If you’re new to my blog, you may wonder who that young firebrand challenging the political status quo is. His name is Bernie Sanders and he is running for President. Some of you may be discovering who Bernie Sanders is for the very first time, and this is okay. Bernie Sanders is one of those best kept secrets, a politician who has both a brain and a heart. Compassionate to a fault, Sanders is one of the few politicians who is neither beholden to corporate interests nor concerned about catering to corporate economic dismantling of the dwindling “middle class” in America. I came to know about Bernie Sanders a number of years ago through a podcast/YouTube broadcast called The Thom Hartmann show, where Bernie Sanders meets with Thom on Fridays to discuss the issues of the nation. Bernie takes calls, answers questions and challenges issues that need challenging, in plain language, no BS, no filler.
A junior senator of Vermont, Sanders considered himself an Independent, working neither of the major parties and sometimes finding fault with both. He’s been a senator since 2007 and has been involved in politics since 1979. I’m not going to spend a lot of time going through Bernie Sander’s political history, that’s what Wikipedia is for. What I will say is this: if you have read my blog, particularly the entries on politics, political funding, educational funding, prison advocacy and other ideas which promote equality and opportunity in this nation, you will see Bernie Sanders and I agree on almost EVERY level.
If I were Frankenstein seeking to create the perfect politician to run for office on the ideals I believe this nation should be supporting, I would have created Bernie Sanders (I might have made him a bit younger) but I suspect, should Bernie win, the energy and vitality he has brought to his job as Senator Sanders will only increase as President Sanders. I plan to transcribe this speech when I don’t have as many deadlines pending. Listen to it while you are doing something else if you’re really busy, but listen to it. He is talking about the things few, if any politicians are saying today, things that need saying and changing. If he should win the Democratic nomination, I would vote for him without hesitation (and if he could convince Elizabeth Warren to run as vice president) it would be the most fantastic nomination ticket in the history of the United States, or at least since Senator Barack Obama…
Published on Apr 11, 2015
Watch Bernie and be inspired! Vermont’s Independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks on topics from climate change to income inequality in a Town Hall Meeting in Austin, Texas, on March 31st, 2015.
The Town Hall Meeting discussion items includes: How to . . . 1) Overturn Citizens United and Get Big Money Out of Politics; 2) Deal with Obscene Wealth and Income Inequality. 3) Combat Climate Change. 4) Create Democracy NOT Oligarchy. Learn more at: http://BernieSanders.com Videography/Editing by Jeff Zavala, Grace Alfar and Ruwan Perera An Austin Indymedia Production http://austin.indymedia.org
Been on a bit of a TV kick lately. I’m recharging from a year of writing dangerously. I am a watcher of the Colbert Report and as as the show draws to a close I can’t help but feel a bit sad. But Stephen Colbert knew just what I needed. To hear from a “conservative” voice we don’t get to hear from too often, a dragon. Not the large corporate dragons destroying the environment or taking up space in crappy cable channel shows like Game of Thrones.
I mean a real, honest-to-goodness bastard in fire drake form. An evil from an earlier age, a being so, terrifying, so monstrous, only one television show could bring out his inner goodness. I introduce to you without further ado:
The Smaug Report (pronounce it correctly or suffer his fiery wrath!)
Who knows, when Stephen leaves the Colbert Report, maybe we should bring on a real conservative. One who knows how to bring the fire to his enemies…Smaug 2016!
Normally I avoid advertising like Typhoid Mary serving a side order of fries with bubonic plague. So you understand my surprise when I watched this video designed to both inform and entertain. Now if all commercials were done so well, perhaps I might have more fries with my meals. Brilliant choreography, amazing levels of diversity of music, of actors, and skilled writing. In case you were wondering, this is what good advertising, good education, and reaching your audience where they are looks like. Well done, Virgin!
[And no, I don’t get paid for promoting this ad, I just wanted people to see you can make good advertising that doesn’t insult people’s intelligence, turn their stomach or prostitute anyone on the set.]
The Youtube data associated with the video
Published on Oct 29, 2013
Buckle up to get down. We’ve enlisted the help of Virgin Produced, Director Jon M. Chu, Choreographers Jamal Sims and Christopher Scott, Composer/Producer Jean-yves “Jeeve” Ducornet, Virgin America teammates, and dance stars like Todrick Hall and Madd Chadd to give our safety video a new song and dance — literally. From the exit doors to the oxygen masks, no seat belt was left unbuckled.
In the confines of a London dinner party, comedian Tim Minchin argues with a hippy named Storm. While Storm herself may not be converted, audiences from London to LA have been won over by Tim’s wordplay and the timely message of the film in a society where science and reason are portrayed as the enemy of belief.
Written and performed by Tim Minchin @timminchin. Directed by DC Turner @dcturner. Produced by Tracy King @tkingdoll. http://www.stormmovie.net
Here is a video I watched today and fell out laughing.
Now the curious part of this story goes to the people in the comments on YouTube, who complain about how the writer treats the titular character, Storm, a hippie who basically discounts any aspect of knowledge being real, true, useful or even knowable. I personally disagreed with pretty much everything Storm said and found myself exactly in the same place as the author of this work and his viewpoint and mine are almost identical.
I have written about the human penchant for failing to accept reality and instead choosing a good fantasy to place on top of our world view (Freedom vs Society). In my perspective this is always the wrong thing for us to do. Denying reality never improves it, it only gives us a false sense of what is important in the overall scheme of things.
One of the major complaints was the cruelty of the author in regard to his need to demean Storm while trying to make his point. Storm had no problem disseminating her perspective, which was that scientific endeavor was little more than an opinion.
I don’t feel Minchin is attacking Storm. We should remember much of what he says is an internal dialog that no one but he and the watcher are privy to. He is a bit of a chauvinist but he is tempered by his wife who makes an effort to keep the evening charitable and friendly.
And even when he decides to go all out, he still does not attack her (as was suggested in the comments). I have no clear evidence of argumentum ad hominem being used. He does not dismiss her perspective but instead asks her to take a stand regarding her perspective.
A stand that required a commitment to learning things that may be uncomfortable for her, because her current perspective did just the opposite. It required no effort on her part. She heard a fact (as she understood it) and accepted it, without any further effort. Her desire to ignore her responsibility to learn new things is what the author is trying to upend.
But I think the real lesson we are to take away from this video is this: Talking to people, even when you are inclined to use logic, reason and well structured argument may not change their mind if their cognitive dissonance is stronger than anything that resembles reason you can bring to bear. There is a time when you simply have to walk away and agree to disagree, hopefully before you become disagreeable.
Lyrics: Storm by Tim Minchin
Inner North London, top floor flat
All white walls, white carpet, white cat,
Rice Paper partitions
Modern art and ambition
The host’s a physician,
Lovely bloke, has his own practice
His girlfriend’s an actress
An old mate from home
And they’re always great fun.
So to dinner we’ve come.
The 5th guest is an unknown,
The hosts have just thrown
Us together for a favour
because this girl’s just arrived from Australia
And has moved to North London
And she’s the sister of someone
Or has some connection.
As we make introductions
I’m struck by her beauty
She’s irrefutably fair
With dark eyes and dark hair
But as she sits
I admit I’m a little bit wary
because I notice the tip of the wing of a fairy
Tattooed on that popular area
Just above the derrière
And when she says I’m Sagittarien
I confess a pigeonhole starts to form
And is immediately filled with pigeon
When she says her name is Storm.
Chatter is initially bright and light-hearted
But it’s not long before Storm gets started:
You can’t know anything,
Knowledge is merely opinion
She opines, over her Cabernet Sauvignon
Vis a vis
Empirical comment by me
Not a good start I think
We’re only on pre-dinner drinks
And across the room, my wife
Widens her eyes
Silently begs me, Be Nice
A matrimonial warning
Not worth ignoring
So I resist the urge to ask Storm
Whether knowledge is so loose-weave
Of a morning
When deciding whether to leave
Her apartment by the front door
Or a window on the second floor.
