Bill Nye is Awesome.

It brings joy to my heart whenever people really go out of their way to stick up for what they really believe in. Especially when the target of their ire is someone so decadent and depraved and downright evil as Bill Nye the Science Guy. Too much?

I grew up watching Bill Nye. He may actually be responsible, in large part, for my interest in science. Here’s the thing: Bill Nye is not flashy. He is not conceited. He is not pretentious. His show was entertaining, to be sure, but that’s because he is very good at presenting the material in a way that kids can relate to, it’s also because science is really, really cool stuff. He never, ever talks down to his audience. I recently watched one of the new science shows for kids and, while I can’t remember what it is called, I found it very appalling because it was full of jump cuts, an idiotic host, and lots and lots of flash. They were doctoring up science to make it entertaining without realizing that science is interesting in and of itself, but above all, they seemed to be assuming that children are idiots, which is a huge mistake. And this is why Bill Nye is so awesome.

So what is Bill Nye up to these days? Still being awesome, I should think. But specifically, in case you didn’t click through to the aforelinked material, he is getting booed by the people of Waco, TX. That’s right: Bill Nye was booed. Not Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, or Scott Walker. Bill Nye. The Science Guy.

Was he booed because he said that global warming is a real issue that must be addressed? No. Was he booed for saying that evolution is the crux of all of modern biology? Nope. What was he booed for, then? He was booed for saying that the moon reflects light from the sun.

Let’s do that again, because I don’t think even I got it. He was booed for saying that the moon is not a source of light, but rather reflects light from the sun.

This is something that anyone with half an elementary school education knows for fact. Shocked? Confounded? Confused? You’re not alone. So let’s take this thing apart and examine it from all angles because there might be something we’re missing. It is important to note that the source article from the Waco Tribune (I’m having a hard time not typing “wacko,” so just so you know, every time I type “Waco,” that’s what I’m thinking), has been taken down. You can still access it in their archives, but it requires a subscription. Whatever.

Also, we should be aware that he also gave lectures concerning global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption. Yeah, I know, what a liberal, right? But for whatever reason, the audience was more annoyed when he spoke on the topic of the moon. Yeah, that moon. The one that rolls around in Earth’s gravity well like an overexcited chihuahua.

What’s the problem? The article at thinkatheist.com seems to imply that he mentioned a bible verse. Specifically, Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.” And then he went on to say that the biblical account is not entirely forthcoming, mentioning that the moon is not actually a light, but instead a giant reflector. This was not received well. So I wonder, what was the source of all the anger toward this particular aspect of his lecture.

As a brief aside, I would like to dissect the verse in question myself a little. In light of modern astronomy and astrophysics, I think it’s interesting to note how the verse downplays the creation of the stars. This is perfectly understandable given the source material and when it was written. In fact, the entire verse is totally forgivable as a myth. The sun is the greatest light in the sky because it’s the brightest. The moon comes in second and all of the tiny stars are generally inconsequential little twinkles sparkling away on the celestial sphere. We know now that the stars are all basically like our sun and some are far more enormous and they are scattered across distances so vast that the human mind cannot fathom them. And so, in a way, the creation of all the stars is the more impressive feat, but this does not matter because to the writers of genesis (or the speakers of the original oral tradition) were not aware of the true nature of the stars.

What becomes problematic is people in the 21st century objecting to someone pointing out that the bible verse cannot be taken literally. It is not disproven, necessarily, by the science, but it’s certainly clarified by the science.

It is entirely possible that Bill Nye was a dick about it, but I find this hard to believe based upon all of this evidence. It is also possible that this was near the end of his lecture after numerous mentions of other bible verses that are inaccurate. What I mean is, this particular instance may have been the last straw for the people of Waco, TX. There is no transcript of the lecture, so we cannot be sure.

Here is what I hypothesize: The people of Waco, TX are, by and large, conservative, creationist, and underinformed about science and the sorts of things that it does. They did not actually listen to the words that Bill Nye was saying, hearing instead, “Here’s a bible verse that is wrong, and here’s why it’s wrong and why anyone who believes in the bible is an idiot.” It doesn’t matter if that’s what he said. It is my suspicion that this is how they heard it. I know this because I used to be a Christian (OH!! Feels so good to get that off my chest!). Whenever a hard-lined, conservative Christian hears even a tiny bit of criticism of the bible, they almost always take it as a personal attack. And so they boo.

