Bigmouth (el Rushbo) strikes again

You know, every time you think we’ve already achieved Peak Limbaugh, he manages to top himself. Granted, at this point, it’s sort of like Madonna-in-her-50’s trying to be shocking, but he’s still impressive when he’s in full bluster:

“This is not good for the country, what’s happening here, because it isn’t, I don’t think, full-fledged legitimate. It’s not based on real-world grievance. It’s grievance that’s being amplified and made up,and the president, if you ask me, could do a lot to stop this by telling people to respect the criminal justice system.”

Rush Limbaugh on the reaction to the Michael Brown/Eric Garner killings and grand jury non-indictments

You ought to read the whole thing. There’s nothing particularly new (he’s just recapitulating the right wing talking points), but you can’t help but marvel at how utterly divorced from reality Mr. Limbaugh’s rants are: People aren’t really upset by what’s happened, there was no choke hold, cigarette taxes are responsible for Garner’s death, etc. It’s incredibly stupid stuff.

That isn’t to say that Limbaugh is stupid. He’s just saying what his audience wants to hear. Limbaugh isn’t stupid; he just thinks that everyone who listens to him is stupid.

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The Dalai Lama on Loneliness

In The Art of Happiness, HH is asked if he’s ever lonely. He responds that he is not, and here’s why:

“I think that one factor is that I look at any human being from a more positive angle. I try to look at their positive aspects. This attitude immediately creates a feeling of affinity, a kind of connectedness.” [page 68] “If you approach others with the thought of compassion, that will automatically reduce fear and allow an openness with other people. … But without the attitude of compassion, if you are feeling closed, irritated, or indifferent, then you can even be approached by your best friend and you just feel uncomfortable. I think that in many cases people tend to expect the other person to respond to them in a positive way first, rather than taking the initiative themselves to create that possibility. I feel that’s wrong; it leads to problems and can act as a barrier that just serves to promote a feeling of isolation from others.”

The trick, apparently, is seeing other people as like you instead of as “other.” Oh, and empathy. Empathy’s a big player.

Given all of the poison crap surrounding me right now (globally, not personally), I really need this kind of outlook. Is it wrong that I would really, really like to violently force these ideas into the heads of people who think that it’s ok for the police to kill unarmed black people? It is? I can live with that….

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Failing to find anything useful to say about Ferguson (and now Eric Garner)

I’ve spent weeks trying to think of something to say, something that would somehow make sense of the disaster that is the killing of Michael Brown. The inimitable Chuck Wendig had this to say on the subject of empathy, and I can’t say it any better, so I will simply urge you to click the link and read it for yourself. It’s an excellent post and I wholeheartedly agree with him.

But beyond that? I’m don’t know where we go from here, but I will say this: The system is broken*. The system is very badly broken. The system produces unarguably racist results. The same action produces different results based on one’s skin color. The results of the justice system are so obviously skewed that it is a wonder that anyone has any confidence in it at all.

The system is so broken that it cannot be allowed to stand. I don’t know where the fixing should begin**, but if it isn’t fixed, if a huge portion of the U.S. population no longer believe that working within the system will produce fair results, there’s really no reason to play within the system, is there?

I’m sorry. I know this isn’t the most illuminating post I’ve written, but the justice system is so badly broken in so many ways that it feels like fixing, assuming anyone even tries, is a borderline futile exercise. It needs to be fixed because continuing to operate like this is monstrous, but right now, I don’t even know where to start.

xmasstory

EDIT: The grand jury declined to indict the cop who killed Eric Garner. This feels surreal and wrong. I don’t feel like anything I say will be anywhere near to sufficient. But this is wrong.

 

* If you don’t agree that the system is broken, you are simply wrong and should probably just go back to freerepublic.com.

** Maybe “not allowing Klansmen to be policemen” would be a good start?

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America, 11/24/2014

america

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Abandon all hope ye who enter here…it’s Klawchat!

Did you hear the one about the baseball writers talking about evolution? This is a good one. A couple of weeks ago, ESPN analyst Curt Schilling began using his Twitter account as a platform to talk about the many failings of the theory of evolution. Unfortunately for Mr. Schilling, his tweets revealed a complete lack of understanding as to what the theory of evolution actually is and what sort of data would damage the theory. At the risk of editorializing (a risk I’m always willing to take), his tweets read like what you’d expect you’d expect your uncle to write after downing a case of Milwaukee’s Best.

It’s kind of sad to read them, isn’t it? He clearly doesn’t have the fainest notion of what he’s talking about. The trolls obviously had a field day picking him apart and you never really gets the sense that he understands that he’s the butt of the joke.

Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got Keith Law, another ESPN analyst. If you’re not reading Keith Law, you’re missing out. He’s a baseball writer. He’s such a good baseball writer that he is literally the only reason I’ve maintained an ESPN Insider account. Keith is also an interesting blogger outside of the baseball world. He focuses on music, food, books, and board games (especially those for the whole family).

Mr. Law is also one of the most rational people you’re likely to meet. He knows his logical fallacies and he’s not afraid to call people out for using them. His writing is sharp, incisive, thoroughly reasoned, and utterly unsentimental. I’m guessing most of you already know where this is going.

Law tweeted corrections to Schilling’s mistakes and, in the process seems to have angered his employers. In response, ESPN suspended Law from Twitter. We don’t know exactly which of Law’s actions drew this response, but ESPN has said that it wasn’t because of his defense of evolution:

Keith’s Twitter suspension had absolutely nothing to do with his opinions on the subject.

That’s a suspicsiouly narrow statement (not to mention it seems to imply this was a difference of opinions, not fact). Whatever.

While not every cloud has a silver lining, this one might. There are probably literally several of people who had never heard of Keith Law who now have. Please give him a look. He’s a terrific writer who keeps himself focussed on interesting subjects and he has level of bullshit which approaches zero. His blog can be found here. Joe Bob…er, Uncle Pancakes says “Check it out.”

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USA FREEDOM reform and the Dance of the Mad Bastards*

In my dotage, I’ve come to recognize that the more “patriotic” a law’s name (or, *cringe*, acronym**), the more Orwellian it will be. Viewed in that light, the USA FREEDOM Act was always going to be a terrifying piece of legislation, wasn’t it? It turns out that it absolutely lived up to my expectations, although we’d have never known it without the work of one Mr. Snowden.

A bill attempting to apply a few modest (and frankly, insufficient) controls to the USA FREEDOM act recent popped up in the Senate and went down in flames. I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t ever expect the Senate to pass any kind of restrictions against the data gathering operations the NSA operates against everyone in the U.S. That being the case, the best entertainment was had watching the shadow theater around the vote itself.

The final vote was 58 for the restrictions, 42 against, but I don’t believe it really as close as that. Once a certain party was sure that they had enough votes to kill the bill, they could allow Senators to fashion their votes to match their constituency, or, at the very least let the folks with the extremely safe seats do the wetwork (John Cornyn, I’m looking at you), Watching semi-Libertarian Ted Cruz vote for civil liberties and extreme-Libertarian Rand Paul vote against them was a beautiful dance, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

There were, of course, over-the-top statements concerning the apocalyptic consequences of the bill passing or failing, but my favorite bit came from Michael Hayden (former CIA and NSA head honcho) and Michael Mukasey (a former U.S. Attorney General. They describe the bill as the kind of “NSA reform that only ISIS could love.” It’s a beautiful statement in that it gets so much wrong in so few words.

Who cares what ISIS think? It’s a fallacy to suggest that anything your enemies might like is bad. Hitler would probably have liked painting landscapes, but that doesn’t mean painting landscapes is bad. You see where I said “probably?” That’s important, because, here’s the deal: I am not Hitler and I do not know what he would have thought, any more than Mukasey and Hayden know what ISIS thinks about the American government spy on American citizens.

Of course, ISIS is just the bogeyman of the hour. If it hadn’t been ISIS, it would have been al Qaeda, or the USSR, or something like that. Inevitably, we’re told “they hate us for our freedom!”*** That’s bullshit. Can you imagine the ISIS folks sitting around in the desert thinking “oooh, those rascally Americans. They’re so free it makes me sick! I want to sneak across the Mexican border and blow stuff up!” It’s absurd, but to their credit, Mukasey and Hayden say it with a straight face.

So, after a little bit of drama, things go back to how they’ve been since 9/11: The federal government can point to scary foreigners as a justification to restrict the freedoms of Americans and allow the DHS to carry out its primary mission: Copyright enforcement. Same as it ever was.

* Yes, it’s a PWEI reference. Because PWEI > everything.

** It stands for, and I’m not making this up: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-Collection, and Online Monitoring Act. It is, of course, a law enabling eavesdropping, dragnet-collection, and online monitoring. Orwell would be very proud indeed.

*** Fun fact: Only once in the history of the U.S. has there been an organization that hated freedom so much it took up arms against America.

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Mitch McConnell urges Obama to move to the left?!?

