Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Silent Mulla - An Anecdote

Mulla Nasrudin was tired of feeding his donkey. He thought his beloved wife, Fatima, sometimes should feed his donkey. She disagreed. They argued. They fought. They were angry. No resolution seemed possible.

The Mulla suggested that they weren't going to resolve their argument by arguing, so they should resolve it by not arguing. By not speaking. By both being silent. Whoever spoke first lost the argument. Whoever spoke first would have to feed the donkey.

Nasrudin sat in a corner and said nothing. Fatima sat in another room and said nothing. Finally, she had had enough. She walked out and went to a neighbor's house. The Mulla remained in their house.

That evening, a thief broke into the house. The Mulla said nothing. The thief took everything, and the Mulla didn't stop him. He wanted to win the argument. He had to remain silent. The thief even took the Mulla's beloved hat, from right off the top of the Mulla's head. Nasrudin said nothing.

Later that evening, Fatima began to worry. Nasrudin was a man of many talents, but he was useless in a kitchen. She didn't want him to go hungry. Still angry, but not wanting to speak and lose the argument, she indicated that the neighbor's son should take some soup over to her house, so Nasrudin would have something to eat. The neighbor's son did so.

The neighbor's son entered the house and saw the disaster. He was aghast. Nasrudin remained in a corner. The boy didn't know what to say, so he showed Nasrudin the bowl of soup. Nasrudin pointed to his own head. Of all his possessions, he had most prized his hat, and he wanted the boy to commiserate with him.

The boy held out the soup. Nasrudin again pointed to his own head. Never having understood his wise but eccentric neighbor, and now not understanding Nasrudin's gesture, the boy walked over and poured the soup over the Mulla's head. Then, he went home.

Finally, Fatima went home. She saw that the house had been ransacked. She saw Nasrudin sitting in the corner, covered in soup. She stammered out...

"We've... We've been robbed!"

Nasrudin stood up, grinned, and declared- "I win the bet! Now, you have to feed the donkey!"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You Are


Neat, eh?

This is a duo portrait of the Earth/Moon system, taken from a distance of 114,000,000 miles by the NASA MESSENGER probe, currently making its merry way around the planet Mercury.

It's a beautiful perspective on just how significant we really are in the Universe - a microscopic arrow on a minuscule dot, reading "You Are Here."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Well, La Dee @&%@ing Dah

After more than seven years and over four thousand American casualties, the last combat brigade is leaving the ruins of Iraq. The termination date for "Operation Iraqi Liberation" - er, "Freedom" - is set for August 31.

We still have 50,000 troops there, of course, in (apparently) training and support roles.

But we need to bring them ALL home.

Eight years ago, I questioned the need to go into Iraq. We had Saddam in a box, and occasionally poked him in the eye with a sharp stick in order to remind him of that fact. There was no need to invade.

I was almost instantly vilified as Un-American, but set that aside, and let's review the lies that were used to gull us and cow a complaisant Congress to march our military off into the abyss:

1. "Iraq took part in 9/11!" Lie; no Iraqis were on the hijacking teams, and Saddam quite frankly despised al-Qaeda (a sentiment Osama returned with interest).

2. "We'll be greeted as liberators!" Lie; some units were met with happy Marsh Arabs and Shiites who were bombed and oppressed by Saddam's regime, and the Kurds were only too happy to welcome us (provided we let them secede from Iraq).

3. "Iraqi oil revenues will pay for the whole thing!" Lie. The only way we could pay for this debacle was to borrow truly unholy amounts of money from China, which now holds our mortgage. We don't screw with China, as they can call in the note and drive our economy under. Thanks, Bush and Cheney, for fucking us over.

We need to get the hell out of that place, and let the Iraqis sort things out for themselves. Then we need to leave Afghanistan.

As quickly as possible, before the suicide rate among our troops rises any further.

Monday, August 16, 2010

You Say You Have Nothing to Hide?

One of the standard bullshit lines I get from my conservative coworkers is the mantra "I have nothing to hide" when queried about the Surveillance Society measures enacted after 2001. I have found a very interesting argument to use in counterpoint to that rather bland assertion, which I repost here (courtesy of, and many thanks to, paradox at DailyKos).

Dull, Predictable, and in Servitude:

It’s a dismayingly gross loss of privacy to have saved image scans that strip clothing, only to leave a creepy wraith-like image of person left, to be at whatever regressive TSA whim of the moment might possibly be, most likely juvenile leering of women and celebrities. Sexism and objectification run very deep in the United States, most of the images released are of females with the Google images cache prominently showcasing a shapely female with a pistol perched on her perfect ass. Perhaps a lineup of portly males with needledicks to laugh at would have a different impact of the news.

Which was accepted with appalling nonchalance, in our Age of Terror it has horribly creeped on all of us that our email, telephone conversations and messaging are wide open, any official in any number of government agencies can get all of them quickly if desired, along will all our financial information, we no longer have personal lives as little people Americans.

So the fuck what, I have nothing to hide.
A predictable bombastic response from the most confident among us, but even they are comically incorrect, for no human is ever truly sure there is nothing to hide with even your body scan on file. Fear and just the knowledge of being watched will inevitably produce that most awful and terribly dangerous human behavior: conformity. Chilled, but not in a good way.

How ploddingly dull and predictable life would be without souls among us daring to be different, to prod the status quo, to demand change from circumstances that scream actions requiring anything but conformity. Caution, fear and conformity that is clamped irrevocably into the frame of reference for ordinary Americans—your email is being read, they know how you talked about your mother and your scan is in the C cup file at the airport—will not produce a society of rich diversity, bravery is required for change and variety and Americans won’t have it.

We’ll still have music and movies and the arts, of course, but they will seem dimmed, diminished and pale imitations of a more vibrant past (remember when radio was cool and fun, when there was a good movie to see every month?). Much more dangerously, conformity will rob our bravery to the point where we cannot substantively change, we simply won’t have the moxie for it.

Conformity has another insidious, creeping consequence: servitude. Knowledge that all your personal life could be launched publicly at any time smashes into place a citizenship stance of inferiority, of irrevocably being smaller and weaker than his or her government. That precisely flips the entire premise of Democratic daily life, Uncle Sam is supposed to be working for us, government is the people’s instrument of service, not the other way around. When we accept the reality of being passive, pushed-around pawns we should hardly be surprised when our government and leadership more often treats us so.

The new Age of Terror is a confusing, frightening one, but in all the horrendous mess it’s abundantly clear Americans were never hated for their freedoms. Having phone, email, body scans, internet usage and messaging always totally off-limits except under warrant is not the reason our people are being killed in Afghanistan.

Which, tragically and very dangerously, is not the case at all, as Americans we’ve lost our personal privacy in our freedoms list. It’s difficult to believe that as time wears on Americans will continue to accept the stifling, offensive reality of it, and it would be very wise for political leadership of either major Party to fervently embrace personal privacy as an ironclad political principle and vastly visible goal, doing so would surely go a long, long way to ensuring continued political success.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Review

It's been a busy week for Assholes, dear readers.

We have supposedly sober, non-drug-addled and presumably educated people in this country advocating the repeal of the 14th Amendment. I'm not sure if any of these people have really considered the implications of that, but at first glance higher cognition is not exactly their strongest suit.

Hint, Assholes: If your position is too extreme for Tom Tancredo, Alan Keyes, and Mike Huckabee, you're probably too far gone to save at this point.

The son of Potato(e) Dan Quayle has the nerve to rear up on his hind legs and accuse Obama of being the 'worst President ever.' He needs to expand his horizons a bit, as Obama's poll numbers are not in George W. Bush territory. Yet.

Some of the same educated and mature adults are also supporting repeal of the 17th Amendment. Excuse me, Assholes, but I want the ability to choose the insipid bastard who'll represent me in Washington. Not my state legislature.

