July 2, 2015

Might I live long enough?

Our Independence Day holiday is almost upon us and the “conservatives” are in full feather. Xenophobia is oozing out of every crack and crevasse of the Internet; almost all of it baseless and more than a fair share of it bald-faced, cable news, hate radio lies. Immigrants and “teh gaze” are the conservative Republican hateed du jour, but that is today. Seems that they've always got some new target lined up for their hate and bigotry once they lose their current attempt as spreading discontent. 

I suppose it's due to the season, but the big argument has turned to what it takes to be an authentic American, and to be that one must have been born here, look like the gallery at the Masters, and be a genuine, evangelical xian. If you ain’t from here, and you ain’t like me… you fail the test.

This is highlighted by the recent Public Religion Research Institute poll that asks questions about what it takes to be a real American. Number one qualifier is that one should be capable speaking English. 89 percent of those polled said this was the deal maker/breaker, born here or not. I don't disagree that if you're going to live here you should speak the predominant language, but we have no official language so barring citizenship based on this is nothing short of bigotry.

A finding that crinkles my brow, considering our history, is that 58 percent believe that being born in the United States is prerequisite. Even more disturbing is that 69% percent said that a belief in God is required, and fully 53% percent believe that must be the Christian god. Hindus and Buddhists need not apply. 

The only bright spot is that the number of those polled claiming no belief in any god, commonly called the "nones," has gone from 15% just three years ago to 23% today. This is attributed to the number of Millennials who are getting quickly fed up with the regressive attitudes of the Christian Right (who are seen as neither Christian nor right) and a Tea Party overflowing with southern bigots.

Looking at it with that perspective, and considering the disarray within the old establishment of the national WASP Party (Republicans), I’m beginning to think it may only be a matter of time before we hit critical mass and throw off the shackles of nationalism once and for all. 

Other countries (Finland, Norway) have reached that point already. Why not us?


May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

As a student of American history it has become my opinion that since the Big War, only a very few of our brave women and men in uniform have lost their lives for our freedom. Many have died or returned crippled, but not for our freedom as the pundits and politicians would have us believe.

Every conflict since September 2nd, 1945 has been a war of our own making. We have allowed a wicked and selfish class of humans to flourish and to profit from spilled blood. I'll not live long enough to see it, nor will most of the people whom I call friend... but I long for the day when Americans finally wake up and see how we have been pawned by feckless politicians and soulless panderers of yellow journalism. If that day ever comes, perhaps we will witness the interment of greed, the dethronement of the ruling class... and see the last of the mangled bodies of our children.

Today I shall sadly view well manicured fields dotted with the white marble of gravestones with somber or crying men, women and children clutching tiny flags... and I will wonder just how many of the dead lost their lives so that some plutocrat could sketch in another zero on a balance sheet tally and grease the palm of another politician. These children did their duty as they are sworn to do... and they sacrificed their lives on orders from above... orders soaked in greed.

I'll see the photos on Facebook and the blogs of the young spouses, the children, parents, best buddies, brothers and sisters, clutching handkerchiefs and consoling one another. My heart will break a little every time I see the images. Too many people believe the lies. Even those who died believed the lies. There is nothing in my lifetime that I can do to change that.

Other than that I'll go about my day as usual. Friends are having a get together and as usual I'm bringing some food. So for an old man with a heavy heart, life just goes on. What other choice do I have?

February 21, 2015

Getting the Cart before the Horse

Modus Ponens versus

Likely the most commonly witnessed failure of logic when debating the intransigent political fanatic or the fundamentalist religious extremist is known as affirming the consequent. Unless put into perspective this fallacy is a bit difficult to comprehend, but once defined the logical failure becomes evident.

Affirming the consequent is categorical in nature and essentially relies on reversing the argument to make available evidence fit or confirm a bias. A recent example is the contorted ballyhoo that followed the Department of Defense announcement that vintage chemical weapons had been unearthed in Iraq. The right wing machine went into full tilt boogie proclaiming that the Bush/Cheney justifications for invading that country had been vindicated. This in spite of the DoD stating in the very same report that the shells were completely useless and had been for decades.

The premise in such an argument is actually valid, yet there is a glaring error between the premise and conclusion. The motive of the right-wingers is to foment the false assumption that the premise (Saddam had WMDs) is actually the conclusion. In truth, the premise is only one of several conditions required to prove the conclusion. Let’s look at it from a child’s eyes so that even the most biased, bigoted extremist might be able to understand.

To state that ducks are birds and that ducks swim in the water is the primary premise. The secondary premise would be to state that chickens are birds. The false conclusion would come by stating that since both ducks and chickens are birds, and ducks swim in the water, that chickens also swim in the water. Of course we know this to be incorrect because experience tells us that swimming is neither necessary nor a sufficient condition to define a bird.

We call this “getting the cart before the horse”, and it seems to be the ultimate in confirmation bias… a last port in the storm for the bigoted.

Let’s take this to politics.

Obama nationalized health care by passing the Affordable Care Act. The Nazis had nationalized health care. Therefore Obama is just like Hitler. It is difficult to understand how so many Americans cannot understand that nationalized health care is insufficient evidence to define Nazism. This is especially true since every country that fought against the Nazis now has nationalized health care, with the exception of the U.S.

Now let’s consider religion, specifically creationism.

Because of the backlash by rational, scientific thinkers, the fundamentalists prefer to call it Intelligent Design. In what has become known as the watchmaker analogy, the creationist tries to prove that just as a watch could not accidentally come to exist, so neither could a human being. Every creationist argument will find roots in the watchmaker argument.