You’ve probably seen one of the many, many articles which list ways in which President Obama has governed to the right of President Reagan. This point of view is a little skewed in that what qualifies as the center in American politics has moved so far to the right over the last 30 years that an absolute comparison like this doesn’t tell the whole story.

On the other hand, though, it’s hard to argue that the policies espoused by President Obama are really so different than those embraced by the American right, or, at the very least, by President Bush. So, while I think it’s a little disingenuous to argue that Obama is right of Reagan, I think it’s fair to say that he’s governed from a center-right position.He’s not a liberal. He’s certainly not a radical. He’s about as far from being a Marxist or even socialist as you can get.

The incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) had this to say about our center-right President:

I had maybe naively hoped the president would look at the results of the election and decide to come to the political center and do some business with us,

You know Mitch, I totally agree with you. I would love for President Obama to move to the left of where he’s been been his first six years. Nothing would make me happier than to see Obama stop offering up conservative policies that McConnell’s party has opposed on the principle of “we have no principles” and instead move to the center (or even, *gasp*, the left!).

But, ya know, after six years? I’m not holding my breath.

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I never thought I’d say this, but Ted Cruz is right about Net Neutrality

“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet;”

-Senator Ted Cruz, noted technologist

I know he’s received a lot of stick for it, but Ted Cruz’ already-infamous tweet about Net Neutrality is actually remarkably on point. How so? Glad you asked!

Like Obamacare, Net Neutrality is a timid step in the right direction. Obamacare is merely the first cautious step on the road to a single-payer system that will finally bring America’s health care system up to something resembling a “first world”* system.Similarly, Net Neutrality laws are just the first move towards nationalizing the internet.

The U.S. currently suffers from extremely slow and expensive internet access because it is regarded as a part of the private sector despite the fact that it was developed by the public sector and the backbone is still primarily publicly owned. Additionally, networking is extremely similar to water and electricity in that there’s no reason to run more than one connection to each location. Because of this, internet service does not, and never has, operated like a competitive market. It’s always been a utility; we’ve just been pretending otherwise.

Net Neutrality will reduce the price gouging that is currently a feature of the American system, but to truly fix it, the best answer is to simply provide it as a service that is paid for by tax dollars, just like a single-payer health care system. Problem solved!

Now, I suppose that it’s possible to read Cruz’ tweet as a condemnation of Net Neutrality and a defense of government protection of a company’s right to use public resources to gouge their customers.  By all accounts, Ted Cruz is not a stupid man and he would have to be profoundly stupid to espouse that view.  Surely he wouldn’t...

nevermind.

EDIT: Please raise your hand if you saw this one coming. I expect to see a lot of hands.

* “First world” and “third world” don’t mean what you probably think they do. “First world” originally meant “aligned with the U.S. and N.A.T.O.” “Second world” referred to the communist bloc. “Third world” meant “any country not aligned with the first two.”

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The Price of Enshrining Fiction Into Law

Sorry to shoot this one your way on a Sunday morning, but if I’m going to be made ill by the news, then so are you.

In the United States, pregnant women have fewer rights than the fertilized cells they’re carrying. Don’t believe me?

Based on the belief that he had an obligation to give a fetus a chance for life, a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant to undergo a cesarean section, which he understood might kill her. Neither the woman nor her baby survived.

If this were a single story, it could be dismissed as a horrifying one-off and a criminal lapse of judgement by the judge. I wouldn’t be writing this if that were the case.

No, instead, the U.S., and many southern states in particular, have created laws declaring that “unborn persons” are the same as actual children. No one really believes that fetuses are children; they’re just trying to outlaw abortions without violating Roe v. Wade. For example, while harming a fetus is a criminal act, I wouldn’t recommend trying to declare one as a dependent on your taxes.

There are consequences to writing untruths into law. Women have lost autonomy over their own lives and bodies due to this fiction. If I were cynical, and I am, I might go so far as to suggest that these laws are about trying to roll back women’s rights than about protecting the unborn. After all, once they’re born, no one seems to give a damn about them (and yes, every word is a different link).

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The Results Are In

I always thought people were essentially bright. Distracted, sure, and weak, and beaten, but never stupid. And then you show them, here’s the two people who want to be president. One is evil, but you can deal with him, because he actually harbors beliefs. The other one will tell any lie, wear any mask, to become president, and not only that, he fucking hates you, and he’s doing this just so he can make your lives hell. And who do you think they vote for? Stupid.

-Spider Jerusalem, Prophet of Our Times

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