Friday, January 30, 2015

Americans misinformed on scientific issues thanks to the mainstream media

A new study by the Pew Research Center and American Association for the Advancement of Science, compared opinions about scientific matters of the public and AAAS’ member scientists. Published in the journal Science, the study found that Americans are dangerously misinformed about evolution, GMO foods and climate change. I won’t go into the specifics of the survey findings, but if you are interested you can find them here.

A Salon article that looks at the survey ends with a quote from the CEO of AAAS and publisher of Science, who says: “There is a disconnect between the way the public perceives science and the way that scientists see science. Scientists need to do something to turn this around.”

I disagree with this conclusion. I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to blame scientists for the American public’s lack of scientific literacy. The mainstream media is the true culprit here.

Like it or not, evolution, GMO foods and climate change have been politicized by conservatives (through their megaphone FOX News) and successfully characterized as “liberal” or “secular” positions instead of scientific findings. Because of this, mainstream news outlets have been very timid about reporting accurately on these subjects, often serving up so-called experts on both sides to further confuse people. Living in fear of angering and loosing viewers or funding, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS tread very lightly around the truth related to these important issues, leaving a void that FOX News is only too happy to fill.

Scientists need to be concerned with science, not public relations. And news outlets need to be concerned with informing listeners and having the courage to present scientific facts regardless of the political implications.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Obama Administration: One step forward, two steps back

The Obama Administration: Just when you think it’s taking one step forward, you find out it’s actually taking two steps back. Recent statements from Obama about marijuana policy suggested that he believes keeping the drug illegal is counterproductive, a reasonable and forward-looking opinion. Then, just yesterday, his nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch made it clear at her confirmation hearing that she totally opposes legalizing marijuana and the Justice Department will not support any steps toward that end.

One step forward, two steps back. If Obama truly believed that keeping marijuana illegal was counterproductive, why would he nominate someone to head the Justice Department who vehemently disagrees with that stance? Either Obama is lying about his own feelings on the subject, (and why would he do that?) or perhaps he’s really not in control of who gets nominated to high posts in his Administration. The issue of marijuana legalization is a very hot topic in America with a tremendous amount of momentum at the state level, yet Obama picks someone with a viewpoint on drugs that is stuck in the 1970s.

I know that I’m stepping into tin-foil hat land whenever I bring this up, but I have long had the feeling that Obama is not in control of the executive branch in the way we would imagine a president being in control. Perhaps he’s just big on delegating work to others, but incidents like the Lynch nomination make me wonder about who is really calling the shots at the White House.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Koch brothers announce they are buying the 2016 elections

What do you get the billionaire who has everything? How about the United States of America? 

Charles and David Koch have announced that their political network is planning to spend nearly a billion dollars on conservative candidates for House and Senate seats and the presidency in 2016.

Thanks to their ideological soul mates on the Supreme Court, the Koch’s can now lavish money on their chosen candidates through an immense network of non-profit groups without, in many cases, having to identify donors. Koch-approved Republicans will get writer’s cramps endorsing their checks.

Does this sound like democracy to you? Me neither. America is quickly becoming an oligarchy where a small minority of elites determine who goes to Washington. The system of checks and balances instituted by our founders has clearly broken down, and voting has become an exercise in futility.

It’s a shame. America began as a brilliant experiment in democracy, but has been taken over by the insatiably greedy 1 percent whose only allegiance is to the bottom line.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Devil Dog Signals the End Times

Insanity reigns. What was once satire is now reality. What was once unthinkable is now thinkable. What was once a stunningly bad idea is still a stunningly bad idea, but it’s been released into the real world of living human beings. This event is without a doubt the harbinger of the end times. It may just be the anti-Christ.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the KFC Double Down Dog. This atrocity is a hot dog nesting in a “bun” of fried chicken drizzled with a mucus-like sauce. It looks like a horrible accident on the set of a porn movie. The needle on the disgust meter is buried in “Burn it with Fire!” It’s the only food on the planet that Andrew Zimmern won’t put in his mouth.

