It Rained in South Carolina

For those of you who might give a crap – and I know most of you don’t, it rained here today.  Now most of you conscious folk who happen to live in the area will know that.  So why am I wasting your time with this?  Well, I’ll tell you.

You see, I checked the weather on the internet this morning, not two hours before it rained, and you want to know what the chance of rain was?  You want to know?

Zero!

The chance of me running out to my truck and getting soaked from the monsoon-like torrent that was coming down on top of my head was ZERO!  The chance of me having to roll that truck’s window up to keep the rain from soaking the driver’s seat was ZERO!

ZERO!

That’s what the weather service provided me.  That was the information that they bestowed upon my naïve trusting ass because they are the weather guys.  They know what they’re talking about, right?  It’s science, right?  And I’m all about giving people the benefit of the doubt except this isn’t the first time they’ve done this.  I guess it’s just not an exact science.  I mean what exactly are they doing that they can go from zero percent chance of rain to the sky opening up and drenching me?

And I checked the radar!  Nothing!  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky according to them.  I played it back to put that weather-in-motion thing that everybody has now and NOTHING!  It’s like nothing ever happened.  There was no rain, no clouds, NOTHING!  I guess all that getting wet while running around in the rain business was just my imagination, huh?  And I guarantee there was some ditz chirping about the great hot day on the Grand Strand while I’m taking a bath with my clothes on!  Do we really need the weather people telling us what’s going on with their green screen and their Doppler radar and stupid hand gestures and walking back and forth across the tv screen.  You can’t have a tornado everyday!

So how did they come up with this train wreck of a forecast?  I think they’re just making it up, playing Wheel of Fortune on this big wheel they’ve got in their secret weather bunker except instead of dollars, they’ve got weather forecasts, you know, temperatures and chances of something happening.  And then they give the big wheel a spin!  Hey, it’s going to be 99° and NO CHANCE OF RAIN!  And if they screw it up, they give you some kind of B.S. about “accuracy in our weather forecasts is important to us because it’s important to you.”  You know, no apology for ruining your upholstery or your new hairdo, just a bunch of B.S.  And we take it!

I mean, what if every job gave you the kind of leeway the weather people get?  I mean what if the garbage man didn’t pick up your garbage but he’ll “get it next time”?  Or if NASA loses a manned space flight: “I guess Mars wasn’t where we thought it would be – sorry!”  Or how about some nuclear missile technician?  “Geez, I was just turning this key and the thing went off like a rocket!  Did I just start World War III?”  Yes! Yes, you did!

I mean, yeah, everybody makes mistakes or has a bad day, but geez, these weather people have screwing up down to a fine art.  You just imagine, if a casino owner ran his casino the way these weather people forecast the weather, you’d have Donald Trump…

A Novus Incipit Annus

Unlike those who refuse to hold the Bush Administration accountable for their many sins and transgressions, I recognize that nothing exists in a bubble; every circumstance we deal with today was affected by previous events in some way.  For whatever failings Obama may possess, he hardly came into his presidency with a clean slate – no one ever does.  A new year does not eliminate the previous year, there is only the changing of numbers.  There are celebrations of hope for the new year and my hope is that we finally get serious about what we, as a nation, are doing.

I had the mixed pleasure of travelling back to my home of origin and spending a few days with my father and stepmother during Christmas vacation.  My father was a biology professor, long retired now, and the opportunities to see him in relatively good health are naturally coming to a close.  We invariably talk politics, he an old George Wallace-democrat, now Republican; I, a left-leaning don’t-bullshit-me anti-Republican.  Our conversations are ofttimes civil, but they can get heated.  What I didn’t expect, on this Christmas holiday, was to be yelling at my father because of obvious Republican chicanery.  Our topic was one I covered over three years ago.  Here’s how it went down:

