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Friday, July 30, 2010

Hiatus

I meant to mention this yesterday, but I was a tad busy.

Posting will likely be lighter than usual around here for the next week.

My son and I flew down to Michigan yesterday.  We're in the southwestern part of the lower peninsula, i.e it's green and beautiful (and HOT), but the connectivity is firmly rooted somewhere in the mid-1990's and the phone still comes with a rotary dial.


We're down here to help my parents make some repairs to the farm and I expect I'll be fairly busy most of the time I'm here.   And I've got to go over to Detroit next week for the retirement of a friend.

So, don't be surprised if I'm a tad out of touch for the next week or so.

Which is not to say that I might not be able to make some time for a few of you people, should the invite arise. Especially if there's pizza involved. Just saying.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reverse Engineering the Tea Party

Don’t you just love it when some outspoken sanctimonious political hack pours gasoline over his head and then proceeds to strike a match?

Especially when it’s some smug holier-than-thou douchebag?

Little amuses me more than to see yet another one of these hateful idiots engaged in self immolation.

Yesterday, Republican candidate for Tennessee Governor, Tea Party Conservative and current state Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey did exactly that.  During a campaign stop in Chattanooga, he opined that the US Constitutional guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion may not apply to Muslims.

The logic being, in Ramsey’s words, that Islam is “a cult.”

Don’t take my word for it, listen to Ramsey:

(Note: it’s not a mosque, it’s a religious family center and it already exists – it was just applying for an expansion)

(Note: There is NO community in the United States that is under Sharia law. None. Period. Sharia law has absolutely no legal status in the United States. Now if US Muslims choose to live under Sharia restrictions, say like Catholics live under restrictions imposed by the Vatican, well you know that’s their business)

(Note: Did you see which Constitutional Amendments mattered to Ron Ramsey? Tea Party right down the middle)

(Note the number of people of color in the room. Note the number of anybody who wasn’t old, white, and scared shitless of some big “Invasion.” These are the kind of fucking assholes who brought you McCarthyism and the Red Scare)

 

As I’m sure you know, in America freedom of religion doesn’t apply to just any belief system. You’re perfectly free to practice your beliefs, just as long as you’re a Christian, only then are you protected under the Constitution. To these Tea Party Conservatives, Freedom of Religion means freedom to worship Jesus. Period.

That’s their real vision for America – the rights and privileges of the land, along with the law, shall only apply to those we approve of, everybody else will just have to go hang.

According to Ramsey, Islam is more of a “way of life” or a “nationality” than what you’d call an actual religion, he’s not really sure. You can tell because a real religion comes complete with The One True God™, a prophet or two, a Holy Book, threats of damnation and eternal torment unless you toe the line, arcane rituals, a guy in a pointy hat, and some arbitrary dietary requirements that probably made some kind of sense back when people slept with the goats and got hoof and mouth disease as a form of entertainment but nowadays are mostly just irritating the piss out of the rest of us.  Unlike Christianity, Islam has none of those things. Also, unlike Christianity in American, Islam keeps trying to get involved in politics and the schools and people’s sex lives and the rewriting of history. And there’s the sharia, Islamic Law, Christianity would never, ever, ever, ever, try to poke its nose into American law. Never.  And, of course, Islam is violent – it keeps shooting abortion doctors, beating up gays and illegal immigrants, and demanding that we declare war on Iran. 

Yes, yes, I know, it’s killing you. Go ahead, do it, make the facepalm and quit rolling your eyes and snorting repressed guffaws of derision through your nose. Go on, get it out of your system.

Every major media outlet from USA Today to CBS News jumped on Ramsey’s statement – which, of course, they should have.  It’s pretty obvious that this guy is just another Tea Party tool and he certainly should be called out on it, just like Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle and the rest of these creeps. There’s not much I could add to those articles, other than the appropriate pointing and laughing. 

Why then mention it? (not that pointing and laughing isn’t a good enough reason)

Well, see, the reason I bring it up is because there is something about those articles themselves that amuses and confounds me.  Read this Huffington Post piece, see if you can figure it out.  I’ll wait.

 

 

Did you spot it?

No? OK, I’ll tell you.

It’s the subtle undercurrent of outrage and rebuke that twines through the fabric of these articles like a glistening  thread of righteousness. 

For some bizarre reason, people still act surprised when Tea Party Conservatives exhibit blatant intolerance, racism, homophobia, sexism, bigotry, warhawk nationalism, and a fundamental ignorance of anything not having to do with guns, God, tractor pulls, and beer brewed in Milwaukee. 

This is exactly how these people think.  This is precisely the message Palin tweets to her drooling mouth breathing fans every single day. This is the message Sharron Angle is delivering.  This is the message that Michael Steele put out to the RNC with his little loyalty pledge. This is exactly what George H.W. Bush meant when he said he didn’t think atheists could be patriots or should even be considered Americans.  This is the message Bill Donohue preaches from his pulpit at the Catholic League every single day. 

And this is the message that runs through every tea party rally, meeting, and convention. 

These people want to retake America for Americans – but what they always fail to mention out loud is that in their version of America, they get to define what an American is.  There’s nothing new here, this is exactly how selfishness and self-centeredness and bigotry and hate and racism and intolerance work.  This is exactly how you justify it.

No, of course you can’t own people in America, that’s just silly talk - too damned bad you negroes aren’t people, eh? Now go pick the fucking cotton.

Certainly we would never experiment on people without their consent, that’s Nazi shit right there – but of course, soldiers aren’t like real people, and neither are blacks as we’ve already established. Besides it’s important to find out how syphilis ravages the body or LSD destroys the mind, you know, so that we can fix help real people.

