The Secret of Sabotaging Your Own Success

August 3rd, 2015 No comments

Here’s how you keep wages down: make people who make very little angry at others who are trying to make their lives better.

It worked for Scott Walker in Wisconsin when he successfully cut the legs out from under teacher unions: by falsely claiming that teachers were lazy moochers luxuriating under massive teacher salaries and 3-month vacations (yeah, right), he made enough of the people of Wisconsin believe that the teachers were hurting everyone else and should not be allowed, therefore, to use their unions as a way to fight for better conditions:

“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots.”

That’s the trick: if someone down below is having some success at making things better for themselves, then instead of making everyone else feel they should also have better conditions, generate resentment against the ones being successful and make them get the same crappy wages and conditions as everyone else.

You have to admit, it’s a brilliant strategy for the corporations: get the people you’re abusing to force others to stand for even more abuse.

It’s happening in places where fast food workers are demanding $15 an hour. Many people in other professions are now apparently grumbling about how “burger flippers” are making more money than people who are trained as professionals in more serious jobs—but the complaints are about how the fast food workers don’t deserve it, and are not about how the professionals should be getting much more.

Which is idiotic. $15 an hour is a sustenance wage, it barely lets you escape poverty. It is not living high off the hog. If you’re an electrician and you’re making less than that, you shouldn’t be mad at the fast food folk—you should be pissed at your employer, and you should be asking yourself, “How can I do the same thing that the burger flippers did?”

That correct thinking is embodied in this brilliant and reasoned Facebook post by one such professional:

I’m a paramedic. My job requires a broad set of skills: interpersonal, medical, and technical skills, as well as the crucial skill of performing under pressure. I often make decisions on my own, in seconds, under chaotic circumstances, that impact people’s health and lives. I make $15/hr.

And these burger flippers think they deserve as much as me?

Good for them.

Look, if any job is going to take up someone’s life, it deserves a living wage. If a job exists and you have to hire someone to do it, they deserve a living wage. End of story. There’s a lot of talk going around my workplace along the lines of, “These guys with no education and no skills think they deserve as much as us? Fuck those guys.” And elsewhere on FB: “I’m a licensed electrician, I make $13/hr, fuck these burger flippers.”

And that’s exactly what the bosses want! They want us fighting over who has the bigger pile of crumbs so we don’t realize they made off with almost the whole damn cake. Why are you angry about fast food workers making two bucks more an hour when your CEO makes four hundred TIMES what you do? It’s in the bosses’ interests to keep your anger directed downward, at the poor people who are just trying to get by, like you, rather than at the rich assholes who consume almost everything we produce and give next to nothing for it.

And that’s the point that everyone should be focusing on. Not how the person below you deserves less than you, but rather on how everyone deserves a decent living. And why you get paid squat while CEOs and shareholders deserve the lion’s share of the profits. Economic theory suggests that because CEOs have such critically important, one-of-a-kind talent, they deserve 300 times more than you. Really?

Sadly, when some CEOs with the right way of thinking actually try to make things better, petty jealousy fostered amongst workers can screw things up. Remember Dan Price, that standout CEO of the Seattle credit card processing firm? The guy who slashed his own salary and benefits so he could give everyone in his firm a “minimum wage” of $75,000 a year?

His business is failing. And you know why? Partially because enough selfish asshats critical to the company’s success were pissed that this gave them less of a raise in pay then people “below” them. That’s right: the boss actually raised the pay of some workers by thousands of dollars a year, and they quit because others who started later got a proportionally larger raise than they did.

Were they happy that they got a raise? Were they happy that they now got paid better than industry standard?

Apparently not. They felt snubbed because someone else was getting the same as them.

“He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump,” she said. To her, a fairer proposal would have been to give smaller increases with the opportunity to earn a future raise with more experience.

A couple of days after the announcement, she decided to talk to Mr. Price.

“He treated me as if I was being selfish and only thinking about myself,” she said. “That really hurt me. I was talking about not only me, but about everyone in my position.”

You’ll have to forgive me, but that person is a first-rate dick. Seriously? Your boss does you and everyone at your company a solid, he cuts his own pay so he can give you a raise, you’re getting better than other people who do the same work as you… but you get all whiny, drive away customers, and leave your company in the lurch because you resent others who you feel aren’t as worthy as you?

