Monday, April 30, 2012

Republicans Sour Grapes

I am endlessly fascinated by the lengths that Republicans go to in denying President Obama's successes. If Obama were ever seen walking on water Republicans would immediately attack him for not swimming. Take two examples: the end of Osama bin Laden and the return of Detroit to profitability.

Remember when Chrysler ran a feel good Super Bowl ad about how the US car industry was recovering and Republicans held a collective hissy fit? Then there are the contortions that Mitt Romney goes through denying he never said what he said ("Let Detroit go bankrupt.") and criticizing the President's actions with the auto industry while at the same time claiming it was all really his idea. It's a performance worthy of Cirque du Soleil.
Mitt Romney explains himself.
Bin Laden
If anything was deserving of a grudging "good on ya, mate" it would be this one. He'd been America's Public Enemy #1 for a decade and his death was universally good news. Republican's initial reaction was close to mourning; Bush torture lawyer, John Yoo, went so far as to calling the raid a "mistake." They attacked the President for not personally pulling the trigger, as if George Bush drove the lead tank in the Iraq War invasion (pick a Bush and pick a war). There is Sean Hannity's bizarre claim that President Obama tried to protect Bin Laden. Rick Santorum attacked the President for not keeping the news secret (like that was possible). The current Republican meme is that it is "shameful" for the President to call that success a success.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Polls Don't Matter in Spring

If you devour political polls there are enough to get crazy fat on them. They are all mostly meaningless.
The pollster of Delphi.

Take the Gallup poll for April 27. It has Obama at 48%, Romney at 45%, with 7% supporting others or undecided. That is, of course, nonsense. The honest numbers would have both polling in the high 30s with the remainder undecided.

But, that would have their expensive polls looking inconclusive. Modern polling practice is to harangue respondents into picking somebody. "I haven't made up my mind yet" is not an acceptable answer. It takes a strong person to admit he won't start thinking about the election until August.

Then there is the little know fact that the vast majority of people contacted by pollsters hang up without answering a single question.  Pollsters assume that the nonrespondents don't affect the outcome but that is just a guess. There is no scientific evidence for that assumption because, well, that's impossible.
I'm conducting a nonpartisan poll on why people hang up on pollsters. Do you
Finally, polling results can vary widely depending on the wording or ordering of the questions. Push polling is the extreme example of that phenomenon.

That doesn't mean we don't love ourselves those polls. Political consultants especially need polls to justify totally wasteful million dollar media buys. We have worshiped people who can tell us what the future will be since the days of the Oracle of Delphi. It didn't matter then that the Oracle's predictions were drug fueled hallucinations or that Gallup could make up numbers by reading tea leaves that are just as accurate as his scientific polls.

When it comes to political polls, wake me in the summer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The White Whale

The white killer whale, called "Iceberg" got me thinking about that other famous white whale.
"There she blows!- there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill!" (on sighting Moby Dick)

"No doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more tolerable for the Fijian that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fijian, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-foie-gras." (Melville making a great case for vegetarianism)
"I have no objection to any person’s religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that other person don’t believe it also. But when a man’s religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him." (Melville must have known Rick Santorum)
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee." (such a great line it made Star Trek 2 a classic movie)

And my favorite all time sentence in Moby Dick:
 "Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian."

Moby Dick is a great little book (okay, it's not very little) and it's free now as an e-book. It's a great read if you have the time and patience. Even the thirty-second chapter, which take a break from the story for a long discourse on the natural history of whales, is interesting. An modern editor would probably cut that chapter but it is a fascinating look at what little biology of whales was known while they were being hunted to near extinction.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Fracking Problem

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink
. ~ Samuel Coleridge Taylor
Of all the water on this wet, wet globe only a tiny amount (0.011%) is free flowing fresh water. The rest is locked up in ice, brackish or briny, or underground. Unfortunately, it's from that tiny amount that natural gas extractors draw the massive amounts of fluids they use for induced hydraulic fracturing.
A Pennsylvania fracking well and the Susquehanna River (source)
Frackers are like that James Bond villain, Maz Zorin, they have discovered how to make the earth quake for profit. While creating earthquakes is the more noticeable resulting of fracking and has turned normally quiet places like Lancaster, England into seismically active regions, water consumption and pollution is the far more concerning problem.

Each well uses up to five million gallons of water. The over 35,000 fracking wells in the United States consume as much water as a good sized city. Worse, before injecting the water underground the industry adds a cocktail of poisons to it such as benzene and ethylene glycol (antifreeze). Some of the water remains underground to work its way into aquifers. Some is recycled into other wells. Some is dumped into governmental sewage treatment plants, that can't remove the chemicals, and then returned to rivers and streams.

Pennsylvania has started just shipping the deadly waste water to Ohio because, fuck the Buckeyes. Perhaps the most perfidious use of the poisonous waste water is just dumping in on the roads as a "deicing" agent.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I should write about Earth Day but I've been lazy this week so how about baseball perfect games.

That fit young man on the right threw the first perfect game in 1880. Lee Richmond was the main pitcher for the hapless Worcester Ruby Legs for the entire three years they existed. It was a different game back then. It took seven balls to walk a batter; fielding gloves were only a little bigger than today's batting gloves; and the pitcher stood ten feet closer to the batter. Lee pretty much gave up pitching after they stopped playing baseball in Worcester.

Most Important
Don Larsen threw the only World Series perfect game in 1956 (but you already knew that). Don was a journeyman pitcher with a tendency to walk batters, he had 96 walks in 180 innings during the season. He beat the Yankees big rival of the decade, the Brooklyn Dodgers who had led the league in walks taken during the season. So, the surprising thing is Don went nine whole innings without walking anyone.

For four consecutive years from 1962 to 1965 Sandy Koufax threw a no-hitter. The last one was perfection. In 1965, Sandy pitched a perfect game with 14 strikeouts, the most in perfect game history, and only allowed seven flyballs to the outfield. His opponent, Bob Hendley, nearly matched him with a one-hitter. The only run of the game was scored by the Dodgers on a walk, sacrifice bunt, stolen base and throwing error.

Poor Harvey Haddix threw a perfect game in 1959. Unfortunately, his team was the Pittsburgh Pirates and they failed to score. The game continued. Perfect for the tenth, the eleventh, the twelfth. Thirty-six consecutive hitters put down. In the thirteenth Harvey was betrayed by an error from thirdbaseman Don Hoak. An intentional walk and a double put an end to everything. The winning pitcher, Lew Burdette, pitched all thirteen innings giving up twelve hits. Harvey Haddix is the only man to lose a perfect game.

Randy Johnson was the oldest (40) to throw a perfect game; Catfish Hunter the youngest (22). David Cone had the only perfect game interrupted by a rain delay. Ron Hassey is the only catcher to receive two perfect games.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On Hoodies and Flag Pins

Several places (like the county where Trayvon Martin was killed) want to ban hoodies. Also the NBA and England. This is nonsense, of course.

The hoodie is the current uniform of choice for teenagers who want to show their independence by dressing just like everyone else. In that it is just like platform shoes on streetwalkers and flag pins on politicians.

Nobody wears a hooded sweatshirt in triple digit heat because it is comfortable. Nobody things a woman staggering on stilts looks alluring. And all wearing costume jewelry says about a politician is that his patriotism is cheap and tacky.

No city council has suggested that banning stripper shoes will magically end prostitution in their community. Banning flag pins will not make political candidates suddenly start discussing substantial issues.

Just to prove how easily the imagery can change, here are:
A hoodie hooker
A platform shoe planter
An honest politician's flag pin

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mittens and Lying

Among the attributes I most envy in a public man (or woman) is the ability to lie. ~ Richard Cohen
Cohen is writing about Mitt Romney and I can't tell if he is being sarcastic. But I can tell you that Mittens is a piss-poor liar.

Romney on healthcare.
Romney doesn't lie. What he does is spew every conceivable position on an issue like a water balloon filled with rancid spit. Somewhere in that expectorant rain you'll hear something you kind of agree with (if you don't think too hard). Mitt's job is now easy, just convince people that everything else he said is a lie.

He needs people like Cohen to spread the story that Mitt is a really, really skilled liar to make the game work.
I heard Romney say a bunch of stuff I hate. That means he must agree with me because he is always lying. ~ hypothetical average American
The secret to understanding Mitt Romney is realizing that he doesn't believe much of anything. He is not running for president because he is fueled by some strong (or even weak) political philosophy. Mitt wants the White House because it will make a kick-ass trophy that he can show off to all his multimillionaire buddies.
You bought a new yacht? Fuck that! I own a whole country. ~ Mitt in private, next year
When it comes to governing, Mitt will treat the country like what it is, his brand new toy. He'll play with it in whatever way seems fun at the moment. If that stops being fun he'll just turn around and start playing a different game with our lives.
What unemployment insurance will look like in a Romney Administration.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Stealth Mittens

Mitt Romney campaigning.
If you want to know what I'm going to do you have to pay for the privileged. ~ Shorter Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney is the stealthest stealth candidate in the history of stealthdom. He is so determined from revealing his plans I fully expect him to start showing up at campaign rallies wearing a ghillie suit.

