Friday, May 29, 2009

Weapons of Mass Doltishness

I've always had a belief (or hope, maybe) that people are inherently good. But days like today convince me that people are also inherently gullible and if not stupid, at least lacking in common sense.

Here I am at a client this morning. A successful accountant with her own business. I fix some problems with her computer ... nothing major. Before we're done, she asks me to take a look at a specific e-mail that she's having problems forwarding. It's an e-mail offering a free computer if you forward the e-mail on to 8 people:

She knows it's legit because a friend that forwarded it to her says it's legit.

Here we are, a good 15+ years into the heydey of the World Wide Web, with hoaxes and scams from the very beginning. Yet seemingly intelligent people will buy into absolutely anything they are told, especially if a friend forwards it to them. It's no wonder that hoaxes and phishing scams are still prevalent. People are stupid. It's pretty simple people. Let the following guide you:

  • If someone forwards something to you, immediately assume it's bullshit.

  • If someone tells you to forward something on, don't.

  • If someone tells you something is legit or "for real", it's not.

  • You are not risking your life by breaking a chain e-mail ... you are only helping the world's bandwidth.

  • If you are looking for something that is "free", I'll give you some free advice -- nothing is free.

  • It takes about 2 seconds to refute any scam e-mail that you get. Take the 2 seconds to Google the title of your e-mail or go to It will save you the $60+ that you will pay me to come over and tell you that you are a moron (but in a nice way).

Is it any wonder that so many people bought into WMD's?

"For every credibility gap there is a gullibility fill." -- Richard Clopton

"Quackery has no friend like gullibility." -- Proverb

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

"... Look around
There's doctors down on Wall Street
Sharpenin' their scalpels and tryin' to cut a deal
Meanwhile, back at the hospital
We got accountants playin' God and countin' out the pills
Yeah, I know, that sucks that your HMO
Ain't doin' what you thought it would do
But everybody's gotta die sometime and we can't save everybody
It's the best that we can do ..."

Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do) by Steve Earle

Saturday, May 23, 2009


"The healthy man does not torture others - generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers" -- Carl Jung

I'll tell you what torture is. It's listening to Dick Cheney. Why he even has a pulpit to yell from is beyond me. You don't hear W taking the time to make speeches defending torture.

This week's dueling speeches by President Obama and former Vice-President Dick Cheney have brought into focus the great divide between those that see the moral problem with "anything goes" security and those that watch 24 too much.

Some highlights from Obama's speech:

... I know that we must never — ever — turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake.

I make this claim not simply as a matter of idealism. We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and keeps us safe. Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset — in war and peace; in times of ease and in eras of upheaval.

Fidelity to our values is the reason why the United States of America grew from a small string of colonies under the writ of an empire to the strongest nation in the world.

It is the reason why enemy soldiers have surrendered to us in battle, knowing they’d receive better treatment from America’s armed forces than from their own government.

It is the reason why America has benefited from strong alliances that amplified our power, and drawn a sharp and moral contrast with our adversaries.

...From Europe to the Pacific, we have been a nation that has shut down torture chambers and replaced tyranny with the rule of law. That is who we are.

Optimistic, patriotic (in a good way), moral.

Cheney took a different tact ... defensive, misleading, appealing to fear. Cheney hoped to rebut Obama's speech, but instead responded with his own speech rife with misstatements, bravado and outright lies. It seemed to be more of a preemptive strike at avoiding jail time (his daughter agrees), than an honest defense of interrogation techniques.

Cheney cited the support of Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, but Blair's words hardly sound like support:

"there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is that these techniques hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

From other Bush era officials:

A top-secret 2004 CIA inspector general's investigation found no conclusive proof that information gained from aggressive interrogations helped thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to one of four top-secret Bush-era memos that the Justice Department released last month.

FBI Director Mueller Robert Muller told Vanity Fair magazine in December that he didn't think that the techniques disrupted any attacks.

Tom Ridge, the original Director of Homeland Security, and someone who would know about terrorist threats:

... he disagreed with Vice President Cheney’s claim that President Obama is making the country less secure. “Yeah, I disagree with Dick Cheney,” said Ridge ... “It’s just the whole notion of a Republican vice president giving a speech after the incumbent Democratic president,” he said. “It’s gotta go beyond the politics of either party.”

Senator John McCain (someone who knows more about torture than another politician):

“When you have a majority of Americans, seventy-something percent, saying we shouldn't torture, then I’m not sure it helps for the Vice President to go out and continue to espouse that position,”

... Cheney, he says, “believes that waterboarding doesn’t fall under the Geneva Conventions and that it’s not a form of torture. But you know, it goes back to the Spanish Inquisition.”