Screw you, you selfish, self-absorbed prick, and don’t expect anyone to buy that self-serving crap about how you were really concerned for others and not justing resentful for yourself. You’re what’s wrong with labor today. You should have been happy that everyone was making a good wage, you should have been grateful to your boss for cutting his pay so you could get better, and you should have worked harder out of that gratitude—so that the company could be more successful, and then you and everyone else could get even more.

Not that this person was the only problem, or the main one: apparently, generosity is not widespread in the Price family, as soon after Dan Price made the wage increase, he got sued by his brother over money issues. Not, the brother claimed, over the wage thing. Right. It’s just a coincidence that the suit came just as Dan Price raised everyone’s wages.

So now, Fox News and many others are reveling in showing how the company that dared pay a decent wage is floundering, as if the boost in wages was the real culprit, instead of selfishness and greed amongst people who just wanted more for themselves and were willing to cripple the company out of spite if they didn’t get it.

Because instead of celebrating the little guy and wondering if the CEO really deserves 300 times more pay than the average worker, instead of noticing that CEO pay has risen 90 times faster than worker pay, we should instead get pissed off because someone who was working 70 hours a week and was still below the poverty line should win a raise that lets them not live in squalor, just barely. We should get angry at other workers because we didn’t get as big a raise. And instead of going to the CEO of the hospital where you work and ask if a small part of that billion-dollar profit the institution made could be directed to horrifically underpaid staff who do all of the critical work—instead, you should fight to shove the fast food workers’ heads back underwater. Just like the people of Wisconsin did when they thought, “My salary isn’t great, so let’s punish teachers!”

No. Instead:

My company, as they’re so fond of telling us in boosterist emails, cleared 1.3 billion dollars last year. They expect guys supporting families on 26-27k/year to applaud that. And that’s to say nothing of the techs and janitors and cashiers and bed pushers who make even less than us, but are as absolutely crucial to making a hospital work as the fucking CEO or the neurosurgeons. Can they pay us more? Absolutely. But why would they? No one’s making them.

The workers in NY made them. They fought for and won a living wage. So how incredibly petty and counterproductive is it to fuss that their pile of crumbs is bigger than ours? Put that energy elsewhere.

Organize. Fight.

Win.

Categories: Economics, The Class War Tags: by

Respect the Artist… Don’t Buy the Song

July 18th, 2015 4 comments

message from the RIAAI saw this graphic on Facebook today, and it really cheesed me off. While the message has some truth to it, it is filled with subtle yet powerful distortions.

To say that a cup of coffee costs “pennies” to make is misleading; “pennies” sounds like 5~9 cents, while the actual cost in materials is over a dollar, and the price goes up if you account for costs such as labor, rents, etc.

That a cup of coffee takes “minutes to prepare” is also wrong, because the comparison is with the beginning-to-end song production; to account for coffee production in the same way, from planting to processing to shipping to preparing and to serving, making a cup of coffee can involve hundreds of people over a year or more of time to create. Hell, the graphic even cites musicians’ “practice”! How about farmers’ training? No, if you count coffee as taking “minutes” to prepare, then a song takes only “minutes to sing.”

That coffee is “gone forever after one use” is simply the nature of the product—should we value food and drink less because we cannot eat and drink them endlessly?

Not to mention that a cup of coffee can be made to last for a good half hour, resting in a comfy chair at the coffee shop while reading a nice book. A song lasts maybe three minutes, so a cup of coffee can be worth maybe 10 listens. You may still listen to a song dozens of times, but by the time metric, the comparison is far less severe than it is made out to be.

As for the songs, well, those claims are also exaggerated. Yes, it costs thousands of dollars to record—but after they record it, they can cheaply create endless millions of copies. Divided between copies, the cost comes to… pennies!! Much less than a cup of coffee, to be certain! It may cost $100,000 to record a song, but a best-selling song can sell 10 million copies. That’s about one penny per copy.

It can be used over and over again… but not exactly. First, media types (records, tapes, CDs, digital) change often, and every time they do, the music industry demands you pay full price for the new version. Some people have been made to pay for the same Beatles song half a dozen times. Many of these versions have been discarded when the new ones present themselves, so not a “lifetime” thing after all.

Second, it used to be that you owned the media; you could buy or sell used, you could borrow or lend. You could inherit music from a parent, even. Now, you only own the “license”—the temporary, limited right to listen to the music in restricted ways. And when a music service dies, or if you stop paying, you usually lose access to the music you paid for. You can pay $1 for a song, but you can’t own it for $1.

