Thursday, September 18, 2014

False Equivalency


This is a growing trend among the ‘freaked out’ crowd lately. The crowd that wants you to just STOP what you’re doing and PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR ISSUE! So often now, I will see, especially on news articles, but occasionally in normal conversation (which is disturbing) the tendency for people to say things like “You’re worried about whales? What about BENGHAZI?” or, “Why is this news station covering this story when a white guy got beat up by a black guy? WHERE IS THE COVERAGE”. This is an attitude morph from ‘false equivalency’ arguments made by many people who have lots of opinions, but little to no facts, not to mention a serious case of myopia.

In debates or political rhetoric, this often comes in the form of some “Let’s not talk about this issue, because it distracts from the issue I WANT YOU to pay attention to”. For example, many times in modern political debates (let’s say, we’re talking about climate change, which has sadly become politicized instead of remaining in the scientific realm where it belongs), people will start the discussion with “Global warming is a serious issue that we must address in order to survive”. Immediately and almost predictably someone will inevitably attempt to either compare this subject with something completely unrelated, like abortion, or they will attempt to derail the entire conversation by saying something like “Why are we talking about Global Warming when it’s clear ISIS is on the move in the Middle East?”.

False equivalency is a distraction tactic, and is usually employed by skilled and unscrupulous debaters. However, the ‘general public’ emulates what it sees on TV. Nowadays, if you follow news media such as CNN on social media like Facebook, they opened themselves up to these very people who have been influenced by this behavior. For example, CNN made it possible to post to their ‘wall’, so you can go to CNN’s Facebook page, and post news stories directly to it to ask CNN to give it a look. SO MANY posts are along the lines of “CNN, why are you covering whaling in Japan and not giving THIS story (pick any topic) any attention?? You suck!!”, to which CNN, usually exercising infinite patience and restraint will issue a canned and adult-to-child response such as “Thank you for sharing this with us. We covered this at (URL) a week ago. We will see if this warrants an update, thank you”.

The notion among the less-than-critical thinkers out there seems to be that the world, and all of its news agencies, must immediately drop what they are doing to focus on their unrelated issue. Otherwise, it’s got to be a clear conspiracy, because why ELSE would a news agency simply fail to report on my issue of choice?!

Let’s be clear. Each issue demands a separate but not necessarily equal amount of attention. Debunked ‘scandals’ such as the Benghazi attack, or the conspiracy laden cries of ‘false flag’ for mass-shootings, or the whole ‘9/11 truther’ stories do not warrant the same attention in mainstream news as say, the fact that the USA is again going back to another war zone in the Middle East (and a familiar one). However, this does not mean that a massive news organization such as CNN isn't covering the story you’re getting all worked up about. They probably are.

It is amazing to me that in the age of instant information, Google, and mobile computing that anyone would be SO LAZY as to not simply search for their topic and see where it is being covered. Chances are there are literally hundreds or perhaps thousands of articles covering what you want to read about.
It must be really hard for people to stay ‘on topic’ on the web. It reminds me of the meandering and sometimes drunken conversations I might have with a buddy while blowing off steam or just hanging around. Starting with ‘how nice the weather is’, it segues into topics like humming birds, then on to dinosaurs, then on to how stupid people are that don’t believe in dinosaurs, then on to religion and politics, like some creatures that’s constantly morphing in and out of different forms. Only when you read stuff like this on the Internet it just looks absolutely insane.

I’ll be the first person to tell you, humans are not sane creatures. We kill each other, kill everything that we deem tasty, invent horrific weapons like nukes and chemical bombs, then develop moral conversations about it that are meant to elevate ourselves above the beasts of the world. Eloquent words are spoken, agreeable points made, and life goes on. But don’t think for one measly second that anyone on this planet, especially including myself, knows anything outside our bubble. We simply don’t. Especially not me. I read a lot. I call myself informed on certain issues. But there is simply too much to know, and from someone else’s perspective, I’m as insane as I think they are.

But back to false equivalency, it really needs to die as a tactic. How about you just say something like “CNN, have you covered this yet” instead of “CNN, you rat-bastard fuckheads, why the hell are you covering a feminist who was groped, when PETA is killing thousands of puppies daily?”. Apples and oranges. They’re not the same subject matter, they’re not related, and chances are very good it’s already been completely covered.


Maybe I was a prototype of sorts for the new A.D.D. future, where we’re all so damn distracted by – oh shit, butterfly!... where was I? Oh, yes, false equivalency… 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

You poor kids don’t understand the cloud.

OK, well now that everyone’s having a complete “moral moment” about this celebrity hacking thing, you knew it was only a matter of time before ‘the note’ from me. Well here it goes.

While I appreciate everyone’s attention to the issue of celebrity voyeurism, this sort of thing has gone on literally since photography as invented. From paparazzi shots of celebrities at nude beaches published in tabloid magazines, to stolen photo albums, to sex tapes, and beyond, rich celebrities living the nude life are nothing new. What IS new is ‘the cloud’. The current ‘moral storm’ of “Let’s feel really bad for celebrities who make a fuck-ton of money” is noble and all, but let’s get at the root issue, the ignorance most people have of the ‘cloud’ THAT is the subject of today’s lesson. I’ll also try and explain why taking digital nudes of yourself is also a very bad idea (a lesson I learned when I was younger).

What the hell is the cloud?

The ‘cloud’ is a silly name meant to simplify for the user the definition of ‘off site data storage’. You are uploading and downloading your data to a computer owned by a corporation such as Google, or Apple, which allows you to access your data anywhere. Anything from documents, pictures, videos, files, or more can be uploaded to these servers. Once this data is uploaded, companies like Google and Apple actually claim ownership of the material… it’s in their terms of service (which nobody EVER fucking bothers to read).

These servers operate much the same that any website does. You create a user account, a password, and tie this information to your email account so that if you lose your password, you can simply have them send it by email, and you can reset it.

Most services require at least 8 characters of letters, numbers, symbols for passwords, however this is considered extremely weak by today’s standards. Really, a 12-character password is even too short for some ’brute force’ password finders.

That all being said, you also have to rely on the expertise of the company that hosts the cloud space you’re using. For Google’s SkyDrive, or Apple’s iCloud, you’re relying on the system they’re running on to be secure.

