Archive for January, 2013

Selfish Assholes Shrug: My initial encounter with fake philosophy

29/01/2013
Sorry Mark, I can't resist!

I am a Maker, You are a Taker!

I remember it well. I was an undergraduate at the University of Tulsa in the mid 1980s, majoring in Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology. I took 18-21 hours a semester, and worked two jobs; one at the fabled Fifteenth Street Grill—one of the top restaurants in the nation, and the other at the University of Tulsa library. I read everything I could get my hands on. All of the historical political economy series, the Binghampton series on world systems theory, the old anarchists and Marxists, even the old racists who argued for slavery. Tulsa was a place that emphasized real learning, and none of the professors used textbooks—you were expected to read the classics and the periphery in the original.   But never did the adolescent pulp fiction writer Ayn Rand cross my reading list. That changed when I met Michael Bartlett, who was the thirty-something child of the recently deceased Governor and Senator from Oklahoma, Dewey Bartlett. Michael was a true prick, a 30 year old frat boy who had the audacity to run for student office and win the student body presidency. The idea of a non-traditional student even joining a frat was a bit over the top, and if it was not for his “pedigree” he surely would have been shunned. At the same time, I was helping to forge a movement to divest the University of Tulsa’s considerable resources from the apartheid regime in South Africa–and that was no small issue. Tulsa had an endowment of over $180 million at that time (gee, my humble university has about a third of that now, in absolute dollars….but that is another story….), and much of it was wrapped up in unscrupulous extractive investments.

Those of us working the in the South African divestment movement received considerable support from many alumni, faculty, and administrators. It was clear that the University was putting endowment dollars into investments that were not very sound, and that any rational University would diversify the portfolio—it would have been easy and profitable to ditch the investments in the racist regime. But, our student movement met resistance from the Student Association headed by Michael Bartlett. Uneasily, at the same time, he and I shared a major in Philosophy, and we had two courses together that year—Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Law. It was a bit funny, because Michael was a dumbshit, and the Philosophy major at Tulsa was rather rigorous. It isn’t at all a stretch to say that Bartlett was simply a raving buffoon, who didn’t understand ANYTHING in the course on the Philosophy of Mind (taught by the great Austen Clark), and his performance on philosophy of Law was almost equally embarrassing. But, he did at least sometimes argue that there was this profound philosopher, Ayn Rand, who summed up everything about why poor people should be left to starve and the disadvantaged deserved their plights (in contra to the arguments of Rawls, and even the logic of conservatives like Coase). So, one night, while working the 10-2am shift after working at the restaurant, I pulled out one of the books and began to read. It didn’t take very long to realize that Atlas Shrugged wasn’t a philosophy book, but an adolescent novel. There are no arguments, no deductive or inductive reasoning, just a bunch of foolish stories and whining by some trustfunder justifying her privilege. A perfect pacifier for fuckhead loser trustfunders like Bartlett, but of less intellectual value than even the most vile 19th century racist political economic screeds justifying slavery. At least those made some attempt to make sense.

I assume that Michael is living uncomfortably with his trust fund. I just read that his mother finally passed away, and his brother, Dewey Jr.,  was a corrupt mayor of Tulsa for a while. It’s disturbing that a bunch of cokehead morons somehow think that they are entitled to the wealth their parents lucked into because the farms they stole from the indigenous in the Oklahoma land run had oil on them. They are the makers. Yeah. Never worked a day in their lives. Got their money because they stole land from someone, and some immigrant guy determined that it had oil on it. I guess the “takers” are the people who had scholarships based on their intellectual ability and demonstrated achievement? Or the people who did the dangerous work of drilling and capping the oil rigs, but then are of no use to the makers, right? What a convenient fiction.

