My name is Matt Foley and I am a motivational speaker!

I used to live in this county. I moved before I could vote.

You know, maybe Howard Dean should have screamed more.

Now, I guess I just have to content myself with living in a state with one jailed governor and another awaiting a retrial who’s trying to recoup his court fees by doing autographs at comic conventions.

Quotes to ponder on the anniversary of September 11th, 2001

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they stopped coming altogether,
and everything was awesome for everyone.

Except for the Commies, but fuck them.

–Martin Niemöller


They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, are really just being prudent. I mean, what kind of idiot doesn’t want as much security as possible?

–Benjamin Franklin


Give me liberty, but not those other guys.

–Attributed to Patrick Henry


Don’t tread on me. Instead, let’s all tread on those people over there.

–Christopher Gadsden


Unless you’ve got something to offer, stay the hell out.

–Inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty


The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of religious minorities and politicians with whom we disagree.

–Thomas Jefferson


Religion and government are like chocolate and peanut butter, and thus are even better the more they are mixed together.

–James Madison


I disapprove of what you say, and so I will do everything I can to stop you from saying it.

–Evelyn Beatrice Hall


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, except when it would be in bad taste; or abridging the freedom of popular speech, or of the corporate press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to scream at government officials and make thinly-veiled death threats unless they kowtow to unreasonable demands.

–First Amendment to the United States Constitution


When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross, and dangling a set of Truck Nutz.

–Attributed to Sinclair Lewis.

Sarah Palin is Fucking Retarded

I’ve mentioned before that when I was a kid, riding in the car with my parents, they were almost always listening to talk radio. And talk radio, as you probably know, is almost always conservative. My dad listened to Rush Limbaugh, which didn’t leave much of an impression on me (I remember the theme song and some parodies, and a bit about how left-handed people were breastfed too much, which I later realized must have actually been about left-wingers). I rode with my mom more frequently, so I remember more of the frequent shows. One, the only one I ever actually enjoyed, was Dr. Dean Edell’s show. He’s an actual medical doctor who talks straight and gives good advice and is generally awesome. The other was Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

I listened to a lot of Dr. Laura as a kid. I remember all of the “I am my kid’s mom/dad” calls; I remember all her advice that sometimes seemed reasonable and spot-on and other times seemed ridiculous and reality-challenged. I know that she’s a doctor of physiology, not anything relevant to giving advice, she’s not much of a fan of “shacking up” or divorce (some irony there) or gay people, she generally sides against men (unless she thinks the woman in a situation is somehow impure) and that she’s generally pretty prudish and puritanical for someone who has some topless pictures floating around. Finding the letter to Dr. Laura that circulated around the Internet several years back and was adapted into a West Wing scene was a major step in getting over my homophobia (and, frankly, my religion, since prior to that my main use for the Bible was condemning homosexuality).

So, when Dr. Laura had her latest bigoted flame-out recently, I can’t say I was either surprised or disappointed. In fact, the only potentially surprising thing is that this particular instance was racism instead of homophobia.

For those who have somehow avoided the latest non-story in the news cycle, here’s the scoop: On August 10th, Schlessinger took a call from a black woman named Jade who was offended by racially insensitive comments made by her white husband’s family, which her husband remained silent about. Here’s the full call:
http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/player.swf
So, Schlessinger’s immediate reaction was to suggest that Jade was just being hypersensitive, so she asked for an example. The caller said they had a neighbor who comes over and says things like “how do you black people like doin’ this” and so forth. Schlessinger immediately says that she doesn’t think such comments are racist.

Let me pause here and suggest that “you people” is probably the most bigotry-infused phrase in the English language. It suggests that the person you’re talking to is not an individual, but a member of some larger collective who are all the same–as the rest of this neighbor’s relayed comment suggests he thinks. “You black people” don’t all like the same things or do things the same way, because they’re individuals. The whole edifice of bigotry is built on treating people like they’re not individual people.

Schlessinger continues, suggesting that a lot of black people voted for Barack Obama just because he was half-black, not because of his politics (Dear Dr. Laura: without contradicting yourself, please explain how Obama defeated Alan Keyes in his 2004 Senate race). “It was a black thing. You gotta know that. That’s not a surprise.” She then proceeded to make a “white men can’t jump” joke regarding her black bodyguard, and the caller asked “what about the n-word?” Schlessinger then says that “black guys use the word all the time.” And then Schlessinger, who is not a black guy, says it three times. She trots out the usual racist faux-confusion regarding the word: “I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.”

