Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

How soon he forgets:


When asked to judge the Bush administration this morning during an interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said “history will judge that” but then immediately began making an attempt to distance himself from President Bush. One area of “disagreement” McCain cited was torture:


McCAIN: I obviously don’t want to torture any prisoners. There’s a long list of areas that we were in disagreement on –

WALLACE: You’re not suggesting he did want to torture prisoners.

McCAIN: Well, waterboarding to me is torture, OK? And waterboarding was advocated by the administration and, according to published reports, was used. But the point
is, we’ve had our disagreements.


[snip]

McCain seems to forget that he voted against a bill that would have banned the CIA from using waterboarding. In fact, when the bill passed, McCain urged Bush to veto it, which he did. Thus, McCain’s claim that he “obviously doesn’t want to torture prisoners” rings hollow. Indeed, because of Bush’s veto, the CIA retains the option of waterboarding
prisoners…

Amazing how easily he forgets inconvenient little facts like, oh, you know, cheerleading for torture. Maybe he was confused – Bush calls it “enhanced interrorgation,” and I can see where an immature fuckwit might misunderstand what’s actually being discussed.

He’s also a bit unclear on the concept of supporting the minimum wage:


Today on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) why he has voted 17 times against raising the federal minimum wage. (Wallace later corrected himself and pointed out it was 19 times, to which McCain dismissively replied, “Well, or 29 or 49, whatever it is.”) McCain initially attempted to wriggle out of answering by talking about tax cuts.

But when pressed again by Wallace, McCain claimed that he opposed the increases only because they were attached to unrelated spending bills:


McCAIN: I’m for the minimum wage increases when they are not attached to other big-spending pork barrel. The practice in Washington is attach a good thing to a bad thing. And that way, then you have to vote yes or no. […]

Well, fair enough. I can almost see voting against the minimum wage increase 19 times because it was attached to odious bills. There’s just one problem with that explanation:


Ironically, one of the only times McCain actually did support a minimum wage increase was when it was tied to a war funding bill. But on at least 15 occasions, McCain has opposed minimum wage increases that were stand-alone amendments or bills. On April 7, 2000, he even voted against a non-binding “sense of the Senate” resolution “concerning an increase in the Federal minimum wage.”

Heh heh heh oops. He should’a played the POW card.

McCain seems to be going for the “All lies, all the time” style o’ campaign. Sarah Palin’s fitting right in there:


The good news is, the McCain campaign is now starting to tell the public about Sarah Palin’s accomplishments in Alaska. The bad news is, the principal example of Palin’s strength as a leader is a blatant falsehood.

On a couple of the Sunday morning shows, John McCain and his chief surrogates touted Palin’s opposition to the now-infamous “bridge to nowhere,” a $398 million bridge to connect the town of Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents. To McCain and his supporters, Palin’s firm stand against the congressional earmark is compelling evidence of her courage and conviction.

But what McCain and his cohorts are claiming is simply untrue. Palin supported the funding for the project, and kept the federal funds after the bridge deal fell through. Indeed, she ran for governor on a “build-the-bridge platform,” and ended up directing federal funds to other wasteful pork projects, for fear of having to return unused tax dollars funds to the federal government.


Perfect match, she is. Lying from Day One, already practiced in abusing power, clueless on foreign policy… he made the right choice for his Veep.

Maybe they think the more outrageous the lies, the more attention won’t be drawn away from them and fixed on the monstrous hurricane barrelling down on the Gulf Coast. Poor McCain – his biggest fans are abandoning him to go storm chasing:


Today, GOP officials “announced they would hold only essential party business required under its rules on Monday” at their convention in Minnesota. Party officials “have decided that Monday’s session will open at 3 p.m. Central time and probably end at 5 to 5:30 p.m. and will be limited to official business like adopting the platform and electing convention officers.” The New York Times reports on what the media will be doing:


The major television networks are pulling some of their top talent out of Minneapolis, promising to diminish, if not upend, coverage of the convention. Katie Couric will head to the Gulf Coast to open the “CBS Evening News” from there Monday night, instead of from the convention hall as planned. Charles Gibson of ABC News and Brian Williams of NBC News are expected to do the same.


Yup. Everybody’s headed South. Good thing he’s decided to head right down there with ‘em, eh? Not like he’ll be underfoot as authorities desperately scramble to evacuate citizens and save lives at all. Noper.

Anything for a photo op, huh, John? And all Obama’s doing is staying the fuck out of the way, monitoring the situation closely without getting underfoot, and preparing to rally millions of donors and volunteers to help with the disaster once the scope of it’s known. He’s merely acting presidential, not looking it. Silly him.

Stay safe, New Orleans. St. Johnny’s on the way: I’m sure all those camera crews and very serious photo sessions will do loads to help you all survive this.

Sunday Sensational Science

Tangled Banks

Ravenna Park, Seattle, WA

“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”

-Charles Darwin

I’m about to annihilate you lot with science – The 113th Tangled Bank shall be hosted here in just a few short days – so we’re going to take a leisurely walk along the banks, enjoy the glories of the natural world, and explore to our hearts’ content by way of getting ourselves warmed up for the event.

The Tangled Bank is ostensibly themed around “the science of the natural world,” but like so many other arbitrary divisions in science, the neat categories break down upon further inspection. Physics, chemistry, astronomy, and even mathematics aren’t really separate from biology and nature science. It’s all interconnected – inextricably tangled. That was the thing that attracted me to science, so long ago: discovering that everything is joined, and that any division we see is just an arbitrary convenience, when you get right down to it.

This leads to some entertaining juxtapositions. And it’s the excuse I use to study absolutely everything.

Follow me through the Tangled Bank of an SF writer’s interests. And then you might want to take the opportunity to wander off all on your own.

Growing up in Arizona, I heard quite a bit about the mytical jackalope. Imagine how excited I was to discover the truth from Thinkevolution.net in Tangled Bank #84!

Shocking photos of an unusual hybrid-type animal confounded biologists today. Images of what zoo-goers agree look an awful lot like a baby jackalope were posted on the internet today, making evidence against the canonical view of evolution by common descent—which thoroughly rejects the existence of jackalopes, which would require the mating of two phylogenetically divergent and anatomically dissimilar organisms—available worldwide. Jackalopes, also known as “antelabbits” or “stagbunnies” according to Wikipedia, had long been rejected as imaginary joke animals that people from the southwest described to gullible roommates when they went away to college in the east. But the late-breaking images challenge all that.

See? We Arizonans weren’t having you on at all. And we’ve still got that beachfront house for sale in Yuma, incidentally. Fantastic ocean views!

As a writer, two of my great loves are art and language. The Scientific Activist reported in Tangled Bank #71 on a project that combined both of those loves with the fight against global warming:

One potentially effective way of tackling these particular issues, then, could be through art: specifically through large in-your-face, impossible-to-ignore, publicly-visible art projects designed to bring the issue to the forefront of the mind of the incidental viewer.

This is precisely the aim of the debut project of the Precipice Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about global warming and environmental issues through public art. The project, entitled “Indestructible Language”, is the latest creation of artist Mary Ellen Carroll, and, as you might be able to tell, it could make quite an impression…

Indeed. Art can grab you attention in the way no amount of hand-wringing and dire studies ever could. And that’s why artists might end up saving the world.

With the help o’ some scientists, o’ course. We can’t do this all by ourselves.

Not that artists such as meself don’t have great big egos large enough to boast such superpowers – we create worlds, for fucks’ sake. That’s why articles like “Exotic Earths” from Dynamics of Cats, from Tangled Bank #62 , really grab my attention. It’s easier to facilitate the willing suspension of disbelief when you can point to science and say, “See? Perfectly plausible. There’s lots o’ earths. With oceans, even.”

More than one-third of the giant planet systems recently detected outside our solar system may harbor Earth-like planets, according to a new study by scientists associated with NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. Many of these planetsmay be covered in deep global oceans, with abundant potential for life.

There you have it. A Universe crowded with life. So shut up about the impossibility of my farflung space civilizations, already.

Another thing SF writers have to wrestle with is nothing less than the very structure of space-time itself. We’ve got to come up with somewhat reasonable ways for Bob the Bug-eyed Alien to get from Point A to Point B without spending generations doing it. And so it’s a little depressing when articles like “Building Space-Time” come along from Stochastic Scribbles in Tangled Bank #108 and throw cold water all over our FTL parade:

The July issue of Scientific American has an interesting article on how our four-dimensional space-time could arise from basic building blocks that self-organize in a quantum superposition. Their approach, called causal dynamical triangulations, is an extension of Euclidean quantum gravity. But instead of just seeing what a superposition of self-organized building blocks that assemble arbitrarily looks like, which turns out to be a bunched up and very messy space-time with plain Euclidean quantum gravity, they imposed causality on each building block so that they can only assemble in specific ways. Their computer simulations show that the result would be a space-time that looks much like our own on large scales.

[snip]

And if the theory is correct, then the built-in causality would imply that wormholes and time travel would not be possible. While it’s cool that ordinary space-time could be built from first principles, it would be a bummer in that faster-than-light travel or direct observation of historical events would not be possible.

D’oh, shit.

Well. Maybe if the buggers have big enough brains, they’ll figure out something clever. And speaking of brains… I remember being told as a child that when you stopped growing, the brain you had was It. Lose brain cells, and they’re lost forever. It wasn’t until I started researching neurology years later that I got the good news: we may grow new neurons after all. Sharp Brains had the latest on that for Tangled Bank #104:


In the last few years, researchers have discovered that new nerve cells (neurons) are born, presumably from residual stem cells that exist even in adults. That should be good news for all of us as we get older and fear mental decline. The bad news is that these new neurons die, unless our minds are active enough.


[snip]

A critical window of time determines whether or not the new neurons survive. In an experimental test of this time window, mice were housed for one week in an environmentally rich environment (toys, activity wheels, etc.), or for controls in regular cages, beginning one week after injection with a new-neuron DNA-synthesis marker. Results showed that lasting increase was restricted to new neurons that appeared between one and three weeks before living in an enriched environment. This corresponds to the time when new neurons are extending their neurons in search of targets and their dendrites are developing synaptic contacts to the neurotransmitters normally used in the hippocampus. The new neurons that developed during this time window survived up to the four months of monitoring, even when removed the enriched environment.

Ooo, before too much longer, I may be able to grow myself a better brain and keep it. That’s not just good for my characters, that’s good for me!

So many delights within the Tangled Bank, so little time. I haven’t even been able to touch on Salto Sobrius’s Tangled Bank #68 article on the Antikythera mechanism, which fascinated me as a child and may have led to my adoration of all things ancient Greek. I haven’t shared with you The Digital Cuttlefish’s delightful poem on the genetics of the spork from Tangled Bank #105, or PZ’s eminently useful explanation of historical contingency in the evolution of E-coli from Tangled Bank #107. I couldn’t even begin to delight you with genetic expression as explored by Tangled Up In Blue Guy in Tangled Bank #106.

So it goes.

I’ll leave you instead with this fragment of poetry from Denialism Blog’s beautiful Tangled Bank #111 edition. Says it all, really:

    You can’t go against nature
    Because when you do
    Go against nature
    It’s part of nature too.
Roadside Waterfall, Mount Rainier, Washington

If you have something science-related you’d like to submit for Tangled Bank #113, get it in to [email protected] by September 2nd. Or you’ll really wish you had.

As always, click on the pictures for their source. Except in the cases of those with actual captions, which are Dana Hunter originals. Are you impressed? I’m impressed. I’m a decent writer, but a piss-poor photographer, which makes these all the more special for being very nearly good.

The Most Dangerous Politician Ever

No, it’s not McCain. Or Palin. ‘Tis Obama, and he’s dangerous because of a speech.

Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday night was indeed phenomenal, but I hadn’t thought of it as dangerous until I read Kevin Drum’s take:

Tonight Obama made a start on a campaign that’s based not just on talking points (though there will be plenty of those), but on a sustained assault on modern conservatism and a sustained defense of modern liberalism.

But it was only a start. He needs to keep pressing both halves of that game plan, even if it means occasionally saying some hard things. If he takes a few chances and does that, though, he’ll not only win, he’ll win with a public behind him that’s actively sold on a genuinely liberal agenda. This is why conservatives have so far been apoplectic about his speech tonight: if he continues down this road, and wins, they know that he’ll leave movement conservatism in tatters. He is, at least potentially, the most dangerous politician they’ve ever faced. [emphasis added]

*blink*

Wow.

Damn.

Really?

Fuck yes!

The more I see of this man, the more I see the Democratic Party falling in behind him, the more I see even Republicans stepping up to join him, the more I start to believe Kevin’s right. I’ve never heard people speak of a politician this way. Not this full-throated roar of acclamation. Not this thrill. Not to this degree.

Throughout history, a rare handful of human beings have inspired people to rise up, to envision a better world and then throw everything they have into building it. I think Obama’s that man for our era. I don’t know for sure yet – won’t know until I’ve seen him govern. But the enthusiasm, the sense of renewal, tell me that he’s got the potential to be someone very special indeed.

