Sunday, April 9, 2017

What's Next?

Last week after Assad continued to be a walking pile of garbage and gassed a whole bunch more of his people, we fired 59 cruise missiles at an air base.

Many of my friends who are Trump supporters have touted this as Trump getting tough on Assad.

The question I pose to them is this.  What now?

Simply firing a $100M worth of cruise missiles isn't going to fix the problem.  Nor does it appear those missiles significantly degraded his capacity to continue to wage war.

It would appear that we have a number of choices to make now.

1. We full out destroy Assad's air force.  This would keep him from gassing/bombing his own people... but it would also prevent him from going after ISIS.  So would we be helping ISIS by doing this?

2. We seriously escalate the air campaign against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria and then do step #1.  However, since their aren't nice neat camps just flying the black flag, their are going to be civilian casualties, etc.

3. We attempt to cut the head off the snake and take Assad out of the picture.  This gets complicated because we only have to look at the mad max conditions of large swaths of Libya to see what that might turn into.

At the end of the day, we need to achieve the goal of outing Assad without Syria turning into either an Iranian theocracy, An Islamic caliphate or a post apocalypse wasteland.

The problem is, we have a number of warring factions on the ground that are actively trying for the first two and have achieved the third for chunks of Syria.

This is a messy proxy war between Iran / Iraq / Saudia Arabia / Turkey / etc.  I'm sure they're more groups involved, I just don't know who.

How much of our blood and treasure are we willing to expend?  Up until he gassed a bunch of children, it was zero.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bringing Down The Giant

I've come to think that the answer to taking down Trump might not be some huge scandal.  What needs to happen is that he needs to lose legitimacy with his supporters.

I realized this when the other day the CNN hosts started responding to tweets Trump was making about the show in real time.

It got me thinking. We know he's a narcissist who watches social media and television obsessively. Knowing the traits of a narcissist we know he can't help but press his face against the social media mirror.

What we do is give him no respite. We are legion. We simply hound him as if the very hammers of hell were on his heels and never relent. If he's not already convinced he's besieged, then let's besiege him. Play into his paranoia.  Let his destructive personality traits do the hard work of imploding his presidency.

There will come some point that even his most ardent supporters will be faced with the ugly fact that he's gone bat shit bug nut crazy.


Let Them Eat Shit.

As I write this, the vote to repeal the ACA has stalled as moderate Republicans in the house realizing the replacement is going to be a disaster for their constituents and their careers.

I want to start this blog by pointing out that I *really* don't want them to repeal the ACA. I will be a disaster for many American's especially the working poor.

Now that I've got that bit of civility out of the way, I'm going to unleash the daemon that hides over behind my shoulder.

In my darkest moments, I really do want them to repeal the ACA.

A large number of people voted for Trump because he campaigned on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something "better".

I think we should let them have the "better" version of Obamacare.

There's a bit of nihilistic glee thinking about all those Trump supporters opening that envelope from either their Insurance company or Medicaid informing them that their coverage has been dropped or reduced or that the subsidy's been removed and they'll now owe more per month.

Let them buy policies that essentially cover nothing and just wait for the pin to be pulled on that grenade.

That moment when they suddenly realize in one crushing moment that a narcissistic billionaire doesn't have their best interests in mind. I want them to have to pick up that shit sandwich and starting chewing.

Moreover, I want them to go to social media and start freaking out.  It'll be interesting to see what it looks like when suddenly 10's of thousands of people start screaming about losing their coverage and we're subjected to a cavalcade of sob stories about how mama would be here today if they hadn't cut her coverage.

We all know that if there's one thing Trump does is, it's that he watches social media and TV obsessively.
Who will he blame?

In any case someone's going to be eating shit over this.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Trump, who do you owe money to?

While I think Trump is a narcissist, a conman and is uniquely unfit to be our president, I honestly want him to find his way and not
be utterly terrible.  I say that because ultimately, he'll ride off into the sunset and we'll be left holding the bag.

In the many conversations I've had about Trump I finally decided to crystallize my thoughts.

The main question that many of my friends ask is, "What's the thing that Trump could do that would make you happy?"

What I would like Trump to do is fully disclose his fiduciary obligations both foreign and domestic.

We know for a fact that he has a $600 million dollar mortgage with the Chinese central bank.
While he's claimed he doesn't have any holdings in Russia, his son in law has contradicted this statement.
Without this information every action he takes gets to be an exercise in asking "Is he doing that because it's good for America or is his doing that because it's good for Trump?"

Next I'd like to see him fully personally divest and have his personal financies put into a blind trust like every president has done for the last 30 years.

Finally, I'd like to see him fully transfer control of Trump Enterprises to a private management company not connected with the Trump family.

I'm not confident this would solve the fiduciary problems, but it would bring them out into the light.

As for his 54 billion increase in spending for the military, it's absurd.
Firstly, we don't need more nuclear weapons, that's just craziness.

