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    I’m an opinionated Grumpy Old Man. I enjoy the intellectual give and take that goes along with that, but have very little patience for stupid people (Note: there is a big difference between “stupid” and “educated”. Some of the stupidest people I’ve ever met have a PhD…). Beside arguing, I like to build things in almost any media. Right now I’m mostly building in wood, Lego, and a bunch of different electronic media. I teach in a number of different venues - from preschool all the way through graduate school. Subjects range from talmud to neuroscience to engineering.

    For fun, I like to bash people with swords (OK, so they’re made of foam. It’s still fun). Although I spend a lot of my time in a wheelchair, I manage to keep pretty active (Like bashing people with swords). I am a libertarian, and have a hard time finding anything good to say about government or politicians. OK, politicians might make good sausage, but that's about as good as it gets.

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Minority Politics

After hearing a rather interesting news blip on NPR the other day, I decided to do a bit of surfing and see what was going on. I was driving somewhere, and the NPR newsreader did a very quick passing mention of a library that had identified White Men as the minority that they would be discussing in that weeks discussion (I think this month is supposed to be some sort of “acknowledge a minority for PC” month or something like that).

This one sentence news story got me thinking. Statistically, white guys are almost certainly a minority. China probably claims the top ranking for number of people (that would be the Chinese), and I think Indians are probably in second. Could be wrong on the Indian one though. No matter how you slice it though, if you count up all the white guys, and then count up everyone else, the white guys are gonna definitely NOT be the biggest racial population. As far as the whole male thing, chicks have outnumbered the guys for a long time.

OK, so now things get really interesting. See, here in the USA, we’ve got all kinds of minority entitlement programs. These programs are supposed to make up for some sort of deficiency that minorities have that makes it impossible for them to compete against the majority. TO make up fro the deficiency, universities have lower entrance requirements for minorities, many financial assistance programs target minorities, and certain minorities (but not all) are allowed to have exclusive “(insert minority here) clubs”.

really. While the women have been going crazy taking the knights of Columbus, the elks, and other fraternal organizations to court to force them to admit women, most college campuses have black-only clubs, women only clubs, and so on. I’ve never seen a white boys only club, and don’t ever expect to – if one was ever created, the other minorities would go crazy and tear it apart. So here’s the question: If the white male minority is treated differently from other (more politically correct) minorities, what ever happened to equal rights?

In an interesting turnabout, the women’s, black, asian, gay, etc etc etc minority groups that have been lobbying for inclusion in all aspects of the white male world are the very same organizations that are claiming that THEY have to have exclusive (meaning only members of their minority are allowed) organizations, clubs, and so on. Not only that, but they argue that it would be discriminatory to extend the same special programs and privileges that they get as minorities to white guys. Because in their minds, discrimination is OK as long as it doesn’t take away their special status.

Now, I’m somewhat realistic, and I know that white guys aren’t ever going to get equal treatment, but wouldn’t it be cool if people who claim to fight for ‘equality’ really did?

Then, when you see a gay black woman in a high paying job, you wouldn’t have to wonder if she was actually qualified, or was just filling an Equal Opportunity Employer position? And before you get your shorts in a knot, this does happen. Frequently.  I’ve worked at companies where it was openly admitted that certain staff members were hired specifically because of their race, and everyone knew that the people in question were given do-nothing jobs because they simply weren’t qualified for anything else. In the worst cases, even the EOE hire knew it, and for years sat there sucking up a big fat paycheck while doing nothing – simply for belonging to the right minority (one particular woman collected a six figure salary, and her job was to go through the corporate phone bill every month and make sure that the company phone log matched the one the phone company gave us – about 2 seconds of work for a computer). Come to think of it, maybe the white guys ARE better off without equal rights…….

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border guards beats up author Peter Watts

Check it out here:

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/12/11/dr-peter-watts-canad.html

and here:

http://www.injusticeeverywhere.com/

Turns out simply asking why you are being detained and/or searched is grounds for being beaten by the US border guards. Then getting charged with assault for allowing said guards to beat you up.

Constitutional rights? Nah, he’s a Canadian after all.

Basic civil rights?  Civil? in the united states? What cave are you living in?

Basic Human rights? what, you expect the U.N. or the world court to hold the US responsible for its constant violations of basic human rights? Better crawl back into that cave before a cop finds you…

forget “police state” we’re talking brown shirts here……

4 cops killed: an excercise in perspective

In Washington state today, 4 cops were shot to death while sitting in a coffee shop.  I must admit, that my first thought was to blog about the possibility that this was a response by an individual to some abuse on the part of the police, but a bit of quick research suggested that in this case, that probably isn’t true (or if it is, the shooter had a long history of violent crime, so even if there was abuse by the police, it probably wasn’t the root cause).