Account logins and passwords are kept in databases. A database is a file which runs within another software platform – a database server, which needs constant monitoring, security patching, and probing for vulnerability to keep it secure. And the database server runs on an Operating System (OS; something like Windows, Apple, or Linux/Unix). This of course also needs to be secure, monitored and maintained. And of course, operating systems need hardware on which to run on – the physical server. The servers are typically physically secured in facilities with locking ‘cabinets’, 3-fold identification entry (ID badge, code, and handprint verification) to prevent anything physically being stolen. AND behind all that is a person, an admin, who does all of this maintenance, security, and monitoring. They have access to EVERYTHING.

All that being said, there is a lot that can go wrong with using a cloud service. A lot.
Here are some of the main risks that people who do not understand the Internet, or the cloud will encounter, and many times be harmed by:

1) Your password is weak. Using things like ‘Welcome1’ or ‘Password’ (think you’re being cute or smart? Think again). This means anyone who can find out your email address or login ID will be able to simply guess your password, and gain access to ALL of your data. Once your data has been downloaded by someone else, you have lost control of it, and it can instantly spread worldwide.  But even a strong password can’t protect against bad server management or security. You can always get to the server, and directly download your stuff, if you can get access.

2) Once your data is compromised, consider it out of your control. This is evidenced by things such as the Wikileaks/Julian Assange debacle where diplomatic cables were leaked to the entire world, laying bare the diplomatic process and all the subterfuge it employs, and of course the recent celebrity ‘hack’ (Oh, NOW we pay attention… where are our priorities?) where hackers compromised the Apple iCloud server and downloaded personal photos of celebrities. The entire world now has access to these things, in an instant. It’s a lot different than a physical break in to a house or someone stealing your wallet, as the ‘moral crowd’ likes to keep saying when defending clueless users of technology. No, this is more like if everything in your house could be stolen, instantly and infinitely duplicated, and instantly distributed to all 7 billion people on the planet. This is quite a bit different than you just ‘having your wallet stolen’. Metaphors in this case simply don’t work. This is far, far worse than having your wallet stolen. This is like having your entire life made public record. Even your nudie moments. I hope you’re not modest.

3) You don’t actually own your data on the cloud. Say for example, your business relies on a cloud service like ‘Carbonite’ (an online cloud based backup system). First of all, once you upload that data to the cloud service, it becomes their property! They reserve the right to access, read, audit, delete, or transfer your things as they see fit. And if for any reason they go out of business, they are under no obligation to give your data back to you. So in effect, you’ve already given the company permission to view your stuff, and take it if they want. All it takes is a curious or evil admin to go snooping around account folders, and happen onto your dick pics, or shower selfies, and in an instant, that guy could decide to download that picture and distribute it to the internet. Got company secrets? Not anymore. This enables industrial espionage. Google, Apple, Amazon, etc can get a huge leg-up on the competition by reading corporate strategies you uploaded, client lists, etc. And who’s going to rat them out? You think they self-report? Nope. Once you upload to them, you made a huge mistake. Why do you think a lot of these services are FREE? Hmm?

These are just some of the many dangers of using a cloud service, all for the supposed convenience of not having to back up and restore your data yourself. And really, it’s not that hard to make your data available for yourself, without the use of the cloud, and keep it secure.  But you’re probably too lazy to do it. But here’s what I do:

1) At home, I have an external hard drive. It’s encrypted, which means any time it’s plugged into my computer, it asks for an (extremely long and complicated) password. This means that if anyone were to physically steal the hard drive, they could not hope to access the data. Encryption programs are free, and mostly pretty easy to use. Everyone ought to be doing this.

2) I enable remote access to my PC, so I can transfer any file I need, when I need it. Using programs like TeamViewer, or Remote Desktop, I can remotely control my PC, as if I were sitting in front of it. It’s actually not that complicated to do, and these programs work on my smartphone. This allows me to operate my own ‘cloud’, and have 100% control.

3) Disable all cloud services, and resist attempts by companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or Apple to use them. They WILL pressure you. They will offer you free trials, lay the many benefits of omnipresent music, photos, and videos to you, tell you how easy it is now to switch phones and keep your apps, settings, phonebooks, photos… but you must resist. Syncing even once means that you’ve already made the mistake of giving up all of your private data to a corporation who may or may not abuse, or mishandle it. If you did manage to sync and want to reverse the damage, you have to use a PC/Mac and web browser to log in and delete stuff. It’s backed up though, so don’t think it’s gone. They keep many backups of their servers. Good luck. Even I have made this mistake.
Those are just SOME of the measures you can take to protect yourself. That being said, here comes my so-called ‘douchey’ statement on nude pics.

If you’re going to take nude pics, avoid using digital media. Yes, I know, I’m the douchebag suggesting that if you want something to stay private, use something that cannot instantaneously be sent to every email inbox, TMZ site, or be distributed by shady voyeurs. Yes, I am a complete asshole for suggesting that this is a problem. Except, no, I’m not. The real assholes out there are the people saying ‘It’s not their fault they were hacked’, because they are perpetuating the notion that it is OK for you to remain an ignorant user of technology. IT’S NOT OK. This is a dangerous thought and absolutely wrong. You ABSOLUTELY should become INTIMATELY familiar with the technology in your pocket. Nobody can make you do that but you. And if you’re one of those people who say “Oh, I have no idea why I got an iPhone, I just like the color”, just… stop buying cell phones and stick to land lines… you are in way over your head. If you’re one of those people who say “I don’t understand computers” yet use them all the time… maybe you should take a class and learn what it is you’re dealing with, or ask a guy like me to explain it. I’m happy to help you stay safe.

