athelind: (veteran)
This was not our era's Pearl Harbor.

This was our era's Reichstag Fire.

After reading the responses, and being asked privately, "Does that mean you're a 'truther'?", I feel the need to restate this more clearly:

The events of 11 September 2011 more closely resemble the Reichstag Fire than Pearl Harbor, most significantly in our response to them as a nation.

Certainly, it is not a one-to-one congruence -- but the "Pearl Harbor" comparison is bandied about far more often, with few objections, and the correspondence is no more exact.

The sticking point for most respondents seems to be the identity of the perpetrators of the Fire. That's a niggling detail, irrelevant to the thesis. I find the nature of our national response to be a matter of far greater importance, because we, lashing out in terror for a decade, have done far more damage to ourselves, to our freedoms, and to the world than the people in those planes ever could have.

The Most Significant Point of Similarity is not whether or not it was an "inside job", but in the fact that it allowed the ugly strain of authoritarianism that had been seeping into into our national political culture for years to finally consolidate its power and win the hearts and minds of the public.

If you want more discussion of "the nature of our national response", feel free to consult Mr. Hicks for his opinion thereon.

athelind: (Default)

Survey says: Tea Party has Lower Approval Rating than Muslims and Atheists.

Can we stop pandering to them now?

Can we stop letting them drag our nation into the abyss in the name of "compromise" and "balance"?

Can we stop pretending that they're influential or even relevant to political discourse in the Untidy States?

They are not the change I voted for.

They are not the "American Values" my ancestors fought to forge and preserve.

athelind: (cue howard)
To all the newscasters and DJs who report on temperatures in the high 80s into the 90s by saying "we're finally getting some nice weather":

You insouciant prats go right from your air-conditioned homes to your air-conditioned cars to your air-conditioned offices, then back again at the end of the day, don't you?

No tossing and turning trying to find the cool spot on the mattress. No desperate calculations of just when or whether it will be less uncomfortable to open the windows to the outside world or keep everything sealed up to try to keep the heat out.

There was a long, long drought in California back in the '70s. Three or four years of little-or-no rain, Santa Ana winds alternating with the marine layer, and every day, the news would talk about how devastating it was for the state's economy, how miserable it was for the state's populace. Of course, as soon as we got a day or two of scattered showers, they'd complain about the "awful weather" and how it would be "nice" again at the end of the week.

That's bad enough in Southern California. The local broadcasters need to understand that, if any of us here thought hot weather was "nice", we wouldn't have moved to San Francisco Bay.

[ profile] kohai_tiger, I might be running a little late. I need to stop by the KFOX studios and punch Greg Kihn.

athelind: (cronkite)
An addendum to my last post:

Perhaps it's just that I have trouble equating "shot in the head by a death squad" with "justice".

"Justice", to me, would have bin Laden facing war crime charges in front of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Of course, the U.S. refused to sign onto the ICC.

And "justice", to me, would have more than bin Laden before that court.

athelind: (cue howard)
Hooray, a U.S. hit squad finally took out the man who planned the World Trade Center attacks.

It only took us ten years of flushing our economy, our international reputation, our domestic freedoms and quite possibly our future into what amounts to a global-scale temper tantrum of invasion and conquest, primarily in a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks, and whose largely-secular government was also at odds with the Islamic-flavored Fundamentalist terrorist movement rooted deeply in countries who are nevertheless still our erstwhile allies.

"Justice is done," quoth President Obama.

There's a difference between "justice" and "vengeance", Mr. President.

With the civilian casualties, the devastation, the "collateral damage", I respectfully submit that this is more the latter than the former.

This changes nothing. This is meaningless. Our forces remain in Iraq. Our forces remain in Afghanistan. Every day, we seem to find new fronts to pour more of our country's soul into.

This all started when we were lashing out wildly, trying to find this one man, to have our revenge.

And now we've had it. Yay, us.

Are we done yet?

athelind: (Eye in the Pyramid)
Wikipedia has a surprisingly good, succinct and precise explanation of a concept that is supposed to be deliberately inconcise and obfuscating. It begins:

Fnord is the typographic representation of disinformation or irrelevant information intending to misdirect, with the implication of a worldwide conspiracy.

And it goes on from there.

Kind of sounds like the mission statement of Fox News, doesn't it?