At the moment, this Devil Dog is only being featured at a few KFC outlets in the Philippines WHERE IT IS SELLING OUT. So you know that like ebola, the disease will spread worldwide quickly, poisoning the palates of millions before it can be stopped and a cure found. For the love of all that is holy, keep your children away from it and safe, and resist, resist, resist the siren song it will use to lure you into the nearest KFC.

Dear arrogant, clueless billionaires: Please shut the fuck up

The chutzpah is strong in this one.

Billionaire Florida real estate mogul Jeff Green, who is presently attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said this:

“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence. We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

Of course. It all makes sense now. It’s the little people’s fault for wanting anything more than food, water and a roof over their heads. Never mind the economic prosperity we enjoyed in the fifties and sixties, when taxes on the rich were far higher than they are today. That’s just a false memory. Now, go back to sleep, little people.

What we need, Mr. Green, is an economic system built on fairness with an equitable tax system. What we need is to drastically lower income inequality and to provide people with a realistic, livable minimum wage. What we need is for companies to stop sending jobs oversees. What we need is to stop allowing American companies and individuals to avoid paying taxes by keeping their money in off-shore accounts and foreign banks.

You are correct when you say we need to reinvent our whole system of life, but it needs to be done in a way that will make you and your billionaire friends very unhappy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

When will Americans stop glorifying violence?

The film “American Sniper” is stirring up controversy. Michael Moore and Seth Rogan have dissed it and gotten a lot of nasty, hate-filled Tweets and emails for their opinions. I haven’t seen it and probably won’t, but it sounds like one more in a long, long line of propaganda efforts from Hollywood designed to romanticize and sanitize America’s military actions.

What exactly makes Navy Seal Chris Kyle a hero worthy of our respect? If it’s his body count, why aren’t the pilots and crew members of military bombers who dropped explosives on Iraq and killed tens of thousands of people, given ticker tape parades and huge medals? And what kind of a guy is Kyle? People have pulled excerpts from the book on which the film is based, and the unfiltered bigotry and lack of compassion for human life paint a less than heroic portrait of the real American sniper.

On this Martin Luther King Day, it’s a good time to ask when we as a country will stop glorifying individuals who commit violence in our name and start celebrating the peacemakers? Creating a day of remembrance for King was a good start, but I’ve never had a job where my company recognized the day as a holiday, yet everyone gets Memorial Day off.

Our priorities as a country are badly skewed, but because we are Americans, we don’t feel any need to look in the mirror and assess our weaknesses. Films like “American Sniper” play to our darkest desires to beat up anyone who acts, talks, thinks or looks different than us. That’s the attitude of a schoolyard bully, not a great democracy.

Income inequality worldwide: Bad and getting worse

There is a sobering new report from Oxfam about income inequality worldwide. Some lowlights:
  • The richest 1 percent of the world's population currently controls 48 percent of the world's total wealth.
  • If trends continue, Oxfam predicts that the most affluent will possess more wealth than the remaining 99 percent by 2016.
  • The 80 wealthiest people in the world possess $1.9 trillion, which is almost the same amount shared by some 3.5 billion people at the bottom half of the world's income scale.
  • Thirty-five of the lucky 80 were Americans with a combined wealth of $941 billion. Germany and Russia shared second place, with seven uber-rich individuals apiece.
Although late to the game, Obama is at least attempting to do something about this egregious problem and will announce a plan to extend tax credits to the middle class by hiking taxes on wealthier Americans and big banks during his upcoming state of the union address. It’s a step in the right direction, but we’ll have to wait and see what the dim bulbs in Congress have to say about this.

As bad as things are for the 99 percent here in America, there is one statistic that is perhaps the most shocking and damning of all.

More than 1 billion people worldwide live on less than $1.25 a day.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

There is a serious glitch in the Matrix

Something is wrong. Very wrong. Somehow we ended up with a Congress that is diametrically opposed to the will of the majority of Americans. This isn’t supposed to happen in a democracy, but it has, which calls into question whether we can truly call ourselves a democracy anymore.

The national research firm Hart Research Associates polled 1,101 American voters and found that 72 percent strongly support more pollution controls, 70 percent strongly support protecting public lands like monuments and wildlife refuge areas, and 66 percent support the expansion of wind, solar, and renewable energy development. Sixty percent of voters surveyed also said they strongly supported setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — a number that rose to 82 percent when including voters who said they somewhat support that proposal.

Republicans in Congress oppose every one of the initiatives that the voters favored by a majority. Our electoral system is clearly broken, and it’s not just the whining of sore loser Democrats. The polls bear us out. I would guess that polls taken involving any number of issues beyond the environment would show similar results.

True, meaningful campaign finance reform has always been at the top of my “most important issues” list. We need to overturn Citizen United, but we must go beyond that to do even more to take huge sums of private money out of our elections.

 The glitch in the Matrix can be repaired, but it will take political courage to fix it, and sadly, courage in Washington today is in very short supply.

Friday, January 16, 2015

This week in stupid

Physician Ben Carson, a Republican who will probably run for President, compared America’s founding fathers with ISIS because they were willing to die for their beliefs and didn’t compromise “for the sake of political correctness.”

A Tennessee mother has complained that the taillights of a school bus form a “Pagan” pentagram and is demanding they be changed.

A new Alabama abortion law allows judges to appoint attorneys to represent fetuses in abortion cases involving girls aged 17 and younger who don't have consent for the procedure from their parents. The ACLU points out that Alabama does not have a statewide public defender program. Fetuses can get an attorney, but poor adults accused of crimes cannot.

According to a study by The Tax Foundation, the seven states that take in the most federal tax dollars all had one thing in common. They all voted Republican in the presidential 2012 election.

Four U.S. Republican Senators introduced a bill on Tuesday seeking to cut off any funding which could allow detainees – including men long cleared for release by federal agents – to leave Guantánamo. One of the four is John McCain, who campaigned for president in 2008 saying that the detention center at Guantánamo needed to be closed.

As part of a holiday charity campaign, the Walmart Foundation last month donated $1.5 million to food pantries across the country. An estimated 825,000 workers at Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, earn less than $25,000 annually, placing many who have families below the poverty line and in need of food assistance programs.

A bipartisan trio of lawmakers in Mississippi has introduced a bill calling for the Bible to be named the “state book.”

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The stage is set for two years of “The Agony and the Misery”

The curtain has just gone up on Act I of “The Agony and the Misery: Two Years of a Republican Controlled Congress,” and we already find two major characters stepping into positions of power from which they plan to wreak havoc upon reason and science.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has been named chair of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, which oversees NASA. Despite the scientific consensus, Ted doesn’t believe in man-made global warning, so he’s obviously the perfect person for the job.

Fellow southerner Marc Rubio of Florida will chair the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, fisheries and Coast Guard, which oversees the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. Marc is also a global warming denier, and is skeptical that the Earth has been around more than 6,000 years.

So the plot is set in motion. Anti-science, pre-Enlightenment Ministers of Evil have gained control of the government agencies they would love to destroy. Will the powers of darkness prevail? Will a champion of science step forward to battle the purveyors of ignorance and superstition? Can America survive two years of this asinine nonsense?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fresh from my twisted mind: 3 new short scary stories

I’ve posted three new short scary stories at They’re OnlyShadows. If you have the courage, check them out.

America’s decline: Not the envy of the world anymore

If you take a college class and your answers to questions are continuously wrong, you get a failing grade. In politics, you can be wrong about everything and still be rewarded with a seat in Congress. People like Louie Gohmert, Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst and Steve King shouldn’t be allowed around sharp objects, yet there they are, sitting in the seats of power, making decisions that affect the lives of millions and millions of people.

Americans, in general, are yawning with disinterest as the inmates take over and run the asylum. Beyond our borders, however, people are dumbstruck at how badly we are behaving. In her Salon article “Has America Gone Crazy?” Ann Jones writes about the grave concerns expressed by Europeans, Africans and Asians over the direction America is taking. They don’t understand how our government can have so little regard for the health and welfare of its citizens. They are angered by our military interventions around the world. They are appalled by the unconstitutional excesses of our security agencies. And they can’t understand why we tolerate a tax system that so unfairly favors the rich over the average citizen.

This is not how a good portion of the world operates. In Europe, and especially the Scandinavian countries, governments have the welfare of their citizens as a top priority. There are high taxes, but those taxes provide healthcare and education for everyone. The government helps people meet their basic needs. It’s not dog-eat-dog capitalism where you get what you want by climbing over the backs of your fellow human beings, but a cooperative society where you can truly pursue your dreams because you don’t have to worry about how you’ll pay for your heart operation or your retirement.

Conservatives and the capitalist elites have convinced Americans that any type of socialism is bad, bad, bad, with the poorly informed, nationalistic red-staters nodding blankly in agreement. The reality is that we are not the envy of the world anymore. Citizens of other countries do not look to the United States for guidance or direction. They’ve moved beyond us and are creating more equitable and fair societies on their own. The question is, will we join them or will we collapse under the weight of our hubris and blind nationalism?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My 2015 predictions

It’s that time when prognosticators like myself stare into our crystal balls (or the family jewels as some call them) and make baseless, nonsensical predictions about the coming 12 months. Here are mine:

The approval rating for Congress will dip into negative numbers. Shingles and the Anti-Christ will move up on the list.

America will secede from Texas.

Top American retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Macy’s will kick-off the 2015 Christmas shopping season the day after Memorial Day.

Lindsay Lohan will star in an autobiographical movie of her life, “Lindsey’s Life,” and get panned by critics for her “unconvincing” portrayal.

Obama will punch Ted Cruz in the face.

Bill O’Reilly will come out of the closet.

TLC will air a new show called, “My Life is Murder” in which we experience the day to day activities of a serial killer who wears a GoPro.

For reasons unknown, everyone’s 15 minutes of fame will now only last 13 minutes and 27 seconds.

Phoenix cops will shoot a man who is actually breaking the law.

Donald Trump will declare his hair a national treasure.

Obama will not invade Lichtenstein.

There will be a porn version of “Winnie the Pooh” released called “The man with the 100-acre wood."

North Korea will announce a manned space mission to the sun.

Theo's World

I‘m a proud first-time grandparent. Theodore Andreini was born on December 31, so he’ll be two weeks old tomorrow, and he is as cute as they come. Celebrating new life also means contemplating the future and the world that we will leave behind for new generations.

It seems to me there are two very distinct versions of the future fighting for dominance right now. One is the conservative vision and one is the progressive vision.

Conservatives will have the upper hand in Congress for the next two years, but let’s take a look into the future and see what the world would look like on Theo’s 21st birthday if Republicans maintain control of our government and enact the policies they support:
  • Climate change denial and inaction has resulted in a toxic mix of extreme and destructive weather patterns, hazardous air quality and rising seas displacing millions of people worldwide. Tens of millions of people die each year as the direct result of man-made global warming.
  • War is institutionalized and America is in a constant state of conflict in locations all around the globe. We respond to every international situation with force, and the world is fighting back. The military is given all the money it wants and more, while average citizens struggle to pay bills and feed their families.
  • Social Security and many other current government programs are privatized, providing the wealthy with all the security and health they can buy, while the vast majority of citizens have nothing to look forward to in their lives but poverty and depravation.
  • The minimum wage is abolished and millions of Americans sink into desperate poverty fighting for low paying jobs just to survive. China sends manufacturing jobs to American sweat shops.
  • All schools are privatized, and there are no national education standards. Local schools teach whatever they want, and education becomes a privilege and not a right. A college education is financially out of reach for the majority of Americans, and only the children of elite attend universities.
  • All pretenses of participatory democracy are eliminated and elections become a mere formality. Candidates are openly bought and sold by America’s elites like slaves at an auction. The Oval Office is renamed the Exxon Mobile Oval Office.
This is not the world I want to leave behind for Theo.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Dear FOX News viewer

Dear FOX News viewer,

Honestly, I’m just trying to help.

Lost amid the ongoing Charlie Hebdo coverage is the release of yet another survey, this one conducted by World Public Opinion, a project managed by The Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, that finds that regular FOX News viewers are more misinformed than consumers of other news sources. This is only the latest of a number of surveys in recent years that have found the “fair and balanced” news organization is anything but.

To put it plainly, you are being fed a daily dose of bull manure mistaking it for hot dogs and cheap beer. FOX News is conservative propaganda, not actual news. If you choose not to believe the surveys that confirm this, it’s your business, but please don’t try and convince the rest of us you know what you’re talking about, because you don’t.

FOX News isn’t telling you what you need to know to be an informed citizen, it is telling you what you want to hear. It gleefully stokes your anger, your fears and your bigotry so that you feel better about the noxious views you were raised with (and stay tuned in). I’m sorry that the real world doesn’t fit neatly into your personal version of reality. I know that it makes you very angry. I’ve read your fact-free diatribes and schoolyard insults in the comments section of many online articles.

Change is hard. I understand this, but it doesn’t help anyone, especially you, to continue living in a world that rejects science and is untethered from reality. There’s room for everyone under the umbrella of reason if you just make the effort by turning off FOX News, Limbaugh and Beck. Your brain, your heart and your fellow citizens will thank you.



Thursday, January 08, 2015

Why representative democracy in America is a joke

Does your vote count? That’s up for debate.

Came across a very interesting Salon article. After crunching the numbers, the people at FairVote discovered that over the course of the last three elections, 2010, 2012 and 2014, the 44 Democratic senators received 20 million more votes than the 54 Republican senators. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Is this what representative democracy is supposed to look like?

The author of the piece explains how this could happen yet still give Republicans the majority in the Senate, and some options for how the problem could be fixed (although they are radical and probably won’t happen anytime soon). It’s an eye-opening read.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

In the name of God

The world will be a healthier, happier place to live when we overcome our desire to find superstitious answers to life’s difficult questions. Horrible news from Paris as masked gunmen stormed the offices of the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo and murdered twelve people, reportedly for satirizing the prophet Muhammad in the past. Predictably, there will be much wailing from Christian fundamentalists about the violent nature of Islam with no reflection on Christianity’s long history of barbaric behavior.

And Muslims have no monopoly on religious lunacy. In another headline from today’s news, we are treated to this: “City officials declare God ‘owner’ of their Alabama town.” The town of Winfield’s mayor hopes the designation will help residents become more religious. We can laugh or shake our head in wonder, but the mayor’s belief system is shared by a large number of Americans.

Many argue that we should look at the good that religion has done, but this isn’t a very compelling argument for me. Believers want to focus on the ‘good works’ of their faith, such as helping feed the poor, without including the broader discussion of why we have a system that allows people to go hungry in the first place. And “belief” is so damn pliable it can be used to justify almost anything, from obscene wealth to war to government-sponsored murder to the denial of scientific facts.

My opinion is that religion is a phase in human development, in the same way that believing in Santa Claus or imaginary friends is a stage of individual development. As we mature, we are slowly (and painfully) setting aside superstitious explanations of the universe in favor of scientific ones, and there will come a day when religion will be a quant memory…if we don’t destroy ourselves in the name of God first.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

New short story: The Silver Key

Check out my latest short story, The Silver Key at "They're only Shadows." Here's and excerpt:


A fist pounded impatiently on the front door. Someone yelled, “Let us in, Levi.” Angry men with guns paced in anticipation, and the front porch ached under their weight. Levi sat in his favorite chair a few feet from the fireplace, which was the only light in the room. He knew why the men had come and nothing he could say or do would sate their anger. These were his final days or hours. He held a small human figure made of straw in one hand and recited the words he had learned as a child from his “crazy” Louisiana aunt, words he believed contained power and magic.  The door flew open with a wall-shaking crash and police fell into the house, waving their weapons, expecting, maybe hoping, for resistance. Levi tossed the doll into the fire and stood, hands raised in the air, his shadow on the wall looking like a performing circus bear.