Plots and Thoughts

Homophobic Mississippi School District Cancels Prom out of Spite

Posted in Observations by Captain Optimistic on March 11, 2010

Straightforward story.  The little  school district that could discriminate but couldn’t handle queer folk at a school prom decided to just cancel it.  Here is the story.  I found the comments section to be rather fun:

I am sick to death of these “special individuals”, with “special needs” keep ruining it for the rest of us who are healthy minded, law abiding individuals.

Just say “NO” to this negative behavior, what is wrong with the truth?

Check out some of the replies!

omg, i totally agree! these special individuals who insist that everyone be *just like them* with their special need of having everyone be *just like them* keep ruining it for the rest of us who are healthy, law abiding INDIVIDUALs who don’t give a flying fudge who wants to date who.

The truth is, no one has the right to force people to live according to their own religious beliefs. If you don’t agree, then move to Iraq and allow yourself to be forced to live according to Islam. Oh wait, as long as it’s YOUR religion it’s okay. I see how you are: Anti-American.

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out if you’re being ironic or not. America is A REPUBLIC not a Democracy precisely because minority rights tend to get trampled in a a direct democracy. The Senate is built around the idea that “special individuals” (i.e. small states) get special treatment (i.e. a louder voice than they would otherwise.)

What “special need” are you talking about? The girl wanted to take her date to the prom. Just like hundreds of other students. Sorry, but the girl was well within her rights as a citizen of this country. Hope the School Board gets sued back to the middle ages it crawled out of.

Its always amusing watching the ignorant and the bigoted lose an argument.

Ubuntu 9.10 Brief Review

Posted in Reviews by Captain Optimistic on March 3, 2010

I’ve been running an ancient version of Kubuntu (grudingly updated to the more recent 9.04, but with the electronic bones of the past still sticking up past the new ground floor).  Quicktime didn’t work, neither did fullscreen flash.  That’s right, no fullscreen hulu!  Rather than do a normal upgrade, I decided to install Ubuntu 9.10 – Karmic Koala – from scratch.  (I’ve partitioned my hard drive so all my personal files are separated from the operating system and software installed.  This makes a new operating system a relatively painless thing to have).

The install was especially smooth and remarkably fast.  Notably because Ubuntu gives you all of no options with regards to what software you want.  Which suits me fine – since I can just apt-get install my own way after everything is good to go.  I did change my root filesystem from ext3 to ext4, which is ostensibly faster.

First orders of business.  Install Chrome Beta, Swiftfox, ubuntu-restricted-extras, vim-gtk, pyroom, amarok, gnumeric, xbindkeys, xbindkeys-config, yakuake, rxvt, and of course mplayer.  The results?

The Good:

  • Full screen flash works again!
  • I can watch trailers on trailers.apple.com (full screen!)
  • My system boots and runs noticeably faster.
  • The Gnome UI is fantastic.

The Bad:

  • Amarok is apparently unusable.  Yay!
  • Gnome is apparently unable to be customized without exploring random blogs and going through major motions.

The customization thing is quite a headache.  Want to change whether the login screen lists users, or what it looks like?  Want to decide which desktop effects are enabled beyond “none, some, all”?  Want to mess with the volume through the Gnome Sound Preferences UI?  This is one part of Gnome that’s broken.  It should be quite easy to do all of these things.  As for why Amarok isn’t functional, perhaps I need to downgrade that (its clearly a version issue, not a packaging issue).

All in all it was a great install.  Well done Ubuntu!  Overall an easy to install, easy to use system that performs well and does everything I want a computer to do.  Best of all, its free!

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1 in 7 People Live in a Slum

Posted in Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 28, 2010

There are nearly 7 billion people in the world (us census world population clock).  Nearly 1 billion currently live in slums (Guardian).  That is 1 in 7 people.  That number is expected to turn into 1 in 3 within the next 30 years (Guardian).

We need to be thinking about how to tackles poverty in a systemic, effective manner.

