Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Vaccines and Autism: the Final Word

Friday, March 30th, 2018

OK, let’s do this…
I grieve for the state of public discourse in this nation. It’s seems that way too much of the discussion and debate is focused on endless reiterations of the same tired arguments which, to any sensible person, have been over for a long time. I mean… flat Earth? seriously?!? Yes, there are quite a number of people who are seriously arguing that Earth is flat.

Another “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me” argument is the claim repeated endlessly that vaccines cause autism. They don’t. “Do vaccines cause autism?” has been one of the most studied questions in all of science over the last twenty or so years. And the answer, over and over and over and over, is NO. Studies in all of the most prestigious relevant journals. Big studies, medium sized studies, short-term studies, long term studies. In vitro. In vivo. Mercury in vaccines does not cause autism. Aluminum in vaccines does not cause autism. Formaldehyde in vaccines doesn’t cause autism. Vaccines don’t cause autism when they’re administered several at a time. Vaccines don’t cause autism on a fewer, slower schedule. There’s no known mechanism by which vaccines could possibly cause autism. While the symptoms of autism may show up after vaccines have been administered, the disorder’s causes are genetic and epigenetic, so it’s spectacularly improbable that vaccines administered well after birth could be a cause. The question has been answered. It’s not up for debate. It does not need further study.

Nonetheless, the claims keep coming. There seems to be a cottage industry of professional quacks, cranks, and crackpots endlessly recycling the same drivel and a herd of credulous paranoid laypeople who parrot anything that supposedly supports their worldview.

In a completely unrelated Facebook thread a little while back, I was commanded to refute this “peer reviewed” study from a “.gov website”:
“A two-phase study evaluating the relationship between Thimerosal-containing vaccine administration and the risk for an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis in the United States”
Unfortunately, I have other things to do besides produce detailed rebuttals to pseudoscience sometimes, so it took a while… several months, in fact. But here goes. Let’s look at the study, the journal it was published in, and the authors. Perhaps this will serve as a microcosm of the larger discussion which we really shouldn’t be having any more. Maybe we’re talking about this specific study, maybe we’re talking about the supposed link between vaccines an autism, maybe we’re talking about the state of academic journals today, maybe we’re talking about the sad state of scientific literacy in our country. Or some mix of all those things.

The Study

Yup, the study is on a .gov website, alright. But that site is just a great big database of medical studies. Inclusion does not impart any particular credibility to the study. The study was (electronically) published in an online journal called Translational Neurodegeneration.
More about that journal and scientific journals in general later.

But, on to the study itself. Here’s my detailed, comprehensive analysis of this study: so what?

Seriously. So what? A group of folks re-crunched some carefully selected old numbers and claim to have found a correlation in that particular dataset between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism. That is all. So fucking what. Do I have to say it? Really? OK. Correlation does not prove causation. Anybody who has ever done a high school science project is supposed to know this. One more time: correlation does not prove causation. Repeat as many times as necessary for this to stick in your brain.

This study does not address the issue of why so many other studies with larger, more reliable datasets have found no correlation. It does not propose a mechanism by which vaccines could cause autism. It does not address the fact that diagnoses of autism continued to rise long after thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines. It does not address the question of why it’s the mercury in vaccines supposedly causing autism when there are other sources of more mercury (and mercury in a form which accumulates in the body) in people’s lives. Plus, it uses the unreliable, unconfirmed data from the VAERS database.

Admittedly, I don’t have the medical and statistical chops to perform my own detailed analysis of the specific methods and statistical techniques used in this paper, but the foundational flaws are so obvious, it doesn’t really seem necessary. I poked around the web anyway, to see if anyone had analyzed this study. I didn’t find much about this particular study. I found lots about the authors, though. More on that later. The closest thing I could find to an analysis of this specific paper was this dismissive tidbit from Matt Carey: “Ever heard of that paper? That’s what happens to mediocre science published by biased authors. No one cares.” In short, so what?

The Journal

Scientists communicate their findings to each other through peer reviewed technical journals. For the elite journals, this peer review process is brutal. Leading experts in the fields relevant to the paper analyze every aspect of the study, from the original question through the study’s design, data gathering, statistical analysis, and conclusion looking for flaws. When a study goes through this process and is accepted for publication, it has earned a degree of credibility. The conclusions are not automatically correct, but there’s real support for them. It should be noted that one study, even a well-designed one, does not instantly overturn established scientific consensus.
Less prestigious journals are a mixed bag. For some, the peer review process is nearly as exhaustive as the most prestigious journals, while others have only a thin veneer of peer review. Still others are predatory journals  which will publish anything the authors pay to have published. Their “peer review” is a bad joke. There are several cases where people have pranked them by sending gibberish papers. As long as the check clears, they sail through “peer review”.

