Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Psychopathy of Birds

If you have a backyard bird feeder and a tendency to anthropomorphize creatures you can see all sorts of human character traits in your feathered neighbors.

Finches Be Gangsta
In the community of finches there are three basic personalities. Shy Type B's wait for their turn at the feeder and never challenge another bird for perch. With only six feeding stations and a flock of over twenty looking for seed, these birds learn to hover in place as if to say, "can I have a little food too, please."

There are also Type A's, or Bully Finches. These girls, the bullies are always females, will see a fully occupied feeder and, spotting a timid Type B, knock the bird off its perch like Lindsey Lohan with a beak and claim the spot for her own.

The third type are straight up psychopaths. These girls don't just take all the seed they want they resent any other bird sitting down while they eat. These Psycho Finches will chase every other bird away from the feeder so they can eat alone. When two psychos face off things get insane.

I once saw one bird knock another off its perch, the second fought back and they fell to the ground fighting. One of the combatants flew off a couple of feet and stared down the other. Then it bullrushed its enemy and they had a stunning, wings flailing MMA wrestling match under a bush.

Finches share another human trait, they tend to poop in perfectly good drinking water. I have to clean out my birdbath every couple of days for the seed detritus (finches don't use napkins), feathers (the bullies also push their way into the pool), and crap. Like Americans who put potable water in our toilets, finches shit in the same water they drink.

Scrub Jays Are Neat Freaks
The Western Scrub Jay are the poor relations of the Jay family. They lack the fancy crests of the Steller's or Blue Jay and, frankly, look like that scruffy uncle with the mustard stains on his shirt you hope won't show up at the family reunion.  When Scrub Jays eat from the suet cake hanging from my Live Oak tree bits will fall on the ground. But, before he leaves, the Jays will clean up every speck of suet that fell. Really, the finches should take a lesson.

Ravens Have Language
It is said that ravens have the IQ of a seven year-old human, which makes them smarter than every Republican running for President. While I don't have ravens in my backyard I've seen many on my trips to Alaska. They don't just have problem solving intelligence and use tools, they have complex vocalizations.  If you watch two ravens click and trill at each other you quickly realize it isn't the mindless chatter of finches or TV personalities but an elaborate conversation. The ravens have words and are talking. Native Americans knew this to be true, give ravens thumbs and they would rule the world.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Value of Black Lives

This is a delicate subject and one I'm reluctant to broach. But if there is one thing that white Americans have been doing since the beginning of the nation it is putting a price on African-American lives.

Slave Market
Before he was a Confederate war hero and leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest made a lucrative living buying and selling slaves.
 In 1850, the average slave sold for $800. A strong, young field-hand cost more, over $1,000. An elderly house slave cost less. Accounting for inflation, owning one black life cost $25,000 in 2015 dollars. The 500 slaves N. B. Forrest was shopping for were worth over $12 million. In 1860, 20% of the white people in the South owned slaves. The four million humans held as slaves at the start of the Civil War were worth $100 billion, almost half the net wealth of the South.

North Carolina sharecroppers circa 1935.
After the Civil War, Southern plantation owners established a feudal economy called sharecropping.  Black families would work the white owner's land giving up to two-thirds of their crop to the owner in payment. Additional charges, equipment rental and overpriced supplies, would insure that the sharecropper would be deeper in debt every year. Debt tied people to the plantations a strongly as the slavers chains had. The noose of the Klan replaced the lash of the overseer to enforce subservience. In the early 1940's a sharecropper family would earn about 65 cents a day (less than $9 in today's money).

Prison Labor
Black child prisoner chain gang, 1903
In 1871, the Virginia State Supreme Court declared that prisoners were "slaves of the state." Forty percent of the US prison population is African-American, nearly one million blacks. In the Deep South (Louisiana through South Carolina) there are four black prisoners for every white one. All prisoners, by law, are required to work (unless you are a psychotic killer who, oddly, they don't want working as telemarketers) and the work is cheap.

UNICOR, the Federal Prison Industry, pays prisoners 23 cents a hour. A forty hour week will earn the prisoner the same as a 1940's sharecropper got in just one day.  But that's generous compared to elsewhere. In Texas, Arkansas, and Georgia prisoners are used as slaves and paid nothing for their labor and will be punished if they refuse to work.

Then there are the many private corporations that contract with states for exceptionally cheap prison labor. Companies from British Petroleum to Victoria's Secret use American prisoner workers to maximize profits. Chances are the telemarketer bothering you during dinner is calling from an American prison.

My inelegant point is that America has always seen black lives as a commodity. Antebellum they were property to be bought and sold but always black lives have been seen valuable only as beasts of burden. When possible, and with our current judicial system that is all to often possible, black lives can still be used as near slaves to increase their master's wealth.