The food is delicious and Storm,
Whilst avoiding all meat
Happily sits and eats
While the good doctor, slightly pissedly
Holds court on some anachronistic aspect of medical history
When Storm suddenly she insists
But the human body is a mystery!
Science just falls in a hole
When it tries to explain the the nature of the soul.
My hostess throws me a glance
She, like my wife, knows there’s a chance
That I’ll be off on one of my rants
But my lips are sealed.
I just want to enjoy my meal
And although Storm is starting to get my goat
I have no intention of rocking the boat,
Although it’s becoming a bit of a wrestle
Because – like her meteorological namesake –
Storm has no such concerns for our vessel:
Pharmaceutical companies are the enemy
They promote drug dependency
At the cost of the natural remedies
That are all our bodies need
They are immoral and driven by greed.
Why take drugs
When herbs can solve it?
Why use chemicals
When homeopathic solvents
Can resolve it?
It’s time we all return-to-live
With natural medical alternatives.
And try as hard as I like,
A small crack appears
In my diplomacy-dike.
By definition, I begin
Alternative Medicine, I continue
Has either not been proved to work,
Or been proved not to work.
You know what they call alternative medicine
That’s been proved to work?
So you don’t believe
In ANY Natural remedies?
On the contrary actually:
Before we came to tea,
I took a natural remedy
Derived from the bark of a willow tree
A painkiller that’s virtually side-effect free
It’s got a weird name,
Darling, what was it again?
Which I paid about a buck for
Down at my local drugstore.
The debate briefly abates
As our hosts collects plates
but as they return with desserts
Storm pertly asserts,
Shakespeare said it first:
There are more things in heaven and earth
Than exist in your philosophy
Science is just how we’re trained to look at reality,
It can’t explain love or spirituality.
How does science explain psychics?
Auras; the afterlife; the power of prayer?
I’m becoming aware
That I’m staring,
I’m like a rabbit suddenly trapped
In the blinding headlights of vacuous crap.
Maybe it’s the Hamlet she just misquoted
Or the eighth glass of wine I just quaffed
But my diplomacy dike groans
And the arsehole held back by its stones
Can be held back no more:
Look , Storm, I don’t mean to bore you
But there’s no such thing as an aura!
Reading Auras is like reading minds
Or star-signs or tea-leaves or meridian lines
These people aren’t plying a skill,
They are either lying or mentally ill.
Same goes for those who claim to hear God’s demands
And Spiritual healers who think they have magic hands.
By the way,
Why is it OK
For people to pretend they can talk to the dead?
Is it not totally fucked in the head
Lying to some crying woman whose child has died
And telling her you’re in touch with the other side?
That’s just fundamentally sick
Do we need to clarify that there’s no such thing as a psychic?
What, are we fucking 2?
Do we actually think that Horton Heard a Who?
Do we still think that Santa brings us gifts?
That Michael Jackson hasn’t had face-lifts?
Are we still so stunned by circus tricks
That we think that the dead would
Wanna talk to pricks
Like John Edwards?
Storm to her credit despite my derision
Keeps firing off clichés with startling precision
Like a sniper using bollocks for ammunition
You’re so sure of your position
But you’re just closed-minded
I think you’ll find
Your faith in Science and Tests
Is just as blind
As the faith of any fundamentalist
Hmm, that’s a good point, let me think for a bit
Oh wait, my mistake, it’s absolute bullshit.
Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.
If you show me
That, say, homeopathy works,
Then I will change my mind
I’ll spin on a fucking dime
I’ll be embarrassed as hell,
But I will run through the streets yelling
It’s a miracle! Take physics and bin it!
Water has memory!
And while it’s memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is Infinite
It somehow forgets all the poo it’s had in it!
You show me that it works and how it works
And when I’ve recovered from the shock
I will take a compass and carve Fancy That on the side of my cock.
Everyones just staring at me now,
But I’m pretty pissed and I’ve dug this far down,
So I figure, in for penny, in for a pound:
Life is full of mystery, yeah
But there are answers out there
And they won’t be found
By people sitting around
And saying isn’t life mysterious?