It is my sincere hope that Mr. Nye will not judge the people of Waco, TX too harshly. Forgive them, for they know not why they boo.

Sie haben Sterne in deinen Augen

Un-De-Friend

It’s possible that you may have to click on the comic to see it in its full glory. I’m playing around with some new formats. I’m not sure how much I like the result.

That said, I want to talk about friends. I have been de-friended on Facebook twice that I am aware of. And I have de-friended one person. All three incidents are the result of political discussions.

It seems to be more and more the case that Facebook has become, not so much a way to stay in touch with old friends, but instead a place to find out just how much vitriol you can shovel into a sentence without being accused of harassment and having your account suspended.

I friend everybody. But that’s because I’m compulsive that way. Anyone who wants to be my friend, can be. If I have even the slightest inkling that I might know them, or if they have the right mutual friends, I will accept just about any friend request. That said, I will start by explaining myself. The first and only person that I have personally de-friended was this dude that responded to a simple status update wherein I called out the GOP for their flagrant attempts to tap dance all over women’s rights. This guy started tossing around some very frustratingly bad rhetoric about Planned Parenthood. He basically parroted every stupid, senseless lie that the GOP has been spreading about the PP these last few months. I argued with him for about 16 hours or so (which, in Facebook time, is really only like fifteen minutes). And then I realized that, despite the fact that we have mutual friends, I actually had no fucking clue who this guy was. So I de-friended him. Maybe someday in the future we can hammer out our differences in person. Until then, however, I just don’t think we can be friends.

Both of the times that I have been de-friended were as a result of status updates that expressed disgust with the drug war and support for legalization of…various medicinal herbs for…recreational use. One of these two was a guy I went to high school with. The other one was my first cousin. As in, my mother’s sister’s son. We probably share a few alleles.

And so I was wondering about the nature of friendship. Facebook aside, I would guess that there are around two dozen people that I would consider friends. Only about six of those are what I would call inner-circle friends; that is, people that I will go out of my way to see when I go home for the weekend (I teach at a community college about five hours from my hometown).

I have 308 Facebook friends. I do not actually know who all of them are. I do not know if I could pick them all out of a lineup. If I saw them in person, I would not know their names. But they are there. And they all have relatively unrestricted access to my political views and pictures of the food that I cook.

It occurs to me that the word “friend” means something very different on Facebook than it does “in real life.” It also occurs to me that it is possible that I might find myself to be much happier if I bring both definitions into closer alignment. Then again, where is the fun in that?

Sie haben einen Freund in mir.

The Real Reason Donald Trump Doesn’t Support Gay Rights Anymore

The politics of the United States are infuriating. Indeed, they have been so infuriating of late, that lately I haven’t written at all about the things that interest me most. Namely science. And so, to titillate your pleasure receptors and inject some endorphins into your neural receptors, I will regale you with a crispy crust of Donald Trump with a creamy science commentary nougat in the center.

First of all, Donald Trump is a chimp. I mean that figuratively in the sense that he is a sub-human form of life. I considered a few animal comparisons before settling on chimp, of course: weasel, skunk, hairless mole-rat, but I think chimp seems to fit my purposes well. Clearly he has mastered some tool use. A comb, for instance. Or is that a toupee that is carefully placed upon his shiny brow each morning by a Guatemalan page-boy? He has a twitter feed, and thus must have managed to learn the use of a smartphone and some of the rudiments of language. Of course even that can be delegated to at least a third-tier authentic human of sinister quality. Speculations abound. It’s a tough nut to crack. We’ll go with chimp.

What I am specifically referring to is the drama surrounding Trump’s “presidential bid” (taste my air quotes of righteous sarcasm!). There is, first and foremost, the fact that he is apparently going to maybe if he feels like it somehow try to run for president. Next, is some rather hilarious commentary by Bill Cosby. Trump’s rebuttal, which is laced with logical fallacies is also pure entertainment. “I can’t run for president until my reality show is done. Jeez, Cosby. Can’t a brother get a break?” And then he called Cosby a liar. Well, actually he accused him of not being honest. It amounts to the same thing.

I don’t think Trump has a chance of really becoming president, so I feel much more comfortable joking about it. That is, until this happened. My first reaction was a kind of “oh come on!” And then it got me thinking. On the one hand, it may very well be a fairly straightforward and un-cunning attempt to curry favor with gay-hating Tea Partiers. The thought process is easy: “The Tea Party hates gays, so if I want to use them to further my infantile political career, I should pretend to hate gays.” Interpret the word “infantile” how you will. I mean, it’s not like you need cunning to manipulate the Tea Party. Sarah Palin does it with her bosoms and her spunkiness.

But it seems much more likely that this is part of some byzantine conspiracy.

Ahem:

A phage is a fast-replicating bacterial virus. Fast-replication means rapid evolution. Now you’ve gotten to the sciencey nougat. New research into biomolecular manipulation has lead to an interesting new technique for manufacturing novel proteins, possibly opening up new avenues for pharmaceutical research, which will in turn, open up new ways for pharmaceutical companies to profit off of human misery. le sigh…

It is called “phage-assisted continuous evolution,” or PACE. The PACE method relies on the fact that these phage viruses have a life cycle in the neighborhood of 10 minutes. This allows for very fast evolution and with the right, artificially-imposed selection pressures, it means that useful proteins can be manufactured very quickly. I wonder when the e. coli rights activists will start busting down their doors.

It is a well-known fact that science happens a long time before people like you and me hear about it. So we can presume that this technique has been around for centuries. Or at least long enough for the Tea Party’s elite brigade of molecular geneticists to get their grubby little mitt-paws on it.

And so here it is: my contention here is that they have manufactured a protein that stimulates growth of the amygdala, which, we know from science, is a brain structure associated with emotion and, in particular, fear. Newly leaked research suggests that conservative brains have enormous amygdalas (adjectives adjusted for rhetorical effect).

And, since Sarah Palin is the evil genius behind the Tea Party and the Tea Party is comprised largely of poor white people, she needed money. Who better to inject her new miracle Tea Party Orientation Protein Drug, or T-POP’d, than a very wealthy white man? Viola! A man that has historically supported gay marriage rights is a raving gay-hater! It makes perfect sense, obviously.

Just as obvious is that fact that he will be the next president. I mean, that’s a given.

Look, I’m just trying to reason this thing out. I refuse to believe that Donald Trump is an autonomous human being, you dig? No self-conscious, bona-fide, tier-one human being is this stupid. As I have said, he is a chimp. And so he must have some sort of handler, or controller, or a new drug called T-POP’d manipulating him. Sort of like how toxoplasmosis makes rats love cats and consequently get theirselves eaten by them. This new drug turns rich white men into gay haters.

Hell, it’s not much more of a stretch to assume that the entire Tea Party movement has been infected with T-POP’d. Too far? I’m just trying to see into the mind of Alex Jones and Glenn Beck here. Perhaps if I can see beyond the Veil of Maya into the reality of the situation, the conspiracy webs of the American political and social elite, then maybe, just maybe, I might get some readers who like to click their mouse pointers on ad banners.

viva sensationnel

Why I am a Socialist.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve argued for communism, socialism, anarchism, science, evolution, global warming, beards, men wearing earrings, etc. I cannot tell you because I don’t know the number myself. It is probably somewhere between hundreds and a gajillion. Perhaps even as many as a zillion. (gajillion < zillion?)

I am a committed socialist. And that is what this essay will be about. It is interesting that there are people in this world who look at any socialist that is around my age and assume that it’s some sort of “phase” or passing fancy. “Oh, he’s just in college. They all explore those ideas. He’ll come around.” Now that I’m thirty, multiple degrees in hand, I am only more firmly committed, however.

It is probably important, at this point, to explain just what I think a socialist is, since there are so many misconceptions of what a socialist actually is and is not. So here goes: I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that societies function much more effectively when people work cooperatively and wealth is distributed, more or less, evenly. This also means that I am convinced that the more polarized and consolidated wealth becomes, the more unjust, and less coherently, a society will function.