Of course we believe that you should be free to marry whoever you want, we’re not like those filthy 3rd World countries with their arranged marriages and honor killings and that kind of thing. As long as you love each other, that’s what matters – too bad fags can’t really love each other, not like actual people do.

Certainly Jesus commanded us to help poor people – and we would if we could find any but fortunately for us hunger and AIDs and disease and poverty and war only seem to afflict sub-humans, not real people. Praise God.

Why yes, I live a Christian life – but that’s different from Islam as a lifestyle, because Muslims, you see, aren’t really what you could call actual people.

Oh yes, yes, America is a Christian nation, yes it is – but that too is different from Islam being a nationality.  Yep.

Sure we’ve got freedom of religion here, we’re not like those horrible intolerant Muslim countries, no siree – too bad your beliefs aren’t an actual religion.

And that’s how it works, you just declare the other person invalid. You declare them not human.  You just declare them not Americans.  It’s simple really.  You simply deny them membership in the human race.

Ever since Reagan’s second term, the Right has been moving the political centerline, pulling it further and further over to their side of the court.  If you don’t like it, they say, well then you can just get the fuck out of America, and you can hear it implicit in the words – not our America, my America. Mine. That’s their answer to everything, you’re either with us or against us.  No compromise.  No we won’t work with you, we’ll throw you off the island instead. 

First they got rid of the Reagan democrats and the Centrists like me, once Reagan was reelected they no longer needed us. Then the Clinton and Bush years let the GOP flush out the Progressives and turned “Moderate” into a sneering curse equivalent in the Conservative lexicon to “Liberal.” Barack Obama’s election gave rise to the Tea Party and the line surged right, and right again.  And now, the GOP is an increasingly concentrated solution of high molar extremism.  And yet, the media still manages to sound surprised when a Tea Party Conservative like Palin, Angle, Paul, or Ramsey matter-of-factly blurts out  distilled extremism without a shred of self-consciousness just exactly the way a Klansman used to talk about the inferiority of blacks in the segregationist South.

It amuses me, watching the Tea Party vigorously protest being labeled racist by the NAACP (especially since the Tea Party’s response consists mostly of, “I know you are, but what am I?!”).  I find the irony of this hysterically funny.

The Tea Party is racist. The Tea Party is a bunch of bigots. The Tea Party is a bunch of homophobes.  The Tea Party is a bunch of sexists.  The Tea Party is, in short, a bunch of nationalistic rightwing religious fanatics.

Allow me to demonstrate:

There’s a process in intelligence work called reverse engineering. When you’re trying to figure out what’s going inside of a black box, you look first at the goesintoes and the goesoutofs, i.e. the inputs and the outputs. You observe the device’s behavior. You measure changes in temperature and its amperage draw.  This technique often tells you everything you need to know about what’s happening inside that box without having to pry open the lid – in short, if it walk, talks, and quacks like a duck, it’s damned unlikely to be a flux capacitor.

You do the same thing with encrypted messages. You usually don’t even need to crack the encipherment, you can often tell everything you need to know about the message from analysis of its externals, the frequency and mode of transmission, the bandwidth and encryption technique and the direction it came from, who sent it and who it was aimed at.

Reverse engineering and signals analysis works pretty good for organizations like the Tea Party too. To wit:

It wasn’t until a black man was elected president that these so-called patriots finally got enraged enough to get off their fat asses and start yelling about the government. Sixteen years of Reagan and Bush and Bush again wiping their conservative asses all over the Constitution, the Patriot Act and its secret provisions, being shook down in the airports, secret police, a recession, hell 9/11, couldn’t get them to turn off the WWF and Star Search and pay attention. Clinton didn’t send them swarming into the streets.  But put a black man in the White House and boy howdy see if that didn’t wake them the fuck up.

They couldn’t be bothered when Clinton put his wife in charge of healthcare reform, but let a black man talk about access to healthcare for all Americans and they got fired right up and started talking about seceding from the Union and taking their guns to Washington, didn’t they?

Reagan sold illegal weapons in Central America to finance an illegal war in the Middle East, or maybe it was that he sold illegal weapons in the Middle East to finance an illegal war in Central America, I forget, none of these people gave a shit – hell, they think Ollie North is some kind of hero.  Bush Lite started a full blown war under false pretext and they were singing God Bless America as their children marched to their deaths.  A black man talked about ending the war and bringing their kids home – and they decried him as a traitor.

They put on their little Halloween costumes and painted up some signs with Obama with a Hitler moustache and a bone through his nose and they marched on down to City Hall then, didn’t they? 

And it wasn’t until a bunch of black people at the NAACP called them racists that they got all indignant about bigotry and decided they better do something about it.

For the last two years these toads have croaked fear and hatred from every street corner and vigorously denied the blatantly obvious bigotry in their own ranks. They point to one token brown face in a sea of thousands of white ones - and proclaim they represent all Americans, but of course you know what they mean when they say real Americans.  They point to one yellow-dog democrat lost in rank upon rank of right-wing fanatics - and proclaim they hold the center.  There are no Muslims in their ranks, are there? Few, if any, atheists and vanishingly few Jews - almost no non-Christians in fact. There no Liberals. Maybe a token Latino or two. No Asians of any significance.  You don’t need two hands to count the number of Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transgendered folks in the Tea Party ranks.  And so it goes. When asked about this, the Tea Party spokesbigots simply shrug dismissively and claim that they represent the true American people – and the implication is obvious, they simply regard anybody outside their ranks as unAmerican and not worth consideration.