The media frenzy has already begun, so instead, I would like to take this opportunity to do some “what-if” and think about how this event would be handled if some of the details were different.

Imagine if the 4 people who were killed lived in a housing project in New York City, and the shooters were cops. Chances are, it wouldn’t even make the news. Things like that are just too common to bother reporting – especially in the New York City slums.

Imagine if all of the people involved were just “normal” people (white, middle class). We’d probably get a bit of a human interest story, and that would be it. Maybe a minute or two of coverage in the morning news.

Imagine if all of the people involved were those same poor folks in the New York City slums. You probably wouldn’t hear anything about it, but it if you did, it would be blamed on drugs or gangs (regardless of the reason).

None of this should be any real surprise. Nobody really cares if some scum in a housing project gets whacked. Sure, if it was a cute kid, the networks may play for a bit of the tear-jerker ratings, but beyond that, it just doesn’t matter. When some middle class action takes place, it hits a bit closer to home, but hey, that was all the way over in Washington. It couldn’t happen here, and it doesn’t really make any difference to our lives.

So why is it so different when its a cop? The press has been displaying a disturbing trend in this regard – there seems to be some pervasive belief that cops are special, and deserve special attention. this is very disturbing. Cops are people – no different from any one else. When we act like a cop is more important than ‘regular’ people, we start down the road to creating a police force that is treated differently from the regular people. We give them special attention, special powers, and immunity from regular rules. history has consistently demonstrated that this is a one-way road. And the road ends with a police state, absolute police authority, and a complete lack of rights for the “regular people”. OK, so we’re not there yet, but we’re definitely heading down that road. (How many of you live in states where the sentences for killing a cop is more severe than the sentence for killing a non-cop? Check you state laws. You’d be surprised how many there are.)

So hey, all you news whores: how about reporting that 4 PEOPLE were killed. The fact that they were cops is irrelevant unless they were killed BECAUSE they were cops. Oh yeah, and start reporting the other cases of senseless killings too.

 

Veterans Day: Enough Sacharin Already!

Yep, Wednesday is Veteran’s Day. You can tell Veterans Day is coming because the editorials and “news” media are gushing with crappy, maudlin poetry and odes to remember our soldiers. How about some reality: To the vast majority of Americans, Veterans day is just another day off school or work.  If you go to church, shul, mosque, whatever, the service leader will probably make some sappy noises to “remember the soldiers”. Maybe we pay some lip service by reading one of those crappy poems or editorials, but probably not. If you’re REALLY motivated (meaning there is a veteran in your immediate family), you might go to a parade or a dinner.

Here’s an idea: instead of either ignoring the holiday or making some motions, how about doing something to remember the ideals that the soldiers are/were actually fighting for. Write you legislators about an issue you care about. Use the day make some sacrifices of your own, and go help out in a food pantry, visit the sick in a hospital, or visit a nursing home. Chances are good any one of those three activities will bring you into direct contact with a veteran. And it will actually mean something.

Our Veterans don’t need poems, sermons, or TV news people spouting crap about them, and little yellow ribbons are meaningless. We need the rest of the country to actually prove that he sacrifices that Veterans have, are, and will continue to make actually have a purpose. It doesn’t matter what your political views about the current or past wars are. Do something for the ideals that he soldiers stand for.

And while you’re at it, stop and think for a moment: in modern wars, more civilians and non-combatants are maimed and killed than military personnel. Remember the innocent bystanders as well.

The New Dark Ages

I’ve been noticing a lot of similarities in some recent news and some not-so-recent history. The dark ages were a fun time: ignorance, poverty, disease, and war were the norm. A powerful christian government work hard to maintain ignorance, as literacy and rational thought were considered to be major threats to the mindless dogma preached by the church. By keeping the masses ignorant, the church was able to maintain power, and use war as a tool to continue that power. Poverty and disease are natural elements in an ignorant, uneducated population, and also served to reinforce the church’s stance (if you were poor, it must mean that god doesn’t like you,so you must have done something bad). A random walk through some of today’s news events shows a remarkable similarity.

Ignorance. The dark ages were rife with ignorance, superstition, and church doctrine. The general populace was not only discouraged from learning to read, but in many cases, it was illegal for them to know how to read. The dominant government (the christian church) decided what was fact, and what was acceptable for the peons to know. The idea was that all law came from the bible. Of course, if the peons could read, they would be able to figure out that most of what was being taught as church doctrine had nothing to do with the bible, so reading was reserved to the “right-thinkers” in the church. This was also a method of ensuring that the church maintained its position of authority – science and critical thinking would erode the church’s “we talk to god, so we know the truth” dogma, so the church did its best to keep people ignorant (this is the same church that threw Galileo in prison, and refused to admit that the Earth rotates around the sun until late in the 20th century). The church as an entity had an official policy of maintaining the ignorance of the populace. Among other things, it made it impossible to do any sort of business without church involvement (and taxation) – the church was the only agency that was allowed to write, so things like keeping track of shipping, sales, and land records was wholly under the control of the church. This provided a handy revenue stream to support wars against those pesky foreigners and heathens that didn’t buy into the church myth.