So, what’s an interested lay person to do? How do we tell if a particular journal is really peer reviewed or if it’s “peer reviewed”? There isn’t one absolutely reliable gauge for a journal’s credibility, but it’s easy to check three important factors:
• Impact factor. This is a measure of how many times the articles in this journal are cited by other researchers. In general, better research is cited more, so journals with more highly-cited studies are more reliable.
• Longevity. Shady journals seldom last long. Newcomers are suspect.
• Paper publishing. Printing on real paper costs money, and it’s dependent on subscriptions from real libraries to make it viable economically.

Sure, there are excellent journals which e-publish, haven’t been in business for long, and don’t have an impressive impact factor yet. But those are the exception, rather than the rule. But studies in journals which match those criteria warrant extra scrutiny.

Here’s a good overview of the state of peer reviewed journals today:

So, what about Translational Neurodegeneration? It was established in 2012. It e-publishes. According to Scimago Journal & Country Rank, its H-Index (a measure of impact) is 19, averaging 3-4 citations per document. For comparison, Cell, one of the tippy-top journals, has an H-index of 655, averaging around 28 citations per document. Cell has been publishing on paper since 1974. I don’t see any reason to accuse Translational Neurodegeneration of being a hard-core predatory journal, but it’s not especially prestigious, either. One point in favor of the credibility of this journal is that they did have the editorial integrity to retract a paper by Brian Hooker, one of the authors of the study in question here.

For what it’s worth, the specific study under discussion here has been cited 11 times, which sounds sorta-kinda halfway impressive, except that 7 of the citations are by authors of the study. On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with self-citations. Statements along the lines of “in my previous study, I determined a-b-c; in this study, I’ll attempt to determine if d-e-f necessarily follows” are perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, self-citations do not indicate that the paper in question has made a significant impact in the field.

The Authors

Hang on, folks, the ride gets wild at this point.
Two of the authors of this study are the father and son team of Mark and David Geier. They have a long history as anti-vaxx researchers. Mark has some legit degrees and was, until recently, a practicing MD. David has no discernible degrees or other qualifications, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from practicing medicine and authoring research papers. One consistent theme of criticism of the Geiers’ anti-vaxx work is that they basically write the same paper over and over again. They use the same unreliable, old data sources, the same dubious statistical analyses, selectively report only the data that supports their pre-determined conclusions, and cling to the same a priori assumptions in study after study.
“…the studies by Geier could not establish a causal relation between MMR and autism because of their methods—such as using statistical measures incorrectly and omitting facts about their research approach. Similar problems were found in six other studies by Geier.”
{Wilson K, Mills E, Ross C, McGowan J, Jadad A (2003). Association of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine: A Systematic Review of Current Epidemiological Evidence. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 157:628-634. quoted in}

Until recently, the Geiers had a substantial following in the anti-vaxx crowd. Mark testified as an “expert” in over 90 legal cases about vaccines. They both spoke at anti-vaxx gatherings around the USA.

But what has really made the Geiers famous (or infamous) is their “Lupron Protocol” for treating autism. Basically, they got an idea in their heads that testosterone binding to mercury was the root cause of autism. Do I need to mention that there was no credible medical or biochemical basis for this? They used human subjects for trials of their treatment which involves chemical castration of children. I do not understand why the Geiers are not in jail. The results of this horrific, unethical study are that the Lupron Protocol doesn’t work (duh!), Mark has lost his license to practice medicine, David has been fined and booted from Maryland’s Autism Commission (why was he there in the first place?), and the Geiers are disgraced, even in the eyes of most of the anti-vaxx crowd.

I was going to go into some detail about the other authors of this study, but this draft has been sitting around for a couple of months, so I’m just going to post it. Sufficeth to say, they’re professional crackpots who’ve made their careers in the field of bad science.

So, in conclusion, the vaccine-autism “debate” for lay people boils down to: who are you going to believe, the overwhelming consensus of top researchers in relevant fields and their dozens of large, carefully-controlled,  brutally peer reviewed studies in all of the most prestigious journals; or a small band of crackpots recycling unverified data and morphing it into obviously bad papers which would be laughed out of a seventh grade science fair but are nonetheless published in dubious journals so that anti-vaxx cuckoo birds can have “peer reviewed” studies to cite in an attempt to look credible?