Dr. King was such a man. JFK was such a man. FDR was such a man. Our Founding Fathers were such men.

Every day, it seems increasingly more likely Obama is such a man.

No wonder the Republicons are shit-scared and throwing out every smear they can manufacture. No wonder they had to present a shiny gimmick as McCain’s VP pick. No wonder they’re terrified.

Well they should be.

“The most dangerous politician they’ve ever faced.”

What a ring that has!

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Yes, Happy Hour’s late today. I’ve had to wade through ten metric tons of Sara Palin bullshit to get to the actual news. I’d hoped the shine would’ve worn off by now, but no such luck.

She’s a fucking disaster. She’s a cynical political ploy. She’s a shiny object thrown on the tracks to derail us. Can we just fucking move on now?

Let’s talk about the RNC and the flourishing police state:

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than “fire code violations,” and early this morning, the Sheriff’s department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Denver had its bad moments when the police forgot who they’re actually meant to “protect and serve” part and started shoving reporters out in the street so they could then arrest them for obstructing traffic, but we saw nothing quite like this. There seems to be a qualitative difference between the way Democratic conventions handle security and the way Republicon conventions do. Dems don’t let police agencies too far off the leash. Rethugs, on the other hand, are more than happy to let the dogs loose:

When word first hit about the raids committed by uniformed officers against various sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul, it was really bizarre and confusing. Why were the cops staging raids against people like Food Not Bombs? Why did they shut down the RNC Convergence Center and take all their computer gear? What the hell were Ramsey County sheriff’s department people doing invading houses in Hennepin-fricking-County?

That last question, as it turns out, helps to answer some of the others.

Bob Fletcher is the sheriff of Ramsey County. Bob Fletcher is a Republican from the formerly lily-white St. Paul suburb of Maplewood, which has for decades had an uneasy relationship with its southern neighbor. Bob Fletcher is also on the verge of losing his job, as a long-standing FBI corruption probe that has already taken out two of his buddies is drawing its net around him; he may well feel that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain by using extralegal methods to please his RNC pals.

Maybe he’s hoping that if he silences enough dirty hippies, his grateful buddies the Rethuglicons will muzzle the FBI. Just saying.

So, we’ve got police brutality and extralegal raids. What else isn’t new in the Bush regime? Let’s see what’s hiding behind Shiny Object Palin:

But more importantly, critical and substantive things are going on that we need to be paying attention to. Eric Lichtblau in the NYT reminds us of a huge one this morning:

Tucked deep into a recent proposal from the Bush administration is a provision that has received almost no public attention, yet in many ways captures one of President Bush’s defining legacies: an affirmation that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda.

The language, part of a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, goes beyond political symbolism. Echoing a measure that Congress passed just days after the Sept. 11 attacks, it carries significant legal and public policy implications for Mr. Bush, and potentially his successor, to claim the imprimatur of Congress to use the tools of war, including detention, interrogation and surveillance, against the enemy, legal and political analysts say.

The proposal is also the latest step that the administration, in its waning months, has taken to make permanent important aspects of its “long war” against terrorism. From a new wiretapping law approved by Congress to a rewriting of intelligence procedures and F.B.I. investigative techniques, the administration is moving to institutionalize by law, regulation or order a wide variety of antiterrorism tactics. (Emphasis added)

In all the flurry and bustle of the conventions and Palin, not to mention back to school and Labor Day weekend for the nation, this could be lost in the flow. It must not be. This provision has all the potential implications, problems, and potential for abuse that the Authorization For Military Force (AUMF) had in 2001. And with a Cheney/Bush Administration still in power, and with their known predilection for abuse, this simply cannot be allowed.

This is but another callous and cynical play by the Administration to manipulate timing and political posture for craven gain. Cheney, Bush and the GOP enablers are going to parry this against the Democrats during election season and try to fearmonger them into approving it.

Joyous. Another Bush play for power, one guaranteed to be parlayed into “Dems are weak on national security!” b.s. Just in time to help John “Hey Ladies, My Runningmate Has a Vagina!” McLame overcome his spectacular lack of sense, sanity and reason, and steal the election with the help of fear and election fraud. What a coinky-dink.

See why I’m saying Palin is too expensive a distraction to focus on? They’ll use her novelty to sneak shite like this through, and once it’s done, there’s no a godsdamned thing we can do about it. The time to raise a stink is now. Before that shit gets passed. Before it’s far too late and we’ve let the Republicons get their hands on a sapping tool. Let your congresscritter know we expect them to stiffen their knees this time.

Is there any sign of hope amidst the endless fuckery? A glimmer. Just that, but it’s put a sparkle in my eye today:

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner conducted a focus group in the swing state of Nevada with undecided voters or weak supporters of either candidate who watched Sen. Barack Obama’s speech last night.

Key findings:

After viewing the speech, more than 1-in-4 of these swing voters moved from undecided to supporting Barack Obama or from supporting John McCain to undecided.

That’s gold, that is. The more people we can siphon off from McCain, the better. I think I’ve got my father convinced: he knows that if he votes for McCain, I’ll never speak to him again, and he doesn’t love McCain more than he loves me. It’s great if we win folks for Obama. It’s fine if we just convince McCain supporters to sit this one out. Tell your conservative friends and family who might be fence-sitting: watch Obama’s speech, and if that doesn’t sway you, then at the very least just don’t fucking vote for McCain.

Enough of us voting Obama will ensure that even voter suppression and hinky Diebold machines can’t win this one for the Republicons. Not that they won’t be trying, especially in Florida, where open season on voters is off to a rousing start:


Republicans still run the state, so if there are any “discrepancies” in November, they will have the levers of power. Again:

Florida often is the butt of election jokes, and Indian River County unknowingly played a contributing role Tuesday when the Supervisor of Elections reported 5,189 more votes than were actually cast.

It doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the system.

No fucking shit, Sherlock.

And if you want something that’ll really curl your hair (right before it falls out from the stress), go have a gander at the other article Digby links after the one by Captain Obvious. If you’ve ever wanted to know, exactly, how far Republicons will go to win, you’ll get your answer there.

20,763 dead American soldiers is the number that struck me. I’m sure they counted it a small enough price for victory. It certainly hasn’t changed their behavior.

If you forget everything else, remember one thing: these are the cons who will sell you all the snake oil you’ll buy. They’re the ones who think they can completely redefine reality. There are the raving fucking hypocrites like Rove, whose criticism of Dems is praise of Republicons:

Earlier this month, Karl Rove repeatedly argued that Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) would not be “capable” of being Vice President. He complained that “he’s been a governor for three years” and said Kaine was mayor of only the “the 105th largest city in America,” referring to Kaine’s tenure as mayor of Richmond, VA. “It’s not a big town,” he quipped.

Yesterday, however, Rove argued just the opposite with regard to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). He explained on Fox News that Palin was a good choice as McCain’s vice presidential nominee because she was “mayor of the second largest city in Alaska…”

Not. Even. Close. Karl.

But little things like facts don’t stop him. One of the smallest towns in Alaska will now be the second largest, Richmond’s demoted to Podunksville, Buttfuckofnowhere County, VA, and being a mayor is no accomplishment unless you’re Sara Palin, in which case it makes you total VP material.

Oh, and while the people of New Orleans flee Gustav, capitalize on their misery. Natch.

America: consider yourself warned. If you vote these outrageous fucktards into office yet again, I will never, ever speak to you again as long as I live.

POW Week Concludes

My darlings, you’ve stuck with me through a solid week of harping on Johnny “Don’t Blame Me – I was a POW!” McCain’s fuckery. By now, we should all be heartily sick of his bleating. Of course, t’ain’t hardly over – there’s a long election season ahead, and plenty of opportunities for Johnny to pull out his battered and grubby POW card. I, for one, am waiting for him to start waving it around in defense of his choice of Palin for Veep.

But enough of the bashing. He’s done his best to turn his status into a joke, and I can think of no better way to end this parade of pathos by obliging him. Let’s have us some fun.

Courtesy of Jared Rea, let’s play the POW Game!

Digby’s Hullaballoo guestblogger Batocchio brings us John McCain POW Bingo!

And finally, Canadian Cynic found a video that says it all, really.


“Into the Valley of Death Rode the” 600th Post


I’ll take “Excuses to Yammer about Tennyson” for $1000, Alex.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson was one of my favorite poets growing up. I got introduced to him, no shit, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pioneers on the American prairie read England’s Poet Laureate. How awesome is that? Until I branched out and really got addicted to ancient and Eastern poets, he was Teh Master as far as I was concerned. Well, at times, Robert Burns edged him out, but only just.

