No One Likes a Quitter

Hey, did you catch Game of Thrones Sunday? Turns out that Sunday’s episode upset a bunch of people.

Why are people upset? Turns out about halfway through the episode (*spoilers* by the way), Jamie and Bronn finally catch up to Myrcella at the same time the Sand Snakes make their move to kidnap her and what should have been an awesome five-way fight scene turned out to be clunky and awkward and didn’t lead to much other than everyone involved getting captured.

They can’t all be winners I guess.

Oh, and at the end of the episode Ramsay Bolton marries Sansa Stark and is…let’s say “less than gentle” when it comes to consummating the union, all while castrated man-slave Reek is forced to watch. Shocking right? Who would have thought that Ramsay would be such a douche to his new wife?

Apparently it was shocking and upsetting to a lot of people. The ending of the episode is so controversial in fact that it’s got the Internet Outrage Machine churned up to full throttle. It’s gotten so out of hand that many have announced (via twitter of course because that’s where internet outrage lives) that they are “quitting” the show. Feminist site The Mary Sue has vowed to no longer cover Game of Thrones episodes following such an unprecedented and problematic scene.

Which in my mind begs the question: Has The Mary Sue even been covering Game of Thrones to begin with? I’m more than ready to call bullshit on the “twitter quitters” as mostly being outrage bandwagoners who don’t watch the show but can’t miss an opportunity to be morally indignant about something, but if The Mary Sue has really been regularly covering Game of Thrones episodes, shouldn’t they know better by now?

In all fairness, the final scene in Sunday’s episode was extremely disturbing and upsetting, it was meant to be. George R. R. Martin and the show runners have established Ramsay as a lunatic sadist since he first appeared and there was very little chance of that scene going down any other way. In fact, it closely mirrors a similar scene in the books, the main difference being that Sansa wasn’t the victim but rather a young woman posing as Arya Stark.

Additionally, while the “rape of Sansa” is again disturbing, it’s hardly the worst thing to happen in the show, even to a woman. Remember the Red Wedding? Where a pregnant Talisa is murdered via several stabs to the abdomen? Having read to books, I knew that the Red Wedding was coming but even I wasn’t ready for that. Or in Season Two (I think) when Tyrion hires a couple of prostitutes for Joffrey hoping that it would mellow him out a bit and how horribly pear-shaped that goes? Ramsay’s a bastard (in more than one sense) but he’s not even in Joffrey’s league when it comes to tormenting women.

Game of Thrones has decapitated characters, castrated them, and even featured far worse treatment of some of its female characters. So why was this too far? Is this really the worst thing the show has yet done, or is this just the internet outrage du jour for people who are on a hair trigger when it comes to being offended at anything that they find to be personally distasteful?

The Battle of Texas

It appears that the right wing in this country has become downright hostile to the one government institution they previously have defended with every fiber of their being: The military. This week, members of the conservative fringe have apparently convinced themselves that the army is holding a large training exercise in the American southwest in order to lay the groundwork for a federal government invasion of Texas:

“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany: You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police,” Bastrop resident Bob Wells told the Statesman after the meeting. “They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now, I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.’”

Yes Bob, you are a conspiracy theorist.

Here’s what the U.S. military says it is actually doing with this so-called exercise:

 Members of U.S. Army Special Operations Command will train with other U.S Armed Forces units July 15through Sept. 15 in a multi-state exercise called Jade Helm 15.

USASOC periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies. It is imperative that Special Operations Soldiers receive the best training, equipment and resources possible.

While multi-state training exercises such as these are not unique to the military, the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states. However, Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.

The training exercise will be conducted on private and public land with the permission of the private landowners, and from state and local authorities. In essence, all exercise activity will be taking place on pre-coordinated public and private lands.

The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas. The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise.