Who’s to Blame?

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

The unthinkable has happened. Unless there’s an unprecedented revolt by the electors in the Electoral College, we’re about to inaugurate the vilest President imaginable, a person who embodies the worst traits of America: bigotry, misogyny, arrogance, pseudo-Christian hypocrisy, wealth-worship, anti-intellectualism, etcetera.  And to go along with the Evil One in the White House, we get  Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. How did we get here? Who’s to blame for this horrific turn of events? I’ve composed a series of open letters to the culprits.

But first, yes, it is important to play the “Blame Game”. If we don’t face up to what went wrong, if we blame the wrong people, we will inevitably repeat the same mistakes. Exhibit A: The election of 2000. People who should know better continue to blame Nader voters, not Gore’s gawdawful campaign, for that debacle. So, this time around we get a blandocrat putz as a VP nominee, and a Republican-Lite POTUS candidate who pathetically fails to offer a real vision. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.


Culprit number one: Trump voters

Dear Trumpsters-

What the fuck is wrong with you people? Seriously, where did you get the idea that this reverse-Midas Cheetoh would make a good President? His record includes zero public service of any sort. His business record is awful; he inherited zillions and has bankruptcy after bankruptcy; he refuses to pay thousands of people who’ve worked for him; his businesses are a long list of pathetic failures and frequent frauds. He has no real policy proposals, just lies, platitudes, frothing resentment, racism, misogyny, and more lies. No, I don’t think you’re all racist misogynist imbeciles. You just don’t think that being a racist misogynist imbecile is a deal-breaker for a candidate. Come to think of it, that’s a distinction without a difference. You ARE a bunch of racist misogynist imbeciles.


Culprit number two: non-voters

Dear Apathetics-

Yeah, I get it. You don’t like voting for the lesser of two evils. There was nobody on the ballot you could get behind enthusiastically, so you stayed home. Yes, both parties are awful, but they’re not equally awful. Yes, Clinton and her fellow corporate blandocrats down-ballot are boring, uninspiring, and wrong on a whole host of issues. But the Republicans are just plain evil. Get in your time machine, go back to election day, control of your gag reflex, and fucking vote. And next time, educate yourself and work for candidates you actually support in the primaries.


Culprit number three: the DNC and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership

Dear Corporatist Buttwipes-

Stop barfing up these pathetic spineless unprincipled douchebags you call candidates. Nobody likes your corporate blandocrats. Nobody likes your retread Republicans. Nobody likes your corporate super-PAC puppets. Just being a little less awful than the Republicans does not mean you automatically cruise to victory; it just means that barely half the registered voters bother to show up.

Everybody at the DNC should resign or be fired immediately; replace them with principled progressives. Completely revamp the Presidential nominating process. No more superdelegates. No more bizarre convoluted incomprehensible caucuses. Balance the schedule geographically so that conservative southern states do not have disproportionate influence.

Then, get to work on the congressional candidates you bless. Reject previously unchallengeable dogma. The best fundraiser is not necessarily the best candidate. The most (cough-cough) “moderate” candidate is not necessarily the best choice, either.

Then, after these reforms are implemented, we can have a progressive POTUS and a progressive-majority Congress governing the smoldering ruins left over from the Trump administration.


Culprit number four: Hillary Clinton


It must be rough. Three national campaigns with all of the advantages a candidate could possibly have: universal name recognition, endorsements from big political and media names, big money donors up the gazoo, your buddies making up the rules for the party nominating process, and what do you have to show for it? You lost the D nomination to a charismatic whippersnapper in ’08. You barely eeked out an unconvincing nomination victory over a grumpy geezer who entered the campaign with 4% name recognition in ’16. Then, with the Presidency practically handed to you on a platter, you managed to lose Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to Donald Fucking Trump. Seriously, a Democrat lost fucking Michigan to a Nazi. What kind of a craptastic campaign do you have to run to make that possible?

Face it, regardless of whatever merits you may have in other walks of life, as a candidate, you suck beans. Maybe you would have been a tolerably decent President, but as a candidate, as a campaigner…

Enjoy your retirement.

If there’s one piece of good news in this disaster, it’s that we will never have to endure another Clinton campaigning for anything ever again.


Culprit number five: hyper-feminists

Dear Gynocentrists-

Allow me to mansplain for a second, and say a few really outrageous things that will make steam come out of your ears: candidates should be evaluated based on their merits as individuals. A pair of X chromosomes does not make one a better person or a better politician. All criticism of a female politician is not necessarily automatically intrinsically sexist. When you deflect all criticism of your candidate as automatically sexist regardless of specifics, you lose the argument, and you lose votes for your candidate. Hillary lost because she’s a lousy candidate, not because she’s a woman. There are a few women (Elizabeth Warren, for starters) who would have won easily, if one of them had been the Democratic nominee. Hillary lost because her slogan might as well have been “vote for me, because inertia”, not because she’s a woman. Hillary lost because she’s a status quo candidate when nobody likes the status quo, not because she’s a woman. Hillary lost because she failed to offer a real vision of what she wanted to accomplish and what she wanted America to be, not because she’s a woman.



Do you notice how Bernie supporters and minor party voters don’t make the list?

The Coming Re-Alignment

Friday, October 14th, 2016

A few years ago, in the course of a political discussion with some friends, I made a comment something along the lines of “if we must have a two-party system, couldn’t we at least have one where the current corporate ‘Democratic’ Party is the conservative one?” Now, it looks like that re-alignment is actually happening.

The recent primary elections have exposed major schisms in both of today’s parties. The Republican Party’s post-Reagan madness has seen it devolve into several squabbling factions: the bigot Republicans, the theocracy Republicans, the libertarian Republicans, and the “moderate” Republicans. On the Democratic side, the corporate blandocrats remain in charge after fighting off a progressive rebellion.

Republican Humpty-Dumpty

For the moment, the Bigot Republicans have taken over that party. Facts are irrelevant, policies are irrelevant, science is an evil conspiracy. If we just blame all our problems on brown people, black people, women, homosexuals, and liberals while chanting “USA! USA!” really loud, all of our problems will be solved. In simple electoral terms, that strategy is doomed. The Orange One is seeing major blocks of his own party peel off, and he’s not picking up significant numbers of independents or disaffected Democrats. America is not as white, or as male-controlled, as it used to be. I’m not sure if it ever was quite that stupid.

The coming election will see not only the resounding defeat of Trump, but substantial losses by the Republicans down-ticket as well. The evangelicals are trying to hold their nose and vote for the serial adulterer, but their enthusiasm is under-whelming. Libertarians have their own candidate, who will attract a substantial number of votes that might otherwise go to a Republican. The moderate Republicans—both of them—will wind up voting for Hillary. Plus, Republican House and Senate candidates are in a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t dilemma: do they support Trump and go down in flames, or do they disavow Trump, lose the support of their base, and go down in flames?

It’s hard to imagine a future Republican leader who can re-assemble the shattered fragments of the Reagan/Bush coalition and put together a nationally viable party. Today’s America is too diverse for a party which only appeals to uneducated straight white male Christians. Sure, the remnants of the Republican party will continue to win local races and congressional seats in the deep South and parts of the Midwest, but its fragmentation and dogmatism will preclude it from winning a national election in the foreseeable future.

Progressive Revolt

On the Democratic side, the primary election revealed a simpler, dichotomous split between the corporate wing of the party and the progressive one. On many issues, the post-Reagan Democratic Party has drifted rightward alongside the Republican Party’s rightward plunge into madness. Today’s Democrats support grossly bloated military budgets, bombing Middle Eastern wedding parties, job- and environment-destroying trade deals, private for-profit prisons, more drilling for oil, fracking, pipelines, low taxes for the uber-wealthy, overseas tax havens for profitable corporations, and on and on. Is this Democratic Party part of the solution, or part of the problem? Is it a surprise that the candidate pre-selected by the ruling cabal before anyone had actually voted faced a revolt?

Yeah, yeah. I know… today’s Democrats are really good on some issues too. Gay marriage, equal pay for women, abortion rights, great. You want to know a dirty, politically incorrect, secret? Social issues are cheap. You can support gay marriage and still rake in the big campaign contributions from Exxon, because that’s not an issue the global corporate monoculture cares about. Meanwhile, we’re still pumping billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and the perpetual war in the Middle East and central Asia continues apace.

You want to know another secret? Talk is cheap, too. The corporate Democrats talk the talk regarding climate change, but the moment they face some resistance they capitulate utterly and walk… away. The obstructionist Republicans are convenient props for the corporate Democrats. The Ds can claim to want to do stuff, and then just throw up their arms and walk away when faced with resistance. If shit happens, it’s all the Rs fault for obstructing the Ds’ proposals. If good stuff happens, it’s a triumph of the Ds over the obstruction. And all of this without the Ds demonstrating a hint of a trace of an iota of a vestigial remnant of backbone. The corporate cash keeps flowing, because the Ds haven’t meaningfully challenged their corporate overlords.

