Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Monday, June 30, 2014

reparations

Are black people owed reparations for the centuries of slavery and discrimination they have endured? 

The idea has always seemed like a no-brainer to me.  In other words, yes.  Hell, yes.

Sure, some black people have become very successful, wealthy and influential.  There are a few in every crowd.  But I would wager that more than a few white folk would STILL not want to live next to blacks, even if the black folk were wealthy and famous.

After reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' writing in the June 2014 issue of The Atlantic magazine, I am further convinced that reparations is the right thing to do. At the very least, there should be a national discussion about what we have put black people through in this country, but we can't even get there.  
 
The article is called "The Case for Reparations." I know blacks already had suffered tremendously. Coates suggests that it was worse than that.  

Maybe you are white and you feel that you have not done anything against black people, but you are collectively guilty of what the white establishment has done.  Emancipating the slaves ushered in a century of discrimination, marginalization and outright lynching of blacks, and we are but one generation removed from the Civil Rights Act. Some in the GOP whisper about wanting to repeal it.  Not surprised.

Just because the United States has a (half) black President doesn't mean this is a colorblind nation.  Far from it.  All you have to do is look at the white reaction from the right to Barack Obama to see this is still a deeply racist country.

Reparations would entail America take a good long look at itself in the mirror, and that's something that America has never been willing to do.  Shit, we can't even charge Bush and Cheney with war crimes.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Graham Nash

I just finished reading Graham Nash's autobiography, Wild Tales. This 72-year-old Brit has had a quite remarkable life.

Many thanks to Jan for turning me onto this book.  It was a really enjoyable read, all the moreso because I have lived through a lot of what Graham writes about, but in most ways vicariously, of course.  

If you ever were a fan of Crosby, Stills and Nash, you will love this book.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

he's a robot!

Next up in the GOP freak parade is Tim Murray, a GOP candidate in last Tuesday's primary election in Oklahoma.  We already know that you have to be damn-near insane to live in Oklahoma, but Murray is showing us a different kind of insane entirely.  

Defeated Oklahoma Republican Declares Victory, Claims Opponent is Secretly a Robot

Can you guess which one is crazy?  Well, they ARE both Republicans.
Let me first warn you that no, this is not satire.  Now, normally I wouldn’t even bother writing about a story such as this because it’s absolutely insane.  And I’m not using hyperbole or exaggerating when I use the word “insane.”

However, it’s so bizarre and ridiculous that, in a political world that’s full of anger and hostility, sometimes a story like this is exactly what we need to just sit back and have a good laugh.

It seems a Republican in Oklahoma is trying to claim victory, even though he lost his election, based on his belief that his opponent isn’t actually his opponent – but an android double masquerading as his opponent.

Oklahoma congressional candidate Tim Murray has announced his plans to challenge Tuesday’s primary election results, where he was defeated by long time Representative Frank Lucas.

In a letter obtained by NewsChannel4 in Oklahoma, Murray goes into some great detail about his belief that Lucas was killed by the World Court in 2011 and has since been replaced by some kind of double.
Here are a few excerpts from Murray’s letter:
“Rep. Frank Lucas, and a few other Oklahoma and other States’ Congressional Members were depicted as being executed by The World Court on or about Jan. 11, 2011 in Southern Ukraine.”
“We know that it is possible to use look alike artificial or manmade replacements..” “The election for U.S. House for Oklahoma’s 3rd District will be contested by the Candidate, Timothy Ray Murray. I will be stating that his votes are switched with Rep. Lucas votes, because it is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike.”

For the record, Lucas has said that he’s never been to Ukraine.  He won his Republican primary battle over Murray, 82% to 5%.


I think Murray wins the Wingnut of the Week award.  External gasping device down.  


Friday, June 27, 2014

Cesar Chavez

Amazing what Republicans will do to win. Shameful too. 