So what sounds better: "Fnord News" or "Fnox News"?


Mar. 12th, 2011 08:23 am
athelind: (cue howard)
Just a full-on repost from [ profile] velvetpage's journal:

Originally posted by [ profile] lavenderfrost at ...WTF.
Well, there goes my good mood for the day.

NYTimes, the bastion of quality reporting, reported on the gang-rape of an 11 year-old girl in Texas  that's led to charges against 18 high-school boys so far - all well and good so far, right?  Shit like this NEEDS publicity to raise awareness. 

Only problem is, they repeated - without refutation or critical commentary - the claims that the girl brought the rape on herself because of the way she was dressed.

Choice Quotes (No cut b/c everyone needs to see this - DEAL.):

“It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.  As opposed to the victim, who's gonna bounce back lickety-fucking-split, right?

Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.  TOTALLY BEGGING FOR IT.


Now, what's being said and done in this community is bad enough, but the NY Times should be fucking ashamed of themselves right now.

Here's how to contact NYT: )

athelind: (Parallel Worlds)

Requiem In Pace: Dwayne McDuffie, Comics Creator, Animation Editor, Scribe Extraordinaire.

February 20, 1962 – February 22, 2011. He died two days after his 49th birthday, and less than a week before my 47th.

Creator of Static, Icon, Hardware, and the Blood Syndicate, driving force behind Milestone Comics, scribe of too many comic books to mention, story editor on Justice League Unlimited ...

Truly, you were an Icon in your own right.

athelind: (cronkite)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

Should websites like Wikileaks be defended for sharing confidential corporate and government information with the public, and why?

Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy ... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
—Robert A. Heinlein, If This Goes On— (Emphasis mine.)

Since the Internet first became available to the general public, I've heard people who defend the government prying into one's online activities on the basis that "if you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide."

These same people are the ones who argue, in turn, that Wikileaks is revealing things that should best be kept secret, that the internal workings of business and government are best left under lock and key "for our own good".

This is exactly backwards.

Yes, we should know these things. We must know these things. We are not disinterested parties. What the banks and megacorps do, they do to us, their customers, their employees. What the government does, it does in our name.

There are things that I would not have done in my name.

If those I have elected to serve the machinery of government seek to tell me that I am forbidden to know of them, I would name them tyrant, and would remind them with whose consent they govern.

Wikileaks is performing a function vital and necessary to democracy and to the governance of free human beings. The wealthy and powerful must be called to account, they must know that their actions run the risk of being brought to light.

Once upon a time, this function was called journalism, and it was practiced by such diverse outlets as the Washington Post that backed Woodward and Bernstein, and CBS News under the auspices of Walter Cronkite, who earned and deserved the title of "The Most Trusted Man in America". Investigative journalism is a thing of the past, though, smothered in favor of gossip and Official Press Releases by budget-slashing corporate masters who see no profit in baring secrets to the rank and file.

Wikileaks has picked up the fallen torch of the Fourth Estate, and shoved it square in the face of the banksters and the Shadow Cabinet. Do they "deserve" protection? By the laws of the United States of America, they have it. They are entitled to the same legal precedents that have protected journalists and their sources for most of the 20th century ... and if those protections do not extend into the One-and-Twenty, then we have abdicated any claims we might have had to freedom.

athelind: (Eye: RCA Magic Eye)
The weed of crime bears bitter fruit:


athelind: (cronkite)
Due to recent events, I haven't been as politically vocal in this forum as I once was. So It Goes.

We've got an election coming up in this country next week, though, and The Big Picture matters, especially with Big Media so happily wedded to Big Stupidity these days.

Let's lead off with Senator Al "won by 312 votes" Franken's reminder that every vote counts. Even yours. That's right, you. He also opines:

The month Barack Obama was sworn in we lost 750,000 jobs in this country. With all due respect to the President, I think his analogy that the economy was a car in a ditch when he took office is just a little too static. Here's my analogy, which, in my opinion, is both more kinetic and, frankly, far more accurate.

When the President took office, not only had the car gone into a ditch, the car had flipped over and was rolling down a steep embankment. We, the American people, were in the back seat, and the Bush Administration had removed all the seat belts, so we were all flying around the interior of this car as it was rolling and flipping and careening down this steep embankment, headed to a 2,000 foot cliff. And at the bottom of that cliff were jagged rocks. And alligators.

Now, at noon on January 20th, 2009, as the car was careening toward the cliff, George W. Bush jumped out of the car.

President Obama somehow managed to dive in through the window, take the wheel and get control of the thing just inches before it went over the precipice. Then, he and Congress starting pushing this wreck back up the embankment. Now you can't push a car up an embankment as fast as it careens down the embankment, especially if some people are trying to push against you. But we got it going in the right direction. And slowly we've gotten ourselves up the embankment, out of the ditch and onto the shoulder of the road.

[Italics mine ... and I confess I'm not quite as optimistic as Sen. Franken that we're quite "up the embankment" yet. Then again, I count things like "war without end" and "condoning torture" as part of the mud on the slippery slope.]

To expand the "every vote counts" theme into one of Solidarity, [ profile] velvetpage gives a concrete example from this week's Canadian elections:

Toronto: the vote on the left was split several ways, while the vote on the right was concentrated on one right-wing ideologue who got the ear of the suburbs by promising an end to corruption and a drastic reduction in social services that the suburbs use less anyway. Want to know how it is that a country where most people lean to the left of centre manages to keep electing these clowns? Here's how: there are so many good ideas and decent people on the left that people can't settle on just one, and with a first-past-the-post system, it means the right-wing guy with less than a majority often comes up from behind.

And with the preliminaries out of the way, some Quick Links:

Thanks to Mark Evanier, [ profile] velvetpage, and most especially [ profile] pseudomanitou for links and leads. Seriously, folks, [ profile] pseudomanitou's LJ is the best Progressive News Aggregator I've encountered. I have a lot of news feeds, but PM's news posts put all the best stuff in one place.
athelind: (cue howard)

Restaurant Says "NO" to Screaming Children

Excerpt the First:
A restaurant in Carolina Beach is stirring up controversy over a couple of signs reading, "Screaming children will not be tolerated."

Excerpt the Second:
"I've never seen a restaurant say, don't bring your screaming kids in here," said Ashley Heflin, who is a mom of two. "You can't help it if your kids scream."


You can either pay attention to them -- and that includes "discipline", if need be -- or you can stay the BLEEP home and take care of them.

You can even find a baby sitter, if you just need some out-of-the-house time and a break from parenting.

When I first reacted to this story, [ profile] hoodahdc said, "Athe is angry about babies."

No, Athe is angry about parents.

Nine times out of ten, when I see some kid screaming its head off in a restaurant or a mall or in my BLEEPing store, the parents are blithely ignoring it and doing their damnedest to hold a conversation over their progeny's howls.

I would, for the record, consider the stereotypical parental brush-off of "not now, dear, Mommy's talking" that is media shorthand for "parental neglect" vastly superior to the parents I see who flat-out ignore their offspring.

So yes. YES. Hooray for Brenda Armes, and I hope beyond hope that she's the harbinger of a trend.
athelind: (Warning: Caustic)
One of the recurrent themes in yesterday's discussions of "Draw Mohammad Day" was that when you deliberately go out to provoke people, there are going to be consequences.

Well, after my post about Fundamentalism and Atheism, the comment threads that followed, and my own flippant, insensitive responses, I just wound up losing one of my oldest friends.

Yeah. Go me.

athelind: (cronkite)
I was in a black mood yesterday, and posted some deliberately inflammatory things in this journal.

Some of what I posted was frankly contrafactual, and does not hold up even to a cursory examination of the evidence.

A Retraction and a Correction Follow: )

This was an ignorant, insulting mistake that promulgated misinformation about a group that receives a great deal of abuse, and I apologize.

athelind: (Default)
A comment over at [ profile] toob's journal prompted me to finally put down in words something that I've mulled over for a very long time.

Over the decades, I've seen a great deal of evidence to support the hypothesis that, no matter what faith they might nominally adhere to, Fundamentalists of any creed have more in common with each other than they do with more moderate adherents of their own creed.

From my observations, the common keystone in the Fundamentalist worldview is this:

We and we alone know the One True and Proper Path, and those who disagree with us are not merely in error, they are evil, they are our enemies, and any abuse we can deliver unto them is not only justified, but for their own good.

All too often, this becomes the Fundamentalist's primary tenet -- the specific details of his or her faith all become a distant second to the pure, blind assertion that I am right and you are not.

This is their true religion.

Proportionally, I've seen just as many Fundamentalists who think they're Atheists as I have Fundamentalists who think they're Anything Else, and their reaction to Thoughtcrime is just as zealous.

Did that last sentence piss you off?

Might want to run some diagnostics.

athelind: (flames)
Yes, I get it. We all have the right to be assholes.

That doesn't mean we have an obligation to be assholes.

Maybe I wouldn't be in such a foul mood this week if I didn't keep posting flamebait.
athelind: (cronkite)
"Draw Mohammad Day" offends me, despite the fact that I read Gods Playing Poker, which depicts Mohammad in every single strip.

GPP is irreverent and snarky, but it isn't in the least mean-spirited, and this "crusade" most certainly is.

(Of course, it's in "defense" of one of the most mean-spirited shows in U.S. television history, so yeah.)

This little stunt offends me because it's not just aimed at the Fundamentalists; this is a deliberate slap at moderate and progressive Muslims, as well (not that many of the Draw Mohammed Day crowd actually bother to acknowledge that there's a difference). It's a wide-sweeping smackdown of an entire group, and it's saying the same damned thing that the real offenders keep saying: "all of them hate all of us."

Gods damn it, people. how hard is it to grasp? If you're really opposed to an ideology, don't let its adherents frame the argument.

I'm not saying "don't do this". I'm not saying "it shouldn't be allowed". I am saying that we need to examine the motives and sincerity behind it. So much of the output is a tedious repetition of hackneyed Prophet-As-Terrorist memes that it's hard to see it as a statement of "artistic freedom".

If this were really about "free speech", we'd be following it with "Draw Christ Getting Raped In The Nail-Holes Day".

Wow. I think that's the most Regrettably Appropriate use of the word "crusade" I've invoked in a long time.
athelind: (Warning: Existential Threat)
A rooster starts laying eggs, and not one person, either in the main body of the article or in the comments, even mentions the potential for a catastrophic biohazard.

Alas, the comments are closed on the original article, so it falls to Your Obedient Serpent to spread the alarm!

athelind: (far call)
I just watched President Obama's speech at Kennedy Space Center.

My distillation:

He wants to move beyond the "Business As Usual" stagnation of the Shuttle era, but he doesn't want to go back to the days of token high-profile publicity stunt-flights. He wants to set up a long-term program of expanding and extending the human presence in space, and improving the technology to get us out there and let us stay out there. He wants to establish a space infrastructure, and not just one in LEO: one geared for long-range, deep-space exploration.

I don't think he ever said the "C-word", but I might have heard it there, between the lines.

Neil doesn't like it, but Buzz does—and, frankly, between the two, I trust Buzz's opinion more. The guy who advocated the Mars Cycler is not the type to say "we should keep doing it this way because we've always done it this way".

athelind: (cue howard)
Earlier today, [ profile] ceruleanst pointed out an article about a wounded American soldier whom the U.S. Army subjected to enhanced interrogation torture, until he signed a paper indicating that he had a preexisting personality disorder when he enlisted, and thus was ineligible for health benefits or disability.

This is, as it transpires, part of a continuing effort to misdiagnose wounded soldiers as having preexiting personality disorders specifically to deny them care and benefits.

Shortly after reading the first article, above, I discovered another article about the suicide rates among military personnel over the last decade, which is larger than the death toll from either the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. Last year alone, 330 active duty suicides were reported.

That doesn't count the deaths among veterans, who are considered civilians; the VA estimates the suicide rate among veterans at around 6,000 per year.

I wonder how many of those vets were denied health care because of their "personality disorders"?

athelind: (soylent)

Federal Judge Rules Against Patents On Human Genes

Your Obedient Serpent applauds this rare triumph of common sense over corporate interests. Patenting a naturally-occurring human genetic sequence is like patenting the gall bladder or the pancreas.

I could also frame an argument based on the Thirteenth Amendment: if someone else claims legal authority over part of your body, and asserts that only they can profit from it, that strikes me as a form of "involuntary servitude".

This might be a convoluted logic, but no more so than the arguments in favor of human gene patents.

