Friday, October 19, 2012

Tighty-Whities and Tattletales

Lesson, dare to tell the truth about a GOP candidate's falsehoods and the Tighty-Whities will punish YOU! They think you deserve it, you tattletale!

Note: I refer to the Radical Republicans as Tighty-Whities. Can you guess why?

I said, when support for the Iraq War was running over 90 per cent, "The day will come when America will ask, 'How did we get into this mess?'"

I said, when Bush was running for his second term, "If you vote for this dolt and he wins, you will get what you deserve!"

I say today, "If you vote for this aristocrat and he wins, you will get what you deserve!"

I'm not always right, but I am right more often than not; and I am right about this! In the words of the commercial, "You asked for it! You got it!"

Final Note: To the best of my knowledge, the term, "Tighty-Whities" as applied to the GOP and Tea Party are my original conceit. Use the term freely, but give me attribution.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The St James Infirmary

On rare occasion, when I have been sipping a glass or two of Knob Creek, I might follow the lead of SciFi character Gallager and sing my version of the St James Infirmary:

Well, I went to the St James Infirmary
To see if my babe was there
She was layed out on a slab of marble
So cold, so white, so bare

Let her go, let her go, God love her
Wherever she may be
She can search this wide world over
But she'll never find no sweeter man than me

Now if you dress me for my funeral
In my silk tie and my old felt hat
Put a 20 dollar gold piece on my watch chain;
To say that I'm still standin' pat

Take a shot of my favorite bourbon
Smoke a fine cigar for me
Then remember how much I loved you
And don't never speak no ill of me

Betty Boop sings a good version, too. Well, her sidekick, Koko the Clown, does.

Entire cartoon:
Short version:

Much Ado About Nothing

In his new book, A Universe From Nothing, Lawrence Krauss makes his claim that nothing can spontaneously generate something; specifically, our universe. Yet he continuously refers to nothing as being full of various things. If nothing else, it contains the laws of physics, particularly of quantum physics. Like so many New Atheists, Dr. Krauss is a fine scientist, but a terrible theologian. Like his mentor, Richard Dawkins, he is a careful and thoughtful practitioner of empirical reasoning as long as he remains within the confines of his area of study. Also like his mentor, he descends into the very prejudice and emotionalism he condemns in extreme theists as soon as he ventures into religion.

I prefer the statement of Dr. Marvin Mueller, "It does not seem possible for nothingness (as known to physics) to exist anywhere at any time."

It is a long established fact that the branch of philosophy now known as science is superb at determining the nature of the objective world and of the laws which underlie reality. It is also a long established fact that science is limited to the empirically testable. If a reality exists which supersedes the empirical world, science is useless in detecting or analyzing it. That does not mean that such a supernatural reality does exist, only that by postulating its ability to exempt itself from the limits of physics, one makes it, by definition, beyond empirical testing.

Certainly individual details and claims can be tested, but the fundamental existence or nonexistence of such a super reality is outside the scope of science.

Finally, I find it very amusing when I hear Dr. Dawkins' sneering references to philosophers as a sort of glorified fools' guild. He should take a freshman course in the subject. There he will learn that science is a branch of philosophy. Admittedly, a limited and specific branch, but of philosophy, nonetheless. That being so, every scientist is a philosopher.

Reference: The November/December issue of Skeptical Inquirer


Debate scoreboard: Both presidential debates made for good screen tests, but poor measures of leadership. In the first, Obama was distant and contemptuous. In the second, Romney squirmed and wriggled like a naughty kid in the Principal"s office. Good show for each. Little substance for the serious voter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rotten Apple

What I typed:
Now you must think

What auto spell check wrote:
Mao, you must honk

What more need be said?

Educational Deform

-- When it comes to the nuts and bolts of education policy, a topic that ranks high among the concerns of female and Latino voters, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are remarkably similar: both think standardized tests are important, that teachers need to be evaluated rigorously, and that charter schools are an important component of America's educational landscape. --

Which makes both of them contributors to the continued degradation of the American educational system. I repeat, any educator who supports the use of standardized tests for evaluation should be stripped of their credentials for gross malpractice. And we must stop Washington and state governments from "reforming" the system. The more these incompetent amateurs meddle, the worse our educational system becomes. Only they should be surprised at this result.

Tapio Kosunen, State Secretary, Ministry of Education and Culture, Republic of Finland (whew, long title!) was recently interviewed on This Is America. His nation has been at the top of the international ratings for quality of education and student performance for the past 40 years. Finland is universally regarded as having the best and the most successful educational system in the world. Now you probably think they must have banned teachers' unions, rely heavily on standardized tests, punish poorly performing teachers and schools, established a fiercely competitive system of for profit charter schools, and retain any student who underachieves.

In fact, they have done exactly none of these things.

They have completely banned standardized tests (which I have insisted upon for decades), with the single exception of one, that is 1, standardized test, which is taken at the end of high school.

Tests, rankings, and competition are not a part of the system. I say again, are NOT a part of the system.

Instead of isolating special needs and low performing students, they are mainstreamed. That is, they are simply part of regular classrooms.

Lessons run for 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute break before the next lesson begins.

Students enter school at age 7.

Music, the arts, and other topics which are being weakened or dropped as distractions in America are an essential part of the curriculum in Finland.

Teachers in America are often attacked as lazy or incompetent. In Finland, they are one of the top five most admired professionals, along with doctors and lawyers.

Every teacher must have a master's degree before entering the classroom.

Teachers' unions in Finland are heavily involved in major policy decisions.

Finland has virtually no charter schools in the entire country.

Retaining a Finnish student is so rare, it is considered to be a shocking action taken only in the most extreme circumstances.

So why are we doing the opposite? More importantly, why do we think doing the opposite of the most successful school system in the world will make our system better? The complete answer is complex, but the basic answer is very accurate...ideology.

If our national driving instructors were being reformed by the same people who are reforming our schools, they would be required to teach students to put their cars in reverse, hold down the brakes, and never change gears. When the cars failed to move, our leaders would tell us that is was all the fault of the instructors.

Thus we advance the self destructive practices begun under the leadership of St. Ronald of Reagan and continued by every President and Congress since. This is the same determined effort to do the wrong thing at every opportunity which both Obama and Romney promise to continue.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Forgive My Trespasses

What can we learn about humanity from this man? When he felt secure from consequences, he behaved despicably. If you have not read the article linked above, I will quote the most damning portion for you:

-- In a phone conversation, Brutsch admitted to being the Reddit user named Violentacrez, who created or moderated sections dedicated to pornographic and violent images, including subreddits called r/rapebait, r/incest, r/picsofdeadkids, r/jailbait, and r/chokeabitch. --

None of these sections targeted the guilty. All attacked the innocent, often
those already brutalized. How did bereaved parents feel about r/picsofdeadkids? Yet, now that he has been uncovered, he pleads for mercy and forbearance. He, in his guilt, demands from us what he failed to provide to his innocent victims.

Clearly, part of his problem lies in an inability to understand the feelings and suffering of others. He is fully cognizant of his own pain, even of his wife's; but strangers are just targets to him. They are not members of the human race. They are just things to be hurt and wounded for his amusement. A good, if limited case, could be made for the progress of humanity as a steadily expanding pool of those we regard as "us".

Consider the Fox News/GOP effort to label Obama as "other". He is a socialist, communist, fascist, Kenyan, anticolonial, nauseum. During both world wars, formerly Germans living in the United States were suddenly Krauts, Huns, whatever. Children on the playground use epithets they don't even understand to dehumanize playmates with whom they are angry. (There is a great story about this from Dick Gregory. I will tell it some time in the future.)

If we are dealing with The Other, it is easy to be cruel and brutal. This is why many languages use a variant of "The People" as their name for themselves. Epithets are a license. They authorize the user to commit acts which he, himself, regards as disgusting, if they are done to other people.

To sum it up, I refer to the following Scripture:

Matthew 18: 23 - 35

Thursday, October 11, 2012

American Theocracy

Wahhabism is to Saudi Arabia as the Religious Right is to the GOP. Now I either have your full attention or you are wondering why you bother to read this weird stuff. Hang in and it will be worth it. Maybe, if you're interested in this weird stuff. Look, I'll try, OK?

Around the 1740's, Ibn Saud and Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab made a deal. Abd-al-Wahhab was advocating a very strict and controversial form of fundamentalist Islam. He did not originate the movement, which is better known as Salafism. (Also, more accurately known as Salafism.). You've heard that name on the news lately. This sect is causing a great deal of suffering among fellow Moslems as it uses violence to force its beliefs on the world. The moment was not popular back in the eighteenth century, but Wahhab hit on a strategy which has kept it strong and influential to this day.

He offered a mutually beneficial relationship, what a biologist would call a
mutualist relationship. That means, both parties benefit and rely upon each other. By combining religion and politics, each side gained while losing nothing. Wahhab acquired a strong government to support and enforce his sect's tenets, Ibn Saud gained religious sanction for his family's rule. The results are that, in the volatile Middle East, both Salafism and Saudi Arabia continue to hold a secure position.

A similar relationship is developing between the two remaining wings of the Republican Party. The once diverse GOP has utilized a political Inquisition to drive out heretics, aka, Rinos. What's left is primarily the wealthy and the socially conservative. The wealthy Republicans want power to establish their own extended royal family. Those who
already have wealth want it to become entirely hereditary. It is already
largely so, but not so securely as the permanence of the House of Saud.

The religious Republicans want their beliefs to become the de facto religion of the United States. Many of them are willing to state that they would prefer it to be the de jure state religion as well.

Here is the basis for a mutualist relationship. The New Aristocracy gets the support and blessing of the national church. The Religious Right gets the police power of the state to enforce its moral code and to maintain its supremacy. The plan is working well, so far. The rich collect welfare in the form of tax breaks and government assistance to their corporations and the freedom to act without restraint through deregulation, while the ultra religious get radical judges and elected officials to undermine everyone else's religious freedom.

The shrinking number of regular church goers, the anger of the middle class, the rising numbers of minority voters with their own political agendas, the New Evangelicals who have very different goals than their parents, and a number of other trends, will, I believe, bring this effort to defeat. The question is, how much harm will it do before it is finally neutralized? I do not know. The answer depends on how long American citizens are willing to put up with the situation, and how effectively they respond.

I am hopeful, but cautiously so.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Comet C/2012

-- As it flares out of the distant Oort Cloud, the newly discovered comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) appears to be heading on a trajectory that could make for one of the most spectacular night-sky events in living memory. --

I still feel cheated by Haley's comet. As a child I learned it was and would be a spectacular display. I waited years for the amazing event, and you all know what didn't happen. This could make up for it. Science and/or God owe me one!

Actually, they both owe me a lot, but I just might but collect on this one.

Friday, October 5, 2012


On the TV front, The Looney Tunes Show and Big Bang Theory are back with new programs. Excellent news. I was excited, but ready for disappointment back when when I saw the ads for Tunes. So much had been recreated in a new pattern I feared a loss of character and spirit, but it was, and remains a great success. I am very happy to have a new season to enjoy. The new Sherlock Holmes was also a worry for similar reasons, but I find it to be engaging and enjoyable, although the director believes the sound effects and music are more important than the dialogue and has a deep love of corpses, which are closely photographed and heavily featured. Creepy, but typical.

Oh, and BBT is always fun.

On the book front, Game of Thrones was mixed. The author created an interesting and engaging world. He created characters in whom I was interested, and characters who are simply too flat and extreme to be taken seriously. His good guy was too good to have made it to adulthood in a feudal society, his bad guys are so bad they make Machiavelli sound like a kindergarten teacher. But I find myself caring about the children of the cardboard figures. The author also takes the lazy path of brutalizing children as a way of projecting emotion to his readers. It is easy. It is what incompetent authors do. It is the serious fiction equivalent of fart jokes in what passes as a comedy in today's theaters. It brings a tear or gets a laugh without any effort or talent needed on the part of the writer. Still, the author managed to interest me, and that is difficult. It means he has some real ability and displays it at least part of the time.

The books are too long. Thankfully, the TV series is surprisingly
true to the books and is much shorter. I will watch it to satisfy my interest. It also has lots of nudity, which is always a plus.

A better read is the fascinating and ugly world of The Peculiar. It does contain the brutalization of children, and I dislike that, but as a novel aimed at the youth market, the threat to the youthful characters is, of necessity, a threat to youngsters. I feel it was overdone, but what a rich and strange world the author has created! And I love the characters, especially Arthur Jelliby. I look forward to the rest of the series

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Doomsday Looms...Loometh..Is Coming

Wise, sound advice for our troubled times. Be sure to watch the slide show. Oh, our sun will turn into a red giant, then a white dwarf. No black hole. Sorry to disappoint everyone.

A Prediction for the Debates

Radical Republicans will declare Romney destroyed Obama.
Democrats will declare that Obama devastated Romney.

I will state that both did OK, but that the debates were over planned and uninformative. Romney will make at least two embarrassing flubs. No minds will be changed, but Romney's flubs will reinforce the image of a spoiled rich kid playing at politics and will help the few nondecided to sadly vote for Obama as the best of a bad choice.