People are sheep

Something which strikes me on occasion is how, when I speak to my coworkers or others with any brains at all, and the topic drifts to politics or economics, there is a sameness. Almost everyone I converse with is generally reasonable, with a few blind spots (we all have them). Almost nobody claims that Tom DeLay is a good example, and almost nobody claims that Mike Moore is anything but a self-aggrandizing propagandist. Nearly everyone agrees that the unfettered capitalism of the late 19th century which led to the Robber Barons was a bad idea, and almost everyone also agrees that the total socialism practiced in Cuba is not exactly an economic boom.

Yet, all these reasonable people go to the polls every two to four years and vote for people who are anything but reasonable. How in the world do we get ideologues and idiots in office, when most people are basically decent human beings, with the minor difference in opinion about things like the proper role of government in our lives? It’s astounding, especially when you consider that the American governmental process is remarkably transparent compared to many other countries. If this is the best of all possible systems, I’m glad to be living in it.

Of course, another issue which recurs is a growing lack of personal responsibility among individuals. Blaming the government for the failures of the past month is easy. Now, what is that pesky phrase in the Constitution? Oh, right – We the People. We, the people, are considered to be the sovereign rulers of the United States. We, the people, should not be waiting for the government to Do Something when things go awry. We, the people, comprise the country and if our elected representatives aren’t doing something, we need to. This lack of personal responsibility spreads through the public school system as well, with the consequence that parents seem too willing to abdicate all requirements that they raise their own darned kids, preferring the strangers of a major institution to take care of that rather personal issue. Mystifying.

Good night.

Quote of the Day

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center-stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free. – Aaron Sorkin

Stupid Football Season

The insanity that afflicts this country over sports never ceases to amaze, amuse, and annoy me. Here in Varsity Blues Country, the local radio stations play high school football every Friday evening, requiring me to flip over to my personal music collection (15000 MP3 tracks as of this morning) or just listen to the air conditioning. And now, I’m ready to watch the Simpsons and King of the Hill, when what do I see? 9 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Knowing what little I do about football, I know that the “9 minutes” in football time equates to something like all damned night in regular clock time. Hopefully they’ll still play Family Guy anyway.

Stupid steroid-laced men in tights. Grumble grumble.

Intelligent design in Dover

Dover teachers must read this to their students:

Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Yeah, evolution is a theory. Gravity is another theory. You may have heard of germ theory.

Theories in science are treated as fact, as the best available explanation of how things are. They aren’t just good guesses – that would be a hypothesis. If you don’t know the difference, you shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a science advisory board.

The central tenet of intelligent design is that any mysteries in nature that we can’t explain today are the result of manipulations by some intelligent designer. This designer doesn’t fall under any of the rules of nature or science that we understand, and so is by definition “supernatural.” The very idea of teaching a science which is based on something that is inherently unexplainable by science must make your head ache, if you can wrap your mind around the basic absurdity of the whole enterprise.

Besides the silliness involved in invoking a magical invisible being to explain anything we don’t currently know, it is dangerous. If you decide that some things are just unknowable, scientific research stops. When research stops, progress in the sciences stops. When progress stops, society stops. See Dark Ages, a period where scientists were told that all which was knowable was known – 400 years of utter societal and political stagnation resulted.

Deus ex machina is no basis for a science program.

Dueling Rallies

A pro-war rally got less than a thousand participants, days after the 100,000 anti-war rally nearby. That’s gotta hurt. There seems to be a real lack of logic on the part of many people, though. This woman, for instance:

“Our troops are over there fighting for our rights, and if she was in one of those countries she would not be able to do that,” Vigna said.

Yeah, exactly why it’s ok for Cindy Sheehan to be able to say any damned thing she wants to. She can claim to be the reincarnation of Frank Sinatra – it doesn’t matter. The fantastic thing about our country is that people are allowed to be stupid or controversial or anything they want.