Note that the peculiar nature of the patent claim asserts the sole rights to create tests for the genes in question, this means that Myriad Genetics sought to claim authority over that part of your genetic code that would contain the sequence, whether or not it actually does.

So, congratulations, everyone. Judge Sweet has declared that you're not owned.

At least, not by that corporation.

athelind: (cue howard)

Warning! Two-topic post!

There's a discussion on CNN right now, where Rick Sanchez is talking to a guy from the Census Bureau about why we have to count everyone instead of using statistical methods to take a sample, and extrapolate the population numbers from there. Evidently, Rick's List is an "audience-driven" show, where Sanchez presents stories based on viewer questions; this explains some of his eye-rolling as he tries to hold up "his" side of the interview ("TV ratings extrapolate the opinons of a thousand viewers from a poll of a hundred, and we know how well that works.").

To me -- and, I suspect, anyone who's really studied and used statistical methods -- the answer is obvious

The U.S. Census is one of the rare opportunities to get the baseline data upon which we can base our statistical analyses.

In the Geospatial Analysis/Remote Sensing field, we call this "groundtruthing". It doesn't matter how good you think your digital data is -- at some point, you have to get down on the ground, take a look at the place you're mapping, and make sure the Map Resembles The Territory.

It's funny -- I'll lay odds that the guy who posed the question on Rick's site is also one of those people who bitches that "statistics don't mean a damned thing -- they can make'em say anything they want." Too many people will lambaste statistics as a lazy shortcut that fabricates meaningless data -- until they find themselves in a situation where rigorous, complete data collection inconveniences them.

And, yes, statistics can be misused, massaged, and abused. More often than not, it's because the people reading them aren't doing so fairly or rigorously, and the people viewing them don't really know how to read them.

This segues into a subject that was running through my head earlier this morning:

The people who are most resistant to accepting the principals of Evolution by Natural Selection in a biological context are those who most eagerly accept the same principle in an economic context. They call it "Capitalism". Darwin cheerfully admitted that he got a lot of ideas from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.

There are those who will argue that the biological and economic systems are very different, and you can't assume that a model that works for one will hold true in another.

True enough, but from a century or two of observation, the model holds more true in the biological context.*

Even more, they tend to embrace it in a social context, as well, condemning programs that "coddle" the poor. If the poor were worthwhile -- in other words, if they were fit -- they wouldn't need support. If they were worthy, they wouldn't be poor, now, would they? So it's Right and Natural to leave them to their own devices.

Creationists tend to be Social Darwinists.

*Actually, the model works just fine in either context -- the mix of stable periods, instabilities, conditional oscillations, and mass extinctions look very similar whether you're looking at graphs of the fossil record or of economic trends. When you're on the ground in the middle of it all, however, the Panglossian hypothesis that the Invisible Hand of the market will produce the most desirable results depends heavily on how "desirable" you consider a regular pattern of decimation.

athelind: (fascism)
In response to yet another BoingBoing article about TASER Abuse, I offered the following comment:

Please remember that "TASER" is a registered trademark of TASER International.

The continuous and increasing use of "taser" as a generic term risks trademark dilution and the commensurate devaluation of TASER International's business interests.

I would like to submit the more descriptive and accurate term, "AGONY GUN", as an acceptable substitute.

As a Star Trek fan, I did, of course, consider "Agonizer" as my suggested alternative, but I thought "Agony Gun" carried more of the desired semantic connotations.

Other Rejected Terms:

  1. Pain Lance
  2. Neurolash
  3. Electric Scourge
  4. Torment Pistol
  5. Convulsionator
  6. Spasmotron

Feel free to provide more suggestions in the comments.

athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

What's the first major news event that you remember hearing about as a child? Where did you learn about it? How did it impact your world view?

The Vietnam War wasn't really an event when I was a child: it was simply another fact of existence. It was always there, always part of adult conversation, always part of my father. I don't actually remember the period that my father was in Vietnam, or even when he came home, but for as long as I can remember, his time there has been one of the defining attributes of his personality.

The first event -- or series of events -- that I really remember as news stories would have to be the Apollo flights, and I learned about those by having my mother bundle me up in front of the TV and watch every single manned flight.

Let's see if LJ will recognize its own template if I cross-post from DW...

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