Archive for April, 2011

Do you link here? Let me know!

April 30, 2011 3 comments

I just found out about a wonderful person who has me in his blogroll and I hadn’t even known about it.  Well of course I added his link to my blogroll right away.  And then composed this little poem for everyone else:

Is it possible that you link here, and that I don’t even know it?
That I owe you gratitude and have not the class to show it?
If you do link here then drop a line and please be right up front
Don’t mumble modestly or whisper or let out a gravelly grunt.
If you shine your light of linkage on me then please to let me know
So I can do the same for you and we can all enjoy the glow!

Clearly the world’s poets need not lose any sleep worrying about competition from me, but do drop a line in the comments if you link here.  My blogroll is at the top of the page and there’s plenty of room for you there.


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Show me your papers!

April 30, 2011 1 comment

Donald Trump has been crowing loudly that he, Donald The Mighty, has finally forced the President of the United States to make with the long-form birth certificate already. No, the officially-issued document from the State of Hawaii wasn’t good enough; they wanted the doctor’s coffee stains on the thing. Of course it “should have been done earlier” and now The Donald is saying he needs to “verify it for authenticity”.

Comedian Baratunde Thurston:

And Trump inserts himself and says he’s proud of the role he played, and says, “We have to verify this birth certificate. I have to take a look at this.” Historically, it’s quite dastardly, but not uncommon. For most of our history, any white person could grab any black person off the street and demand they dance. Or produce documents. Or kill that person, who wasn’t considered a person.

And Trump says he wants to just walk into the White House and touch this document? That he has the right to do so? You don’t have the right to do shit! You don’t have the right to roll up to the White House and say, “Show me your papers,” like it’s apartheid South Africa! In that, I could hear the voice of random white people in history, demanding money for my vote — wanting to know what’s my business in this part of town.

There are always loonies on the political landscape, George W. Bush had to put up with idiots who thought he somehow engineered 9/11.  It would have been pointless for him to deny it, just as it was pointless for Obama to produce the certificate answering a loony charge that he’s some kind of foreign national.  But there’s more here than just whackos.  The 9/11 truthers never went mainstream.  After experts spoke on the subject we only hauled out the Truthers to laugh at them. You didn’t have 40 or 50 percent of a major political party who couldn’t tell you whether Bush had a purposeful hand in 9/11.  You didn’t have a major, corporate-funded “news” network pushing the Truthers every day for years.  And you never heard serious candidates sniffing that powder.

Birthers, of course, – by and large the same geniuses who can’t tell Nazism from Communism from Socialism from their elbows, or support for religion-neutral government from creeping Sharia conspiracy – deny any racial component to their misgivings about Obama.  Presumably every candidate they ever saw caused them to go down a qualifications checklist in their minds, and only actual issues rose to the surface.  It wasn’t a matter of whether the candidate was “one of us.”

US Presidents through 44

US Presidents through 44

But I can see their point that they’re not racist.  After all, remember the protracted controversy over Nixon’s birth certificate?  Or Reagan’s?  Or even Hillary Clinton or John Kerrry?  Yeah, me neither.  For that matter, nobody said boo about McCain and he was supposedly born in the canal zone. I’m sure it’s just coincidence that they went nuts over Obama’s birth.

Just before the release of the so-called “long-form” document, 45 percent of Republicans said they thought Obama was born outside the country and another 22 percent “didn’t know” .  Instead of being a one-way trip to obscurity, it actually raised Trump in GOP polls.  A prominent Texas state representative actually goes for that stuff, even after the paper is released.  And before anyone says that’s “Texas-Bashing”, remember they elected him.  Repeatedly.

Now that Obama has released the paper, several highly-placed nuts still aren’t satisfied.  And even those who were just playing the issue as long as there were votes to pander to, are now saying Obama somehow engineered the whole thing.  Personally?  I think he cleverly sneaked into Hawaii in the uterus of a woman who would later be called his “mother”, just so he could be born there and later become President.  Some people are just devious that way.

Republicans’ mid-term win was all on the promise of focus on jobs and the economy.  Since getting in office, they’ve tried to create jobs and protect the economy by weakening oversight of the financial sector that crashed our economy in the first place, and by working to make sure gays don’t get married, or women get health care, rich person taxed, or anyone educated, or fundamental research done, or any poor person get health care, or public-sector employees have a job environment of professional worth, or any polluters held to account.  Some of them are holding hearings and passing laws to prevent “Sharia Law” – a completely nonexistent threat. And of course, they kept the pressure on the President to produce another birth certificate after they didn’t like the official one issued by the State of Hawaii.

Republicans should not be in power until they come to their collective senses and eject the crazy. The party can’t seem to muster the courage to tell the birthers to take a hike. Of course birthers are just a large easily-accessible vote-bloc to them.  Since returning to power their agenda (as if there had ever been any doubt about it) is very clear.  Like any other addict, until they get into corporate-money addiction rehab they cannot be trusted with the checkbook or the keys to the car.

And yes, I am disappointed that the President released that additional birth certificate for the birthers. Maybe it was a great strategic move, maybe it wasn’t, but to hell with birthers.  They’re poison.


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Going full-curmudgeon on the royal wedding

April 29, 2011 4 comments

I woke to the sound of heavenly choirs this morning. Maybe I died in my sleep and just finding out my tragic atheist mistake? Nope, it’s MrsDoF watching the royal wedding in the living room. OK, whatever.

There are kindred spirits on the web, however. People who share my dislike of royalty and pageantry. Here’s a couple Tweets from Neil DeGrasse Tyson:

Cost to build Endeavour orbiter: $1.7B. Net cost to British economy for day off, allowing everybody to watch RoyalWedding:$8B

Royal Wedding celebrates inherited power; the opposite of America’s founding principles. I’ll be watching the shuttle launch.

Prize for the best curmudgeonly take on the royal wedding goes to Tom the Dancing Bug. Something tells me Ruben Bolling is not a fan of royalty.

Happy last shuttle launch day! Well, that’s kind of sad, actually. One bright spot is that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was able to travel to Cape Canaveral to watch her husband take that flight. A safe journey to them all.

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Mystery Photo

April 28, 2011 4 comments

Been a while since I did one of these. Will post the solution Saturday. Meanwhile, any guesses?

Mystery artifact

Mystery artifact, solution to be provided Saturday

OK it’s Saturday here’s the solution: it’s a canning strainer. You cut up fruit into strainer, use the pestle to force fruit pulp out into a bowl under strainer. Great for making applesauce, jellies, jam, pie filling, etc. Be sure to pick one of these up before the apocalypse.
Click pic to embiggen.

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Gas is $4, let’s drive to the store and use disposable plastic bags

April 27, 2011 Comments off

Yeah. Yeah. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Guess the Scouts were the original eco-rappers. Here’s some current rap on very un-ecological wrappers:

(From here, and h/t MrsDoF for the link)

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Edward James Olmos, live on stage

April 25, 2011 3 comments

I love living in a university town.  We walk three blocks from our back door and get to hear Edward James Olmos on stage, talking about his passions, about biotechnology, about what the future means for humanity, about race, about Battlestar Galactica and Miami Vice and Blade Runner, and about creative control in drama. I learned how amazing he is on stage: an exuberant, confrontational and hilarious story-teller.  He’s sixty-four years old and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a talk by a higher-voltage live wire.

Edward James Olmos

A 1/30 second slice out of 90 minutes of high Olmos energy

He started out by saying how proud he was to be a Chicano.  Well, actually Chicano meant Mexican born in the United states and with some indigenous and some European – in his case Hungarian ancestry.  So he was really proud to be Mexican and he was very proud to be European.  But then he found out that indigenous peoples came to this continent forty thousand years ago from Asia so he’s Asian, right?  And then he finally started to understand, he said, that we all came out of Africa.  “So I’m African… but I’ve just been away from the homeland a really, really long time!”

He didn’t use the word “multiculturalism” but he did talk about what a tragedy it is we really only teach our kids about one culture and everything else is “also”.  What if you only gave your child one vitamin their whole lives until they were 18?  What if you only fed them only hamburgers?  “Our kids don’t have what they need to be healthy, to survive.”

“There is no such thing as the Caucasian race.  There is no such thing as the Latino race.  An African race does not exist.  There is no Asian race.  There is only one race: the human race.  If you take home only one thing, if you only get one thing from this evening, make it this: that you will never again use race as a cultural determinant.  Never again.”

Olmos grew up in LA and has been heavily involved in gang prevention work there.  He has addressed the United Nations on reconciliation.  He spent 20 days in jail for protesting the bombing the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. He co-founded a Latino literacy foundation.

Earlier in the day he gave a talk at Milner Library, and both before and after the show he was in the main atrium meeting people – including Diane whom he gave an air-kiss which she appeared to enjoy very much.  I shook his hand and thanked him for coming to ISU.

Geez, I wish you could have been there; what a wonderful evening we had.


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Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 24, 2011 1 comment

On the way to work Monday I rode through campus, as student volunteers placed thousands of little flags around the Quad. The flags read; “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” and “1 in 4″.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Illinois State University

Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Illinois State University. Extrapolating from the figure that 1 in 4 women is sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, each flag represents 1 woman at the University.

The message asserts that 1 in 4 women face sexual assault in their lifetimes. Is that estimate right? Maybe. I don’t know how the study was conducted or what definitions were used, but I do know many rapes (and presumably even more attempted rapes) go unreported. Rape is the only crime I can think of for which victims risk being held responsible.

Rape as a men’s issue

Rape is usually presented as a “women’s issue”, but the following comments are directed at men. After all most rapes are committed by men, and almost all of us enable a patriarchal culture that objectifies women.  If that second statement makes you uncomfortable or angry, read on.

When most people think of rape, they think of violent, coercive rape where a total stranger threatens a woman’s life.  But most rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, and are framed in some other activity like the workplace, military life, or on college campuses a date or a party. The word; “rapist” conjures up a certain image but the typical man who commits rape is more ordinary.

Of course the message is: “Don’t be that guy”. But unfortunately we are to some extent prisoners of our point of view.  Our culture supports being that guy, without even thinking about it. To avoid being that guy requires stepping outside the culture, or even opposing it.

Popular music and culture depict women as sexual objects.  I often see T-shirts with slogans like; “The (3 Greek letters) Man: Women want him, other men want to be him.” I once saw a bunch of drunk students holding up a sign on Willow street during move-in day; “Parents, drop your daughters off here”.  One class feels they can belittle another class in public, and too often we let that message go unanswered.

Seeing privilege

Back in about 1993 I heard a radio talk show on WLS Chicago, with a man and woman as hosts. The man was talking about gays in the military and he said; “What if you’re in a foxhole and the other guy won’t take ‘no’ for an answer? And some of those guys aren’t little sissy-pansies!” And the woman host responded; “Congratulations! Now you know how women feel all the time.

We don’t feel sociocultural privilege any more than a fish feels water but it affects our behavior and our thinking.

In his book The Gift of Fear, security expert Gavin DeBecker said; “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men are going to kill them.”  It’s basic arithmetic: our culture objectifies, depersonalizes and commoditizes women, and most men are physically stronger.

Enabling rape begins with that objectification. Does a slap on the ass matter at all? Aren’t women just taking it all too seriously? Or maybe casual harassment communicates something deeper, like; “Bodily autonomy is a privilege, girlie, not a right. And we decide how much privilege you get. So be a good sport about it, or things might get worse.”

Only joking

Rape culture, like racism, has its apologists and the excuse is always the same: “Hey, we were just joking! Why so serious?”

Here’s why jokes matter: both racism and rape culture depend on privilege.

Privilege is visible in the old; “Hey all I did was X, I didn’t Y!” defense. “All I did was send out an email of the president Photoshopped to look like a monkey; it’s not like I presided at a Klan meeting.” Or “All I did was slap a coed on the ass; it’s not like I tied her up and…”

Actions like that create space for a certain world view. They create layers of cultural insulation for racism or sexism to thrive. They send a message; “I don’t take race issues seriously.  I don’t take women’s personhood seriously.”  They make class privilege acceptable.

Party culture

You can’t discuss campus rape without someone bringing up alcohol.  Yes, intoxication makes a woman more vulnerable and yes, it does degrade the quality of evidence she can give.  If anything, that increases the culpability of a man who takes advantage of her vulnerability.  When someone is vulnerable one should exercise additional care for their safety, no? You wouldn’t let a visibly drunk person sign a contract; why accept drunken “consent”?  At the same time the perpetrator will find sympathetic company in pretending that his own intoxication is somehow exculpatory.  She is blamed for being drunk and he is excused for being drunk. That, fellows, is a planet-sized double standard.

I don’t know how much impact Sexual Assault Prevention Week will have at the university. A lot, I hope. There are certain things you’d hope would not even need to be said explicitly, like “texting and driving is criminally stupid”. Another example would be: “Don’t give rape culture a free pass.”



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Think Before You Stick (that slogan on your car); oil-price edition

April 17, 2011 3 comments

Bumper stickers were around long before Twitter but the idea is similar: encode a little pearl of wisdom in a very short statement. Like Tweets they can be entertaining, infuriating, and sometimes profound. And occasionally just abysmally stupid.

Yesterday I saw one (on an SUV of course) that said; “Drill Here! Drill Now! Pay Less!”

There are a few rather fantastic ideas wrapped up in that pithy statement. One is that foreigners are ripping us off. Another is that we’re sitting on a massive oil reserve that we could tap if only those stupid environmentalists would stop worrying about three-toed frogs. Another is that if we drilled more oil here, that the price at the pump would drop and stay down. And finally there’s the idea that we’re just paying too much for oil, period.

OK, one at a time.

Oil-selling foreigners – OPEC – do engage in something we would recognize as price-fixing if it were done to US consumers by a consortium of US companies. They’re not really competing; they’re colluding and that’s the grain of truth in the slogan. But their collusion isn’t completely solid; if they raise the price too high someone will break ranks.

As for how much oil we’re sitting on, estimates vary but the short answer is; no we probably couldn’t increase production much even if we turned the gulf into one giant oil slick and carbon-warmed the planet back to the Triassic era. So you can pretty much forget about drilling our way out of high prices at the pump. The oil companies know this and I don’t think it really bothers them much.

Here’s the real “What are you smoking?” point; that drilling more oil here would knock down the price and make it stay down. SRSLY?

Hey SUV- drivin’ person; do you honestly think that if US oil companies found a buttload of oil here in the US that they’d sell it to you for less than they could sell it to someone in China or Australia? Really? Better look up the meaning of the word; “fungible“.

We’d have to discover so much oil that it would glut the market, so OPEC would say; “Crap, we’re screwed. If we don’t lower our prices all those other countries will just buy cheap oil from the Americans.” And that ain’t gonna happen. Not only aren’t there any market-changing amounts of oil to be found in the Arctic, but US oil companies aren’t charities. We already subsidize them to the tune of $46bn, give or take. You pay for gas twice: once at the pump, and again in your taxes. Think about that the next time you hear someone arguing that green energy “needs subsidies to compete”.

Which leads to the last point: people who don’t drive are actually subsidizing those who do. That guy on the bike is helping you fill up your tank, so stop whining. You want to save money on gas? Next time buy a car that gets better mileage. Combine errands. Check your tires. And slow the frack down. Don’t think of it as being safer and greener; think of it as putting more money in your pocket, tax free! You’re beating the system, man.

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Movie Review: The Illusionist

April 16, 2011 1 comment

MrsDoF and I went to see Sylvian Chomet’s animated film The Illusionist at the historic Normal Theater this evening:

The little YouTube clips do it no justice: this is a stunningly beautiful film. You’ll just about hurt yourself trying to drink it all in; to study scenes as they pass by, and impress them into your visual memory. Some of the Scottish countryside scenes I’d like to make 2-meter dye-transfer prints and put them on walls like a gallery. (Yes I was thinking of you WeeDram)

There isn’t much story here: an aging itinerant magician unexpectedly acquires a waif who becomes like a surrogate daughter to him. Despite his denials she thinks he really can do magic.

But there is magic in the lovingly detailed visual beauty of the film. There is almost no dialog at all; it could play anywhere without any need of subtitles. It’s delightful and melancholy (but sweet in places) and an artistic masterpiece. See it on the biggest screen you can find.

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April 14, 2011 2 comments

The GOP’s real agenda has been made crystal-clear over and over. The only surprise is that people keep forgetting.

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