I don’t agree with everything that Cindy Sheehan says, but I spent 12 years in the Army defending her right to say whatever pops into her head. Good for her. And good for Rush Limbaugh the drug user, and good for G Gordon Liddy the convicted felon. Good for Dr Laura, the therapist with no credentials in psychiatry. Good for Mike Moore, who conflates opinions and facts and hopes nobody notices. Good for Jonny Depp for bashing the country that pays his salary.

Good for all of them – they can all be as stupid as they want to, and that is what makes America great. To tell any one of those Americans that they shouldn’t say what they are saying is the treasonous thing. That attitude of restricting speech with which you don’t agree is Unamerican. If you don’t like it, stop listening!

Quote of the Day

“Today Christians stand at the head of [our country] … I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity .. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit … We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press – in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past years.”

Who would say such a thing? Is it Swaggart? Is it Robertson? Bush? Maybe it’s Tom DeLay?

Give up?

Think Germany, late 30s, short Austrian man. Yeah.

LJ Interests meme results

  1. beer:
    I like good beer. I also like good wine, and the random nip of amaretto. Not all at once, though – that would be unwise.
  2. bruce sterling:
    Bruce Sterling has a phenomenal grasp of science and its impact on the near future. And his old cyberpunk writing was damned good too.
  3. did i mention sex:
    Um, duh?
  4. freedom:
    I spent 12 years in the army, which I hope helped in some way to defend our freedoms.
  5. learning:
    Learning is a lifelong process, but I am taking a break from formal education for a while, now that I’ve finished my BS.
  6. mountain dew:
    The nectar of the geek gods.
  7. origami:
    When in doubt, fold paper. It’s calming, and it produces something which can be either ephemeral or permanent, as you see fit.
  8. rock:
    and Roll!
  9. sigint:
    Signals Intelligence, the main realm of the intelligence spectrum I’ve been immersed in for the past 16 years. I also have a glancing familiarity with IMINT.
  10. technology:
    Me, geek?

Enter your LJ user name, and 10 interests will be selected from your interest list.

Jeb Bush’s son arrested

What is with this family and substance abuse? They’re like a Republican version of the Kennedys.

I love the fact that Jeb Jr. was busted not just for public intoxication but resisting arrest. Oh, yeah, that’s smart – when you’re a high-profile person, resisting arrest will definitely be a wise move.

Lord of War

Just got back from watching Lord of War tonight. There’s a feelgood movie for the year! The opening sequence, which is the life cycle of a bullet from manufacturer to target, is a remarkable piece of cinematography that sets the tone for the movie.

Dark comedy, family drama, a touch of romance, and a heavy dose of “what the fuck” discussion of the gunrunning trade all combine to make this a very powerful film. Do not take small children to this film, under any circumstances. Unless, of course, your children have seen a lot of gunshot wounds being made in their daily lives, in which case – nothing new here for them.

Nicolas Cage, as always, is great. Ethan Hawke doesn’t chew the scenery, but he doesn’t quite make me believe his character is as boy scout as he is supposed to be. The rest of the cast is really peripheral, with the exception of Eamonn Walker’s thinly-veiled Charles Taylor fictionalization. Most of the screen time is devoted to Cage and his narrations, which really make the tone. His deadpan patter throughout the most insane gunfights and family dramas caused me to think of his character, Yuri Orlov, as an amoral near-affectless person.

Great movie, and I expect a cinematography award at the next Oscar ceremony – the camera work is good, but the long cut scenes are fantastic.

Do You Love Bush?

Remember that New Design I posted two weeks ago? One of my coworkers is proud of her “Blame Me – I voted for the moron” button. She feels that he’s not a moron, but she considers it a “buck stops here” statement. Although she and I have vastly different views on the proper role of government, we do agree on one thing – there’s been a whole lot of stupid to spread around on all layers of government lately.

By the way, the buttons don’t refer to any particular political candidate or official, so you can give them to anyone who you think has voted badly, for any race. Cheers.

