How Could That Have Happened?

April 20th, 2014 No comments

Tim Huelskamp, a Republican congressman from Kansas, is claiming that the number of uninsured people in his state has risen since Obamacare.

Among the problems: first, there is no data to support his claim.

Second: even if there were, Republicans in Kansas aggressively campaigned against Obamacare, warned people in their state not to join, rejected the act’s Medicaid expansion, and refused to set up a state-based exchange to help its citizens get insurance.

So for a Republican now to be blaming Obamacare for a likely fictional drop in the rate of insured people in his state is, well, priceless.

Categories: Republican Stupidity Tags: by

The Republican Mindset

April 20th, 2014 1 comment

This article crystallizes the mindset of the Republican party extremely well.

Common Core is a set of K-12 educational standards that would delineate what any student should know at the end of a grade level in English and Math. It was created by the National Governor’s Association as a state-driven initiative. It had bipartisan backing and strong Republican support. Only a few crazies on the wingnut fringe opposed it.

Then Obama got behind it too, offering a few incentives for states to adopt it.

Suddenly, conservatives have abandoned it en masse and now call it “Obamacore,” saying it is a vile overreach by the federal government to warp the minds of youngsters.

Like Obamacare itself, and so many other ideas that actually were conservative to begin with and had major right-wing support, all it takes is for Obama to voice support for it, and suddenly the bulk of the Republican Party and conservatives everywhere make a 180-degree turn and call it treachery.

The Republican revolt against the Common Core can be traced to President Obama’s embrace of it, particularly his linking the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind, the national education law enacted by President George W. Bush.

The comparison to Obamacare is not coincidental; now that the ACA has flopped as a political war cry, conservatives appear to be desperate for anything they can grab ahold of to win elections with, and if that means sabotaging what they believed was an important improvement to children’s education, well, so be it.

A few Republicans stand in defense of the program, but are kind of being drowned out by the rush of Republicans turning tail.

Jeb Bush said the pivot seemed more like pandering. In remarks this month during an event at his father’s presidential library, he affirmed his support for the Common Core. “I guess I’ve been out of office for a while, so the idea that something that I support — because people are opposed to it means that I have to stop supporting it if there’s not any reason based on fact to do that?” he said. “I just don’t feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country.”

With a knowing grin, he added, “Others that supported the standards all the sudden now are opposed to it.”

Some other former Republican governors who pushed the adoption of the Common Core agree with Mr. Bush. “There is a great deal of paranoia in the country today,” said Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, who was also instrumental in creating the program. “It’s the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”

“Polarization and paranoia,” well-put. But there’s one more P: Politics.

Supporters of the Common Core, which outlines skills that students in each grade should master but leaves actual decisions about curriculum to states and districts, say that it was not created by the federal government and that it was up to the states to decide whether to adopt the standards.

But opponents say Mr. Obama’s attempt to reward states that adopt the standards with grants and waivers amounts to a backdoor grab for federal control over what is taught in schools.

The only meager silver lining I see in this is the generation of idiotic utterances to support a completely hypocritical and empty opposition to something purely on political grounds. Cue Ted Cruz:

“Standards inevitably influence the curricula being taught to meet those standards,” Mr. Cruz said.

Ya think? Never mind that educational standards were a big Republican idea until just recently.

Or, if you recall, this dilly from a Republican candidate for governor of Arizona:

Melvin’s comments led Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, to ask him whether he’s actually read the Common Core standards, which have been adopted by 45 states.

“I’ve been exposed to them,” Melvin responded.

Pressed by Bradley for specifics, Melvin said he understands “some of the reading material is borderline pornographic.” And he said the program uses “fuzzy math,” substituting letters for numbers in some examples.

Stay classy, Republicans.

Sometimes You Wish You Wrote Stuff Down

April 19th, 2014 No comments

No way I can prove this, but about ten years ago, when lecturing in my survey course on Computers, we were reviewing computer history. I pointed out the evolution of computer technology—from vacuum tubes to transistors up through IC chips and multiprocessors—of hardware types, from computers which were building-sized, room-sized, cabinet-sized, desktop-sized and mobile types from laptops to handhelds—and of user interfaces, from paper tapes and punch cards, and from the command line to the GUI and to multitouch. I showed them these trends over time and then asked them to project, to imagine where things would go over the next half century.

Usually, some students asked me to answer the question myself. I would sometimes talk about surgically implanted computers, or focus on interface elements such as motion or voice control. Unsatisfied that I was not responding with a coherent image, I developed—remember, this was ten years ago, before even the iPhone was out—a single concept.

When asked what a computer in the future would look like, I took off my glasses, and pointed at them. I noted that they had all the elements you might need for input and output in a compact space. The lenses could become displays, the temples (the parts that extend over the ears) could house microphone and speakers. Whatever components needed locally would fit into the frame, but the unit would depend largely on computer power housed elsewhere, accessed wirelessly. Cameras would be mounted at the far end of each lens. Control could be by voice, or else via a motion-control visual interface, a la Minority Report. After 2009 I pointed to Kinect. As far as use, I noted that social media might extend into shared experiences; you go shopping, you can take your friends along, with them seeing what you’re seeing, for example.

Over a few years, I developed this idea and fleshed it out. And then, damned if Google didn’t steal my idea. Not having blogged it or incorporated it into my class web site, all I could do was lamely point out that I had the idea years before Google came out with Glass.

On the other hand, the idea was kind of inevitable, and looking back, others had it before I did, and did write it down. I believe that a similar idea was included in David Brin’s 1990 novel Earth, and John Varley interestingly covered an evolution of of this type of future technology (up to nanites being sprayed onto the eyes) in his Red Lightning and Rolling Thunder novels in 2006 and 2008. I’m sure many other novels over the years also laid out the idea, and countless thousands of people had thoughts similar to mine and similarly did not write them down.

Still, it’s fun to be somewhat ahead of the curve….

Categories: Technology Tags: by


April 18th, 2014 3 comments

Below is yet another good xkcd cartoon, but it misses a point which is becoming more and more clear to me.

Free Speech

The problem is not that conservatives do not understand what free speech is; the problem is that conservatives have a built-in double standard, an innate hypocrisy, if you will.

They understand quite well that if somebody says something, and others disapprove, that person will be criticized and possibly punished by society as a whole. They understand this because they do it all the time. They try to get officials fired (Janet Reno and Kathleen Sebelius, to name a few), people taken off the airwaves (Gwen Ifill as a moderator of debates, for example, or more recently, Stephen Colbert), and to boycott or shut down businesses which do things they don’t like (Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, various sponsors of MSNBC, or more recently, Coca Cola for a multicultural ad, Girl Scout cookies for endorsing Wendy Davis, and Mozilla for the Eich thing).

No, they understand how it works just fine. It’s just that they do not believe that the same standards apply to them—only to people they disapprove of.

This is the key to understanding conservatives. Take “entitlements,” for example. If you’re a liberal and you claim entitlements at society’s expense, you’re a parasite, a taker, a leech. If you’re a conservative, a wealthy person, a corporation, then it’s simply a case of cleverly or justly utilizing resources that were available to you. My Medicare is a deserved right; yours is freeloading.

If you’re a liberal and you try to get raises for teachers, you’re an elitist, probably a union thug, and are just trying to “throw money” at the problem. If you’re a conservative and you suggest higher pay for corporate executives, you’re using the common-sense business strategies for getting the best performers. If you’re a liberal and you try to support the troops, you’re making them into dependent parasites. If you’re a conservative and just say you’re supporting the troops but vote for every land war that comes along, then you’re pro-military. If you’re a liberal and you use the filibuster to block a particularly extremist judicial appointment, you are against Democracy and are abusing the system; if you’re a conservative and you use filibusters on virtually everything as part of a concerted drive to make the opposition party fail, well, it just works for you, so fair gam.

When liberals talk of income inequality, it’s class warfare; when conservatives propose eliminating taxes for billionaires, it’s economic good sense. When liberals criticize a Republican president, it’s treason; when conservatives call for assassinating a Democratic president, they are exercising their Second Amendment rights. When liberals run up a debt to fight a depression, they are wastrels; when conservatives run up a debt to pay for tax cuts and wars, they are doing what’s necessary.

When a Democrat finds and kills bin Laden, it’s all credit to the most recent Republican administration. When a Republican crashes the economy, it’s all the fault of the previous Democratic administration. Liberals calling conservatives teabaggers or even “right-wingers” are guilty of impermissible derision; but decades-long conservative movements to use “Democrat” as an adjective and change the very word “liberal” into a pejorative, well, that’s OK. Liberals say “Hitler,” they’re hysteric; conservatives say “Hitler,” it’s because it’s true. Romney does health care, it’s great; Obama copies it, it’s the apocalypse.

I could go on… and on and on and on… but you get the idea.

It’s not that conservatives do not know what these things are. It’s that they have a very specific worldview in which whatever they do is OK, and whatever liberals do is wrong, even if they are the exact same thing.

It’s very simple when you consider it.

Categories: IOKIYAR Tags: by

The Bundy Thing

April 16th, 2014 1 comment

Correct me if I am wrong, but the whole Bundy Ranch situation stems from the fact that someone wants to use land that they do not own for their own profit, without paying for it.

The right wing seems to find this a cause célèbre because, I am guessing, (1) it involves land resource protection on behalf of an endangered species, an easy right-wing battle to win in the public eye; (2) the people who want to get something for free which they do not own are (a) ranchers, (b) hostile to the federal government / militia types, (c) invoking “state’s rights”; (3) it’s a general protest against the federal government, especially under the Obama administration; and (4) it has the potential to explode into a Waco-style conflagration which would be an ideal situation to make Obama and Democrats look evil.

However, what it comes down to is, these people don’t own the land and yet seem to feel entitled to using it without paying fees or observing the rules set by the rightful owners of the property.

Good time to note here that conservatives only hate people who feel “entitled to take something from the government for free” when they are poor or generally liberal. When they are wealthy or conservative, well, it’s just patriotic Americans claiming a resource they have every right to, and any attempt to deny them this is a case of oppressive government regulating them to death.

Categories: IOKIYAR Tags: by

Further Dissemination of the Lie

April 15th, 2014 1 comment

On April 4, I blogged on misleading reports about North Carolina stats on “voter fraud.”

[A]fter months have gone by, the same people will have seen many other reports of the same nature, with the same results, and bullshit piled on to bullshit will come across as even more convincing. Because few people dismiss total bullshit completely, and when they see variations of the same bullshit enough times, they begin to believe that at least some (probably most) has got to be true.

Indeed, PolitiFact reports on exactly that trend:

The pursuit of voter fraud is a running theme among Republicans and the latest numbers out of North Carolina made the conservative websites pop with alarming headlines. “Oh My: Audit Finds Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud in North Carolina,” wrote The National Review had “N.C. State Board Finds More than 35K Incidents of ‘Double Voting’ in 2012.”

Fox “News” contributor Dick Morris ramped it up:

“It’s most important data I’ve read in a year,” Morris said on Fox News’ Hannity. “The elections commissioner there, Kim Strach, did a study of those who voted in North Carolina who also voted in another state in 2012 and she found 35,500 people voted in North Carolina and voted in some other state.

”And only 27 states pool that data. Texas, California, New York and Florida did not pool their data. So you’re talking about probably over a million people that voted twice in this election. This is the first concrete evidence we’ve ever had of massive voter fraud. We’ve talked about it ad nauseam. This proves it.“ [emphasis mine]

See? Now it’s a million false votes. (Undoubtedly all for Obama!) And as Morris said, it’s now proven! Concretely!

Where does Morris get that number? Well, more specifically than the obvious ”straight from his ass,“ what he did was to take the 35,500 (35,570 actually) number and extrapolate that to the entire population of the United States. Which brings him roughly to the 1 million number, meaning that 1 of every 126 votes cast is fraudulent. Most Fox viewers will doubtlessly conclude that this is rock-solid proof that Obama actually lost in 2012, not reflecting even on the fact that Obama won by 5 million votes.

Still, a million votes is a lot! Shouldn’t we be worried about this alarming concrete proof Morris has pointed out?

The problem is that the 35,570 number is even more bogus than a Florida felon purge list. It only counts matching first, last names, and birth dates only. Meaning that John Alex Smith born on January 1 voting in North Carolina and John Brett Smith born on January 1 voting in Alaska are counted here as voter fraud. It may even count votes in more than one election by the same paired-name voters as separate cases of fraud. Worse, Morris’ 1 million number counts the supposed vote happening both in North Carolina and Alaska as two separate cases of fraud.

This list is, essentially, meaningless, as proved by the accompanying statistic that when Social Security numbers are added to the comparison, the 35,570 number dwindles to a paltry 765.

Still, maybe you could argue that 765 extrapolated into the whole population is 10,971 cases of voter fraud (21,943 divided by 2 because we’re assuming 2 votes per one act of fraud).

Unfortunately, this is still bogus. In any election, there are innumerable cases of clerical error. For example, you go to the polls to vote, and the worker at the station crosses your name off the list. However, he did not cross off your name, but the name just below it—the name of your neighbor who moved three years ago, who is also voting in another state this year. Or, more likely, the worker confused you with your brother who also moved out of state to go to college.

Out of 126,000,000 votes cast in 2012, you would only need this kind of error to happen once every 11,500 votes to get the number reported in the North Carolina list. In other words, almost all of the cases reported will turn out to be exactly this kind of error, and the actual cases of fraud will sink to single- or low-double-digits.

Not, however, in the minds of people who saw the story on Fox, then read about it in The National Review, and then heard Morris talk about it, and saw their local, state, and Congressional representatives mention it in emails, and then maybe noticed stories on WND and a half dozen blogs. These people will see the story, be inclined to believe it, and simply assume it is true. Golly! A million fraudulent votes! And they will never see the follow-up story about how the list of 765 names got whittled down to almost nothing, because it won’t be covered on Fox, or, sadly, on almost any other news service either. It just won’t be a sexy story.

This is how you disseminate lies in the modern age.

Categories: Corruption, Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

Tweetless Twitter

April 14th, 2014 No comments

This did not surprise me at all:

According to a report from Twopcharts, an online service that tracks twitter users have found that, 44 percent of twitter users do not use twitter. These users have a twitter account, but never tweeted anything. This report says 30 percent of existing twitter accounts have sent 1-10 Tweets.

In other words, 74% of all Twitter accounts result in people never really doing anything with them. It does not surprise me because that’s about how long it takes for people to figure out that they really don’t want to tweet as much as they thought they did.

And I’m one of them. Never got into the Tweeting habit. Tried it, thought “meh,” moved on.

Except I use my Twitter account all the time: I find it is excellent for getting me into comment sections of web sites. I despise having to register an email address and wait for the sometimes unforthcoming confirmation email before I can drop a quick note into a discussion. A lot of places now allow you to sign in with Twitter. And that does not bug me in the least, as I used a junk email account to initiate it, and never put anything up on my page.

Essentially, for me, Twitter is just a way to comment on sites more easily. Works swell in that way!

Categories: Computers and the Internet Tags: by

About Time

April 14th, 2014 1 comment

President Obama:

Across the country Republicans have led efforts to making harder not easier for people to vote. … The real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud. … America did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote for themselves and for others only to see it denied to their kids and their grandchildren. We’ve got to pay attention to this. … This recent effort to restrict the vote has not been led by both parties. It’s been led by the Republican Party.

Welcome to the party, many years late. This issue is long overdue for top-level attention.

The appalling fact here is that the attempt to restrict voting and deny people their rights is not even well-disguised; despite the hue and cry about fictional “voter fraud,” it is about as easy as it imaginably could be to see that this is all a political ploy to win elections. Several conservative politicians have actually said as much, publicly, on the record.

That the media does not reflect this as well as it should, and worse, that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court should so transparently enable this affront to Democracy… well, it is simply beyond the ability of mere words to express.

Courts should be shutting down these obscenities as soon as they pop up. Alas, such justice is now a rare commodity. This, taken together with gerrymandering and a full-blown propaganda tool masquerading as a national news organization, what we have is not even close to proportional or representative government.

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by

More Christian Persecution!

April 12th, 2014 No comments

You see stories like this all the time in the conservative media: child does something related to religion, intolerant school teacher punishes the crying child, the War on Christianity goes on….

Unsurprisingly, these stories seem to appear only in the conservative media—especially Fox, WDN, and a variety of right-wing Christian publications—and other than that, just the local press where the story happened.

Just as usually, the story is more of a press release by the aggrieved parents’ attorneys, with the story too fresh to contain any meaningful comments by school administrators, often too bound by rules to make statements about students’ cases.

In this particular story, it is told that a first-grade class was filling out Valentine’s Day cards, an age-old stupid activity where children are forced to write something nice to every other child in the class. I remember having to do this. It is kind of on par with having to recite the pledge of allegiance: the kids do it only because they’re told to, not because they want to or really understand what they’re doing. These students were allowed to add stickers to their messages on the cards; some put Star Wars or Despicable Me stickers on theirs, others had various common designs, like one student who affixed a sticker with a skull saying, “You’re a Rock Star!”

But this one child was putting a message about Jesus on his cards, so, reportedly, the teacher “confiscated” them and made the boy cry. And naturally, the parents sued. Their child’s First Amendment rights were being violated! And look at the other cards! Skulls! Guns! That’s allowed, but a loving message from Jesus is not?

Sounds open-and-shut, doesn’t it? If you read the Fox News version, it sounds even worse. You have to apply critical thinking skills to realize that the narrative is told completely by the plaintiffs (actually, their attorneys), and there is nothing from the defendants—in other words, the story, as told, is essentially as biased as you’re going to get. Most readers will not pick up on this, however, and will accept the narrative as straight reporting of facts.

Here’s the real heart of the story in my opinion: the message the child “wrote” on the cards:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

St. Valentine was imprisoned and martyred for presiding over marriages and for spreading the news of God’s love. In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that God loves YOU!!!!

“…God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

…And that’s where the card becomes objectionable: the message was not from the child. The message was from the parents. And it was a message of proselytization.

I mean, really, I can understand a 7-year-old choosing stickers of cute skulls or Lego Star Wars figures (examples chosen by the parents/attorneys to highlight what horrible stuff was allowed)… but I do not think any 7-year-old is going to write a message about martyrdom and then print it out along with a Bible verse.

Clearly what happened was that the parents saw an opportunity to spread the word of God and gave their child the message to hand out to other students. Their child obviously had no idea what the card said, without doubt not understanding words like “imprisoned,” “martyred,” or “presiding,” nor what “giving his only son” or “not perishing” is all about.

In essence, the child was only a conduit for the parents’ religious message.

I’ll bet you this: if the child wrote a message about “Jesus loves you” which was clearly written by a 7-year-old, I think the teacher would not have taken the cards. The fact is, the child’s First Amendment rights are not at the center of the case.

If and when the school eventually releases an opinion, I do not expect stories explaining such to be so widely distributed. Only if the case wins, or if it is shut down and so counted as evidence of the persecution of Christians, that’s when we’ll hear about it again.

In the meantime, it is yet another “example” of the “persecution” of Christians in the ongoing “War on Christianity” proving America’s “intolerance” for religion.

Categories: Religion, Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

Not Impressed by Tsukuba

April 10th, 2014 1 comment

We’re on an overnight stay in Tsukuba, visiting friends in a nearby town. We booked a room in the only accommodation we could find in the region which accepts pets. We got here early yesterday evening.

Tsukuba is in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 60km northeast of Tokyo; it is a planned city based on the theme of scientific research, first conceived in the 1960′s, and really built up in the boom years of the late 70′s and 80′s. However, walking through its streets now, I get a strong vibe along the lines I got in Shanghai: a city where a lot of initial investment was made, but was then neglected. The streets are wide with huge, impressively tree-lined sidewalks–but look closely enough and you’ll see creeping neglect. Playgrounds overgrown with weeds, buildings clearly not tended to for years, plots of real estate which should be prime left empty.

The accommodations have been bad as well. We may have just stumbled into the worst of the services, however. The izakaya we went to last night was horrible—half the things we ordered did not come until we pestered them about it, and one plate of sashimi never did come—we left after it had been waiting an hour or so. One of the dishes had a hair in it. We were just as happy not to have eaten their raw fish.

Our hotel is similarly awful. It’s one of those places that both allows smoking and has an interconnected ventilation system, so our room smelled like a chain smoker was in there with us most of the time. The refrigerator still had half-consumed drinks left by the previous guests, and the shoji screens were full of holes. The bathroom is big enough—if you happen to be a slender four-foot-ten. They forgot the towels, and we almost went without, believing they simply were not included. I found a common toilet on the first floor which had a warmed seat and bidet; I used it, but discovered that the bidet’s “off” switch was broken. When the water started to run cold, I finally risked getting off, and discovered that the weight sensor would turn off the water stream. They could have posted a sign to tell users about that, but they didn’t.

What’s stranger is that the hotel claims that only one room in the whole place can accept pets. However, once we got to the room, we found it has zero amenities for pets. Nothing that sets it apart from any other room we’ve stayed in. So, why is this room okay and others not? I have a feeling it’s just a marketing thing, or perhaps some way of avoiding city ordinances.

We probably have just had the worst luck here… but nothing about this town makes me feel like I want to come back.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2014 Tags: by

When to Tolerate Intolerance

April 5th, 2014 6 comments

If someone in a position of authority makes public statements of intolerance towards a class of people, should that person be forced to step down? Most people would say yes, as they are demonstrating an outward intolerance which could easily translate into discrimination against that class of people.

But what if the same person made a contribution to a cause associated with intolerance? Is that the same thing? Arguably so; it may be a political contribution, but it is effectively an active statement of support.

However, should a person be barred from career advancement, or from holding any position of authority, because of their beliefs?

The answer to that is clearly “no.”

Somewhere in there is a line that is crossed, and it’s not all that easy to identify. If the authority holds public office, there is a somewhat higher standard, as there would be if that authority makes decisions that can easily affect people of the class they disapprove of. Public statements are willful, outward expressions, signaling an intent to more than just hold a personal belief.

However, we are also talking about taking actions which could, albeit in a limited fashion, deprive someone of a specific career. In stating any public opinion on this, I believe it is important to carefully specify how certain lines are being crossed and exactly where they are.

Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich was promoted to the position of CEO in the organization. Eich, however, had made a $1,000 donation in 2008 to support California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriages. As far as I can determine, that’s all that there is; he has made no other public statements on any such issue, nor has he apparently taken any other actions which might impact anyone.

Eich had served for two years as the chief technology officer for Mozilla, with the donation known. However, when he was made CEO, that apparently was too much for some. Half of the foundation’s board members quit and a large number of employees and local citizens expressed their outrage.

As a result, Eich stepped down as CEO, arguably forced out by those unhappy with his personal beliefs.

The question is, is that justifiable?

It could be argued that as CEO, Eich would be in a position to make specific decisions that significantly effect people in the LGBT community, at the very least those who work for his company. As an official in a private organization, however, can he be punished for something that is simply more likely? A public official must live up to a higher standard, must avoid even the appearance of discrimination. Does the same standard apply to the head of a private organization? Can someone be denied a position because of what they may do? I think not.

Eich could be in a position to steer the company towards certain policies or toward supporting certain movements. The question is, should he be judged based on what he actually does, or what he could potentially do? Again, I think a person in such a position is only accountable for what they actually do.

Also, as the CEO, he represents that organization, is the public face of it, and therefore whatever beliefs he has also reflect on the organization. This is perhaps the strongest argument for forcing Eich to step down, as such representations can seriously affect the organization, fair or not.

Personally, I am loathe to participate in anything like this, which, frankly, smacks of persecution. No one should be discriminated against because of their beliefs.

I think a key factor, however, lies in the fact that this was not simply a belief that Eich held, but rather a belief he took action on.

His donation would have publicly stripped an entire community of a valued civil right. This was not just a private belief: Eich was taking action to force this belief on others. This goes well beyond Eich simply believing something but having tolerance otherwise. It showed that he would willfully and actively affect the lives of others based on his belief.

If a person, for example, believes that Christians are somehow harmful, this person should not be discriminated against because of that belief. If that same person is in a leadership role, then perhaps they should be carefully watched to see if they take action on the belief. However, if they try to get a law passed which, say, bans Christians from holding public office, that is a completely different matter.

Of course, this gets into a sticky area: what specific political causes could trigger such a response? Clearly, just voting for a certain political party is absolutely unjustifiable as a cause for denying anyone a position. No, this is about supporting a specific cause.

But is this just about people supporting causes we don’t like? The answer is just as clearly no—if Eich had, for example, contributed to a campaign to privatize social security, that would not create anything near the same furor. One could argue that such a campaign could adversely affect large numbers of people—though pretty much any political policy could do that.

There is a significant difference between supporting policies which are based upon beliefs regarding how society and its resources should be run, and supporting policies which legislate discrimination against specific groups defined by innate characteristics.

The line being crossed is, in fact, specific: we’re talking about a policy that discriminates against a class of people. We’re talking about someone in a position of authority, someone who acts as a representative, who took willful steps in that act of discrimination. That it was a political act of discrimination rather than a private act is a distinction without a difference.

Then there is the matter of which position is being denied. It is not as if Eich is being denied any job; he was not pushed out of his relatively high-profile CTO position despite his contribution being known. In this case, he was denied a leadership position—one which reflected on the company’s image, one which essentially said that everyone in the organization had or would have confidence in his judgments—something clearly contrary to fact.

When I first saw this story, my immediate reaction was against the call to remove Eich; I saw it as many now do, as persecution based upon beliefs. However, as I consider the specifics—in particular, the fact that Eich took positive action to discriminate, and that he would be in a leadership position with implications well beyond any specific actions he takes in that position—I changed my mind.

I probably would still not personally call for his ouster. However, I would not judge any such call as unjustifiable.

Categories: Corporate World, Social Issues Tags: by


April 5th, 2014 No comments

An excellent summary of all the reasons why vaccination is a must, and why the anti-vaccination argument is more conspiracy theory than it has anything to do with reason.

However, there is one anti-vaccer argument which I think was not sufficiently replied to:

They say that if other people’s children are vaccinated, there’s no need for their children to get vaccinated.

The response in the article was that this is “one of the most despicable arguments” to be heard on the subject, which is true, but there was one aspect not covered.

Effectively, this one argument expresses the contemptibly selfish nature of the anti-vaccers.

It admits that there are benefits to vaccines (contrary to some of their own arguments), benefits which they believe are won at the cost of the risks they falsely perceive.

It admits that “herd immunity” exists, something which is put at risk, often severe risk, by the anti-vaccers themselves.

But here’s the particularly reprehensible part: even from their own perspective, the anti-vaccers are willing to let all the other kids take all the risks so that their kids can be safe, while at the same time weakening the herd immunity and placing all children at greater risk.

If I were an anti-vaccer, I would probably skip making this argument.

Categories: People Can Be Idiots Tags: by

It Has to Be True

April 4th, 2014 3 comments

It’s easy to fool people that want to be fooled. If you have people who are addicted to nicotine and you give them a BS “scientific study” showing that the deleterious effects of tobacco smoking have been overblown, chances are most of them will buy into it. I know, I’ve seen it, many times—people who are intelligent enough to know better, but they hold up “studies” paid for by tobacco companies as evidence that smoking isn’t so bad.

Want to see this principle in action, right now? Then head over to Fox “News.” The big, blaring headline there:

Hundreds of cases of potential voter fraud uncovered in North Carolina

Wow! Voter fraud! In large numbers! Just the proof we’ve been looking for that Republican voter-ID laws are not a political scheme to steal votes, but instead are completely reasonable efforts to stem massive amounts of voter fraud!

Of course, the headline does warn that the fraud is just “potential,” but we know that this is just Fox being unusually cautious, right? After all, if it weren’t real, then why would Fox make a big deal out of it?

So, let’s see the really convincing evidence!

State elections officials in North Carolina are investigating hundreds of cases of potential voter fraud after identifying thousands of registered voters with personal information matching those of voters who voted in other states in 2012.

Oooh! Thousands! Fox was being really cautious, to say it was just “hundreds!” After all, this lede just says it all: thousands of voters with matching personal information of people who voted in other states. This paragraph doesn’t say that any of these people voted in North Carolina, but I’m sure they will.

Tell us more!

Elections Director Kim Strach told state lawmakers at an oversight hearing Wednesday that her staff has identified 765 registered North Carolina voters who appear to have cast ballots in two states during the 2012 presidential election.

Umm… OK, we’re back to hundreds. Not sure what’s up with that, but hey, they appear certain that these people all voted twice in the last election. (I bet they all voted for Obama!)

Strach said the first names, last names, birthdates and last four digits of their Social Security numbers appear to match information for voters in another state. Each case will now be investigated to determine whether voter fraud occurred.

Well, that’s pretty convincing! If all those things match, then it’s pretty certain that they’re the same people. This paragraph doesn’t say the people among the “hundreds” cast any votes at all in 2012, just that they were “voters.” But I’m sure this will be cleared up soon.

“Could it be voter fraud? Sure, it could be voter fraud,” Strach said. “Could it be an error on the part of a precinct person choosing the wrong person’s name in the first place? It could be. We’re looking at each of these individual cases.”

Um, what? “A precinct person choosing the wrong person’s name?” What does that mean? Nothing, I’m sure, they’re just being cautious again. I won’t take the time to figure out what that means. Let’s read on. reported that 81 residents who died before election day were recorded as casting a ballot. While about 30 of those voters appear to have legally cast ballots before election day, Strach said “there are between 40 and 50 [voters] who had died at a time that that’s not possible.”

Um, wait. Voters who died? I thought that this was about voters who matched other voters in other states. And it was hundreds, maybe thousands.

No matter! It’s the graveyard vote! I’m sure that that’s tied in, somehow! Onward ho!

“We have the ‘Walking Dead,’ and now we’ve got the ‘Voting Dead,’” said state Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg. “I guess the reason there’s no proof of voter fraud is because we weren’t looking for it.”

Yeah, right! Because the five years the Bush administration spent looking for fraud doesn’t count, especially because they only found a hundred or so cases nationwide, most of which were simple errors, and the few that were real involved local races—that doesn’t count, because it didn’t show us what we know is real! That, and the whole US Attorney thing, and the huge amounts of scrutiny and attention by conservatives and the media over the past decade—hell, it’s like nobody was looking for anything!!

So, how did all this come to light, anyway?

A law passed last year by the Republican-dominated state legislature required elections staff to check information for North Carolina’s more than 6.5 million voters against a database containing information for 101 million voters in 28 states.

Money well spent, I’m sure! Let’s see the results!

The cross-check found listings for 35,570 North Carolina voters whose first names, last names and dates of birth match those of voters who voted in other states. However, in those cases middle names and Social Security numbers were not matched.

Well, that kind of makes that number irrelevant, but it sounds like a lot! Otherwise, why mention it? Go on!

The analysis also found 155,692 registered North Carolina voters whose information matched voters registered in other states but who most recently registered or voted elsewhere. Strach said those were most likely voters who moved out of state without notifying their local boards of elections.

Wow! A hundred and fifty-five thousand! That’s another big number! OK, so it’s just matching information and may have no relation to people who voted twice, but it’s still a big number!

Let’s hear more of this unusually consistent and convincing evidence!

Republicans leaders immediately touted the preliminary report as evidence they were justified in approving sweeping elections changes last year that include requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls, cutting days from the period for early voting and ending a popular civics program that encouraged high school students to pre-register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays.

Exactly! Because what we have seen so far is rather shockingly clear and damning evidence that as many as dozens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, or more than a hundred thousand people may have somehow been in two databases at once! An absolutely iron-clad reason to believe that laws which just happen to throw roadblocks in front of mostly Democratic voters are completely justified and are not political chicanery at all! And I’m sure they’ll tie all those numbers together somehow at some point, or eventually show that any of the names are really the same person and that they actually voted twice in the same election—but at this point, do they really need to?

I mean, hey, where’s the outrage?!

“That is outrageous. That is criminal. That is wrong, and it shouldn’t be allowed to go any further without substantial investigations from our local district attorneys who are the ones charged with enforcing these laws,” state Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-Wilmington, told the Charlotte Observer.

State House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, issued a joint statement Wednesday on what they termed as the “alarming evidence.”

“While we are alarmed to hear evidence of widespread voter error and fraud, we are encouraged to see the common-sense law passed to ensure voters are who they say they are is working,” said the statement. “These findings should put to rest ill-informed claims that problems don’t exist and help restore the integrity of our elections process.”

There’s the outrage! Yeah! About time! Alarming evidence! Which I’m sure has been somehow proven by this time, I mean I’ve lost track, but dammit, it’s alarming! And outrageous!

Of course, by this time, I have seen so many mentions of large numbers, and so many different ways people are cheating, that I have completely forgotten about how every paragraph seems to have wildly varying numbers of people, and that nothing whatsoever in the article is anything close to actual evidence of anything more than clerical errors and the fact that when people move, they almost never bother to remove themselves from voter rolls in their former states. (As it turns out, the 765 number appears to be the only relevant number, as it is the only one with names that might actually match—but it is very likely that most if not all were errors where the precinct worker checked the wrong name on a list—not at all surprising considering the millions of ballots involved.)

And that’s the trick: just throw a whole bunch of nothing, just random clumps of bullshit—even better, toss in a few words of caution that there might be errors involved, so the story comes across as more honest—and pepper it with just the correct amount of righteous indignation, then wait for a few weeks or months—and then most of the people who read the story will only recall that they saw a news story where it was all but certain that rampant voter fraud had indeed taken place. They proved it! At least I’m fairly sure that that’s what happened after all that evidence was looked at, though I never saw it or anything.

Also, after months have gone by, the same people will have seen many other reports of the same nature, with the same results, and bullshit piled on to bullshit will come across as even more convincing. Because few people dismiss total bullshit completely, and when they see variations of the same bullshit enough times, they begin to believe that at least some (probably most) has got to be true.

Especially because they want to believe it.

It’s what you call “modern journalism in action.”

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Right-Wing Lies Tags: by


March 31st, 2014 No comments

Looking back in my “This Day Past Years” area, I note that I posted on a Toshiba battery announced in 2005. The press release touted a new Li-ion battery which “can recharge 80% of a battery’s energy capacity in only one minute.” Toshiba said that they would “bring the new rechargeable battery to commercial products in 2006.”

In 2008, they announced another breakthrough: a new, much-improved battery, this time a “Super Charge Ion” battery, which would “recharge to 90 percent capacity within 10 minutes.” Ummm… wait.

However, they also “said the technology is still a ways off from making its way into computers.”

Well, here we are, 2014. I still don’t have a battery that can charge to 90% in 10 minutes, or to 80% in one minute.

Maybe Toshiba will announce a new battery this year, which will charge to 100% in 20 minutes, but may not be released for another 10 years.

Categories: Gadgets & Toys, Technology Tags: by

No Matter What

March 24th, 2014 2 comments

Not a shock, I know, to realize that no matter what Obama does, Republicans will castigate him as weak, ineffective, or worse. Republicans even thrashed Obama when he killed Osama bin Laden; if they can’t appreciate that, you know that nothing he does will meet with their approval.

Now, Mitt Romney is calling Obama “naive” for failing to foresee the annexation of Crimea:

During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, the former Republican presidential nominee said Obama should have been more proactive prior to the Russia’s annexation — and should have threatened the Russians with the possibility of sanctions before they took action to take over the region.

“There’s no question but that the president’s naiveté with regards to Russia, and his faulty judgment about Russia’s intentions and objectives, has led to a number of foreign policy challenges that we face,” Romney declared. “And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia’s intentions, the president wasn’t able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you’re seeing in the Ukraine.”

That’s right! Obama was naive because he was not threatening Putin with sanctions right before he invaded Crimea. Like a real leader, John McCain, was saying we should have threatened Russia with sanctions—this just days before Putin made his move against Ukraine:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reemphasized his calls for sanctions against the Ukrainian government for the ongoing violence against protesters while criticizing President Obama for his “naiveté” towards the situation.

Oh. Whoops.

Interesting how Obama was “naive” before the Russian invasion for not threatening sanctions against Ukraine, while now he’s naive for not having threatened sanctions against Russia.

Oh, and by the way, Obama was threatening sanctions at the same time Republicans were calling him naive for not threatening sanctions. Nor would the threat of sanctions, before, during, or after, have made any difference.

In the meantime, while the Obama administration did not specifically spell out sanctions against Russia, it hardly failed to take notice; a few days before the invasion, the administration’s rhetoric turned tough against Putin, warning that it would be a “grave mistake” if Putin moved in Crimea.

As for foresight, Bush 41 did not foresee Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait, although there were just as many clues in that regard. Bush 43 did not foresee 9/11, despite getting rather urgent warnings. Nor did Bush foresee Hussein not having WMD (though it could be argued that that was a pretext and therefore there was nothing to foresee), nor did he foresee the Russia’s similar invasion into Georgia. Romney never criticized those failures, of course.

When Russia was moving on Georgia, in fact, Bush expressed “grave concern” towards Russia’s actions. Sounds strangely familiar—and yet, I do not recall Romney saying Bush was “naive.” Nor did Obama.

There’s another small point that needs to be cleared up.

Romney appears to have some swing amongst conservatives on this issue, since in the 2012 election, he named Russia as America’s greatest “geopolitical foe.” His people have been trying to paint him as astute and prescient; “Romney’s analysis of the Russian threat was actually spot on,” noted one of his former advisors.

You have to admit, it does kind of sound like he was on the ball.

However, if you check back, Romney’s actual 2012 statements did not predict Russia would start annexing former satellite states—quite the opposite, in fact:

“There’s no question but that in terms of geopolitics — I’m talking about votes at the United Nations and actions of a geopolitical nature — Russia is the No. 1 adversary in that regard. That doesn’t make them an enemy. It doesn’t make them a combatant. They don’t represent the No. 1 national security threat. The No. 1 national security threat, of course, to our nation is a nuclear Iran. Time continues to pass. They continue to move towards nuclearization. This is more and more disconcerting and dangerous to the world. But Russia — particularly look at a place like Syria. Russia has supported the Assad regime even as it has been attacking its own people. Russia likewise has been slow to move to the kinds of sanctions that have been called for in Iran. Russia is a geopolitical adversary, but it’s not an enemy with, you know, missiles being fired at one another or things of that nature.” [bold emphasis mine]

As you can see, Romney actually thought that Russia would not be a threat militarily, just in their tangential support of nations we wanted to exert control over.

Here’s the thing: if you predict that the roof will spring a leak in the rain, and then it collapses in on you on a sunny day, you do not get to claim prescience. Yes, you predicted something would go wrong with the roof. But you were way off on that prediction.

And that’s a big part of what we’re seeing here: the massive oversimplification of issues like these. If all you needed was some sense of opposition coming from Russia’s direction, you would have been able to handle it completely differently. As if Obama had not been aware of the fact that Putin was aggressive towards us, or that he underestimated Russia any more than Romney did. As if all Obama needed to do was to threaten Putin specifically with sanctions instead of sending grave warnings, and that would have stopped Putin cold. As if we know everything that happened at diplomatic level that the public is not aware of—it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Obama did threaten Putin with sanctions privately. There is a whole world of activity that happens outside of public view.

In short, Republicans are doing what they do best: trying to pummel Obama and make themselves look good. As usual, it’s all hype and no substance; all politics, and no gravity. It has nothing to do with how well Obama is handling anything. Obama could have kicked Russia’s ass, wrestled Putin to the ground, and then rode home on a Bengal tiger; Republicans would still be bashing him on whatever pretense they could think of.

Recently, In Fundie Land…

March 23rd, 2014 1 comment

Creationists are demanding equal time on TV to refute Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos episodes which discuss evolution.

I find it fascinating that people like this make demands of this sort. It highlights a common conservative shortcoming: they rail and scream about how bad something is, then they try to do the thing they railed against but even more so, and then they freak out when they meet any resistance to it.

You see, these are the same kind of people who detest the very idea of “equal time,” especially in the context of the Fairness Doctrine. They spend a great amount of time decrying the very concept, acting like it is some kind of socialist fascism, and just an excuse for liberals to take over Fox News and conservative radio. (This is interesting on another level, because it shows up how they know that the media is in fact conservative, else the Fairness Doctrine would benefit them!)

But when they see some documentary or news report that says something they don’t like, their knee-jerk reaction is—naturally—to demand equal time.

They don’t call it the “Fairness Doctrine,” which they hate, but that is exactly what they are asking for. What we call the “equal time rule” is limited to political candidates in a campaign (not to mention, documentaries were exempt from the rule). The Fairness Doctrine is about allowing equal time in the media for opposing views on important issues—which is exactly what is being called for now. Neither the rule nor the doctrine is still in force, though; equal time was done away with not too long ago, and the Fairness Doctrine was scrapped in 1987.

Another aspect to the creationist demand is the idea that somehow, creationists aren’t getting equal time in the media. Which, of course, is laughable—there are all kinds of fundamentalist religious TV shows and even whole networks running 24-7; should scientists be able to demand equal time on their channels? Again, the hypocrisy and double-standard are thick and deep.

The Westboro Baptist Church remains clueless after the death of their former pastor, Fred Phelps. As the church members protested a music concert, a group of people across the street held up a banner that read, “Sorry for Your Loss.” Poignant, and to the point—it expressed sorrow for anyone’s death, sympathy for those in grieving, and served as an example of how one reacts properly to those who have lost a loved one.

A member of the Westboro group responded, “I don’t even know what they’re saying.”

That response speaks volumes.

And, for the really low-hanging fruit, let’s just note that Sarah Palin recently chastised women who wear a “symbol of death around their neck.” She was referring to women who wear a necklace with a tiny coat hanger in protest of the campaign to criminalize abortion. As usual, she did not think two inches beyond her immediate words, or else she would have realized that she herself has worn a symbol of death around her neck all of her adult life.

How about chastising anyone who wears the cross as a symbol for the love of Jesus and yet consistently campaigns against that which Jesus actually stood for?

It’s Not About What Others Do

March 17th, 2014 4 comments

Fred Phelps is reported to be near death in a health care facility.

When he dies, no one should picket his funeral. Wrong is wrong.

Categories: Social Issues Tags: by

Breaking the Nazi Barrier

March 16th, 2014 3 comments

I know that this is probably obvious to anyone who reads this… but still, it is hard not to observe the massively hypocritical hyperbole we get now from the right wing. It used to be that people didn’t equate everything they disagreed with to Nazis. Then there was the rule of thumb that the first one to use the word “Nazi” lost the argument. But now? To hell with political correctness! Nazis away!

“Political correctness” is so oppressive, that the U.S. is now “very much like Nazi Germany,” and we are living in a “Gestapo Age.” And if the people dare criticize the rich or object to the gap between rich and poor, it is akin to Kristallnacht, and we’re again well on our way to becoming Nazi Germany.

On the other hand, the ideal fair and “free market” is a society where workers are locked into a store and commanded not to use the emergency exits unless the building is literally burning down–and workers like the guy with a crushed ankle follow those commands because they cannot afford to lose their minimum-wage jobs. We’re lucky to live in a country where paying someone a wage which will not even let them approach the poverty line is seen as unthinkable largesse. No, that’s not fascism.

And a society where denying gay people not only the right to marry, but trying to force through laws which would make it so that any doctor could leave them dying in an emergency room, or any policemen could leave them abandoned to a horrific crime–well, that’s simply religious freedom at work. Not allowing us to abuse homosexuals or to deny women access to contraceptives, that’s Nazi Germany.

You see, when a billionaire is criticized for luxuriating in massive opulence and wealth after crashing the economy, it’s like sending a Jew to the concentration camps.

But slashing billions of dollars of food stamps needed by families with children on the edge of starvation, and calling anyone who uses them a parasite, well, that’s just good old common-sense American Christian morality. And the billions then lavished on corporations already awash in unimaginably astronomical profits, well, who could blame them for taking what’s being offered?

The class war is being vociferously fought, but not by the poor. Religious intolerance abounds, but it’s not coming from the areligious.

But hey, I’m just being a Nazi by bringing this up. Shame on me.

Wrong on All Levels

March 13th, 2014 3 comments

About a week ago Paul Ryan made a speech at CPAC. He made the conservative case against school lunches, using the familiar theme that government assistance to those in need is an evil that is ruining America:

The left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that. This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy, Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a very poor family, and every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the left does not understand.

Ryan’s point is that the little boy was being cut off from his family by a state that was trying to make itself his ward. This is the same point being made to cut off most all support for the poor and needy, from Medicaid to assistance for military families. For example, conservatives bashed Obama for abusing the troops because he made sure that they had medical, education, and other financial aids: in effect, making them “victims dependent on social-welfare and medical services offered by the Democratic coalition.” Americans in need, according to conservatives, are trying valiantly to stand on their own two feet, and liberals are callously making them into dependent parasites of the state, addicted to federal funds—money, of course, which is hard-earned by patriotic conservative folk who don’t want their fairly-won cash doled out to indigent freeloaders.

The conservative point, however, is just as flawed as Ryan’s poignant rhetoric. As it turns out, the story is untrue. Not that Ryan didn’t hear that story, but the story he was told was false: Anderson never spoke to such a boy. Instead, it appears to have come from a book, An Invisible Thread, a non-fiction account of a sales executive and her relationship with an 11-year-old panhandler. In that book, the executive offers the boy money, or to make lunches for him, so he’ll have food to eat. The boy, far from simply being from a poor family as Anderson and Ryan told it, was on the street instead because his mother was in prison. Which is likely why he asked for the brown-paper-bag lunches, so he could appear to be a boy who had a loving mother at home instead of presenting the painful reality to his schoolmates.

So on that level, Ryan’s touching homily kind of backfires: the boy he was in fact referring to was not even getting school lunches, nor were the handouts he was getting somehow estranging him from a loving family.

However, let’s just ignore the factual faux pas and assume that the story were true. What would that mean? Would Ryan have had a point? After all, we often do look back on those brown paper bag lunches with nostalgia; I got them as well (PBJ or tuna salad sandwiches), and certainly enjoyed them.

Now, think about how, as an 11-year-old, you would have felt if all of a sudden your mother stopped making those lunches and instead you got school lunches. That never happened to me, at least not that I recall. However, considering honestly what I would have thought, I can confidently say that my reaction would have been rather simple: will I like these new lunches? Although I’d like to say that I would have thought considerately that school lunches would have saved my mother some work and my family the expense, I probably would not have thought beyond how it would have affected me.

But the last thing I would have thought was that it somehow would mean my mother cared about me less. Had someone suggested that to the 11-year-old me, I probably would have thought them both idiotic and insulting.

Certainly, no kid at school would have looked at any other kid and said, “Hah! Your mother doesn’t care for you!” for the simple reason that every kid would be getting the same lunch.

In fact, if a kid were to react to school lunches like Ryan claimed, I would be deeply concerned—not that school lunches were cutting his family ties, but rather because if this kid’s sense of familial love could be completely severed by the loss of a bagged lunch, this kid was probably receiving little or no love at all from his parents at home.

Think about it. The reason I would not have minded losing the bag lunch would have nothing to do with wanting to feel loved, because I got plenty of affection in other ways from my parents. Any kid who suddenly feels unloved because his mother no longer makes bag lunches either has a massive insecurity complex, or, more likely, just isn’t getting the attention he needs at home—in which case, school lunches have nothing to do with the problem.

In fact, if Ryan had any sense whatsoever about poor families, he would realize that a child from a truly poor family would be acutely aware of the shortage of money in his home, would see his parents working incredibly hard, and so would probably have three predictable reactions to free school lunches: (1) my family can’t afford much so this will help us out, (2) my mother works so hard, I’m glad this will give her less work to do, and (3) will I like these new lunches?

In fact, maybe the school lunches would mean that the kid gets a better home-cooked meal in the evening, and a little more attention from mom in the morning.

But hey, I’m of the left, so obviously I don’t understand such things nearly as much as Randian conservatives do.

Categories: Republican Stupidity Tags: by

Perry’s “Texas Miracle”: Rob the Poor, Lavish the Rich

March 10th, 2014 2 comments

To hear Perry and conservative-cheerleader NewsMax tell it, Perry’s Texas is a paradise for all. 37% percent of all new jobs in the U.S. have been created in Texas since 2009, and it’s all supposed to be because of low taxes and low regulation:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry tells Newsmax that he attributes the “Texas Miracle” — the Lone Star State’s relatively robust economy during the economic downturn — to a “light” tax burden and a favorable regulatory climate. …

[Perry states:] “The men and women in Texas know something now after a decade-plus of our governorship and our policies being implemented by a Republican House, Senate, lieutenant governor and speaker. We’ve kept our tax burden as light as we could and still delivered the services that the people of Texas desire, and we have a regulatory climate that is fair and predictable.I cannot tell you how important is predictability and stability in the regulatory climate.”

What’s not stated is that it’s also because of a lot of other stuff:

  • Oil and gas prices are high, which sucks for the nation, but benefits Texas’ economy
  • Texas has a high birth rate and migration rate, artificially raising job numbers
  • Texas made off like bandits from the Obama stimulus, with half of the job growth coming from education, health care, and government sectors
  • Texas used $6.4 billion in stimulus money to help balance the state budget, more than all but 2 other states

And since the stimulus money is running out, Texas is now facing huge budget shortfalls, which it plans to mitigate in part by slashing Medicare and education spending—in a state which already has rock-bottom health care and education stats.

Certainly, Texas is great for businesses and wealthy people—but is horrible for the majority of people in the state:

  • Texas shares with Mississippi the highest rate of minimum-wage workers in the U.S.
  • 26% of Texans have no health insurance, the highest rate in the country
  • Deregulation of health insurance has led to sky-high rates
  • Texas has the 4th-highest poverty rate of any state in the nation
  • Texas’ unemployment rate, at 8.2%, is higher than the national average
  • Texas has fewer adults with a high school diploma than any other state; is 43rd in the nation in graduation rates, and 45th on SAT scores

I guess that when Perry says that the people of Texas are getting all the services that they desire, he figures Texans don’t “desire” education or health care. Or, likely more accurately, none of the people Perry associates with are lacking in any such services.

But the kicker is in the tax rate, when all taxes are taken into account. The state has no income tax, but it does have a high sales tax, and overall, its tax rates are extraordinarily regressive. Here is Perry’s so-called “light” tax rate, compared with California’s:

Blog Taxes Texas California

The poorest 20% of Texans pay four times more of their income in taxes than do the wealthiest 1%. That’s pretty shocking.

California’s is pretty regressive because it has an even higher sales tax, but that is attenuated by the income taxes. There is no such balance in Texas, meaning that the state’s tax burden falls chiefly on the poorest people—who also get the crappiest education, the least health insurance, and the worst pay.

So the message is clear: if you want all the benefits of third-world cheap-labor exploitation but don’t want to leave the U.S., Texas is your destination!

What’s most scary: this is the model for what Perry and many other Republicans want to bring to the whole country.

Not that that’s a big surprise, or anything.

Categories: Economics, Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by