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Edit: I just threw down $20 for you. Happy New Year :)

b_b  ·  423 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The GOP's fractal incompetence problem

Not sure if you're being rhetorical, but asking if Trump is a cause or a symptom is akin to asking whether heroin addiction is a cause or a symptom. The answer is yes. Godry is correct that the GOP has basically been rotting since the end of the Cold War. They've tried to cram the square pegs that are "against terrorism" and "against taxes" into the round hole of "against communism" but it's just not fitting right. Lubricated by a thick layer of KFC grease, Trump has been able to squeeze himself into a hole he didn't have much to do with creating, but damn if he isn't splitting it wide open.

Did you see that viral video of Bernie Sanders eviscerating Steve Mnuchin? It's a thing to behold, because Mnuchin is left almost speechless, but he sits there with the smug look of someone who doesn't give a shit about being wrong because he knows that there isn't a logical rip in space-time big enough to make the GOP give a shit how bad his tax bill is. They've reached critical mass, and the light and heat from their bullshit can no longer escape orbit, and thus it's turning in on itself. Competence surely isn't an asset, because any attempts to compute 'A' and 'not A' simultaneously break logic machines. Only a guy who claims that the Constitution is Christian scripture can compute this logic. Thus the ascendancy of fictional hyperboles like Roy Moore makes sense.

"Terror Babies!" "Death Panels!" "Job Creators!" It's difficult to not sense that the mountains of horseshit that they've been shoveling for the past quarter century aren't beginning to decay. Hopefully it decays into fertilizer and doesn't cause a cholera epidemic. One of the upsides of Trump being elected is the awakening on sexual harassment. I don't think that without "grab 'em by the pussy" that we'd have people like Glenn Thrush and Charlie Rose being suspended. Harassment is no longer something creeps from the other side do; it took someone as disgusting as Trump to make us recognize that. I hope he'll have a similar effect in other areas (racism, classism, etc.).

Trump is a symptom and a disease, and he's finally convincing us to make that doctor's appointment we've been putting off for too long. If his tax bill keeps getting this level of criticism (even the most generous estimates say it costs $1 trillion), there's a good chance that will collapse, too. Maybe at that point Godry will start to be taken seriously by his fellow conservatives.

b_b  ·  427 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: What Democratic civil war? The Left already wonx 2

    The central challenge for Democrats in taking back the White House will hinge on the party’s ability to persuade a majority of Americans to support a more progressive agenda going forward.

Apparently, Mr. Sosnik isn't familiar with how the Electoral College works. A plurality of Americans already vote democratic, and have so in all but one presidential election since 1992. Democrats' problem isn't one of majorities; it's one of geographics. That is unlikely to change anytime soon, and moving further leftward will accelerate, not decelerate this phenomenon.

The leftward lurch has some real perils in it. The numbers cited above I think don't paint the whole picture. Immigration, e.g., wasn't much of a partisan fight until like 2015 when the Muslim Ban was first proposed. Immigration reform was the darling of W and the Kochs and was opposed by Bernie Sanders as recently as the beginning of the primary season. That dramatic 52 point shift has seen a lot of its movement only in the last couple years. Similarly, we're seeing a dramatic increase in "single payer" devotees in just the last half year. Democrats and liberals should be wary of getting caught in the "against Trump" vortex, and not let it color their chances of ever winning another presidential election.

Speaking of, NYT published an OpEd today calling for Al Franken's resignation. That's the level of crazy liberals are going to rise to in service of all things "against Trump". Of all the moronic OpEds NYT has published over the years, this one got me particularly pissed off (because when Erik Prince or John Bolton publish one they're easy to laugh off), because it represents the worst of the left mob: letting a staff writer (as opposed to a one off partisan) call for the head of one of America's finest senators because, well, Roy Moore is a child molester and Donald Trump is a rapist and we don't like them so everyone gets a trophy.