My father, stepmother, and I were discussing varying aspects of Washington politics and I tried to not let some of the ignorance light a fuse in me because I understand from where that ignorance comes.  My father was born in Mississippi in 1927.  He is Old South.  He thinks derogatory jokes about black people are funny – because they are derogatory, not because they are funny.  My father is rarely funny.  For all his education, my father is a bigot and it serves no purpose to deny  that.  That’s not to say he is a sheet-wearing, cross-burning yahoo, but the racism is there.  He recognizes achievement and little else.  He is not against people of lower economic situations getting opportunities, but he is against affirmative action.  His answer to reconcile this would likely be “work harder”.  Sometimes that works, sometimes not.  I believe the reason for affirmative action to exist at all is that too often working “harder” was not working.  Perhaps you have a clearer picture of him now.

After I had explained my position on the uselessness of term limits in a party-politics system and that the reason the presidential term is limited is because of FDR’s ability to appoint eight of the nine Supreme Court justices before his death, my stepmother went off to do something else.  My father now had his opportunity to set me straight about Obama.  I don’t know why he has an affinity to world almanacs, but he dug one up and turned to the entry for Obama.  He sat on a footrest in front of me and showed me the book and I saw that many things had been underlined.  I heard the quick intake of air and the stern timbre in my father’s voice as he muttered in low tones, “First, he was not born in this country…”

“What!?” I cried.  I was incredulous.  The fuse was lit, but I tried to delay the detonation by calmly replying, “The State of Hawaii would disagree with you.”  I smirked and turned my attention back to the almanac.

My father was halted and sputtered, “He hasn’t proven he was born there.”

“You’re welcome to your opinion, but the State of Hawaii would disagree with you.”

“Well, then, they’re liars!”  This was usual for him when arguing from weakness or simply to hear the sound of his own voice.  But my fuse was short and detonation was imminent. I had had enough of this crap.

“Well, you just go ahead and toss out the facts you don’t like and make up your own and you can live in that little reality – but that’s insane!”  He fell to an uncertain silence, perhaps shocked that I may have been accusing him of being insane.

I stood up.  “I didn’t vote for Obama and don’t particularly like what he’s done, but I’m tired of this nonsense.  Is this about that PDF file of his certificate that people were saying was faked?”  I looked down on him with a nasty jut in my jaw.  “Because if it is, that is BULLSHIT!”

My father’s expression was blank and the fire he had been summoning in his rant was extinguished in meekness.  “I don’t know.”  Not exactly the answer I was expecting.

I began pacing and my father returned to his seat across the room.  “I am tired of reading about this and watching people on television prattle on about this because what they are saying is BULLSHIT!  Is this about that Orly Taitz garbage?”

“I don’t know know who that is.”

“She’s one of ‘em.  Fox News will trot these people out all day long and they are liars and they have agendas!”  Fox News, surprise!, is watched with interest in that household because, as my stepmother says, “They respect the troops.”  Of course they do.

“Who signed his birth certificate?” My father continued.

“I don’t know,” I groaned, “I don’t have the thing with me.”

“I haven’t seen it.”  This may have been my father’s way of trying to turn the conversation back to a “conversation”, but the topic was too far gone and way too stupid by now.

“Well, I have a copy of it and I know more about how that file works than any of those clowns!  And Donald Trump said he had guys over there and he was going to show evidence.  Well, he never did!  You know, why?  Because it was bullshit!  There was nothing to show!”

I couldn’t let it go without one more point to make:  “These are the same people who accuse Obama of being a Muslim without acknowledging that a Muslim can be president.”

“I know they can be,” was his subdued reply.

My father really had little else to say for the rest of the night.  Whatever other tripe had been force-fed into his brain by the Fox propaganda machine would be internalized until it was safe to spew again, out of my presence.  I am under no illusions that I can change his mind, but he raised us to educate ourselves about things and that is what bothers me the most about this conversation.  My father is a man of science, an educator and PHd, and he allows his own bigotry to take for truth the lies that are part of the Obama smear campaign.  He demanded no proof, no evidence, and didn’t even think to research the topic for himself to be better informed.  I am seriously disappointed in him.  Above all, I trusted he valued knowledge over all else.  He failed that trust on a Christmas holiday.