No, it’s not very confusing. The “n-word” has a lot of baggage, because for so long it was used by white people to disparage black people. It’s a symbol of black oppression. The movement among blacks to use the word themselves has been a reclaiming of that symbol, a way of demonstrating that the word doesn’t have the power to keep them down, that they can rob it of its oppressive connotations. But we are not yet to the point where a white person can throw it around without invoking those negative connotations. White people still have a privileged position, and racism–institutional, personal, casual, and political–still affects blacks. When that’s no longer the case, maybe the term will become harmless enough that white people can just throw it around.

Moreover, that some black people use the word does not suggest that all black people are comfortable with the word being used. Making that assumption is, once again, seeing black people as some kind of hive mind where they all think the same because they all have similar amounts of melanin in their skin. Which is racism.

After a commercial break, Schlessinger continues talking over Jade in order to trot out her false equivalency canard, complain about how racism should be over because we elected a black guy, and to accuse Jade of having a chip on her shoulder. After saying the n-word four more times, she then complains that she can’t finish a sentence, something she’s failed to allow her caller to do repeatedly–note that she hasn’t addressed the original fucking question yet at all, she’s just used the caller as a springboard to complain about how black people can’t just sit down and shut up and be happy that they got one of their own into the White House.

Ah, yes, Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous dream. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where a black guy is President, and that’ll be enough.”

Schlessinger then tells Jade not to take her out of context, not to “NAACP” her (whatever the fuck that means), and hangs up. She then says “if you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race.”

She then goes off on how, if you belong to a minority, people are going to ask you what that minority thinks about things. Being a woman who converted to Judaism, I would think that Schlessinger would have some kind of handle on the problem with that kind of thinking, but about the closest she comes to understanding it is “Of course there isn’t a one-think per se. But in general there’s ‘think.'” Okay, perhaps that’s true with, say, a religion, which has doctrines and dogmas that everyone is supposed to believe–not all Catholics will share the same position on any given issue, but there may indeed be an “official Catholic position” on that issue–but it’s not even slightly true when you’re talking about race or gender or other inborn traits. There is no black dogma. There is no doctrine of womanhood. There is no reason to expect that all, or even a majority, of people in non-religious minorities will think the same thing about any topic. And the assumption that they would is bigotry.

Schlessinger proceeds to say the n-word four more times, then attempts to excuse it by saying that it’s okay because she didn’t call anyone that. She was just using the word as a word, nothing wrong with that at all. I can think of a particular k-word and c-word that I might throw around, and I’m sure someone like Laura Schlessinger would have absolutely no problem with that.

Her rant meanders on into conspiracy mongering and more complaining about how Obama’s election should mean that all black people need to shut up about racism, not in so many words.

So, Schlessinger took a bunch of flak for her remarks and gave a typical notpology the next day. As they did in 2000 after her homophobic screeds, some people suggested boycotting her sponsors, and specifically called for the sponsors to demonstrate whether or not they endorsed her statements. At least one, General Motors, dropped her show in the aftermath. Schlessinger then announced on Larry King’s show a few days later that she was going to quit radio. Her reason?

SCHLESSINGER: The reason is: I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind, and in my heart, what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent, and attack affiliates and attack sponsors.

[…]

SCHLESSINGER: You know, when I started in radio, if you said something somebody didn’t agree with and they didn’t like, they argued with you. Now, they try to silence you. They try to wipe out your ability to earn a living and to have your job. They go after affiliates. They send threats to sponsors.

KING: That’s their right, too.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, but I don’t hatch the right to say what I need to say. My First Amendment rights have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don’t want to debate. They want to eliminate.

Ah, yes, her First Amendment rights have been violated, so she’s going to quit. I’m a big fan of the First Amendment, and that’s why I know what it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Also, certain people are entitled to a national radio talk show, and the people have no right to hold those people accountable for their speech.” Those Founding Fathers, always looking ahead.

