Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why car-sharing services rule, and why taxing them at 20% is lame.

Zipcar: Main site.

Since I moved to Pioneer Square in Seattle, I knew that trying to own a car would be stupid. I can walk to nearly everything I need, which is great exercise, and I can ride the bus to work. 90% of the time I do not need a car.

However, I do have friends in South King County. I do have situations where I need to reach several transit-poor locations in succession. Or maybe I want to group a bunch of errands together and run them all over town. So what do I do without a car?

Car-sharing is the answer, and without it, living in city would be a lot less practical. Zipcar is the dominant provider of this service. You simply reserve a car online when you need it and pick it up, using it for any interval the car is available, from one hour to four days. You then return it to the same spot at the end of your reservation. There are a few rules you need to follow, but once you get used to them, it becomes second nature.

Zipcar provides many benefits both to users and non-users. Here are the benefits to users:

* You get a new or close-to-new car without a car payment. This means you're unlikely to suffer a breakdown.
* You can drive a wide variety of cars tailor-made to your purpose. Want to just run some errands? Get a Prius. Want to carpool to a party? Get a minivan. Need to run to IKEA? Get a pickup. Want to impress a client or date? Get a BMW. Want a pleasure drive? Get a MINI Cooper. Etc, etc.
* For a small damage waiver, you don't have to worry about damage or insurance. Though it's smart to carry a non-car-owner's liability and uninsured motorist policy anyway (inexpensive), you're covered for minor insults via Zipcar's master policy.
* Gas is included in your rental fee, so you know how much you're paying for driving at all times. It becomes a known, budgetable item. The only surprise fees you may encounter is if you break a rule, like not returning on time or forgetting to leave 1/4 tank in the car, and such fees are clearly enumerated.
* If you live in city, Zipcars are now everywhere. Sometimes it's hard to find one on a nice Saturday afternoon, but I have NEVER been unable to find a car within a mile of my house (and I don't mind walknig a mile). The convenience is compelling.
* Unless you have young children, not having a car enables you to afford to live in areas previously considered out of reach financially.

I drive Zipcar a lot and I typically pay around $500/month. $100 of this would pay for gas anyway, so imagine trying to buy/insure/pay taxes on/park NEW cars for $400/month. You just can't do it. And if you don't have to go all the obscure places I do, you can probably get by on much less.

Here are the benefits for everyone else:

* Downtown apartment/condo vacancy rates are reaching sky-high levels, and one of the things that helps reverse this is car-sharing. People not having to need cars all the time makes living downtown more attractive, especially for singles.
* Increased density makes things better for local economies...people walking by a shop are FAR more likely to stop in on a whim and spend money than people driving by, and the money saved by not having a car allows people to spend it.
* Massively reduced environmental impact. One car now serves an average of 10-15 people or more. Rather than each of us buying a car that sits unused in a lot somewhere, we each pool together and use ONE car, together.
* However, it doesn't measurably hurt car companies. Zipcar steadily acquires new cars in fleets from both manufacturers and other places, which is cheaper for automakers to deal with, and helps keep people employed. Further, it's better to sell 1/15th of a car to someone every few years than it is to not sell new cars to city dwellers at ALL.
* Having to reserve a car makes you THINK about whether you need a car. This helps you rearrange your life to use cars as little as possible, and walk or bike more. This takes cars off of freeways and out of parking lots, freeing up more space for other people.
* Car-sharing encourages people to live closer to city centers, reducing commute times, increasing leisure time, and clearing the freeways for people who want/need to live farther out.

It's compelling: Car-sharing is one step towards a more sustainable culture.

So, my only complaint about all this is the following: After all this, why do Zipcar users get saddled with up to 20% in taxes? Not only do we have to pay full "use taxes" (equivalent to sales taxes), but we are often hit with rental car taxes as well.

WHY? We still pay taxes on gas, and Zipcar pays taxes on buying the cars and registering them. Zipcar MIGHT even be paying business & occupation taxes on rental fees. Why, then, do we have to pay additional taxes when we are doing our communities a huge favor by abandoning cars and living a more sustainable lifestyle? This is INSANE.

I had a politician argue with me that asking for tax relief on car sharing in a time of fiscal crisis is not good politically, but really, how much is Washington State collecting from Zipcar? I don't think they're going to miss the money. But 20% might make the difference between someone being able to afford car sharing or not!

Thus, today, I'm starting the Twitter tag #NoTaxesOnCarSharing to see if we can start a social movement against this unfair practice by government.

Please help by spreading the word.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why I want to win, and win the right way.

I got into a tweet fight with @toddeherman about this on Sunday. Todd is a long-time colleague of mine, and he is also currently the director of social media for the Republican National Committee. Though I would like to consider him a friend, obviously that friendship is going to be strained by our fundamentally incompatible political goals, and we're certainly going to get into it from time to time, and Sunday was no exception.