For you to truly buy and own a song for a long time (maybe a lifetime), you have to buy the CD… which is much more expensive than the coffee.

The final statement, however, is the worst of all, and makes me really angry. The biggest text on the graphic: RESPECT THE ARTIST: BUY THE MUSIC.

Oh, really? Well, aside from the fact that you don’t “buy” it anymore (you pay for a license), the whole “respect the artist” thing is a heaping, stinking pile of bull.

Music labels have for decades abused the artists, and pay them very little or even nothing; most artists make their money from tours and performances, even endorsements, but not from music sales. The artists’ income from music sales is a tiny percentage (divided between the band and their managers & agents), but that’s before the studios first charge the band for almost every possible cost they can force them to pay. For example, although everyone profits from the use of the studio, the artists are forced to pay for that by themselves. In the end, they get little to nothing—literally nothing, very often. Lyle Lovett, for example, sold 4.6 million albums, and got a net of $0. Nothing. Not a single penny.

Indeed, artists are forced to sign long-term contracts and give up their rights, working long and hard for the tiny chance at success, while the music companies rake in all the profits. So, every time I hear the industry shout, “Respect the Artist!” my response is simple: You first.

Here’s the real irony: if you pirate every MP3 you listen to, but go to the concerts to listen to your favorite bands, then you are respecting the artists. That gives them the most profit. I’m not saying you should pirate the music, I am only pointing out that it rarely, if ever, hurts the artist. It hurts the insanely rich recording studios who abuse the artists.

Most artists don’t care if you pirate the music; in fact, the more you pirate their music, the more likely you are to want to see them in concert, which gives them much more profit than if you bought the rights to listen to the song! But the artists can’t usually say that, because they still are bound to the music companies. Some do, however; Lady Gaga, Neil Young, Shakira, Norah Jones, and many others have actually said they’re OK with piracy… and no wonder. It helps them more than it hurts them. Neil Young calls piracy “the new radio.”

Whatever you think of piracy, whatever its legal status, it has no damaging effect on them. When studios condescendingly exhort us to “respect the artist,” it’s like billionaires saying that the estate tax “hurts farmers.” Which is bullshit—and, ironically, actual bullshit does help the farmers. The bullshit in the graphic above, though, helps the artists not even a little. It may even hurt them.

Categories: RIAA & Piracy Tags: by

The Donald, Racism, and the Right

July 6th, 2015 6 comments

The Republican Party has a racism problem. They simply can’t shake it. They wanted to appeal to black voters, and draw them into the fold—but they could not help saying and doing things that offended and alienated that entire part of society. Then they realized that Hispanics are becoming a vital demographic, and again vowed to pull them in—only to quickly revert to form, and drive away even many who are already conservative.

Why? Because the right wing is beholden to its base like nothing else, and its base has a wide swath of racism right down its middle. As has been often said, not all Republicans are racist, but if you’re a racist, then it’s a good bet that you’re a Republican.

Conservatives have denied this for years, trying to dismiss what they can, and blame the rest on extremists and outliers, combined with a generous helping of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. The party does not have a racism problem, they insist. In fact, they claim that racism just isn’t a thing anymore—I mean, hey, we elected a black president, so, racism: gone!

When Donald Trump entered the race, however, he uncovered and laid bare the massive eyesore they all have been trying to deny. Trump now-famously said:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems… they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Far from apologizing, Trump has been doubling- and tripling down on those remarks ever since.

What has not really been remarked upon lately is how Trump’s unrepentant racism has shown up the racism in the party itself.

Consider that Trump, despite making blatantly racist remarks at the very outset of his race, jumped into second place after Jeb Bush, holding 10-12% to Bush’s 16-19%. That in itself is very telling, perhaps to the degree that “despite” is not the right word for the previous sentence—maybe it should be “because.” (Okay, “due to.”)

It’s not as if Trump’s qualifications, ideas, or intelligence dazzled anyone. Nor is it his celebrity, as he was holding at about 2% in the polls before his remarks. Nor is it his general conservative outlook. What marked Trump was his unabashed extremism, and in particular, the racism. A lot of people in the party responded to that. Even Ted Cruz said that Trump should not apologize, adding, “I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific. I think he’s brash. I think he speaks the truth.”