That being said, if you want to take risque’ photos of yourself, use ANY medium except digital. PLEASE. Use film. Have an artist “…Draw me like one of your French girls”. Heck, use a digital camera that DOESN’T connect to the Internet so that you can store it securely in a locked cabinet. Security starts with YOU. Don’t be so na├»ve as to think you can simply ‘have a moral conversation with the world, and people will stop hacking’. As vile as it is for hackers to invade the personal data of celebrity skanks and man-sluts, this is the reality we live in. The world and all of its computers are connected, and there are very smart, very evil hackers out there who make a living off of stealing your identities, credit card numbers, Amazon accounts, Apple accounts… fuck, even your World of Warcraft account can turn a nice profit. You think telling a hacker ‘you’re a horrible person’ is going to stop them from doing this? Focus the conversation on what we need to be talking about and stop using this ‘I want to say the most moral thing I’ve ever said, so I can impress my friends with how moral I am’ stuff. Get real.

Please calculate your risks. And stop thinking that companies like Google, Apple, Amazon etc. have ‘the best and brightest security professionals’ working for them. They don’t. 14 year old Russian kids would run circles around their co-called IT experts. Shit, I could school them too. Stop thinking these companies have your desire for convenience in mind. They have one thing in mind. MONEY, and the ability to make infinite amounts of it.

Remember when you were freaking out about the NSA warrantless wiretapping, data monitoring, and meta-data collection? Every day, you allow companies to grab that exact same data, profit on it, and abuse it when you use a cloud service, or anything from Apple, Google, Amazon, etc. You are giving THEM more power than the NSA, and the NSA is actually trying to prevent you from getting attacked by enemies. These corporations are just trying to profile you to make more money. And they’re sloppy as hell when it comes to security. Sure, that needs to be addressed, but in the meantime:

Don’t let the technology you use outpace your knowledge of it. Know what’s in your pocket. Know how to keep private stuff OFF the cloud and OFF the Internet. Your small convenience is not worth the MASSIVE inconvenience of being hacked, and having images of your naked body becoming a matter of public record for perverts to leer at and pleasure themselves to.

Look, this is ‘the future’ we were all warned about as kids. Technology run amok, and outpacing our understanding of it. Yes, your pretty cellphone IS awesome, but you have no idea what it’s doing behind your back. It’s like you invited some charming stranger into your life, but that stranger has sinister motives.

Don’t do anything with your cellphone that you can potentially regret later. The Internet does not forget anything…



Friday, August 29, 2014

Why doesn’t the GOP get this?

Seriously, can someone please take the time to educate me as to why the GOP simply seems to be unable to ‘get’ these following things:

1)      The Republican attitude towards women is abominable. Why is the GOP incapable of empathizing with women? Why is it always about controlling the vagina? Why is it about telling women whether they can or can’t control what goes on with their body? Why is it about telling women they aren’t allowed to be sexual or enjoy sex? Why can’t the GOP get it through their thick skulls that women are every bit as equal (or better) than men in many jobs and deserve equal pay? What is their problem with women? They KNOW they have to get females to vote for them, yet fuck them over at every opportunity. Lilly Ledbetter act? Filibustered. Fair pay act? Filibustered. Abortion? They want to destroy Roe v Wade and take us back to when desperate women used fucking coat hangers to abort an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion isn’t about enabling so-called ‘immoral behavior’. It is about providing safe ways to terminate pregnancy that don’t involve a woman taking matters into her own hands. It’s barbaric to deny this.

2)      Why doesn’t the GOP seem to ‘get it’ that other religions exist and have every RIGHT to exist, outside the so-called Christian mainstream? Why won’t they allow Atheists to participate in democracy? Is their goal TRULY to alienate non-Christians from not only their party, but the totality of American political discourse? Do they really want a religious government? Don’t they know that’s why the USA rebelled against Britain in the first place?

3)      Why must the GOP lie to get elected? Why must the GOP rig elections to get elected? Why must the GOP gerrymander districts to get elected? Why must they cheat, rather than tell the truth about their agenda? They promised they’d focus on JOBS, but instead focus on Obamacare, abortions, and war. Nothing to do with jobs, at all. Is it because they, in fact, have no credibility, no ideas, no seriously stand-out candidates, and run on mediocrity? And how does this in any way help our country?

4)      Why does the GOP not seem to get anything to do with race? Any time a minority cries foul, or ‘white privilege’, or gets shot, the GOP comes out swinging to defend the white perspective, further alienating Latinos, blacks, Asians, and more. Weren’t they supposed to tone that shit down to get more voters? Why have they seemed to double down on their racist attitudes while screaming ‘reverse racism’ when anything they perceive to be even remotely ‘anti-white’ comes out into the media? Do they not understand this? Do they not understand that ‘white = right’ is fucking stupid? Why do they constantly drone on with the ‘Lament of the Oppressor’? “If only those minorities would do what we tell them to… jeez”.

5)      Why is it so hard to accept science? Why don’t they support US scientific research, while China seems to be kicking our asses? What is it about science that they can’t accept? Just the evolution thing that challenges religion? Why is it that despite all of the obvious evidence of ocean acidification/warming, rising sea levels, and carbon levels, which correlate exactly with the Industrial Revolution, that the word of a few dissenting scientists hold more weight than the consensus of 97% of climatologists? Can someone explain to me why evidence is tantamount to blasphemy?

6)      Despite all evidence to the contrary, the GOP still back Reagan’s ‘Trickle Down Reaganomics’ as gospel, while communities who raise the minimum wage experience an instant boost in their living conditions, economy, and happiness. What. The. Fuck. Is. The. Problem. Are the wealthy so ‘fragile’ they can’t take a slight increase in wages? The fucking gas companies do it all the time, yet society plugs on. Are they stupid, or are they evil? Do they want the poor to get poorer, and the rich to get richer? Seriously?

7)      Why does the GOP always default to air strikes, ground troops, and CIA destabilization of countries they don’t agree with, or won’t give us what we want? Is it that fuckign serious that we need to kill people to get our way, and then pretend to cry foul when even ONE DROP of American blood is spilled? I mean for FUCK SAKE… one guy gets beheaded by ISIS in the Middle east, after we have LITERALLY killed over 300,000 Iraquis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, and Syrians in the ongoing Middle East turmoil… the GOP immediately starts their media zeitgeist saying “ISIS is unstoppable! They pose an imminent threat to the US mainland! ZOMGWTFBBQ the Muslims are out of control!”. Are we that fucking stupid to fall for this AGAIN?!