The First Amendment is pretty damn clear on how it applies. It’s very straightforward, and yet conservatives in particular seem to have a lot of trouble understanding what it means. It says that government isn’t allowed to make laws impinging on free speech. Nowhere in this debacle has government done anything. Schlessinger’s rights remain intact. What she wants, and what she can’t have, is for her speech rights to trump other people’s speech rights. She wants to be able to speak without consequence, but the beautiful brilliance of the First Amendment is that it guarantees everyone the same right to speak freely. Moreover, it gives everyone the right to assemble and speak freely, including speaking to the sponsors of radio talk shows. Schlessinger is entitled to speak her mind; what she is not entitled to is a platform from which to do that. She has that platform only so long as her sponsors continue paying for it. If the sponsors decide that she’s no longer profitable, whether it’s because she’s become irrelevant or because her association with them is bad PR, then it’s well within their right to stop giving her money. And the sponsors wouldn’t know she was bad PR if the public wasn’t relating their bad feelings to them.

So, what Schlessinger really has a problem with is free speech, free assembly, and the free market. Why do conservatives hate our freedoms?

But honestly, I never would have commented on this idiocy if noted Constitutional scholar Sarah Palin hadn’t chimed in:
I tried reading her Facebook essay, but I just couldn't do it.
Volumes could be written about the insensitive idiocy it’d take to use the words “reload” and “shackles” in the context of white-on-black racism. But I’m going to ignore that to hit on the Constitutional point. Activists trying to hold Schlessinger responsible for what she says are not “Constitutional obstructionists,” and at no point in this did Schlessinger’s First Amendment rights cease “2exist.” In fact, given how much exposure she’s had because of this, she’s been able to exercise those rights more often and to a wider audience than she has in about a decade.

Keep in mind that this woman was the Governor of a state for a short time, and was fairly close to being Vice President of the United States. And she doesn’t understand the most basic points of the First Amendment.

But the real irony is in her obvious hypocrisy. After a tiff with David Letterman over some jokes that she found “offensive” and “contribut[ing] to some of the problems we have in society,” she took umbrage with Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. See, Rahm called the plans of a group of liberals “fucking retarded,” and Palin’s youngest son has Down Syndrome. She said that Emanuel’s remarks were “unacceptable” and “heartbreaking” and called for the President to “eliminate” him (presumably by firing, and not firing squad). In fact, in the full quote, Palin even draws a parallel to another kind of situation that we would find appalling:

Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.

Yes, surely if a public figure as famous as a one-time Illinois Congressman and White House Chief of Staff, someone with the combined fame of Danny Davis and Evelyn Lieberman, used the “N-word,” we would all be terribly appalled! Why, we’d probably even ask for them to be fired!

Or not. Instead we’d defend them, call them “powerful” and “effective,” and chastize those who criticize them and call for their termination. Clearly, former Governor Palin’s views have changed on the subject, and that’s understandable. We all change our minds now and again. So I’m sure, Mrs. Palin being a person of consistent, steadfast values, that she would have no problem with people throwing around those terms which she once found “appalling.”

So throw off the shackles, America, and show just how powerful and effective you are in defying the Constitutional obstructionists in our mollycoddled society. Say it loud and proud, knowing that the former Governor of Alaska supports your Constitutionally-secured right to say that Sarah Palin is fucking retarded!

Oh for the love of Pete, America.

Dear America (or at least the American Newsmedia),

Can you please stop acting like a particularly brain-damaged hyperactive dog?

Seriously, there are real things happening in the world. There are real concerns that deserve to be reported. A sizable portion of Pakistan is underwater. Russia has been on fire for weeks, and now in addition to facing concerns about nuclear plant safety and radioactive material left over from Chernobyl, they’re also facing major storms. Whooping cough is making a resurgence in the United States, and has killed several people already. The Taliban recently stoned a couple to death for adultery. Google and Verizon are working on a deal that may have serious implications for net neutrality. The ban on gay marriage was overturned in California.

But the American newsmedia doesn’t seem to care about those kinds of things, because some Muslims want to build a community center in the same general neighborhood where some other Muslims knocked down a couple of buildings nine years ago. This non-story results from the usual set of demagogues, fearmongers, and asshats, pissing and moaning that some non-Christians would dare have the sheer unadulterated chutzpah to think they could exercise their First Amendment rights and legally purchase a real estate property for private use! I guess it’s because they’re doing it in within a three-block radius of where something particularly nasty happened due to people of the same general religious faith almost a decade ago. It’s the same reason that those same people go into a tizzy whenever a Christian church opens up within a few blocks of an abortion clinic, or when a Japanese restaurant opens in Hawai’i.

Oh, they don’t? But wouldn’t that make them terrible hypocrites?

Oh.

Seriously, America. You’re outraged over a couple of liberal Muslim immigrants from allied nations (one-half of the couple behind the community center is from Kuwait. You know, the country we protected from Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War) building the Muslim equivalent of a YMCA (called “Park51”) in the general vicinity of the Twin Towers. People are saying it’s “in bad taste.” And yet, you seem to be just fine with the strip club, Off-Track Betting place, and Hookah Bar in the same radius. Are you telling me that the strip club is in good taste? That Off-Track Betting is in good taste? That tobacco hasn’t killed large numbers of New Yorkers in the recent past? You’re being stupid, America.

There are so many ways in which this attitude is wrong that I scarcely know where to begin. Let’s start with that popular conservative meme that New Yorkers are out-of-touch elitists, not “real Americans,” an idea that, just a few short weeks ago, was exemplified in the confirmation hearings over Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. It’s nice to see the same people who use “New York” as a slur care so much about real estate dealings in lower Manhattan. Perhaps those people would like to purchase or lease some of the empty buildings in the area, to improve the local economy and contribute something to the area. You know, the way the Park51 folks are.

There’s the matter of Islam, which is a pretty diverse religion. Even some skeptics and atheists are falling into this little trap, in part because we tend to be an American or European bunch, and are not as familiar with Islam as we are with Christianity. Yes, sure, the couple behind Park51 believe in the same religion with the same holy book and the same basic tenets as the people who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. But keeping them from opening this place because of the actions of some of their fellow Muslims is like barring Fred Clark and John Loftus from opening up a YMCA near the Centennial Olympic Park. Blaming and discriminating against individual Muslims because of something that different individual Muslims did, because they share a religion (even if their actual beliefs are very dissimilar) is plain old bigotry. It’s no more valid than the idiots who try to tar all atheists with the reputations of Stalin and Pol Pot.

Sure, you could argue that moderate and liberal Muslims legitimize the radicals and conservatives, even if they don’t share the same politics. I make the same argument regarding Christians. That’s a reason to argue forcefully against the beliefs and tenets of Islam, and to not give moderates and liberals a free pass for being less crazy than the radicals; what it’s not is a reason to discriminate against them on the basis of their religion. I’ll argue against Barry Lynn about religion if it’s appropriate, but I’m not going to tell him he can’t open up his own business because some other Christian killed people nearby once. That’s unfair, unreasonable, and un-American.

There are people who see this as a potential rallying point for the same kinds of radical Muslims who conducted the attacks in the first place. I fail to see the relevance. First, I think the radicals would be just as scornful of the westernized liberal folks behind Park51 as they are against the rest of us western infidels–potentially moreso, because they’re defying conservative Islam while still professing to be Muslims. You see the same in Christian circles; liberal Christians and Catholics and so forth are fallen backsliders and false prophets, pretending to preach the faith while actually doing the Devil’s work or overly concerning themselves with “this world.” But let’s say that Osama calls up the next meeting of al-Qaeda and says “Oh, right, a new Muslim community center went up near the place where the Twin Towers fell. So our conquest of the West proceeds apace; next, we’ll be looking into getting Quran verses on the bottom of In-N-Out Burger cups.” Who gives a damn? I would think the bigger victory would be that they blew up the damn World Trade Center, and that we still haven’t fixed it. The victory would be that the people of the Great Satan have revealed their anti-Muslim bias by trying to make Muslims into second-class citizens and loudly proclaiming the infidel Christian basis of their nation and laws and motivations. I hardly think that treating Muslims like everyone else could look bad for us.

I can’t even get behind the idea of a ban as an atheist. Yeah, yeah, I’m generally against religion, and I think worship buildings are a general waste of real estate. I think churches and mosques and temples ought to be taxed unless they can show a clear benefit to society, the same way that other non-profit organizations do. But looking at the actual plans for this building, I think it would easily meet those criteria: it’s a community center dedicated to the arts, classes, and fitness, with a prayer room for Muslims. I wonder if the nearby St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church has so much as a stationary bike, let alone a swimming pool. I’m all for religious buildings that actually serve a secular good–I’d prefer they were secular buildings, but I’ll take what I can get–and Park51 looks like just that kind of place.

And so the news cycle turns on another day of this shit, with reporters bothering the President wondering what he thinks about this terrible example of the free market in action. It’s another reason that I could never be President; while Obama has given a measured response couched in Constitutional terms, my response would be more along the lines of “Jesus H. Christ, don’t you people have better things to worry about?”

And the worst part is that they do. There’s still a whole bunch of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, the job market is still complete shit, a crowd of Juggalos attacked Tila Tequila, and so on and so forth. But the Republicans are constantly trying to keep people hateful and fearful and distracted and outraged–it’s the only way they can get elected, since they don’t actually do anything–and their drummed-up scandals are like shiny things to the infants of the mainstream media. And the Democrats, being as they have evolved beyond the need for a spine, are happy to oblige and try to engage the idiots and the imbeciles in conversation as if they were saying reasonable, important things. Meanwhile, real concerns go unanswered and real news goes unreported. Because Republicans think Americans are stupid, Democrats think that’s a reasonable position even though they disagree, and Americans will obligingly prove the Republicans right.

So America, please stop being idiots. Let’s all take our collective Adderall and focus on real concerns, rather than letting the right-wing hate machine and the left-wing acquiescence machine distract us with shiny things and butterflies. I promise, we’ll all be better for it. You, me, and New Yorkers who like to swim.

Sincerely,
Tom

A Meme that Needs to Die

The nice thing about moving back toward the Chicago area is that I can listen to liberal talk radio again. I don’t do it often–there are really only two shows that I actually enjoy–but it’s nice to have something early in the morning and when I’m driving without podcasts. And generally it’s entertaining or informative or thought-provoking.

But occasionally the subject will turn to immigration. And then the callers will start coming in. And inevitably–inevitably–someone will make a comment that betrays the assumption (or states explicitly) that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes. And in most cases, no one–hosts, co-hosts, other callers–corrects this notion. I’ve called in to two different shows to do just that, though I’ve never gotten to the air. This is a pernicious and generally-accepted meme, but any sense in it falls apart with even the most cursory thought.

What exactly do people mean when they say “illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes”? There are three big taxes that Americans pay: sales tax, property tax, and income tax. Illegal immigrants buy just as many things as natural-born citizens, so sales tax is right out. Illegal immigrants also tend to live in buildings, which they either own or rent. Either way, there’s no way for them not to pay property tax, either because they own a residence or pay a rent that covers the owner’s property tax payments.

So that leaves income tax. I think people have this notion that most or all illegal immigrants are day-laborers who work temporary jobs and get paid cash under the table. Sure, those workers probably aren’t paying income tax. I don’t think I paid income tax on the cash money I got paid for the temporary painting and lawn mowing jobs I did in and shortly after high school, either. But just as most high school jobs aren’t cash-for-manual-labor gigs, most illegal immigrants aren’t standing outside your local Home Depot. This enlightening Reason Magazine article from 2006 gives a figure of 2/3 for the number of illegal immigrants who pay income taxes (among other things), and even that sound like a low estimate–especially when it later shows that 3/4 of the illegal immigrants file personal income taxes with the IRS.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. See, the majority–and I suspect the vast majority–of illegal immigrants are employed legally. They may be using fake or stolen Social Security Numbers, but the cooks and busboys at your local Mexican or Chinese restaurant, the maids at your local hotel, the guys who work maintenance with my dad, those people are all getting regular paychecks from their employers. And those employers, as they are wont to do, are deducting state and federal income tax, Social Security, Medicare, and various other things from those paychecks automatically–just as they do with yours and mine. It’s not like many (if any) of us has to write a check every payday to the IRS.

And yeah, as of 2006, a quarter of them didn’t file taxes with the IRS. I’ve never actually filed my taxes either–that’s what accountants are for–so I’m not particularly clear on the details. I know that some people, when all is said and done, have to pay more to the government, and it’s likely that some of those non-filing illegal immigrants would have to pay extra, which means they’d be delinquent, which is certainly a problem.