It rather defeats the purpose of democratic elections if the candidate categorically refuses to reveal his agenda. But, Mitt isn't completely silent. He will explain his plans to very rich people who write very large checks to his campaign and to his PAC.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Not So Secret Service

The Secret Service loves its reputation as the hard-bodied, sunglass and ear-thingy wearing protectors of presidents. They love their name which sounds like a super sexy spy agency when their job is mostly rooting around cheap bars looking for counterfeit twenties.

(How did the fake money squad of government get a really neat name like "Secret Service" when the really secret guys have to make do with leftover alphabet soup?)

Even their scandal is stupid. They didn't get caught because they stole some of the fake money they confiscate (although you totally know they do that). They didn't even get caught because they drunkenly caroused with Colombian prostitutes (although they totally did that too). No no no.
Colombian prostitutes, I imagine.

The US Secret Service got caught because after drunkenly carousing with Colombian prostitutes they refused to pay for the service. They got caught because they were cheap johns.

That would never happen if Ronald Reagan were president.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Allen West's McCarthyism

I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. ~ Rep. Allen West (Apr 10, 2012)
I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department. ~ Sen. Joseph McCarthy (Feb. 9, 1950)
Allen West urged government censorship of the news media. Joseph McCarthy browbeat the film industry into blacklisting hundreds of artists. McCarthy advocated removal from libraries of books "by any controversial persons, Communists, fellow travelers, etc." Many libraries burned the books he identified which included Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience." West has defended Koran burning. Both served in the military and disgraced their uniforms while doing so.

Joseph McCarthy was a cancer on the American body politic. Allen West is merely an infected carbuncle on the American butt. Still, one can't help but notice the similarities.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Bicycle Thief

Mark Judge once wrote a book declaring that Catholics ought not have sex without his prior permission (A Tremor of Bliss). Yesterday he condemned all blacks to earthly purgatory because he thinks one of them might have stolen his bicycle.

Now, he didn't actually see who stole his bike. No one else did either. But, some black children were seen on the street within two blocks of his bicycle and that was enough evidence for him to conclude that an entire race was responsible for the crime.

 His story is hardly a compelling, neorealistic drama, being more a veiled justification for shooting Trayvon Martin because you never know when some hoodie wearing African-American will take you bicycle. 

NOTE: Italians can steal bikes too.

Monday, April 09, 2012

It's Going to Get Ugly

Protect the children.
Mitt Romney has already demonstrated a singular inability to stay out of the gutter. RedState (no links) today headlined articles that condemn a woman adviser to President Obama for being insufficiently Jewish and a photoshopped image showing the President in a hoodie to illustrate a racist rant that attacks Obama for sharing the same skin hue as a Florida teenager and predicting Obama will lead race riots in insure his reelection. There is a defense of Derbyshire hate as well. All in all, RedState has become a worse read than the neo-Nazi Stormfront website.

I normally read conservative blogs "to know my enemy."
It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. ~ Sun Tsu
But they have become so vile, so openly evil that I find the task repulsive (hence the lack of links).  I will still skim them because their simmering feculence is necessary research but I will need a strong shower afterwards.

Be prepared! The 2012 campaign is going to get ugly (uglier). It is going to get so disgusting, so insistent on spreading Big Lie propaganda that it will make the German federal election of 1933 look like a Sunday afternoon garden party. Nothing we have ever seen, not even the public mugging of Max Cleland by Saxby Chambliss, will prepare us for the shitstorm that will come from the Radical Right.
Liberty wept.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Easter Through the Ages

Easter is not a Christian holiday, in fact it is the most non-Christian holiday on the liturgical calendar.

The Last Supper was a Passover Seder, everybody knows that (or should). Jews celebrated Passover for over a thousand years before the Christian religion was invented. For their first hundred years Christians continued celebrating Passover unchanged.

Ishtar & Eostre
As the Christian religion was absorbed by the pagan beliefs of invading tribes the church in Rome changed the celebration radically. Gone was the unleavening of bread and the fasting of the first born. In was the resurrection of a god story taken from a Persian cult popular in Rome at the time and the fertility rituals of German goddess Eostre.

