I will never accomplish anything this great


Julius Caesar is said to have wept at the tomb of Alexander the Great — “Do you think I have not just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable?,” he said. Well, now I have learned of the Lloyd’s Bank Turd, and I am disconsolate. 1200 years ago, Vikings had conquered the city of York in England, held it for a century, and left behind a clutter of buried debris, including old cesspits. In one of them, archaeologists excavated an amazing relic: a single massive bowel movement, left behind by some heroic citizen who passed it alone into a hole in the ground, where it rested in solitary glory and was somehow preserved for posterity.

So what do we know about the anonymous Viking who made the most famous deposit that Lloyds Bank is ever likely to see? His or her diet consisted largely of meat and grains, but not much in the way of fruits or vegetables, which may help explain why the sample is nine inches long and weighs half a pound. “Whoever passed it probably hadn’t ‘performed’ for a few days,” says student conservator Gill Snape. Considering the large number of fruit pits and vegetable seeds found at the site but not in this particular Viking’s stool, this was likely not the healthiest or the most regular person in the village.

Like a lot of Vikings, this one suffered from at least two types of intestinal parasites: The remains of hundreds of whipworm and maw-worm eggs were found in the stool. The presence of worms in the stool is indicative of the filthy conditions and poor hygiene in Viking settlements. Wells were dug too close to latrines, making the availability of clean, uncontaminated water a hit-or-miss (usually miss) proposition. The dirt floors of the Viking dwellings teemed with fly larvae (maggots) and mouse and rat droppings, with plenty of dog, pig, cow, and horse droppings just outside the door. It was virtually inevitable that residents of such settlements would be infested with intestinal parasites.

Not only do I fail to produce such impressive output in the first place, what I do excrete gets swirled around in a watery sewer system, demolished in a frothy slurry at a sewage treatment plant, and encouraged to degrade. What legacy will I leave to my descendants? I’m tempted to start digging many holes in my backyard and create a bank of excrement. I hope the neighbors don’t mind.

Oh, wait! I have a blog! Perhaps some fragment of it will survive the inevitable bit rot, get archived somewhere somewhat permanent, and someday get enshrined in a museum somewhere, for the enlightened people of the future to grimace over.

One can hope.

Baby steps, everyone

All right, there was another Democratic debate last night between Clinton and Sanders. Both of them revealed different strengths and weaknesses, and make no mistake, both of them have weaknesses. I think it’s because they’re both human beings, and not gods.

And now today I look out at all my friends, who are also all human beings, and I see their weaknesses exposed: it is not enough to favor one candidate, you have to divide them, so your favored person is the candidate of Heaven, and the other is Satan’s representative. Just stop it. Please. Here’s what I want you to do instead.

Vote your conscience in the primaries. It’s going to be between Sanders and Clinton, so just pick the one you like best. You can even write in a different candidate! It’s easy!

After the primaries, the party apparatus will be working to promote the winner, who will face off against the Republicans, who actually are the Evil Party. Maybe your favorite did not get the final nomination, but that’s the nature of politics, compromise. Hold your nose and vote for the non-Republican, whoever it is. It’s OK. You have to refocus and get a job done, and it is the nature of American politics that trying to stick with your ideal candidate who does not have the consensus of the party is futile, and can only aid the opposition.

But, you are saying, you are an idealist and want to see your philosophical and social utopia implemented in government now, and the official candidate falls short! This is true. But, I will point out, the president is one person, and has limited power to implement your goals while in office, and if your dreams are all so narrowly aimed at that one office, you’re never ever going to see them come true.

If your candidate isn’t the final nominee for president, vote for the nominee in the election anyway, and before the election, pay attention to that mob of rat-fucking assholes in congress. Are you for Bernie, but Hillary gets the nod? Work to get more progressive socialists into congress right now. Are you for Hillary, but somehow Bernie rides an unlikely populist wave to the White House? Buckle down and get more pragmatic women elected to represent you. Run for local office yourself! Don’t forget that there are also these midterm elections that always have reduced voter turnout.

I’m just saying that if your ideological position doesn’t get the White House, the best response is to then turn your passion to those other branches of government, congress and the courts. If your hero doesn’t snag the national office, get more heroes into state and local government.