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God, Guns, and Gun Laws—Why White Fundies are armed and dangerous

23/01/2013

gunfundy

My old racing buddy Mark Swartzendruber is sometimes perplexed by the far-right, and he expressed a genuine interest in trying to understand why conservative Christians somehow think it is ok to have guns and shoot people and shit. He was raised in one of those traditions where they claim that the Christian god, Jesus, was talking about turning the other cheek, instead of flogging the infidel with a cat of nine tails. But, in the United States, the dominant perspective among sectarian Christians (which is increasingly embraced by a deviant group of conservative Catholics) and conservative Calvinist types is that humans are inherently sinful, and therefore must be punished. And, no punishment is too great for the evil doers. That is what is at the root of the “good people with guns” and “bad people” rhetoric driving the NRA and other extremist groups opposed to gun regulation. Bad people need to be shot by good Christians with guns, and gun regulations would prevent good Christians from killing the bad people. Of course, the hitch in this theological argument is race. While most African Americans and a substantial proportion of other non-whites subscribe to conservative Christianity, they are also keenly aware that when white people with guns claim to be the good people confronting “bad people”, what cracker ass whites really mean is “good people with guns” confronting “black people with guns.” Only, black people don’t really have guns….

Above are aggregated data from the 2000-2010 GSS examining gun ownership and opposition to gun laws by race and beliefs about the sacrality of the Bible (the Christian one, we can assume, eh?). As you can see, among whites, people who believe that the bible is the word of some sick demented god are much more likely to live in a household with a gun (46%), and these white fundies are also more likely to oppose gun laws (26%), when compared to white Americans with less fundamentalist religious views. About a third of white Americans who think the bible is a book of fables written by ancient goatfuckers own guns, and only 22% are opposed to gun regulation. Among non-whites, who know that the right for white people to own guns is really about the right to shoot brown people, there is no relationship between religious beliefs, gun ownership, or support for gun regulation.

Much of the apocalyptic fervor regarding gun regulation and the Obama Presidency is about the teleological interpretations of white American fundamentalists. A black guy, who is probably a Kenyan Muslim Homosexual Communist, is trying to snatch their guns from their cold dead fingers. And this, they believe, is prophesied in the pathetic ramblings of some bronze-age goatfuckers. It’s the end times. So we have to stock up on guns and ammo and spam and canned corn and more guns and maybe some potted beef. Because JESUS said that the good white people will prevail, or be raptured up to hebbin. It’s interesting that the brown skinned fundies ain’t buying that brand of religion. They want the crazy white people to be regulated, and for guns to be taken out of their own communities–and religion has nothing to do with it.

Gun Subsidies and Wingnut Welfare: Why Guns are Cheap and Bikes are Expensive

14/01/2013
Seven Times Cheaper than a Waterford R-33 with Ultegra....and I'm a Campy Guy...

Seven Times Cheaper than a Waterford R-33 with Ultegra….and I’m a Campy Guy…

I was just making sure that my rights as a white male Amurkin were not being infringed, so I went to the Wal-Fuck website to make sure I could still buy assault weapons from them, and sure enough, I can. Indeed, I cannot believe how fucking cheap you can get a military-grade assault rifle. Even Sig Sauer’s are under $900! Of course, that’s the cheap model with the worthless scope, but still, what a DEAL! Indeed, I cannot believe how gun prices in general have remained relatively stable since when I was a gun nut in the 1970s and early 1980s. But, the price of assault weapons has actually declined, and declined dramatically. You couldn’t buy AR-15s at Wal Mart when I was a stupid young redneck, and that’s a damned good thing. Until the mid 1970s, these types of weapons were totally unavailable unless you had serious connections and clearance. They simply were not available for purchase, even if technically legal.  I remember my act of redneck stupidity in the 1970s was to buy a 10 shot magazine for my Remington 1100 12 gauge shotgun. The only problem is that the spring never quite has the oomph to push the shells and so they jam a lot when you’re blasting away at nothing (or an elementary school if you’re into that sort of thing). And, of course, it’s illegal to hunt with one of those. As any real hunter knows, shotguns are clipped at 5 rounds, and for most birds you are required to plug to 3 rounds (most standard pump and semi-autos hold 5 rounds). Back then, an AR-15 would have only been a Ruger, and it would have cost you at least $1500—which is about $3700 in today’s currency. You see, I know. I’m a redneck by upbringing. I’ve made bullets (they suck, buy them). I’ve loaded shotgun shells and rifle and pistol rounds.  I never shot competitively, but I know all about the various disciplines, and how NRA types use debunking of assault weapons bans based on the fact that high-end single-shot shooting rifles sometimes have pistol grips.