Puritans waged war on Easter. And Christmas. The above notice is from early New England announcing the punishment for anyone found celebrating the "Satanical Practices" of Christmas. They were equally contemptuous of Easter frou-frou.

Egg Laying Bunnies
Such a religion. Rabbits that lay brightly colored chocolate eggs and, if you are into that sort of thing, Jesus snuff porn. Bunnies and bleeding deities. It's a pagan fertility festival mixed with Persian blood sacrifice.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Opening Day Tidbits

Dizzy Dean
Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean (1937)
Ol' Diz knew how to pitch and how to market wackiness. "The good Lord was good to me. He gave me a strong body, a good right arm, and a weak mind" ~ Dizzy Dean. There is the classic story of the time he was hit in the head by a line drive and he later told reporters, " The doctors x-rayed my head and found nothing."

Casey Stengel
Stengel, pitcher Ralph Terry, and Yogi Berra
The "Old Perfessor" was the perfect manager for a team with the nightclubbing prowess of the New York Yankees. "Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player. It's staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in" ~ Stengel. In 1915, he bet his then manager, Wilbert Robinson that he couldn't catch a ball tossed from a low flying plane. Casey substituted a grapefruit for the baseball and when it went splat in Wilbert's face the manager thought his skull had cracked open.

Hack Wilson
I never played drunk. Hungover, yes, but never drunk.
There is a story that in 1934 Hack Wilson was playing centerfield for Casey Stengel's Brooklyn Dodgers and he was seriously hungover. Between pitches Hack would close his eyes and hang his head. When Casey came out of the dugout to change pitchers the man on the mound, Walt Beck, angrily heaved the ball into centerfield. The sound of the ball bouncing off the fence roused Hack who frantically chased down the ball and fired it into the infield to prevent a fantasy triple.

Ty Cobb

By far the worst person ever to play baseball. He was a renown racist. There was the time a fan was heckling him and Cobb jumped into the stands to beat the shit out of him. The fan was defenseless because both his hands had been amputated. Cobb murdered a man in Detroit in 1912. As Cobb told the story he was a hero and the police never bothered to investigate. Cobb was also involved in a gambling scandal in 1926 but weaseled out of it.

Clyde Kluttz
By far the most unfortunate name in the history of baseball.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Confessions of a Food Addict

I was playing radio roulette today and came upon a local rightwing radical kvetching about Food Nazis pointing out that sugar and fast foods are addictive. Duh, of course they are.

I'm on my sixth week counting calories, which is no where near as much fun as counting coup...
...or even counting sheep.
Nothing blows up the calculations like stopping for a quick lunch at some fast food joint. Between sugary drinks and fried just about everything, to feel full eating fast food requires consuming three meals worth of calories in a single sitting.

My modest goal is to average 1500 calories a day, not a starvation diet so much as a "stop pigging out like a damn fool" diet. The average fast food combo meal is north of 1300 calories. Get a large shake and you can double that.

My personal addiction is pizza. I love pizza for dinner. Cold pizza makes just about the best breakfast in the known universe. It's not the taste - it's just cheese, tomato sauce, and bread after all - there is something spiritual about pizza. Or, more accurately, consuming pizza releases natural opiates in me. And pigging out releases a flood of serotonin, a mood altering drug. It takes a hell of a lot of discipline to control my pizza urge.

Sugar is worse. It actually operates like an opiate - giving a high feeling (sugar rush), has analgesic properties, and if you stop eating sugar you will suffer withdrawal.

So, yes, food, especially self-destructive food, is addictive. It's logically constant that if someone supports regulating the use of feel good chemicals like cannabis because you fear it may be destructive to the consumer they she would equally want to regulate the use of destructive feel good foods.

Me? I like having the opportunity of buying an extra-large pepperoni pizza if I am feeling down and I'm not a hypocrite about someone else using pot for the same reason. I just have to remember to control my urges so I don't become some pathetic pizza drunk.
Like Adam Richman of Man Versus Food.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Our Long Nation's Nightmare Begins

It's settled. Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for President.
  • There will be all sorts of speculation about his Veep choice before he picks a unqualified Southern conservative. 
  • The campaign will be filled with Mitt's traditional tactics of falsehoods, smears, outlandish regional pandering, and silly recitations of songs.
  • Mitt will set records for nasty election tactics.
  • Mitt's billionaire buddies will spend the equivalent of the gross national product of the Cayman Islands buying the election.
We've got seven fucking months of this to look forward to. Just kill me now.