I didn’t know how to read poetry back then, so I always read “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in a sort of nostalgic, lilting, mournful tone. I remember being annoyed at the high school English teacher who taught me how it was actually supposed to be read: with a martial, heroic tone, like a thunderous charge. “Into the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred.”

Well, shit. There went my emo interpretation.

I was always amused by the “Oops” factor of this poem. If some absolute idiot hadn’t botched orders, and some other absolute idiot not blindly followed them, there would’ve been no heroic but doomed charge, and no poem. It was one of my first introductions to the importance of questioning authority. My future liberal and rationalist tendencies might have been predicted by the fact that I never could figure out why a grand and stirring poem was written in praise of a bunch of goobers who damned well should have reasoned why, and further, should have presaged Shaggy by saying, “Great plan, Lord Raglan. There’s just one problem – we ain’t doing it.”

Still. No one can deny that out of a total debacle came one of the greatest poems in the English language. And so, I use the excuse of my 600th post to present it for your reading pleasure.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892)


The Charge of the Light Brigade


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred

May My Books Burn

I’m usually mightily offended when ignorant fuckwits burn books. The world has lost countless irreplacable manuscripts because some rabid religious freaks got it into their heads that either some or all books are intolerably wicked and must suffer the same fate as witches, heretics, and scientists.

It makes me sick when I think of Christians burning the library at Alexandria. One of the greatest repositories of learning in the ancient world reduced to ashes, all for the sake of some podunk tribal god from Israel with delusions of grandeur and an allergy to education.

It outrages me to look over the horribly long list of notable book burnings at Wikipedia, and realize this reflects only a fraction of the destruction.

I can’t stand the raving dumbasses who would destroy what they don’t understand.

So you might be surprised to learn that I was delighted when J.K. Rowling’s books were consigned to the pyre. (I know, I know – which time, right?) I’ll tell you what I was thinking: for one thing, the burners were proving just how insane fundamentalist religion is, and for another, they had to buy the books.

I love the fact they have to shell out money to the author to indulge in their little fits.

That’s why I giggled again when Dispatches from the Culture Wars announced yet another Rowling roast. Rowling has sold – let me consult teh Google – ah, yes, nearly half a million billion books by now. My outrage meter only hits the red when something irreplacable is burned by religious frothers. I don’t think they’re going to manage half a million any time soon. Harry Potter will be passed down to posterity, and all will be well.

Not to mention, it got me to thinking…

What can I do to ensure my books are also burned?

Book sales. Free publicity. Proof that I’m hated by all the right people.

This would be fantastic.

Now mind you, it saddens me that we live in a society where people think that burning books is a fine idea, and where a sizable minority of the population is this ignorant and intolerant. That’s bad. But since they’re here, and since we haven’t figured out a way to rid ourselves of them, we might as well milk them for all they’re worth.

So here’s a thought: perhaps I should offer bulk discounts for fundies who want to make an example of my immortal prose. I could send out fliers with helpful bullet points (and lots of CAPITAL LETTERS and FONT SIZE CHANGES and PRETTY COLORS!!1!1!!) enumerating everything evil in my novels. I should probably set up a website with nifty little tools for planning a book burning and helpful links to distributors of books, lighter fluid, and marshmallows. I might even go round to churches, wearing little satin devil horns and describing what makes me the Antichrist. I could pay people to wear sandwich boards, hand out leaflets, and phone pastors, urging people to consign this terrible evil to the fire.

For the reasonable price of, oh, say, $19.98 per hardcover, $3.98 per paperback, minimum order of 100 copies.

And if this thing really takes off, consider the tie-ins. Effigies of the author. How-to videos. CDs of cheery songs to sing while the evil books burn. T-shirts. The possibilities are endless.

Should be relatively easy to get fundies to bite. After all, in the very first novel in the series, we’ve got gay main characters, not to mention godless civilizations and probably a billion other things I haven’t identified that are sure to get the fundies foaming.

And just wait until we get to the part of the series set in the modern age and you see what’s said about evangelical Christianity. Whoo-boy. Mind you, those bits were written before I became an evil atheist, and indeed many were written before I’d even left the last vestiges of Christianity behind. You can well imagine what it’s going to look like now.

Wait till they get a load of the beastiality… heh. I should earn a bonfire for that one.

So yes, I do indeed hope the fundies are offended enough by my books to burn them. Not only will they be contributing to my upkeep, they’ll be giving me a baseball bat to beat them with. After all, if I’m well-known enough to be worthy of a book burning, I shall also be famous enough to have people sit up and take note when I give lectures on exactly why book burners should be laughed out of civilization.