Go back and read that USA Today link, did you catch the part about Dove World Outreach Center? A fine bunch of patriotic conservatives they are. Go read their blog, hell just read the titles of the posts and you’ll see a striking similarity to that bandied about by the Tea Party (Note: I wrote to Dr. Terry Jones to ask him Dove World’s official position on the Tea Party, so far I’ve gotten nada in return). These people make you proud to be Americans, don’t they? They’ve started something called International Burn A Quran Day, which they’ve decreed shall take place during Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic feast day of Ramadan (and let me be the first to declare International Burn the Fucking Bible Day, takes place on Easter Morning. Have fun and remember, kids, the best part is after the campfire – it’s the Jesus piƱata!). This is exactly the type of freedom of religion Ramsey is talking about, right here and no mistake.

Birthers and Truthers and Ayn Rand Libertarians. Gun nuts. Creationists. LaRouchies. Anti-Federalists.  You can visit any Tea Party rally and see haters of every stripe, but you’d be hard pressed to find more than half a dozen non-Christian, non-whites, non-conservatives, pro-government folks among them.

The Tea Party claims they have no leaders, yet who do they follow? Palin? Beck? Limbaugh? Bachman? What’s the message there again? Exclusion. America for Americans. Liberals are destroying our country. War on this, war on that. You’re either with us or against us.  God, guns, and English only. And then there are the candidates. Without fail, every candidate backed by Tea Party Conservatives spews the same kind of nonsense as Ron Ramsey.

And that’s the truly ironic part, right there.

See the Tea Party got all soggy and hard to light when the NAACP called them a bunch of bigots, and they missed the fact that at least the NAACP had the guts to call out the Tea Party to its leathery white face.  But Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Angle, Ramsey, Brewer, Bachman, and all the rest of these cowardly scumbags simply make bigoted statements and assume the Tea Party will come along for the ride. Why? Well, because it does.  Politicians backed by the Tea Party say this kind of thing because they themselves think the Tea Party is a bunch of racists and bigots and sexists and homophobes, that condemnation is explicit in their own words. They say it, because they know that’s exactly what the Tea Party wants to hear. That’s right. Notice not one of those people in the Ramsey video corrected him. Not one. These politicians are shrewd and they’re greedy and they lust after power and they’ll whore themselves out in any degrading manner necessary to get those votes. They damned well know their audience. And when they say things like “Islam is a cult” and shouldn’t be afforded protection under Constitutional Freedom of Religion it’s because they damned well expect to get away with it.

And they do.

After all, it wasn’t the Tea Party who condemned Ramsey’s remarks, was it?

The teabaggers can protest the label of racism and bigotry all they like.

But in the end, the proof is in the engineering.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Portable AND Compact!

And thus was born the amateur porn industry

image

You should have seen the cell phone this thing was embedded in.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Do Not Be Alarmed

All is well.

I decided it was time for some renovations around here.

I'll be fooling with the design and layout of Stonekettle Station for the next few days.  You may see some formatting weirdness.

You're welcome to express your opinion of the changes in the comments section, and like always I'll probably just ignore your pitiful little complaints...

... unless, of course, there's money involved

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Update 1: There are now quick link badges for Email, Blogger, Twitter, and Facebook on the bottom of each post - just in case you'd like to share my incredibly insightful and life-changing posts with your vast army of electronic friends and family via social networking media.

You can also rate each post.

And there may be more to come - I'm trying to add things gradually.  You know how it is, make too many changes and the next thing you know Mel Gibson is on the line calling you a filthy whore.

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Update 2: Yes, I know some of the pictures from older posts slop over into the link bar on the right.  Suck it up, Buttercup, I'm not going back through three years of posts and reformat - not even if Mel Gibson calls up and threatens to have me violated by a gang of unicorns or something.

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Update 3: Gak.  In low-resolution on a smaller monitor, the new color scheme is a lot like spending an evening in the bar trying to get Mel Gibson's car keys away from him while he hits on your wife and vomits on your shoes.   Since you cheap bastards can't be forced to upgrade your display systems to something approximating the shiny hi-tech Twenty Tens, I suppose I'll have to make some changes later this evening.

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Update 4: The Recent Comments gadget over there on the widget bar apparently doesn't display properly (or at all) in IE. A technical solution to this display problem can be found here.
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Update 5: I don’t like it. I keep fooling with this template, but I just don’t like it.  You may expect further design changes later this weekend.

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Update 6: Mel called. He didn't like it either - though he blamed the poor design on a certain religious minority and then called me a filthy lying whore.

I like the current snowy background design, black letters on white.
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Final Update for Now:
I think you're looking at Stonekettle Station's new template for at least the next couple of weeks.  I'll be out of town for a while, and I'm fairly satisfied with how things look and work at the moment. There may be some additional minor fiddling, depending how much access to bandwidth I have during the trip. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In Memoriam

A long time ago I had a student.

I was a Navy instructor at a small special projects facility in a remote part of Maine.

The program was highly classified and I won’t tell you anything about it, other than to say that the personnel who passed through were a bit out of the ordinary – especially in the early days of the program. At that time, as a group, the students who attended the school  were hand selected from an already elite division of the navy and they tended to be a serious cut above the average in a number of different ways.

The program itself is long gone, lost in the dust of the Cold War, and those of us who once filled its ranks are scattered to the four winds, some are still on active duty, some left the Navy and followed other paths, some like me are retired, and some of us are dead. As group, the members of that program, were an astounding bunch of folks, some of the finest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

Which is not to say that we didn’t get a few unusual characters.

And one of the most unusual was a young Petty Officer named Jacob Joubert.  When Jake first walked into my classroom I didn’t know what to think. Shaven headed, covered in ink, intense, brash, loudly outspoken, utterly contemptuous of idiots, and, unlike most of the folks who entered that classroom with no idea whatsoever of what they were getting themselves into, Jake wasn’t the least bit intimidated. And it didn’t take long to figure out that he was fiercely intelligent as well.

He was also an unabashed smartass.

None of those things are a good combination in a junior Petty Officer.

As such, it didn’t take long for Jake to end up on the Senior Chief’s shit-list – and that’s not a good place to be.

A couple weeks into the seven month course, I was selected for Chief and spent the next two months going through the hell that was then Chief Petty Officer Initiation – and just for added fun, the birth of my son happened at the same time (whee!). Eventually I put on my Anchors and was detached from the schoolhouse, and my wife and I headed north with a month-old baby in the back of the Jeep. Once in Alaska, I took over one of the program’s detachments as Assistant Officer in Charge.  Several months later, when it came time for Jake’s class to graduate and take orders to the field, I specifically asked for the class’s three troublemakers – including Jake – and the schoolhouse was more than happy to let me have them.  They arrived in Alaska with some of the worst evaluations I have ever seen, seriously.  All three were recommended for discharges at the earliest possible convenience to the navy – and all three turned out to be some of the finest Sailors I’ve ever had the privilege of leading.  Which is not to say they didn’t continue to cause me grief – Jake especially, who continued his habit of being a thorn in the side of the Officer in Charge and earned himself a special place in the ire of the program’s Command Master Chief (Jake came by this position honestly, something involving the Master Chief’s daughter or possibly daughters plural, and I’ll say no more about it). But truthfully, Jake and his shipmates and the members of Detachment One (later Seven) were a blast and hell of a fine bunch of folks and being their Chief was one of the best experiences of my life. 

Jake earned himself enough college credits while on active duty to be selected for the Seaman to Admiral program and he went off to the University of Utah to finish his degree … and was then selected for a full commission as a Naval Officer.  He went to sea as a Surface Warfare Officer and became one of the top officers in the fleet - and now he’s a teacher, running the NROTC program at NC State and training the next generation of navy leaders.

Pretty damned good for a smart-mouthed kid who should have been separated from naval service long ago, eh?

 

But see, Jake’s also a painter, an astoundingly talented artist.

His work has been slowly gaining recognition - and recently he’s started a project called “In Memoriam” and that has brought Jake’s art recognition at the national mainstream level.

In Memoriam is a series of huge canvasses, twelve 10x10 paintings, one for each major conflict fought by the United States military over the course of our country’s history.  The paintings are a complex pattern of marks, more than a million and half of them, one mark for every member of the US military killed in conflict.  It’s an enormous undertaking, five to six hours a day of meticulous work spread over six months.

I’d consider it a personal favor if you were to visit his site, Collaborate Unlimited, and learn more about this project and Jake himself. While there listen to the interview Jake gave to NPR last week, it won’t take you long to realize you’re listening to one of the people who make a real difference in the world around them.  Jake has set up a Facebook site where the goal is to have the page membership surpass the total number of those who have given their lives so that the rest of us may be free. I’d love it if you signed up and helped my friend Jake reach his goal.

Thanks.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

If The Bible Was Written By Christians

As many of you long time readers probably know, I am not a religious person.

No! Say it ain’t so, Jim!

Yes, yes, big surprise there.

I am neither a spiritual nor a religious person. And in fact, my position on religion, organized or otherwise, can probably be best summed up as somewhere between “not interested” and “violent hostility” trending around “impatient contempt” on the Leave-Me-The-Hell-Alone-O-Meter depending mostly on how you approach me with your particular belief system.  I.e. if you begin with “Say, would you be interested in discussing my beliefs in a mutually respectful and I don’t try to convert, witness, condemn, or otherwise nail your ass to a cross, light you on fire, or pelt you with heavy stones manner ” you’ll probably get my patented, “Thanks, I respect you, but I’m really not interested in your relationship with Crom” response.  On the other hand if you approach me with wild eyes, waving your holy book, froth, spittle, and the Burning Fever of The Prophet Upon You or you appear to be carrying matches or a hammer and nails or the Instruments of God’s Holy Inquisition, you’re very likely to meet with sudden physical violence on your private parts from which you’ll suffer grievously and for a protracted period – you would also do well to remember that I’m armed, I own several chainsaws and a wide assortment of tools for disassembling large mammals into their component parts, and a lot of heavily forested, isolated, bear infested land in Alaska. I just mention this in passing, is all, something to think about while you’re standing uninvited on my porch reaching for the doorbell button.

My personal outlook when it comes to religion, faith, belief, and spirituality can best be summed up by the phrase, “Show me the money.”  If you can prove to me using testable and repeatable criteria that your beliefs are indeed a demonstrable reality, I’ll believe. Simple as that. Otherwise, no dice. I will not take religion on faith. Period. No more so than if you claimed to be able to predict the future with an accuracy significantly above that of random chance or levitate the furniture with the power of your brain and a handful of magic crystals.  I think if you claim God spoke to you and commanded you to run for Senator from Nevada (for example) or Governor of Alaska (for example), you should have to prove that claim in a court of law and/or laboratory setting or admit that you stopped taking your medication. You’re the one with the invisible friends, Harvey the Rabbit is your assertion, the burden of proof is on you.  