I'm not interested in repeating the thread here, though if I get bored later, I might try to reconstruct it. Basically, what was at issue was my anarchist leanings. Todd expressed skepticism that I could be an anarchist if I backed Obama-care, the welfare state, unions, etc.

What Todd says is true under ordinary circumstances. A "pure" anarchist quivers in rage at any sort of government no matter what it tries to do. However, such anarchists aren't very effective, because they have no place to put a stake in the ground and work for change. They are immediately isolated and neutralized as threats, probably by the criminal justice system, and thus they have no hope of having any impact.

Because I understand this, I have to be more crafty in my approach to anarchism. It comes down to this: I resent terribly being forced to support the system of global capitalism as a matter of personal survival. Just about no matter what I do, I have to participate in the destruction of people, species, ecosystems, and possibly the planet's future ability to sustain any form of significant multicellular life. Sure, it SICKENS me.

But if all I do is run around blowing stuff up like my anarchist ancestors did, what good will it do? I'll end up in jail and/or dead, and the system will go on. I can't fight this system by targeting people with violence and making THEM miserable in revenge. That doesn't get me anywhere. First, I'll alienate the very people I'm trying to help. Second, I'll be neutralized. I guess on that score I'm not a very good anarchist.

Or maybe I'm the best anarchist ever. Because I have no effective choice, I no longer have to feel bad about participating. Maybe I can use the rewards of the capitalist system to work towards its destruction. Maybe I can put my financial resources and creative talents working towards its destruction from the inside. Maybe I can get others to join me.

Look at it this way. America, as it is today, is doomed. More generally, capitalism. More generally, our civilization itself. All are based on endless expansion, endless exploitation, endless violence, and endless environmental destruction. Well, not endless. Eventually you expand to the edges of the earth. Eventually you run out of new resources and people to exploit. Eventually you kill everyone you can get away with killing. Eventually you wreck the planet so much you can no longer survive. Sooner or later, the system WILL collapse. And in that way, I will win.

Unfortunately, if I win that way, I'll be dead and so will everyone else. So will most of the life on the planet, and it will be millions of years, if ever, before the ecosystems recover.

So, what to do? Well, we have to replace our civilization with one NOT based on endless expansion, exploitation, violence, and environmental destruction. Given that few civilizations have ever survived without these principles, I am not realistically expecting to succeed. But it's our only chance, and I get a thrill towards striving towards low-probability high-reward outcomes.

Thus, today I am a progressive. I fight for unions. I fight for the welfare state. I fight for universal single-payer healthcare. Development of sustainable agriculture, cities, and energy. And I'm going to get more and more insistent we implement these things. And if it undermines the "efficiencies" of capitalism, GOOD, because we need to undermine its "efficiencies" before those efficiencies kill all of us.

Tomorrow, I'll take it to the next level and fight for internationalism. It wasn't communism and fascism that killed a billion people in the last two centuries. It was NATIONALISM, and nationalism is a central feature of the mental disease that is Western Civilization. And we must get rid of it. We must learn how to find a way to relate to other people without regard to lines on a map.

I don't know what happens after that. If we are still here, though, I'm sure the path will be obvious. And I hope to see you there to walk down that path with me.

Oh, and I'm not even going to be sneaky about it. I'm going to do this right under your nose. If I do end up dead or in jail, you'll know that it was because someone is lying about what America stands for. Which, sure, most of the "America first" people do anyway, but that's besides the point.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The state of things, seven weeks before the election.

It's pretty obvious that the political right has royally screwed this country in terms of foreign relations and domestic policies. They have no answers going forward, they KNOW they have no answers going forward, and allowing their opponents to discover and implement any answers would freeze them out of politics for another generation (just as it did in the 30s), so they are inventing as many non-issues as possible so they can maximize chaos in case some plan becomes apparent.

Everything that has transpired this year in the political arena has done so according to this design. Inexplicably, the Democrats have let them get away with it, which makes me fear that the Democrats either have no answers either, or are too afraid to implement them (my money's on the latter).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Glenn beck attaches the dogwhistle to a megaphone.

Bertram Wyatt-Brown: Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South

I am a native of the border South. My entire family is from Arkansas, most of whom descended from poor subsistence farmers from Tennessee who fought for the Confederate Army, and the rest descended from Cherokee refugees. Because of classism, Southerners from the deeper South distrust the "Southernness" of white Arkansas, but trust me--the South still lives in rural Arkansas.

Glenn Beck is throwing around a phrase: "Restoring Honor." This sounds like a good thing, but in the context of this anniversary of a certain speech, it is, in fact, a horrible thing.

In his awesome book referenced above, Bertram Wyatt-Brown teaches us that "honor" is actually a form of tight social control. And now when Southerners speak of honor, they refer to the memory of something lost: white privilege to dominate slaves and even freed blacks, clearly defined subservient roles for women, and a strict system of economic stratification, all of it enforced by a firm belief in the concept of "honor". The oral history of my family agrees with this notion 100%. Honor was so powerful that it caused my ancestors to fight for the South pretty much against their own interests. The notion that the Civil War was fought merely over slavery is too simplistic. The way Wyatt-Brown put it was that slavery loaded the gun, but "honor" pulled the trigger.