... McCain reiterated that waterboarding is “not a new technique, and it is certainly torture.” “You hear it from al Qaeda operatives that when we torture people and it becomes public, then it helps them recruit,” he said.

Some (Joe Scarborough) have compared Cheney to Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men, Colonel Jessup, positively:

The Cheney-esque Jessup defends his decision by saying, “[his] death, while tragic, probably saved lives” and “[y]ou have no idea how to defend a nation. All you did was weaken a country today.” So in that sense, yes — Cheney’s speech yesterday was “straight out of ‘A Few Good Men.’”

Joe omits the end of the movie where Tom Cruise's character replies:

“[Y]ou’re under arrest, you son of a bitch,”

Let's hope that life imitate art.

I'm sick of these people who give tacit approval to torture out of some so-called noble reason. If the specious "terrorist with a ticking bomb" arguments make you sleep better at night, so be it. But real life is not an episode of 24. We not only debase ourselves, we breed the very thing we say we are fighting. The ends do not justify the means. We have to be better. We must appeal to the "better angels of our nature".

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." -- Friedrich Nietzche

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

NIN/Jane's Addiction with Street Sweeper Social Club - 5/15/09 - Phoenix,AZ

I'm countin' down to the day deservin'
Fittin' for a king
I'm waitin' for the time when I can
Get to Arizona
'Cause my money's spent on
The goddamn rent
Neither party is mine not the
Jackass or the elephant ...

By the Time I Get to Arizona -- Public Enemy

Street Sweeper Social Club comes on stage to the sounds of Public Enemy. The song is By the Time I Get to Arizona, written during a time in AZ history that disgraced and impeached Governor Evan Mecham impeded the establishment of a holiday honoring Martin Luther King. Mecham's gone and the holiday restored, but the need for bands with a political message is still there. There was plenty of that in guitarist Tom Morello's previous band, Rage Against the Machine. Street Sweeper is his latest band. A similar sound to Rage, with a rapper as frontman, but with an extra guitarist and perhaps a bit funkier. They were high energy. Morello's guitar playing was incredible. And I'm looking forward to their debut album when it comes out.

Next up was Nine Inch Nails. Though I've been a fan since I bought Pretty Hate Machine in college, this was my first time to see the "band". "Band", of course, signifying Trent Reznor and whatever group of touring musicians he might be using on that tour. I was not disappointed. This is supposedly his last tour as Nine Inch Nails. Whatever that means, who knows. If it is, then I'm glad I had the chance to catch them.

With no current album to pimp, played all the major songs from most of the albums, plus some more obscure stuff like Dead Souls from the Crow soundtrack. The show was fairly simple, with no pyro, but with plenty of lights. The band played great on all songs, but highlights for me were Heresy and Survivalism, probably because of the lyrical content:

... he dreamed a God up,
and called it Christianity.

God is dead,
and no one cares,
if there is a hell,
I'll see you there.

... his perfect kingdom,
of killing, suffering and pain.
demands devotion
atrocities done in his name.

Heresy by Nine Inch Nails

An outside concert in Phoenix during an unseasonably warm May day might be some people's idea of hell. But the large, sweaty, dirty sea of humanity seemed oddly fitting to the music.

I should have listened to her,
so hard to keep control.
We kept on eating but our
bloated bellies still not full.
She gave us all she had but
we went and took some more.
Can't seem to shut her legs our
mother nature is a whore.

I got my propaganda I got revisionism.
I got my violence in hi-def ultra-realism.
I'm a part of this great nation.
I got my fist I got my plan I got survivalism.

Hypnotic sound of siren
echoing through the street.
The cocking of the rifles,
the marching of the feet.
You see your world on fire,
don't try to act surprised.
We did just what you told us.
Lost our faith along the way and found ourselves believing your lies ...

Survivalism by Nine Inch Nails

You don't usually think of NIN as political, but Trent has definitely skewed that way with his last couple of albums. Survivalism imagines a future where Bush has been President for 20 years.

Wish off of the Broken EP and Hurt off The Downward Spiral also were standout performances. Hurt, of course, was covered by Johnny Cash to much acclaim.

Click this picture for some photos (not mine ... I wasn't that close) from tonight's show:

Last up was Jane's Addiction. It was also the first time that I had seen them. One of my top 10 albums of all-time, Nothing's Shocking. They looked and sounded great, but I don't have a huge review of them because I was mostly standing off to the side having a few beers with my friend Jeremy during their set. With only two real albums, Jane's Addiction doesn't have the amount of songs to choose from that NIN does. As a result, they pretty much played all of those two albums.