I think this is fair, I put exactly the same onus on science.

At the moment I regard most religious beliefs about the same way I regard cold fusion – I’m doubtful in the extreme however I am willing to reconsider, but I’m still waiting for you to put your cards on the table. And to be candid, I’m a tad less skeptical of cold fusion.

Honestly? I don’t care. I don’t. I just don’t care. Soon enough, I’ll be dead – then I’ll know. Until then I’m going to live my life in the same manner I do now, which is a hell of a lot more productive, just, moral, ethical, compassionate, and closer to the principles most mainstream religions profess to espouse than a large majority of devoutly religious leaders and people I could name.  If it turns out I’m wrong, well then the Great Bird of the Universe can kiss my ass and I’ll deal with it then. I’d say that you would also then be free to point and laugh, but that would be damned unchristian of you, wouldn’t it? You might get unceremoniously booted out of heaven and end up being my cellmate – at which point I’ll point and laugh at you. Probably best you just worry about the beam in your own eye and leave me to deal with my mote in peace. 

Which is not to say that I don’t actually know something about religion. Because I do.

Which is probably what reflexively pisses me off about it.

Way, way too often religion isn’t about faith, it’s about power.  It’s about control. It’s about attention. It’s about making other people do what you want - not what your deity wants but what you want.  It may not have started out that way, but far, far, far too often that’s exactly how it ends up. 

When God hates all the same people you do, that’s a pretty good indicator that your beliefs have gone off the rails.

In yesterday’s post I used the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example, and something Vagabond said in the comments really set me to thinking about it again. While I think the Christian Bible has a lot of irrelevant or silly or down-right evil stuff in it, I also think there are a lot of good things in there too - such as the parable of the Good Samaritan.  What astounds me is how many so-called Christians seem to focus on the assholery and ignore the really good things. It never ceases to amaze me how many Christians quote the Old Testament in support of their particular agenda, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-this, anti-that, what have you, instead of quoting their Christ. Could that be because Jesus didn’t say the things they would like to claim he did? And as a result they have to reach back into the old, more primitive, less peaceful, hateful portions of the Bible - before their prophet showed up - in order to support their own personal agenda?

Again, when God hates all the same exact people and things you do, it might be time to do some actual soul searching.

I have to wonder what the parable of the Good Samaritan would look like if it was penned by the “Christians” I see on my TV every day, instead of by Paul’s pal the Syrian doctor.

 

Hmmmm, what would that be like?

Just for instance, let’s say the Second Coming takes place at a Tea Party rally…

The Parable of the Bueno Latino:

…An “expert” in the law stood up to test Jesus.

Expert: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus: “Dude, how many times do I have to go over this? Look, what’s written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”

Expert: “Be nice to people?”

Jesus: “Bingo! Love your neighbor. Do this and you win the lotto.”

Expert: “That’s it? Love my neighbor? Yo, longhair, what kind of hippy shit is that? My neighbor is queer as a three-Shekal coin! He’s Swish McLightintheloafersson! I’m not lovin’ him. What else you got?”

Jesus sighed and raised his eyes to Heaven. Why, why hast thou forsaken me? he mouthed silently at the sky.  “Let me give you an example,”  he said to the Expert. “This Muslim dude was on his way from San Francisco down to LA and along the way he gets mugged. A bunch of punk ass bitches took his money and his ride and his iPhone. They even took his clothes. Then they gave him a major beat down. They f’ed his shit up, man.”

Expert: “Serves him right. He should have been packin’.  2nd Amendment Rights, that’s what I’m talking about! The damned Nazi Communists are ruining this country. Goddamned, pardon my French, liberals will probably just let them punks go! Not that an Ayrab don’t deserve to get lit up.”

Jesus: “Yeah, annnnnyway, this guy is laying there, half dead in the rest stop parking lot.  A TV Evangelist comes rolling up in his Lexis, and drives down to the other end of the lot pretending like he doesn’t see the guy laying there bleeding.”

Expert: “Boo fucking hoo. He’s from San Francisco, he’s probably a friggin homo anyway.”

Jesus: “Next, along comes a businessman. He’s on his phone and he’s too busy to help. He drives on by.”

Expert: “Why in the hell should business help this queer out? See? That’s the problem in this country, bunch of lazy bastards expect handouts from business, no wonder all our jobs are going to India!”

Jesus raised a hand, wroth, lightening crackled. Then he sighed again, “turn the other cheek, Jesus, turn the other cheek,” he said to himself. He continued on with the story, “Finally, a migrant laborer came along on his way up to the San Joaquin Valley to pick cabbages and lettuce.”

Expert: “This story sucks! I don’t even know who to root for, the illegal or the towelhead guy.”

Jesus: “I’m starting to understand why my pops tried to drown the whole damned lot of you people a while back.”

Expert: “What?”

Jesus: “I told him that eight people, all relatives, wasn’t enough to restart the human race. Did he listen? Oh hell no. Now look at you drooling idiots.”

Expert: “What?”

Jesus: “Nothing, Harelip.  Look, the Mexican guy sees the Muslim laying there bleeding and so he stops, bandages the man’s wounds, and helps him into his own truck. Then he drives him to the hospital.”

Expert: “I can see where this is going. I bet that Arab guy didn’t have insurance. And who gets to pick up the tab? The taxpayers, right?”

Jesus: “Wrong. The Mexican guy pulls out his Visa Silver and pays for the man’s medical treatment. Then he says if there is anything more, send me the bill.”

Expert: “Ahhhh, I think I see.”

Jesus: “You get the point of the story, right?”