Probably the best known of these arguments comes from Michael Behe, who calls it “Irreducible Complexity.” In his book, Darwin’s Black Box, Behe posits that certain systems are so complex that they cannot be explained by the accidental nature of evolution. He uses a mousetrap as his example. Ken Ham is fond of using a banana. Bill O'Reilly rather bizarrely uses the tides.

The premise is that a mousetrap (banana, the tides) was created… that it is the product of intelligent design… that it is an irreducibly complex object composed of several parts, all of which contribute to the function. The universe, and particularly humans, are also composed of several parts and almost unimaginably complex… therefore an intelligent designer must be involved.

By now you have figured out how to decipher attempts to affirm the consequent, so I suspect you can finish the story.


February 11, 2015

Mr. Deity says it all

Mr. Deity​ says it well enough that my comments are not required.


January 25, 2015

Girl sings the blues

Beth Hart has a nice set of pipes. This cover of Sam Cooke's Change is Gonna Come was recorded five years ago in Los Angeles.


January 3, 2015

Representative humanism

Listen to Mario Cuomo, you apathetic fools who could not find your way to the polls this past November, and learn a little about passionate humanism. You didn't bother to vote... and now as you watch the progressive gains of over 100 years circle the drain you should remember these words. 

Spend some time studying the issues. Learn a little of what Cuomo saw happening in the 80s and see if you don't find the same corporatist bullshit emanating from the bought and paid for mouths of the GOPers of today. When you start losing the gains progressives fought for in the early part of the last century... maybe in 2016 you can find a way to put down your video games and smart phones long enough to cast a vote. 


December 30, 2014

Who is David Duke? A few key points

1950-68: In July of 1950 a bouncing baby boy is born in Tulsa, Oklahoma as the son of an engineer for Shell Oil Company. The family frequently moved to various oilfield jobs around the world, finally settling in Louisiana. In the late 1960s young David met William Luther Pierce, the leader of the white nationalist and anti-Semitic National Alliance, who so impressed the young Duke that he would call Pierce his main influence. By his own admission, Pierce remained a lifelong influence on Duke.

1967: Duke joins the KKK.

1968-70: Studied at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge. Formed the White Youth Alliance as an affiliate of the National Socialist White People's Party. Protest William Kunstler's appearance at Tulane University. Appeared at a demonstration wearing a Nazi uniform. Held parties on Hitler's birthday. First came to public attention at LSU's "Free Speech Alley" when he makes white supremacist speeches.

1973: Writes the book "African Atto,'' under the pseudonym Mohammad X, encouraging violence against whites. Later, duke said the book was a satire.

1976: Duke, in blackface, disrupts the Legislature which was unveiling a bust of P.B.S. Pinchback, a black man who served briefly as Governor during reconstruction.

1976: Writes "Finderskeepers," a sex manual, also under a pseudonym.

1976: Receives 11,000 votes during an unsuccessful bid for the Louisiana Senate.

1978: During a visit to Great Britain, dodges bobbies trying to expel him from the country. Also that year, he was arrested in Jefferson Parish and charged with inciting a riot.

1980: Leaves the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, where he was grand wizard, in a dispute over the alleged sale of membership rolls. Forms the National Association for the Advancement of White People.

1987: Arrested during a demonstration in Forsyth, GA.

1988: Runs for President. Barred from running as a Democrat, he moved to the Populist Party and hired ex-American Nazi leader Ralph Forbes as campaign manager. His name was on 15 state ballots and he received 0.5 percent of the national vote.

1988: Duke found little acceptance and even less success running for office as a Democrat, so he jumps ship and runs as a Republican. By a 227-vote margin, Duke won a runoff for a Louisiana House Seat in Metairie. He leaves that office without explanation after a single term in 1992.

1990: Running again as a Republican, Duke loses a primary for the U.S. Senate to Democratic incumbent J. Bennett Johnston. Even the GOP was getting sick of Duke, so they forced the official GOP candidate, Ben Bagert, to drop out of the race and avoid a runoff. Duke still gets 43.5 percent of the vote. 

1991: Again running as a Republican, Duke runs in the gubernatorial primary, knocking incumbent Gov. Buddy Roemer out of the race. Loses the primary in a landslide to Edwards, gets 39 percent of the vote.

1992: Short-lived presidential bid ends with South Carolina primary.

Mid-1990s: As seems to be a pretty easy thing for haters to do, Duke gets a gig hosting a radio talk show in the New Orleans. Organizes the European-American Unity and Rights Organization. He manages a computer mailing list and sends out mailings to members claiming to be in financial straits and under harassment by the IRS. Begs for money. 

1999: Federal Grand Jury investigates the $100,000 sale of a list of Duke supporters to gov. Mike Foster. No charges are returned. Runs for Congress for a New Orleans-area seat but comes in third in the primary.

January 2000: Shortly after Duke leaves for a speaking tour in Russia, federal agents raid his home in Mandeville, LA. A search warrant, based on testimony from confidential informants, alleged that Duke took hundreds of thousands of dollars he solicited from supporters and gambled the money away at casinos.

2000-2002: Duke spends most of his time out of the United States on speaking tours.

December 16, 2002: Duke returns to the U.S. to work out a plea bargain with federal prosecutors.

December 18, 2002: Duke pleads guilty to charges of mail fraud and filing a false tax return in a plea agreement with a maximum $10,000 fine and 15 months in prison.

April 15, 2003: Duke reports to federal prison in Big Spring, Texas to begin serving his sentence.

January 27, 2014: Louisiana Republican Congressman Steve Scalise is revealed to have spoken before a 2002 meeting of David Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization. Scalise claims to not having any knowledge of who David Duke is or what he stands for.

Scalise is set to take the third seat in Republican leadership when the 114th Congress convenes after the first of the year. Seems the rest of the leadership and the bulk of the right side of the aisle have Scalise's back on this.

Business as usual. What else did you expect?