The bigger issue than even the 54 billion is the long term costs that go along with that.
So you spend 54 billion now to build ships, etc. You still need to pay to maintain that equipment.
When you grow the military from a personal point of view, all those people end up eventually with huge entitlements.
I noticed there wasn't much said about the VA... consider that with our existing military personal size the VA is a complete disaster... Let's compound that with more people.

When it comes to the conversation about nuclear weapons, at this point we've either scrapped or mothballed all the facilities needed to take spent uranium and extract the plutonium out of it.

What's the environmental and monetary costs to get those programs up and running again?
Next, it's one thing to have a bomb... you need some way to deliver that bomb.  At last check our Ohio class subs are aging. While there's been talk of building Virginia class boomers... has that happened?  Are there even plans on a drawing table? What about the ICBM's that'll be in those subs?  Mind you he's not talking about retiring the existing systems, he's talking about expanding.  So we're going to have to continue to spend billions maintaining and updating what we've already got on top of new systems.

As for his Trillion dollar infrastructure bill... how's he going to pay for this?  He's also talking about tax cuts.
The math simply doesn't add up. While I agree our infrastructure needs some serious updating, nobody seems willing to actually pay for it.  We're perfectly willing to subsidize he shit out of gas and oil though.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Repelling the Johnson amendment... A disaster for the Religious right...

I was going to write a long post about how keeping the Johnson amendment in place is both good for religious people and for non religious people like me, but I suddenly had a serious case of not-giving-a-fuck.

Now that Trump has vowed to utterly destroy the Johnson amendment, he's got the votes to do it, it's going to happen.

Let's think deeply about this for a moment.  Churches (who are 503c's) but who don't have to adhere to any of the rigid reporting rules of other 503c's are now going to be able to sponsor candidates, etc.

Mind you there were already doing this, but now they can just be utterly blatant about it.  They in essence have become ultra-dark superpacs.  Frankly, if you're a church with a political agenda, you will be able to take donations for anybody and use them for anything and not a record needs to be taken.

Well, here's the problem with that... That door now swings both ways.

I think we Atheists should band together and form our own "church".  We're forced to use the term "church" because it's written into the tax code,  and I think we should name it "The church of the new awakening".

At last check, we "none's" are the largest religious group in this country by far, and growing!

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Tim Cook.  All Atheists with billions if not trillions of dollars (int BG's case) at their disposal.  Moreover, all people who have expressed great disdain in the direction of this country.

But beyond that, think of millions upon millions of Atheists / Nones / "Spiritualists" and people of faith who are looking at the current situation in government with horror and disdain.  Who are more than willing to put their money where their mouths in an attempt to keep the lunatics who've grabbed the wheel from driving us all off a cliff.

Simply put our combined money and brains would be unstoppable.  We could create a dark superpac so insanely large the the religious right would have a fit.  They'd yell from the rafters, but we'd be the first to point out this was of their own doing.  We'd give them two choices.  Reinstate and actually enforce the Johnson amendment (or an even stricter version therein) or live with the consequences.

If they choose to live with the consequences, we'll then take that money and brains and go election by election demolishing the anti-science, religious ideologues infesting congress.

If they reinstate the Johnson amendment, we'll then take that money and brains and go election by election demolishing the anti-science, religious ideologues infesting congress.  More so, we'll take those churches who politic from the pulpit to task and demand they be taxed.

Repealing the Johnson amendment is a Pandora's box for the religious right.

Friday, June 10, 2016

How I got from there to here.

I recently was at a party and I started to have a theology conversation with a friend of mine.

I realized that while I thought a lot about my beliefs, I've never actually coherently written them down anywhere.

Walking way from the church and up the side of a mountain!

I'd like to say that I was a skeptic from the beginning, but it wasn't the case.. I took it all at face value and didn't really think that hard about it.  I think part of that has to do with being essentially born into a religion.  Church was just something that you did.  I sang the songs and said the prayers and believed, what else was there.  I managed to even get confirmed without reading the bible. So, I did what any good Christian would do and sat down at either sixteen or seventeen and tried to read the bible.  Whoops...  While more than twenty years ago, I do recollect that I couldn't get through it.

That as the first small crack in my faith.  At that point, with my life barreling along at full speed, I simply decided to stop going to church. I honestly stopped thinking about it.

While I'd always been an avid hiker, I started hiking in the mountains more, it became my church. When I got stressed, when the world was too much, I put on my boots, grabbed my pack and hit the trail.  I've realized this all in hindsight mind you.  About that time, I somewhere along way I made the cognitive jump to paganism.  I suppose if you find yourself out meditating on the top of a mountain, nobody ever heard of, it's bound to happen.  Somewhere along the way I stumbled across a copy of one of Scott Cunningham's book and called myself a wiccan for a while.

I'd like to apologize to anybody who was out hiking in the Pemigewassett wilderness between 1997 and 2005 who ran into an unwashed, unshaven hippy finding himself in the woods, it was a phase man...