Expert: “I got it. Jeez with the preaching already.”

Jesus: “Good, now go and do likewise!”

The Expert returned to the others and explained how God told him illegal aliens were using socialism to ruin the best healthcare system in the world. Afterward, on the way home from the rally, the expert and his friends beat up some queers in a rest stop bathroom because they figured that’s what Jesus told them to do.

Amen.

 

Next: Loaves and Fishes –or- Jesus demonstrates that unemployment benefits contribute to the entitlement mentality of laziness. 

And: Water to Wine? Why the Liberals are stealing our vital fluids.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You might be a Teabagger if…

 

- you’ve recently apologized to an oil company … right after depositing a large check.

-  you insist on “fiscal responsibility” by refusing to continue unemployment benefits for lazy parasites “who won’t get a job” while demanding that the Bush tax cuts be extended to hard working Americans “who are bearing the burden of the financial crisis”… you know, like Paris Hilton.

- you drove your Hummer H1 to the Tea Party rally … in order to protest national energy policy reform.

- you think states rights are really important and each state should be able to determine what’s best for its own population … so you join the Tea Party Express and travel to other states in order to make sure they elect only the candidates Sarah Palin decrees are right for them.

- you declare yourself a real American patriot and proclaim to all who will listen how you’ll fight to the death for this country but like Sarah and Glenn and Rush and Dick and Ann and Michelle and Sharron, you have never actually put your own ass on the line or served in the military yourself … because that kind of thing is for suckers, knuckle draggers, morons, and other people’s kids.

- you know the goddamned biased liberal lamestream media can’t be trusted … because FOXnews and the Wall Street Journal told you so.

- you solemnly swear to leave the country and never come back if a certain liberal is elected to the presidency, and then you just sort of shrug and shuffle your feet and claim you were kidding when it comes time to make good … but everything else you say is absolutely true. Swear to Jesus, a man’s word is his bond. Trust me. 

- you’re mad as hell and you’re not gonna take it anymore and by God you’re passionate about taking America back for true Americans … you know, the 5% of the population who aren’t Liberals (or liberals) or centrists or moderates or progressives or those damned  RINOs or those stinking socialists or the queers or those funny looking brown skinned people or those slanty-eyed sons of bitches or people with accents or people who don’t go to your church or those city folks or those “native” (yeah, right) Americans or the Elites or the bunny huggers or, well, you get the idea, those damned anti-American people, those bastards, you know.

- you don’t want one penny of your tax dollars going to bail out Wall Street or Detroit … because that money should be used for cleaning up after Exxon and British Petroleum.

- you’re sick and tired of empty slogans from Washington … because Mama Grizzlies are like pit bulls when it comes to that sort of thing, it’s just common sense.

- you can name all of America’s Founding Fathers by heart … lets see there was, uh, well, George Washington of course, and Abraham Lincoln and that guy what started the insurance company with the really big signature and Neil Armstrong and uh, um, don’t rush me, Sneezy, Grumpy, Doc, Curly, Moe, Larry and there was Jesus, he was there in the picture standing next to Ronald Reagan and Donner and Blitzen and the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria and Lewis and Clark and Chuck Norris and well, look, if I ever need to know it I can always look it up in a Texas school textbook anyway so piss off you fucking hippies.

- you can’t believe people buy into hokey pseudo-science like global climate change … anybody who’s ever studied creationism knows real fact-based science when they see it.

- you believe unborn babies have a right to life, even if you have to kill somebody to ensure they are born … but once they’re sucking air those lazy welfare-dependent crackhead parasites better get a job, because they damned sure aren’t your problem … unless they’re brain dead in a coma and somebody wants to unplug them, then you’ll step up, you bet.

- speaking of abortion, you believe that not one dime of federal money should ever be used for an abortion of any kind. Ever. Even if you have to deny 30 million Americans access to healthcare to make sure … instead that money should be used for faith-based programs, something all Americans don’t mind their tax dollars being spent on. Plus, faith based programs are really, really effective and it’s not like you’re not getting your money’s worth out them. Just ask Bristol Palin.

- you believe that all Americans should have freedom of religion … to worship Jesus.

- you believe that anybody who protests the war should have the stuffing stomped out of them … by people waving posters of the president with a Hitler mustache.

- You’re mad as hell that the government hasn’t done more to protect the Gulf beaches … say by dissolving the EPA.

- You want America out of the United Nations … because isolationism worked so well for us in the past, plus chicks dig the rogue state.

- You keep doing the same thing over and over … and expect different results.

- You keep a copy of the US Constitution in your back pocket with the second part of the 2nd Amendment highlighted … the rest of the document is mostly just “framing” anyway.

- You believe all Americans have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness … unless they’re gay.

- You’re foursquare against young girls getting the HPV vaccine … because cervical cancer is God’s way of keeping sinful women from becoming filthy whores! Like their mothers!

- You honestly think that the president, a Constitutional law professor from one of the best law schools in the country, doesn’t know anything about the Constitution … that’s why you want a bumfuck small town mayor and half term quitter with a 2-year degree in sports journalism (that took six years and three schools to earn) as president, because she’s the expert.

- You hate Washington gridlock … that’s why you voted out the moderates, centrists, and those willing to seek compromise. You’re either with us or you’re against us, either way let’s filibuster.

- You’re more than willing to discuss immigration reform … but like The Princess and the Pea, first the President must complete one impossible task. That’s reasonable, right?  It’ll be like a quest.

- You’re not a racist, you just think that if black people are going to be in the White House they should be qualified … as cooks, maids, and houseboys.

