You’ve got two choices if you want to understand the Bundy land grab


This is a very familiar situation, and if you want to puzzle out what’s actually going on, I recommend you do one or both of these things:

Maybe you’ve already seen Shane, so I’ll just refresh your memory. A cattle baron tries to take over huge tracts of land by driving out settlers and small farmers; Jack Palance is the bad guy, working for the greedy cattlemen, terrorizing the farmers, who have Alan Ladd defending them. It’s the old range war story that has driven a lot of Westerns. You could also watch Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider, or any of dozens of movies with that theme. Why, just last night I watched a Danish Western, The Salvation, which recycled that story: Mads Mikkelsen is the Danish settler in America, who just wants to build a little farm with his family, when he is victimized by a brutal campaign to destroy a town so rich people can seize the oil-rich lands there (this, of course, prompts prolonged violence, unfortunately, but that’s another familiar trope in these movies).

It happened and is happening all across the West. There are all these open spaces, and a few people decide that they own ALL of it, and that no one else gets to use it. Their demands are usually couched in terms of privatizing public lands, so our Libertarian-leaning compatriots just love it. Also loving it are the few rich beneficiaries of the heavily subsidized use of public lands.

Or instead of a fictionalized old movie, you could read Clarke’s article for the non-fictional details.

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Uh-oh — this is a bad drinking game

Matt Taibbi has announced the official Republican debate drinking game. He claims to have tuned it so it isn’t instant death to play, but looking it over, it still looks pretty lethal.

I will not be watching the debate — my brain simply cannot take it. I’ll probably go out to a movie, or charge into the lab to tinker for a few hours instead. Unfortunately, my wife is going through a phase where she’s fascinated with really bad arguments, so she’s already planning to sit through it all. Should I hide the good liquor, or just plan on coming home with a stomach pump?

they spend and waste their money on all this hateful stuff

That’s a direct quote from the militant idiot in Oregon. He’s very upset that people are sending them dildos — someone spent $17.90 to ship a sex toy as commentary to them. But in the category of spending and wasting money, I’d like to know how much he has spent on military-style weapons.

But what bugs me most in the video is the first line: So we went and picked up some mail. Really? These armed assholes have seized control of a bit of federal property…and they’re treated so lightly that they’re driving back and forth into town to pick up their mail and go to restaurants? What kind of takeover and siege is this? I can agree that some restraint is a good idea — please don’t charge in with tanks and guns blazing — but come on. When the criminals come into town to have a burger at McDonald’s and pick up their butt plugs at the post office, arrest them.

Do we want our politicians to address science issues?

Probably. Every four years, comes along to suggest that the presidential candidates ought to have a debate about the science issues that confront us. It’s a good idea, I think.

I’d like it to happen. On the plus side, watching Republicans poop the bed over and over again would be vastly entertaining. Just recently, Rick Santorum said something stupid, for example (and who are we kidding? Santorum has like an all-automated electric stupidity generator permanently mounted in his mouth.)

For me, when you say the states have the right to define marriage, it’s like saying, well, the states have the right to redefine the chemical equation for water, it can be H3O instead of H2O. Well, the states can’t do that. Why? Because nature dictates what water is, nature dictates what marriage is, and the states don’t have the right to violate what nature has dictated.

Imagine a two hour show with those loonies babbling on the stage. Comedy gold!

Unfortunately, on the negative side, I can’t quite imagine either Clinton or Sanders putting in a solid performance. They’d probably be OK by just going with the consensus science view and avoiding controversy, but I don’t think they could demonstrate a deep knowledge of science. And who knows, maybe they have some weird ideas that would slip out and throw me into deeper despair. Maybe Clinton is a UFO fan, or Bernie Sanders thinks there might be something to homeopathy. I don’t know whether I really want to turn over that rock.

Fast losing all confidence in the justice system

My wife and I made the mistake of getting hooked on the Netflix series, Making A Murderer, this weekend. Never watch sausage being made, and never take a look inside what the police do to make a case. It will ruin your trust in the system.

There were a couple of things that just infuriated me.