Mittens Romney is the presumptive front runner, and he's all against the mandate portion of the health care reform law. Mittens, you can try to twist and squirm all you want, but you pioneered the individual mandate when you were Governor of Massachusetts. It'll be almost like trying to run away from your embrace of gay rights.

Serious People like David Stockman (St. Reagan's budget guru) and Alan Greenspan (the former Holy Man of the Fed) both say that leaving the Bush tax cuts in place will basically destroy the US economy. As a result, Republicans and conservatives have demoted these hard-core conservatives to the ranks of the Dirty Hippies.

I had a guy pissing and moaning about those tax cuts, and I asked him quite reasonably if he made more than $250,000 a year. He said no, and I told him that the change wouldn't affect him at all. Of course, he looked at me as if I were the Antichrist.

(I'm not, of course - I am, however, the Beast Foretold.)

The people who oppose same-gender marriage have had their arguments revealed, in court, for what they truly are: Total and Utter Codswallop. Hey, Assholes, merely saying homosexuality is "icky" won't stand up in court, and a witness stand is a lonely place when you can't back up anything you say under oath.

There are times, dear readers, when I feel like Dark Helmet in Spaceballs:

"I'm surrounded by assholes!"

Thursday, August 05, 2010

I Want to Buy a Pathfinder Now

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Rainbow of Whoopass

A while back, California abruptly legalized marriage between people of the same gender, and 18,000 couples immediately started shoveling money into the state economy (marriage license fees, catering, gifts and so on).

Naturally, this didn't sit well with Certain People, who put forward a ballot initiative called Proposition 8. Prop. 8 basically forced a change to the California Constitution, making it illegal for same-gender couples to wed. Thanks to a tsunami of money and ads from interested groups (like the Mormons), Prop. 8 passed.

Well, the proposition was challenged in Federal Court, the plaintiff's argument being that the law violated their Equal Protection rights under the 14th Amendment (yes, that 14th Amendment) and therefore violated their civil rights under 42 USC 1983.

Today the judge in the case handed down a ruling, which you can read in its entirety here. It's 138 pages long, so I'll simply give you the money shot:

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."

Now, this fight isn't over, and I expect it to go all the way forward to the US Supreme Court. On its face, the Court's argument is compelling, and I can't wait for someone to challenge the Federal Defense of Marriage Act under the Commerce Clause, the Full Faith and Credit Clause, and the Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia.

And I can hear heads exploding, which is always fun to hear.

All Aboard the Train to Crazyville!

Here in sunny Flori-Duh, the Fifth (US) Congressional District seat was held by a Republican, Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite. Ginny was not a bad person, by any stretch of the imagination, and after seeing one of the contenders for her vacated seat I will miss her.

That contender is a fellow named Jason Sager. According to an article in the local paper, Sager is in favor of rewriting part of the 14th Amendment, just to keep illegal immigrants from having babies in our country.

Well, apart from basically invalidating the entire history and foundation of the Republican Party (not to mention saying that the Union was wrong to fight against slavery, and the Dred Scott decision was just fine and dandy), there is an unintended consequence to this idea.

Say for example (and why not?) I am traveling in Sweden with my pregnant wife. She goes into labor, and is delivered of a bouncing baby. Since that child was not born on US soil, he won't be a citizen, and we would have to jump through hoop after bureaucratic, pettifogging hoop in order to not bring the child into the country illegally.

Sager's also in favor of repealing the 17th Amendment. What is that, you might ask? Well, the Mighty 17th changed a bit of the original Constitution - specifically, the election of Senators. Under the original wording of the Constitution, Senators were chosen by the state legislatures, NOT by voters. The 17th changed that.

And Sager wants the pack of venal cretins in Tallahassee deciding who my US Senators should be. Naturally, he has an ulterior motive - the Republicans have solid majorities in the State Legislature, so it'd be a simple matter of enshrining a venal cretin into office without going to the trouble and expense of having the people, you know, actually vote for a guy. Cuius regio, eius religio, anyone?

I'm really not surprised Sager is making these stands. The article states that Sager arrived at his decision to run for office after four days of "prayer and consultation."

You'll notice that he didn't actually think.