Your Republican frontrunners for the presidential nomination

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CPAC met a few miles south of me this past week, and the conservatives decided who they preferred as their presidential candidate. Honestly, I see at most two viable candidates, and neither one is anywhere near the lead.

Cue the circus music:

Yes, I’m being too harsh:

Phil Robertson, the man infamous for his role on the A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty” and for his controversial comments on gay sex, gave a speech on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference that was long, bizarre, and at times even a little incoherent.

As Robertson was introduced at CPAC, it was noted that he was the recipient of the 2015 Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award. He then used his First Amendment freedom to speak for nearly half an hour, touching on off-brand topics like sexually transmitted diseases, Nazis, communism, and Jesus.

Strike that, I’m not being harsh enough. The strange thing isn’t what he said. It’s that he got an award as a defender of free speech.

The Earth, and its wealth, at night

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If it were night everywhere at the same time, this is what the Earth would look like (click to enlarge). But that strange statement doesn’t explain the importance of this view. What this image shows us is a representation of global wealth. As Vox puts it:

What you see is that in rich countries, light is largely a proxy for population density. Observe the thick cluster of the US Northeastern Megalopolis and the even bigger cluster in northwestern Europe. In poorer regions, however, the map represents not just population density but also the actual availability of electrical lighting. Huge swathes of Africa are barely illuminated at night, and densely populated India looks rather dim.

But of course, if it were night everywhere, that would mean the sun would be gone and we’d all be dead. Money can’t fix that.

Cops aren’t trigger happy … in the rest of the world

A few things to consider:

1114The above is what happens in America. But are the situations the same in the rest of the world?

BvbGmKdIQAAqYSWOK. Maybe that’s an unfair comparison. How about this?

In 2012, 409 people were shot and killed by American police in what were termed justifiable shootings. In that same year, British police officers fired their weapons just once. No one was killed.

In 2013, British police officers fired their weapons all of three times. No one died. According to The Economist, “British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014, the police force of one small American city — Albuquerque in New Mexico — shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.

Think about that. In 2013, cops in the U.K. fired their guns three times. Last week, in Ferguson, Mo., a cop shot an 18-year-old twice as many times as every cop in Britain fired off a round in 2013. And the Ferguson cop got of six times as many shots in one encounter with an unarmed black teen as every cop in Britain fired in 2012.

One day, someone is going to give a racial breakdown of all of the U.S. shootings. I suspect the above German photo pretty much gives the answer on what to expect.

Football vs. football: What do people really want to watch?

Every year, the Super Bowl comes around and the mavens in the sports media tell us that it’s the biggest sporting event in the world.

Then every four years, the World Cup comes around and mavens in the sports media tell us that it’s the biggest sporting event in the world.

So which one is it? (Via Beutlerink):

World-Cup-viewersBut (the NFL fans whine) you’re comparing something that happens every four years to something that happens every year.

Really, are you going to make me do the math?

Multiply the Super Bowl number by four, and you’re still short by the entire population of North America, where the only people who care about the Super Bowl live.  And when you think about it, lots of people in the world don’t have televisions. So the World Cup is a community event where villages gather in front of a lone TV to see what’s going on.

And unlike the Super Bowl, they’re not tuning in just to watch the commercials.

I was in Belgium during the 2006 World Cup, and the city put a huge monitor in the middle of the street near the Bourse (the stock exchange building) downtown and closed off the area to automobile traffic. We roamed the streets with an Italian flag and joined all the Italians after Italy beat France in the final. That year in Paris, they put a big screen on the Eiffel Tower which allowed everyone to see Zidane’s headbutt heard around the world.

In 2010, we were in a restaurant/pub in London watching Spain beat the Netherlands in the final, although the highlight of that tournament was when the U.S. tied England because goalie Robert Green let this get by him. We were watching that match with a bunch of Brits who were ragging us on how badly American asses were going to be kicked. Let’s just say, the Americans were the ones gloating at the end.

Check out this photo gallery at the Washington Post to see how people are watching the World Cup around the globe. This is not how we watch the Super Bow.

Paul Krugman and “Equivalences”

In light of the Supreme Court ruling that people with lots of money can spend as much as they want to get the people they want elected, Paul Krugman takes a look at “Equivalencies”:

There are definitely times when it seems that our winner-take-all society is also a whiner-take-all society; it’s really amazing how quick billionaires are to portray themselves as victims because some people say nasty things about them.

One remarkable aspect of this whining is that the nasty things aren’t really all that nasty. Saying that the Koch brothers are using their wealth to promote a political agenda that will make them even wealthier is a substantive claim, not character assassination; it’s not at all the same as, say, suggesting that Hillary Clinton is a murderer. Yet the Kochs and Perkinses act as if this kind of thing were utterly vile, an attack on their liberty.

The other remarkable thing is the instant escalation of hurt feelings into a Godwin’s Law violation. You see, liberals criticize the Kochs; that makes them just like Hitler and Stalin, who murdered their opponents.

But wait, there’s more. What I’ve been hearing from Koch defenders is that people like me have no standing to ridicule billionaires. You see, I sometimes say sarcastic things about the arguments of people who disagree with me, and even question their motives when they say things I consider obviously wrong. And that’s just like comparing such people to Hitler.

The thing is, I don’t think the crybaby thing is an act, put on for strategic purposes. I think it’s real. Billionaires really are feeling vulnerable despite their wealth and power, or perhaps because of it. And the apparatchiks serving the .01 percent are deeply insecure, culturally and intellectually, so that ridicule cuts deep.

It’s kind of sad, really – but also more than a bit scary: When great power goes along with fragile egos, seriously bad things can happen.

Life in a Day

I had a movie preview for “Life in a Day” saved on my computer for some reason, so I checked out the movie listings today to see if it was playing locally. Nope.

I figured I could go to a place that sells DVDs and buy it. Nope.

Now I see it’s on YouTube, free of charge.

This is a look at the world on July 24, 2010. Just a normal day on the planet.

Failed states

Foreign Policy magazine put up a fascinating listing last month ranking failed states, or nations on the brink of collapse. There are a number of stories on why states are failing (Somalia clocks in at No. 1) and details on the nations in decline.

Here’s a chart based on data from fundforpeace.org on the states in critical condition and practically destined to fail compared with the United States (click to enlarge):

The scary part of this is that the U.S. isn’t even the most stable nation in the world. We come in at No. 159. According to the Foreign Policy ranking, the most stable nation on the planet is Finland. Its rank is 177.

The entire Foreign Policy package is worth reading. But be prepared. There are many graphic details on how bad things really are. Some people really do live in Hell.