An Arizona Republican, who had lost two previous elections, changed his name to Cesar Chavez and registered as a Democrat.  But he says he changed his name to Cesar Chavez because of a baseball player named that and his dog prefers "Cesar" dog food.  Rrrright.

We've seen how low the Republicans have stooped over Obama's two terms in office. Apparently the rot runs alllllll the way down the ballot.

 

He seems so sincere, doesn't he, people?

So he gets sued by Alejandro Chavez, the "real" Cesar Chavez' grandson, and he gets kicked off the ballot because almost HALF of the signatures he collected were rejected.  No place but Arizona?

Cesar Chavez to be removed from ballot, plans to appeal.

A judge ruled Tuesday that Cesar Chavez, the former Republican who changed his name from Scott Fistler, will be removed from the primary ballot in the 7th Congressional District because hundreds of his signatures were invalid.

The ruling caps a bizarre episode in Arizona politics, one observers have called unprecedented. It attracted international media attention when The Republic revealed the full story behind Chavez, the candidate who chose the name of a deceased civil-rights leader and registered as a Democrat for political gain in the heavily Hispanic left-leaning district.

More here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

the gauntlet

The SCOTUS has not overturned the right of a woman to get an abortion - yet - but they are ensuring that women will have all sorts of roadblocks and hazards on the way to get one.  

Sure, get an abortion, but you will have to run the gauntlet of religiously-insane terrorists to get to the clinic, if you're so fucking poor that you have to go to a clinic, that is.  

The only thing missing from this clip would have been a very satisfying "FUCK YOU!!" to the Supreme Court.  

Two Americas?  Yeah, at least.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Russell Brand

Did you know that Russell Brand is a rather astute student of history?  Not just a funny limey with an attitude, he also has some choice words for FOX "NEWS".

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wilks brothers

Oh great.  It seems we have another billionaire brother duo out to do "the Lord's work" by slinging their filthy fracking money to anti-LGBT groups, "anti-choice" pregnancy centers and other right-wing nutjob groups.  

They are so arrogant as to suggest that the "Lord has blessed them with" their riches.  The Lord?  Hey, I'm an atheist, but they made billions on that very dirty extraction method called "fracking" which is polluting citizens lands and water supplies and contaminating underground water tables.  If I were a religious person, I might just wonder if THE DEVIL blessed them with those riches?  They signed a PACT WITH THE DEVIL!!!

So it does look like we are going to have a war between the billionaires.  So much for "of the people, by the people and for the people."  

If there was a God with even moderate power, he would strike filth like the Wilks brothers down.  But there isn't a God, and they probably know it, so they can claim to have God's blessing all they want, and they know there will be no cosmic retribution for doing so, and they know that the rubes just love that shit.

People like the Wilks brothers are dangerous. Not because they are emissaries of the Lord. Because they wield billions of dollars in an anti-Christian fashion, all the while proclaiming they are good Christians.

U! S! A!

Meet the Billionaire Brothers You Never Heard of Who Fund the Religious Right

The Wilks brothers, whose fortune comes from fracking, give tens of millions to right-wing groups and anti-choice "pregnancy centers," anti-LGBT groups, and organizations affiliated with ALEC.

Farris, Voy and Dan Wilks - gag me, Jesus!

Last June, presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz traveled to Iowa for an event convened by David Lane, a political operative who uses pastors to mobilize conservative Christian voters. 

Lane is a Christian-nation extremist who believes the Bible should be a primary textbook in America’s public schools, and that any politician who disagrees should be voted out. Lane’s events are usually closed to the media, but he has given special access to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s sympathetic David Brody. Brody’s coverage of the Iowa event included short video clips of comments by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who were identified only as members of Lane’s Pastors and Pews group.

CBN’s Brody reported: “The Wilks brothers worry that America’s declining morals will especially hurt the younger generation, so they’re using the riches that the Lord has blessed them with to back specific goals.” One of those goals may be David Lane’s insistence that politicians make the Bible a primary textbook in public schools.