Orkut

Didn’t someone once say they’d send me an invite to Orkut? I don’t recall ever getting it, and I feel so left out.

OK, maybe not. I wonder if Orkut is any better than the MySpace and Friendster zones of “what is the point” land.

What Does Trusted Computing have to do with Trust?

Anti-TCPA Image

In case you don’t know why the “Trusted Computing” concept is an inherently bad one, please go view the short video that was recently pimped on BoingBoing. It explains a bit, and hopefully it’s enough to get people to look into it more.

Trusted Computing is not a new idea, and it’s been growing lately. It’s all part of the same RIAA/MPAA mindset, the one that says, “Consumers are crooks and must be controlled by the copyright holders at all costs.” The technology industry (well, Sony anyway) stood up for your rights against commercial interests over 20 years ago, and for that we have VCRs, and MP3 players, and burnable CDs, and TiVos and all the wonderful things that allow you to control your own media that you’ve legally purchased. Now, the technology industry has largely been purchased by or merged with the entertainment industry. So, who will stand up for the customer?

Red Cross footing hotel bills for thousands

Proving that charities are infinitely more responsive than governmental organizations, the Red Cross is paying thousands of hotel bills for hurricane victims. If you haven’t donated to the Red Cross yet, do it.

Not only has the Red Cross been handing out thousands of debit cards, days before FEMA even considered them, they’re paying for people’s hotel bills, getting them out of shelters and on the path to normalcy.

Great quote:

“I have never seen anything with the government that is this simple.”

My Name is Gary…

and I have a problem. I’m compelled to collect as much music as I can. In the past few weeks, I’ve acquired Death Cab for Cutie, Aerosmith, DJ Rap, Alicia Keys, and Bach. The Bach is perhaps the strangest. A 17 CD set of Bach’s organ music. Seventeen disks. Let that sink in a few more minutes. I have 20 hours of Bach organ music. What party will that work for?

I discovered that Death Cab for Cutie, contrary to its name, is not some sort of death metal, poseur punk band, but more like Lifehouse with less attitude. Proves that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or a band by its name).

Home Architect

Played with Broderbund’s 3D Home Architect this weekend. Considering how limited the number of pieces of furniture are to choose from, this does look quite a bit like the view from the den into the living room and kitchen, if I were sitting in the PapaSan chair. Which I do, when I’m waiting for the dog to finish sniffing every single plant in the back yard.

Another Nigerian Scam

In my email today:

————

hi dear,
how are you and how is your work going ?hopr its going smoothly?you know i promised to email you from our chat and right now i just wanna try to describe myself .
i think im gonna start from here cuz i dont really know how to do this ok but ill try .

Here goes my story ok.im 26/yrs old and im carol simson im white,guess you saw that in my profile huh.im 5″7 feets tall and i love guyz who are willing to show me care and love.hope you are the one im looking for?im kinda shy at first to talk to guyz and i have a set of good eyes a dark hair too.
im not an upgraed member of the yahoo personals ok.cuz ive been kinde busy with some stuffs which i believe are more important .
im a christian and i love kids alot .my parents area aloso christians and thay also love kids ,but it took them over 10 yrsbefore they had me as their only child .when i was about 5 years old ,my father died cuz he had asthma and i could remember i wept in that day .it was a tragic day i guess .
actually, my father is an american and mty mom is an african ,precisely a nigerian .after my fathers death, my mom took up the responsibility and she fedme ,cloth me and also paid my school fees .as time went on ,my mom had some problems with the US government and this made my mom leave the US for her country ,which made my mom laeve me with my paps sister in illinois.she caredabout me and really loved me soo much which was about 10 years ago .theni moved to texas about 5 months ago and i tried to get a home of my own which i got the money from my aunty and ive not finishedpaying the bills .
Some weeks later ,i got a message that my aunt was dead .then i felt it was over.
Recently i got a call from nigeria that my mom fell from the staircase and also broke her spinal cord.i had to rush down to nigeria with the little money i had left to get a ticket and flew down to africa.ok
when i got to nigeria .i gotto know that my mom had already been rushedto the hospitasl ok.i got to the doctor he explained everything to me and told me that my mom needed the attention of an orthopedist.which will cost about $500 and right now ive spent the only $200 i had to get some medication for her an dthe doctor says if shes not operated she will soon have to be on a wheelchair .and i felt it was over and not until i met you ,youve given my world a turnaround ,youve given me hope .thanks for this ok.]
i really would appreciate it if you could get me out of this mess so that we could start a new life together and live as man and wifeok cuz shes the only one i have left .im leaning on you for refuge ok. please dont let me dowm.
I wish to know more about you and would have preffered it if we could chat together but im kinda trying to treat my mom with the little i have left.
i really hope to hear from you soon and hope you are for real.
Must confess you are cool and i think we could work things out .bye love.
carol cares and will always love you