People need to keep their heads. America and the Democrats don't need a leftward push, especially one that's driven by "against Trump". We need a push toward sensible regulatory and tax reform, driven by a shared sense of community and compassion. That's not a leftist agenda, even though it sounds like one in today's world. It's a humanist agenda that the left has the best mandate to push. It will only happen, however, if we move past the identity driven leftism that's currently en vogue.

b_b  ·  696 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: David Brooks finds a way to blame the children

This is a classic lolbrooks, observing the problem and blaming the victim.

I think I'm the last person left in America who thinks that our problems are not all that hard to solve. The majority of our economic struggles correlate very closely with banking deregulation and tax policy changes, both of which have redistributed money upward.

To be entrepreneurial requires dynamism. Much like combustion requiring both fuel and oxygen, starting a business requires people (fuel) and money (oxygen). The banks have no incentive to create easy money for businesses, because they can make a fuckload doing dumb shit like using your deposit to buy securitzed debt. So business owners have to go to venture capitalists for money, and for those of you who don't know what a venture capitalist is, it's what you call a loan shark who wears really expensive suits and has friends in Congress.

People, being immutable in their desire for a better life, will always be entrepreneurial, if we let them. This is just as true today as it was when someone invented the wheel. When the number of people doing this decreases dramatically, we can ask, as Brooke does, "What's the matter with people?" (Who haven't changed in millenia until, according to Brooks, 1985.) Or we can ask, as we should, "What's the matter with the current climate?"

Policy changes that once again deny banks the ability to gamble with deposits, and tax changes that encourage investments in small business would break this cycle tomorrow. As long as it's more profitable for banks to make risky bets on financial instruments that don't actually correlate to anything manufactured or any real service rendered, then they are going to continue to do that.

b_b  ·  724 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Why Trump's Staff Is Lying

Spicer's presser reminded a lot of the early days of the Iraq war when Hussein's information minister was on TV saying that the Republican Guard was on the verge of victory, as CNN was showing US troops on the outskirts of Baghdad marching toward the city center. It was a lie of such ridiculous proportions that you got the sense watching it that truth or untruth wasn't really the point of the press conference.

Similarly, Trump's claim about the inauguration was so farcical that you got the sense that the administration was really trying to cultivate a relationship with the truth. There may have been a component of Trump testing Spicer's loyalty, but I think that was secondary to intentionally picking a fight with "the media" writ large. A strongman, a man trying to build a personality cult, needs a foil. Usually it's easy, because America is the default foil for strongmen the world over. Trump is in the position of being in the belly of the beast, so his foil has to be some other subversive element. The media is a good one, because (a) they write bad things about him that just happen to be "true", and (b) his constituency is already distrustful of them. In that sense they're perfect. And how did the administration react? They threatened to cut off access to reporters who questions them.

That's diabolically brilliant. When they announced that they might move the press corps form the West Wing, everyone shit a brick. They realized they couldn't do it without cause. So they went out and sewed the seeds. Spicer cam out a day later and was clear-eyed and friendly. Do we not also think that was calculated? Of course it was. Now he can say he's been trying to be the good guy, but you reporters just won't quit. Give it two more weeks. They'll come up with another whopper to top this one. And if you think Chuck Todd was mean to Conway about lying about inauguration attendance, just wait until they lie about something that matters. Real reporters will flip out, and it will be the perfect time to cut them out of the deal.

b_b  ·  999 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Reef discovered in the mouth of the Amazon River, under the silt

Super cool.

Last week in the New Yorker they had a story about a scientist's quest to cross breed corals (sorry, not sure if it's paywalled) to be acidification and temperature robust. I wonder if these strange new species thriving in crazy conditions will help such efforts.

b_b  ·  1310 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Shock European court decision: Websites are liable for users’ comments | Ars Technica UK

You most certainly did not write what white guilt "means". You interpreted an idiom literally and nothing more, and even in that case, I still don't understand the comparison.

We live in a historical context and a cultural milieu. I have Mayflower ancestors, for example. Therefore, it is quite likely that some of my forebears were slave owners. I don't feel guilty about that in the sense that I would feel guilty if I made some transgression against a friend. The term "white guilt" has become somewhat pejorative, because it doesn't imply that one actually feels shame or guilt about some else long ago committing a specific act against black people, but that whites go out of their way nonetheless to try to recognize and compensate for their better relative position in life (collectively). Sometimes this manifests itself in ways that seem silly or nonsensical--hence the pejorative. But really, what "white guilt" implies is that you have the ability to recognize the milieu and that you're not dense enough to think that we are born on equal footing due specifically to the context in which we're raised.