Ignoramuses + Rants = “Ignorants”

Ignorants

        I can’t say I have a solution to the influx of children fleeing the barbarism of their home countries, but watching the ginned-up zealotry over… what exactly is the outrage here? Regardless of the motivations – real or contrived – of the protestors, what is being done in the name of “anti-immigration” is an embarrassment to this nation. Don’t these people have better things to do, like go to their jobs or complain about people who are still looking for employment?

        I could write these protests off as just another incident of “we still don’t like how the past two Presidential elections came out”, but I think these types of demonstrations – and the professional people in politics and media who encourage this garbage – are emblematic of what I’ve always felt is the Republican Party as it exists in this day and age. Make no mistake about it, they are Republicans even though they still want to play “tea party”; they’re just kidding themselves the same way Bill O’Reilly doesn’t have the guts to come out and say he’s a Republican. The underlying mantra of these people: Sucks to be you.

        Compassion? They don’t have it because it might involve somebody else getting something and that may cost them some money. That’s their fear: somebody’s going to get something they didn’t “work” for. They can get off their asses to protest, but they can’t get off their asses and help. While I have no doubt the vast majority of these people would call themselves “Christian”, living in a Christian nation, their enmity shows their true selves.

        And whether or not you want to call it “immigration” and whether or not these folks like it, asylum is still a thing and these children deserve to be heard and they deserve protection. But, hey, sucks to be them, right?

Hail to the… *psst, what’s their name again?*

I really do not want to keep writing sports-centric pieces, but the inclination for cracking wise got the better of me and I decided to scribble a little nonsense about the NFL team in the sights of the PC crowd: the Washington Redskins.

The owner, Dan Snyder, a not-so-great owner by most accounts, has vowed never to change the name even though many assert that the name is a racial insult perpetrated by the original owner, renowned racist George Preston Marshall. Slowly but surely, the drive to change the name among the general public has grown, but this is the world of high-finance sports and there will have to be a lot more voting with the wallet before any changes are seriously considered.

I have always maintained that if I was the owner of the team, I would change the name, but I would keep the basic design centered around the sweet spear insignia the Redskins wore from 1965-69.

photo by Walter Iooss, Jr., Sports Illustrated

photo by Walter Iooss, Jr., Sports Illustrated

However, the name would have to be good — excellent, in fact — and I would not call the team the “Washington Warriors”. Yuck!

My oh-so-very-clever idea for the team name would be to call them the “Washington Engines”, playing to the PC crowd by changing the name, explaining that the name has to do with Washington being the “engine” that drives the country or some other malarkey, while also playing to the racist crowd who didn’t find anything wrong with the native denigration. Racist, you ask? Just keep saying the name. Phonetics, thou art a harsh weapon of wit!

Now that I think about it, since “Engines” would be more appropriate for a city like Detroit, the franchises could switch locations and the Lions would move to Washington, except the spelling of their name would be changed to “Lyin’s” to make it a better fit to match the character of their new hometown.

Yeah, so I won’t be buying the team anytime soon.

Assumptions and the People Who Assume (A rant in 9/8)

You can assume this is a pipe… and you'd be wrong.  You may also assume that you are seeing letters and pictures and, again, you'd be wrong to characterize this little collection of pixels as anything more than 1's and 0's.

You can assume this is a pipe… and you’d be wrong. You’d also be wrong to characterize this little webpage as anything more than 1’s and 0’s.
© René Magritte Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

We’ve all heard it before:  “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”  Gosh, how darn clever.  I had to get that out of the way and I will let you assess the validity of that statement for yourself.  As far as I’m concerned, when you assume, you make an ass out of you if you assume incorrectly and you may involve me.

So why am I playing with Trite Aphorisms People Are Sick of Hearing?  Because I’ve had the extreme displeasure to see some tired old rationalizations pop up recently and I’m amazed people still spew these things:  “We had George W. Bush for president thanks to Ralph Nader” and “3-D movies are not a gimmick because of Technicolor.”  Yeah, one is somewhat more serious than the other, but my Illogic and False Equivalency (IFE) meter doesn’t care about that.

So, some people still choose to believe that Ralph Nader’s candidacy is responsible for Bush Beating Gore in 2000.  There are some studies floating around that refute that thinking, not only that a Nader-less election did not mean those votes cast for him would automatically go to Gore, but some may have gone to Bush! (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/lewis/pdf/greenreform9.pdf — don’t get used to this, I don’t like statistical reading and this isn’t a thesis!)  Above all, Nader is the convenient whipping-boy for these folks because he was the best known and garnered the largest amount of votes.  Yet there were other third-party candidates who pulled enough votes in Florida to turn the election to Gore.  Why aren’t they being accused?  And do the people who didn’t even bother to vote at all get a free pass?

To assume a left-leaner or a right-leaner is an automatic vote for a Democrat or a Republican is exactly what the supporters of the two-party monopoly of power want the public to think – and it’s wrong.  To think that a third party is not viable is true only to the extent to which that party garners support.  Third parties, as they exist now, tend to represent more extreme views of either side of the partisan spectrum, but if you want different goals pursued in Washington, you want a third party candidate because, as we can see, Washington excels in little else but the status quo.  I get a sense that today’s Washington politicians are lousy poker players: it’s not all or nothing with every issue; you can’t go “all-in” with every hand because eventually you will lose and lose everything.  There has to be nuance to governance and what we are getting is agendas – even agendas that are unpopular (30-round magazines, anyone?).  Aside from all of that, though, remember, an anti-slavery party got its start in 1854 to battle the Democrats and Whigs.  Any guess as to what that party was called?

The more trivial of my irritants is this continued bleating about how great 3-D movies are.  I believe the forum I was in had shifted its focus to trashing Avatar and 3-D.  Naturally, some twit pipes up and says, paraphrasing, “3-D is no different than using Technicolor in a movie.”  Well, the IFE went to 11 when I read that.  Since I refuse to register myself with Disqus, I didn’t reply, but the absolute falseness of that statement is staggering.  The implication – insofar as it pertains to my topic – is that this person assumes their little brain fart is correct!

I have seen Toy Story 3 and the last installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in 3-D.  To say that I was underwhelmed doesn’t even begin to touch the dissatisfaction I have for spending $60 so my wife and I could see both those movies.  It wasn’t worth it.  So let me take this time to clue in the clueless:  3-D is an expensive gimmick in an industry that is only seeking to extract more money out of your wallet.  Period.  I will explain:

I create media, whether it is illustrations, cartoons, comics, video, etc. – and 3-D.  I know a lot about the movie industry and how these things get made.  I also get to work with people who work on some interesting things.  My old buddy Dave, works at a place where they do 3-D printing.  They also have a 3-D visual system that creates images used for training.  Some of these images are in a space called a “Cave” and 3-D images are projected to enable a viewer to walk around the object!  But it takes multiple projectors to achieve this; you know why?  Because it’s not really 3-D and neither is that movie you’re watching at the theater!  The best – and I mean the absolute best – that can ever be achieved with our current technology is what I call the “Viewmaster Effect”.  Sure, it looks like there’s some depth to it, but it is a manufactured illusion.  Even in the Cave, all you will ever see are 2-D projections on flat surfaces – there is no depth, there is no volume, there is no 3-D.