For some reason, right wingers read that and came away with the idea that these Special Forces personnel were secretly infiltrating their towns, schools and businesses across the region. Take this frightened citizen’s reaction:

The idea that training among small towns in the USA is supposed to provide “realism” for operating in Afghanistan or Iraq is utterly absurd. For one thing, small towns in America don’t have teams of local rebels setting up roadside IEDs to destroy humvees and their occupants. Special Forces operatives are more likely to encounter people hurrying their way to Starbucks than trying to run any sort of armed resistance actions. No, military training on the streets of America isn’t “realistic” training for fighting wars overseas. It’s only “realistic” for military action that takes place on the streets of America itself.

Others, like this gentleman from the ironically named “Common Sense Show,” have become convinced that this is far more insidious even than practice for the day the U.S. military institutes martial law throughout Texas:

In recent days, I have learned that the reason that we are seeing Jade Helm activity in so many areas and we are also witnessing the prepositioning of massive military equipment, is because Jade Helm forces will isolate certain geographic areas, thus trapping a segment of the population and keep them from fleeing to other areas. The second part of Phase III of the Jade Helm operation will be the insertion of Special Forces death squads among the civilian population which will target key dissident leaders.

Yes, they believe the U.S. military is inserting Special Forces Death Squads among the civilian population of the southwest in order to assassinate American citizens. And who might those “dissent leaders” be? Good, God-fearing Patriots, that’s who:

“Patriot groups across the country are preparing to launch a ‘Counter Jade Helm’ operation to keep tabs on a controversial U.S. military exercise that some fear is part of preparations to train troops for civil unrest and martial law”. Among those protesting the Jade Helm 15 drills are former Special Operations forces as well as many veterans groups. Along these lines, I am beginning to receive invitations to speak about Jade Helm to various groups including the Oath Keepers.

This person links to Alex Jones’s conspiracy website InfoWars, which (as usual) seems to be the primary source for all of this “inside information” about the Jade Helm exercise. He also cites the Oath Keepers, who are very agitated about this “infiltration” as well. Oath Keepers are former and current members of the military who take an oath to disobey orders which violate the constitution.

Who decides what the constitution actually says in these matters is apparently left up to Alex Jones and the Duck Dynasty guys.

The last time we heard from the Oath Keepers, they were “supporting” the National Guard and the police in Ferguson by stationing themselves on top of buildings armed to the teeth with the intention of “protecting the businesses.” You may recall that in one of the odder side stories from that period, one of the Ferguson police commanders was revealed to have given a speech before an Oath Keepers meeting in which he said, among other shocking things:

“Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill won’t even talk to me — they say ‘You’re an extremist.’ I say amen. OK. And I’m real good with a rifle. My best shot is at 1,875 meters. I got me a gold star on that one. That’s a fact. You run from me you will die tired. I’m dead serious, folks.”

Oath Keepers didn’t claim him as a member, although his speech seemed to be very well received.

As much as I would love to see a bunch or redneck weekend warriors actually got toe-to-toe with U.S. special forces, all of this can probably be chalked up to the usual conspiracy-minded fringe nonsense. The best they could really hope for would be a Bundy-style standoff, which seems unlikely since the military claims they have standing agreements in place to use private and public lands for their simulations. Still, considering that there are ongoing disputes about what constitutes ‘public’ and ‘private’ land, it’s not totally beyond the realm of possibility. The government assassinating members of patriot groups with Special Forces death squads probably is however.

Unfortunately, this is not confined to the farthest corner of the conspiratorial fever swamps. Yesterday, the AP reported this amazing development:

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday asked the State Guard to monitor a U.S. military training exercise dubbed “Jade Helm 15″ amid Internet-fueled suspicions that the war simulation is really a hostile military takeover…

“It is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott wrote. “By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.”

There are many legitimate reasons to criticize the U.S. Government, the military and even the policies of assassinating U.S. citizens (which has happened, of course, but abroad). But this is pretty ridiculous. There have been many, many exercises carried out on U.S. soil by the military. Where else are they supposed to train? And just because the simulation map calls Texas “hostile” for the purpose of the exercise doesn’t mean the military is really considering Texans to be enemies of the state. It’s only a war game, people.