I feel like if there was a God, he’d have ended this shit already.
Any one of these questions begs an answer to the bigger question.
“WHY DOES ANYONE VOTE GOP”? And, CAN WE STOP?


All of this I would be really curious to know. What I’m even more curious about is why the GOP and this mindset resonates with Americans at all. Aren't we supposed to be the good guys? What the hell happened to us?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fergusen, and the mess we're in.

What’s happening in Fergusen, MI is entirely out of control and makes us as a nation look extremely bad. From the clear racial tensions in the area, to the overblown and militarized initial response by law enforcement, to the looting and all the way to the Governor actually calling in the National Guard to ‘bring peace and stability back to the region’. Listening to the language being used, you would think they’re referring to the Middle East, or some other battlefield… but we are talking about American soil.
Here is how we’re failing on all levels. These are symptoms of the larger issue, and the root cause.

1)      Race relations. While everyone has an opinion, the facts are solid. Fergusen, MI, is a town where the vast majority of the people who live there are black. Their government, and over 90% of their law enforcement personnel are all or very nearly all mostly white. It makes no sense that the black community has neither representation in government, or a presence in law enforcement. It is clear this is a community that has been oppressed, and they are sick of it to the point they’re rioting. This is a multi-level failure of governance. It is ridiculous to believe that there isn't a desire for fair representation in this city. It is clear the vote has been suppressed. And even today, a MI government official was quoted as saying that voter registration drives during the riots was ‘disgusting’. Excuse me, democracy is disgusting? No, that’s the way problems are SUPPOSED to be solved, especially in a county where only 12% of eligible voters are even registered to vote!  How are they supposed to get fair representation and law enforcement in this environment? Answer: they’re not. And voter suppression tactics by the local GOP are both obvious, and troubling.

2)      History. It is a fact that when the slaves were freed, our government did not give them any money, wealth, or otherwise. I want you to imagine you were a slave for a second. Now imagine you’re free… and broke… and homeless… and don’t have an education… and that many of your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids are in the same boat and have no way to get out of it. Reparations were never made, and the longer they wait to happen, the less they’ll help. The United States has failed blacks on so many levels. From the failure to make amends for centuries of slavery on American soil, to the continuous racial bias in government, the court system, law enforcement, and the prison system, laws work against blacks in America – not for them. It’s absurd to think that white people, or other races, commit less crimes than blacks. It is a fact that 60-70% of ALL Americans have at the very least been arrested, and nearly 40% of our citizens – that is over 150,000,000 of them – have been in jail or served time. Yet who stays in prisons? Who is kept there? And prisons are a for profit enterprise, where companies can get FREE LABOR… sounds to me like they found a way through privatizing prisons to reinstitute slave labor. And the vast majority were arrested for lame shit like pot smoking. Come on. It’s obvious to me, and PAINFULLY obvious to the black community what’s going on here. And that has got to stop. And until it does, more Fergusens will happen every so often.

3)      Police force militarization. Your police force likely has better gear than the soldiers in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Remember when Bush was ‘president’ and sent our troops into battle without the necessary gear? He sent them in with hand-me-down body armor, malfunctioning guns, not enough ammo, and lives were lost. So why the hell do our police have better gear than our troops? Well, that’s a long story, but the short version is, the war on drugs is literally a war on blacks. Silently, and insidiously, police arrest black drug users and the courts use a law called ‘mandatory minimum sentencing’ to incarcerate youths… sometimes life sentences, for shit like possessing a rock of crack cocaine, or one fucking joint.

And people WONDER why gangs are a thing. If you stick together, chances are the cops will leave you alone. It’s why neighborhoods like ‘the jungles’ of LA exist; barricaded, fortified neighborhoods meant to keep cops OUT of their communities. How sick is that? Cops are so notorious for racial profiling, violence, and unjust arrests, that the Black communities out there have literally said “We don’t want or need you around us…”. Well, once you fortify your neighborhood, cops beg for more funding and better equipment so they can go do ‘their jobs’ of putting black people into the prison system. And they get all the toys they want. Oh, and now that the war in Iraq is (sort of) over, you can have all the fancy gear that never went to our troops, and they have no training for. BRILLIANT. Now you have a force of police so heavily fucking armed, YOU AND I (indeed, ALL Americans) have no hope of EVER challenging our government for abuse of power. The government now has every agency armed TO THE TEETH. Did you know the fucking IRS has ammo and guns now? Are you serious?? AR-15’s and MASSIVE amounts of ammo were purchased by IRS collection agents. Gee, wonder who invokes the most ire from the IRS? Well-to-do white people, or generational poverty stricken black folks? Yeah, actually, I don’t wonder at all.

4)      Failure to listen. White people (of which I am one) get super defensive when you point out that they have privileges others don’t. They get oh-so-butthurt when reminded that many of our ancestors owned black slaves. The phrase “I wasn't there, and I never owned slaves” comes up a lot. Or “It’s 2014, and these blacks have plenty of rights, why are they so… (fill in stereotype here)”. Or how about the now-infamous GOP mantra of “they were much better off as slaves. My grandpa told me they were way happier than when they were freed”. Oh, that one is just sick, and stupid.  Or, I mean, shit…. This “REVERSE RACISM” shit… this is an idea that a psychotic two-year-old would come up with. The very notion that a white privileged male is in any way the victim of ‘reverse racism’ is so beyond fucking stupid, I’m having a tough time gathering up my thoughts to describe how asinine it truly is. Thing is, white people don’t want to hear how historically, they enslaved the black man, freed him, only to rig the justice system so they’re put in prison making license plates for your local DMV. There is a reason most Republicans tend to be pro-Confederacy, or pro-Law Enforcement, or perhaps even, want to ‘take our country back’ (which is thinly veiled code for: “Fuck the hippies and their civil rights movements. This is a white, male-dominated, Christian country”). So you have to find a way to crack that ice and get to the conscience of the white man in order to make him understand. And believe me, it took me decades to even begin to comprehend what privilege I had… can you imagine how hard that’s going to be to explain to 60% of America “You have it pretty fucking good, now give up some of that power so others can have a taste”? Good luck…

5)      We’re stupid. We as a nation are incredibly dumb, at this point in history. We have lost our ability to sanely solve complex issues. In fact we’d rather just ignore them. We don’t want to fund our schools, we’d rather sabotage them and give the job to for-profit private schools (oh, gee, here we go again… we found a way to deny black people education), thus creating an education vacuum that will only be filled by yet more stupidity. Knowledge is power, and denying it to anyone means you wish to be more powerful than they are. You wish to keep your aristocratic social club separate from the heathens. Oh, but you know, you can let a FEW very special people into your club, so long as they look and sound ‘as white as possible’ to you. Take, for example, the GOP. How many black senators do they have? One? Zero? How about congressmen? Same?

