I was looking for something in my closet today, and thought: “Geez – I really need to delete some of this junk.”
I think I spend too much time on the computer.
I was looking for something in my closet today, and thought: “Geez – I really need to delete some of this junk.”
I think I spend too much time on the computer.
As a national election approaches, it’s a good time to reflect upon where your priorities are and how they align with the priorities of your government. A good place to start is with a little introspection. (Go ahead, I’ll wait…)
Examining the priorities of a government is a bit more difficult, but a great place to start is with knowing where your tax dollars go:
Let’s focus on the left side of the graph first. 51% of our budget goes to military spending That represents a total greater than what the next five countries combined on spend their militaries. Also note that this total does not include the billions of dollars passed in other bills that are specially earmarked for operations in Iraq.
Some other points of interest: 9 billion dollars for missle defense systems that don’t work and aren’t getting any better. 17 billion for maintenance on 6000 or so aging nukes. Russia has a comparable number and the next closest nation is France, with an estimated 350. Russia and the US are allies now, so why can’t we cut back? (how many times can you scorch the same piece of earth?)
All criticisms aside, the bottom line is that, thanks to outrageous amounts of spending, the military capability of the US is by far, number one in the world.
All right, what about the right side of the graph? It consists of lots of domestic programs: things like health care, education, and science. So how do we stack up in those areas? Very poorly, as it turns out.
The literacy rate of the US rate is only 49th in the world. The US ranks just above Mexico (22nd) in childhood poverty, and is ranked 41st in the world for infant mortality rates. Women are 70 percent more likely to die during childbirth here than in Europe. Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth, and the ID “debate” has other countries laughing their asses off at us.
These and other appaling facts reveal systems that are broken in some places and starved for funds in others. The take home message seems to be: “We can’t take care of our own residents, but man, can we kill a lot of foreigners.”
Maybe we should pay teachers what they’re worth. Maybe we should make sure that everyone has access to health care. Maybe we should quit sinking trillions of dollars into unprovoked wars.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s time to listen to the left and shift the balance of that graph to the right.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
No, I did not read the DaVinci Code, and no, I do not plan on seeing the movie. I believe that 60 million americans can be wrong, and often are. Need evidence? Off the top of my head: American Idol, Danielle Steele, and Friends.
Just because other people like wasting their time on vapid, banal crap doesn’t mean that I have to.
On a related note, have you ever noticed how much of people’s daily chit-chat revolves around television? I haven’t watched TV regularly in 6 years, and as I grow farther removed from pop culture, I cringe every time someone asks about the latest episode of Lost, or whatever the fuck they’re showing these days. What also amazes me is that many of these same people seem unable to discuss anything else. Ask them about news events or politics (you know, those things that actually affect your life?) and they sweat like they’ve been given a pop quiz.
Thomas Jefferson famously said that “An informed citizenry is the bulwark of a democracy.” I think he’s right, and I also think that’s why so many of our democratic ideals are under attack.
Warrantless searches, prisoners held without trial or counsel, the routine use of torture – our rights and freedoms are being trampled daily, and the most people can offer is a shrug and change of topic.
Where did we go wrong? Why are people so self-absorbed, so willing to live in a bubble of banality, and why don’t they care? Oh, and why the hell does their vote count as much as mine?
George W Bush was recently asked by a German reporter what the best moment of his Presidency was. His reponse: “I would say the best moment was when I caught a seven-and-a-half pound large mouth bass on my lake”
Let’s do a quick comparison of how three presidents answered that question:
To: Commissioner of the Houston Area Boy Scouts of America
From: Chris Miller
I am an Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop 161, and I recently recieved notice
about your search for Eagle Scouts in the Houston area. As much as I
would like to be active in the BSA, I cannot in good conscience
continue to support an organization who discriminates against both
homosexuals and atheists.
During my many years in Boy Scouts, I was taught to always strive to
be morally straight. I was not, however, taught to be a bigot.
Houston has some nice weather this time of year. The days are warm and evening temperatures hover around 70 degrees. They’re the perfect type of evenings for opening up the windows and enjoying some fresh air.
Unfortunately, my apartment’s windows don’t open. The only way to get fresh air in is by opening the sliding glass door in my living room, and there’s no screen door on it. So for the last six months, I’ve had to choose between stale air and higher A/C bills, or opening the door and letting all sorts of bugs in.