Police shoot blacks for the same reason the Klan lynched them and overseers whipped them. As an object lesson to a class of workers lest they rebel.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tournament of Fools

I love a good bracket tournament and Daniel Donner at DailyKos has a doozie.
Round One
No upsets in the Lunatic bracket (left). In the Toady bracket (right) there is a chance that perennial suck-up Rick Perry could defeat the Bible thumping snake oil salesman from Arkansas.

Round Two
Ted Cruz will keep his nose firmly stuck up Donald's ass making Trump the easy winner. Rand Paul is a master of the unforced error; it will be close but Marco will bore him to death for the win. Scott Walker will decimate Ben Carson as Carson will spend all his money on diamond tiaras for himself. Neither Perry or the Huckster have a chance against Bush.

Final Four
Here's where it gets interesting. Trump will shoot 40-foot alley-oops to himself every time he gets the ball while Rubio will stick to a stodgy four-corner defense hoping to win by a score of 2-0. Trump wins 162-2.

Bush v. Walker is the marquee match up. Bush is as popular as chlamydia while Walker is as likeable as a horseradish scone. Each will try to razzle dazzle the other by changing their positions on every issue. It will be a dizzying affair, literally, as each will run frantically around in circles throwing money at the audience. I give it to Bush by a nickel.

Bush or Trump? Trump or Bush? Will it be the ultimate sycophant or the consummate billionaire asshole? Both will throw money around like confetti while claiming to be fiscal conservatives. Bush will try to sound rational but anyone going into a match with Trump will end up looking like a wacko. Trump will sling enough shit to cover Mount Everest. I can't see Bush surviving.
But whatever the outcome, there won't be enough soap in the world to clean up Republicans after this party.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Quick Draw Walker and War With Iran

Quick Draw McGraw (1959-1962)
So Scott Walker thinks he'll have to go to war with Iran on his first day in office. The Oval Office carpet cleaners will still be finishing up as he send his spiffy B-2 bombers on their killing mission.

The whole of the world, save Israel, will rightly call it an unprovoked war crime. Israeli PM Netanyahu will applaud that his White House puppet is so immediately obsequious.

What effect will bombing have? Jon Perr has a good analysis.
  • The US has a handful of 30,000 pound "bunker busters" that allegedly can penetrate 200 feet of rock. Iran has at least one facility buried under 375 feet of mountain.
  • When the US violates the agreement all bets are off. Russia, certainly, and China, probably, will help Iran rebuild any damaged facilities faster than the US can bomb them. Iran will hurry to build nuclear weapons as a deterrent.
  • Russia and China will provide Iran with high-altitude anti-aircraft missiles both to help defend Iran and to test their efficacy against US stealth technology. Some of America's 21 B-2s will be shot down.
  • Iran will do all it can to close the Strait of Hormuz. Oil prices will skyrocket.
  • With bombing ineffective the pressure will build from neocons for a ground invasion. A joint Anglo-Soviet invasion was successful in 1941 but it was a sneak attack, not possible this time, and Russia had two nice, big borders with Iran to invade through.
  • Iran has a standing army of over 500,000 plus 1.8 million reservists. Even allowing for the technical superiority of US forces, America would have to dedicate its entire Army and Marine Corps forces to have a chance at victory. Remember the US is a rogue nation in this invasion, there will be no NATO help. As for Israel? They will keep their troops at home and use the Iran invasion as an excuse to attack Hezbollah and Syria.
  • The cost of military action against Iran will be in the trillions of dollars.
What would an invasion look like?
Iran is a mountainous trap. The best invasion path would be through Afghanistan but that would be a logistical nightmare. Pakistan would refuse passage so everything including food and fuel would have to be airlifted in. Iraq is possible but Iraq is allied with Iran so the US might first have to invade and reconquer Iraq before using it as a stable base. The third option is an amphibious invasion from Saudi Arabia. Even if the landing is successful the next step is winding through the narrow passes of the Zagros Mountains. The roads will be mined. Iranian infantry will have a mobility advantage over the US mechanized force stuck on those roads.

US causalities will be enormous, certainly exceeding the 58,000 combat deaths in Vietnam.

Of course, knowing Scott Walker's simplistic thinking process, he may just carpet bomb Iran with nuclear weapons. Easy peasy.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Short Takes

Lily-Livered Texans
All Muslims want to kill us, even the dead ones.
I've never met a more cowardly collection of humans than Texans. They have to carry a gun everywhere they go because they are terrified someone will try to mug them. They are paranoid at the prospect of American servicemembers holding training exercises in their state because they are certain they will all be locked up in FEMA concentration camps. And now they are shitting their panties in horror that Muslims who are living peaceably in their state might also be buried there. If anything bad ever actually happened in Texas half the population would drop dead of fear induced heart attacks.

