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Who Is The Conservative Campaign Committee, Pushing Republicans To Be Uncooperative?

The Conservative Campaign Committee, announcing its determination to replace the corrupt Republican congressman Michael Grimm with another politician in the same mold, has released a statement reading:

“Should we try to work with Obama in the spirit of cooperation, since the mainstream media keeps insisting this is what voters want and that this is best for the nation? My friends, I have an answer for that question: Conservatives Must Take A Stand And Fight. Quite frankly, we are sick and tired of…”

Hold on a minute. Did you catch that pivot?

The statement from the Conservative Campaign Committee swerved all of a sudden from “I” to “We”. So, who is really making the decisions at the Conservative Campaign Committee?

us ordnanceThere are a number of donors to the Conservative Campaign Committee, and many of them come from frighteningly violent industries, such as Curtis Debord, who works at US Ordnance, and Philip Gibbs, who works for a place called The Gun Shop.

The President of the Conservative Campaign Committee is Ryan Gill, who has worked for the campaign of Sharron Angle, who paid NewsMax to write puff pieces praising her virulent right wing campaign for the U.S. Senate. The Chairman of the Conservative Campaign Committee is Lloyd Marcus, who writes that “The mindset of the American left is a spirit of Antichrist.”

Taking money from people who sell weapons for a living, using that money to create the false appearance of widespread support for the most reactionary Republican candidates, why would the Conservative Campaign Committee want Republican lawmakers in the federal government to learn how to compromise? The people at the Conservative Campaign Committee feel most comfortable when there is discord.

What Human Activity Does This Aerial Desert Photograph Show?

Flying over the Southwestern United States today, I saw a great expanse of roads in the desert, connecting plots of cleared land about an acre in size, stretching on for as far as I could see. As far as I could make out, there
were no buildings on these plots.

My best guess is that this development is part of some kind of mineral extraction. What kind I couldn’t say.

Can anyone tell me what this photograph shows?

desert mystery roads

The Injured Pope Collider From Google News

The Google News experience of journalism is epitomized in the photograph below, in which a headline about a sermon from Pope Francis tops an article in the “Science” section about the Large Hadron Collider, accompanied by a photograph of an injured man being helped across the street.

Yay, the wonders of automatic curators! What stories will they choose for me next?

injured pope collider

The Steve Jobs I Knew

Steve jobs fast companyFast Company magazine has a cover story this month about Steve Jobs, the dead founder of Apple Computer.

Kind.

Patient.

Human.

Fast Company promises to tell me about “the Steve you didn’t know”.

I run with slow company myself, so the Steve Jobs I knew certainly was different from the one portrayed by Fast Company. I knew Steve as a member of ta knitting club in Skokie, Illinois. Steve would fly in from California to work on his scarves and to let off a little steam.

To be honest, Steve would have finished more scarves if he had used larger needles. I kept on telling him this, over the years, but he wasn’t very receptive to criticism. “Mind your own fabric, you twit,” he would snarl at me, but his mood would always soften a little bit after I brought him a nice hot cup of Sanka, his favorite.

Steve liked to work with acrylic fibers, in the earth tones, with a little bit of bright purple added in for pizzazz. It was a side of Mr. Jobs that the people at Apple never got to know. He never wore black turtlenecks while knitting, but favored Scandinavian sweaters, made with natural colored yarns.

What was the Steve Jobs you knew like?

Postscript: What kind of person has 25 favorite mutual funds? I can’t even name 25 kinds of ice cream I like.

“Not Anything Personal” — An Object Lesson in Discrimination

“Principal Patrick Taylor told the paper that the decision is part of the school’s dress code and it is not anything personal.” — FoxNews, April 5

Claudettia Love of Monroe, Louisiana has received a top-notch education in discrimination from her principal.  The top-notch student is not being allowed to attend her high school prom because she wants to wear a tuxedo to the prom.  Boys are allowed to wear tuxes.  Why can’t she?  Her principal explained it perfectly: it’s not personal.  Who Claudettia Love wants to be, what cut of clothing she wants to wear, and perhaps some day who she wants to love, that’s not personal.  The school, the town, the world gets to tell Claudettia Love who she must be.

Or at least that’s the lesson Principal Taylor is trying to teach.  Maybe he has something to learn from Ms. Love instead.

The Four Hundred Aztec Rabbits of Drunkenness

aztec rabbit pulque drunkennessThe image you see here comes from the March 1958 issue of Natural History magazine, and is accompanied with the following caption: “This pensive little pulque god represents one of Aztec’s four hundred forms of drunkenness – all shown as rabbits. Belt is ornamented with the head of a fallen warrior.”

The Aztecs knew 400 different kinds of drunkenness? This claim is like the assertion of 54 kinds of snow known by the Inuit. Is it accurate?

I don’t personally know any Aztec who can confirm or deny this idea.

I see in Thomas Frederiksen’s student research guide on minor Aztec deities that there was a deity called Ixtilton who brought dreams to children, performed acts of healing, and was a patron of agriculture. Frederiksen writes that “There were over 400 different deities associated with drinking and drunkenness. Collectively they were referred to as Totochtli, meaning rabbits,” but does not give a source for this claim.

According to the Complete MesoAmerica blog, the Aztec regarded the number 400 as a shorthand expression for a number so large that it is practically without limit. So, the Totochtli, which had rabbit forms, were not really 400 in number, but were simply very, very numerous – as numerous as multiplying rabbits. The Totochtli were the children of Mayahuel, a goddess who discovered pulque, an alcoholic drink made from a part of the agave plant (the maguay plant). The plant itself is depicted as having 400 breasts, feeding the 400 rabbits, and Mayahuel is also depicted in this way (As a divinity of fertility, Mayahuel has the Virgin Mary beat, hands down). Mayahuel was herself originally supposed to have been disguised a tree, which was broken, and then took on the form of the agave.

So, it doesn’t look like the Totochtli are really supposed to represent 400 distinct kinds of intoxication. Rather, they are an innumerate horde of incarnations of intoxication from a single mystical source. Prime among the Totochtli was Ometochtli, who was also given the name “Two Rabbits” – one being existing as two rabbits.

The point that I’m taking from all of this is that when you get drunk like a rabbit, you don’t care about keeping precise count of anything anymore.

Grassroots? Jeb Bush Right to Rise Hashtag goes Empty

January 7, 2015: Jeb Bush announces the launch of his Twitter hashtag #RightToRise

April 1-3, 2015: a grand total of 12 people Tweet using the #RightToRise hashtag on Twitter. Messages include:

@actdontreact: #righttorise is like #righttowork. It’s nothing of the sort! #JebBush2016

gift2usa: RT @TheNotoriousJEB: I’m running for president because everyone has the #RightToRise. #Viagra

newstoyoutoday: #RightToRise and Third Reich sound to much alike #JebBush. #msnbc

Tell me again about the grassroots enthusiasm for another Bush in the White House.

An Index Of Witches And Herbs, Burned

- Elspeth Reoch was accused of being a witch on the grounds that she collected yarrow, in Orkney in 1616. She was killed for the crime

– Alison Pearson was burned at the stake as a witch because she knew herbal remedies. She was burned at the stake

– Sigurdur Jonsso was seized in Vigur, Iceland and accused of practicing witchcraft, using herbs, in 1671. He was burned at the stake.

– Two thousand people are identified as witches by ojhas learned in herbal lore, and then killed, in 21st century India.

55 to 8, 88 to 13, 12 to 15

Number of images of adult women featured in the April 2015 issue of Parents magazine: 55

Number of images of adult men featured in the April 2015 issue of Parents magazine: 8

Number of Parents staff listed on Page 6 with a woman’s first name: 83
Number of Parents staff listed on Page 6 with a man’s first name: 13

Number of staff of Parents’ parent company Meredith National Media group with a woman’s first name: 12
With a man’s first name: 15

Are We More Evolved Now?

Progressives make fun of Creationists such as Ken Ham for their silly pseudoscientific models of how the world works. If we look beyond the low hanging fruit, however, we might find ample evidence of sloppy thinking about science in our own midst.

This weekend, atheists are holding a convention in Memphis, Tennessee, and using the event to promote their own godless ideas about the nature of reality. One of the books being promoted by people attending the event is Discovering Our World: Humanity’s Epic Journey from Myth to Knowledge by Paul Singh and John Shook.

discovering our worldSingh and Shook claim to represent the side of science in a battle of “science vs. myth”. Representing science, however, the authors get off to a rocky start. They write, “Our species is already highly evolved compared to others on the planet, so much so that we have become agents of change just like the mother nature. It is becoming apparent that we are the very first species ever to evolve on this planet that will decide its own evolution.

When I read passages like this, I fear a concussion from slapping my forehead over and over again before I reach the end of the book.

Are humans more evolved than other species of life on Earth? This is one of the first ideas that’s debunked in a good introductory biology course. Evidence suggests that all life on Earth shares a single common ancestor. Therefore, all life on Earth has been evolving for the same amount of time.

To say that humans more “highly evolved” than other forms of life on Earth is to suggest that evolution is a unidirectional process with a set purpose: To grow taller in some way. Giraffes beat us in this race in a literal sense, and other forms of life do some amazing things as well. Are we more highly evolved than a mantis shrimp, or an arctic tern, or a sequoia tree? Evolution is adaptation, and life on Earth shows us that adaptation can go in many differently successful directions. It’s not about a simple race to reach upwards.

When Singh and Shook write that humanity will be the first species to decide its own evolution, they make another cringe-worthy assault on basic scientific principles: Claiming to know what will happen in the future. We can’t know how our species will evolve until it actually evolves.

Are Singh and Shook correct in saying that humans will decide how we evolve? I doubt it. There are billions of us, for one thing, and I don’t see how all of us could reach consensus on how to evolve as a species. It’s likely that manipulation of some people’s genetics will influence human evolution, but this won’t be a simple decision of how to evolve. It’s important to remember that evolution takes place through natural selection, and selective influences from nature are difficult to predict. Until humanity controls everything in the entire universe, we won’t have the power to choose how to evolve.

Singh and Shook claim to be leading us away from myth, but their writing is filled with mythmaking. Atheists, as human beings, are just as mythbound as everyone else – and prime among their myths is the idea that they have outgrown mythological thinking.

Good scientists know that we are all prone to error. That’s why they have other people check their work. I wish that Discovering Our World: Humanity’s Epic Journey from Myth to Knowledge had been more adequately checked.

PCLOB: White House Isn’t Measuring Whether its War on Terror Plans Work

It’s been nearly fourteen years since the passage of the USA Patriot Act and the initiation of massive programs of surveillance and military interdiction that are supposed to have been enacted in order to stop the terrorists who, we’ve been told for nearly fourteen years, are going to strike again any… minute… now.

And yet, nearly fourteen years after the unleashing of Homeland Security, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has let slip a crucial detail: the U.S. government has no idea how to assess whether its anti-terrorism programs are actually doing anything.

An excerpt from a January 2015 report by the PCLOB that hardly anyone has read:

Recommendation 10: Develop a Methodology to Assess the Value of Counterterrorism Programs

Status: Not implemented

Text of the Board’s Recommendation:
The government should develop a comprehensive methodology for assessing the efficacy and relative value of counterterrorism programs.

Explanation for the Recommendation:
Determining the efficacy and value of particular counterterrorism programs is critical. Without such determinations, policymakers and courts cannot effectively weigh the interests of the government in conducting a program against the intrusions on privacy and civil liberties that it may cause. Accordingly, the Board believes that the government should develop a methodology to gauge and assign value to its counterterrorism programs, and use that methodology to determine if particular programs are meeting their stated goals.

Forget the constitutionality of all this for a moment. Fourteen years later, figuring out what works and what doesn’t would be kind of nice, too.