Meanwhile, we on the left are still agog, scratching our heads, asking ourselves, “How can these people take such an outrageously idiotic buffoon so seriously?” Even Sarah Palin can’t bring the magnitude of the stupidity into clear focus. It’s as if some psychopathic clown just walked on to the GOP stage with his pants around his ankles, started swearing a blue streak, and they’re all sitting there applauding, as if it were Dan Quayle spelling “potato” with an “e.” We just can’t comprehend this. We’re just asking ourselves, “Don’t they know how this looks??

What was even more telling, however, was the reaction from the leading GOP candidates. Normally, a comment like that would bring an instant firestorm from all sides. But while the left and the public in general raged… conservatives kept quiet. Except for the ones like Cruz who praised Trump, or Chris Christie, who called Trump “a good guy.”

But for a whole two weeks, all criticism was held back. Marco Rubio, the quintessential Hispanic candidate, took the whole two weeks before saying anything critical. Jeb Bush, claiming many Hispanic family members and trying hard to ingratiate himself with Hispanics, took two and a half weeks.

Ask yourself, why? Why not shoot down a potential rival right away, and score some nice, juicy Sister Souljah points, making it work with the Hispanic demographic? It seems so obvious! Instead, they just stand back, and wait so long that it sounds like they are commenting on history, for cripe’s sake.

The “why” should be clear: Trump said something that a very large portion of the base has been waiting to hear for a long time. Bush, Rubio, and the rest immediately recognized that if they took shots at Trump, they would strongly alienate this core group that they so badly need. So instead they waited until the groundswell became so inevitable that they could finally say something bad about Trump, while still sending the clear message to the base: We’re really okay with all this. Don’t worry.

This is the only reasonable explanation for their reticence—but it very clearly shows that not only does the racist base exist, but that Republican politicians are very consciously aware that it exists, and are eager to pander to that group. This is also why they mouthed ignorance as to what Dylann Roof’s motives were, as if it were some inscrutable mystery. To recognize that it was about race would have been to tie a despicable act directly to the racists—and thereby to their own party.

Time to live up to your very real roots, Republicans. You are not all racists, not by a long shot.

But almost all the racists call your party “home.” And they are there in large numbers, and they have very substantial clout. You simply cannot deny it any longer.

Categories: Race, Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by

On Domestic Right-Wing Terrorism

June 26th, 2015 5 comments

In the wake of the Charleston tragedy, I think it is highly relevant to remember that in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on right-wing domestic terrorism. One of the memorable points in the report:

DHS/I&A has concluded that white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy—separate from any formalized group—which hampers warning efforts.

It is also significant that conservatives, at the time, were livid, claiming that the report was nothing but a liberal smear job, an attempt to politicize homeland security, leading to oppression against conservatives.

Remember Pamela Geller, the woman who recently organized the Mohammed “art show” designed to provoke an attack? This is what she said about the report back in 2009:

It is the fascist blueprint to create a police state and legalize gulags. This is not a spoof. This is Obama’s “civilian army’s” MOB. According to Obama’s DHS, patriots are the real threat to America…

And to the specific part of the report about white supremacist lone wolved posing the greatest threat?

This document poses the most dangerous threat to these great United States.

…There he goes again. Playing the race card again. Racism was dead in this country. It is Obama’s objective to create a divisive schism in this country. The country ain’t buying it. We, as a nation, elected him. Racism charge dead.

Nor was she alone. Newt Gingrich tweeted that the DHS report did nothing more than smearing conservatives and demanded the person who wrote the report be fired.

Rush Limbaugh spake:

[T]his Department of Homeland Security report is nothing more than a partisan hit job filled with lies and innuendo that portrays any conservatism as right-wing extremism.

Michelle Malkin at the time wrote:

In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party-bashing left-wing blogs … and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.

On the right-wing blog “Town Hall”:

Have we really come to this? Has Adolf Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels been reborn and recruited by the Obama administration to scare the heck out of the American people with absurdities such as this whacked-out document?

As a result of these protests and much more, the DHS backed off from at least outwardly reporting on the issue; whether or not this had an effect on actual work done by the DHS and other agencies, I have no idea. I imagine, however, it certainly did not help in any way, shape, or form.

