Monday, March 21, 2011


I'm not a big fan of taunting. I'm talking specifically about sports fans taunting opposing players, coaches and, worst of all, fans. Although I do tend to frown upon taunting in regular life too. ("You call yourself a cabby? Any idiot knows you take 10th Avenue. STUCK in TRAFF-ic!" [Clap. Clap. Clapclapclap.] "STUCK in TRAFF-ic!" [Clap. Clap. Clapclapclap.])

I think it shows an ugly side of human nature that people would take more pleasure in the downfall of another than they would take pleasure in the achievement of their own team. As a born-and-bred New Englander and longstanding member of Red Sox Nation, I hate the Yankees as much as the next guy. But when the Sox beat the Yanks, I'm happy that the Sox beat the Yanks. I'm happy for the Sox. I'm not as concerned that the guy wearing pinstripes feels personal shame and humiliation.

So, I'm not really into the chants of "Yankees suck". Partly because it's so patently untrue that the whole enterprise smacks of wishful thinking and is therefore more than a little bit pathetic. The Yankees are, historically and currently, the least sucky team in the history of professional sports. Why else would we bother hating them? And "Jeter swallows" is downright offensive. I will say no more on it, lest it be dignified. (As if such a thing is possible.) I'd rather cheer my team on than attempt to degrade another, no matter how much I don't care for them.

Which brings me to today's real point of contention, chanting "o-ver-rat-ed" at a team that is being vanquished by another, presumably underrated, team. This is taunting, of course. But, even more than chanting "[the other team] sucks", it paints the chanter as a bit ignorant and as someone who is actually dissing his/her own team.

Listen. If the other team is overrated, that means that they're not really as good as the conventional wisdom holds. Which means that when you're chanting that the other team is overrated, you're really demeaning your own team. "Hey, those guys really aren't all that good!" So, now you're crowing that your team just survived a squeaker with a team that isn't very good? What does that say about your guys?

Wouldn't it be more uplifting to say, "You guys are a very talented assemblage of physical prowess and game management. And the team for whom we cheer has defeated you, making them even more awesome and reflecting their glory on us who wear the same colors as we cheer!"

I reckon that doesn't make much of a chant.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Smart Letters: The Cost of Energy

Free-marketeers who poo-poo renewable energy never ever ever discuss the costs to society that are never borne by the energy industry. Kenneth Miller of New York City lays them out succinctly. (It's the last letter on the page.) This is why subsidizing the oil industry is sheer madness and subsidizing renewable energy is sound policy. Vitally important, in fact.

The recent argument for nuclear power has been that it is the only large-scale energy source that is economically competitive with fossil fuels and that won’t contribute to global warming. But as the horrible disaster in Japan is making clear, nuclear energy comes with many hidden costs.

These are already manifest in the government insurance that is necessary to raise capital to build reactors and in the government responsibility for nuclear waste disposal. Add to this the government responsibility for the costs of disaster management and recovery and for decommissioning ruined reactors, not to mention whatever dollar amount you want to assign to the lives lost or ruined in disasters, and the real costs soar.

Fossil fuels also have the hidden costs of climate change, which will likely dwarf those of nuclear power, as well as the costs of oil spills and other disasters and myriad government subsidies.

If all of these hidden costs were factored in, we might find that renewables are by far the cheapest source of energy. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Information Exploitation

It's too soon. We can't talk about it. No, it's still too soon. We can't talk about it. No, no. Come back to me in a little while. Yes, later. Much later. When you've calmed down a bit. I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

Jonah Goldberg seems to think that we shouldn't be referring to the recent and still unfolding nuclear disaster(s) in Japan as reasons why nuclear power may not be such a great idea. It's a tragedy. (Can't argue with that.) But it's still happening right now so we shouldn't "exploit" it for some sneaky awful political agenda. Like saving lives.

This happens all the time. Something awful happens, usually because of something the energy industry did. Some of us meekly raise our hands and say, "Um, excuse me, but doesn't this prove what we've been saying all along? That what we're doing here is inherently dangerous and harmful to the environment?" Then the captains of industry come rushing in to say, "No no, it's perfectly safe.*" *"As long as there are never any natural disasters or the hint of human error. Or terrorism."

And people like Jonah Goldberg are right there to back them up by claiming that anyone merely pointing out the fact of the disaster is using it for their own political agenda and therefore disrespecting the thousands/millions affected by said disaster. I guess if our agenda is something like "Nuclear power is bad because terrible shit happens so we maybe shouldn't use it so much" then it's considered tacky to say so when terrible shit actually happens.

But wait, Jonah says. You said yourself that shit happens. Shit happens! We can't stop doing everything because something bad might happen, right? So a few hundred people get their faces melted off. Hey, it could have been a few thousand. The system works! (Jonah actually makes this point, if a bit less in extremis. It's in the third-to-last paragraph.) Let's congratulate ourselves and build a few more nuclear plants. We're going to need them now that those other ones have melted down. But we'll need to build them somewhere else. Too much radiation already in that place.

Sorry, Jonah. But when we have preventable catastrophes like this it is the perfect time to bring up the folly of raping the earth for short-term gain. The truth does not take a vacation because it's inconvenient for you to look at it. We are not "thirst[y] to confirm...[our]...preferred policies". We are pained that we have to go through this again and again and again while people like you refuse to listen as more and more people die.

Monday, March 14, 2011

God Told Me That You're a Dick

Why is it that anytime anything awful happens some fucknut says it's God telling us something? Of course, exactly what God is trying to tell us is open to interpretation. But it's usually about gay people, atheists, liberals, New Yorkers, or gay atheist liberal New Yorkers. (Is there any other kind?)

This stupid little girl is just exultant over the incredible horror in Japan. Apparently, this was a message to atheists. I hadn't realized that every single person on the east coast of Japan was an atheist. But thanks for playing, girlie. I hope you don't have any atheists in a 150-mile radius of your house. Because when God comes a-calling for them, you and your Barbies are getting sucked into the maelstrom with them.

I'll give her a pass, though, because she's just a tot. Once she's all growed up and spewing the same nonsense (and -- I hate to be so pessimistic, but -- I'm fairly confident she will be) then we can hold her in something that doesn't resemble pity so much as contempt. Especially if she gets her own radio and/or TV show.

Like this shithead. Mr. Beck uses the old I'm-not-really-saying-what-I'm-saying bit, which I love. It absolves people -- at least in their own minds, and possibly the law's, in certain states -- of guilt. "I didn't really say that the people in Japan had it coming! (But I just did.)"

See if you can look in the mirror and say the following two things without telling yourself that at least one of them can't possibly be true.

  1. "I'm not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes,"
  2. "[T]here's a message being sent. And that is, 'Hey, you know that stuff we're doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.' I'm just saying."

So, God didn't cause the earthquake, but the earthquake that just happened is a message. But not from God. The message is presumably from the Avon Lady.

Oh, and of course Glenn Beck knows exactly what the message is. All that stuff you're doing is bad! Well, we're doing an awful lot of stuff down here, Glenn. Which of it exactly is the problem? I'm thinking that watching your batshit crazy show would be pretty high up, if I were God.

And is just Japan doing it or is it us too? Because if it's us, God missed by about 6,000 miles. Our god is an awesomely stupid god, apparently. One who has a lot of incredibly stupid and hateful followers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Look Out for That Clock!

Every year, twice a year, we go through the whole Daylight Savings Time thing. And every year, twice a year, we hear people complaining about "losing an hour of sleep" (or gaining it) and how the time change screws up their delicately balanced internal clock. Hogwash. Really. It's complete nonsense.

Major changes in your sleep cycle can certainly wreak havoc on you. This is what jet lag is. Ask anyone who's flown to Europe or Asia. Or Hawaii. Or even coast-to-coast. But when we change the clocks twice a year we're only talking about one hour. Just one hour. "Oh, MAB," I can hear you saying, "That's still a time change! It messed me up!" Yeah? Okay, here's a question for you. What time do you get up to go to work on a normal weekday? For some, it's 6:00. For some it's 7:00.

Okay, now what time do you get up on a normal weekend day? I guarantee you it isn't 6 or 7 for the vast majority. It's probably closer to 9 or 10. ("It's Saturday! I get to sleep in!") So, unless you go to bed and wake up at exactly the same time every day, you are screwing with your sleep cycle far more drastically than this measly hour that switches but twice a year. And you're doing it every week.

That messed-up feeling you're having is entirely in your head. It's fed, of course, by perceived wisdom and even our media. I've seen "reports" on local and even national news warning people to be careful when driving after time changes. 'Cause you're so messed up. You'll definitely be groggy. So thanks for feeding the nonsense, American media.

So you didn't "lose an hour of sleep" last night. You probably slept as much as you would have anyway. This is why they do this on a weekend, when you mess with your internal clock all the time anyway. You lost an hour of watching TV, or reading cranky blog posts.

I have nothing to say on the merits of Daylight Savings Time. I don't care one way or the other what time we all agree it is. We can argue over whether it's better to have it lighter in the morning or in the evening. Go to it. But the discussion and accompanying grief about "gaining" or "losing" sleep is just plain silly.

It's just an hour, people. Get over it.