You can’t actually hunt with an assault rifle. Here in Illinois, you can’t hunt with a centerfire rifle at all. We’re a shotgun-only state (as are many states with large populations and many areas in states that REGULATE the guns used in hunting by regions or counties). Guns are regulated. You can’t hunt deer with a 9mm, and in many states not with a pistol at all (pistols are too inaccurate, unless they are designed for long distance shooting). Rifles, particularly centerfire rifles, are dangerous because bullets can travel for miles. Just a couple of months ago here in So. Ill a little girl was hit with a bullet when some rednecks were blasting away with assault weapons. It is illegal to HUNT with the 223 round in Illinois because it is dangerous, yet idiots can shoot them at will? Nah, we need more regulation. If you can’t shoot deer with a round or a gun (guns are limited to shotguns holding no more than three rounds), why should you be able to blast away with one? Why should you even be able to own one?

What really bugs me is that every dirtbag redneck and his half brother can afford to go out and buy an arsenal—and the cost of military guns is lower than the cost of guns you could actually use to hunt. I just checked and the list price for a Remington 1100 (which is a hunting gun, and any law abiding citizen should be able to own one with proper registration and insurance) and it is substantially higher than the list price for a low-budget AR-15. That is ridiculous. But, it happens because of much wider market factors. Assault weapons are cheap because their production is subsidized! We (that’s the global “US” “we” meaning those of us who pay taxes—and I pay at the highest rate possible) pay for shitloads of these things to be produced so we can give military aid to petty dictatorships. That increase in the supply of weapons decreases their price (see Smith, Adam). So, since only cheap-ass honest-to-fuck redneck hunter types buy Remington 1100s, and since those weapons will work much longer than the redneck hunter will live, Remington doesn’t make many 1100s (to keep the price up given constant demand….). But, anywhere there is conflict the United States has sought influence by pumping “our” faction full of guns at US taxpayer expense, and that bleeds over into the domestic market…The gun industry is making superprofits abroad, and astronomical profit for what they charge domestically (even though those prices are low compared to what they charge for real  hunting and shooting gear). Because production is high in the socialized military industrial complex, prices are low. Guns are subsidized. Especially stupid non-hunting and non-shooting weapons (a good match rifle will cost you ten times what you’d pay for a cheap AR-15).

The Ultimate American Racing Machine, 20 Bushmasters

The Ultimate American Racing Machine, 20 Bushmasters

Let’s contrast that with an industry which hasn’t received the wingnut welfare of the military industrial complex. Bicycles! The United States used to have a thriving bike industry, and now it is mostly smoke and mirrors where “companies” buy bikes and components made in Taiwan and China and put their names on them. But, a few companies continue, at a high price. Some readers may know that I’m a serious bike racer. My team, Team Mack, is sponsored by Waterford Precision Bikes, which makes both Waterford and Gunnar bikes at a factory which used to be the old Schwinn factory in Waterford Wisconsin. All of their bikes are made from steel, most of which is also American made. My stainless steel Waterford Race bike is the pinnacle of American production. It is the shit. It’s nearly as light as the lightest carbon frames made by twelve year old girls in Taiwan out of toxic glue that has ruined the environment of their nation. The ride on steel is much better than what you get from riding on glue and plastic. It’s a great American product, welded together by a bunch of Americans, at a firm owned and operated by Richard Schwinn. But, in contrast to the gun industry, the bike industry receives no government socialist communist muslim homosexual handouts. We don’t buy American-made bikes for millions of soldiers in third world countries. And because of that, Richard Scwhinn has higher unit costs associated with his lower levels of production. So, while I can buy an American made AR-15 from Wal-Fuckheads for around $500 (before the latest series of massacres), a regular Waterford steel frame (no wheels, gears, handlebars, or any of that stuff you need) will cost you $2000. My race bike frame, which is stainless steel, retails for $5k, frame only—so a full bike is close to $10k—as are most high end road racing bikes.