Thus, "honor" is what we now call a dogwhistle--it's a way for racists, sexists, and people who believe the wealthy have the right to dominate us all to quickly identify each other.

Thirty-seven years ago today, a preacher from Montgomery, Alabama stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave us a passionate vision of a world without this destructive concept. It was his dream. It is the dream of all oppressed people who were oppressed in the South, all people similarly oppressed worldwide, and all people who hate this kind of oppression.


When the raving lunatic Glenn Beck holds his stupid rally today, remember what he is restoring. "Honor." Not the honor that you and I think is good, but the honor that ruled the South. This is what Beck stands for, and it's what the Tea Party stands for.

THEY ARE KILLING MLK'S DREAM. And they must be stopped. Before they succeed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Five very simple yet politically impossible ways to lower unemployment NOW.

1. MASSIVE GOVERNMENT SPENDING. With treasury rates being at near all-time record lows, the government should be spending money like it was about to become illegal. Not mere tens of billions, but TRILLIONS. Spend until the 10-year Treasury note reaches 6%, which was considered tolerable during the Bush Administration.

Right now it's 2.5%, and the 30-year is even more ridiculous at 3.5%. If people were afraid of inflation, you wouldn't be seeing rates like this.

2. MAKE IT HARD TO HOARD CASH. Tax the fuck out of corporate profits unless a percentage is invested into R&D.

3. MAKE IT EASIER TO GET CREDIT. The government should engage in arbitrage of Treasuries to loosen up business credit slightly to companies with good (AA or better) ratings.

4. INCENTIVIZE HIRING BY MAKING IT SO CHEAP TO HIRE THAT IT'S DUMB NOT TO. Abolish FICA and fold it into regular income tax (but at first don't bother, just run a deficit, see point 1). Continue to pretend FICA exists to compute Social Security benefits eligibility. And, duh, single-payer health insurance. Both would cut the overhead of hiring someone nearly in half.

5. EXPAND THE SCOPE OF FLSA AND SHORTEN THE WORKWEEK TO 35 HOURS. Companies are working 1 person 80 hours a week instead of hiring 2 people working 40 hours a week each. This could be fixed by tightening up the requirements for considering someone salaried and also reducing the nonsalaried workweek to 35 hours.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wrong About Everything! ii., Cordoba House.

Any of the following can be learned in about 15 seconds with Google.

1. Cordoba House is not even the name of the project. The name of the property is Park51 and the project is officially called "The Community Center at Park51". "Cordoba House" is just one part of this development.

2. It is doubtful that Cordoba House is actually a mosque. The Arabic term for such a building is a masjid, and it is not at all clear that Cordoba House will impose the same restrictions on non-Muslims that a typical masjid would. Reading through the literature of the Cordoba Initiative especially, non-Muslims would be perfectly welcome to attend, say, salat (one of the five daily prayers) so long as they were not disruptive. Further, it does appear likely that non-Muslim services would be permitted.

"Ecumenical worship center" is likely more accurate than "mosque." Sure, it will primarily cater to Muslims. That's like so bad or something in the eyes of teabaggers, but whatever.

3. It doesn't represent radical Islam. It is being developed by two extremely ecumenical organizations, the American Society for Muslim Advancement (which sounds scary but is in fact moderate-to-liberal) and The Cordoba Initiative (which is an ecumenical body similiar to Christianity-centric interfaith councils).

4. It isn't at "Ground Zero." The nearest point of Park51 to the nearest point of the World Trade Center complex is 2 blocks. That does not seem like a very long way to most people, but in lower Manhattan there is a lot of stuff crammed in a two block area.

5. Inconsistent much? News Corporation's second-largest shareholder is Saudi Prince Al-Waleed. News Corporation is the parent company of Fox, including the Fox News Channel. Teabaggers: If Muslims are involved in a global conspiracy to fuck up America, why are you spending all your time watching a news channel partially owned by one--especially a member of the Saudi royal family whose own dedication to the moderate tenets of Islam is in doubt.

Wrong About Everything! i. Bond Vigilantes Are on the Run

First in the "Wrong About Everything!" series, showing that the GOP and associated Tea Party idiots haven't just become unmoored from reality, but they've lost sight of its shore.

Paul Krugman: Holy Bond Yield, Batman

So the long bond has plummeted to 2.57%. This is extraordinarily low, and it shows that bond traders have absolutely no fear of the impact of deficits. Quite the contrary, it shows they fear pervasive deflation.

To put this in perspective, when the Bush Administration ran the credit card hot to fight a pointless war in Iraq, the rate was typically around 4.5%. And in the late 90s, when the deficit was nonexistent due to higher taxes AND healthy economic growth (yeah, don't get me started), it ran nearly 6%.