In the modern world, the church has much less official power – we even pretend in the USA that the church is just another social group. But if we take a look at what is going on, we can find “christian influence” (read: ‘christian ignorance’) in many places. One of the scariest is the influence that the church continues to have on education. While most of the first world laments the fact their children are not keeping up with upstart developing nations educationally, the church is working to continue to stifle knowledge and free thought. With amazing effectiveness. Depending on the surveys, as much as 30-60% of the people in industrialized nations continue to believe that creationism is as scientifically valid as evolution. The majority of people freely admit that most technology and science is little more than magic to them – it is simply beyond their understanding. Of course, in places like India and China, it is very common to find people who not only understand technology and science, but are using it to displace the “industrialized world” as the leaders of new technological developments. The first worlddoes still have the major educational institutions, but a visit to any hard science or engineering graduate program will make it clear that most of the students there are from second or third world nations. A review of the scientific and engineering primary literature shows the same thing. Take a look at journals from 40 years ago, and the vast majority of authors will have anglo-european names. Take a cruise through the journals today, and most of the names are asian, indian, or middle eastern.

Of course, the Dark Ages did end. The church was finally overthrown by internal divisions, and by the influence of educated free thinkers from other cultures – most notably Asia, India and the Middle East. In the modern world, we are faced with many dangers – a much hyped example is the militant extremists from the muslim left that kill a few people every day. A much more insidious danger is the creeping ignorance and denial of science that is so strongly supported by the christian church. So next time the bible-thumpers are at your local library or school board lobbying to get Harry Potter pulled off the shelves (it has witchcraft in it, and the bible says that witchcraft is bad), don’t just sit by and assume that rational thinkers will simply ignore them. Show up, and speak out. Make sure they know that we recognize their idiocy, and that we won’t tolerate it. When you hear or read about a school district that is buckling to the local moral minority, and is pulling evolution and science from their curriculum, go to the school board meetings and make some noise. At the very least, go read some history, and decide if you really want to live through another round of ignorance driven dark ages. We can hope that the developing world will save us from our own apathy and ignorance, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could do it ourselves?

ACORN, prostitutes, and political corruption

I’ve got to hand it tot he folks over at ACORN: I’ve never heard anyone more capable of sounding like absolute idiots than the folks they’ve got representing them on the radio. I just listened to an hour long interview on NPR (notably left-wing in their reporting), attempting to address the recent ‘issues’ that have come to light regarding the way ACORN teaches their :clients” to commit fraud. Being NPR, I expected to hear a long list of excuses and justifications as to why ACORN shouldn’t be held accountable for their illegal actions, and I wasn’t disappointed. The interviewer presented one leading question after another that made it almost impossible for the ACORN rep to come off as anything but an innocent victim. ALMOST.

The ACORN rep had only one response to any one of the leading questions: The republicans are EVIL. An abbreviated example:

NPR interviewer: “I understand that ACORN has fired the individuals who were video taped explaining how that guy could get a subsidized loan to set up a  whorehouse selling 14 year old girls. Is that true?

ACORN REP: “it’s all the republicans fault. They’re evil. If you look at a couple of the republicans that have held office in the past 40 years, there are some cases of corruption and even prostitution!.”

OK, now I don’t know about you, but the NPR lead-in on this question should have been answered along the lines of “well, there are always a few bad apples, and yes,we did punt those idiots, but the stuff they did doesn’t represent ACORN’s standard procedures – especially if we know that we’re being taped.”

another example:

NPR: “What can you tell me about the ACORN 8 – the former ACORN board members who resigned because of corruption and unethical behavior (implying that the former board members resigned because they were caught dong unethical things, when they actually resigned because they couldn’t condone the actions of ACORN).

ACORN: “they’re don’t represent ACORN. They’re being paid by the republicans. Did you know that in the past 40 years, some of the Republicans have been convicted of ethics crimes? even prostitution!”

An hour of this. Seriously folks, we all know that ACORN finally got caught at what it has been doing for decades: using fraud and other illegal methods to build an empire of corruption that no news journalist could take on without being labeled as a racist and anti-PC nazi. The fact that they were taken out by a couple of kids with a video cam, and not a network looking for some hot ratings is a good clue to all you other crooked PC bozos out there. If you can make up a front organization that pretends to serve the poor and the minorities, you can hide your corruption for decades – until some punk and a chick with nothing to lose decide to blow your scam.

On the other hand, listening to this interview made it completely clear that ACORN really does have no way to explain their actions. The feds finally did something right by yanking their funding – now lets see if they can finish the job: lets see if the Attorney General can start a nice RICO case against the folks that are really responsible.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for organizations that serve the poor and the needy. Of course, I only support the organizations that actually support them. Organizations that teach them to use fraud, lies and loopholes to get a free lunch should be shut down, and the people that run them should be tossed into prison. It will be interesting to see how many of the victims (yes: victims – the ones stupid enough to use the ACORN methods may well be looking at detailed revues of the documents they submitted to get their subsidized mortgages. If there are false statements on them, the people that signed them could well be facing fraud and corruption charges, as well as losing their homes and the possibility of ever qualifying for government housing assistance again). A pleasant thought: The victims of ACORN may well end up in the same prisons as the folks that set the whole thing up. There may be some justice there….

party politics and why Health care reform will never happen – or any other significant legislation

While listening to yet another media report (I refuse to call it news anymore) flogging the whole “kennedy was god” crap, I actually heard an intelligent comment. The talking head commented that without Teddy, significant health care reform had no chance of succeeding. The other talking head commented that not only health reform, but pretty much ANY significant legislation had almost no chance of passing. She was claiming that without Teddy, no legislation could succeed, which I think is simply stupid – even for the kennedy worshippers, but there IS some truth to the statement.

Of course, it has nothing to do with Kennedy, it is all about how politics work in the USA, and health care is a great example. Pretty much everybody agrees that major reform is needed, and pretty much everybody agrees as to what should be done. The problem is that our political system requires the two parties to take “opposing” stands instead of working cooperatively. This is because the american people need something simple to associate with the political parties. Democrats help the poor, and are socially and politically correct. Republicans represent big business, don’t care about the people, and are all about making sure that the rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor. The two parties can’t work together because it would shatter the illusion that they are actually any different. Then, the people (and the parties) would actually have to think, make decisions, and figure out what and who to vote for.

Sure, some of you are going to scream that dems and reps are really different. Republicans have affairs, cheat on their wives, and only pretend to care about family values to keep the religious right on their side. Get real. For starters: Bill Clinton. By all “family values” measures he should be a ‘republican’. Take a good look at the sex scandals, mistress scandals, and all the other trash about politicians, and you’ll find it on both sides of the aisle in equal amounts.

Others will scream that the dems really care about the people, and that the republicans only care about the rich and corporations. If you really think this is true, you should go take a look at the folks that these politicians spend their time with and get their money from. Both parties will make token visits to Podunk village, and make sure that they get lots of photo ops with ‘normal folk’ – especially during election season. The rest of the year, they rubbing elbows with folks that can sling around 5 and six figure campaign contributions, and no one else matters. If they played the game any other way, they’d be out of office PDQ.

As far as the republicans working to keep the rich rich, while the dems work to make sure the poor get a fair shake, simply reread the last paragraph, and put it into context. The main job of any politician is NOT to represent ‘the people’, it is to get re-elected. In today’s world, that means making sure that you’ve got the backing of either the democratic or republican party. What you do is pretty much irrelevant, because a bit of slander, a good add campaign, and a thinly wrapped pack of lies and misinformation is all that really matters – something that we call by the euphemism “campaigning”. And for campaigning to work, there has to be an “us” and a “them”.

So there ya have it. Any real change is destined to fail, or at best get so watered down as to be irrelevant simply because if something DOES get done, one party or the other will be able to take the credit for it. And of course, if one party gets the credit, it means that the other party is left short. The democrats are starting to realize that without absolute control over the house, senate, and presidency, they are stuck in the same mire that they used to try and keep Bush under control.

So, is there any real hope? well, it depends on your point of view. If you have a bazillion bucks to throw into lobbyists on both sides of the aisle, you can pull off fiascoes like the latest GM bailout, the bank bailout, the blackwater (renamed to Xe) cover-up, etc. These work because the folks behind the decisions can line the politicians pockets and campaign chests well enough to throw up a smoke screen hiding what is really happening. A good two-sided campaign of misinformation can confuse the issues so much that anyone can believe whatever they want, and justify their opinion based on “expert opinions”.

Of course, if your particular cause does NOT have those gigabucks to toss around chances are that it’ll never get anywhere. So what are your options? Armed rebellion is a good one. The french revolution is a great example of what a truly pissed off population can do. You can vote third party – it will probably make you feel better, but won’t actually accomplish anything. Or, you can be a Good American, and simply sit there and shut up. When the time comes to vote, you can try and tell yourself that your vote matters, makes a difference, and may even be counted (maybe, if you’re lucky). Then go home, and watch the results on TV with the millions of other delusional sheep. Meaning that there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. Ain’t america great?

Oh yeah, on the whole kennedy thing – in my last post, I referred to him as ‘compost’. I must admit my error. That dude was so packed with alcohol and other chemicals that he’ll never be compost. Toxic waste maybe, but not compost…