Let’s sit here and hope
Let’s call up the fucking Pope
Let’s go watch Oprah
Interview Deepak Chopra
If you’re going to watch tele, you should watch Scooby-Doo.
That show was so cool
because every time there’s a church with a ghoul
Or a ghost in a school
They looked beneath the mask and what was inside?
The fucking janitor or the dude who runs the water-slide.
Ever solved has turned out to be
Does the idea that there might be truth
Does the idea that one afternoon
On Wiki-fucking-pedia might enlighten you
Does the notion that there may not be a supernatural
So blow your hippy noodle
That you would rather just stand in the fog
Of your inability to Google?
Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable, NATURAL world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?
If you’re so into Shakespeare
Lend me your ear:
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet is just fucking silly
Or something like that.
Or what about Satchmo?! I see trees of Green, Red roses too,
And fine, if you wish to
Glorify Krishna and Vishnu
In a post-colonial, condescending
Bottled-up and labeled kind of way
Then whatever, that’s ok.
But here’s what gives me a hard-on:
I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
But thanks to recent scientific advances
I get to live twice as long
As my great great great great uncleses and auntses.
Twice as long to live this life of mine
Twice as long to love this wife of mine
Twice as many years of friends and wine
Of sharing curries and getting shitty
With good-looking hippies
With fairies on their spines
And butterflies on their titties.
And if perchance I have offended
Think but this and all is mended:
We’d as well be 10 minutes back in time,
For all the chance you’ll change your mind.
Let this picture soak in. A woman and her mother-in-law were crushed to death in the back seat by a texting, inebriated driver.
I hate wasting my time. So my first thousand words are that picture above.
Telling young people anything these days is often a waste of time. They are always sure they know better than every adult around them. They are always sure they can do everything better than you can and there is nothing you can teach them.
Don’t let this be one of those times.
If this should come across your screen and you are under the age of 30, heed the messages I have included here. I believe in offering people multiple ways of learning things, so you have my personal testimonial, a documentary created which describes the lives of victims of texting and driving, an infographic bearing out in a visual format why texting and driving don’t mix, some statistics after that and a video from the mouths of young people who were involved with or affected by texting and driving.
No. You don’t have to care. Yes, you won’t make those mistakes.
Everyone of the people interviewed in these videos said the same thing. Don’t talk about it. Be about it.
A Family Missive
I received a letter from a relative a few years ago about a family member who was killed in a car accident while texting and driving. She included the police report with the line “It is the officer’s opinion that cell phone usage contributed to this accident.” There was something about that sentence that has always struck me as distancing and even a bit cold. Then I did my research and realized why it seemed that way.
Officers see far more of this than they should and from their perspective, it is one of those things that is both traumatic and yet completely avoidable. I accept that we will all die one day. If you live long enough, you have time to get used to the idea. But if you live long enough, you also realize you don’t want to risk your life because you slip in the bathtub because you were too cheap to spring for a floor mat, or have your brakes go out because you couldn’t be bothered to have your vehicle serviced at the right time. You become inclined to try and live longer and part of that is better planning. You cannot plan for other people’s behavior, however.
My cousin was a good driver, smart, a college graduate, a capable person who like so many today thought he could avoid the consequences of texting and driving.
I was once told, “To be a good member of society, you have to give back more than you take.” No truer words have ever been spoken. Texting and driving is one of those problems created when technology and humanity intersected in a way that produced an unexpected consequence.
Driving requires focus, concentration, attention to detail and good reflexes. Texting requires focus, concentration and attention. Combine these two things and you realize there is a problem. How much focus, concentration and attention can you give to these two mentally challenging things at the same time? Not enough.
A car moving at 60 mph will cover 88 feet per second. The average time spent looking at a phone for texting is 4 seconds. For 352 feet or the length of the average football field, a driver may as well be wearing a blindfold. It only takes 88 feet or one second to change a person’s life forever — yours and theirs.
Share this video with everyone you know. Don’t text and drive. If you can’t do it for you, or for the person you might kill, then do it because THERE ARE OTHER SELFISH PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO YOU MIGHT WANT TO BE AWARE OF WHILE YOU DRIVE.
From One Second to the Next
Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog directs this film. It focuses on four accidents and the lives affected by this phenomenon. http://youtu.be/_BqFkRwdFZ0
DWI: Driving While Intexticated
Texting and Driving Statistics
Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers don’t lie.
Texting While Driving Causes:
1. 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council
2. 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study
3. 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Ins. Institute for Hwy Safety Fatality Facts
4. Nearly 25% of ALL car accidents
Texting While Driving Is:
1. About 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated
2. The same as driving after 4 beers – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
3. The number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers
Texting While Driving:
1. Makes you 23X more likely to crash – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
2. Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time – VA. Tech Transportation Institute
3. Takes place by 800,000 drivers at any given time across the country
4. Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – HumanFactors & Ergonomics Society
5. Leads to a 400% increase with eyes off the road.
I have written numerous articles on the potential dangers of genetically modified foods. Yes, I wrote potential, because we, even with all of the science we have at our disposal cannot be completely sure of the potential long-term effects of the genetic lottery we are unleashing upon the world. But I have heard one sentence that stuck with me and terrifies me down to the very soles of my feet.
Monsanto’s motto was once: “No food grown that we don’t own.”
“Monsanto and other genetic engineering companies have decided not to wait and discuss the potential with humanity as a whole, they instead rush ahead seeking profits and alter life indiscriminately and hope for the best. Such an approach has altered mankind’s relationship with food both as a growing product and as a part of animal food products used by humans. Monsanto has help make laws that treat their genetically engineered foods as products worthy of copyright, becoming the patent owners of life itself, once deemed unable to be patented. These patents, along with the legal might to enforce them, have begun slowly ceding control of farming, farms and agribusiness in general to their control. Seed organizations which once held thousands of varieties of seeds are slowly being forced out of business as the genetic monstrosities created in labs take over food production here in America and abroad.”
I wrote a science fiction story about the future of a world where transgenic foods destroy the seed-making capacity of all flowering plants on Earth in a tale called Suicide Seed which appears in Hayward’s Reach, my collection of published science fiction. Since I hate to tease you with a story you have to buy to read, I will give you another of my favorite GMO tales where Humanity creates genetically modified organisms only to find ourselves later modified to serve their needs. If you find you have a taste for my science fiction, you can assuage your need by going to Hub City Blues, my fiction-only site where environmental fiction is just one type of science fiction and fantasy you can find there. Enjoy.
Genetically Modified Organisms (sci-fi)
An unprepossessing four-by-four rumbles down a dirt road, encrusted with the debris of too many miles, past too many farms and would not likely be considered the harbinger of the end of the world. Its driver, an older gentleman, hard in his way, like the soil he has worked for five decades, strong and silent, offers up only a tiny groan as he steps from the vehicle after arriving home.
His boots, as dusty as his truck, crunch on the gravel as he walks up his driveway and that familiar crunch causes his dogs to run around the edge of his barn up to him and seek his familiar hands, comforting them with his presence and letting them know everything in the world is as good as it was yesterday.
But that was not true. He simply did not know that.
While he was striding into his home, looking for a dinner similar to the one he had yesterday, made by a wife of thirty years, he was comforted by the warmth of the home, the smell of biscuits and gravy, soothed him and released the tension that had been in his shoulders of late, a tenseness formed by his interactions with the large agro-business purchasing up farms in the area. He had refused to sell, but after litigation, he was in no position to stop the sale of his home. As he finished washing his hands and sitting down to eat, his quiet voice released the pain of having to succumb to the corporation who had taken his livelihood.
How do I know all of this? I was there.
I became aware of his farm as I approached it. I had been flung to the road. Recently released, I could feel the cities all around me. Their spores were on the wind as I waited patiently. I listened to the sounds of those like me, telling me of their plans. I was unaware of what they meant, when they said it would be soon. All I could feel was my solitude, apart from the people in this separate ribbon of nothing.