Here’s Dan Wilks speaking to Brody: “I just think we have to make people aware, you know, and bring the Bible back into the school, and start teaching our kids at a younger age, and, uh, you know, and focus on the younger generation.” And here’s Farris: “They’re being taught the other ideas, the gay agenda, every day out in the world so we have to stand up and explain to them that that’s not real, that’s not proper, it’s not right.”

That was the first time we had heard of the billionaire Wilks brothers, who have become generous donors to right-wing politicians and Republican Party committees. While both Farris and Dan have given to conservative groups and candidates, it is older brother Farris whose foundation has become a source of massive donations to Religious Right groups and to the Koch brothers’ political network. Farris also funds a network of “pregnancy centers” that refuse, on principle, to talk to single women about contraception. (Married women need to check with their husband and pastor.)

Like David Barton, Farris thinks conservative economics are grounded in the Bible. Like Mitt Romney, he says people shouldn’t vote for politicians who promise “free this, free that.” Like any number of Religious Right leaders, he saw Barack Obama’s re-election as a harbinger of the End Times and he believes God will punish America for embracing homosexuality. Unlike all of them, he’s on the list of the world’s richest people.

Fracking Billionaires
Dan and Farris Wilks became successful working in and then running the masonry business that was started by their father; they have now turned the company over to the next generation of Wilks men. But Dan and Farris really hit the big time when they got in on the ground floor with fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling technique that has boomed over the past decade. 
The fracking boom has produced a surge in wealthy Texans.
The fracking boom has produced a surge in wealthy Texans. In 2002, the Wilks brothers created Frac Tech, which produced equipment used in fracking, or in industry parlance, “well stimulation services.”  In May 2011, Dan and Farris sold Frac Tech to a group of investors led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund for $3.5 billion. Their share was reportedly 68 percent of that total, and they showed up on the 2011 Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion each.  The most recent Forbes list put their estimated wealth at $1.5 billion each. (In our gilded age, that puts them near the bottom of the Forbes 400, and barely gets them into the top 40 in Texas. But you can still do an awful lot with $3 billion.)
the rest of the bullshit is here.  A lot of this pseudo-Christian bullshit would die out except for misguided billionaires like these.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Surfside

Summertime, right?  Well, I guess it's time we head to the beach.

In southeast Texas, "the beach" is not the prettiest beach you've ever seen, by any stretch of the imagination.  We'll leave South Texas beaches out of this.

We realized we had not been to Surfside beach in many, many years.  Since high school and college days.   So we decided to pack a picnic and head south.


The beach at Galveston is only about 45 miles south of Houston.  Further southwest, close to Freeport, is Surfside Beach, about 50 miles due south of the big city.  It's right where the Brazos River finally empties into the Gulf of Mexico.  See the little red flag on the map?  Not that far at all when you live in a car culture like Houston.



Things have changed a bit over the years.

For one thing, the beach is now closed to auto traffic, although you can still drive onto the beach a couple of miles to the east, towards Galveston.  I remember driving and driving along the beach years ago before the place got crowded.  Surfside Beach is also smaller than it used to be.  Some of the oldest homes are actually now IN THE WATER, complete with NO TRESPASSING signs and broken glass.  Really. (I didn't take my camera with me on the walk)

It was a rather overcast day, but we still got a lot of sun.  The sargassum seaweed was indeed just about everywhere, but it didn't smell all that bad, unless you got up pretty close in it.




And, don't look now, but the gangbangers are taking over.  I saw quite a number of skinheaded, tatooed, rough-looking characters during my walk on the beach.  Sure there are still a few families with children.  A few.  And a few young couples.  

The water was pretty much as I remember it: gray, cloudy, with LOTS of suds.  Whee!



I think it's time they updated their signs a little bit.  I didn't know you could even GET a license to drive a golf cart.