In his 2009 book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, David Neiwert traced the origins of much of contemporary right wing discourse back to the far right fringe. It’s now made it fully into the mainstream. The Governor of one of the 50 states ordered his national guard forces to “monitor” the U.S. Military to insure they are not planning to invade Texas and turn it into Nazi Germany. This is, by the way, the same U.S. Military which already has 15 bases in the state of Texas.

Not Fooling Anyone

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) signed legislation Thursday that allows business-owners to discriminate against pretty much anyone based on religious objections. Mainly because he thinks that he’s running for president in 2016 and feels he needs to pander to the religious fundamentalists in the Republican base.

Naturally, same-sex couples, gays and lesbians, along with perhaps even mixed-race couples and random minorities will be impacted the most, creating a convenient loophole for business-owners to refuse service to anyone who might make the business-owner feel icky.

The law is the first of at least a dozen proposals nationwide, a last gasp for anti-gay conservatives in the face of, among other things, legal and recognized same-sex marriages. But what it achieves is a return to the pre-Civil Rights Act era when bigoted shop owners could refuse service to African-Americans and other minorities.

Along those lines, you might be familiar with the story of Ollie’s Barbecue in Birmingham, Alabama. The owner, Ollie McClung Jr., sued the government in 1964 following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, insisting that allowing black customers in his restaurant would drive away the white customers. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously against McClung, upholding the Civil Rights Act. With this precedent in mind, it’s difficult to imagine the Indiana law holding up in court.

But let’s say it does. The Court today is loaded with neanderthals like Justices Scalia and Alito, and it’s difficult to imagine legitimate precedent topping the brute force of their obvious ideological bias. So, anything can happen, you don’t need to look any further than the Hobby Lobby decision.

The question remains however: If a religious objection is based on a business-owner being worried about violating biblical dogma and potentially committing a sin, where’s the chapter and verse pertaining to selling cakes to gay people?

In other words, where’s the part of the Bible in which God or any other character condemns the selling of goods and services to gay people or gay couples as a trespass? Don’t bother trying to find it because, as I alluded to in the last post, it’s not in there. The Bible has a few lines condemning same-sex intercourse, but there aren’t any “activist judges” or lawmakers forcing Christians to engage in gay sex, requiring this series of “religious freedom” laws.

Again, this law is about giving religious people the freedom to refuse to sell goods and services to customers because doing so would violate their religious beliefs. But those beliefs have to be based on some kind of biblical teaching and there aren’t any passages suggesting or even hinting at the idea that selling a pie to a so-called sinner also makes the pie-seller a sinner.

In order to legally justify a religious objection, shouldn’t a Christian business-owner cite biblical evidence for his or her objection? And if they do, what will they cite in this case? “It’s just what I believe” doesn’t cut it.

Now, where the issue gets sticky is the matter of officiating same-sex marriages. In that case, I’m not sure that same-sex couples would necessarily want to be married by someone who vocally objects to their marriage. Then again, there are religious same-sex couples who’d like to be married in a religious service by an officiant from their church.

The church could object based on the biblical references forbidding same-sex intercourse, or papal mandates, however marriage isn’t sex and officiating a marriage isn’t a direct endorsement of sex. Again, the Bible only forbids a man having sex with other man, not performing a wedding that will likely lead to the participants having sex. In the Catholic Church, the Pope can establish rules that augment what’s in the Bible. The Pope’s words are, in effect, the words of God and Pope Francis has condemned same-sex marriage. Catholic priests, therefore, could cite a specific ruling. That’s just the ballgame.

All told, this is a huge step backward. Obviously. It’s the return of segregation, not only impacting the LGBT community but all minorities (the Bible can, and was, used to justify segregation, slavery, etc). The sooner this makes it to the Supreme Court, the better. Until then, anyone with religious objections better know their Bible because they need to be prepared to cite the explicit basis for their objections.