They did run a black candidate vs Barack Obama, but the guy was a freaking pizza chain CEO with little to NO civil service on his record (Herman Cain). What a joke. They ran HIM versus Barack Obama, a Harvard Law professor, Nobel Prize Laureate (hey, whatever your opinion on that one, he still has one, you don’t), a guy with a record of civil service and community organizing, versus a pepperoni baron. You think the GOP wanted to make a black man powerful? Fuck no! They wanted the GOP to look at Cain, and galvanize the idea in their head “This is why we only run white men for President… you can see what happens when we don’t.”. Then they turn around and run that goofball Rick Perry who couldn't even explain his position, or even remember the ‘three federal agencies’ he would cut. I’ll remind him. He said he wanted to cut the Dept. of EDUCATION (when he clearly needs it more than anyone), the FDA (which keeps drugs safe… for crying out loud), and the EPA (which keeps water clean for all of us, not just rich people)… all while it was revealed the motherfucker had a ranch called “N***erhead”. Are. You. Fucking. Serious?

And you know what? They’re going to run even MORE racist ass rubes the next election cycle. From Rick Perry (again, that is, if he doesn't go to jail), to Paul Ryan (round 2), Rand Paul (the guy who plagiarizes all his speeches and thoughts from Wikipedia), and quite possibly, a token black candidate.  If you can’t see what they’re doing, you are blind.

I’m going to sound like a complete partisan hack here, which is fine, I’d much rather be accused of being a liberal hack than a TeaBagger hack any day – but America, we have a serious issue. Not only is the GOP and TeaParty out of control and doing everything that super-villains do in the comics, the issue is that we are SO FUCKING DUMB we can’t even elect people to represent us properly. We don't pay attention to politics. We can't even agree on facts anymore. We have been divided, and conquered. We lost this game. You didn't think, you didn't unify, and you allowed government to be sold to the same kinds of people that we rebelled against – Dukes, Landlords, Kings, and Churches. It’s over, we lost, and you are now being monitored, tracked, data-based, spied on, and all YOU can fucking think about is “Oh those damn blacks are acting up”. Fuck, you have absolutely no idea. THEY have the right idea. STAND UP. REBEL. RAISE HELL. SACRIFICE YOURSELF FOR FREEDOM. Cos nobody else is doing that. Occupy Wall Street tried that too, and the banks bought the cops, which in turn dispersed all protests. That should have made you FREAK OUT, but white America wanted to sit on the couch and scream at the TV rather than showing solidarity in what was likely our last chance to reverse the damage done by Citizens United. Apathy is your enemy. The government is not your friend.

And APATHY is the root cause. You don’t care, and you are not willing to fight for justice.

APATHY.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dear Christian Right

Dear Christian Right,

We need to have a talk, you and I. We’ll need to come to an understanding, now that secularism, Atheism, and non-Christian faiths are on the rise in America. And it is time for you to accept that your vice-like grip on politics WILL soon come to an end. You’re not going to like losing power, but I promise you, you have nothing at all to fear from secular people and non-Christians. That is, unless, you proceed with enacting self-fulfilling prophecy. Let’s explore.

There is no war on your religion in the USA. You are top dog. Indeed, it is considered taboo to speak badly about your religion. It is considered an assumed fact, that unless otherwise stated, that someone in this country is a Christian, even though we all know not everyone is. It is completely obvious that your religion is (currently) a sort of prerequisite to hold public office. While this WILL change, we’re not there yet. Unlike you, people outside of the Christian faith haven’t been able to organize to the level of ‘megachurch’, as you have. But we will one day. And you ought to ask yourself one thing: Will you allow other points of view to exist, or will history repeat, and you go on a ‘crusade’?

Here’s the thing. Even if you proclaim yourself to be a right-wing Christian, you cannot be a Christian without compassion. Any faith on the planet is supposed to teach peace, love, and community. And, I dare say, the right-wing faction of Evangelical Christianity is all but completely devoid of compassion for those outside of your club. Indeed, this is evidenced by the radical right Tea Party, who espouses views bordering on ‘White Power’, xenophobia, and rabid nationalism (this is known as fascism, and it does not know compassion, as your Jesus Christ character in that Bible thingy taught, and you seemingly ignore). The phrase “Take America Back” is a thinly veiled code-speak for “We want White Christian Males to stay in power”. You are not fooling us.

The reality is, Christianity is having a very hard time defending itself against scientific knowledge. We all know (well, most sane people) that the earth took a fuckload longer than 7 days to ‘be created’. Science can prove the earth formed out of the dust created by a newly ignited star, our sun, some 4.5 billion years ago. We even know that our moon was once a stray planet that at one time collided with our earth, hence its orbit around us. We can scan the cosmic microwave background, and, with continually refined calculations, know how the universe actually formed. And you know, that’s a whole lot more convincing to some than the belief that some cosmic deity snapped his or her or it’s fingers and BAM! Adam and Eve had incestual sex, thus the human race. Any person with a lick of sense knows this is the theory of ancient humans who had no knowledge of the natural world, and struggled to fill in the gaps.
Most of us non-Christians realize that you are sticking to your guns because of several things. Tradition, cognitive dissonance (or the fear of being ‘wrong’), fear of Hell (which is funny, because Hell is not in the Bible, and ‘Satan’ is just a Hebrew word for ‘adversary’ and not an actual ‘person’), and of course the main reason: You are a dominant social club that enjoys an IMMENSE amount of privilege, wealth, and political clout. Who would want to give that up? Nobody. BUT you will soon have competition for this, which brings me back to the original reason for writing this.