—————

Gotta love it. I’ve never chatted with you, and I don’t think I’m ready to “live as man and wifeok” right now, but thanks for the offer.

Frist Shows Spine

What’s up with the GOP? The formerly solid wall of “Bush can do no wrong” is crumbling lately. Not only has Bill Frist gone against the White House by following his medical experience instead of faith-based science and supporting stem cell research, now he’s calling for hearings on the federal reaction to Hurricane Katrina. Damn. They haven’t even counted the dead yet, there are hundreds still to rescue from rooftops around New Orleans, and Frist is hacking at the Prez? Where was your spine when you could have prevented something, Mr. Majority Leader? Did you have to wait for Maxine Waters to pull her Jesse Jackson-assisted publicity stunt at England AFB before you could start questioning some of the bizarre decisions the administration has made?

MTV Plays Music

I watched the Video Music Awards (OK, they were on while I was blasting aliens nearby) the other day. Several times during the broadcast, MTV played commercials which claimed that the recurring meme that “MTV Doesn’t Play Music” is actually a falsehood, an urban legend. Glancing at their schedule on Zap2It this morning, I find that MTV does play music videos. At 5 am. Twice per week. For an hour. That can’t be right, I thought. Maybe some of these other shows with hip and happenin’ names are actually music videos.

Turns out, MTV After Hours plays videos, from 2am to 5am each weekday. And MTV Video Wakeup plays videos from 5am to 8am each weekday. And we can’t forget TRL, which plays about one video per 15 minutes of mindless yammering, and only one hour per day anyway.

So, what do we end up with? On weekdays, there are music videos from 2 to 8 in the morning, which is convenient if you’re a vampire. And then there are videos interspersed with screaming teenaged girls at 4 each afternoon. Being as generous as humanly possible, that gives a grand total of 40 hours of music during a seven-day period that has 168 hours broadcast. Less than 25% music on Music Television.

During those hours when I could watch television, the schedule is filled with endless hours of reality shows and Laguna Beach. Yay.

For those of us who have jobs that require we work and sleep normal hours, this is very entertaining. I guess you could Tivo the videos on some sort of low priority, so if there’s nothing you want to watch on, you could zone out to videos. Otherwise, the “urban legend” is true, at least insofar as it applies to normal people who sleep when it’s dark and work during the week – MTV really doesn’t play music.

The Buses of New Orleans

Y’all know I don’t often link to anything right-wing except to mock it, but this post is dead-on. The emergency response plan for New Orleans included everyone who had a car driving away. Full stop.

Meanwhile, the 100,000 residents (20% of the population) who did not actually possess cars were unadressed by the plan. And the school buses which were owned and operated by the city were left in their lot, now filled with water and unusable. How many buses? Enough to evacuate all 100,000 carless citizens in something under 3 days, if they went all the way to Houston.

As Michael says, this isn’t a political issue. Democrat, Republican, Libertarian – doesn’t matter. If you have hundreds of buses and you don’t plan to use them to evacuate the city, you’re just a dumb ass.