Overall, great show. Glad I went.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gun Culture

Here's my problem with the American gun culture: It goes beyond defending a constitutional right.

Most everyone agrees that free speech is a good thing, right? But to show people how good a right that was, would you encourage people to purchase porn? Would you create an organization that celebrates the viewing and purchasing of porn? Would you hold big meetings every year with lots of famous "patriotic" speakers and advertise it as a "freedom" rally? Would you give millions of dollars to politicians to assure yourself the continued right to purchase and view particularly sadistic versions of porn? No, of course you wouldn't. But that's what the NRA does. It's gun porn. And semi-automatic weapons are their kiddie porn. Just like you can't seriously defend someone's right to have kiddie porn, you can't defend the right to have a completely useless and dangerous weapon. Get it through your heads, people. Our gun culture in America is not about a constitutional freedom any more. It's about trying to legitimize our gun fetishism under the cloak of patriotism. You'll wrap yourself in the flag to make yourself feel better about liking to shoot things ... or defenseless kids:

HOUSTON - A 7-year-old boy who was allegedly shot in the head by a couple who thought he and three other people were trespassing on their property died Saturday ...

... The boy, his 5-year-old sister, their father and a family friend were off-roading near a residential area about 40 miles northeast of Houston when they were shot after stopping so the children could go to the bathroom.

Authorities said the couple fired after they mistakenly thought the group was trespassing on their property.

Bishop said the area includes a dirt road, trees and overgrown brush and that it wasn't uncommon for people to go off-roading there. The Houston Chronicle reported that a sign in front of the suspects' home reads: "Trespassers will be shot. Survivers will be reshot!! Smile I will."

Liberty County Chief Deputy Ken DeFoor said Sheila Muhs fired a 12-gauge shotgun once, then handed it to her husband, who also fired once.

DeFoor said Sheila Muhs then called 911 and told the dispatcher: "They're out here tearing up the levee, so I shot them."

DeFoor said the levee belonged to the subdivision and was not private property.

Bishop said there was no indication the unarmed victims did anything threatening toward the Muhs ...

Obviously these are not middle-of-the-road gun owners, but they are not as far on the fringe as gun-rights activists would have you believe. It's the glorification of gun ownership and that gives people like this the free reign to be how they are. I won't even go into the second part of this ... the question of property rights over human life. That's a topic for another day.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Just a few recent things that have made me go "huh?":

I don't like to call people stupid, but come on. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is criminally stupid. This woman votes on laws for all of us. When trying to argue that manmade global warming doesn't make sense, she reached deep into her ass and pulled out this gem:

"Carbon dioxide, Mister Speaker, is a natural byproduct of nature. Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular lifecycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can’t even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that’s on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that — that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental lifecycle of Earth."

It's obvious that there is a shortage of oxygen in the general vicinity of Michele Bachmann.

And with no apparent sense of irony she responded to hate-crime legislation with this:

REP MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): "I feel that this hate crime legislation could be considered the very definition of tyranny."

And lastly, she was almost positive she had a whopper this time, that she had actually came up with something smart that nailed the Democrats:

BACHMANN: I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under Democrat President Jimmy Carter. And I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it is an interesting coincidence.

The problem is, the last outbreak began in February of 1976 ... when Gerald Ford was still president.


And for another head-scratching occurrence, Phoenix is lucky enough to be hosting the NRA's annual meetings next week.

The events include a free concert of music and comedy on Friday.

Mitt Romney, John McCain and John Bolton speak at NRA'S Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum on Friday night. On Saturday, John Stossel and Oliver North speak at NRA's Celebration of American Values Freedom Banquet. Wait ... I don't understand. I thought the comedy concert was earlier?

On Sunday, there will be a "prayer breakfast". See, the NRA is all about "freedom". Freedom to own semi-automatic weapons and worship a Christian God, that is. Don't tell me the NRA is about liberty and freedoms. It's bullshit that I'm honestly tired of hearing. They are a single-issue advocacy group, impervious to reason, and do not care one iota about making this a better country.

You know you're morally and intellectually bankrupt when you hold up ass-clowns like Bolton and North as heroes and "patriotic" Americans. If being patriotic means worshipping a traitor who sold weapons to Iran, like North, and someone who advocated blowing up the UN, like Bolton, then I guess I'm not patriotic.