Also, please, pay attention to the media. They want to see the spectacle of Bernie fanatics battling Hillary fanatics. They are intentionally feeding that antagonism, because they don’t want to see the electorate focused on fixing problems — fixing things never gets the goggle-eyed viewership of ongoing catastrophes. Don’t let yourself be used.

The only good thing about the Iowa primaries

Finally, some of the losers get the message.

Santorum drips out — oh, wait. Sorry. Drops out. Santorum drops out.

Mike Huckabee has decided to end his presidential campaign but I think he should be forced to carry it to full term.

Rand Paul drops out of presidential race

I know. That last one isn’t funny or clever, but then, neither is Rand Paul.

Now I’m just waiting for Trump, Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Carson, Fiorina, Kasich, and Christie to get that message. Go home. You’re all bad for the country.

Clinton/Sanders expose American innumeracy

So Clinton and Sanders were in pretty much a dead heat in the Iowa caucuses yesterday, with Clinton edging out Sanders by a few votes. Now I’m watching people freak out over a couple of stupid facts.

  1. A few of the caucuses were settled by flipping a coin. Yes? So? The votes were tied. The rules require representatives to be selected. A coin flip is a fair way to settle which candidate will be represented, when there is a tie. I have no problem with using a chance distribution to decide, but some people are just horrified at this ‘primitive’ way of making a decision. How else do you propose to do it? Trial by combat?

  2. Most annoying are the people who are shocked that there were 6 precincts where there was a tie, and in all 6 the coin flip favored Clinton. Again, that’s to be expected, that occasionally you’ll get a run of consecutive identical results. It would be curious if you never got a run of 6. But now we’ve got all these reporters earnestly explaining trivial outcomes.

    The Iowa Democratic caucus vote count was so close last night that at least 6 precincts were decided by flipping a coin — an obscure procedure in the Iowa caucus bylaws. And in all 6 instances, the last remaining county delegate went to Hillary Clinton. Winning 6 coin tosses in a row is extraordinarily rare, and only has a 1.6 percent probability of occurring. As journalist Ben Norton explained, that’s broken down by calculating (1/2)^6, which is 1/64 — or 1.6 percent.

    This needed explaining? No wonder casinos and lotteries do so well — and no, that’s not an extraordinarily rare frequency.

    Maybe this is why so many people have difficulty grasping evolution. Small probabilities with many trials adds up to a significant likelihood.

  3. It is absurd to try and spin this into a ‘win’ for either side.

    If Bernie Sanders had won half of the coin flips and split the six county delegates three and three with Clinton, he would have finished at 698.49 delegates to Clinton’s 696.57, effectively giving him an Iowa victory. According to a live map of all Iowa precincts, Clinton has a razor-thin 0.3 percent lead over the Vermont U.S. Senator with 99.9 percent of precincts reporting.

    The race was close enough that it could wobble one way or the other on the basis of a couple of coin flips. As far as I’m concerned, it was a statistical tie, and I don’t care how many ifs you concatenate to shift it into an imaginary win for your favorite candidate.

Also, it was Iowa, and a primary. Who cares? We’ve got two Democratic candidates who are equally appealing to motivated voters in one state. This does not settle the election, and a good case could be made that it is completely irrelevant to the final outcome, which is going to hinge on far more variables.

I swear, watching pundits overanalyze this one result is almost as infuriating as the Republican slate. Stop it.

Jebus. Look at this headline at The Blaze: Hillary Clinton Has The Most Statistically Improbable Coin-Toss Luck Ever. NO IT’S NOT.

Why is Kasich still running?

I think it’s because he’s profoundly delusional. Here’s Kasich praising Pink Floyd and Roger Waters specifically.

But…but…but we know what Waters thinks of the Republican party.

I watch the workings of politics [in the US] and particularly the Republican Party. They work with the axiom that you can tell as many lies as you want – and often the bigger the better – and eventually they will believed.

Or this:

Because your electorate, and it’s only the Republican electorate that we’re taking about now, are kept entirely in the dark by a malignant mainstream media lead by Fox News, but closely followed by all the other talking heads that just want to kind of smile at you and toe the party line and never question anything seriously, especially about the United States or what it is and what its aspirations are or what it wants to be, except that it wants to be a major imperial power all over the world. You have bases in 135 countries, which is extraordinary, though nobody ever seems to question it.