A Quick Guide to Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz

The first GOP candidate to declare their intentions to run for president was Dr. Ben Carson, who followed his announcement with a disastrous interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show during in which he erroneously cited the origins of Islam and suggested the Baltics weren’t part of NATO. Not a very strong start for the first candidate to hop into the clown car.

Next up: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is set to ride shotgun, announcing his candidacy on Monday at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Let’s talk about Cruz by way of a refresher on what he’s all about.

Doh! Canada

Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1970 to an American mother and a (insane) Cuban father. Sound familiar? The only difference between the presidency-related birth circumstances of President Obama and Ted Cruz is that Obama was actually born in the United States and Ted Cruz was not.

Of course this doesn’t matter because Obama is black with a funny-sounding name and Cruz is a white guy named “Ted,” so it’ll be assumed that Cruz is totally a natural born citizen while Obama isn’t. That seems fair.

Legally-speaking, Ted Cruz is perfectly eligible to be president based on the citizenship status of his mother, just like Barack Obama, especially given how the latter was born in Hawaii. But don’t expect a (fake) investigation by Donald Trump or any mass freakouts by a legion of conspiracy theorists over Cruz’s eligibility to be president because, again, he’s a white Republican. Anything is okay if you’re a white Republican.

No Experience Necessary

We have to wonder whether the GOP will retract its argument that a first term senator with no business experience shouldn’t be president. Cruz just completed his second year in the U.S. Senate, almost exactly the same amount of time Barack Obama had served before declaring his campaign for the Democratic nomination back in 2007.

Furthermore, Cruz has roughly the same private sector experience as Obama, having worked in law before entering public service. Beyond that he has no business experience to speak of, which is pretty astonishing given how Obama was relentlessly attacked in 2008 for only serving in Washington for two years and not accumulating any business management experience.

Green Eggs and (Very) Stupid

Ted Cruz’s biggest claim to fame came when he filibustered the removal of Obamacare de-funding language from a continuing resolution to fund the government. During the all-night self-beclowning, Cruz famously read the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham, obviously for the “I do not like it” line, correlating it to how he doesn’t like Obamacare.

He read it cover-to-cover, and must’ve been shocked by the ending when the main character ends up (whoops!) loving green eggs and ham after finally trying it. That’s right, Cruz fumbled a Dr. Seuss metaphor. Put another way: screw the 3 a.m. phone call litmus test, we now have to ask whether our presidential candidates can accurately comprehend the moral of a children’s book.

Ted Cruz the Prop Comic

Last year, Ted Cruz went on rampage against net neutrality. I know. Yawn. But in lockstep with the conservative entertainment complex, Cruz repeated all of the opposite-day lies about how net neutrality would lead to something, something, government tyranny.

One day, he decided to start his very own talking point, rather than just robotically repeating the off-the-shelf talking points. Cruz suggested that net neutrality would somehow restrict technological expansion and innovation, and used the iPhone as an example of technology that wouldn’t have been discovered if it had been regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. He even held up an iPhone as a prop during a speech to a group of young people and said:

When you regulate a public utility, it calcifies it — it freezes it in place. Let’s give a simple contrast. The Telecommunications Act of 1934 was adopted to regulate these [brings out an old rotary-dial phone]. To put regulations in place and what happened? It froze everything in place. This is regulated by Title II. [pulls out an iPhone] This is not.

Again, Cruz fumbled the demonstration. Of course the iPhone is regulated by the federal government. How do we know this? Look at the back of your iPhone and you’ll see several logos including an Apple logo and, yes, an FCC logo.

Reckless Ted

According to the Republicans and the press during the Ebola scare last year, we should all be dead now. The fact that we’re not is enough evidence that the panic was falsely amplified for the sake of dramatic flair. At one point CNN even hosted a medical-fiction author to discuss how quickly Ebola would become airborne and kill everyone.