You are going to need to learn the concept of sharing. Stop with this ridiculous notion, first of all, that Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, or even American Muslims want anything to do with attacking you, harming you, or otherwise giving you grief. You are playing an interesting game here. From our perspective, when we see the fear-mongering phrases such as “Atheists are trying to destroy America”, we all look around and try to figure out how you got that idea. You are attempting to create controversy where there is none to gin up fear of what you do not understand. Why the hell would I waste time ‘attacking’ physically, anyone? We can have debates, but debates do not constitute ‘an attack’. An ‘attack’ would most likely look like me with an aluminum baseball bat, your knees, and a lot of swearing. And I don’t really feel like going to jail. So stop with this ‘we’re under attack’ stuff in America. You’re not. And you won’t be unless you throw the first punch. And even then, we’re mostly all pacifists and don’t do the whole ‘crusade’ thing. Check yourself.

Back to the concept of sharing. You’re going to have to learn to deal with less privilege. Just as white males are on the decline in America in terms of power, so too will Christianity go down this path. There isn’t anything you can really do about it, except perhaps show some maturity instead of trying to convince people that people like me are evil. I’m so not an evil person. I probably follow the tenants of your Jesus more closely than you do. The ONLY difference between you, and I, is that I do not take the Bible as a literal truth. I don’t believe that some character, created and imagined by man, could possibly be real without direct proof, which you so conveniently state only comes to you when ‘you have faith’ (read: believe it cos I say so, and stop questioning it). I don’t believe that out of literally thousands of different beliefs in deities on this planet, Christianity can claim their beliefs as more true than any other. In fact, I remain convinced that all religions have simply said “Here, I wrote a book. Believe in my characters so that we might unite around these principles. Also, give me money.”

Well, I do like money. I like community too. And I also love being a good person that helps other people. So let’s unite around those principles. We are all Americans, and must share this land with each other. We’ll need to come to the understanding that we all have the right to live, be happy, and express our ideas without fear of ‘the other side’ smacking us down, or suppressing us. It’s probably best if we focus on what the human condition is, rather than jockeying for control of it. The human experience is diverse. There are many peoples, many traditions, and many beliefs, and all can be considered and should be, without accusations of ‘heresy’ or ‘blasphemy’. That’s just Dark Age stuff right there.

In any case, I hope that despite our philosophical disagreements, Christian Right, that we can come to an accord to preserve the essence of what it is to be American: Free to be who you want to be, love who you want to love, and do what you want to do. You don’t own America. It really was NOT founded on ‘Christian Principles’ which is a lie I hear all too often. It was founded on the basis that a state or nation cannot favor one belief over another. It was founded on the principle that we as a nation should not have a foreign king taking our money without our ability to negotiate for its uses (taxation without representation, which is what your Tea Party was truly about). This is a nation of immigrants, with everyone’s ancestors having come from somewhere else. This is a nation of diversity. And it will get more diverse.


If you cannot come to grips with this, I’m afraid you’re just not going to live happy lives. You’re stressing yourself out worrying about non-Christian boogeymen. Relax. Enjoy life. Learn to share it with others. We’re not coming for your kids, we’re not burning your churches, and we’re not trying to beat you up. The only thing we’re not doing is ignoring science, contributing to your collection plates, or knocking on your door to ‘share our love of science’ (which hey, that’s not a bad idea…). Let’s learn to share this world instead of trying to control it ok? And just drop the ‘War on Christmas’ thing. We don’t care about your quaint little holiday that you stole from Pagans and Germanized. I’ll celebrate Winter Solstice right alongside your Christmas. Nobody gets hurt. That sound alright to you?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Climate Change Denial


I've often wondered why people would rather believe that climate change isn't happening, versus people who readily accept the consensus of 97% of the world’s scientists that it is. Then again, Mulder from the X-Files would be ‘proud’ that we’re in an age of conspiracy theories… except that was a TV show and reality is much more boring.

I've seen detractors of the science behind climate change point out anything from a lone dissenting scientist, to Fox News ‘coverage’, to supposed ‘studies’ that claim to refute the consensus of the VAST (nearly total) majority of climate scientists. What these folks focus on are things called ‘outliers’ to bolster their claim that somehow, someone thought it would be a great idea to tell us that man is altering the environment, and atmosphere, which in turn warms the planet and alters weather patterns and sea levels – all to probably sell solar panels or battery powered cars. In short, they think it’s a massive liberal conspiracy to – I don’t know what… sell more batteries? Good god, run for your lives. Hippies are telling you how to drive.

Any sane person would recognize that the argument against climate change is directly funded, organized, and disseminated by the Oil, Gas, and Coal industries.

Why would they try to convince you to carry on as normal and say that Global Warming/Climate change is all some conspiracy? Because this fact loses them money if CLEAN energy is deployed, like solar, wind, and geothermal.

Some of the bullshit lies that they say I will directly address. But first, let’s focus on science, and how you understand it (or don’t).

Climate scientists can analyze ice samples from glaciers that are millions of years old; Ice that has not melted since the dinosaurs were around. You can find such glaciers in Antarctica, and Greenland. Perpetually frozen places (well historically anyway). Ice accumulates in layers. Snow falls, and is weighed down by other snow storms over time. Every layer adds around ¼ centimeter, and over time, you have a thick ice sheet. The snow that falls brings with it particles from the air at the time it was formed. This gives scientists an accurate picture of the global atmospheric composition, and from there they are able to deduce what the environment was like. You can couple this data with fossils, and other organics in order to gain an even more accurate picture: What life was thriving and dying, what volcanoes were erupting, even how thick or thin the ozone layer was. We can carbon date these samples to accurately say WHEN they came from.

It IS an exact science. The only thing that should cast doubt on any conclusion are things called ‘x-factors’, or factors that haven’t been added to the model. Occasionally someone will say something like ‘hey, did we factor in seismicity? Meteor impacts? Solar flares?’; And if the answer is ‘no’, then that data is added (not subtracted) to the model, in order to further refine it.

So really, what you are looking at over the past several decades is that we are refining a formerly fuzzy picture of the climate into a clearer image. Not the opposite direction. This is what has been OBSERVED.