Apparently even Ridley Scott is the newest disciple of the 3-D craze in Hollywood, but ask him if his newest technological gimmick kept Prometheus from being a movie that many people despised?  Did 3-D make Avatar anything beyond a pretty visual over an unoriginal script that borrowed heavily from Pocahontas?  (Notice how I didn’t use the idiotic word “reimagining” there?)  I saw Prometheus.  I thought it was a good opening for a longer story, but I’m also glad that I didn’t spend the extra money for the 3-D version that the ticket girl was trying to push.  I have the regular version of Avatar on DVD (a format that is on borrowed time and worth another rant by itself) and I have watched it repeatedly.  I like the movie, despite the whole “Pocahontas” thing and I have never missed not seeing the 3-D version.  It’s about the story and the storytelling – not the visual gimmicks.  That’s the way it will always be; otherwise, there would never be any 3-D movies that failed at the box office and we all know that’s not true!

So, back to our twit and his “Technicolor”.  The plain truth should be rather obvious to him: we see in color, not in black and white.  Technicolor is the result of chemicals in the film-making process.  Through exposure to light and development of the film with the proper chemicals, the color is achieved.  This isn’t “you think you are seeing red, but it isn’t really red.”  To compare a color development process to a fabrication such as 3-D is absurdist to the point of willful ignorance.  This unoriginal argument smacks of deliberately not  wanting to see the forest for the trees.

But, then again, I may be making an assumption.

Ruminations of a Right-Wing Recidivist Reactionary – An Ode to Idiots

I wonder what they’re eating in Somalia
I wonder if they pick the sand out of their food
I wonder if they would mind if we crash the party
I wonder if they would think we’re being rude.

I hear the bullets are flying in Somalia
I hear there are a lot of pirates, too
I think it’s time we moved to Somalia
I think it’s time to show them what we can do

‘Cause they reelected a commie in America
And he’s a Muslim and a socialist, too
And he’s gonna drive this country to ruin
All the while still blaming you-know-who

Some call for secession here in America
Some call for a recount for voter fraud
Some call to reclaim our country
In the name of the Christian God

They want to take our religion in America
They want to take all of our guns, too
Well, I’m gonna take my guns to Somalia
And we’re gonna make that country new.

‘Cause the people have spoken here in America
They can’t see the upcoming demise, I fear
So I’m gonna make a new life in Somalia
Before they turn it into Somalia here

©2012 James Montgomery

My Vote Is My Vote

I’ve heard it said, a time or two,
giving resignation to voice,
When voting the lesser of two evils,
it’s still an evil choice.
Likewise, when picking poison,
as the big decision looms,
One still is choosing poison,
as that thing which is consumed.

©2012 James Montgomery

As the 2012 Presidential election approaches and Jill Stein gets herself thrown in jail (happy birthday, Dad, guess what?  I’m in jail!),  I see the constant tsk-tsking by Obama supporters proclaiming that a vote for Jill Stein or any other third-party candidate is a wasted vote.  I would like to take this opportunity to remind these folk that my vote is my vote; your candidate is not my candidate; your politics are not my politics – don’t presume otherwise, although any are welcome to attempt to convince me of the error of my ways and the Sisyphean task that entails.

While I do favor the idealism the Obama campaign theoretically embodies, he is not my idea of an effective leader.  Romney is hopeless and the right-wing cronies he would bring into his administration would be nightmarish.  A third party candidate is the only choice for me.  Is it practical?  Of course not, but “practicality” is the concession to a system that is in dire need of revitalization.  A third party candidate – as with all candidates – will only do as well in an election as the support they can attract.  To change the direction in Washington and our political process, voters have to have the courage to take that first step off the beaten path of two-party politics.  Will victory happen immediately? No, but if changing people’s minds was easy, it would happen a lot more often.

An election, first and foremost, is casting a ballot for the person who most closely embodies your own values and beliefs while meeting the standard of qualification to perform the function of the office.  Imagine what would happen if people vote their true conscience rather than for party political power – a third party candidate would actually have a chance.  To me the courage to take the first step in a new direction is not a wasted vote, it is the true example of leadership.