- You’re sure God is a Republican and you can quote the Ten Commandments and those passages in Leviticus as evidence of this belief and you insist that the Bible should be taken literally when it comes to things like rights and marriage and the law, but somehow you never seem to quote Luke 10:30-37

and Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”  Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise"

… because the bible is more of a guideline that whatcha call actual rules. Right? Which is probably a good thing since it’s pretty specific in its condemnation of hypocrites.

 

 

Now you try.

 

 

 


* I was working on another project, gathering information for a political spectrum design that incorporates the highly polarized current US political climate. As part of the project, I wanted to graph Conservative Tea Party ideology visually in a manner similar to that designed by David McCandles and Stefanie Pasavec in the book The Visual Miscellaneum (because as a student of Ed Tufte’s visual presentation of data concepts, I really, really like that design). The above observations were taken from numerous comments made by self-identified TEA party and/or conservative commenters in various forums across the net. It seemed a shame not to share.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Along the Willow River

We set out yesterday for the Target in Wasilla…

…and, as is usual for us, ended up somewhere else.

 

We got to Wasilla and just kept going until we hit Willow. Then we turned to follow the Hatcher Pass road.

It was rainy and overcast when we reached the old bridge across the Willow River:

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Doesn’t look too bad from the side (standing on the new bridge), but up close, well, let’s just say you go first and I’ll watch.

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The river is cold and fast and I have no desire to end up in it

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Eventually we meandered up over the summit of Hatchers Pass and down the other side towards home.

Things were very green in the pass:

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That’s the Summit Lodge in the right foreground (where they filmed the Alaskan Myths episode of Myth Busters) and the Independence Mine back there on the left.

 

Despite the rain, it was a nice and scenic drive. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday in the Woodshop – Carving Day

 

Bear Statues.

Long time readers have seen these before.  For new readers (and there seems to be a bunch of you lately, and you know I appreciate that, thanks), I make these types of things for the local military base.  They’re given as gifts to departing officers as a memento of their service here in Alaska.

I do quite a number of the smaller, simpler ones and the basic process was described in a previous post here.

Upon occasion, I do much more elaborate (and much more expensive) pieces for senior officers – in this case a departing Group Commander, i.e. a senior Air Force colonel. Unlike the simpler designs which have only two standard Air Force challenge coins mounted on their bases, this piece was to have a much larger and more elaborate bear statuette and seven coins of varying sizes representing the group commander’s subordinate squadrons. 

The customer gives me a lot of latitude in the design process, describing the general gist of what they want and leaving the actual design up of the piece to my creativity.  I happen to know the commander in question personally and wanted to do something special for him. And I wanted all of those coins visible from the front and not wrapped around the sides, since I know most of the squadron commanders too and didn’t want anybody to feel slighted.

Also? To be honest – I hate those bear statuettes. As I mentioned in the previous post, I don’t make those, they’re resin copies of some other artist’s work, the Air Force buys them and asks me to incorporate them into the finished piece.  Now, those statuettes are beautifully detailed and the original sculptor is obviously pretty damned talented - but to my eye the statue lookd like a creepy lollipop, big round head floating above a little skinny base. I can certainly understand what the artist was going for with them, given the market they were intended for, but they’re not really my thing and they’ve just always bugged me. 

So, I thought I do something different with this one.

I had some time to think about it, instead of the usual rush job, and played around with a couple of ideas. Eventually I hit upon a design that I thought would work.

I started with a base similar to the ones described in the previous post, and then began adding some additional pieces like so:

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In this step, the whole thing is held together with double sided tape, so I can get an idea of how it will go together and so I can check for fit.  You can see the pencil marks of my rough outline.

Doesn’t look like much, does it?

 

The pieces are removed and cut to rough on the bandsaw. Mounting recesses are drilled for the coins and the whole thing is put back together with tape to see how it looks:

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I like it.  It’s going to look like what I have in my mind’s eye.

 

The wooden pieces get glued together. Bear and coins removed (the bear slides out the back). And I shape the wood using a variety of powered and hand carving tools. Testing for fit along the way:

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In this case, the wood is dried spalted birch. These pieces have been drying in my shop for years now, and are very stable, they won’t shrink or expand much and they are pretty nice pieces with very cool figure and grain.

 

Once the basic carving is complete, I added color to the wood with some black, yellow, and green dyes:

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I know what you’re thinking: Holy crap, Jim. That looks terrible!

It does, doesn’t it?

 

Next the wood is darkened with a torch:

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I know, I know – Aaaaugh! you’re just making it worse!

Relax.

I know what I’m doing.

I lightened things up with the final carving and finish sanding, leaving behind just enough of the color to provide contrast, interest, and help blend the base into the original piece:

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Told you I knew what I was doing, didn’t I?

 

And finally the base is coated in multiple applications of a tough satin finish, which gives it the appearance of being wet without being too shiny:

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The coins and the bear are glued permanently into place and the finished product matches the image in my head pretty much right down to the T. That big empty space in the bottom left is where a brass plaque will go with the commander’s name and other details commemorating his service here in Alaska.

I’m pretty happy with this piece.

More importantly, the customer was ecstatic with it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Weekly ShopKat

I happened to be holding the camera with the 55-200mm telephoto lens mounted when I noticed ShopKat sitting in her favorite spot on top of one of my stock piles.

I love the colors and the contrast in these pictures.  They’re unedited except for size.

 

(Image settings provided for the shutter geeks)

@190mm. Aperture priority mode F-stop 5.6 Exposure 1/320s. ISO 400. Light meter is set to pattern

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@55mm. Aperture priority mode F-stop 5.6 Exposure 1/125s. ISO 200. Light meter is set to pattern.