And that will give me a warm feeling much akin to standing by a roaring fire on a cold day.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

God to Republicons: “You kids get the hell off my lawn!”

The Washington Post is reporting this morning that the Republicans are considering delaying the start of their convention because of Tropical Storm Gustav, which is expected to become a hurricane before making landfall on Tuesday. The White House is also debating whether Bush should cancel his speech or not.

Gustav is not the only problem Mother Nature is throwing at our country. Tropical Storm Hannah is out there strengthening also, and expected to become a hurricane in the next couple of days and could hit the U.S. towards the end of next week.

As if that isn’t enough, there are two more potential storms growing.

Note to theocons: if you’re going to claim that God sends down hurricanes to show his wrath regarding teh gays et al, you should probably request he times things better. It just looks kinda bad when all the hurricanes skip the Democratic National Convention week and gang up on Republicons.

Global warming’s a bitch, innit?

You may have noticed I didn’t lead with McLame’s desperate pleas for attention. That’s because when you give him that sort of attention, it only encourages him to engage in even more outrageous antics. Like, oh, say, picking a creationist, global-warming-denying, polar-bear-dissing, Hillary-bashing, extreme-anti-choice, scandal-plagued, Big-Oil-soaked, foreign-policy-challenged, clueless, inexperienced, and all round ridiculous running mate simply because she goes down easy with theocons and might lure mythical Clinton holdouts with her mighty vagina:

There’s a political adage that’s been around for a while that says the first “presidential decision” a candidate makes is picking a running mate. If that’s the case, John McCain would apparently be a very odd president.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has chosen Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, NBC News has learned.

She would be the first woman ever to serve on a Republican presidential ticket. The pro-life Palin would also be the first Alaskan ever to appear on a national ticket.

Palin, 44, was elected Alaska’s first woman governor in 2006.

Every network confirms it; this is the actual Republican ticket for 2008: McCain/Palin.

It’s more than surprising; it’s the strangest running-mate decision since Dan Quayle. Sarah Palin spent a year working as a commissioner for the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and has been governor for a year and a half. Now, she’ll be the Republicans’ vice presidential candidate, and if things go well for McCain, one heartbeat from the presidency. When it comes to being untested and unknown, Palin is in a league of her own.

Just yesterday, advisers to the McCain campaign conceded to the New York Times that McCain “thinks highly” of Palin, but “her less than two years in office would undercut one of the McCain campaign’s central criticisms of Senator Barack Obama — that he is too inexperienced to be commander-in-chief.” So much for the McCain campaign’s message.

Stepping back, we have the man who would be the oldest president in American history, who happens to have a record of health problems, picking a virtual unknown who’s been a governor for less than two years. Amazing.

This choice comes down to two things: McCain had to do something to suck the right-wing’s dicks, and he wanted to upstage Obama. Country first? Not even fucking close.

McCain’s in this for his own power and glory. Like a spoiled brat drama queen, he’ll do anything to make sure attention stays focused on him. He doesn’t want to lead this country: he wants to become president so he can call himself President and play with all the bestest toys.

This is all we can expect from a campaign that can’t even figure out basic English grammar:

They were selling this on their fucking website. You’d think that a bunch of people trying to get a man elected would have the intelligence to proofread their fucking promotional pens.

And what kind of news gets lost in the VP din? Oh, you know, nothing special. Just the deputy of McCain’s most favoritest Iraqi getting arrested for bombing Iraqis and Americans:

BAGHDAD — U.S. forces have arrested a deputy of Ahmad Chalabi, who was once the Bush administration’s favorite Iraqi politician, and implicated him in bombings that killed Americans and Iraqis, Chalabi and Iraqi government officials said Thursday.

The U.S. military alleged that the arrested official was working with the “highest echelons” of the Iranian “special groups” criminals, referring to what the U.S. military says are Iranian-backed militias operating in Iraq.

Ali Faisal al Lami, a Shiite Muslim official and a member of the Sadrist Party who’s serving as an executive of the Justice and Accountability Committee, which Chalabi heads, was arrested Wednesday at Baghdad International Airport as he returned from a family vacation in Lebanon, Iraqi officials said. The Justice and Accountability Committee screens former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party who are applying for jobs in the government.

That John McCain. He’s sure some foreign policy geeneeyus, ain’t he?