Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Disney is Buying Lucasfilm

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Yes, H Sandy is on its way toward the Atlantic coast as I type this.  It's still a Category 1 storm, but since it has two other storm systems in the area the stage is being set for a very nasty time.

If you're in a flood-prone area and haven't gotten out yet, you might be in for an entire universe of hurt.  If you decide to have a coastal hurricane party, you're an idiot.

Some of the meteorologists have been sounding warnings that may appear silly or alarmist, but better to be alarmist and criticized than be blase about it and have a buttload of people get killed, you know?   

President Obama has already signed emergency orders making whole states disaster areas in advance, which is a prudent gesture and will bring the full weight of the Federal Government to play if things go bad.  This isn't the first time this has happened; according to Wikipedia, the first time anyone petitioned Washington for help was after the New Madrid Earthquake in 1815.

And it helps to remember, too, that A Certain Candidate advocated getting rid of FEMA during the primary debates, saying that disaster relief is a matter better left to the states.

So batten down the hatches - and if they're already battened down, batten them down again!  We'll teach those hatches!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The 'Rolling Stone' Interview: Calling Romney Out

President Obama sat himself down and had a chat with Rolling Stone magazine a short time ago (the interview is online now, but it'll be in print on November 8th, apparently).  In it he said a few things, including this little nugget, for which I supply a bit of context:

As we left the Oval Office, ['Rolling Stone'] executive editor Eric Bates told Obama that he had asked his six-year-old if there was anything she wanted him to say to the president. After a thoughtful pause, she said, "Tell him: You can do it."
Obama grinned. "That's the only advice I need," he said. "I do very well, by the way, in that demographic. Ages six to 12? I'm a killer."
"Thought about lowering the voting age?" Bates joked.
"You know, kids have good instincts," Obama offered. "They look at the other guy and say, 'Well, that's a bullshitter, I can tell.'"

Now, dear reader, you can confidently expect a vast amount of couch-fainting-upon and pearl-clutching and smelling-salts-sniffing as a result of that statement, which seems to imply (and rather obviously) that Willard Romney is a bullshitter.

To a certain extent, I agree.

Romney's flipped and he's flopped and he's changed his positions so fast he even makes Etch-a-Sketches go, "Whoa, Dude, slow it down a bit."  

But is it . . . bullshit?

Or is it lies?

There is a difference, you know, and to illustrate the difference I call upon the author of what I think is the seminal work on the subject, Dr. Harry Frankfurt, the Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University:

"What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even pretend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.

"This is the crux of the distinction between him and the liar. Both he and the liar represent themselves falsely as endeavoring to communicate the truth. The success of each depends upon deceiving us about that. But the fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it. This does not mean that his speech is anarchically impulsive, but that the motive guiding and controlling it is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are.

"It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose."

- On Bullshit, by Harry G. Frankfurt (Princeton University Press, 2005), pp. 53-56.

 So you see, the crucial difference between a liar and a bullshitter is this:  A liar knows the truth - a bullshitter doesn't care.  This is liberating to the bullshitter, as he can now pull whatever he wants out of thin air and present it as truth.

So is Romney a bullshitter?  To a certain extent, yes; he has built his campaign around a pie-in-the-sky economic agenda that simply won't work.  Sure, he'll let us in on the details of his plan after we hire him to be our President, but for now we'll have to be content with the Underpants Gnomes' Business Model:

It works as well as anything else as an illustration of the basic Republican economic plans of the past 30 years, doesn't it?  All that "trickle down" stuff?  Well, folks, that hasn't been rain coming down on us - that's wee-wee, urine, piss, call it what you will, evacuated upon us from people who have reached the top and pulled the ladder up after them to bar the rest of us proles from following them.

I conclude by saying that the tempest in a teapot that is the 'bullshitter' comment will not affect the campaigns all that much.  Obama may apologize and truthfully say that he was talking about what a child might think of all this.  That won't stop the mouths of Rush or Ann or Michelle or Sarah or Sean or Whoever, but it'll be the truth.

As opposed to bullshit.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Two Cents on the Debates

Simply put, Obama 2-1 over Romney, Biden 1-0 over Ryan.

To elaborate:

1.  In the first debate, Obama seemed almost lackadaisical, allowing Romney to romp all over the place nice and aggressively.  It was almost comical to watch the usually socially awkward aristocrat throwing out talking points at nearly an auctioneer's pace.  Clear win for Romney, and Obama let him do it.  The polling reflected that.

2.  The second debate showed Obama back on form, and Romney rammed both well-polished shoes down his throat on Libya.  It doesn't help when the debate moderator corrects you.

3.  The VP debate was a win for Biden, who for all his antics scored heavily against a fact-free Lyin' Ryan.

4.  The last debate was a stunning defeat for Romney.  His stupid assertions that a 285-ship Navy of this day, with modern weapons and technology, are the same as the same sized force in 1916, were beneath contempt, prompting Obama to state that we also have fewer horses and bayonets (we haven't done a bayonet charge since Korea, and I'm sure the 1st Cavalry would hate to trade in their tanks and gunships for horses and mules). 