The Bernie Sanders rebellion shows that I’m not the only one who is sick of the bullshit. A two party system where one party is completely insane and the other is content to be slightly less bad is not a healthy, sustainable democracy.

The Future

So, where are we going, and what are we doing in this handbasket? The short term prognosis for the corporate Ds is great. Hillary’s certain to be the next President, and even the bland, unprincipled, big money candidates the DNC recruits will likely win control of the Senate and cut deeply into the Rs’ majority in the House. But this should not be read as a ringing endorsement of corporate blandocracy, only a repudiation of the vile, poisonous Republican brand.

The corporate Ds will then have to govern. The Rs will still have the ability to obstruct, and the few progressives aren’t always going to march in lock-step with Clintonian ‘compromises’.

Will Clinton’s really, truly, honest-to-goodness, completely sincere attempt to overturn Citizens United succeed? Of course not. She’ll make a timid effort to start a constitutional amendment drive and then give up. Possible legislative mitigations will be ignored. As one of the biggest beneficiaries of today’s Money Rules system, she has little reason to try too hard. As the leader of an ostensibly progressive party, she has an obligation to give the issue lip service.

Will Clinton’s really, truly, honest-to-goodness, completely sincere opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership prevent it from being implemented? Of course not. If it’s not shoved through the lame duck session of Congress, she’ll “re-negotiate” the deal, making superficial changes while leaving the guts of the monster intact. Then, she’ll shove that through Congress, using the fast track authority passed while she so conveniently hadn’t declared a position yet.

So, Clinton winds up with a rebellion from the left, belligerent obstruction from the right, and a ringing mandate to not be Donald Trump. Not much will get done by the federal government the next four years. But she gets multiple scapegoats to blame for this. Wonderful.

In the 2018 Congressional races, the DNC will succeed in nominating another herd of neoliberal corporate blandocrats. Turnout will be low, and many of them will lose. Hillary and the DNC will blame the hippies for not marching in lockstep behind her anointed nobodies. OK, that prediction was just too easy.

I’m not sure what happens in 2020. Will Hillary seek a second term? Will the progressives make one last attempt to reform the Democratic Party, or will they form a new party?

But, by 2024, a few things will have happened:

  • The Republican Party as we now know it will have dissolved into national electoral irrelevance, a victim of a diversifying electorate and factional squabbling. The Democratic Party will continue to drift to the right on a whole host of issues. It will continue to wallow in giant pits of corporate cash. It will lose support from the left, and gain support from today’s “moderate” Republicans.
  • The Libertarian Party will gain support from the government-hating factions of the former Republican Party, but not enough to be much of a factor nationally.
  • A new left wing party will form. It will win a good number of seats in Congress from the West and the Northeast, but it will be very difficult for this new party to gain power nationally, as the Ds will have all of the money and campaign finance reform won’t pass any time soon. One immediate benefit of the existence of this party is it will stop the inexorable rightward drift of media discourse. It will be impossible for the media to ignore future Bernie Sanderses.
  • The Green Party will continue to be irrelevant. The new left party will form outside the current Green structure.

So, eventually, the two party system re-establishes itself, with the Clintonistas in the right wing party. Where they belong.

[unconvincing] Reasons to Support Hillary Over Bernie

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

OK, let’s do this…

I’ve been ruminating on this post for a few months, but I haven’t sat down to write it, because I need to work for a living, and—frankly—nobody reads my blog. But I can’t get the idea out of my head.

One thing I’ve noticed about the great Hillary versus Bernie struggle is that the arguments put forth by Hillary supporters are really really dumb. Oops. That was undiplomatic, and Hillary supporters always swoon whenever anything mean is said about The Annointed One or her followers, so I’ll rephrase that. One thing I’ve noticed about the great Hillary versus Bernie struggle is that the arguments put forth by Hillary supporters are unconvincing. There, is that better?

Let’s make a list of unconvincing reasons to support Hillary over Bernie, with the far-too-easy rebuttals.

Hillary is a real Democrat; Bernie just joined the Party for the election
Really, Hillary people. Really? You folks make this “argument” over and over as if it were convincing and unrebutable. Yet, it’s so stupid… let me tally just a few of the ways.