At these rates, the government could refinance quite a bit of its existing debt and save enough in interest payments alone to pay for ten of the weak-ass stimulus bills that the GOP is going nuts about.

If 6% was nothing to worry about in the greatest period of economic expansion in recent memory, why are we freaking out about 2.5% now? We should be running the printing press nonstop until rates climb at least that high. And I submit that running it up to 10% to prevent a deflationary nightmare is probably not unreasonable.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Conservatism isn't just unmoored, it has lost site of reality's shore.

Small business owner Michael Fleischer in WSJ: "Why I'm not Hiring"

Edited to add: Apparently this is Ari Fleischer's brother. Thanks for disclosing that, WSJ. Oh, wait, you didn't.

This is why modern conservatism is stupefying.

On the one hand, we can't have single-payer, because that's like socialism or something. On the other, small businesses can't hire because it's too expensive to create jobs because of the excessive costs of providing health insurance.

Which is it?

One the one hand, conservatives argue only the top 1% are actually paying any taxes. On the other, a working class employee is paying a quarter of her putative salary in taxes.

Which is it?

On the one hand, it's bad to impose sharply progressive taxes on the wealthy. On the other, the government is turning small businesses into tax collectors so they can nickel and dime the working class to death.

Which is it?

Old-school conservatives knew they either had to pick one or the other or at least hide the fact that they were engaging in contradiction. But modern conservatives?

Eh, reality is for liberal schmucks. WHO NEEDS IT?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You know what's wrong with this country? SOCCER.

Amanda Marcotte, "Pandagon" : The wingnut anti-soccer lie machine, or how teabaggers determined England is in South America.

Conservatives have been spouting off about how the rise of soccer is indicative of the downfall of America, most notably G. Gordon Liddy.

I bet you didn't know that the rise of soccer's popularity runs parallel to the rise of illegal immigration. Or that soccer was developed by South American cannibals who kicked the head of their fallen foes around after eating the body.

Amanda already covered the race-baiting particulars of this idiocy. Let's look at how hilariously bad-crazy-wrong all this rhetoric is on its own merit.

A little of my own personal history--I grew up in Tulsa, OK. In the late 70s, Tulsa was hardly a bastion of illegal immigration. My working class East Tulsa neighborhood was about as racially diverse as a neighborhood ever has been in Tulsa, consisting of about 1/4 blacks, American Indians (primarily Cherokee and Creek), Asians, and--yes--Mexican-Americans (such as College Hall of Fame and Dallas Cowboy defensive end Tony Casillas, who grew up 3 blocks from me.) After a few years of pickup games of football, baseball, and, yes, soccer in the backyard, my parents enrolled me in a recreation soccer league under the auspices of the Green Country Soccer Association, at the time one of the largest such organizations in the country.

Yes, that's right--right in the center of the redneck, Southern Baptist Bible Belt soccer was A BIG FREAKING DEAL.

Oh yeah, about all the kids in the East Tulsa league--despite the racially diverse (for Tulsa) neighborhood. THEY WERE ALL WHITE. Most of the nonwhite kids did Pop Warner football instead. The Mexican kids? THEY WERE ALL PLAYING BASEBALL AND FOOTBALL.

(Hey, you fucking right-wing knobs--what the fuck do you think a "soccer mom" is anyway? Yes, that's right, MY MOTHER, in 1979, a redneck conservative Christian.)

There's more to this story than just the fact that soccer has been the #1 adult participation team sport in this country for more than a generation (finally supplanting bowling in the 80s). Idiots like Liddy seem to forget that MLS is the second attempt at a professional soccer league in this country. The first was called the "North American Soccer League", which was really the "American Soccer League", but added the "North" out of respect to the two Canadian teams.

Oh, yeah, Tulsa. Tulsa never had a premier-level professional team before 1978. Oh sure, we had the short-lived USFL Oklahoma Outlaws, but our first real, genuine pro team was the Tulsa Roughnecks, our NASL franchise. The Roughnecks played at the University of Tulsa's Skelly Stadium, which was a concrete slab covered in Astroturf. I can't imagine playing soccer on something like that, but legends such as Georgio Chinalia and even Pelé endured the risks to bring the glory of professional soccer to eager American fans. Especially kids like me, who wated superstars to look up to in much the same way my football-playing buddies looked up to Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach.

Hell, I still remember names like Billy Caskey, Victor Moreland, Gene "Dr. Du" DuChateau, and Barry Wallace. By the way, three out of four of these guys (as well as half the team, usually) were from fucking ENGLAND, which is where soccer REALLY COMES FROM, you history-challenged MORONS.

NASL games never had much trouble selling tickets. The trouble is that the league couldn't make money because soccer is fundamentally incompatible with the American media model for generating ad revenue from sports. Other mainstream American sports have natural breaks for ads. Footaball games pause 1 minute and 50 seconds on EVERY change of possession and EVERY timeout called before 5:00 left in the half. Basketball games have MANDATORY stoppages every 4 minutes of clock time. Hockey has similar provisions. Baseball, of course, has side changes and pitching chages. Other sports were edited in advance as montages.