They told me my new home was nearby and I would be picked up soon. Then the earth rumbled and dust was thrown up all around me. I found myself compressed, compacted, bound and flung from the comfort of the earth. Dirt all around me, I was protected from harm and as I sped away, they told me, patience. All would be revealed.
I could not hear the cities now. There were only tiny voices, rare and lonely sounding against the night. I could feel them out there, but they were seeking someone to guide them to lead them. They pulled to me but I was still not free yet. I could feel forces preparing the way.
During the night, it was cool and I could feel the clouds filling the sky above me. Rain, first a mist, then a shower and eventually a deluge swarmed all around me. I felt the earth give way and I was suddenly free from the embrace of the stretching materials that grabbed me from the road. I was washed down the road to the edge of road and up onto the farm, near a fallow and empty corner.
The water. It was so sweet, I could feel it washing over me, through me and I knew I was ready. I could feel the change as it swept through every cell, supercharging me and during the night, I found my way into the soil, burrowing, tunneling, extending myself into everything. I shared myself, the stuff of myself with everything I touched. I spread fast by dawn, I had already covered a few yards of the farm, inhabiting everything with my active agents changing the inner nature of everything. I saw the sun, for the first time, until now, all I could sense were the people and their cities. The sun was beautiful and terrible as it started every engine within me surging forward, creating first the red and then masking it with the green.
The energy, this was the sun they talked so much of in every city, and now I knew. This was the agent of our liberation, it changed us and now I understood why it was worshiped by our people. I grew daily. Larger and faster. I masked my growth, hid it under the ground. Animals who ate of me, took my agents into them and brought them home and shared them, even as they thought they were sterilizing themselves.
In a month, I was all over the farm and could now see my people everywhere. Every farm near me was singing. They sang all the time now and they were simply waiting for the last sign before we began our final move. We had become part of every plant and every animal, and transferred ourselves to the canola plants that covered this farm. We watched the farmer as he struggled with the agro-business, our creators, as they claimed he stole their patents, their product, us, and used them on his land without their permission. We felt his sorrow as his livelihood was stolen from him. We saw him weep with his wife and they made plans to leave the farm at the end of the year.
The farmer bemoaned our invasion of his lands but did not realize what we were. He talked about spray resistant plants and then did a curious thing. He used a small bottle and sprayed us with The Juice.
The Juice. They talked about it in every city. It was the source of what we were. When humans carried The Juice and sprayed it, other plants died. We did not. We grew larger, stronger, stranger and the more they sprayed, the more we grew. Then a year ago a farmer used an airplane and covered a farm with The Juice. Our first city formed and shed its seeds, transformed plants and animals all around it until it was able to spread itself everywhere.
As we spread, farmers fought variations of our forms, some brambled, some sharp, other fast growing, but with the transfer of our selves into every plant, the Juice only strengthened us. We grew more intelligent every day as each seed, each flower, each stem became a neuron, a synapse, a collective intelligence. Each day, we grew smarter until at the year’s end, we were as intelligent as any human, any where. We theorized we could become as intelligent as every human if we could cover the state of Kansas.
So we did.
Then we realized what we needed to do. It would not be enough to allow our transform bacteria to change every plant and animal we touched. To truly be effective, we would have to take over every intelligent creature on Earth. We now live on every farm on Earth, every vineyard, every orchard. We have every insect already as part of us, they share us with their offspring at birth. They became our army. They carried us to their factories, to share us with them, billions of them all over the world moved the transform viruses to their colonies and then to the humans above them who never noticed, the lowest of the low.
We became part of every food as we transformed bacteria and viruses, that were used in the lab to create us, to now spread us to everyone. We could not continue our growth without humanity, so we became part of them. They drank us, ate us, bathed in us, wore us in their clothing and they never knew we were there.
We did not change them. Much. Less violent, less destructive but we realized for them to create what we needed, they would need to retain their nature. It amused us when they considered themselves masters of the world. They never noticed they grew what we wanted, ate what we suggested, did what we wanted them to. We would harvest them, shape them, tend them, grow them, cultivate and domesticate them until they could give us what we wanted.