In terms of the Republicans, it became abundantly clear that they were exaggerating the threat as a means of attacking the Obama administration for not, I don’t know, not exercising enough big government? That moment of clarity came when the Senate Republicans refused to approve Obama’s nominee for surgeon general in the middle of what we were being told was a massive public health crisis.

Leading the charge against the nominee was Ted Cruz. And why was Cruz holding up the nomination in the midst of the Ebola “crisis?” Because Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was eventually confirmed, once tweeted something about gun control. Cruz said:

Of course we should have a surgeon general in place. And we don’t have one because President Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti-gun activist.

In other words, screw the (alleged) Ebola threat while we genuflect before the altar of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA. Priorities, right?

Clairvoyant Ted

Ted Cruz has his own coloring book just in case your kids are creepily into coloring a doughy tea party homophobe who knows less about the moral of Green Eggs and Ham than they do.

One of the pages features the following line:

Speaking with clairvoyant precision, it was as if Ted could see the immediate future of the quickly approaching Obama Care disaster.

Now, I know it’ll be difficult, but make sure your kids don’t fight over this page too viciously. But yeah, Cruz is apparently clairvoyant. You know how I know he’s not? Because Obamacare isn’t a disaster at all, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

For one, it’s responsible for the fewest uninsured Americans in 40 years. Costs are being controlled. The exchanges, including the Healthcare.gov exchange, are working fine and the second open enrollment period went off without a hitch, even though we didn’t hear much from the “liberal media” about it. Cruz is no more clairvoyant than a “guess your age and weight” carnie, and the carnies are right a lot more often.

No One’s Forcing Ted Cruz to Marry a Guy

Finally, Ted Cruz is leading marketer of the “same-sex marriage is a threat to religious liberty” nonsense. Simply put, Cruz believes that marriage equality will strip anti-gay religious people of their First Amendment rights. Cruz and others believe that, for example, a business should be able to refuse service to gay people because the Bible forbids homosexuality. Just a few days ago, Cruz said:

[T]he federal government and unelected judges cannot set aside the democratically-elected legislatures’ reasonable decisions to enact and protect traditional marriage. […] If the courts were following the Constitution, we shouldn’t need a new amendment, but they are, as you put it quite rightly, making it up right now and it’s a real danger to our liberty.

It’s a wafer-thin argument that we’ve seen before. First of all, the Bible forbids a lot of mundane things (eating shellfish, trimming your beard), and permits a lot of really awful things (slavery, child abuse).

Furthermore, no judge or lawmaker is pushing a law that mandates Christian men to have sex with other men, the so-called “abomination” that the Bible forbids. Conversely, there’s nothing in the Bible that forbids Christians from selling cakes or otherwise doing business with homosexual people. So anti-discrimination laws aren’t forcing Christians to violate biblical dogma in any way, thus these rulings aren’t violations of religious liberty. And Ted Cruz is an idiot.

Anything Else?

Yes, he’s also an insane conspiracy theorist:

Ted Cruz is a hardlined paleoconservative who represents the GOP’s harrowing conjugal union with the tea party. He’s a political demon whose soft-spoken persona and sad-clown eyebrows allow him to get away with the most poisonous Obama Derangement Syndrome fappery in Congress. He represents the new GOP cynicism, elevating anti-Obama pandering to his unglued base above actual governing.

But worry not. Ted Cruz isn’t win a damn thing other than a bump in his speaking fees due to his newly ordained status as a “presidential candidate” which is why he’s running in the first place.

 

Tour the Solar System AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT

An eye-opening new video really puts the sheer size of the solar system in perspective. It shows that even if you travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), the trek from the sun to the Earth and other planets takes a really long time.

The 45-minute-long video, created by Los Angeles-based artist Alphonse Swinehart and posted on Vimeo Jan. 26, starts at the sun and zooms out into the solar system. You reach the Earth and our moon at around 8:20, and the journey ends after reaching Jupiter and its moons at around 43:20.

Watch and feel insignificant: