Rick Perry Points at Things

I am back from my summer hiatus. It’s funny that I always feel compelled to blog when school is in session and I have 125 students to teach.

Anyhoo. There was a debate the other night. As a linguist, I find it very entertaining to uphold the farce that these things are actually debates. To define these things as such is a curious phenomenon and makes me wonder just what we are supposed to call real debates, where two or more people give their opinions and then rebut each other point for point. Like, in real life.

To call the farce the other night a debate is, in essence, to admit that democracy has sunk so low that I scarcely think it’s possible to claw our way back up to respectability. The question of “who won” the debate is even more illuminating. The only people who seem to think that it’s possible to determine a victor in such a vapid, empty excuse for political discourse, are the media.

But the thing that amuses me the absolute most is the fact that Rick Perry is generally considered the front runner in this whole circus. Mitt Romney, of course, is his closest competitor, but Rick Perry really seems to be capturing the hearts and minds of…well…somebody. I have a very difficult time understanding the mindset that is required to like this guy.

And that’s just the thing. In what diseased political atmosphere should someone like Rick Perry be the frontrunner for President of the United States? The guy went to Texas A&M, and his college transcript is something that I would be embarrassed to show my folks. That’s not the kind of transcript that gets you a sweet job at a big corporation. Corporations have standards. The state of Texas, however, does not appear to.

What sort of GPA do I think the President of the United States should have? Oh, I don’t know, maybe a fucking 4.0? I didn’t get straight As, to be sure, but I wasn’t too far off by the end. Also, the only college degree that this guy has is a BS in, get this, Animal Science. What the fuck is that even? How does that qualify him to hold the highest elected office in the nation? I want my presidents to have doctorates, I’m afraid.

Does that make me an elitist? Perhaps. But shouldn’t the president be elite? Why would I want a shlub like myself running the goddamned country? I want a genius running the country, not a country bumpkin like Rick Fucking Perry.

When I was looking for pictures of Rick on the internet, I did notice that he does a lot of pointing. My wife pointed out that it’s not pointing so much as it’s power wagging. A fair point. But I didn’t know how to make that any funnier than Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin already have. So I figured pointing a few fingers would be plenty fun. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Perhaps it’s not so much that he points, like he’s really getting to the bottom of society’s problems. It seems just as possible that it is, in fact, a threat. Isn’t it possible that with all of his money, he might have had his pointer fingers replaced with death rays? Whenever he points, he is daring us to step out of line, declare ourselves socialists, homosexuals, scientists, liberals, intellectuals, or thinking human beings. And if we do, don’t think for one second that he won’t project a stream of microwaves directly through your head, causing it to pop like an overripe cantaloupe. That’s what we can look forward to with a Rick Perry presidency.

Punkt für Punkt

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

    Scott Walker has sold us out to Cthulhu

    In light of shameful recent events, it has come to my attention that there is a much deeper and more disturbing situation going on here.

    I was discussing this situation with a friend last night (likely about the time that the GOP senators in WI were illegally passing their sociopathic bill) and he made the claim that people like the Koch (Cock) Brothers are most likely satanists. He made it very clear that he was not joking. The Koch Brothers (and indeed, much of the Tea Party libertarian movement) do not, if you look at the evidence, exhibit a sincere desire to help America get back on its feet. Indeed, almost everything that they have attempted to do has been a direct attack on people with little or not hope of balancing budgets or getting the economy on track. Let me rephrase: Everything that they have done has been designed to hurt people. They have done nothing whatsoever to help people get back on their feet and make this country a better place to live.

    Not very christian of them. Indeed, as my friend argued, this is exactly the sort of behavior that a satanist would engage in. A real satanist would go to church every Sunday. They would couch almost all of their rhetoric in almost the exact same ways that Scott Walker has, and respond to prank phone calls in the same way as well.

    And so, I must politely disagree with my friend. You see, I think that this whole thing is a deviously subtle plot from the Old One, Dread Cthulhu! Think about it. Koch Industries has a long record of ecological disregard. They want to destroy people’s spirits, take away their rights, and sell them toilet paper and napkins.

    Isn’t this exactly the sort of behavior that you’d expect from a cult to Cthulhu? Look at it from a strategic standpoint. Do they honestly expect this whole ploy to strip collective bargaining rights is going to work? The political climate is not quite right for it. Indeed, public opinion is just conservative enough that this whole thing is guaranteed only to sow the seeds of chaos and dissent and create unrest. That’s not the sort of New World Order that a satanic cult would endorse. No, no. Either this is a serious tactical blunder (I refuse to believe they are that stupid), or their intention was to create chaos and disorder all along! Think about it, the Koch Brothers are up in their castle keep, chanting dissonant, vulgar prayers to their god of destruction, glorying in the cries of the protesters. This is what they want! The state troopers are moving into the capital and forcefully removing protesters.

    Is it only a matter of time before riots break out? Chaos and disorder, my friends, is all that this whole thing has managed to create. And so you have to ask yourself. What’s more likely? That Scott Walker, Rupert Murdoch, and the Koch Brothers are part of a vast cult to Cthulhu, which has successfully managed to deflect the very real and justified anger of the Tea Party at public unions and social programs in order to create widespread panic, confusion, chaos and the death of the American dream? Or that people are actually this evil, nasty, bigoted, disturbed, sociopathic, and (in the Tea Party’s case) stupid, that they would deliberately target public unions, NPR, and Planned Parenthood in a misguided effort to create a society governed by paternal ethics and a corporate oligarchy/police state?

    Which is more likely? Hmmm?

    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn