I Am A Disappointed Admiral – and Somewhere, a Pirate Lawyer is Crying

Look what you’ve done to poor Captain John:

Yes, you. You know how many Elitist Bastards answered this months’ call?


People. Not only is there an infinity of stupidity needing bashing out there, you’ve all let John down on his birthday.

I’m so disappointed I can’t even talk pirate right now. And Captain John – well, here’s a reconstruction of his current state:

This situation must be rectified. If you merely forgot to submit, get your submission in to elitistbastardscarnival@gmail.com immediately. If you didn’t think you had anything worth submitting, find something anyway – you’re Elitist Bastards, your every word drips with immeasurable intellect. If you’re new and have no idea what’s going on, here are the requirements:

1. Pick one (or more) of your blog posts that blasts ignorance or celebrates some aspect of wisdom, or if you’re really ambitious, does both.

2. Send us the link.

Is that hard? Not at all. Do you have any excuse not to submit a post? None.

I want the COTEB inbox full to the bursting. You have until Sunday morning to wriggle back into John’s and my good graces. Otherwise, you will have to live with the fact that you’ve made John sad on his birthday.

No Sunday Science Today

You should all be diligently working on your submissions for COTEB, you scurvy dogs. And I’ve been too busy press-ganging to whip up a post for this Sunday. Alas, that means even the heroic crew members who already made their contributions suffer a lack of sensational science this week.

See how it is when you make a pirate lawyer cry?

I’ll give you one little science tidbit: according to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, the most likely explanation for why Europeans had nasty epidemic diseases while Native Americans didn’t was that Europeans had more livestock. Makes perfect sense, really, considering so many of our diseases come from animals, and is a concept easily illustrated:


Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Yes, late again, curses. I’ve been busy reading most o’ the day. And then there was the small matter of the empty inbox… (speaking of which, there’s still time to make the Captain and the Admiral happy if you’re reading this before late Sunday morning). But enough with the reasons, let’s get on with the spanking the stupid.

The Census Bureau seems to have gotten there ahead of us:

In the past couple weeks, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has used her public appearances to fear-monger about the 2010 Census.


Yesterday, Census Bureau spokesman Steve Buckner spoke to Minnesota Public Radio and said that many of Bachmann’s concerns were misguided.


Buckner also said that Census officials have been working with Bachmann’s office to clear up the misinformation:

BUCKNER: Well, we certainly are working with the Congresswoman’s office here in DC, and have already had a briefing with her to explain the rules of the Census and why they’re there, and explain some of the Constitutional law. I mean, the Supreme Court has upheld the powers of the data to be collected. But we’re not asking anything on the 2010 Census that I can see that would be intrusive in terms of the basic information.

As Buckner also pointed out, “For the most part, people put more information on a credit card application than they do on the Census form.”

I hope Michele’s having fun being educated regarding her duties. But I’m not sure she’ll learn. It’s hard to smack sense into the senseless. Which should make it interesting when she breaks federal law by not filling in the Census completely. But I do hope she doesn’t end up in prison. What she needs is psychiatric care, not punishment.

Speaking of psychiatric and other health care, let’s take a moment to see where we’re at. The Prez and the public (along with the vast majority of Dems), want a public option. The GOP and their braindead base don’t wanna public option cuz that’s so-shuh-lized mid-uh-sin. Yet shouting talking points and silly slogans is no way to govern a country. If the opposition party’s opposing, they need to present an alternative. Morning Joe came up with the utterly brilliant idea of asking Rep. Cantor what that alternative plan might look like (video at the link):

Eric Cantor is asked by MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan to explain just what the GOP’s plan is for health care reform, and again, Cantor fails to give any details as to just what their plan is, other than saying no to a public option and offering consumers more “choice”. Even Ratigan points out at the end of the interview that Cantor didn’t answer his question.

As Jason Linkins pointed out at the HuffPo, Cantor had some similar trouble on the same show when asked by Mike Barnicle what the GOP’s plan was for health care reform back on May 6th, 2009.

Jason Linkins also has the specific question-and-answer from that original fiasco, which illustrates the whole bankruptcy of the Con philosophy perfectly:

MIKE BARNICLE: You just raised the issue of health care. We live in the only civilized nation in the world, where if … your child gets sick with a really terrible illness, you might find yourself in bankruptcy court in order to pay the bills. So, without the pretty language, without the big words, can you tell me: what’s your health plan, what’s it going to cost, how are you going to get it done, how can you work with the Democrats in concocting … in coming up with a health plan that works for everyone?

CANTOR: First of all, let me just go in here and address the assumption here in the discussion. We also have a health care system that, in reality, if you are sick anywhere in this world and you can afford it, you can come here for your care because we do have access to the best care, but you’re right, there are too many people who don’t have access to that care, so what we need to do is to be able to address — number one — the coverage and access to insurance, and number two, to be able to demonstrate that we can bring down cost. Now this notion that we are somehow going to allow the government to take over providing the care because that’s going to address the cost factor, is just a false start. You can’t assume that this place in Washington is going to do things efficiently. What we do know is that we need to promote the ability for people to — number one — if they lose their job, they don’t necessarily lose their health care — number two — if they are sick and they have a pre-existing condition, we must allow for them to access affordable coverage, because that’s a huge issue right now, how people can access coverage when they are sick, and that has to do with expanding the risk pools, giving people the ability to access much more affordable coverage. Right now, we are so tied to a third-party payer system that, you know, people are at a whim cut off from access to care. so we’ve got to go back to centering our focus on patient/doctor relationships.

Do you see a plan in there? No? That’s probably because there isn’t one. There’s a hash of lame GOP talking points, magic unicorns, and wishes. A plan it is not.

The truly pathetic part:

So we have the second failure on the same show within a little over a month for Cantor to actually respond in a meaningful way with details and to give them some specific answers on just what the GOP’s health care plan entails. Willie Geist’s response when Ratigan pointed out that Cantor didn’t answer the question….we’ll have him back on again to explain it.

I’m so looking forward to strike three.

Yesterday, the House passed important cap-and-trade legislation. Today, the whining starts. We know the wingnuts would whine, so before we get to them, let’s watch a Dem snivel over imaginary victimhood:

Last night, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which will establish the first national standards for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and global warming pollution. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) responded on Twitter this morning, saying that the legislation’s cap on carbon pollution would “unfairly punish” Missouri’s families and businesses:

Claire McCaskill tweets on cap and trade

Missouri gets 85 percent of its electricity from coal and is home to the world’s largest coal company, Peabody Energy. Peabody has spent neatly $10 million lobbying against climate legislation since 2008. In reality, the cap-and-trade system the House passed fully protects states now dependent on coal, with multi-billion-dollar programs for advanced coal technology. “My focus in the shaping of the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee was to keep electricity rates affordable and to enable utilities to continue using coal,” coal-district Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) explained during yesterday’s debate. “Both of these goals have been achieved.”

Deary, deary me, Claire. Looks like your buddies in the coal industry got just what they needed, so you’re little pity party’s just kind of silly now. In fact, it’s just about as silly as the rabid base reaction to the few Republican yay votes:

RedState labeled them “quisling” Republicans who “sold out the nation\’s [sic] future.” Malkin put up a “wanted” poster with the eight, under the text: “Wanted in the United States of America for selling out taxpayers.” She went on label them the “GOP’s Cap-and-Tax 8.”

And Robert Stacy McCain is targeting the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), now that the “Monstrosity From Hell That Will Destroy the American Economy” passed with the help of eight GOP lawmakers.

Wow. “Monstrosity From Hell,” even. All this for a watered-down piece of energy legislation that’ll end up costing families under 50 cents per day. Sad, aren’t they? Too bad they don’t get this excited when Congress decides to authorize rampant spying on American citizens.

And then here’s where it gets really funny. Victor Davis Hanson tries to explain that because a few places experienced colder weather this year, global warming’s a complete crock (apparently, he’s too ignorant to know the difference between a long-term trend like climate and a short-term thng like weather. Dumbshit). And then came the WSJ, trumping his dumbfuckery a thousandfold:

Also yesterday, the Wall Street Journal editorial page ran an item from Kimberly Strassel that offered even less persuasive evidence. (via Jon Chait)

The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with the U.N. — 13 times the number who authored the U.N.’s 2007 climate summary for policymakers.

Ah, yes, the Inhofe list. Strassel sees “more than 700 scientists” who reject evidence of global warming, but a closer look reveals that the list includes economists, engineers, geographers, TV weathermen, and physicists — none of whom has a background in climate science. Some of the “more than 700” actually accept global warming as fact, have asked that their names be removed from the list, only to find Inhofe ignore their requests.

In my favorite example, one of the 700 “scientists” is a weatherman at the FOX-affiliated station in Bowling Green, Ky. The “scientist’ doesn’t have a college degree, believes in creationism, and rejects evidence of global warming because he doesn’t believe “God would allow humans to destroy the earth He created.” He’s also argued that his perspective on science has value, despite not having a background in science, because, “The way I see it, some people are too smart for their own good.”

But other than the fact it’s nearly entirely bogus, yeah, it really shows some skepticism about climate change among scientists, ya, sure, you betcha. *Wink*

It’s things like those that may help explain poll numbers like these:

This week’s big Washington Post poll asked respondents who they trust to handle health care, the economy, the budget deficit, and terrorism. The poll didn’t include a partisan breakdown, but WaPo’s polling director sent it over to us, and here’s where indys stand:

* On health care, 51% of indys trust Obama, and 26% trust GOPers in Congress.

* On the economy, 51% of indys trust Obama, and 31% trust the GOP.

* On the budget deficit, 52% of indys trust Obama, and 30% trust the GOP.

* And on terrorism, 53% of indys trust Obama, and 36% trust the GOP.

To recap: On every one of these major issues — even terrorism — majorities of indys trust Obama, and small minorities trust Congressional Republicans.

No wonder DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan was wondering, with respect to the annual DNC vs. RNC softball game, “Are there even nine Republicans left to field a team?”

Yes, but I’m not sure how many of them can play ball. After all, they’ll always taking their ball and running home…

Sun, Sorta Surf, and Sacked Cats

I spent the vast majority of my day at Discovery Park. It’s ginormous. Put it like this – the Loop Trail is 2.8 miles, and they’re not factoring in the extra mile or two you’ll tramp if you scramble down to be a beach bum. ‘Tis one o’ my favorite places in the universe.

Here’s the view from the top o’ South Bluff:

That’s the Sound at low tide. Pretty, innit?

And here’s the view from the bottom o’ South Bluff:

South Bluff is one of the most interesting geological features I’ve ever gotten to touch. It’s layering looks a little like Jupiter. And it’s big. It’s sorta sand caught on its way to becoming rock. Fun to esplore.

Then you tramp down the beach, and you’ll come to the lighthouse:

I saw a baby seal near that lighthouse once. Today, no seal, but there was a crab:

Am I weird for thinking crabs are cute?

Someone built a little beach bungalow out of driftwood, where they could watch the breaking waves. Not that our waves are huge, but they still break:

There’s a lot more to Discovery, but we had to come home and let the cat out of the bag:

I just wish I’d caught her playing with the receipt she found in the bag. My cat is strange.

Yer Captain’s Got a Motivational Speech for Ye

I’ll take it as a personal affront if there is not a plethora of material. You don’t want a lawyer with delusions of being a pirate to be pissed at you.

Besides, it’s my birthday and, if it isn’t a good Carnival, I might cry. If there’s anything that you don’t want to see more than a pissed lawyer with delusions of being a pirate, its a lawyer with delusions of being a pirate crying.

He be right about that, me hearties. I think ye’d better get yer Elitist Bastardly links in to elitistbastardscarnival@gmail.com as soon as possible. If ye’re any later than Friday night, a fate worse than drowning in an ocean o’ stupidity may befall us.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Yes, we’re very late today. That’s because I’ve been at Discovery Park, playing with sea critters and hiking my very legs off. When there are blue skies in Seattle, it’s best to enjoy them pronto.

See that? That’s blue sky, that is. I snapped that photo with a POS elderly digital camera, and it’s not been modified. That’s sky so blue it makes the treeline look fake.

Happily, the House set our feet on the first steps to maintaining those blue skies:

From the NYT:

“The House passed legislation on Friday intended to address global warming and transform the way the nation produces and uses energy.

The vote was the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. The legislation, which passed despite deep divisions among Democrats, could lead to profound changes in many sectors of the economy, including electric power generation, agriculture, manufacturing and construction.

The bill’s passage, by 219 to 212, with 44 Democrats voting against it, also established a marker for the United States when international negotiations on a new climate change treaty begin later this year.

Huzzah! In fact, we even have a handful of Republicans to thank:

Despite promises that Republicans would rally against the bill, several members defected to support it, including Reps. Dave Reichart (R-WA), Mike Castle (R-DE), Mary Bono Mack, Mark Kirk (R-IL), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and John McHugh (R-NY).

Smart Republicans, those. I think I know why Dave did it – people in the beautiful town of Bellevue, WA, like their earth global-warming free. And he had the good grace to work with my own beloved Jay Inslee to get the job done. I think running against Darcy Burner smacked some sense into the boy. (Speaking of Darcy Burner, she’s got a must-read post up at C&L, fyi.)

Now if only someone had smacked some sense into the rest o’ the Cons...

Listening to the House debate over the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) is a surprisingly frustrating experience. It’s probably better that most Americans don’t actually see these debates — it would undermine faith in our system of government.

At one point today, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) noted, “It is very difficult to find common ground if the other side rejects the science of our times.” Truer words, never spoken.

Take, for example, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.). Broun is perhaps best known for telling reporters late last year that he fears that President Obama may establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship on Americans. He added at the time that Obama reminds him of Hitler. Today, the Georgia Republican shared his thoughts on the environment.

“Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus…. And who’s going to be hurt most [by ACES] the poor, the people on limited income…the people who can least afford to have their energy taxes raised by MIT says $3,100 per family…. This bill must be defeated. We need to be good stewards of our environment, but this is not it, it’s a hoax!”

The “$3,100 per family” line has been debunked over and over again — the MIT scholar Broun cites has specifically tried to explain to Republican lawmakers that it’s completely bogus — but they just can’t seem to stop using it.

Bogus never stopped these freaks from spouting off lies, damned lies, and pure insanity. And, following their beloved leader Rush “Obama’s just like an African colonial despot!” Limbaugh’s lead (with a little help from his sidekick Glenn “Cap and Trade supporters are treasonous!” Beck), they’re on a rather bizarre autocrat meme. Here’s Rep. Gingrey playing off the “Cons are just like the poor Iranian protesters!” theme:

Last week, several Republican House members compared themselves to Iranian protesters, claiming that being in the minority in Congress was just like being violently oppressed in Iran. “I wonder if there isn’t more freedom on the streets of Tehran right now than we are seeing here,” said Rep. David Dreier (R-CA). Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and John Culberson (R-TX) made similar comparisons on Twitter.

Despite the online uproar that followed the egregious comparisons, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) went even further today. Complaining about the proposed rules for debate on clean energy legislation, Gingrey compared Democrats to the “forces of darkness” in Iran and North Korea:

GINGREY: Madam speaker, thank you. I rise in opposition to this rule and to the underlying legislation. I’m just not sure to which I’m more opposed. Americans are watching as from Iran to North Korea, the forces of darkness are attempting to silence the forces of democracy and freedom. The irony is on this day, the Democratic process and the nation’s economic freedom are under threat not by some rogue state, but in this very chamber in which we stand. Good people may disagree on the impact or the merits of this bill. But no one can disagree with the fact that the speaker and her rules committee have silenced the opposition.

Um. I refer you to the previous item, in which the opposition blathered, babbled and made utter fools of themselves, only to receive applause from their “silenced” fellows. Also, a question: which Dem leader is it, exactly, who’s called for your execution if you continue to protest, Mr. Gingrey? What’s that? None? That disqualifies you from being just like poor oppressed Iranian protestors, who have been threatened with execution, not to mention shot in the streets. I would suggest you shut the fuck up now.

So should you, John McCain:

During an appearance on a local radio station in Phoenix, AZ this morning, a caller asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) when Republican leaders were going to emerge in Congress to “wake the American people up” to the “cap-and-tax” bill. “Why can’t we get the House members and the Senate members to just walk out on what the Democrats are doing?” the caller asked. In response, McCain said that the GOP lawmakers — particularly his House colleagues — have to stay and fight, even though they are working under Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) authoritarian rule:

McCAIN: We’re fighting every single day. You don’t want to leave the arena; you want to stay in it and fight. And I guarantee you we are using every parliamentary possibility we have and I have great sympathy for my friends in the House because it’s almost under an autocracy now with Speaker Pelosi.

Do you Cons want to live under an autocracy? Is that what would make you happy? Because you all seem to be fantasizing about it an awful lot. It’s not healthy.

While I’m handing out free advice to frothing insane Cons, I might as well throw some to not-Joe the Plumber. Joe, it’s probably not a good idea to do shit like this:

Americans for Prosperity, one of the wingnut welfare outfits behind the Great Teabagging, held an event in Wausau, Wisconsin yesterday, keynoted by the man who best personifies the Teabagging movement. [snip]

Wurzelbacher has a reputation for being a blunt, politically incorrect speaker. Referring to Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., more than once, Wurzelbacher asked, “Why hasn’t he been strung up?”

I’m not sure I’d use the term “politically incorrect” for calling for the lynching of a sitting US Senator. But don’t stop him, he’s rolling.

Just ask Sean Hannity’s old pal Hal Turner how well threatening federal officials works out.

There’s much more nutty goodness floating about the intertoobz tonight, but after several miles of hiking in the sunshine, I’m needing a bath. So I’ll just leave you with this gem:

We learned yesterday, by way of Rush Limbaugh, that Mark Sanford’s sex scandal was President Obama’s fault. If it weren’t for the administration’s economic policies, the argument goes, Sanford would have been more optimistic about the future, wouldn’t have cheated on his wife, and wouldn’t have secretly left the country to see his mistress.

Who can argue with air-tight logic like this?

Today, Limbaugh’s right-wing colleague, Michael Savage, takes this one step further. Obama didn’t just inspire Sanford to betray his family; the White House conspired to make this scandal happen in the first place.

“The fact is, Obama’s team is taking out potential [2012] rivals, one after another,” Savage argued. “Just last week, the media jumped on the story of Sen. John Ensign (R) of Nevada and his infidelity. He was considered to be a possible Republican presidential candidate in ’12. Now Sanford, who had similar ambitions, caught in a similar situation.

“This is politics at its worst, brought to us by the worst administration, the meanest administration, the most closed administration, the most incompetent administration in American history.”

As Steve Benen notes, it’s pretty impressive that such an incompetent administration could make not one, but two, prominent Cons run out and get caught with their pants around their ankles in the space of a week. That “stimulus package” must have been some pretty potent stuff, eh?

When the Dems pass healthcare reform, I think they need to include a few trillion dollars for restoring the Cons’ mental health. It’s obviously getting much, much worse under their current insurance.

Tears for Strangers

You know, the last thing I expected was a little jolt when I found out Michael Jackson died. I wasn’t a fan, didn’t like his music, and certainly didn’t like the man. But I can’t deny that it felt like there was suddenly a strange empty space in the world. A rather small one for me, huge for others. News of his death actually came close to crashing cell phone networks everywhere as people called or texted each other the news. A friend of a friend cried for three hours.

We get awfully close to people we don’t know.

Psychologists occasionally try to explain our tears for strangers. I didn’t find many research papers in my desultory search through the intertoobz, but found some quotes in various and sundry articles relating to other celeb deaths that attempt to shed some light:

Attempting to explain the phenomenon, clinical psychologist Fiona Cathcart says it is partly down to today’s less community-minded society.

“People overtake hearses these days,” she says, the point being that in modern communities, neighbours do not invest time in getting to know each other.

Instead, it is the rich and famous; the faces on television and in celebrity-focused magazines that command our attention.

“We know more about the details of their lives. The clothes they wear, their ambitions, where they last went on holiday than we do of the family next door.”

Yes, but, the same kind of mourning goes on in tight-knit communities, too. My old neighborhood in Flagstaff was about as intimate as it gets, positively incestuous at times, and yet we still chocked up at the deaths of strangers. Having friends I knew like family didn’t keep me from getting seriously emotionally involved with even fictional people. So we’re going to have to do better than “It’s because we’re all strangers” pap. Anyone else?

“People want to be close to major events, no matter how tragic,” said Stuart Fischoff, senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology. “They want to feel like they are participating. They want to create that memory of ‘I was there when.’ People say, ‘I’m a fan and this is how I show my concern for him.'”

Eh. Don’t know about your mileage, but that doesn’t resonate for me. Some people I know are like that. Others are just about the opposite. And that doesn’t explain why a really good author can leave you sobbing your poor little heart out over somebody who never actually existed.

Part of it’s the knowing. Get to know somebody well enough, even if it’s not a two-way street, and you start to care. We can’t help that – we’re human. And whether it’s a celebrity or a great character, those people we’ve come to know give us something in turn for the time we bestow on them. They entertain us, sometimes enlighten us; they keep us company, help us dream, let us experience worlds we’re otherwise excluded from. We develop something of a relationship that has real meaning. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of symbols, or history – I may not even like Michael Jackson, but I did the Moonwalk with everyone else, and he was a part of my childhood. It’s tough to see pieces of your past go.

Sometimes, the tears come from what we know we’ll miss out on. Take Carl Sagan, whose death still chokes me up at times. He was a brilliant science popularizer whose books and teevee programs many of us adored, so is it any wonder we miss him? What else could he have done, had he not died so soon?

Some shrinks think it’s mostly the “could’a happened to any of us” factor, too:

Dr Oliver James, whose book Britain on the Couch examines psychological changes in the nation’s character since the 1950s, says Diana’s troubled life in some ways mirrored the difficult experiences of normal people.

Sure. And we want to see them succeed, survive and flourish, because that offers us some vicarious comfort. Not to mention, we were pulling for them. We really did care.

I know some people question that – can you really care for a stranger? Of course you can. Not in the same way you’d care for family or close friends, usually, but it’s a genuine caring nonetheless. Humans are like that.

And in some cases, perhaps, it’s a coping mechanism, a chance to get it right the second time, or practice for the inevitable:

Mourning the death of a celebrity retriggers suppressed feelings of loss for an actual loved one, said professor Sherri McCarthy, a psychologist and a grief counselor at Northern Arizona University.

“People are vulnerable because these events retrigger memories of losing someone else. If an individual has unresolved, suppressed feeling of grief they may use this opportunity to express those feelings. If a child didn’t grieve a parent properly, they can displace that grief on someone in the media.”

Probably all of the above speculations have some grain of truth, to varied degrees for varied people. But as a writer and a human being, I do think this is the paramount factor:

As Arthur Koestler put it: “Statistics don’t bleed; it is the detail which counts.”

The more detail we have, the more we’re able to care: the more we care, the more those strangers’ deaths affect us. Think of Neda, who’s become the symbol of Iran’s brutal repression of political dissenters. Others have been killed just as gruesomely – at least 25 are dead – but she’s the one who stands out. And part of that is because of the detail. The graphic images of her death, the few details of her young life, combine to turn statistics into a person we find it easy to care about, a memory we can rally round, an inspiration.

And the people who have inspired us deserve a tear or two whether or not we’ve ever had them over for tea, don’t you think?