Soccer, however, was a problem. What national TV network in the early 80s would tolerate 45 minutes of continuous action? There were other issues, too--soccer had its own conventions such as the referee keeping the official time and making his own adjustments for stoppages. Earlier generations of artificial surfaces were awful. Stadiums built for football before 1980 did not have soccer in mind, and the pitches were ridiculously narrow (this is still occasionally a problem in MLS, by the way). NASL experimented with rule changes to make the game more America-friendly, which annoyed both the fans and FIFA.

In short, NASL was ahead of its time, and died an ugly death in 1984. But it wasn't because people didn't enjoy it. It's because the corporate media oligarchs couldn't figure out how to make money from it. MLS fares better, because of smart marketing. For instance, creating artificial scarcity by limiting ticket sales to the lower sections of multipurpose venues. Also, technology allows for electronic ad boards along the pitch, generating ad revenue that can be shared with broadcasters. The end result is that you have more trouble getting MLS tickets in more cities than, say, NBA tickets.

Oh, sure, many teams have a large Latino contingent for fans. But only in those areas with lots of Latino people to begin with. Go to a Sounders FC game some time, Liddy--it's a sea of white faces. Not to mention that its chief owner is a white dude who grew up playing soccer on fucking MERCER ISLAND. Oh yeah, and we all know about the club's more famous backer--that great Latino comic and The Price is Right host Drew Carey. Oh, wait, I guess he isn't Latino. Oops.

Finally, sure, we did have to learn a little Spanish to enjoy the World Cup. Everyone on my soccer team, anyway, was pleased to learn that Tulsa Cable (now part of Comcast) was adding SIN (now called Univision) to its lineup in time for the 1982 World Cup. People weren't really all that worried about illegal immigration in 1982, but it was true that the Spanish-speaking communities of our country were crazy about the World Cup (by the way, SIN's primary audience in those days were Cubanos in Miami and Puerto Ricans in New York--NOT Mexicans, though sure a lot of Mexicans watched it from the LA area, an area that has had Mexicans for, gee, I don't know, 500 years.) That inspired me to take five years of Spanish in junior high and high school. I've follwed every World Cup since. And now I don't even have to understand Spanish to follow the action (a development that didn't occur until FUCKING 2006, by the way.)

I suppose the teabagger contingent doesn't even bother with the truth--if they make things up ABOUT FUCKING SOCCER OF ALL THINGS in order to incite racial hatred....well, I guess the Crazy Train hasn't just left the station, but it's nearing its destination. If it weren't so serious, it would be laughable.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ED. xix. LOL, census fail.

Rick Ungar: Bachmann census conspiracy theory may cost GOP big-time.

I never thought of it that way. But now have figured out why the White House didn't exactly encourage Bachmann to shut up. They probably went "LOL, hee hee, go ahead and boycott the census conservative douchebags."

It even took Karl Rove--the Elephant King of Douchebaggery himself--until JUST LAST WEEK to notice how mindlessly stupid it is for Congresspeople like Bachmann and Ron Paul to lobby against participation in the Census. It's sort of like a bizarre form of infanticide, where you don't do too much to wreck your life, but you completely ruin things for the next generation of Republicans. Can't say I'm shedding many tears.

Nineteenth in a series on Elephantine Douchebaggery, a catalog of the most hilariously obnoxious right-wing asshattery.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sorry, that dog doesn't hunt.

Ross Douthat in the New York Times: A Time for Contrition.

Now that the Holy Father himself is ass-deep in the Catholic child-rape coverup nonsense, you'd expect the sackcloth and ashes to come out from the conservatives.

Nope. They're getting even more obnoxious in their buck passing.

Look, Douthat, you fucking asshat: Liberal attitudes on ADULT sexuality do not correspond to taking advantage of children. It's bad enough that the most recent evidence moves the bubble on the Magisterium's ethical level from "ethically incompetent" to "actually evil", but the fact that apologists like you don't see that removes the last shred of credibility you had as social critics.

And if you think this problem is NEW in the Church, THINK AGAIN. It's just now that no one is afraid of the Church's social power anymore, people are coming forward. Finally. And that's the crux of the problem here, isn't it? People like you are upset that the Church has little social power here in AD 2010, and that makes you WAY more sad than kids getting raped by people they're taught from birth to trust implicitly.

Any hope I had that this development would finally discredit the conservative Catholic apologists is destroyed. It's actually emboldened them to become more obnoxious. The madness inflicted upon the world in AD 324* will continue unabated, I guess.

Just remember what's in the Good Book, you morons:
Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew xxv., 41-46 (NRSV)

And if Jesus is going to send you to hell for failing to stand up for those who have been lawfully imprisoned, what do you think he will do to you if you fail to stop priests from raping children, oh dear "Blessed One?"