I suppose it is no mystery as to why conservatives are now publicly stating their confusion as to what possible motive this clearly mentally ill non-conservative might have had, except that he seemed to hate Christians. After all, he couldn’t be racist, because someone on right-wing blogs said that he had a lot of black friends on Facebook.

But it couldn’t be right-wing terrorism. That just doesn’t exist.

It’s part denial, part No-True-Scotsman; they know that Dylann Roof lived at the heart of their political base, and is likely not mentally ill, but instead just filled with the hate that influential members of their movement find so politically useful to promulgate.

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism, Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

Palin and Morality

June 26th, 2015 1 comment

I don’t have any problem with Bristol Palin having a second child out of wedlock, presumably by a different father than her first. I don’t even really hold it against her that she was a spokesperson for abstinence; she did that at such a young age and under such circumstances that were almost certainly pushed on her, likely such that she was unprepared to handle.

If this new turn of events is her choice, then good for her; if she just has poor judgment and is unhappy with what the results are, then I hope she is getting all the support she possibly can to deal with it.

What is sad is that if this were one of Obama’s daughters instead of her, Bristol’s mother would be, without any doubt whatsoever, at this moment publicly unleashing such unholy hell upon the poor girl as could not be imagined, casting aspersions upon the daughter, the whole family, and the president in particular. You know she would be. Because that’s how she rolls.

I just hope that Sarah is the perfect hypocrite we all suspect her to be, and that privately she is treating her daughter with nothing but unconditional love and respect.

Categories: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

Liberal Hypocrisy! Until You Read a Unbiased Report! More Carefully! Which We Hope You Won’t!

May 30th, 2015 4 comments

Conservative news outlets are going nuts with the story about unions in Los Angeles asking for an exemption from the $15 minimum wage hike in that city. Reading their headlines, it at first appears that unions are trying to get away with paying their own employees less than the new minimum wage or something.

Read a little bit further, and you might get the information that this has something to do with bargaining purposes, but you also get exposed to rhetoric about how the unions are arrogant, overbearing, and hypocritical, and probably hurting their own workers for a corrupt power grab. What it boils down to is, “Unions bad!! Unions hypocrites!! Unions Corrupt and Evil!!!

After all that, after moving the needle for the national press in their direction as well, they are hoping that you won’t notice how nonsensical their claims are, or that you will not read the details enough to discover that the exemption is not only reasonable but actually makes good sense.

Fox:

Unions seek exemption from LA minimum wage law they helped pass

Union leaders in Los Angeles are being accused of hypocrisy after being caught trying to exempt themselves from a new minimum wage law they tried to impose on others.

The Washington Times:

L.A. labor leaders seek $15 minimum-wage exemption for union allies

Labor leaders in Los Angeles who pushed for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 are now seeking an exemption — for unionized companies.

Forbes:

Hypocrisy Thy Name Is Union; Unions Demand Exemption From LA’s $15 Minimum Wage

This is really quite glorious as a display of sheer naked chutzpah. …The unions are now insisting that that $15 an hour should not actually be the minimum wage in workplaces where unions are involved. Unionised shops should be allowed to set the wage lower than $15 if that’s what they want to do. This could be described as chutzpah, as I have above. It could also be described as repulsively naked arrogance, your choice there.

The Daily Caller:

Los Angeles Unions Like The New Minimum Wage, For Everybody But Them

Despite advocating for the Los Angeles minimum wage increase, some of the same union leaders are now asking to be exempt for negotiation purposes.

Newsbusters:

LA Unions Lobby for Exemption From $15/Hr. Minimum Wage Law They Pushed

This has to be the month’s top entry in the “Just when you think you’ve seen it all” category — and it will be more than a little interesting to see how the nation’s press handles it.

After reading further down in each article, you get to the assertion that unions are doing this as a corrupt and hypocritical way to boost their own power. The idea is that if unions lower the wages for their workers for a business, any business that wants to be competitive (or just escape the soul-crushing burden of paying workers a livable wage) will be oppressively forced into accepting union dominance and control in their fragile workplace.

Evil!

Perhaps not surprisingly, a good chunk of the mainstream media is reporting it this way as well, and even the coverage that isn’t is doing such a poor job of explaining the rationale behind the move that it is easy to just assume the unions are being hypocrites.

However, if you read carefully enough and in the right places, you discover the real reason: flexibility that will help people get better conditions that will actually be more favorable to small businesses.

Evil! It’s pure, unadul—wait, what? Favorable to small businesses? And to workers? What’s the catch?

First of all, the exemption isn’t mandatory, it is only an optional adjustment if the situation warrants.

Second, this is not something “for” unions only, nor is it something that unions “get” or can force on businesses. If a business refuses to cooperate, the reduction never happens. The reduction only applies if both the business and the workers can agree on it.

Third, it only applies to union shops because the entire idea is that it allows workers and employers to work out a deal that is beneficial to both parties, but without union protections, businesses can and usually do force workers to take cuts without any benefits. The union-only exemption is the only way to make such deals work without employees getting shafted.

And finally, this is most advantageous to both workers and businesses because it allows them to come to a deal that is flexible and allows the best possible deal for both parties. Despite the garbage that Fox & Co. are trying to sell, unions and worker organizations are not so stupid that they want to destroy the businesses where their workers are employed.

Quite the contrary, they want them to be prosperous—a fact that conservatives routinely get wrong, just like their belief that lower taxes for the wealthy will improve the economy. Unions well understand that a more prosperous company can mean more prosperous workers, and even some smart business leaders understand that costs to better the lives of employees today will lead to far better profits in the future.

Conservatives claim that massive numbers of small businesses will collapse if they are forced to pay a higher minimum wage; while this is an obvious lie, it remains true that some very specific businesses will be too stressed with the wage hike as mandated by law. The union exemption allows businesses to negotiate a deal with workers that allows the business to remain healthy while giving workers as close to the living wage as needed.

In other cases, workers might be better off with alternative compensation, including specific health plans, retirement savings, or other workplace changes that would be just as valuable to them while also being a more reasonable alternative for the employer.

You see, it is about negotiation, something conservatives despise when it means workers can get something out of it. However, when practiced freely (the part of the “free” market conservatives hate), negotiation can benefit everyone and lead to a more prosperous workplace.

So, why do conservatives hate it? Partly because it will also benefit unions, which they abhor with a passion because they are supporters of the Democratic Party (never mind that unions also are the only free-market force which strives for the benefit of the working stiff). Partly because it means that businesses couldn’t shaft their workers for ever-more immediate profits. The main reason conservatives are ranting and raving now, however, is because they can. They have a story which, while reasonable when explained clearly, can easily be skewed to make it look like unions are evil hypocrites.

So, naturally, they are running with it, milking it for all they can.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

YARATSV

May 29th, 2015 No comments

As the Republican Party continues its march to the extreme right and its core voters begin to die off, its advocates search for and work to enforce more and more new ways for the GOP to win elections despite more people actually voting for Democrats.

Concentrate on winning state governments, and then redistrict so tightly that reversal is virtually impossible, and re-legislate so that liberal voters are encouraged not to vote at all.

Work as hard as possible to denigrate, defame, and destroy any organization that works to enable liberal voters: defund and break up unions, slander organizations such as ACORN and tear them to shreds, and generally bury any liberal constituency in a flood of malicious lies so as to strip them of influence.

Declare the Voting Rights Act essentially null and void, then institute the most blatantly political anti-voting laws imaginable, engineering elections to specifically disenfranchise anyone who would vote Democratic.

Advocate changes to state electoral processes that would allow GOP candidates with a minority of people’s votes to run away with the majority of electoral votes.

And these, apparently, are just the start.

There exist conservative groups who make it their mission to explore every possible means of reworking the system to add votes to the GOP tally without actually winning those votes. The exact same group that forwarded the case that tore to pieces the Voting Rights Act, the disingenuously named “Project on Fair Representation,” is back with a new case, one which the conservatives on the Supreme Court have unexpectedly grabbed hold of.

The case challenges the manner in which people who make up a district are counted. Instead of counting all the people in a district to determine its size and influence, instead only eligible voters would be counted, and as a result, further redistricting that favors conservatives would not just be allowed, but would be mandatory. The group pushing the case claims that rural voters’ influence is “diluted” by the current system of counting, perhaps as much as “one and one-half times,” according to the claimants.

It does not matter that conservative voters are already strongly over-represented disproportionate to their actual numbers. This is true both by several of the aforementioned recent means (in which many states in which the popular vote was strongly Democratic, but more Republicans won state seats), and by the classic means called “The Senate,” in which conservative rural voters are given voting powers often dozens of times greater than those in more heavily-populated liberal states. Not to mention the traditional primary system as well as the electoral college itself, both of which give advantages to the more conservative rural states.