If you think that everyone is born with a more or less equal chance in life to succeed, then there's no help for you. I suggest reading some history. This is a fantastic place to start.

b_b  ·  1323 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: David Foster Wallace - Consider The Lobster

I've promised myself I wouldn't ever engage with you, but I'm breaking my own rule here. This is the dumbest, meanest, most worthless fucking thing I've ever read on this site.

Where in your rotten conscience did you read "I don't give a shit about suffering"? She said "for better or worse" humans are the hegemons on Earth. That's a qualified position if I've ever read one. Then she says that she has a conflict in her own thinking between wanting to catch food and eat it and the human ability to feel empathy. I suppose it's lost on you because there's subtlety and nuance in the statement.

Fuck off. Hard.

b_b  ·  1328 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Death Penalty Ends in Nebraska -

    Didn't you make a post about your jury experience?

No. I intended to, but for various reasons that I'll not go into, I didn't feel like doing much of anything at that time. By the time I dug myself out of that temporary funk I couldn't really remember all that I wanted to say. Here are some hastily thrown together details.

All in all, being on a murder jury was pretty surreal. Thankfully, MI abandoned the death penalty back in 1847 (according to Wikipedia, it was the first English speaking jurisdiction to do so), so I didn't have to wrestle with that choice. Were it an option, I assume the prosecution would have requested it. The guy on trial killed a disable man for his SSI money, the check for which he had just cashed at a liquor store. There were two defendants, actually. They were being tried separately by two juries at the same time. There was one piece of testimony that was inadmissible for us to hear, but not for the other defendant's jury. So for those 15 minutes, we stepped out of the court. Otherwise, it was two simultaneous trials. Our kid was 23. The other was 17. 17.

It was an interesting experience seeing the legal system from the inside out, at least hearing arguments was interesting. Most of the 7 or 8 days were spent in isolation rooms, which was torture. I don't mind being in isolation, because I can read until my eyeballs bleed, and I'm all the happier for it. The other 13 jurors...not so much. All they did was complain about how bored they were. That was the worst part. I have a very short fuse with complainers. For most of 7 days (arguments were only 1-3 hours per day), I was forced into a small conference room with 13 strangers who incessantly bitched about how there's nothing to do. One girl brought a magazine a couple days, but other than that, not a soul brought reading materials (and any devices were strictly forbidden). I couldn't believe it.

I was convinced enough that these people were big enough morons that I essentially appointed myself foreman, not being able to abide any of them running a meeting. I knew the kid was guilty. Everyone else knew the kid was guilty. But still, I made us run through every possible scenario in which we could think of a reasonable doubt about his guilt. It took about 12 hours of deliberation. In the end, there was no other choice. The kid didn't flinch when the verdict was read.

The most interesting part was after the trial was over, both the prosecution and defense invited us for interviews to determine what they did well and what they did poorly. It was very enlightening, because at that time, the prosecutor was able to fill us in on all the details that weren't admissible, including a cell phone video of the kids waving guns around and doing drugs. Apparently, since it couldn't be determined if any was the gun used in the crime, the video would be considered "prejudicial". Also, there were two eye witnesses whom the prosecution called. Neither provided any informative details to the jury, and each denied saying that they said the things that the police had written in their report that they said (which, apparently were repeated in subsequent pre-trial interviews with the prosecutor), much to the dismay of the prosecutor. As it turns out, on the day they were called, the whole rest of the gang with whom the defendants were affiliated packed the court gallery to intimidate the guys. It made sense, because the one guys looked scared out of his mind and the other almost didn't say a word. The prosecutor informed us that this gang's MO was basically to rob disabled people and the elderly of their government checks.