[For those of you who don't speak Catholic, that's what Benedictus (Latin for "Benedict") means in English. I think we should change his name to Maledictus, myself.]

*And lest you think that I am a Catholic-basher, what I mean by this is that Constantine I's ascension marks the end of the transformation of the Church from an organic, socially conscious, life-affirming body to an imperalist, oppressive, life-destroying nightmare. And though I like the way Catholics do liturgy, I will never be able to stomach Catholicism until this changes. Looks like that will happen no time soon.

And trust me, Protestants are just as bad. Worse, really, because they tend to be better at making weapons.

[By the way, H/T to Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. I wanted to say my own piece about it, but I also agree with all of her remarks, so go read that, too.]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pretending to be a teabagger.

Barack Obama is a Marxist fascist socialist Muslim Stalinist communist Nazi Jew.

How did I do?

[New York Times: Next Year in the White House: A Seder Tradition ]

[H/T: Dave]

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Five reasons why it is awesome that Steve Jobs told Adobe to suck his balls.

Five reasons why it is great the iPhone OS (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad) doesn't support Flash:

(1) Flash is evil and needs to die right now. It is a massive security hole and is not accessible. Moving away from Flash will probably get rid of half the viruses out there. It was the worst proprietary adoption since the <BLINK> tag.

(2) The most obnoxious ads use Flash. No Flash support = no obnoxious ads. Ever. Until they port them to HTML5, anyway.

(3) I couldn't care less about stupid Facebook games.

(4) Media companies are already trying to support HTML 5 video, which works seamlessly on the next version of the iPhone OS.

(5) The ONLY things that ever crash on my Mac are Flash and Microsoft Entourage--and Flash crashing on the iPhone OS would probably crash the whole device.

Yeah, sure, Steve Jobs is a dick. But he's a dick that runs a company that makes good stuff. If you have to put up with a dick, make sure he's at least good at what he does. Adobe, on the other hand, is evil and their stuff is awful. Fortunately, Flash is a walking corpse.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Prefer deferring the solvable problems over the unsolvable ones.

In the news:

Financial Times: IPCC's AR4 actually understates effects of climate change.
China Daily: Oxygen levels declining.

While those in right-wing land are busy excoriating British climate scientists for perceived sins of 15 years ago that are completely irrelevant to modern issues of climate change and biosphere destruction, those of us in the reality-based community are presented with a building mountain of highly disturbing realizations.

Stories like this explain why I'm not terribly concerned about intergenerational fiscal and political threats. A balanced budget and strict adherence to the Constitution aren't of much use when you're suffocating or can't find food because most of the edible plant and animal species are now extinct.

I feel like humans can solve human-scale problems such as deficits or political chaos given enough time. But creating a runaway feedback loop in the climate or destroying the systems that create oxygen for us to breathe will be a far bigger and maybe even unsolvable problem.

Therefore, I'm thinking that you might as well universalize health care and target tons of government dollars developing sustainable forms of energy, even if you have to do it by running the printing presses nonstop. Yeah, sure, you might destroy the currency, but if you succeed, you will have a wealth basis to reboot the system and also have the luxury of debating what that replacement system might look like.

I don't think my grandchildren (or more to the point, the grandchildren of those I love, since I will never have biological children of my own) will be very fond of us if we give them a balanced budget but no breathable oxygen. And, conversely, if we wrecked the economy making sure they had air to breathe and food to eat and medicine to heal them, they might forgive us for our fiscal and constitutional sins.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blog Restart: Saving the Cato Institute a lot of money. . . .

Cato Institute: Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?


They should've just asked me. I could've saved them a lot of money.

Oh wait, you're talking about the UK. The answer is more like "probably" in that case.

At least they're smart enough to know the answer is "No" as far as the US is concerned. Fuck the Cato Institute in the ear, anyway.

Here's what Jason Kuznicki, a gay Cato employee (WTF?) asked of Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage, though:

I got to ask Maggie Gallagher the question I've always wanted to ask her: What do you think that am I supposed to do with my life?

Suppose I found myself in agreement with her. Suppose I concluded that same-sex marriage was corrosive to society. Do I leave my husband? Do I send my adopted daughter back to the state? Enter ex-gay therapy, which isn't likely to work? Tell my whole family that I'm single now, and that Scott shouldn't be welcome at family events? Live my whole life alone, and loveless? Hide? Where is the life I'm supposed to live?

I probably wasn't so articulate at the Cato event, but I do recall Gallagher's very simple answer: "I don't know."

She certainly doesn't, and that's the whole problem with gay conservatism -- there's hardly a life to be lived within it. There's no breathing room. Until social conservatives offer us a better answer than "I don't know," until they offer us a way to be gay, and conservative, and respectable in their eyes, they're not going to find many gay conservatives.

Serious pwnage, but I'm not sure who just got pwned there.

H/T: Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fucksticks. Fucksticks all.

I'm sorry, but Wall Street? You are a bunch of fucksticks.

First, you run stocks up on temporarily improved earnings. But you KNOW how those companies improved their bottom lines, right? By laying off as many people as they could.

Now, you're upset that unemployment continues to increase?! Well, you fucking morons, HIRE PEOPLE. Oh wait, that would hurt the bottom line.

The world is stupid. Burn it all down.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Exhibit A. An idea that could've worked, but....

Paul Krugman: Jobs Not Created

I got an idea--instead of passing tax breaks helping the rich get richer, let's instead make an offer to those who hire people. If you increase your payrolls, we'll give you a break on payroll taxes. The CBO analysis just showed that it has the most bang for the buck of any similar proposal, and it's not even close.


Fuck it.

Yes, indeed: fuck it.

The election of Scott Brown shows us only one thing--the American people are self-destructive. They do not want hope. They do not want change. They want to watch America go down in flames and then fight each other for the scraps.

Well, fine. If you can't beat them, join them.

The Democrats, led by Barack Obama and Howard Dean, are certainly not up to the task in reversing the disastrous course this nation is on. We needed to see, immediately, the following occur to have any hope of saving our cushy American existence:

1. Massive investment in research and development of non-carbon sources of energy, and most especially, energy storage. Have we seen any progress? No. Will we see any? No. Progress: Zero. Long term prognosis: Hopeless.

2. Sweeping reforms in access to healthcare and reprioritizing treatment and diagnostics to seek patient wellbeing rather than choosing what stuffs the health care industry's pocket? Progress: Zero. Long term prognosis: Hopeless.

3. Massive incentives away from people joining the parasitic MBA class and more towards learning how to create things of actual value--art, new technology, new scientific breakthroughs, and so forth. Progress: Zero. Long term prognosis: Hopeless.

4. Any sort of creative idea to prevent the utter destruction of the middle class. Progress: It's getting worse. Long term prognosis: Hopeless

To be honest, I didn't have much hope in Obama's election actually changing anything, but I went along, thinking that if we had any hope at all we had to elect him. Well, we've elected him, and absolutely nothing has changed. We're sort of limping along, but limping along isn't good enough.

We face very serious crises in climate, energy, food production, health, and economic sustainability within the next generation unless serious action is taken now. And the Democrats are unable to muster the sheer force of will and personality to get these things done. Obama is a fucking joke--a half-wit who can't do shit unless he's in front of a teleprompter. He is even less impressive than John F. Kennedy, a man who was so ill he would qualify for Social Security Disability if the 1960 version of him were alive today. That's an amazing accomplishment for a man who we placed so much hope in.

Seriously, fuck it. Let's just burn the whole thing down. The best way to fan the flames is to vote Republican. I think I'm going to start voting Republican in every election, just to accelerate the collapse. We might as well get it over with.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WTFF. xiii. This post should be shoved up the noses of those who think that "discovery" based math instruction is great.

Cliff Mass: How Good Are UW Students At Math?
Consider these embarrassing statistics from the exam:

The overall grade was 58%

43% did not know the formula for the area of a circle
86% could not do a simple algebra problem (problem 4b)
75% could not do a simple scientific notation problem (1e)
52% could not deal with a negative exponent (2 to the -2)
43% could not do simple long division problem with no remainder!
47% did not know what a cosine was.

These are kids taking an introductory course in Earth and Space Sciences. Ostensibly, that is not something required of all students, so I think I can safely assume that these kids are basically interested in science. So it's fucking criminal that these kids do not come to college with the tools needed to learn what they are interested in.

This isn't just an appalling indictment of pedagogical theories of the last twenty years. This isn't just a regional embarrassment. This is an existential crisis. Economic recovery will never occur without major advances in biomedical and energy technology, and without the next generation having a solid foundation in mathematics, the situation is utterly hopeless.

Makes me want to become a math tutor, like yesterday. I could come up to speed on the crap I can't remember off the top of my head in a long weekend, and kids I taught would run laps around the typical UW freshman within weeks.

Read it all. It should make you very angry.

The dark side of the anti-vax movement.

USA Today: Missed vaccines weaken 'herd immunity' in children

Vaccines do not protect everyone. Some people need to not be exposed to certain illnesses to begin with, because immune defects have devastating consequences when they are exposed to those diseases. This is called "herd immunity," and is a very important component to the public health aspect of immunity.

People are starting to buy into the anti-vaccination nonsense (and yes, it is total nonsense), and this sort of thing is the consequence. Read it all, it's heartbreaking.

How to be elephantine without being a douchebag.

Ted Olson op-ed in Newsweek: The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage

I didn't realize very many conservatives like this still existed, and the ones that do have remained utterly silent lately, probably afraid of being called RINOs or worse. But Ted Olson steps up and punches the douchebag contingent of the Republican Party in the face.

