Redefining Carriage

Here at the start of the twentieth century, our country faces a change that threatens to destroy the very fabric of our society.  The menace to our people is so great as to call for prompt legislative action.  The cost of this change is far beyond the financial capacity of private industry, in addition to which this new development will wreck our agriculture.

I am speaking of course of the so-called “horseless carriage”.  The very phrase is an oxymoron.  For thousands of years, carriage has been defined as a vehicle and its horse or horses.  Yet the modern Liberal is so overwhelmed by his imagined future that he proposes to redefine the very meaning of the term.  We must act now to stop this gross debasement of God’s will.  As the self-proclaimed leader of the National Organization for Carriage, I urge you to memorize and blindly repeat the following:

  • Carriage is between a vehicle and horse. The people of [this state] do not want carriage to be anything but that. We do not want government or judges changing that definition for us today or our children tomorrow.
  • We need a carriage amendment to settle the horseless carriage issue once and for all, so we don’t have it in our face every day for the next ten years.
  • Carriage is about bringing together horses and vehicles so children can have transport and learn the value of caring for animals.
  • Do we want to teach the next generation that horses are dispensable, unimportant? Children are confused enough right now about the meaning of responsibility. Let’s not confuse them further.
  • Automobile drivers have a right to live as they choose; they don’t have a right to redefine carriage for the rest of us.

Shine a Light

I always go for the music movies on the plane.  Shine a Light, man. Shine a light. Um, not too brightly though, the crags have gotten pretty deep. But yeah, good movie. Must be good for me to actually write about it. Where by “write” I mean “scribble down a bunch of random thoughts with crayon, to fill the rest of the flight.”

So. Turns out Keith Richards is overrated as a guitarist. Bit of a shock, really. And he’s a good enough singer, but really, two songs of his own? Not exactly captivating. And I think he had a TelePrompTer; he kept looking down just before each couplet.

Okay, with that out of the way, I got words.

Energy. Mick Jagger at 65 million years or whatever old has more energy than most entire bands. If you buried him under a mountain he would eventually compress into enough oil to fuel the world for decades. Not that I doubt for a second that his energy (or all that thinness) is chemically enhanced, but still. Drug energy is just a loan really; when does he pay it back?  He’s no spring turkey any more, but ol’ Mick’s still got a hell of a line, and moves like a figure skater. All four of the original Stones still steam with stage presence and joy at playing. Of course the backing singers, bass, keys, and horn section look happy too; who wouldn’t?

Apology.  Dear Ronnie Wood: I apologize for taking until now to realize you’re ten times the guitarist that Keith is. Nice pedal steel work, man.

History.  So okay, Keith not so great on the axe, but… Does anyone understand the roots of the instrument better? Who else could (or would) get Jack White, Christina Aguilera, and Buddy Guy on stage with them in one concert? And giving Buddy your guitar at the end of his song was a nice touch.

Reality. Reality is good. Benefit concert in a huge fancy theater, introduced by Bill Clinton, filmed by Martin Scorcese? And you’re 117 years old? Pretty ballsy to make it real. Sure, it was rehearsed, but the arrangements were something other than note-for-note copies of the records, like what some aging bands do (I’m looking at you, The Eagles). No lip-syncing or pre-recorded licks here. Couple minor mistakes make that clear. (Unless they put those in on purpose, like cutting off a branch of a perfect Christmas tree to make it look more natural. If so, well played, Stones. Well played. Well, well played nevertheless.)

It takes a certain talent to reach the level of spectacle while staying raw and intimate. Big fan of raw and intimate here, and yes, these boys have it. Makes getting old a little less scary, to know they still got it.

Shine a Light (Martin Scorcese, 2008)

Hi, Road!

Hello, my name is Kevin.  I have SIWOTI syndrome.

Over Facebook way, I find this:

‎…And then there’s the Left’s especially vitriolic and hateful war on conservative women. Also, the Left’s silence regarding the treatment of women under Islam/Shariah speaks volumes.

with a link to the WorldNutDaily-wannabe, PajamasMedia, about how awful “the left” is to women.  I’m going to go ahead and reply, even though I can pretty much guarantee I will be accused of (1) changing the subject and (2) supporting violence against women.