What scientists know is that there has never been this much carbon in the atmosphere, this fast. Global average temperatures have never raised this fast without a massive natural disaster (like the Chicxulub asteroid impact that killed most of the dinosaurs). Since the Industrial revolution, carbon levels in the atmosphere have skyrocketed. Carbon is black, and black things absorb heat. Carbon particles absorb the heat in the atmosphere, warming it. In contrast, things like silver nitrate, or sulfur dioxide reflect heat back into space, cooling the atmosphere. If for example, we were to pump the atmosphere with many metric tons of silver nitrate, you would see a temporary cooling effect on the global average temperature.

Now, the ‘global average temperature’ is what climate scientists refer to as ‘global warming’ or climate change. Averages are calculated by gathering many sets of measurements, adding them up and dividing by the number of measurements to get the global ‘average’ temperature. So while it may be -25F in Alaska, for example, the ‘average’ would be offset by say, 135F in Death Valley, which would be a record.

Globally, the ‘average’ temperatures are rising. This causes weather patterns to become more severe, ice to melt in places it has not previously melted, and sea levels to rise.

Now, there have been some seriously ZANY fucking things, said by idiots who have NO understanding of climate science, such as I do, in order to politicize the issue, or display full-on their ignorance of the subject and contempt for ‘nerds’ who ‘think they know better than I do’.
So first, I’d like to address the ‘deniers’:

You are not a scientist. You have no understanding of what science is. You do not understand what ‘peer-reviewed’ means. You do not understand what ‘outliers’ are. And you are not qualified to question the conclusions of 97% of theworld’s EXPERTS. Let me repeat – EXPERTS. It is unfortunate that you ‘deniers’ are given equal time on news stations, in order for them to appear ‘balanced’. News channels exist these days to make money, to keep their viewers watching, and to promote the agendas of their sponsors. News channels are not scientists either. They are ‘infotainment’. They are also unqualified to comment on Global Warming/Climate Change.

To the ‘outlier’ scientists:

It is unfortunate that people have misconstrued the efforts of scientific skeptics, who are necessary to keep science honest and accurate, as a ‘movement of dissent’. Science is ALL about questioning common knowledge and consensus, but even the biggest science skeptic will tell you, all they have is a theory, and even their theories eventually need to be proven, or discarded. On an issue as important as this one, you ought to do a better job of explaining that your dissent is not proven science. It is a necessary component of science and it is getting the wrong amount of publicity and attention. One dissenting scientist out of 100, will require EXTRAORDINARY evidence, to be peer reviewed, in order to challenge current models. So far, not one scientific skeptic or peer reviewed study has turned out to be CORRECT. In fact, no climate denial study has EVER BEEN PEER REVIEWED! NOT ONE. Yet cable channels will go OUT OF THEIR WAY to find that one skeptic who swears up and down they are right. And they don’t care how crazy they are, so long as you’re watching.

To the cable channels:

Shame on you. You are the worst. You have singlehandedly turned an important issue that could be an existential threat to the human race and sensationalized it, politicized it, twisted it, and made it into a joke. You are probably going to be the sole reason nothing gets done to seriously address the threat of rising sea levels, severe weather, and damage to life and property, and the whole time you’re laughing your way to the bank. If you were a person, I’d have you savagely beaten, drug out to the street, and executed for treason. You are the WORST.

To the politicians:

The surprising lack of urgency on your part (liberals) is astounding. This isn't a ‘social issue’. This isn't a tax issue. This isn't even a re-election issue. This is a national security threat, a global problem, and will eventually make this world absolutely miserable. To the conservatives, your persistent pandering to the religious extremists in the Evangelical sector is not only dangerous, and sad, it is unbelievable. You would sacrifice the very future of this planet and the human race, just so you don’t look ‘wrong’ in the eyes of the people who believe in the Apocalypse. Honestly? The most dangerous kind of stupidity is the one  you possess.

To you:

Please stop reaching for outlier sciences. If they were in fact true, science would support that theory as prevailing. Science looks at hard data. While occasionally one of them gets greedy or falsifies data, this is not the norm, and those people will never work in the industry again. Peer review all but assures this will not happen. Science does not have an ‘opinion’. Belief in a scientific principle is based solely on if that principle works. If it can be refined, it will be. The one in a million expert who says things like ‘I challenge the current climate model’ must back it up with peer reviewed evidence, or it is just a theory.

In conclusion:

Science is not wrong. There is a reason Al Gore chose the title ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for his climate change opus: IT IS NOT A CONVENIENT THING FOR US TO ACCEPT. He knows full well, that this is just as inconvenient as say, someone hitting your car, or your house being broken into. It is a shock. It’s something we DON’T want to accept. Who WANTS to accept that we are hopelessly destroying the entire food chain, the forests that give us air, the very weather patterns, and could eventually make the planet uninhabitable for human existence? It makes us feel BAD that we could be that horrible. But until we accept this ‘inconvenient truth’, we’re just making the problem worse and ignoring it.

Time to grow up, and put the X-Files where it belongs… on Netflix – for entertainment.

Why on earth would this be a ‘conspiracy’? What are ‘they’ trying to do? Sell you solar panels? That’s the conspiracy? Wow, seriously evil plan there, guys. I don’t know about you but I LoooOOoove my sky high A/C bill, and soot/smoke generating, fossil fuel burning, inefficient oil leaking car! Why the hell would I ever want a Tesla Model S? Doesn't even make that ‘Vroom vroom’ noise! That’s un-American, and an Obama plot to make me buy something that’s not a FORD!

Seriously. Grow. Up.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Don't Let The USA Slip Into Fascism.

Americans have some real funny ideas about immigrants lately. I can’t quite put my finger on why it seems so many people in the USA, despite all of us actually being the product of immigration (unless you happen to be a Native American) seem to have such vitriolic attitudes towards immigrants or people from other countries (read: anyone with brown skin, or an accent, you just don’t hear anything these days about “Those damn Irish, Norwegians, Canadians, French, Germans, or Spaniards…) coming to the USA either legally, or illegally. Our economy is on a good recovery, stock markets are great, and for the most part the jobs lost in Bush’s recession have been recovered and new ones are being created. So what's your beef NOW?