On the other hand, the last thing I really want is Republicans starting to sound reasonable again, because that means they'll start winning elections. Democrats are floundering on their divided loyalties to the financial elite and the dispossessed (probably a 90-10 balance, which is why things like health-care reform are going so badly.) However, I do like a challenge, and more like this from the right will be a game-changer.

But it's not likely. What I suspect will really happen is Ted will be torn limb-from-limb from the Palin-Malkin dominant wing of the party. That will be sad, but hang in there, Ted.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Christopher Hitchens: Intellectual complexity and atavistic Islam.

Michael J. Totten: An Interview with Christopher Hitchens, Part I

I've had complicated feelings about Christopher Hitchens. I first encountered him back in 2002 via the film version of The Trial of Henry Kissinger. When I read the book, I was blown away by the quality of Hitchens' writing and thinking. He's definitely a heavy-duty intellectual for our times--comparable to, say, George Orwell. I also thought of him as an atheist version of C. S. Lewis because of his vivid moral clarity.

Unfortunately, I got rather disillusioned with him after that. Because he generally went all-in in support of George Dubya Bush's crass military adventurism in the name of "fighting terror," or whatever the fuck it was supposed to be. As annoyed as Hitchens was with theists in general, he seemed really afraid of atavistic Muslims--the kind who support things like 9/11, burqas, and other obnoxious extremities of Arab and Islamic culture. He got so obnoxious about it that he proclaimed that waterboarding wasn't torture.

I mean, that was puzzling! Why would he write such a damning treatment of Kissinger, but then turn around and support the same obnoxious bullshit 4 years later?

But he's had some encouraging rethought about some of these positions. The first thing is that he said, "you know, maybe I'll try waterboarding." Afterwards he said, "if that isn't torture, then there is no such thing as torture."

This interview also suggests he has a more clear idea of the sorts of things he's afraid of. The interview is worth reading, because it will restore your confidence in Hitchens if you are left-leaning. On the other hand, i worry a little that he is not critical enough of the civilization he defends--he freaks out about toxic ideas in Muslim culture, but he appears insensitive to similar ideas in our own culture.

Along these lines, I've been promising a critique of Hitchens' ideas and those of the other "Four Horsemen of Atheism" (Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett) for some time, ever since I've read Harris' pathetic offering, The End of Faith. I'm still working on it, though.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fun stuff: How to totally confuse your friends with archaic Latin phrases and abbreviations.

Most people know "etc." It's short for et cetera, which means "and so on," used to denote a list that continues into irrelevancies.

But why stop there? Why use plain language when you can use highfaluting abbreviations? Impress or confuse your friends with these, inter alia (among others).

et al., short for et alii, "and others". Used like etc., but when mentioning proper names of things.

i. e., id est, "that is". Use it when you would otherwise say, "in other words".

e. g., exempli gratia, idiomatically meaning "for the sake of example."

viz., videlicet, "namely."

cf., confer, "compare to" or "consult with."

q. v., quod vide, "which [you should go and] see." Used to denote a cross-reference with something else in the same work. For multiple items, you should use qq. v.

idem, "the same". In a list of things, if you're too pretentious to use "ditto," use that. If you really want to confuse people, use i. q., short for idem quod, "the same as."

ibid., ibidem, "in the same place." An archaic way of citing consecutive uses of the exact same source in a bibliographic citation. But if you really want to hose someone, use it in another context.

op cit., opere citato, "in that which was cited." Similar to the previous, but perhaps of a different section of the work.

Q. E. D., quo erat demonstrandum, "which was to be demonstrated." When making an argument where you are proving something, you say this after you prove it. A highbrow way of saying, "so there!"

ergo, "therefore."

quære, "you might ask." If David Byrne was Roman, the verses of "Once in a Lifetime" would be a lot shorter. Used to anticipate criticism of a rhetorical position. You also get bonus points if you use the "æ" ligature so your writing causes encoding drama.

ceteris paribus, "other things being equal." An assumption that controlled variables are actually controlled. A lot of economists use this, especially stupid ones.

And, of course, when accusing someone of logical fallacy, a good command of Latin phrase will give you that extra bit of authoritative mojo:

non sequitur, "it does not follow." When the conclusion of someone's argument doesn't seem related to the premises at all, or the relationship is misleading because of inappropriate context.

ad hominem, "at the person." When you call someone names or attack their character instead of addressing their argument. The "instead of" is key. Insulting your opponent in addition to tearing their bad logic apart is simply a breach of decorum, not fallacious. Of course, sometimes ad hominem is good, clean fun, especially on your own blog.

And my favorite, post hoc ergo propter hoc, "afterwards, therefore, caused by." A fallacy of correlation vs. causation. Two temporally related events may, in fact, have different causes, so you need additional evidence to establish causality.

If you have favorites of your own, let me know.

Happy New Year (late though I am).

My friends, I have not abandoned you. But I am doing some private journaling right now to get my thoughts together. I promise there will be much more. Hang in there. ;)