Why do I think this? There’s a part of me that screams that it is self-evident. But I know that is the least effective way to argue for it. Believe me. When I was a freshman in college, it was an instinct. I knew it because it just seemed right. A part of me smelled it and my subconscious evaluated it and it just made sense. As I aged, and read more books, the arguments for it coalesced in my higher brain. Perhaps I’m hardwired for it. As a humanist (another topic entirely) I do believe that if everyone gives the idea of socialism a fair chance, they will see its merits. Socialism is a philosophy of cooperation rather than competition. It’s a philosophy of justice for the many rather than the few.

For instance, it is profoundly unfair that even a misdemeanor violation, which carries the smallest fine, can be a nearly insurmountable obstacle to a working-class family and yet for a wealthy teenager, it’s an undetectable bump. The solution is so simple it’s idiotic: sliding-scale fines.

This is not to say that I do not believe in some meritocratic ideas. It seems to me that there is nothing inconsistent with being a socialist and feeling that certain privileges ought to come for those who contribute the most to society. Those who share of themselves in the best ways. But this ought to be within reason. Yachts, for instance, are ridiculous unless communally owned. Learjets even moreso.

Which brings me to the crux of the issue: wealth and income distribution as it currently stands. Some statistics, bulleted for ease of absorption (2007 numbers):

  • the top 1% of Americans possess about 35% of all the total net worth in the US.
  • the next 19% of Americans posses a further 50%.
  • combined, the top 20% possess 85% of the total net worth of this country.
  • elementary school mathematics tells us that the bottom 80% of Americans possess but 15% of the pie.
  • for more (including the fact that the bottom 90% possess 75% of the debt) click here.

And so I ask you, whoever possesses the eyes reading these words: do the top 20% of Americans deserve it? Do not answer right away (even if your answer is no). Really think about it. Look at a CEO of a multinational corporation whose annual compensation might very well be millions of dollars or more. Does he work harder than a bus driver? Than a factory worker? Than a teacher? Is there something about this CEO that makes him more deserving of such a ridiculously humongous piece of the pie?

There are arguments that might say yes. For instance, the CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, has been compensated to the tune of $25,413,891 since he took the job in 2001 (as of 2009). It is, perhaps, interesting to note that 44% of that was from ’08 and ’09. He has earned almost half of his fortune in the years after the housing bubbled exploded all of its sub-prime juices over America’s middle class like an over-ripe zit. It can be argued that, since he is the CEO of the largest corporation in the world, and that it employs 287,000 employees (as of 2007), that perhaps there is some justification for it. Having to head up such a monolithic corporation has got to be a difficult and challenging task. (All numbers compliments of Wikipedia)

There are some reasons why I feel this logic is flawed, however. Consider that the median income (the income that splits the country so that half earn more and half earn less) is around $44,000 per year (as of 2004; I’m certain it must be lower by now). In 2009, Jeff I. was compensated 5.5 million. He made 12,500% more than a teacher (since teachers are typically paid based on the median income of their region). Put another way, a teacher makes eight tenths of one percent of what Jeffy made in 2009. Does he deserve to make 12,500% more than a teacher? Does he work 12,500% harder? Are his responsibilities 12,500% more important than educating 35 students at a time every year?

Don’t say no yet. Consider what it takes to run GE. He is the CEO, the figurehead of the largest corporation in the world. Does he actually have a hand in managing those 287,000 employees? Hell no. He doesn’t know 99% of their names. He doesn’t interact with any of them. His job is to deal with big-picture stuff. Mergers and acquisitions and such and very rarely does he deal directly with the workaday employees of the company. What I mean is (and this is just an estimate) 99% of the real work that GE does is performed by the other 99.999999% of the company (estimate). And so does he deserve it?

Consider also that he is a human being. Take away the charimanship, the learjet, the mansion(s), limos, sports cars, exotic pets, and you have a biological entity, an animal, a beast that is no better or worse than my 5th grade teacher (yo, Mrs. Putnam!). He does a job, a hard job, I don’t doubt, but there is no fucking way that it is harder, more challenging, or more important than a teacher’s job. At the very least, it is not 12,500% harder, more challenging, or important. Indeed, it is absurd to even consider such an idea.

And Jeffy-poo is just a multi-millionaire. A billionaire is (and this is just a guess) about a thousand times more wealthy than a millionaire. Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of over 5 billion dollars. The average net worth of an American family is about 93,000 dollars (yeah, just that). He’s worth 5,376,300% more than you if you are a normal American.

Remember, Mark Zuckerberg is just made of meat. There’s nothing special about him except that he had an above-average intelligence and computer programming skill and one very clever idea. That’s it. And yet, somehow, he is worth 5 million percent more than you.

Okay, so the other argument against socialism is basically two things: USSR and China. Well I have one response to that argument: The USSR and China are not and were never actual socialist countries. They were dictatorships right from the start. Lenin screwed up. He silenced the press and set the stage for Stalin. Mao was…smart, but flawed as well. They did not actually ever make the real transition to communism that Marx spoke of.

What I espouse is a transition to socialism that does not have to be problematic or painful. And here goes: in theory, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a debt-based fiat currency like the US dollar. It just has to be utilized properly. Consider the Brazillian Real. In the United States, we don’t even have to transition completely from a capitalistic system.

The problem with the US economy has nothing to do with the country being broke. There are tons of dollars. It is just locked up in personal fortunes where it just sits there. These wealthy people at the top make money faster than they can spend it, and so they hoard it. It’s just numbers that sit there. The fact of the matter is, the US economy only actually functions when people are spending money. Right now, nobody is spending money. The wealthy aren’t spending it because they are hoarding it and everybody else just simply doesn’t have any money.

Solution and transition to a socialist economy:

  • Raise taxes (a lot, like all the way up to 80%-ish) on individuals who make more than a million dollars a year
  • Close tax loopholes on corporations so they can’t get away with paying no taxes.
  • Expand the Earned Income Credit to include middle-class families
  • Spend, spend, spend on social programs, grants for entrepreneurs, public safety net, education, education, and education.

Better yet, levy a huge tax on wealthy people, take all that money that you get a result, and then burn it (or in the case of the US dollar, which is really a digital currency, hit delete). It amounts the same thing and sends a better message.

And so there it is. I am a socialist. Here is my reasoning. It is perhaps true that I wrote this more for myself than for you, but I hope you liked it.

ihr habt noch Chaos in euch

Mike Huckabee is a fascist

I repeat, Mike Huckabee is a fascist. I’m not trying to be incendiary or biased or anything. I’m looking at the textbook definition of a fascist. From dictionary.com:

  • a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
  • Okay, let’s back up. Here’s the video. The juicy bit is around 1:06. Embedded for your convenience:

    Why is this fascism? Because fascism is about suppressing anyone who disagrees with the leaders’ policy or interpretation of anything. Huckabee wants everyone to agree with him that David Barton is not a lying sleeze. At gunpoint.

    So what’s going on here? The question that is being batted around is whether or not he meant it as a joke. I think this line of discussion misses the point completely. The fact of the matter is, he said it. And here’s the crux. Did he mean it as a joke or did he mean it to be funny? This is a subtle but important distinction. I can say something like that and claim it’s a joke because I do not actually believe that people should be forced to endure anything at gunpoint. Huckabee, I believe, was saying something he actually believes in a way that he thought might be construed as funny.

    The fact that people actually laughed at this statement is disturbing in its own right. But the fact that Huckabee himself–a contender for the US Presidency!–would actually say this and think it’s funny. Even if it was just a joke and he doesn’t actually believe it, doesn’t excuse bad humor. It isn’t funny.

    And the worst thing is that he wanted to force people to watch David Barton’s revisionist bullshit history. At gunpoint.

    He wants everyone in America to believe the lie that this country was founded as a Christian nation, when, in fact, it was always very secular, the founding fathers were deists, and the very reason that people moved here in the first place was so that they didn’t have to have someone else’s religion rammed down their throat.

    You know, a lot of progressives are happy that he said this because it means his political career is over. I, however, am not so certain. We are in the middle of a horrifying economic recession and the people who caused it to happen are not in jail. I think if the media does what they ought to do with this video, then yes, his career is over (and good riddance). And so, there may have been a time when I would have believed that somebody can do or say something terrible and actually face the consequences. Not anymore.

    Sayonara Huckabee-san