As I drifted spiritually, I found that I had to keep thinking harder about things, but with what time? I managed to get a real job, and started going to school nights.  At this point, I was forced to take a philosophy class.  At the time, I didn't really impinge on my thinking, I was in head down, get it done mode of college.  I could see the brass ring and I was getting seriously sick of being on the carousel.

However, it tickled some small part of my hind brain.  So at this point, my story somewhat pauses.

I met a girl and got married, bought a house and had a kid. I hiked in the woods, I lit my candles, things just worked out.  Though I drifted from the Wiccan stuff and just kept on meditating and with a somewhat reduced cognitive load I could start thinking again.  It's one thing to meditate to push out the stray thoughts... It's entirely another thing to meditate and let the mind wander.

In my head though, I never pushed out all the dogma I'd been collecting along the way, I just kept putting in boxes and hiding those boxes in the nooks. I never stopped believing in those things, I just decided those things weren't for me.

Cancer, death and the blowing up of all my beliefs, a seminal five minutes.

It's it great how far you can get with ignorance!  My life continued to bump along merrily.  Though I've now come to realize life can sometimes be like a car crash... It's all good until holy shit, it all goes oh so wrong.

I found myself standing in a hallway after being told my daughter had cancer.  The doctors were in with her and they'd asked me to politely leave the room while they put her through a CT scan, radiation and all that.

I went into the hallway and seriously lost my shit for about five minutes. I consider this a seminal moment in my life.  I've always been a tenacious son of a bitch, but in that moment some element of me simply snapped.  I walked out of the CT room a boy and returned a man.

During the next six months, many things happened to me... some big some small but formative all the same.

One of the first things that happened to me was the number of people who came up to me and exclaimed loudly that our daughter was saved through god's grace.  This to me, rang hallow. It made me think, and it made me question all the things I had assumed.

One of the ways that I dealt with the stress of this situation was to write a journal.  Mind you, not something even as half as crappy as this piece of crap is... way crappier!

The question I wrote down was simply "If my daughter had been born a hundred years ago, my daughter would be dead.  Where would god's grace be then?"  I wrote many more questions like that.

Around this time, I found myself at a funeral for a young child.  I'm convinced there are few things in the world as shitty as a funeral for a child.

That was a tipping point for me.  To me it seemed suddenly obvious. I got in the car after the funeral and simply thought "No loving god would let that happen."  I realized in that moment if there was a god it was either impotent or malicious.  It either could do nothing or chose to do nothing. I then had a further thought.. Or simply didn't exist.

I went off and read a lot more.  Socrates, Hume, Sagan, Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris.

Where does this land me?  At the momemt, here I guess.  A humanist and Atheist.

Am I as comfortable mentally as I once was? No.

I now see all religion as a human enterprise.  At it's most benign it simply cushions the blow.  At it's worst it gives license to people to do terrible things.  But at the bottom of it, it's all a lie and a con.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

More Terror, more trump, space X!

To my lowly readership, you probably forgot you even subscribed to this crazy blog. Surprise!

Well, what to talk about.

Brussels happened.  Read my last post, it pretty much sums up how I feel about that.

Trump continues to win delegates... I find this whole shit show to be amazing. I've given up trying to predict or understand this cluster fuck but to just roll with it.  Though watching the Republican party eat itself has been particularly hilarious.

Space X managed to finally stick the landing on the barge!  Of all the shit going on, this is actually the most amazing.  For those of you who don't understand... the average cost of the rocket carrying cargo to space can easily be the same price as a well equipped jet liner... except you throw the whole thing away after one use... The rocket cost millions, the fuel costs 100's of thousands... Clearly being able to reuse the first stage is going to massively reduce the cost of getting cargo into orbit.  I honestly think this is the first big step towards us having space habitats.  Imagine a future when Space X is recovering 80% of their first stages and reusing them (let's say 10 times).  We have the technology to make large space structures, it's simply the cost of lofting all the stuff into orbit.  Needless to say, I'd be quite happy being the IT guy on a giant space farm habitat.

It's been funny to watch the ULA people talk shit about the Space X, but I have to imagine behind closed doors they're shitting themselves.  They're talking about the "Vulcan" rocket that's going to be a reuseable rocket, but right now it's just talk... They haven't even flown hardware you know everything on paper looks cheap and easy... The big problem that ULA has is they're a bloated company that's optimized to solve the wrong problem.  Space X gobbles up supplies, etc. and brings everything in house.  We can argue about the ethics of that, but what it does is make their supply chain tighter than a gnat's ass.  All the parts come in a bunch of doors and finished flight ready rockets roll out one big door.  ULA on the other hand does most of it's work for the government so it doesn't need to be efficient, etc.  I should note that the financial pressure from Space X has forced them to consolidate and streamline their manufacturing... that's not a bad thing. The fact that their main launch vehicle relies and a rocket engine build in Russia is a major problem they don't have ready solution to.  They've talked about the BE-4 engine, but that hasn't left the test stand yet.