and fam!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Feminists are Humorless?

In the interest of full disclosure, I set this post up yesterday, inspired by a comment I left on A.K.'s latest post at the must-read Riddled...

There's a common troll trope that feminists are humorless (though, thankfully, the top search results for "humorless feminists" are subversive). Yeah, those feminists, always so serious while they attack the phallocentric patriarchal dominance system... wait, what's this? A hilariously subversive act has been fighting sexism and racism for decades? Can this be? Well, here's a small sample of the awesome, hilarious Frank Chickens:

The original video for the single, which can't be embedded, explicitly upends the stereotype of the submissive Japanese woman.

Another early single subverts songs about young women pining away for love... as nutty as it sounds, it's a welcome dose of Cho-Cho Sanity.

Like most superheroes, Frank Chickens had a good origin story, and they are still active well into the 21st Century (although I'd venture to say that they were always a 21st Century Act, even in the 1980's). Hilariously, they won status as comedy gods in a Scottish contest sponsored by Foster's beer... they've even managed to be subversive by proxy!