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ShopKat will now hear your petitions…

 

…and most likely ignore them, as is her wont.

The New Header

It’s some pens what I made.

 

Pens4

And they’re artistically arranged.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Commanding the Djinn

Independence Day got me thinking.

 

Thinking about what, Jim? I hear you all ask in that fascinated and curious tone you use when you wonder what I’m going to do next.

Well, America’s Birthday got me thinking about so-called state’s rights.

And that in turn got me wondering were the Tea Party and the Conservative’s outrage is given the latest outrageous Supreme Court ruling that clearly denies states the right to self determination.

Which decision?

We’ll come back to that.

 

States Rights are a central tenet in Tea Party Conservatism (as distinct from other flavors of conservative extremism) and they are a major rallying cry of the movement. The basic idea here being based on a literal interpretation of the US Constitution as originally written – and ignoring the last two centuries of interpretation and modification to said document along with ignoring the parts of the Constitution that they don’t agree with (sort of like a fundamentalist’s view of Christianity, which, not surprisingly, many Tea Party Conservatives also are).  To achieve this viewpoint you have to either pretend that the US Civil War never happened or have a total and complete lack of understanding of both the causes and the aftermath of that conflict and how it fundamentally answered the question of state’s rights once and for all within the Union.

Now however, since Tea Party Conservatives are increasingly the crank that turns the GOP machinery, States Rights have become a central battle cry of conservatives in general.

Sharron Angle wants to abolish the US Department of Education so that states can determine what they’ll teach our kids without Federal government interference (one presumes they will also take a pass on federal money for education as well. What?).  Angle and others pushing this idea believe that public education should not be based on a national standard, but rather on the desires of local populations. It doesn’t take a lot of reading between the lines here to see that the real agenda is to get Creationism and the Teabagger version of America into the schools – especially since Angle has also made it clear that her version of the Constitution says the Federal Government must stay out of her church, but the converse is not true – i.e. church should be involved in government (well, not just any church, only hers apparently). In fact, most of Angle’s position can be described as anti-federal government.

Here in Alaska, Joe Miller also wants the Department of Education abolished, along with the EPA and every Federal Government department and agency not specifically mentioned in the Constitution (Joe points out that he’s a decorated combat veteran, one wonders how then he’ll explain to his fellow veterans the sudden disappearance of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. But hey, I digress). 

The Texican GOP issued their 2010 policy which says that they believe states ought to be able to ignore US Supreme Court rulings they don’t agree with – especially anything that says gay people ought to be considered, well, you know, people.

Down there in Arizona, Tea Party Conservatism is raging. The governor wants to build a copy of the Berlin Wall around her state – being more concerned about keeping Washington out than the cannibal hordes crossing the boarder from the south - and power commission candidate Barry Wong wants to cut off utilities to anybody deemed unsavory.  John McCain looks positively Socialist in comparison.

Over in Kentucky, Rand Paul is a simmering pot of states rights and anti-federal government rage. Paul claims that he “abhors racism,” but nonetheless thinks that businesses should be able to ignore the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act – both of which were imposed on the citizenry by the Fed (and by “citizen” Rand means white people). Doh. He also thinks that federal income taxes should be abolished along with the Federal Reserve. Geez, wonder where he got that idea? Unsurprisingly, Paul wants the Department of Education eliminated and he wants no federal standards for homeschooling.

Palin? Ahhh, you know, to hell with Palin. We could go on and on about her anti-federal government rhetoric, whatever sells, you know. She’s been talking state’s rights for decades now – from back when she and her doofus loser of a husband were blovating on about Alaska seceding from the Union and going its own way.

These things are the central core of the mindless mob mentality that is the Tea Party and the modern GOP, which is busy purging its ranks of moderates, centrists, progressives, and anybody who isn’t beating the party’s purity drum. Across the nation this weekend, Tea Party Conservatives rallied to put the “independence” back into Independence Day. They handed out copies of the Declaration of Independence and selected quotes from various Founding Fathers (while studiously ignoring those Founders they wish would just fade quietly into the dustbin of history).  There were Revolutionary War reenactments and even booths selling Native American crafts (the irony there is staggering). Up on Capital Hill this last week, the Senate grilled Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and while there was plenty of assholery on both sides of the aisle, Conservatives were particularly concerned about Kagen’s views of the 10th Amendment - that’s the one that grants the states all powers not specifically given to the federal government (You know, the 10th amendment, something that was added later, modifying the original Constitution, but I digress).

You know what they say, right?

When you command the djinn, be very, very careful what you wish for.

Because you just might get it.

See, near as I can tell, what Tea Party Conservatives have in mind is something that looks a lot like a loose confederation of states that share a common currency.

Something that looks a hell of a lot like the European Union.

And, you know, I find that just funny as all hell.

I do.

 

What?

I’m forgetting what?

Oh, yes, that. You’re right, I did open this post with, “…and I’m wondering were the Tea Party and the Conservative’s outrage is, given the latest Supreme Court ruling.”  And I promised to revel which decision I was referring to.

You haven’t figured out what SCOTUS ruling I’m talking about yet?

I would have thought it obvious, since we’re talking about states’ rights and all.

I am, of course, referring to Supreme Court’s decision last week in McDonald v. Chicago, striking down State and local government restrictions regulating gun ownership.

I eagerly await Tea Party Conservative outrage over this latest suppression of states’ rights…

 

Something tells me I’ll be waiting a long time.

A long time indeed.