Really?  You’re going to claim the high road here?  Okay, you have two points. I’ll address them both.

First, the left has an especially vitriolic and hateful war on conservative women.  I’m sorry, calling Sarah Palin an idiot is not a war on women, it’s a war on idiots.  The article you link to is all about Monica Lewinsky and Mary Jo Kopechne.  Individual cases from 15 and 43 years ago.  And those were crimes against specific women; the republican war on women is coordinated attempts to strip rights from all women.  See the difference?

Second, “the Left’s silence regarding the treatment of women under Islam/Shariah speaks volumes”.

(A) It’s a remarkably loud silence.  I found a half dozen articles about it on HuffPo with 10 seconds of Google searching, and I regularly get emails from liberal groups like MoveOn and Avaaz asking to sign petitions to the governments of Islamic countries urging them to stop various egregious acts, almost all against women.

(B) Answering criticism of your own actions by claiming the other side isn’t talking about what you want to talk about is misdirection. People talk about the republican war on women because it’s happening here, and our votes and our letters and our commentary makes a difference.  Complaining that “the left” (as if there’s some unified group of that name) is ignoring violence overseas while the people you support are attempting to reach the exact same conclusion right here at home is distraction.  There’s no longer even an attempt to pretend it’s about saving fetuses; the laws being proposed (and passed) now are directly aimed at eliminating birth control, and then shaming and punishing women when they get pregnant as a result.  Texas just dropped $40 million worth of health care for poor women (not men) rather than give any money to Planned Parenthood.  Plenty of people on the religious right are quite open about wanting women out of the workforce, at home and pregnant.  So go ahead and keep wringing your hands that “the left” isn’t hating on Islam enough, if it makes you feel better about supporting the theocrats rolling back women’s rights at home.

Whatever Happened to Facts?

Y’know, I read the Catholic Bishops’ statements and have to wonder what world they’re living in when they claim martyrdom for not being allowed to prohibit other people from having no-copay contraception.  “If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate.”  Surely nobody with a brain thinks that’s reasonable?

And then I see the comments on Facebook.  Not from my friends, but from a horrifically large number of their friends.  “It’s not about contraception, it’s about religious freedom!” they shriek.  Well didn’t you just drink that bandwagon hook, line, and sinker.  Only, somehow, it’s only about the kind of religious freedom that involves telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.  It’s not, apparently, about

  • Allowing employers to opt out of providing insurance that covers blood transfusions because they might be Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Allowing employers to opt out of providing coverage for mental health because they might be Scientologists
  • Allowing employers to opt out of insurance entirely because they might be Christian Scientists

Nope, it turns out religious freedom means working to make sure their employees, regardless of faith, get pregnant even when they don’t want to. Yes, that’s clearly their goal.  They’re not paying extra for the coverage, the insurers are saving money by providing it so premiums won’t be raised to cover it, and they already have an exemption for religious employees.  Yet they demand that all employers be allowed to not offer contraceptive coverage for all their employees.  See full discussion at Camels With Hammers.

Or is it just another case of “Obama did it, so it must be bad.”  I mean, if the Pope’s pronouncements are supposed to have such sway over US law, why aren’t the bishops (and the Santora, and the Gingrinches) screaming to get universal health care enacted?  Obama got us closer than we’ve ever been, against huge opposition, and now he is the one waging war on Christianity?

Could we go back to a time when you at least had to pretend to have facts on your side?

I Promise… If…

“I promise not to smack you if you cut up your credit cards”.

“I promise not to kill you if you give me your wallet.”

“I promise to let all the passengers go if you give me $200,000 and a parachute.”

“I promise not to destroy the country if you keep paying for the things I bought last decade and take the money out of the poor, elderly, and middle class.”

Someone remind me why there was ever any debate about who was responsible for nearly bringing about default.

Not Just Wrong

American tale, what if we march us to the grave?
What if we make reason an act of treason?
Fear tracks hope back to the cave

In November of 1980, I turned in a paper that got the only F of my college career.  I had written it on election night, and had trouble concentrating when the spectre of Reagan’s voodoo economics looked to be an enormous threat to the nation.  Never knew how much I’d miss those dream-filled days (Warren Haynes meant something else by that, but I hope he’d approve).

Sure, he (Reagan, not Haynes) doubled the public debt as a fraction of GDP, but at least then you could make the argument that maybe we were on the side of the Laffer curve with negative slope.  Today we have 30 years of data that says we weren’t.  At least he raised taxes when the shit hit the fan.  Today any talk of tax increases is met with a fusillade of rhetorical 16mm shells.

Why is that?  My tax rate is lower than it’s been since I started working, and unless you’re filthy rich so is yours.  Hell, I could easily pay a few points more in taxes, and I’m nowhere near the top rate.  We can’t afford all this spending, we keep hearing.  Well no, not if we don’t pony up and pay for it.  Yes, the gross public debt is ridiculously high right now.  And why is that?

Recent contributions to the deficit, from the NYT

Oh look, it’s the wars and the tax cuts.  Which, it seems, are permanent.  End those, and the problem almost goes away.

And what’s the buzz?

“Obama is addicted to deficits.”

“In 40 years Medicare costs will be over 100% of federal revenue, therefore we have to default on our existing debts.”

“If we raise taxes on the rich, they won’t have any money left to pay me.”

Oh yeah?  The data says otherwise.

Top tax rate and marginal growth

It took me 15 seconds of Googling to find that.  Top tax rate is un fucking correlated with GDP growth.  When did facts become unrelated to the discussion?  Even on NPR, it’s all about cutting, and nothing about significant tax increases.

The problem is simple.  We chose to fight not one but two utterly pointless and extremely expensive wars, and then wrote ourselves a big check of tax cuts.  And now we have to have a balanced budget amendment?  Doctor, I can’t afford it when I do this.  Fucking don’t do it then.

So here we are, seriously talking about voluntarily defaulting on our debt because we can’t be bothered to pay our bills.  Something seems wrong about that.

Not just wrong; stupidly wrong.


Wakening the Kraken

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

A significant release of methane due to melting of the vast deposits trapped by permafrost and clathrate in the Arctic would result in massive loss of oxygen, particularly in the Arctic ocean but also in the atmosphere. Resulting hypoxic conditions would cause large extinctions, especially of water breathing animals, which is what we find at the PETM.
Skeptical Science

Is it “alarmism” to yell fire in a crowded theatre if the building is in fact on fire? And you’ve come to realize the basement is full of gasoline tanks?

(I) Commit a Rudeness

Dear Entire Country of Japan,

I know you had that whole earthquake thing, with the shaking and the breaking and the aftershocks and the tsunami and the entire towns washed away and the 13000 dead and all. And also that thing where a quarter of your power is missing and there’s radioactive iodine visiting places it really shouldn’t, and your electricity is turned off a few hours every day and will continue to be so for the forseeable future. And I do realize this was a natural disaster of a size unseen in over a century.

And sure, through it all you are keeping your international space projects on schedule, to the point of continuing meetings the moment the shaking stopped, and moving work from Tokyo to Komaki where there’s power all the time, and promising to repair your test facilities in time for the planned tests with our hardware.

Yes yes, I know all that, but it turns out that people in our country are using contraception. This is unacceptable, and as a result we are unable to continue working on our portion of your space projects.




Fisherman’s wife waits
Praying for his safe return
The sea chooses her


I was thinking today about the evacuation of all but a skeleton crew from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and the workers I know elsewhere in Japan. The New York Times says

Nuclear reactor operators say that their profession is typified by the same kind of esprit de corps found among firefighters and elite military units. Lunchroom conversations at reactors frequently turn to what operators would do in a severe emergency.

The consensus is always that they would warn their families to flee before staying at their posts to the end, said Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at three American power plants for a total of 13 years.

They go on to point out that Japanese workers are even more tied to their jobs, and brought up with much more of a sense of shared sacrifice than we are. Which is right where I was when I thought of my friends there.

By “there”, of course I mean in Tokyo and Niihama, far from Fukushima, but still of the same bent. I’m quite sure that any of the workers I know at Sumitomo Heavy Industries would go down with the plant if there were some emergency where others’ lives were threatened. And they never signed up for danger. It’s just what you do.

So yeah, I guarantee that everyone still at Fukushima-I is doing whatever is possible to maintain control of the situation, regardless of the danger. Watch for the stories that come out of this. There will be heroes.