To illustrate, allow me to compare the main armament of two capital ships of the US Navy, the USS Florida (BB-30), and the USS Florida (SSGN-728):

The coal-fired (later oil-fired) USS Florida (BB-30) fired the 12-inch 45-caliber Mark 5 naval rifle, which tossed an 870-pound shell a maximum of 20,000 yards (or a shade over 11 miles).  It carried ten of these in its main battery.  This battleship, the name ship of her class, never fired any of these gun in battle.

By contrast, the nuclear-propelled USS Florida (SSGN-728) carries 154 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles in 22 groups of seven each.  The missiles carry a 1,000-pound conventional warhead (or a 20-kiloton nuke) up to a maximum range of 1,550 miles.  This is not mentioning that the Mark 5 naval rifle had to fire a few times before getting the range and targeting right, while the Tomahawk can practically pinpoint the target before it's even launched.  The submarine fired over 90 of these in the "Odyssey Dawn" operation against Libya.

In terms of quality, technology, training, performance - the current US Navy is far, far stronger than the US Navy of World War One.  Romney's argument (borrowed from former Navy Secretary John Lehman, who stands to make a mint from a funding for a larger Navy) is absurd, and it deserved to be ridiculed.


Were the debates useful?

Not very; a lot of topics were never discussed (veterans, climate change, poverty, crime, Afghanistan, etc.), and even the topics that were discussed were not subjected to a penetrating analysis.

Were the debates informative?

Hell no, for the reasons cited above.  We know Obama's coolness and his accomplishments while in office, and we know Romney's political and business records as well as a lot of documentation about his stances on corporate personhood, women's rights, and so on.

Are the debates still relevant?

Not very, apart from them being political theater.  If the public could be trusted to look beyond Twitter and sound bites, I think that each camp setting out position papers on all of the relevant issues would eliminate a lot of this nonsense.

Just my two cents.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gee Whillikers! Who Would Have Thought?

Throughout the past two or so election cycles, you've heard a lot about voter fraud or election fraud. Most of the rhetoric has come from the Republican Party and their media catspaw, Fox 'News.'

(I'm not going to go as far back as The Brooks Brothers Riot, no sir. That's water under the bridge.)

To hear the Murdoch Media Machine describe it, all evidence of voter fraud or election fraud in this country is the fault of Them Dastardly Democrats, led by Saul Alinsky (who died in 1972), the civic action volunteer group ACORN (hounded into going out of business and dissolving) and George Soros (who stayed out of the 2012 election cycle until two months ago, when he finally started writing checks). This avalanche of rhetoric, coupled with the Tea Party Kerfuffle of 2010, resulted in draconian voter laws being passed by quite a few states. Several of the more toothy statutes have already been overturned as being overly vague or discriminatory.


How so, you might ask?

The laws are finely crafted to restrict registration of young people, women and minorities - all rather happy hunting grounds for voter registration drives. Since one can't actually come out and impose a poll tax, the laws must be creative in what they require for the exercise of franchise rights.

And, oh by the way, voting in this country is a Right, not a Privilege.

Interestingly, in their hell-bent desire to prove that the Democrats are responsible for voter/election fraud, it seems that Republicans are only succeeding in tripping over their own genitalia.

Case in point: A Pennsylvania man hired by the Virginia Republican Party was arrested for destroying (in this case, throwing away) voter registration forms.

Who would have guessed?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Republicans Behaving Badly, Part Avogadro's Number

Dear readers, I have already related the sorry tale of Todd Akin, the dingbat Republican candidate for Senate from Missouri.  You recall him - he said that in cases of "legitimate" rape a woman's Magic Uterus can shut down the production line so the victim can't get preggers.

Akin's a tough act to follow.

But we have three contestants who are just dying to step up and try!

We start with Representative DesJarlais of Tennessee, a doctor and Tea Party GOPer who's running for re-election.  His candidacy hit a snag recently when it was revealed that this "family values" guy not only had a mistress, but forced her to get an abortion in Atlanta after he knocked her up.

We move to State Rep. Fuqua of Arkansas, who advocated in an e-Book for executing rebellious teenagers, in accordance with Biblical law (that's Old Testament, and I seem to recall that Christ fulfilled and superseded said law - but the GOP ain't Christian).

And, for the big wrap-up, we have another entrant from the Great Red State of Arkansas, Rep. Michael Hubbard, who has famously opined that slavery was a blessing (that's the old 'uplift' fallacy - that by enslaving, brutalizing and deracinating others we were actually doing them a favor).  

The nasty part of all this, dear readers?

All of these assholes will likely be re-elected.

And I leave that searing indictment of the collective intelligence of their constituents as an exercise for the student.

This has been Part 6.022 x 10^23 of Republicans Behaving Badly.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Best. Reason. EVER.

Earlier tonight, the SpaceX Corporation started fulfilling its contract with NASA to supply the International Space Station.  Launch #1 of the twelve contracted has, so far, been an unqualified success:

The best reason ever put forward to keeping a medium- or heavy-lift launch capacity in the United States comes from the ISS Director, who said, "When you have a launch vehicle that's in your country, it just makes it a lot easier because literally shipping and customs can kill you when you're trying to get overseas . . . "

Saving money, and avoiding all that paperwork and fees involved in moving stuff offshore.

Best Reason EVER for keeping any industry here in the good old U.S.A., don't you think?

Sunday Poetry Corner - "Be Angry at the Sun"

That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.

Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.

Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.

You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante's feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.

Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.

- Robinson Jeffers