All in all, a very nice day at the beach.  We just set up a couple of chairs, had some food, some tunes and reading material, and enjoyed getting blasted by the constant 25 mph wind coming off of the ocean.  There's something special about the beach, isn't there?  Something truly awe-inspiring about the vast oceans.  They have bewitched humanity ever since we crawled out of them.

Here's a couple of Chamber of Commerce shots of Surfside.  






Saturday, June 21, 2014

paparazzi

Good on Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield for this act. Hopefully it will have a positive impact. I certainly would not want photographers tailing my every move.  Vultures.

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Send a Powerful Message to the Paparazzi



In the original Spider-Man comic, Peter Parker realizes that "with great power there must also come — great responsibility!"
It seems The Amazing Spider-Man costars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone really took this line to heart.
When the two (who are also a couple) were confronted by photographers after eating at a Manhattan restaurant on Tuesday, they held up signs featuring nonprofit organizations in front of their faces, in order to redirect the focus away from themselves and back towards the things that really matter.
Paparazzi scrutiny can be intense and is unlikely to ebb in our celebrity-obsessed culture, but Stone and Garfield are channeling that unwanted attention in one of the only positive ways possible.

Friday, June 20, 2014

you are not alone

This is for the atheists out there who might feel like you are alone in your non-belief.  You probably don't feel that way, but just in case.  I mean, after all, atheists have usually done a fair amount of reading and self-education, and that tends to point them towards other atheists. But, just in case you're an atheist and you feel like you're all alone....go with it

Click some of the links below...



The Celebrity Atheist and Skeptics List

Thou Are Not Alone, For We Are Plentiful...


This is for those skeptics and non-believers who feel alone in their lack of faith. We see religion coming at us from all ends every day, from television, to films, to literature, to the vast majority of our fellow man (and woman). But would it surprise you that some of the most influential artists of our time and our past were non-believers just as ourselves? It's quite true. And below I've compiled a list of some of the most well-known of these individuals.

While I've not listed every outspoken celebrity atheist and agnostic, I have listed some of my personal favorites -- along with others who I thought may interest others. These people range from Brad Pitt, to Charlie Chaplin, to Virginia Woolf and the Mythbusters. Along with each name I've also added quotes by the individual in question, where they speak of their lack of belief; sometimes with hope, sometimes with inspiration, sometimes with wit, and many times with utter hilarity.

I hope others enjoy this list as much as I have and find that they truly are not alone, weird, or bad for believing (or not believing) in the way that they do. Be proud of your lack of faith... you're in good company.

See anyone familiar?