Here is a question for you.  When 1 out of every 3 people in the world lives in a slum, how do you think that will effect the other 2 out of 3?

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English Libel Law – Shaming the Bullies

Posted in Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on February 24, 2010

The British Chiropractic Association sued Simon Singh for writing a science column in which he called their claims “bogus”.  A judge ruled against him and he is currently appealing.  As the Libel Reform Campaign observes, their libel law is a global disgrace:

John Kampfner, the CEO of Index on Censorship:

If we don’t act we’re at risk of becoming a global pariah. There are US States who view English libel law as so damaging to free speech they have passed laws to effectively block the decisions of English judges. Our report is an important milestone in modernising our antiquated and chilling approach to free expression.

In the meantime, is there anything we can do to help?  I would like to propose a generalized strategy for dealing with those who use the law to oppress those with less power.  A Public Relations Denial of Service attack.  A DOS attack is – in essence – an attack on a network’s availability by request saturation.  Think of it as so many people calling into a hotline to complain the phone lines melt.  Imagine applying the same approach to a company’s reputation.  There could be no more ironic target than an organization misusing English libel law to penalize a critic.

This is political speech at its most raw and powerful.  The message we would send is clear.  If you attack free speech, we attack your reputation.  The British Chiropractic Association is using a law that is known to be a perversion to shut down criticism in the press.  This is morally repugnant and it deserves a response.

How would this work?

Large groups of people would criticize that association on their blogs, twitter, facebook, buzz, etc etc.  There are more than a few ways to do this (ironically engaging in actual libel as protest, calling them names, etc).  I would recommend one of two approaches:

  1. Put the Streisand Effect into play.  Repeat the claims they launched their lawsuit to silence.  This would entail some risk.
  2. Attack their honor.  Stomping out free speech is dishonorable, anti-democratic, and fundamentally against the code of ethics at the root of the free world.  Careful phrasing could make this approach rather risk free.

I could really use an example!

The BCA’s claims about curing asthma through chiropractic adjustment are bogus!  Talk to a real doctor today.

The BCA is silencing its critics.  Where do YOU stand on free speech?  Boycott BCA affiliated Chiropractors.

Doesn’t this put me at risk?

Perhaps.  But the more we band together, the more of us who take part, the harder it is for the offender to attack any more of us.  And with each lawsuit aimed at silencing further critics, the criticism would grow ever stronger.

What is so important about free speech anyway?

If a medical journalist cannot critique healthcare providers and methods it takes away a necessary level of protection for the public.

In situations where the law protects the powerful and punishes the weak, we need to come up with strategies to strike back.  Court costs and laws which favor corporations have made the legal world an unequal playing ground where individuals become victims.  There has to be a way for citizens to stand up for each other.  Perhaps that way can be found in grassroots public relations.

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Letters to God – A Christian Insult

Posted in Art, Musings, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 24, 2010

Billed as a Christian movie, the trailer reaches down and touches something primal with me.

“Hope is Contagious” is the tagline.  Hope?  HOPE? I’m sorry, does the 8 year old live and beat his cancer?  Does God get the fuck off his cloud and decide to spare a young child a slow and torturous death as his own body kills him from within?

No of course not.

Instead we’ll be treated to wooden acting and empty assurances that the big guy is up there looking after us and deserves our faith.  Of course he does.  Nothing says “holy” like a being that let’s children suffer and die.

Disagree?  Go ahead.  Respond.  I triple fucking dog dare you.  What are you going to say?

  • We don’t know God’s plan.
  • There’s a heaven so its all good.
  • We are the sinners and cannot judge God.

Let me beat each of those sorry ass excuses into the sludge from which they spring.

We don’t know God’s plan

An argument from ignorance?  Fan-fucking-tastic.  What possible plan could he have that involves doing things we would never do?  Humans aren’t supposed to be morally superior to the supreme being, but here I am right now, not murdering and torturing people with cancer.  But hey maybe God wasn’t smart enough to figure out a way to “test” us without torturing some kids to death.  By the way, can you conceive of a “test” that is worth this level of suffering?  Oh you still believe even though God took away your loved one?  Great.  Here’s an A+ and a sticker.  Tell you what, you keep your stellar grades, I’m off to find a teacher who isn’t a psychotic violent prick.

There’s a heaven so its all good

Ends justify the means huh?  So if I slice open your arm, then teach you how to sew it back up, that’s ok right?  I’m teaching you!  Or if I punch you until you are wobbling from a concussion, only to attack you further.  But if I’m teaching you how to fight, that’s ethical right?  If getting to heaven is so fucking amazing, then why don’t we just kill everyone at birth when they are still innocent?  After all, we are such sinful creatures in the eyes of a Christian fundamentalist.

This is grade A bullshit.  Not only do we instinctively reject the notion that “by any means necessary” is ethically valid, we would never engage in such behavior ourselves.  Once again we are more ethical than God.

We are the sinners and cannot judge God

Of course we can.  A thief in the dirt can still judge a murderer on a mountain top.  Even if one accepts the ridiculous notion of original sin, and lives by the backwards moral code that reduces harmless urges to sins and considers harmful actions and bigotry righteous – one can still recognize the sin in causing others to suffer.

Gah, were does this leave us?

I can say where it leaves me.  I oscillate  between belief in God and atheism.  It is hard to reconcile the quantity and quality of suffering in the world with an all knowing, all powerful, all loving being.  Manipulative dreck like this  does nothing to deal with the very serious and important questions that arise from contemplation of suffering.  All it does is seek to score abominable street cred by pretending God only exists in the efforts of people to come together and deal with suffering compassionately and bravely.  God is also responsible for that suffering – a biblical nod to Stockholm Syndrome perhaps.

This movie is insulting to Christians as well.  There is a long and proud history of Christians attempting to deal seriously with the Problem of Evil.  It isn’t a subject to exploit for evangelical purposes.  It is a topic one must either approach with the humility necessary to honor those who feel evil’s effect directly, or with the humor necessary to keep sane those who battle it constantly.  To treat it with faux seriousness in order to convert the vulnerable and naive is contempt worthy.

A movie like this deserves only one thing – to be utterly destroyed on Pajiba.  I’m crossing my fingers.

Toyota Loses Their Brand (Deservedly)

Posted in Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 21, 2010

A newly released internal memo from Toyota crows about saving millions of dollars by delaying and obstructing safety regulations and measures.

Toyota said in a statement: “Our first priority is the safety of our customers and to conclude otherwise on the basis of one internal presentation is wrong. Our values have always been to put the customer first and ensure the highest levels of safety and quality.”

Wrong.  Toyota’s values were based on safety and quality.  That’s pretty much Toyota’s entire brand in a nutshell.  Given that these same defects have cost lives, and the memos detail deliberate moves to obstruct or delay safety measures to secure higher profits, that brand is now dead.

Toyota, by first choosing to put profits ahead of safety, and then choosing to lie rather than accept responsibility, is crushing whatever trust they have remaining.  The above statement is so clearly false and self-serving.  How can we believe anything the company says now?

Toyota climbed to its current position in auto sales by a hard earned reputation for delivering safe cars that lasted.  Its clear they chose to coast on that reputation at the expense of consumers.  What a shameful thing to do.  The publicity, hearings and court cases sure to come are going to have a powerful impact on their brand and their sales.  And it looks like it is well deserved on their part.

A lesson for any company: putting your brand on the line is never worth the risk.

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Why Democrats Are Failing – Pay Attention Republicans

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 19, 2010

Memo to delusional conservatives who view anything left of Glenn Beck as socialist: you are ignoring why the Democrats are failing:

Nor are the Democrats having trouble because things have become “too partisan” – or have they forgot how they behaved towards Bush?

There’s a simple reason why their agenda is failing – it’s the same radical left agenda they’ve tried to shove down our throats time and time again.

Radical left?  PLEASE.  The current Democrat agenda is watered down centrism with appeals to the moderate right.  Its not even leftist, never mind radical!

The reasons it is failing are:

  • Democrats are too weak to stand up and fight
  • Republicans are doing everything they can to block all legislative progress in DC while simultaneously claiming credit back home.

The Republicans are obstructing government.  The Democrats are letting them.

Real liberals haven’t forgotten how Democrats behaved towards Bush – they gave him nearly everything he wanted.  Nor have we forgotten how Republicans screamed that opposition to a sitting President was treasonous, only to turn around and cross far beyond mere opposition into obstruction without batting an eye.

Palin vs Family Guy: Conservatives Are SUPER OBSERVANT

Posted in Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 19, 2010

This is just sad.  A conservative blogger trying to make sense of the searing burn Andrea Friedman dealt Sarah Palin:

My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.

Did the creators of Family Guy go out of their way to find a Down’s Syndrome actress with an agenda?

An agenda?  Are you fucking kidding me?  She’s just observant (like conservatives clearly are).  Palin has been using her child to advocate against a woman’s right to choose, and to paint herself as a victim when convenient.  This actress called her out on it.

This isn’t the first time that they’ve made fun of the mentally handicapped (here and here) nor the first time they made fun of Republicans.

Oh no!  Not the first time!  They’ve made fun of everyone on that show.  It isn’t always funny, and it sometimes crosses the line, but its hardly scandalous.

It’s ironic that the Fox Network broadcasts Family Guy and they make so many jokes about the company that writes their checks.

Actually its common, if not expected.  Take the Simpsons, for example, who over the years have had many jokes about Fox explicitly.  What’s funny though is that this blogger is simply mentioning jokes about Republicans, not Fox.  So its at least refreshing to see a conservative who doesn’t pretend Fox is a neutral, professional provider of news.  Silver lining.

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ACORN Pimp Video a Deliberate Fake

Posted in Analysis, Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on February 18, 2010

Just in case you all missed this, have a read:

While O’Keefe is a whackjob and should be in jail, the greater absurdity here is how the media pushed and then defended this story, which anyone who has shame now has to accept was a carefully-edited YouTube propaganda piece reported by every single network as “investigative journalism.”

Anyone who tells you “but ACORN was going to give money to a PIMP” is a fucking idiot, and ought to be corrected right then and there.  The video was a fake:

Harshbarger also shed light on the controversial videos, noting that portions had been “substantially” edited, including some voice overdubbing.

A seriously fucked up fake:

The lying, the media complicity, the vicious racism of O’Keefe and his buddies have been covered elsewhere.  I just want to point out what vicious misogynists they are, too.  They went out of their way to turn people’s kindness towards marginalized women into a bad thing. When they encountered decent human beings who take responsibility when asked for help to stop violence against women, they brimmed over with hate for those people, and they set out to destroy them.  And while they think kindness towards prostitutes is a weakness, and violence against women is a joke, they exploited the public’s horror at sex trafficking and violence against women to slur people who were the only people in the room who actually had a problem with violence against women.

That is some fucked-up, woman-hating shit.

It is indeed.  Don’t doubt that conservatives will continue to use it as a weapon.  That is their mistake.  It is a weakness, and the second you see it exposed pounce and use it to give them a merciless ethical thrashing.

The Linux Action Hour!

Posted in Musings by Captain Optimistic on February 18, 2010

I saw this headline for a Linux Action Show, and couldn’t help but come up with my own plot:

  • Try to watch flash in fullscreen, then give up rapidly!
  • Listen to howls of frustration as a distribution upgrade inexplicably removes support for your onboard video.
  • Join the crowd of users who can’t get quicktime to work at all, despite multiple fruitless visits to the ubuntu forums.
  • Enjoy the somehow surprised looks on the faces of users watching Firefox crash – over and over.

Don’t get me wrong, Linux is great.  It just also sucks.

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