This weekend, I had had enough, and decided that I could build a screen door myself. After some quick measurements and mental calculations, I headed out to Home Depot and rounded up my supplies:
Assembly was pretty simple. I cut up the PVC into the right lengths, assembled the frame with the connectors, then used my staple gun to attach the screen. After making sure that it fit into the track properly, I added the weather stripping so that I could close the sliding glass door up against the screen and prevent bugs from slipping through the crack.
I have to slip it into place every time I want to use it, so it’s not quite as convenient as a sliding door, but it works well. Painting the PVC black would have also made it look a little nicer, but I was going for cheap.
All in all, I’m pretty satisfied. I figure I’ll more than make my 20 bucks back by running my air conditioner less this summer. And as long as the weather holds, my apartment won’t have to smell like what I’ve been cooking for days afterward.
Eight hours of studying, a coffee and two cokes later, I’m still up at almost 5AM. Fuck.
Why is it that when you lie awake at night, all trains of thought end up at your failures? You never dwell on those comforting memories, the ones you hold dearest in your heart. It’s the should-haves and the what-ifs that swirl through your head at a breathtaking speed, each pausing just long enough to rip a chunk out of your self-esteem.
People I’ve hurt, decisions that went wrong, uncertainty about the future. These are the real demons that dwell in the night, and they’re far scarier than the monster under your bed ever was.
This article on creationism makes me want to cry. It’s about the vast network of religious organizations that spend millions of dollars to promote lies and half truths that support their fundamentalist reading of the Bible.
Hundreds of pastors will preach a different message Sunday, in honor of Charles Darwin’s 197th birthday. In a national campaign, they will tell congregations that it’s possible to be a Christian and accept evolution.
Ham considers that treason. When pastors dismiss the creation account as a fable, he says, they give their flock license to disregard the Bible’s moral teachings as well. He shows his audiences a graphic that places the theory of evolution at the root of all social ills: abortion, divorce, racism, gay marriage, store clerks who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
It’s funny, because with the exception of racism, I don’t think any of those are particularly bad. Abortion and divorce certainly aren’t things that anyone likes to happen, but they’re often far better than the alternatives (loveless marriages or pre-teen pregnancy, for example). What’s even funnier is that the Bible was often used to justify racism in the past.
The worst part of this situation isn’t that these groups are coming up with millions of dollars or that they’re aggressively marketing their ideas. It’s that they’re teaching this crap to children, who don’t know any better:
“Who’s the only one who’s always been there?” Ham asked.
“God!” the boys and girls shouted.
“Who’s the only one who knows everything?”
“So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?”
The children answered with a thundering: “God!”
One twelve year old girl described her path to believing in creationism:
“They were explaining about apes standing up, evolving to man, and I could kind of see that’s how it could happen,” she said. Ham convinced her otherwise. As her mother beamed, Emily repeated Ham’s mantra: “The Bible is the history book of the universe.”
I don’t understand how people can stare into the face of overwhelming evidence and ignore it. I don’t understand the need to cling to beliefs unflinchingly and justify them, no matter what kind of irrational explanations and leaps of faith that may entail. It is certainly the nature of religions to hold fast to their doctrines. In some sense, I can’t blame them for that. However, I can blame the people who supress their curiosity and intrinsic human desire to understand the world.
“The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.”
– Richard Dawkins
Former NSA agent Russell Tice is the whistleblower who leaked information about the NSA’s illegal spying activities to the New York Times. He’s now gone public and will be testifying before Congress about the blatant abuses of power going on in his former agency.
I’m not going to analyze why wiretapping American citizens without a court warrant is reprehensible – that’s been covered pretty well elsewhere (and frankly, should be common sense). I do want to pass along this thought, though, which came up during a discussion of the issue over at Slashdot
In America we have no excuse for saying “the gov’t abuses us”. We ARE the gov’t. And if we’ve let it grow out of control it is not due to technology, information, or any other excuse. It is due to public inattention and apathy. I find those things far more dangerous than information or even gov’t itself.
Update: There’s a better article and transcript of the interview over at Democracy Now
I’m sure most of you have heard about the West Virginia mining tragedy. (It was mistakenly reported that 12 of the 13 trapped miners were alive, when in fact, the opposite was true.)
During the time in which most of the men were believed to be living, the Boston Herald ran a headline which read: “Miner Miracle! America’s Prayers Answered. Greg Saunders rightly takes issue with this:
Now that we know the twelve miners were killed, does this mean America’s prayers weren’t answered? Just like gambling addicts remember their big wins but not their losses, the fate of the twelve miners has transformed from a faith-inspiring act of God to another horrible tragedy in which it’s impolite to mention religion at all. Cute little sayings like “the Lord works in mysterious ways” are cop-outs for the logical conclusions that many of us draw from experiences like this. If something fantastic and improbable can be used as proof that there’s a benevolent god, doesn’t the reverse point toward the conclusion that a higher power is indifferent at best? If you believe in a god that could have saved these men’s lives (which I don’t, btw), why didn’t he? People are quick to throw around the word “miracle” when something wonderful happens, so what the hell do we call this?
The Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution (Article I, Section 4) allows people to be excluded from holding office on religious grounds. An official may be “excluded from holding office” if she/he does not “acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”
This would specifically exclude all Atheists and Agnostics from holding public office. It would also exclude:
- Most Buddhists, who do not believe in a personal deity.
- Members of the Church of Satan; they are typically agnostics.
- Some Unitarian Universalists.
- Some followers of the New Age who do not believe in the existence of a personal deity
Remember, that by excluding agnostics and atheists alone, you’re saying that roughly 10% of the United States population can’t hold office.
Legal bullshit withstanding, there’s still no way anyone but a Christian could win office in any but the bluest of blue states. Is this what freedom feels like?
I was recently asked:
How do you explain all of the hurricanes, mudslides, earthquakes, Tsunamis, avian flu virus, etc. that have recently taken tens of thousands of lives?
You’re the scientist…..what is your opinion?
It’s hard to lump all of those together from a scientific perspective, as they’re remarkably different kinds of events.
Some have blamed the hurricanes and severe weather on global warming, but I’m skeptical. I have little doubt that humans are affecting the global climate, but there’s scant evidence to connect the two at this point. (I’m more concerned about driving species to extinction, the earth we leave behind to our children, etc)
The flu virus is something that’s much more scary. To be honest, the advent of global transportation has made this kind of pandemic a possibility for a long time. Hopefully, we can identify some ways to at least slow the spread of the virus before it becomes a worldwide problem.
And major earthquakes hit every now and then. The fact that the South Asian one happened underwater and so near to lots of people was just a tragic coincidence.
Really, the only common thread is that we perceive them as tragedies and over-hype them on the news.
Perhaps this will help put things in perspective:
Humans can’t do much about hurricanes and tsunamis, except get out of the way. We could, however vastly reduce the number of AIDS deaths and eliminate starvation – that one is entirely preventable.
I suppose these types of things just aren’t newsworthy, though. After all, Britney Spears just had a baby!
Little Rickie needs a new and loving home. We are moving and can’t take him with us. He is adorable and playful. He will make a wonderful family pet. He’s full grown, has all his shots and just got a clean bill of health from the vet
Re: Pure Bread Pomeranian
Is this Pure Bread Pomeranian made of white, wheat or rye? (I prefer rye). Also, how can I be sure that it won’t go moldy after a week, like my other bread does?
I expect to get flamed for that, but it was so worth it.
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble.
If I stay it will be double.
Third strongest hurricane ever, at present. It’s supposed to drop down to a measly high-end Category 3 by the time it hits, though.
Ted recently posted about gas mileage, energy policy, and the idea of a windfall tax on energy companies. Read the whole discussion first if you want, but my response stands alone pretty well too:
One of the main problems with energy policy in this country is that there’s very little incentive for politicians to stake out the position which will be beneficial to us all in the long term. The reasons for this are twofold. The first is that the public is fickle and demands immediate results. The second is that when you’re up for re-election in a close race, that big donation from the oil companies is likely to help more than appeasing a few environmentalists. This goes double if you’re a democrat, because you’re likely going to get the environmental vote anyway.
Something else to think about: In a recent poll, 8 out of 10 people say that drivers should buy less SUVs and get cars with better mileage. Yet, SUVs and trucks still make up roughly 50% of all new vehicles purchased in the US.
I’d like to believe that Americans are smart people. They say they’re concerned with global warming, and the ozone hole, and gas prices, and foreign oil dependence, and don’t want to tear up our wilderness. However, when it comes time to act, they do so with a selfishness and short-sightedness that is appalling.