But then, some of those non-filing illegal immigrants would probably also be like me, where at the end of the process the government would send them a nice refund check. I don’t know enough about the logistics and statistics involved to know whether or not these two amounts would balance out, but once we’re talking about maybe four million people, some of whom may owe money and some of whom may be owed money, the problem doesn’t look quite as…problematic.

I’ve heard there’s more to this issue, involving deductions and ultimately suggesting that illegal immigrants may pay more than most legal families, but I can’t find a source for that. I think it’s worth noting that, at least as of 2006, illegal immigrants paid significantly more in than they took out of the system. Which pokes a big nasty hole in the concerns of the person typically making this “they’re a drain on the system” argument.

Which is where it’s worthwhile to mention Social Security, too. Just like taxes, Social Security is automatically deducted from your steady paycheck in most jobs. This holds true for illegal immigrants working with fake Social Security Numbers. Unfortunately for them, having no genuine Social Security Number means they can’t collect Social Security when they retire. They’re paying into the system but getting nothing back from it. Which is the complete opposite of their typical freeloader image.

Illegal immigration is a boogeyman, drummed up because it taps into easy fears about outsiders and interlopers, and because it provides an easy scapegoat for the crappy job market and shit economy. The narrative today with Mexicans is the same one that worked against the Irish and Italians and Japanese and Germans and Jews in the past. The United States has always been an attractive place for people to come and make a new, successful life, and those who are determined to do so will make their way here by any means available. I don’t think that’s an attitude to discourage; that’s the old American pioneer by-your-own-bootstraps spirit, isn’t it? Don’t we want America to be a place that people dream of emigrating to?

If you want to curtail illegal immigration, fine: make legal immigration easier. The current system is long, expensive, draconian, and uncertain. Paying a coyote to ferry you across the border looks quick, cheap, safe, and straightforward by comparison. If you want people to pay all the taxes they owe, then you’re not going to get much by squeezing a few pennies out of every illegal Tomás, Ricardo, y Geraldo who owes back taxes. I guarantee you’d make better bank by going after the perfectly legal residents who exploit tax loopholes and the corporations who use tax havens and other workarounds to avoid paying their share. Want to improve the job market? Go after the corporations who have decided to outsource their operations to countries with cheaper workforces and fewer regulations. Increase tariffs on imported goods, place sanctions and extra taxes on businesses who outsource, and make it more attractive to hire American workers. Focusing on illegal immigrants obscures these actual problems in favor of something that has almost no effect on anyone.

Oh, and if you’re just tired of seeing brown people who speak a different primary language, start packing for Sweden, asshole. America’s a melting pot: E pluribus unum. Love it or leave it.

A relevant and somewhat political comic

Not to keep banging the same drum too much, but this recent Dinosaur Comic mentions something that Mike Adams somehow didn’t understand.

Yes, the water in our toilets–provided we’ve cleaned the bowl–is just the same as the water from the faucet. And you know, that is quite ridiculous. I mean, I suppose it saves on weird plumbing systems to have all water-using appliances drawing from one source as opposed to internally recycling, but the dinos really have a point here.

Minor things

First, this column at Slacktivist is amazing.

Second, tomorrow is Wednesday, January 27th. At 10:00/9:00 Central is the mid-season premiere of Psych on USA Network. I’ve been planning to write up a full post about Psych for some time, but every time I pop in one of the nifty DVDs I got for some recent winter gift-giving festival, I get a little distracted. I hesitate recommending the show only because it sometimes feels like it’s targeted directly at my weird ’80s-reference-based sense of humor, and I don’t know if that works for many people. It certainly doesn’t work for a lot of the people who hear my weird ’80s-reference-based attempts at humor. In any case, the relevance to this blog is that Psych is one of the best skeptical shows on TV. Now, it’s not hard science or skepticism like Mythbusters or anything; it’s more skeptical in the vein of the original Scooby-Doo. For those who don’t know, it’s a mystery series following a fake psychic detective who works with a somewhat credulous police department. The protagonist is hyper-observant, which serves him both in the over-the-top psychic pantomime and the whole mystery-solving routine. Despite having some potential rooting in woo-woo, the show has tackled “real” psychics, ghosts, mummies, and other “paranormal” topics without ever giving credence to the supernatural. In the end, it always turns out to be the dude who owned the abandoned amusement park.

