Friday, June 24, 2016

Britain Votes to Leave the European Union

In something of a surprise British voters decided to leave the EU yesterday. The vote caused a 500 plus point hit in the US Stock Market, the immediate resignation of British PM David Cameron and began a two year process that will see Britain exit the EU.

England and Wales supported leaving the EU while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to remain. After the results were announced nationalist parties in both Scotland and Northern Island began calling for another referendum to leave the United Kingdom.

As for why the so-called Brexit referendum passed. the reasons were primarily centered around immigration, the disaster that many view the Euro as becoming and issues related to British sovereignty and control of its own domestic policies.

Basically it comes down to economic issues and nativism. You know, the same drums that Trump is banging on.

If you're a Trumpette you should be pleased with the Brexit result except of course most Trumpettes are too self centered to even be aware of the situation or at least they were until the media started telling them what a positive this for Trump this could be.

Personally I don't think it's going to make much of a difference this November. Americans are far to parochial to let what the Brits or anyone else does have much of an effect on their votes.

Unless of course there is an immediate economic hiccup in the US as a result. That would help Trump immensely. But it sounds like the Federal Reserve is going to try its best to prevent that from happening. How successful they'll be remains to be seen,

Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando

Another mass shooting. This one at a gay bar by a person who is being described as a self-radicalized Islamic radical.

How's that for bringing everything that seems to be wrong these days, guns, homophobia and radical Islam, into a not so neat package?

The reaction from the right wing is unbelievable, Everything from false flag accusations to blaming the victims for the attack.

Trump immediately claimed that this demonstrated he was right about terrorism.

That statement pretty much demonstrated much of what I see wrong with Trump. His immediate reaction was related to himself. That shows a degree of egotism that borders on the edge of mental instability.

Then the thought seemed to travel directly from the primitive area of his brain, bypassing the underdeveloped rational processes, straight to his mouth. That shows a total lack off self control and discipline.

As for the issue of guns, we'll get a lot of hand wringing and angst in the coming days. Then we'll get the same old tired bullshit platitudes like "guns don't people, people kill people" and "what happens if someone kills someone with a hammer, you going to ban hammers?"

Yes it takes action by a person to kill but, hammers are designed for driving nails. If you use it as a weapon you're using it for a purpose for which it wasn't intended. But the only reason for the existence of a gun is to be used as a weapon and that's the difference between a hammer and a gun.

In the past I've said I just want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally unstable and those people just too plain stupid to handle them properly. I said I had no problem with "responsible gun owners." Recently I've begun to think that "responsible gun owner" is an oxymoron.

But nothing will happen other than the election campaign coffers of Republican legislatures will get a fresh influx on NRA dollars. Nothing will continue to happen until people stop voting Republican until the party cleans house and returns to its fiscally conservative, socially moderate roots.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Float Like a Butterfly and Sting Like a Bee...

...my name is Muhammad, Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali is dead.

That's not the way things are supposed to be. Immortals are supposed to live forever and if anyone ever deserved to be called immortal, it was Ali. Another chair from my youth is empty and this one hurts more than most.

I remember Ali.

I remember listening with my dad on the old red AM radio that I had on the headboard above my bed when he beat Sonny Liston. Back then he was known as Cassius Clay.

I remember him declaring that his name was now Muhammad Ali. That he was giving up what he called his "slave name."

I remember him beating Sonny Liston the second time with the so-called "phantom punch."

I remember him tearing through the heavyweight division with his "bum of the month club" on Saturday afternoons. Fights I used to watch on that old black and white TV in our living room.

I remember him refusing to be inducted into the Army saying that no Vietnamese ever called him a nigger so why should he go and fight them.

I remember his exile from boxing for five long years and I remember his vindication by the Supreme Court of the United States 8-0 that he was right and everyone else was wrong.

I remember his rejecting the idea of suing those that took away his livelihood for five years because he said that would make him a hypocrite. He would be suing them for doing what they thought was right just like he did what he thought was right.

I remember his comeback when he dismantled Jerry Quarry.

I remember his loss to Joe Frasier at Madison Square Garden when Joe unwittingly acted as the pawn of the reactionary elements in the country.

I remember Ali's defeat of Frasier in the "thriller in Manila."

I remember Ali's unexpected defeat of George Foreman using the "rope a dope" technique in the "rubble in the jungle."

I remember him donating $250,000 so a senior citizens center in New York City wouldn't have to close.

I remember his declining years when his skills deteriorated and I remember his retirement.

I remember him acting like a clown to distract attention from a clearly punch junk Joe Frasier in an interview so Joe wouldn't be ridiculed or embarrassed.

I remember him lighting the torch at the Atlanta Olympic Games.

So long champ. Save a place for me by the 3rd firepot on the left in hell.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Why I'm Concerned about this Election

What concerns me about this election in the direction the Internet has taken us.

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way in which we gather information. When I was growing up there were only a handful of reputable news sources.

The primary sources, and the most trusted sources, were the major newspapers. A distant second were the major radio networks and generally pulling up the rear were the TV networks.

Of course there were always exceptions to this order. If Walter Cronkite on CBS television told you something, you believed him.

Today, between the Internet and Cable Television the places from which people can gather information has sky rocketed. You don't have to look too hard to find an information source that puts precisely the spin you like on things.

At the same time people have become insulated in how they gather information. Conservatives go to Conservatives sources and Liberals go to Liberal sources. Crisscrossing and going to a source that runs counter to your preconceptions has become rarer and rarer.

As a result there has emerged what I'm going to call the Internet Populist.

These folks are convinced they know everything and what they know they know with absolute conviction and absolute certainty. The fact that so much of what they know is just flat out wrong doesn't even seem to matter to them. To the Internet Populist facts are a matter of opinion.

They will leap to conclusions based upon the flimsiest bit of information. That wouldn't be so bad if when it turned out they were being premature in their judgement became obvious they would accept that they had been wrong. Unfortunately more often then not they "double down" on their original assessment using some rationalization as to why they were right anyway.

It's enough to drive an engineer crazy.

They're also either incredibly ignorant or incredibly naive. They have no understanding of how the political process works; they have no understanding of how economics work; they have no understanding of how science works; they don't understand the federal budget, Social Security or Medicare but they are absolutely convinced they're experts because they read an article by some asshole on the Internet.

They are the perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger effect. They're utterly incapable not only of recognizing their own limitations but refuse to even consider the opinions of experts if those opinions contradict what they "know" to be true.

They populate both the right and the left but the fact is there appear to be far more on the right. Those on the left often have the disadvantage of an education which prevents them from going too wack job.

There is also a big difference in that the Left Wing Internet Populist is usually recognized as being out on the lunatic fringe. The Right Wing Internet Populist now appears to represent the conservative mainstream.

But there is another aspect to the Right Wing Internet Populist.

They're also convinced that everyone is ripping them off and especially people who are even worse off than they are. None of their problems are their own fault. They're all due to people who are getting free stuff they don't deserve while they. who DO deserve everything because they're special, are not only not getting it, but are paying for those other lazy bums who are getting it.

As a corollary, those undeserving bums weren't getting that free stuff until Obama raised taxes on everyone else so he could give those bums free stuff. Yes, I've actually been told that on several occasions.

Of course 98% of the Right Wing Internet Populists seem to be Trumpettes. Not only don't they understand why what Trump says is wrong, and in some cases even dangerous, they don't seem to care because somehow big daddy is going to make everything better for them and get them everything they deserve. It's the ultimate vindication fantasy.

Now here's the bad news. I'm concerned that these nut cases make up a big proportion of the people who normally don't bother to vote but they're going to make it a point to go vote for the Donald this time around.

That's more than enough to turn this election into a disaster.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Could this be the Year of the Cubs?

I'm not a big baseball fan but I have noticed that the Cubs, at 34-14, a ,708 winning percentage, are leading the NL Central Division by 6 1/2 games and have a whopping, major league leading plus 131 run scored to runs given up differential.

Is THIS the year? Can the Cubs claim the prize after 108 years? Hell, it's been 71 years since they've even made it as far as to lose a World Series.

Will the Ottoman Empire rise from the ashes? I ask that because the last time the Cubs won a World Series in 1908 the Ottoman Empire was still a thing.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Ah Yes, them there Confederate Monuments are for Historical Purposes

I was having this running exchange with some southern guy that was miffed about a Civil War monument celebrating the Confederacy being removed from the University of Louisville campus.

Apparently the impetus for this was a black university professor that didn't feel such a monument was appropriate.

Personally I agree with the professor. When you strip away all the horseshit about states rights and all the other rationalizations the Civil War was about slavery. If it wasn't for the underlying issue of slavery all of the other problems were resolvable.

The issue of slavery was not. Regardless of how unfortunate it may be, some problems just seem to need to be resolved in blood. Slavery in the US was probably one of those problems.

So, we went around the barn a few times because this guy was big on throwing out all sorts of tu quoque arguments including nasty stuff in the bible and the fact that both Washington and Jefferson owned slaves.

The fact is that none of this justifies a war fought to defend slavery and there is no place in this country for public monuments celebrating or glorifying such a war.

Yes, good men were duped into fighting and dying for a bad cause and that's tragic. But that happens in all wars. I'm sure there were good Germans fighting for family and the fatherland on the eastern front oblivious to the einsatzgruppen operating behind the lines.

If you can design a monument which memorializes the tragedy of these men while recognizing the fundamental wrongness of the cause they were fighting for, then be my guest. I doubt that anyone would object.

But the monuments we're talking about celebrate the Confederacy as some sort of noble struggle against overwhelming odds. Against overwhelming odds it may have been but it wasn't a noble struggle.

Once you clear away all the chaff the sole purpose for the existence of the Confederacy was to defend the institution of slavery. The defense of slavery was the cause for which it took up arms. There is no place in this country for monuments celebrating, glorifying or rationalizing such a cause.

Ultimately this guy got frustrated with me and began crying about black professors and about the black lives matter movement while implying them uppity blacks have no reason to be offended by a "historical" monument dedicated to "southern heritage" that's been in place for 120 years or more.

Scratch a white southerner hard enough and you'll expose a racist. It was true 50 years ago and it's still fucking true today.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Bathroom Debate

All of this stuff about what bathroom Transgender people are entitled to use has got to be one of the dumbest things that I've seen people get all up in a huff about.

There are really two distinct levels to this conversation.

One level is the question of the individual you used to know as John who now wants to be recognized as Joan. One may run into this sort of situation at a school or in the work environment.

Then there's the Transgender individual that you don't know. You might run into this situation out in public such as in a department store.

Let's start with the second one because I think that's the easier of the two. In this case you'd probably never be able to tell the difference. Transgenders tend to look like their preferred gender. I defy the average person to recognize a Transgender if it wasn't someone they were familiar with.

Besides, in the ladies room everyone is in stalls. In the men's room a Transgender isn't going to use the urinal so they'll be in a stall as well. So, unless you're into peeking into bathroom stalls, you would never know the difference.

The first case is a bit different. I can sort of understand the possible discomfort associated with accepting that John is now Joan, except not really because the plumbing hasn't changed any. But again the stalls in use idea applies here as well.

A locker room is a bit more complicated. Other than having some sort of screened off area I don't see any particularly good idea here.

The best I can come up with is all Transgenders use a screened off area in the boy's locker room. Guys tend to not give a crap anyway and there's less parental protection foam around boys.

Of course we could just all recognize that individuals should use the facilities of their gender identity and get over it.

Do I have any direct experience? I have two actually but one doesn't really count because it didn't come into the open until years after I knew the individual involved.

The other involved a guy/girl that sort of looked like he was in transition to she. He/she worked for the same place I did. Everyone pretty much ignored it. I have no idea which rest room he/she used nor did anyone seem to be concerned about it.