So, to summarize, redneck dipshits who think the President is a Muslim Homosexual Communist from Kendonesia can buy American made assault rifles for under $500, while American bike manufacturers can barely make a profit selling steel bike frames for $2k, and most cycling enthusiasts instead buy cheap shit from China. What if we pimped our bike industry instead of our gun industry? Gee, maybe my less affluent friends would be able to get a decent, American made bike for under $1,000… Better yet, what if we TAXED the LIVING FUCK out of guns? Or ended their subsidy….How many people would buy AR-15’s if they cost $12k? Half of the guys I race against are on bikes that cost that much. Price is often the best regulator….

A Well Regulated Militia…..Just a modest proposal for reasonable gun control…..Updated

06/01/2013

Yesterday I went over to the Illinois DOT office and paid for my registration on my 2005 Honda, it was $99 for the year. This registration is tied to my vehicle, and linked to the ownership title (and I paid a fee to transfer  ownership when I purchased the car, about $100 as I recall). All automobiles must have an engraved serial number in a couple of places, and linked to the title. These are required for registration, and yearly registration is required for a license plate giving me the privilege to drive on public roadways. In most states, but not in mine, there is an additional requirement and charge to certify yearly that a car is roadworthy and meets other standards like emission of hazardous substances. Those usually cost about another $50 per year (I paid these regularly and had my vehicles checked out yearly in North Carolina, Tennessee, and even Oklahoma). In addition to this, I have to personally be certified to be road worthy, including an actual test of my vision, my knowledge of the laws of the road, and my driving ability in critical circumstances. And, that personal driver’s license costs an additional $75 or so. But, we’re not finished. I’m also required to hold insurance on my vehicles, under penalty of law. I just paid mine, and since I’m an old guy with no speeding tickets or other violations, I pay about $600 per year for insurance for my one car. And, of course, all automobiles produced and marketed in the US must meet rigorous standards for safety—with air bags, seat belts, regulations about glass, fireproofing of upholstery, location and construction of fuel tanks, tire and wheel dimensions and configurations, and required headlights, tail lights, reverse lights, and turn signals (all of which must conform to a specific color and dimension).

This is exactly what gun control should look like. All guns should be tracked from manufacture to sale to transfer to demolition. All owners should be required to register the guns annually, and to pay for the privilege of ownership. All gun owners should be required to carry insurance on their guns, and to maintain a license certifying their own personal worthiness to own a gun. If you get a DUI, you lose your driver’s license…If you get picked up for beating your spouse, you should lose your gun license….and have your guns confiscated. All guns should conform to specified guidelines based on potential legitimate use–particularly to make sure that hunters and shooters in sanctioned events are not penalized. Handguns should be limited to magazines of no more than 6 cartridges, shotguns should be plugged at 5 (which most are, and federal waterfowl guidelines and many states limit it to 3), centerfire rifles of all types should be limited to a 3-shot capacity, while rimfire should be limited to 10 shots with no magazine style loading.  And, hunters should also get a discount on licensing. You have a hunting license, check the box and send in the paperwork verifying that you own the weapon (up to 5 long guns and one handgun if permitted for hunting).

The NRA types are opposed to gun registration and tracking because they know that they are the ones who will be or already have been in violent altercations which should disqualify them from gun ownership. They beat their wives, kids, and relatives, and they cause physical altercations in bars and public places. But, they want to have guns. And, they don’t want anyone to know about that little incident with the ex-wife and her new boyfriend.