Those who have discussed politics with me know that I have a libertarian streak mixed in with my liberalism. I value privacy a great deal, and the last thing I want to see is a “nanny state”. However, it’s hard not to see that people in the US are acting childish when they exhibit behavior like this.
Maybe a gas/energy tax is necesssary to encourage behavior that is beneficial to our society and our earth as a whole. Obviously moral incentive to do the right thing isn’t enough, so let’s give people a financial reason to change. Use all the money from the tax to fund things like renewable energy research and public transportation.
I don’t think that this should be done as a windfall tax, per say. Punishing corporations for making large profits isn’t fair. However, I think doing it for reasons like security (reducing dependence on foreign oil) and the commoon good (less pollution, smog, global warming, etc) are perfectly acceptable.
Don’t we already tax things like cigarettes, liquor and gambling disproportionately? Why not tax the US’s other great addiction – Oil.
Joel: ah kirksville.
Chris: it’s got that certain…. charm?
Joel: i’d say funk
Chris: but not like the Bourbon street funk.
Chris: This smell actually eminates from the natives
I have a lot to say about the situation in New Orleans, here in Houston, and the state of our federal emergency response teams. I’m just too angry and hurt and tired to say it all right now. I’ll let others do the talking:
From an interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Friday:
WWL: Because apparently there’s a section of our citizenry out there that thinks because of a law that says the federal government can’t come in unless requested by the proper people, that everything that’s going on to this point has been done as good as it can possibly be.
NAGIN: Really? . . . You mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can’t figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man.
Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in New Orleans didn’t get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck — a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state’s National Guard last Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn’t come from Washington until late Thursday.
That’s right, fucking PAPERWORK kept them locked in the Superdome, sleeping in their own shit. PAPERWORK kept people trapped in attics and on rooftops. PAPERWORK prevented people’s lives from being saved.
Then, in the midst of a ridiculously incompetent and inadequate response, Bush makes it worse by visiting:
In St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, just south of New Orleans, victims of the hurricane are still waiting for food and water and for buses to escape the floodwaters, [ Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La.] said. And for the entire time Bush was in the state, the congressman said, a ban on helicopter flights further stalled the delivery of food and supplies.
You have got to be fucking kidding me.
And finally, from Defective Yeti:
I’m so outraged I can barely think straight. Bad enough that the White House (again!) ignored repeated warnings of impending disaster and (again!) diverted necessary resources to its wealthy patrons and ideological hobby horses, but the federal response to the catastrophe is like a goddamned cabaret show.
Conservatives often justify the slashing social programs to fund corporate tax cuts by saying, “A rising tide raises all boats.” Well, the tide rose folks, and this is the result.
UPDATE: Two more links worth passing along:
A Timeline outlining FEMA and flood control projects in New Orleans under the Bush administration
Some pictures of the ongoing crisis
When I signed up for a new bank account the other day, they told me that they’d also order my first set of checks for something like 5 bucks. They neglected to tell me that the default is the ‘variety pack’. So now, most of my checks have wild horses or tropical birds in the background.
Gee, were they all out of rainbows and unicorns?
This picture is of an Iraqi girl whose parents and brother were mistakenly killed by American soldiers at a checkpoint.
The bullets ripped through their vehicle, shattering windows, bones, and this girl’s life.
“It was dark. Perhaps her father did not see the uniforms, and only saw the guns. Perhaps she and her brothers and sisters were playing too loudly in the back seat, and why couldn’t they be quiet (don’t make me come back there, I told you before) and he couldn’t hear the shouting outside the car, and then it was loud. . .And now it is quiet.”
Are we really bringing the hope and freedom that our leaders promoted? All I see is terror and pain.
I can’t get this picure out of my head. The anguish, the despair. . . there just aren’t words.
Imagine for a moment that this was your family. That this type of incident was happening almost daily. That you personally knew widows, orphans, and amputees whose lives were crushed in a hail of US gunfire. That 101,000 of your fellow citizens had died as a result of this war over the past year and a half. (That’s over 33 world trade centers).
Now can you understand why many of them grieve and rage and take up arms against us? It’s not because they “hate freedom”. It’s because war has real consequences.
This war isn’t about a CNN bulletin or a three-line obit for an American soldier. It’s about the United States soldiers that have lost their lives to this occupation. It’s about people like this girl. It’s about their families.
It’s about the look on her face that will haunt my dreams for days.
“Nobody knows what winning a war looks like, because it has never happened.”