  •     Issues. What makes a “real Democrat”, anyway? Blindly marching in lockstep behind the leaders? Or commitment to the issues which supposedly define the Party?
  •     Political parties. The two party system is about as popular with the electorate as Ebola. It’s even less highly regarded than Nickelback. Yet the only way to win political office (outside of Vermont) in this country is through one of the parties.
  •     Nader. Of course, the people making this argument would be the very same people who would squeal the loudest if Bernie ran as an independent or as a Green.
  •     Hackdom. We’re choosing who we think would make the best President, not who has been most loyal to the Party establishment, or who has raised the most money for down-ballot corporate blandocrats.

Hillary is more moderate, so she’d negotiate better with the Republicans
Here is a complete list of all the Republican office holders who are willing to sit down and negotiate with Hillary in good faith:

  1.   Nobody
  2.   Really. Nobody.
  3.   You’ve got to be fucking kidding.
  4.   The fact is, there’s no negotiating with today’s Republicans.

Hillary is a woman
One point we can all agree on: it’d be fine and dandy to have a female POTUS. But which woman? And is that the only criterion? If you just want a woman President for the sake of having a woman President, you’ve got to realize that your argument works just as well for Carly Fiorina, Michele Bachmann, or Sarah Palin.

The Republicans would say mean things about Bernie in the General Election campaign
In contrast, the Republicans would have a calm rational discussion of real issues with Hillary. It’s not like there’s any precedent to suggest that the Republicans would say anything mean about Hillary or anyone else named Clinton, now is there? Face it, the Republicans would slime anybody. It’s what they do. They’d be no slimier or less slimey with Bernie.

Hillary could get stuff done
Actually, electing Hillary is the recipe for perpetual gridlock. As long as Hillary and DWS are running the Party, down-ticket Democrats will be corporate blandocrats like Braley and Republican retreads like Crist. Turnout will be low and Republicans will continue to have power to gerrymander and obstruct. A more progressive party would motivate younger and otherwise disaffected voters to show up on election day and break the gridlock.

Bernie’s promising the impossible
If you don’t attempt things that are difficult, you never get anything done at all.

The incremental change Hillary proposes is realistic; Bernie wallows in naïve idealism
Once upon a time, during the Bill Clinton administration, I was on the play selection committee for our local community theatre. Somebody asked me if I was enjoying it. I said something like “It’s kind of an exercise in Clintonian Democracy. You know you’re not going to be able to do what you really want, so you start with a watered-down compromise proposal. Then, you further compromise down from there. When it’s all finished, you step back and ask youself ‘would it have been any different if I’d just let the barbarians run things?’ “.
The fundamental problem with the pragmatic incrementalism espoused by both Clintons is pre-emptive surrender. Real solutions are never proposed, so they’re never discussed. The best that can be hoped for from this approach is a slight deceleration in the rate we’re going backwards.

Hillary has more foreign policy experience
Yes, she has more experience at supporting wars and military coups. But those are not good things.
Bernie is a—gasp—socialist!
Yes, the Republicans would make red-baiting a central feature of the General Election campaign. But they’ll do that anyway. They always do. Even Ronald Reagan would be called a Commie by today’s Republicans.
Hillary is more electable
Poll after poll after poll after poll shows just the opposite. Hillary has historically bad approval ratings. Hilary is disliked by all Republicans, nearly all independents, and an awful lot of Democrats. Bernie does better than Hillary against Trump in virtually every poll. I know the polls are of somewhat limited value this far from election day, but what other criteria do we have, conventional beltway dogma?

Hillary is a good liberal
Good liberals do not play kissy-face with Henry Fucking Kissinger. Good liberals did not support the Iraq War. Good liberals did not support the coup in Honduras. Good liberals are not quick to try to bomb-away our foreign policy problems. Good liberals stand their ground and fight for important issues. Good liberals do not support “free trade” agreements. And on and on.

Bernie supporters are mean to Hillary supporters
It’s true that this debate has not always been completely civil, and that is unfortunate. It’s not true that any excesses have been one-sided. Hillary supporters have proven themselves quite adept at spouting insults, lies, and misleading half-truths. At the same time, Hillary supporters have often proven to be thin-skinned, whiny little kindergarteners. They can dish it out, but they can’t take it. But seriously, folks, on the scale of such things, this has been a remarkably civil, issues-based campaign.

you really, truly, can’t make this up…

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I don’t usually pay much attention to the ads on my gmail account, but this one caught my eye. And blew my mind.

Keep “Hanoi Jane” off TV

Sign Petition to keep Hanoi Jane off this major TV network!

Nothing says “move America forward” better than wallowing in some forty-year-old, stupid political theatre from a movie star.

more youtube adventures

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Oh, why do I do this to myself?

My pathological obsession with the loony right wing has continued unabated. I’m fascinated by the [made-up] facts, [twisted] logic, rhetorical techniques, and general paranoid hysteria of the right wing. For example: the gay marriage issue. Has anyone come up with a credible rational argument against allowing homosexuals to marry? I’ve looked for one, and have failed miserably in my quest. It’s all random homophobia, a couple of passages from the Bible, and some strange nonsense about protecting marriage from some kind of assault.

I had a particular exchange with another YouTube commenter which is pretty typical, or maybe even archetypal. It started with this lovely wingnut video which exposes the shocking truth that Obama wants rich people to pay their taxes and ghetto kids to pick up litter.

3monkeysmomma (2 days ago) 

“I worked as a community organizer..”

Translation: “I couldn’t get a real job in the private sector.”


mistergarth (20 hours ago) Show Hide

“Translation: ‘I couldn’t get a real job in the private sector.’ ”

I hate to interject just a little bit of reality into this lovely paranoia fest, but Obama graduated at the top of his class from Harvard Law. Do you really, for one second, believe that he chose to work as a community organizer because he had no other options?


3monkeysmomma (3 hours ago) 

Might I remind you he worked for ACORN?

It’s not paranoia if THEY REALLY ARE out to get you.


mistergarth (2 hours ago) 

“ACORN? It’s not paranoia…”

ACORN is out to get you? No paranoia there. No sirree bob.

Let me guess. Your message was smuggled out of one of ACORN’s white republican internment camps, where you’re forced to eat tofu and arugula while watching Olberman all day.


3monkeysmomma (2 hours ago) 


I hardly think that’s something to joke about.


mistergarth (2 hours ago) 


Congratulations! You’ve achieved double-wrongness! A few isolated ACORN workers committed voter REGISTRATION fraud. Hardly egregious, and not the same thing as voter fraud at all (none of these phony “voters” actually voted).

In any case, how does any of this translate into ACORN being out to get you?


3monkeysmomma (2 hours ago)

Mistergarth: Some trivia for you:

guess who else worked as a ‘community organizer”? Jim Jones! The communist preacher who murder 900 people by forcing/enticing them to drink cyanide laced kool-aid? Hence the phrase now so often directed to Obamabots “Don’t drink thel kool-aid”

As for ACORN there are extensive ties to attempts at fraud, rent-a-mob schemes, and the community reinvestment act which laid the foundation for the collapse of our credit markets.


3monkeysmomma (2 hours ago)

ACORN also has ties to SEIU which is pushing the card check law. They are thugs who will lie, break the law and commit extortion to force communist policies on our nation.

And I disagree that an organized ATTEMPT at voter fraud is is not something to be concerned about. I guess if a man tried to rape a chid but she manages to escape, you would just shrug it off because it was not egregious.


mistergarth (1 hour ago)

“…an organized ATTEMPT at voter fraud…”

There was no attempt at vote fraud. You ACORN conspiracy loons have to realize that voter registration fraud is not the same thing as voter fraud. ACORN workers were paid by the number of registrations they turned in. A few of them registered Mickey Mouse, or random names from the phone book, to get paid more.

“ACORN also has ties to SEIU…”

Oh NO! People working together to organize workers to get better pay and working conditions! The horror!


3monkeysmomma (1 hour ago) 

Clearly you are so blinded by your ideology you are going to gloss over ACORNS CRIMINAL activities no matter what.

Enjoy your kool-aid.

While the initial comment was somewhat tangential to the video we were supposedly critiquing, it soon veered off the alleged topic entirely. It’s amusing that 3monkeysmomma never bothered to even attempt to answer my initial question “Do you really, for one second, believe that he chose to work as a community organizer because he had no other options?” No direct answer, just change the topic to the dastardly ACORN. Especially amusing is 3monkeysmomma’s creative mix of parroted accusations about the dastardly ACORN’s horrific misdeeds  and total non sequiturs, like “guess who else worked as a ‘community organizer”? Jim Jones!” WTF?

What is it about community organizers, anyway? Don’t right wing groups have their own community organizers?

Next up… scientific debates with creationists!

medical marijuana info

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

I’ve just posted a series of documents of interest to anyone following California’s medical marijuana adventures. Some of these docs are recent court decisions, such as the Kha decision, which relates to law enforcement being required to return improperly seized cannabis, and the Mentch decision, which defines the role of caregiver as it relates to medical cannabis.

There are also documents related to the use of cannabis, such as a method for concentrating CBD (an important medical compound) while eliminating the THC (the most psychoactive compound).

not smart enough to understand

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

I’m fascinated by the wingnuts’ reactions to their recent electoral drubbing. There’s nothing quite so entartaining as the sight of Republican cannibalism. It’s wholesome entertainment for the whole family.

Sometimes the right wingers will write something so completely bizzarre that it occurs to me that maybe they’re right, after all. Maybe I’m just too unbelievably stupid to understand. If only I had a functional nueron or two I could comprehend their profound wisdom.

I just visitted one of my favorite comedy sites, In one essay, that tower of intellectual insight, David Limbaugh, shares his ideas on the future of the Republican Party. In it he writes a paragraph that’s so far over my head it might as well be written in Sanskrit:

Traditionalists don’t oppose this or that “high-minded” plan aimed at delivering security (e.g., health care) or prosperity (e.g., direct transfer payments from producers to nonproducers) because they don’t want more people to be prosperous but because they do and because they cherish freedom. We know that socialism never works and always results in less prosperity, on top of its obvious freedom-stripping inevitabilities.

The freedom-stripping inevitabilities of access to health care are so completely obvious that we don’t even need to discuss what they might be. It’s just dumbass hippie Communist degenerates like me who are puzzled by this, I’m sure.

adventures in youtube land

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

I really should spend my time more productively…

I’ve caught the youtube bug lately, mostly watching and commenting on ads and news videos relating to the upcoming presidential election. Oh, my goodness there are some incredibly stupid people out there! The comment forums there are such a sewer that I figured anything I type would raise the level of discourse a little. Hey, at least I can spell and punctuate. I doubt I’ve changed anybody’s mind about anything, but all I can do is try.

One particularly irritating theme is taking something Obama says, stripping it from context, and trying to turn it into an outrageous gaffe. The classic is the now hot, but soon-to-be-forgotten, lipstick on a pig statement. Obama was talking about McCain (McSame? McWorse?) trying to position himself as the candidate of change. Obama listed a whole host of ways McCain’s policies are the same as Bush’s, and compared the re-branding to putting lipstick on a pig. An apt metaphor. But, somehow, the rightwingers are shocked, just shocked I tell you, that Obama would say such a crude and sexist thing about Palin, despite the fact that he wasn’t talking about Palin. Since Palin had used the word “lipstick” a week before, all subsequent mentions of lipstick are automatically a reference to her. I guess that’s what passes for “logic” these days.

Was it disgustingly sexist when McCain used the same figure of speech in reference to Hillary Clinton’s health care proposals? No. McCain was a POW. That makes it OK.

Anyway, since I was commenting and stuff, I figured I should type up a profile, and, while I was at it, upload a video. So I posted a montage of my nature photography. Check it out:

Floating Rocks, Living Water video

inferno in paradise

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

All Hell is breaking loose here in Mendocino County… where to begin?

Well for starters, the weather. We had a very wet January, but from the middle of February on, it’s been frightfully dry. Pretty much all Spring, it’s been dry, windy, chilly, and dry.

Last Friday evening, I noticed some interesting clouds; it looked like we were going to have a nice sunset. I wanted to go out and do some photography, but I had to do some chores a couple of miles inland. As the chores dragged on and on, a strange thing happened: distant, and not-so-distant, rumblings of thunder. We don’t get thunderstorms here very often. On the rare occasion it rumbles we usually get lots of rain with it. But this was different. I usually love thunderstorms, but this was scary. Lotsa thunder and lightning, hardly any rain.

I did manage to get out for some tail-end-of-the-sunset photography. Here’s a shot of the Mendocino Presbyterian Church:

Later on the Mendocino Headlands, I shot a series of frames with different exposure and focus values for this composite:

Mendocino Headlands after Sunset

Ah, peace and tranquility on the Mendocino Headlands!

The next day I started to hear reports of the fires from friends whose houses were near fires, from news reports, overheard conversations, etc. More than a hundred fires in Mendocino County alone, with many, many more in nearby counties. Whole towns with (voluntary) evacuations. So few government resources that many of the fires were burning without crews even trying to slow them down. Local fire departments running out of gas money.

But still, the feds are in the area in force, busting pot farmers. Priorities, people!

It’s almost a week later now, and we’ve got 87 active fires in Mendo County (some fires have merged with other fires, few are out). Even here on the coast, with most of our air blowing straight of the ocean, the Sun is an eerie orange color.

The scariest thing is, it’s only June. It may not rain significantly until October.

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