Donkeys, Lions and How To Tell the Difference

John Rogers has a fantastic essay up, just ripe for Memorial Day reading:

The point is by the broadest, most easily agreed-upon standards our side of the covenant with the troops is not being upheld. We are culpable, we are responsible, were are in fact guilty if we do not rectify this situation. And the only way to rectify this situation, in our form of government, is to go chew the shit out of the guys whose job it is to execute our will.

The problem is, these yahoos have managed an ugly trick. They have turned criticism of the policies of Bastards in Suits into criticism of The People in Uniform Getting Shot At. This, of course, is completely wrong, as one can easily tell the difference between the Bastards in Suits and The People in Uniform Getting Shot At. One group is in Suits, and Not Getting Shot At, while another is in Uniform, and Getting Shot At. Please, try to grasp this. Not the same.

There is a flip side. Some people confuse supporting the Bastards in Suits for supporting The People in Uniform Getting Shot At. This is, again, ridiculous. If the history of modern warfare has taught us anything, it’s that the Bastards in Suits spend an awful lot of time working the kinks out of plans involving The People in Uniform dying unpleasantly. They often screw that up. When they do screw up, it is incumbent upon Bastards in Suits to suffer criticism and fix the situation, as by comparison The People in Uniform are suffering shattered skulls, missing limbs and death. Which is, on my scale, exponentially more traumatic than criticism.

read the whole thing, which should be chiseled in marble somewhere.

X3

Elvira and I just got back form seeing X-Men 3. We both really enjoyed it. Sure, it’s not Shakespeare but going in you don’t expect life-altering cinema, just comic book fun and as such, it was very fulfilling. Characters die, Wolverine emotes, things explode, bridges move and as always, there are some fun little cameos for the comic book geeks (Stan Lee and Chris Claremont both looking startled as extras was great fun and there are loads of mutant cameos for the hardcore fans).

The story is straight forward on the usual themes of alienation, what it means to be human and the excesses of power in the wrong hands. But do yourself a favor and stay to the end of the credits. It’s worth t.

Some reviews seem to miss the point, grousing about how there’s not much characterization or the story is thin and by the numbers, or that it’s full of fanservice and that anyone coming in to this fresh will be lost. To that I say, so? If you go into a third part sequel expecting clarity, you’re in the wrong theater. MI3 is down the hall, no brains allowed.

PZ Myers of course completely disagrees, which is his prerogative. He makes some good points on the science of the film, namely, that it’s implausible but then, X-Men always did get a D in plausibility. But that’s not the point and never was. A scientifically plausible superhero story would be… pretty lame, actually. It’s Fantasy, with a Scientific gloss. Which I’ll take over the God Did It fantasy (as in, The Ten Commandments) any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

The Dragon King of Hogwarts

Discovery Channel news:

Dracorex hogwartsia, which translates as “Dragon King of Hogwarts,” was unearthed in 2003 in the Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota by three amateur fossil hunters working in cooperation with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. But it wasn’t until it was at the museum, while the fossil was being carefully prepared, that renowned dinosaur researcher Robert Bakker happened to catch sight of it while visiting. Bakker then recruited pachycerphalosaurs expert Sullivan and other paleontologists to take a closer look.

As for how it got its name? A group of children at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis drew the connection to the fanciful school of witchcraft that the famous fictional wizard Harry Potter attends and came up with the name hogwartsia..

“It’s a very dragon-like looking dinosaur,” said Sullivan.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has been notified and apparently rather likes the new name.

“I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small claw mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs,” said Rowling, according to a museum press release. “I happen to know more on the subject of paleontology than many might credit, because my eldest daughter was Utahraptor-obsessed and I am now living with a passionate Tyrannosaurus rex-lover, aged three.

“My credibility has soared within my science-loving family, and I am very much looking forward to reading Dr. Bakker and his colleague’s paper describing ‘my’ dinosaur.”

Rock and Roll and The Top-Down Revolution

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon found a chuckle-inducing exercise in conservative culture jamming, in the form of the top 50 Conservative Rock Songs.* She reviews the reviews and really zeroes in on the Conservative mindset and it’s blindspots, both political and cultural:

“1. “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who. The conservative movement is full of disillusioned revolutionaries; this could be their theme song, an oath that swears off naive idealism once and for all. “There’s nothing in the streets / Looks any different to me / And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye… Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” The instantly recognizable synthesizer intro, Pete Townshend’s ringing guitar, Keith Moon’s pounding drums, and Roger Daltrey’s wailing vocals make this one of the most explosive rock anthems ever recorded — the best number by a big band, and a classic for conservatives.”

The fact that they fall for the “small government” line and continue to elect Republicans who drive up deficits and curtail civil liberties demonstrates that conservatives are in fact easy to fool over and over and over again. Anyone who still trusts Bush after he lied to get us in the Iraq war is demonstrating a depth of gullibility previous unmeasurable by any instruments known to man.

But the choice of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was inevitable. The critical mythology of neo-conservatives is that they were once idealistic leftists and totally cool and could so get laid and knew where to buy the best weed but the tawdry stupidity of liberal beliefs ran them off. The seedy reality is that the only known human being to actually make the legitimate case that this is his life story is P.J. O’Rourke. The rest of them were just Marxists who ran off to be right wingers when they realized the American left wasn’t ever going to embrace Stalinist authoritarianism. All attempts to claim the mantle of pseudo-cool rebellion must be viewed in this light.

This right here explains two very important things about the Neo-Conservative mindset. First, they have no grasp of the concept of irony what so ever. None. Second, it explains why they love, love, love The President so much; they’re disgruntled radicals looking for a Daddy figure to teach them how to do the lockstep line dance. Who better to do that then the Decider?

It also points to why the vilify liberals so much, because they see us as simply younger, less mature versions of themselves. Sort of the way College Sophomores look down their nose at High School Seniors. They are just so unhip, because they haven’t figured out that all the cool kids are lining up to conform and join the trustfund revolution, where the rich steel from the poor and call it charity.

Now that The Decider and his gang have dropped bellow the point of no return in the polls, some old- school Conservatives are trying to play them off as closet liberals. And even though clearly some of the Neo-Cons– Rumsfeld and Cheney, most notably– come from a Marxist background, they are clearly enamored with authoritarian ideologies of the Right (It’s all that Traditional Family Values crap. Anytime someone starts nattering about The Old Time Religion and the Way Things Never Were, what they mean is, they want their Pa).

But the truly frightening fact about American Politics today is that the only thing standing between us and and a full blown Dictattorship is The Democrats.

Preheating the Wrong Oven

Dan Savage is consistently one of the most amusing and provocative sex-columnists around. For the last few months he’s been running the occasional Straight-Rights Update, in which he keeps his regular readers appraise dof the shenanigans of the prudes and moralizers (all of whom, I’m sure have more than a few kinks in their closet, eh, Senator Santorum?). This week, he brings to our attention a truely frightening piece of legeslation, right out of The Handmaid’s Tale:

STRAIGHT-RIGHTS UPDATE: After tossing nearly half of last week’s column away on a straight-rights update, it was my intention to give it a rest. In fact, every time I write one of these, I think, “This is the last one. Banning abortion, evicting unmarried straight couples and their children, moving to ban birth control—things can’t get any worse, can they?”

Oh, but they can: Not satisfied with meddling in the lives of the relatively small percentage of women who are pregnant, the American Taliban is moving to regulate the lives of all American women.

“New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves—and to be treated by the health care system—as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon,” reports The Washington Post. “[T]his means all women between first menstrual period and menopause should take folic acid supplements, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes under control… [I]t’s important that women follow this advice throughout their reproductive lives, because about half of pregnancies are unplanned and so much damage can be done to a fetus between conception and the time the pregnancy is confirmed.”

Color me paranoid, but ordering American women to regard themselves as “pre-pregnant” because they may harm a fetus they don’t know they’re carrying opens the door to prosecuting women who harm their fetuses by failing to regard themselves as “pre-pregnant.” How long until “women should… refrain from smoking [and] maintain a healthy body weight” becomes “women must…” Does that sound paranoid? Well, so did a war on contraception once.

Next week, Dan is going to have an all Stright-Rights column. Spread the word.

Zizek On Moral Atheism

PZ Myers brings to our attention to this fine little defense of atheism by Slojov Zizek:

During the Seventh Crusade, led by St. Louis, Yves le Breton reported how he once encountered an old woman who wandered down the street with a dish full of fire in her right hand and a bowl full of water in her left hand. Asked why she carried the two bowls, she answered that with the fire she would burn up Paradise until nothing remained of it, and with the water she would put out the fires of Hell until nothing remained of them: “Because I want no one to do good in order to receive the reward of Paradise, or from fear of Hell; but solely out of love for God.” Today, this properly Christian ethical stance survives mostly in atheism.

Fundamentalists do what they perceive as good deeds in order to fulfill God’s will and to earn salvation; atheists do them simply because it is the right thing to do. Is this also not our most elementary experience of morality? When I do a good deed, I do so not with an eye toward gaining God’s favor; I do it because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward. David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way, when he wrote that the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God’s existence.

It’s a nice little reversal of the usual take on atheism; presenting a moral analog to religion that is not dependant on the mythology to derive it’s moral weight but possessing an equivalency none the less. He goes on to make a point I’ve been trying to verbalise for some time: that if Theists want to be taken seriously as rational individuals they need to take responsibility for the fundamentalists in their midst just as we atheists need to treat all Theists as, “serious adults responsible for their beliefs.”

Responsable adults take full credit for their actions, good or bad. They don’t blame the Devil for their own selfishness (as it creates complacency in the face of genuine, human evil) or defer to some ambivalent deity in the sky the windfall of good timing and reasonable actions.
Or, as Hume said: to show true respect for God by acting morally while ignoring God’s existence.

There’s much more about Zizek and his writings on Wikipedia. He also has a new book out, for the really curious.

Because I Am A Timelord, That’s How

Long-time reader, Lisa wrote me an email that I thought I should share with the class:

I noticed that you post at all hours of the day, how do you manage to blog at work?

The short answer is: I don’t blog at work. That would get me fired. The long answer, for Lisa (and the IT folks at work, hiya boys!) is a little technical. It involves UTC timecodes and PHP programming language but the short answer: I can preset posts to publish whenever I want, simply by changing the timestamp. I can publish things a week in advance or three years in the past (though, that would just be silly).

Basically, I write posts at night and set the time stamp to publish throughout the day so that fresh content appears on the blog while I’m at work (hint: these posts have timecodes that are nice round numbers, usually on the hour or half hour. Look at the timestamp on this post: it says I published it exactly at 1 PM, while I was actually eating lunch. In reality, I published it at about nine minutes to 7 this evening). Mostly, I do this for the Friday Cat Pictures. I publish them on Thursday night and program the blog to post the pictures Friday morning. Otherwise, I’d be a nocturnal blogger which means being half a day behind everyone else. And who wants to read stale commentary? This way, you, the loyal reader get fresh content on a regular basis, and I get to keep my job. Everybody wins!