You pour huge amounts of your national resources into the Pentagon and use it, basically, to push around the rest of the world and make yourself unpopular with everybody else. And nobody seems to address any of this. This is a silence hovering over this great nation, and I think it’s a silence that is about to be broken.

This is not to say he approves of the Democrats — he’s such a strong pacifist I imagine he looks on all American politicians with disgust. Have you seen Kasich’s positions on the military? I would like to see Waters’ response to an invitation from a Republican to get Pink Floyd back together again.

Charles Pierce reminds us of progressive history

It’s good to see someone mention that the Democratic party has deep progressive roots. He mentions a lot of names that stirred up sad memories. Jesse Jackson, presidential candidate in 1984 and 1988; I supported him, although his campaign fizzled out in the primaries before I got to have a say out in Oregon (I really detest our system that gives Iowa and New Hampshire an undeserved excess of privilege in electoral politics). Howard Dean in 2004; he was my preferred candidate then, too. I have a long history of support for failed candidacies, I’m afraid.

I keep making these choices, and will keep on doing it, though. He quotes Jackson’s speech before the Democratic Convention, and yeah, it reminds me why.

We find common ground at the plant gate that closes on workers without notice. We find common ground at the farm auction, where a good farmer loses his or her land to bad loans or diminishing markets. Common ground at the school yard where teachers cannot get adequate pay, and students cannot get a scholarship, and can’t make a loan. Common ground at the hospital admitting room, where somebody tonight is dying because they cannot afford to go upstairs to a bed that’s empty waiting for someone with insurance to get sick. We are a better nation than that. We must do better. Common ground. What is leadership if not present help in a time of crisis? So I met you at the point of challenge. In Jay, Maine, where paper workers were striking for fair wages; in Greenville, Iowa, where family farmers struggle for a fair price; in Cleveland, Ohio, where working women seek comparable worth; in McFarland, California, where the children of Hispanic farm workers may be dying from poisoned land, dying in clusters with cancer; in an AIDS hospice in Houston, Texas, where the sick support one another, too often rejected by their own parents and friends.

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The Oregon occupation will end soon

The authorities have finally done what they ought to have done in the beginning: deprived the occupiers of the Internet.

David Fry, one of the four remaining militants, said the FBI made it so the occupiers can’t make outgoing calls on their cellphones. Fry said he can receive incoming calls, but that the other three in the refuge appear unable to receive calls on their cellphones. The militants also said they’ve lost access to the internet.

Without the ability to post self-aggrandizing youtube videos of themselves, ridiculous as they made themselves look, the whole thing wouldn’t have been able to snowball to the size it reached. And now it’s down to four who are trying to negotiate complete amnesty for themselves. Guys, you’ve got nothing to bargain with!

Michael Moore speaks the truth

He has ten things he wants to tell you about the Flint water supply. They’re rather appalling.

I really don’t understand what’s going on in Michigan, but I know I wouldn’t want to live there. Their governor ought to be in jail right now for what he’s allowed to happen — they’ve been poisoning an entire community for months, knowingly and with no concern at all for the citizens…all while bringing in uncontaminated water for General Motors and state employees. The entire goddamn administration ought to be facing court dates for criminal offenses.

Here’s another level of fucked-up-edness.

According to the NY Times, Snyder was informed in one email that a state nurse told one young mother to not worry about the damage being done to her child when her son’s blood showed an elevated lead level.

“It is just a few IQ points. … It is not the end of the world,” the nurse reportedly told the worried mom.

We’ve been watching too many super-hero movies. While we weren’t paying attention, petty villainy that wouldn’t be credible in a comic book has become a reasonable life-style choice.

I guess the good news for us in Minnesota is that after the botched, self-destructive experiment in libertarian/Republican greed in Wisconsin started torching that state to the ground, the crony capitalists marched east to Michigan rather than west to my state.

David Gorski, a native and resident of Michigan (I’m so sorry!), also addresses the fuckery behind the Flint water crisis. You should read that, too.