Wesley Clark for Reichsf├╝hrer-SS
Himmler with Palestine's Grand Mufti
At one time Gen. Clark was a successful desk-jockey general, the kind of guy you want commanding spreadsheets but not personnel.  He ran for president as a Democrat in 2004 on the "I'm Just Like Ike" ticket. Since then, if not before, he has become seriously senile and suggested that young Muslims who are unemployed or lost a girl friend be rounded up and imprisoned lest they become "alienated" and start blowing shit up. Hint: Starting interment camps is probably a good way to start alienating people.

It Never Rains but it Pours
San Diego, July 19, 2015
Weather is not climate, I know that. For the second time this month we have been hit with tropical rain. Lots of it. It never rains in Southern California in July yet we've had more rain this July than any July in history. Hell, we've had more rain this July than the last 30 Julies combined. No, this doesn't solve the California drought. We'll need another 20 storms like this last one to do that and the rain needs to be in the north where most of the reservoirs are. But bizarre doesn't cover the freakness factor here. This is weird-with-a-beard outre and I wouldn't be surprised by a rain of frogs or plague of locusts next. I blame gay marriage.

The Pacific Ocean off California is 4oC above normal which has driven weird weather across the country. I believe this warming ocean is changing Southern California's climate from Mediterranean to subtropical. And I can't even guess what it is doing to the rest of the North American continent. Silver lining: If San Diego weather gets to be like New Orleans maybe we'll get better jazz.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I Love Jade Helm 15

Because I love a good conspiracy theory and Jade Helm has generated an entire forest of theories.

Martial Law
President Obama plans to impose martial law on the nation and declare himself dictator. Texans, of course, believe that Texas will be the most difficult state to subdue, hence the need for Jade Helm. This is the root of all the interesting theories, that the "training exercise" is an excuse to preposition troops so potential dissidents can be quickly rounded up and imprisoned in FEMA death camps.  The justification for martial law is where the theorists get creative.

ISIS Attack
This theory says ISIS has established camps in Mexico and is planning to invade Texas. Further, President Obama is allowing Islamic extremists to enter the country for a coordinated attack on the US. These attacks will leave the nation calling for protection and martial law. One of his first acts will be to confiscate all guns. Afterwards, President Obama will reveal he really is Muslim, install sharia law, and begin decapitating Christians.

Environmental Disaster
Some people believe that climate change is real and President Obama is engineering it. He is using a science station in Alaska (HAARP) to punish the country with extreme weather. He is planning to use the station to generate a series of weather disasters leading to a breakdown of civil society. US troops plus the military of Russia and China will be needed to restore order after which they will stay to enforce his dictatorship.

The Walmart Connection
Jade Helm's true purpose is to finalize the establishment of underground military bases linked by a network of tunnels connecting Walmart stores.

Economic Collapse
President Obama intends to trigger a Greek-style economic collapse with the resulting chaos requiring martial law.

Pope Takeover
A few point out that it is not a coincidence that Pope Francis' visit to the United States follows Jade Helm. Pope Francis, who is the antichrist, will declare the New World Order in his appearance before Congress. President Obama's Catholic overlords will then use Jade Helm resources to turn control of the United States over to the Vatican and Satan.

Space Aliens
An alien cube crashing over Texas.
Jade Helm is a cover story for a secret massive search for "Nordic" space aliens who have landed in Texas in the past few months. Or, the Pentagon has been notified of an impending space alien invasion of Texas and they are preparing to defend the planet.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Asylum Politics

There's probably a word for this in some language, probably German. That feeling you get when you can sense the pain someone is suffering but just don't give a shit. Sociopathic empathy. I'm feeling that for Scott Walker. He's been gearing up for months to this big day when he officially announces he's running for President and, literally, no one is noticing. The Donald has sucked up all the air and Walker's announcement is landing like a feather in a vacuum, with a soundless thud.

How About Selective Secession
Unreconstructed Southern Whites have their fee-fees hurting at the sight of the national celebration of the fall of the Confederate flag. May I suggest a second run at secession. The rest of the country would rejoice if the rotten core of the Deep South (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas) would just up and leave. And if Mexico politely asked for the return of Texas I'm sure we wouldn't mind but we would insist that Mexico take Rick Perry and the entire Bush family as part of the deal.

Jade Helm 15 Invasion
Speaking of Texas, Lone Star patriots are prepared to oppose the imposition of martial law on their state. They have organized squads to follow and report on any military personnel they spot. The founders assure all they are preventing "freaking nut-jobs" from joining.

Think about that for a moment. How crazy do you have to be for a batshit insane conspiracy theorist to call you a nut-job? I wonder how long it will take for some deranged, methed up, gun totting, mouth breathing Texan to shoot down an innocent servicemember on a training mission because Obama is a Kenyan.