  1. Atheist TV and Movie Characters List
  2. Douglas Adams
  3. Woody Allen
  4. Robert Altman
  5. Fred Armisen
  6. Isaac Asimov
  7. Kevin Bacon
  8. Javier Bardem
  9. Ingmar Bergman
  10. Sarah Bernhardt
  11. Paul Bettany
  12. Jack Black
  13. Lewis Black
  14. Jim Broadbent
  15. Louis C.K.
  16. James Cameron
  17. George Carlin
  18. Adam Carolla
  19. John Carpenter
  20. Jimmy Carr
  21. Charlie Chaplin
  22. Arthur C. Clarke
  23. George Clooney
  24. Billy Connolly
  25. Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips)
  26. Wes Craven
  27. David Cronenberg
  28. David Cross
  29. Alan Cumming
  30. Rodney Dangerfield
  31. Larry David
  32. William B. Davis (the smoking man)
  33. Stanley Donen
  34. Roger Ebert
  35. Albert Einstein
  36. Bret Easton Ellis
  37. Harvey Fierstein
  38. Larry Flynt
  39. Dave Foley
  40. Peter Fonda
  41. Jodie Foster
  42. Morgan Freeman
  43. Nick Frost
  44. Stephen Fry
  45. Janeane Garofalo
  46. Bill Gates
  47. Ricky Gervais
  48. Paul Giamatti
  49. David Gilmour
  50. Seth Green
  51. Kathy Griffin
  52. Rachel Griffiths
  53. Matt Groening
  54. Ernest Hemingway
  55. Katharine Hepburn
  56. John Huston
  57. Eddie Izzard
  58. Mick Jagger
  59. Jim Jeffries
  60. Stephan Jenkins (Third Eye Blind)
  61. Billy Joel
  62. Angelina Jolie
  63. Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand)
  64. Jonathan Katz
  65. Gene Kelly
  66. Margot Kidder
  67. Larry King
  68. Keira Knightley
  69. Stanley Kubrick
  70. Burt Lancaster
  71. Hugh Laurie
  72. Cloris Leachman
  73. Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran)
  74. Bruce Lee
  75. Lemmy (Motörhead)
  76. Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy)
  77. Bill Maher
  78. John Malkovich
  79. Shirley Manson (Garbage)
  80. mc chris
  81. Sir Ian McKellen
  82. Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen
  83. Stephen Merchant
  84. Helen Mirren
  85. Julianne Moore
  86. Cillian Murphy
  87. Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage
  88. Jack Nicholson
  89. Patton Oswalt
  90. Guy Pearce
  91. Simon Pegg
  92. Penn and Teller
  93. Joaquin Phoenix
  94. Brad Pitt
  95. Michael Pitt
  96. Roman Polanski
  97. Sarah Polley
  98. Natalie Portman
  99. Paula Poundstone
  100. Daniel Radcliffe
  101. Keanu Reeves
  102. Carl Reiner
  103. Gene Roddenberry
  104. Joe Rogan
  105. Henry Rollins
  106. Andy Rooney
  107. Andy Serkis
  108. Sarah Silverman
  109. Stellan Skarsgard
  110. Robert Smith (The Cure)
  111. Steven Soderbergh
  112. Doug Stanhope
  113. Howard Stern
  114. Matt Stone
  115. Julia Sweeney
  116. Emma Thompson
  117. Eddie Vedder
  118. Paul Verhoeven
  119. Paolo Villaggio
  120. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)
  121. Wil Wheaton
  122. Joss Whedon
  123. Gene Wilder
  124. Bruce Willis
  125. Virginia Woolf
  126. Frank Zappa
  127. Mark Zuckerberg
  128. The Top 20 Atheist Friendly Movies
  129. Atheist Movies
  130. Atheist TV and Movie Characters List
  131. Sign the guestbook
  132. Atheist Stuff from Amazon
  133. Check Out These Other Lenses!
and just imagine the scientists!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

ExRx.net

I have been working out with a personal trainer off and on since January.  Maybe once per week, sometimes less.  My company generously subsidizes the cost.   

My trainer pointed me towards a great website, ExRx.net.  There are tons of different exercises on this website, many with gifs that show you how to actually perform the exercise and not just read about it.  There is a wealth of other information to keep you busy for a long time.

Here is their blurb:

ExRx.net (Exercise Prescription on the Internet) is a free resource for the exercise professional, coach, or fitness enthusiast featuring comprehensive exercise libraries (>1500 exercises), fitness assessment calculators, and reference articles. The content of this web site is also available on CD-ROM.

ExRx.net is a recommended resource in ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 5th ed. (pgs 224, 349). ExRx.net is also an NSCA authorized CEU provider. See our NSCA CEU approved study modules.


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Keep moving!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yes He Could

I can relate to this column by Paul Krugman.  If you remember the feeling that many people had when Obama was first elected in 2008 and compare that with what has actually happened, you may be disappointed.  But if you look at what has actually happened without the over-hyped hope, Obama has indeed gotten some big things done, despite the most obstructionist Congress in history.

I just do not buy into the canard that both parties are worthless and are beholden to a mysterious cabal of puppeteers who are really the ones in control.  

Big money has too much influence on policy, yes, but it/they are not the omnipotent power that some make it out to be.  I think imagining such a hidden oligarchy is somehow comforting to many people.  If you believe in some group secretly pulling the strings, it absolves you from actually doing anything to make things better. Why bother, right?  The almighty powers that be will just brush you aside anyway.  Hogwash.