  • There were two clear cases of scientific dishonesty that ought to have simply been thrown out, or never even been presented to the jury.
    • They tested a bullet for blood, and announced that it was from the victim. But the lab tech also disclosed that the negative control was contaminated! My jaw dropped at that. You don’t get to make that claim when your test was invalidated by error.
    • To disprove that the accused’s blood at the crime scene was not planted from a sample in police custody, they declared that the FBI, using a new test, had found no preservatives in the blood, therefore the sample couldn’t have been planted. Again, you can’t do that. What were the limits of detection? The best you can do is say that the test failed, and without a lot of evaluation of the samples and the procedure, you can’t state how likely their answer was.


  • One of the prosecutor’s tools was this horrifically detailed story of the murder, which they claim to have gotten from a confession by the accused’s nephew. But we have the recording of the “confession”, and it’s appalling. The nephew is this lost, confused, slow-witted teenager, and the police lead him through the story. He didn’t provide any of the purported details. They did.

    The prosecutors didn’t exhibit a speck of shame at going on and on about knifings and stranglings and shooting and torture, with the only evidence being a fable fed to a not very bright kid. Is that a general character trait of prosecutors? I wouldn’t know.

Just to counterbalance the dismaying unprofessionalism, incompetence, and corruption of the police, though, I have to say I hope that if ever I’m accused of a crime, I want the defense attorneys, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, on my side. They, at least, seemed to be well aware of the inconsistencies and falsehoods in the prosecution’s case. I don’t know whether the prosecutors weren’t very bright or were just doing their job to paper over the failings of their arguments.

I don’t know whether it’s the charitable assumption to guess that the prosecutors just didn’t care about the truth.

It’s also a shame because the victim was murdered, and my impression is that the Manitowoc police were more interested in pinning the blame on the accused than in actually figuring out what happened.

People suck


There’s a refugee crisis going on. Desperate people are struggling to reach Europe, crossing the ocean in leaky rafts and boats with their families.

Desperate is not stupid, though, so there’s a booming market in Turkey for life jackets.

A market. People willing to pay for a little safety. You know what this means, right?

Turkish police have uncovered a factory producing fake lifejackets, shining a light on a booming cottage industry that has emerged as a byproduct of the refugee crisis and heightened the risks for those hoping to reach Europe by sea.

Police allegedly seized 1,263 lifejackets filled with non-buoyant materials from an illegal workshop in Izmir that employed two Syrian children, according to Agence France-Presse and Dogan news agencies.

The raid came in the same week that the bodies of more than 30 people washed up on Turkish beaches, having drowned in their attempt to reach Greece. Some of the dead were pictured wearing lifejackets, leading to suspicions that they may have been fake.

I think I need a stronger word than “suck”.

More tears please

I was glad to see Obama show some emotion today, in his announcement of the executive orders to tighten up gun laws. It is right to shed a tear for those killed by our absurd gun laws…or lack thereof.

But it’s only a start. We need to actively reduce the number of guns in our communities; I would like to see more restrictions and confiscations.

I would also ask that Obama should shed a tear for the innocents killed abroad by our military.

Are imperialism and colonialism funny now?


When last I commented on one of the UK’s battier climage change denialists, James Delingpole, it was to ridicule his “joke” about executing environmental scientists. He’s back with a new “joke” — I really think he ought to give up on the humor thing. He’s not very good at it.

His new idea is to erect a giant golden statue in Africa to honor…Cecil Rhodes.

The idea is to build in the middle of Africa a gigantic golden statue of the mighty British imperial hero Cecil Rhodes – a really big one, about four miles high, so that Kilimanjaro doesn’t get in the way – to remind all the locals for miles around what a complete and utter toilet their malarial, tsetse flyblown continent would have been if it hadn’t been for all the 19th century explorers, miners and pioneers and nation builders and District Commissioners in their white pith helmets who brought them civilisation, the rule of law and economic progress.

Yeah, racist asshole thinks the entire continent of Africa is a a complete and utter toilet and that the appropriate way for Britain to signal their attitude towards Africans is to build a giant “fuck you” in the continent. Charming. Hilarious. Not.

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How would science fare under Donald Trump?


Donald Trump has some management advice.

If you are careful when finding employees, management becomes a lot easier. I rely on a few key people to keep me informed. They know I trust them, and they do their best to keep that trust intact.
Good people equals good management and good management equals good people. They have to work together or they won’t work together for very long.

I’ve heard this sort of thing before, and there’s truth to it. The president of the US can’t possibly know everything and do everything, so they should surround themselves with smart advisors to fill in the gaps in their experience.

But what if they are a terrible judge of people?

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