To recap: tomorrow night. Catch it!

Finally, I never quite managed to write up my review of They Might Be Giants’ newest album, the absolutely incredible “Here Comes Science.” Had I done so, I would have mentioned that my only real problem with the entire album was that their video for the song “Put it to the Test” used the word “theory” when they really meant “hypothesis.” See for yourself:

Simply fantastic. If you like science and quirky music, the album comes highly recommended, and you should pick it up. If you don’t like quirky music, then the album comes highly recommended, and you should pick it up for your kids!

Gosh, this post comes across sounding like a commercial, doesn’t it? I hope my corporate paymasters are paying attention.


1. If you don’t know already, They Might Be Giants recorded a song in the ’80s called “Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas).” It was a cover of an educational song from the ’50s, and they rerecorded it for “Here Comes Science.” The cool part is that, recognizing how much we’ve learned since 1951, the next track on the album is a follow-up called “Why Does the Sun Really Shine? (The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma).” Not only do they update and correct the earlier tune, but they manage to work the line “that thesis has been rendered invalid” into verse.

Any time now…

Okay, conservatives and Republicans, I’m waiting to hear you start complaining about radical activist judges now. After all, you’re not terrible hypocrites who only complain when “radical”, unprecedented rulings apparently benefit liberals, right?

Birds of a Feather

So, by now you’ve all heard about the guys who brought guns, including an assault rifle, to a public event held by the President, ostensibly to exercise their right to bear arms. I could quibble about spheres of appropriateness–seems like bringing guns to a political event with the President could be curtailed quite justifiably under the law–but I don’t have to. Apparently, part of the event was staged by (surprise, surprise) some guy who supported and defended an anti-government militia in the ’90s. He’s a 9/11 conspiracist, thinks Waco was some kind of government fabrication, and designed the cuckoobananas “Ron Paul rEVOLution” logo. So, you know, an all-around nut.

Well, I managed to catch a bit of video from that event, and happened to notice a big banner in the back reading “VACCINES = POISON.” It’s interesting to see how insanity is apparently magnetic. It’s a nice reminder that irrational beliefs often tend to beget more irrational beliefs. There are many different pathways that one can take to any belief, but when the belief is unsupported by facts, evidence, or reason, it seems like the paths are much more numerous and intertwined. Most antivaxxers seem to have arrived at that point through fearmongering and arguments from ignorance and false authority, but some arrive there through acceptance of anti-science or anti-medicine positions, others arrive there through conspiracy theories and anti-government ideologies, others still arrive through religious convictions.

Following reason, science, and evidence is difficult, but it leads you on paths that converge asymptotically on stable answers. Following pseudoscience and unreason can take you absolutely anywhere, and the vast majority of the destinations are completely wrong.

But I guess at least you’ll have company there.

Birther Fail

I really don’t need to go into the ridiculousness of the Birther movement. Others have done so in greater detail than I need to. I just hope this leotarded kerfuffle results in the codification of our definition of “natural born citizen.” I remember from eighth grade U.S. History class and every government class I’ve taken since that a “natural born citizen” includes anyone born in the United States, as well as anyone born to one or more United States citizens anywhere in the world. Even if he were born in Kenya (which he wasn’t), Obama would be covered under the latter requirement, but apparently Orly Taitz and her followers skipped out on Civics to take extra semester hours in Batshit Insane. Unfortunately, it’s apparently never come up that we’d have to actually officially state that definition somewhere (except in the precedent set by 1874 Supreme Court case Minor v. Happersen), so silly Orly and the rest of the Birther crew are trying to invalidate Obama’s Presidency–and in all likelihood, Chester A. Arthur’s.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to remark on how perfectly suited Orly Taitz’s name is to the Internet. I mean, her last name is ridiculously close to “Taintz,” which is funny enough, but “Orly”? That’s not a name, that’s an image macro:
funny pictures
moar funny pictures

I look forward to the upcoming punditry of Donotwant Shokker, Rickroll Mudkipz, and Hampsterdance Allyourbase.