Of course you hear about murders when you live in the ghetto (or anywhere if you turn on the news), and you hear the gunshots from time to time, but it's different to be faced with the accused and the details of their crime. How much money can an SSI check be made out for? $500? $1000? I have no idea. Apparently, there are areas in the US where that is a sum worth the life of a father of 5. Hard to comprehend, really, that such places exist not more than a few miles from civilization. These guys had to go; I'm glad they're in jail. But still, my heart broke a little bit having to have a hand in their fate. I felt (and still feel) no sense of pride or accomplishment, only sadness for everyone involved.

b_b  ·  1442 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Master and Margarita

I'll mail you my copy, if you PM me your address. I don't have a due date.

b_b  ·  1502 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The December Photo Challenge: Day 1 -- Trees

Late to the game, but you'll forgive me, I hope. Been busy, after all.

Pictured (from right): My lovely wife, her ogre-ish husband.

b_b  ·  1522 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Grubski Challenge #6: FFFFFFFYYYYYYYURRRRRRRRRRRRRR

A simple meal, cooked by simple means...

The Fire:

The Condemned:

The Implements of Destruction:

The Hanging:

The Torturing:

The Loyal Companion:

The Feast of the Damned (with fresh cut shoestring potatoes!):

b_b5  ·  #law  ·  #law.b_b  ·  #politics
b_b  ·  1529 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Truth About the Wars

    One of Kaplan's tenets (and he bases it on a long list of thinkers going back to the Greeks) is that a straight border is an imaginary border.

I think we often mistake the arbitrary borders of the Mideast as evidence of a lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of the post-WWI architects of the modern day borders. I think it's evidence of the exact opposite. I think that they knew exactly what they were doing by lumping various tribes, sects, and ethnicities together under a single flag. Essentially, it was a cynical plot to ensure that there would never be anything like domestic cohesion in any of these regimes, and that, therefore, they would perpetually be client states of the West.

Saddam had the audacity to think outside the territory that the West allotted him. That was his sin. It wasn't as if he suddenly turned brutal at the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq conflict, in which we were all too eager to supply him. It wasn't until he violated the territorial integrity of Kuwait that we suddenly heard all about his chemical attacks and nuclear aspirations.

Although, cynical, at least it was a policy. The Neocons seemed to have forgotten this history--which they seemed to know quite well in 1991--as of 2002. Maybe they saw it as a chance for a reset. They had already imposed sanctions that they couldn't very well violate easily, but there was still wealth to be exploited. They needed a reset. Unfortunately for them, W was very ideologically committed to democracy. I think his lip service to it was actually genuine, so Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, et al. toed the party line for the sake of expediency. Left to them, I think a new dictator would have been installed quickly, and the result may have been different. Layman's speculation.

b_b  ·  1567 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Vice: We've Been Had, and We Let It Happen

Here's what I think, and this is nearly 100% conjecture, because I refuse to read Vice, and have for a long time. I think the mystique is something like this: "The world is a joke. Only we get the punchline, but we're going to let you in on it one article at a time."

After reading Vice, people come away with a sense that they understand why the world is as dysfunctional as it is. People like simple answers, and people like knowing things that other people don't know. Vice wraps both of those in a tiny little package with a ironic bow on top, all couched in a language that is meant to offend the easily offenable. My guess is that Vice's readership is mainly formerly sheltered college freshmen whose eyes are just being opened to the world, and who don't really like what they see.

b_b  ·  1656 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Scientists threaten boycott of European commission-funded Human Brain Project

    "We are left with a project that can't but fail from a scientific perspective. It is a waste of money, it will suck out funds from valuable neuroscience research, and would leave the public, who fund this work, justifiably upset," he said.

Ha! File this under "no shit." I've been laughed at by a bunch-o-brain scientists for saying the same shit. The difference between me and the current group of boycotters, however, is that they think it's not viable yet. I'm convinced that last word is unnecessary.

b_b  ·  1670 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The dangers of being too racially sensitive

    Yes, it is a success technically, but it is not what we mean when we speak about successes.

This is my favorite part. I'm waiting with eager anticipation to find out who 'we' is. It's so cryptic I can't stand it.

b_b  ·  1716 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Executioner's Lament

    Aw boo you're still angry about an online shitfit we had all of three days ago and it upset you so much you spent five miles of walk dwelling on it. I hurt your widdle feewings?

I have no dog in the fight (and obviously kleinbl00 is competent to defend himself), but I'd like to interject here and just say that part of the philosophy by which we run this site is that each username represents a person. People do have feelings. Anger and embarrassment happen to be two of them. We don't have mods by choice, because we prefer each user to have the responsibility of curating their own experience. It's up to you to write what you want to write, but mudslinging probably isn't going to get you very far with the userbase around here. Just an FYI.

b_b  ·  1827 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Ohio inmate’s death called ‘horrific’ under new, 2-drug execution

We need a return to the firing squad or to public hangings. Or maybe beheading. Lethal injection is a copout. Killing is violent. I despise that we always try to sanitize it. It's a dishonest attempt to make the forcible taking of another life clean, neat and non-violent. If we want to make it painless, how about anesthesia, followed by hanging the inmate upside down and cutting his carotid artery. He would die in seconds and feel nothing. Oh, but the blood! We can't handle the blood! We love to pretend that by injecting toxic chemicals into a person so that they can't speak, move, or writhe in pain is a non-violent extinguishing of life, rather than a state-sponsored murder (which is what it actually is). I think that there's an argument to be made in favor of the death penalty, but I can't abide the way in which we employ it. There's no such thing as a humane death penalty. I think we would use it a lot more appropriately if we had to face the reality of what it means to kill someone.

b_b  ·  1945 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Why You Don't Actually 'F*cking Love Science'

I never hesitated because of the money. Being poor kind of sucks, but it's more than offset by the fact that you get up and are excited to go to work everyday. It took me five years to do my PhD, at which time I never made more than $24,000, then I spent two years as a post-doc at about $40,000. The great thing about a science PhD, however, is that it's not an expense. The school pretty much always picks up the tab, so at least there's no debt to contend with.

I didn't know that I would basically end up a biologist, but I was reasonably certain from a young age that I wanted to be a scientist. My grandfather worked as an engineer for the Navy and then was a high level administrator at NASA back before it was even called NASA (started as NACA). I always heard his stories about building and testing rockets ("We were literally writing the textbooks," is what he always said), and it made me want to be a physicist. When I finally went to grad school for physics, I went for biophysics, because I serendipitously discovered a love for biology when during a gen ed bio requirement, I came across a book called Full House by Stephen Jay Gould, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

I haven't accomplished nearly what I'd like to, and I hope I don't until I die. I want to keep researching, and making interesting observations. It's what makes me tick. It's frustrating at times, because you can go for months with nothing interesting happening, but then shit like getting your study featured on the cover of the largest cancer publication happens (a work mk and I did together) and it's the greatest feeling in the world (he would never brag about it, but I don't mind ;):

The great thing is that no matter how awesome your discovery, there's always more work to be done.

b_b  ·  2175 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Lil's Book of Questions: Will You Marry Me?

    Finally, for the heterosexual marriage to ever overcome its historic reputation as a relationship based on power and control -- a reality which continues in many parts of the world -- we must model equality.

This is one reason that I reject marriage out of hand. It is historically about transfer of ownership from the father to the husband, and I, for one, don't want the responsibility of owning another human. Slavery has ended, but marriage survives. In the US, spousal rape wasn't even a crime until, what, the mid-70s in a lot of states? Its stupid and outdated. Marriage should be abolished in the eyes of the law. Leave it as a religious practice. We can already co-own a house with whomever we want. We can designate power of attorney to whomever we want. These are civil functions that fall under contract law, and man, woman, gay, strait, are all the same. Why should you get a tax break for being married? So throw that out the window. In the end, the two benefits that marriage affords that are not open to the rest of us sinners are a) being able to designate a singular person who can inherit your estate tax free (but let's be honest, in the US the estate has to be worth way more money than most of us have to even make that an issue), and b) we can't impart legal residency to an alien of our choosing. If those few things were rectified though legislation, then all of the arguments about marriage become null and void. Princess fantasies and dreams of the big, fancy wedding keep women as willing conspirators in their own enslavement. I see no place for it in modern society.