First it was “They’re taking our jobs!” (they weren’t). Then it was ‘they’re so violent!’ (not as violent as WE are! We kill 30k of our own each year alone! That’s as many in one year here that have died in the last DECADE in Mexico due to drug cartel violence). Then it was ‘they don’t speak English!’. Well, yeah, most of them do, and not every town in the USA speaks English, and it’s always been that way.

But unfortunately, it’s nothing new at all, and has been occurring since we ‘founded’ this nation (read: when British people rebelled against their crown and seized 13 British colonies). From the onset of the creation of this nation, people started referring to themselves as ‘natives’, even though they were anything but. They referred to anyone that didn’t speak English, or had a thick accent, as immigrants, although when you look at this country, no less than 14 distinct American accents are in use, and even more foreign languages. We have Spanish, French, German, Norwegian, Italian, Irish, Cuban, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, and Native cities/towns in the USA where English simply isn’t used, and it hurts exactly nobody. I guess we forget that.

But this latest round of immigrants has people on the far, far right howling for everything from land mines to be deployed on the border, to execution squads like the minutemen, to whatever cruel method of ridding the country of unwanted visitors imaginable (however this is not true of all right-wingers, I know plenty of reasonable Republicans who have the same opinion as I on this topic – that compassion and understanding is needed). The latest flare up is in regards to hundreds of small children that showed up at the border, and these people are actually suggesting some really cruel things be done to them… it makes me absolutely sick.

Why hate children? Most of them are 5 to 12 years old and have NO CLUE why so many  so-called ‘Patriotic, God-Fearing Americans’ HATE them so much. After all, the USA advertises itself the world over as a bright shining beacon of democracy, freedom, liberty, and opportunity. Can you really, truly, blame children for their ignorance of our system? Really? Why would we pretend to be this great compassionate nation, and then just be cruel to child refugees? They came here with the idea that we're the good guys. Captian America. Now we're showing a whole generation of kids, we say one thing, and do another.

Why? What is WRONG with us? Thought we were some sort of 'Christian' nation, weren't we? Guess that's all lip service and branding.

From the recent shit-fit in Murrieta, CA to the absolutely draconian and unnecessary laws passed in a Texas town – effectively barring any facility from housing immigrants for processing, or allowing any Border Patrol in their city to enforce federal law (and, excuse me, how stupid is that when you are COMPLAINING ABOUT UNCHECKED IMMIGRATION??). This unchecked hatred, re-enforced by the trolls of the Internet, extreme-right morons like Texas Gov Rick Perry, or AZ Gov Jan Brewer is not only dangerous to our youth who are learning “It’s ok to hate”, it’s dangerous to our national security.

Why would I say that? Let’s look back to another country that went down this road. We are getting DANGEROUSLY close to acting just like it. After WWI, Germany was a humiliated nation. Having been defeated soundly by other world powers, attention turned to domestic issues. Poverty was rampant, and people were looking for someone to blame (sound familiar?). Then along comes this charismatic politician who claimed he knew the real issue. It was those damn Jews! Immigrants! Non-German mongrels! Yes… THEY were the problem and had to be dealt with!

Germany started by rounding them all up. Anyone not with blonde hair and blue eyes was asked to show their papers (a lot like AZ’s now-overruled immigration law), or wear a gold Star of David on their shirt/coat to identify them as Jews. Then, deportations followed. People were either told to get out of Germany because they weren’t “Aryan” enough, or jailed. The German population armed themselves heavily. Fear and propaganda was spread: Jews were dirty, evil, greedy, and wanted to take your jobs.

Wow, sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it?

And the German people bought it, hook, line, and sinker. The next thing you knew it, Germany was pre-emptively invading other countries under the guise of ‘Protecting Germans abroad’ (Bush Doctrine), rounding up people and putting them into labor-death-murder camps (a lot like some of our correctional and immigration facilities, and no, I am not exaggerating), and of course telling the world it was for their benefit to have a strong, pure Germany (we do tend to put our interests above that of the entire world).

Oh, and we did it here too. We rounded up all the Japanese Americans during WWII and put THEM in camps! Look what we’re doing now.

Fascism is a funny thing. It creeps up on you like an insidious infection. Just like cells, people are infected with hate, rabid-nationalism, and fear of anything or anyone different from them and it spreads exponentially. The next thing you know, politicians rise up to meet the demand of hate, and serve it.

We cannot, as a nation, allow this to happen.

Yes, the immigration system needs fixing, but don’t think for a second that it’s something that can be fixed with hateful policy, draconian constructs like minefields or walls, or simply stepping up deportation as Obama has done (he holds the record out of any president in history for deportations).
I believe in root causes – and root solutions.

The root cause of all of this is Americas demand for illegal drugs.

Want to stop the influx of frightened children fleeing for the US, or adults that are willing to risk their lives to flee for the USA in hopes of safety? Change our drug policy. Create a better guest worker program. Assist other countries in fighting cartels. Build up other nations rather than trying to out-compete them.
If you don’t solve any of that, not one damn thing will change.

It’s not the children’s fault. It’s not the fault of people who want to get away from violence and do everything they can for a better life. It’s the fault of the people/nation that created the problem in the first place.

It’s our fault, we are failing on a moral, diplomatic, and international level. The President can only do so much, say so much, or issue so many orders. He is not a god. He cannot snap his fingers and make immigration stop. Congress needs to get its act together and send Obama a bill he would sign instead of consistently sabotaging the executive branch. It’s like we don’t care about our country anymore. Either that, or we created one so complex that we no longer understand it. In any case, something has to be done, but I will fucking draw the line in the sand at blaming children.

Do. Not. Blame. CHILDREN!

You want to fix immigration? Want to stop the flow of illegal or undocumented people into our country? Start by making good policy at home, end by helping the countries where the people are coming from in the first place. I guarantee you that it is mostly our fault anyway what is happening in places like Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico. We destabilized their governments, and made a power vacuum that is only filled by gangs and drug cartels, all while we buy their drugs. Thanks CIA. We try to micromanage the world, while getting high off their supply, creating the situation that makes them flee their homes for here. Get it now? Can we stop blaming CHILDREN for our problems now, and can we stop acting like them? Ok. Good.