It is often difficult to know the truth.  One group is misinformed, and I hope I am not in that group.

Yes He Could

Health Care and Climate: President Obama’s Big Deals
by Paul Krugman

Several times in recent weeks I’ve found myself in conversations with liberals who shake their heads sadly and express their disappointment with President Obama. Why? I suspect that they’re being influenced, often without realizing it, by the prevailing media narrative.

The truth is that these days much of the commentary you see on the Obama administration — and a lot of the reporting too — emphasizes the negative: the contrast between the extravagant hopes of 2008 and the prosaic realities of political trench warfare, the troubles at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the mess in Iraq, and so on. The accepted thing, it seems, is to portray Mr. Obama as floundering, his presidency as troubled if not failed.

But this is all wrong. You should judge leaders by their achievements, not their press, and in terms of policy substance Mr. Obama is having a seriously good year. In fact, there’s a very good chance that 2014 will go down in the record books as one of those years when America took a major turn in the right direction.

First, health reform is now a reality — and despite a shambolic start, it’s looking like a big success story. Remember how nobody was going to sign up? First-year enrollments came in above projections. Remember how people who signed up weren’t actually going to pay their premiums? The vast majority have.

We don’t yet have a full picture of the impact of reform on the previously uninsured, but all the information we do have indicates major progress. Surveys, like the monthly survey by Gallup, show a sharp drop in the percentage of Americans reporting themselves as uninsured. States that expanded Medicaid and actively promoted the new exchanges have done especially well — for example, a new survey of Minnesota shows a 40 percent drop in the number of uninsured residents.

And there’s every reason to expect a lot of additional progress next year. Notably, additional insurance companies are entering the exchanges, which is both an indication that insurers believe things are going well and a reason to expect more competition and outreach next year.

Then there’s climate policy. The Obama administration’s new rules on power plants won’t be enough in themselves to save the planet, but they’re a real start — and are by far the most important environmental initiative since the Clean Air Act. I’d add that this is an issue on which Mr. Obama is showing some real passion.

Oh, and financial reform, although it’s much weaker than it should have been, is real — just ask all those Wall Street types who, enraged by the new limits on their wheeling and dealing, have turned their backs on the Democrats.

Put it all together, and Mr. Obama is looking like a very consequential president indeed. There were huge missed opportunities early in his administration — inadequate stimulus, the failure to offer significant relief to distressed homeowners. Also, he wasted years in pursuit of a Grand Bargain on the budget that, aside from turning out to be impossible, would have moved America in the wrong direction. But in his second term he is making good on the promise of real change for the better. So why all the bad press?

Part of the answer may be Mr. Obama’s relatively low approval rating. But this mainly reflects political polarization — strong approval from Democrats but universal opposition from Republicans — which is more a sign of the times than a problem with the president. Anyway, you’re supposed to judge presidents by what they do, not by fickle public opinion.

A larger answer, I’d guess, is Simpson-Bowles syndrome — the belief that good things must come in bipartisan packages, and that fiscal probity is the overriding issue of our times. This syndrome persists among many self-proclaimed centrists even though it’s overwhelmingly clear to anyone who has been paying attention that (a) today’s Republicans simply will not compromise with a Democratic president, and (b) the alleged fiscal crisis was vastly overblown.

The result of the syndrome’s continuing grip is that Mr. Obama’s big achievements don’t register with much of the Washington establishment: he was supposed to save the budget, not the planet, and somehow he was supposed to bring Republicans along.

But who cares what centrists think? Health reform is a very big deal; if you care about the future, action on climate is a lot more important than raising the retirement age. And if these achievements were made without Republican support, so what?

There are, I suppose, some people who are disappointed that Mr. Obama didn’t manage to make our politics less bitter and polarized. But that was never likely. The real question was whether he (with help from Nancy Pelosi and others) could make real progress on important issues. And the answer, I’m happy to say, is yes, he could.