To claim that the current system of counting “dilutes” conservative votes is like claiming that white people are “oppressed” by things like Affirmative Action. Which this exact same group also claims and is trying to overturn, by the way.

No, this is not actually about dilution of rural voting power. This is simply another case where conservatives see an opportunity to skew the law so that more conservatives can win elections and hold the power they perceive is slipping away from them. It is not about fairness; quite the opposite. If the current system of counting advantaged conservatives already, even if it did so in a blatantly unfair manner, this group would never even think to challenge it.

This is about stealing more and more votes. And you can safely bet that the conservatives on the court will try as hard as they can to make it the law of the land, no matter what was intended by the constitution, no matter what the case law has established, no matter what fairness and equality demand.

The case led one law professor to remark:

It is highly ironic that conservatives, who usually support respect for precedents and states’ rights, are bringing a case that if successful will not only upset decades-old case law but also restrict the kind of representation states may choose.

He hit the nail on the head with that one; whether he was truly baffled or was simply using irony to highlight the litigants’ hypocrisy is unclear. Whatever the case, the truth is that conservatives have never given a damn about actual “states’ rights,” but have only used it when it is of service to their political goals.

Because that’s really all that the Republican power structure truly stands for nowadays: their own power and influence, and anything that enriches them.

Categories: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

Preaching from the Darkness

May 27th, 2015 1 comment

It is astonishing to me that anyone on the right could continue to defend the Duggars, in light of all that has happened. It is an excellent example of how conservative Christians, and conservatives in general, so easily forgive amongst their own that they would forever condemn for someone not in the fold.

If Barack Obama had been twice divorced, cheated on his previous wives, and served divorce papers to one of his wives while she was in the hospital being treated for cancer, do you think conservatives would not point to this as proof positive that he was unfit for office? And yet they have no problem with Newt Gingrich for having done just this.

Those on the right may point to the fact that Gingrich has repented and asked for forgiveness (though he never specified for what); but again, if it were Obama, would any amount of repenting make a difference with them? Not a chance.

And so it is with the Duggar family. All kinds of defenses are being put forward, but the two main ones are that Josh was a minor at the time, and that he has since repented and asked for forgiveness.

I can fully understand how the family might want to deal with such things internally. I am not saying that this was the right thing to do (Salon addresses that issue), but that many families would probably have done the same thing. It didn’t help that Josh’s father, Jim Bob Duggar, was running for Senate from Arkansas at the time, having already served as a House representative; it only increases the likelihood that the family kept it quiet and did not have their son treated because it would have derailed their campaign.

Nor am I saying that minors should be branded for life for crimes committed at that age. Whatever can be done to diagnose and hopefully treat someone like that should be done, mindful that treatment may in some cases not be enough.

However, what the Duggars did was wrong—perhaps understandable, but still unforgivably wrong. By not at least putting their son in treatment immediately after learning that he had molested underage girls, they were putting others at risk. This fact becomes imminently clear when considering that it was likely a matter of incest, and at least one of his victims may have been as young as five years old at the time.

But here’s the reason why all the calls for their show’s cancellation are fully justified, and all the defenses of the family are not: the Duggars have put themselves forward as models of morality and authors of justice, using their public pedestal not just to forward their opinions, but to shape the laws of their state and the country at large.

In 2014, Josh’s mother—fully aware of what her son had done—recorded a robocall making a statement against an anti-discrimination law, focusing specifically on transgender use of bathrooms, claiming that it allowed sexual predators posing as transgender women to use public bathrooms, endangering the daughters of parents in their town:

I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas reserved for women and girls. I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space.

If the irony of that statement isn’t bad enough, consider what Josh’s father said in 2002, when he was running for a Senate seat, regarding his position on abortion in relation to rape and incest:

If a woman is raped, the rapist should be executed instead of the innocent unborn baby. … Rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes.

Note also that he said this two months after Josh had first admitted to his offense.

Protecting their son is one thing, even if they did not initially know how grave his offenses were before they decided to send him off for treatment.

However, if your son is a child predator and you cover that up, protecting him from the exact justice that you demand be taken out on others, and then you stand up in front of your community and the nation at large and ask to be accepted as authorities on morals and justice… well, you are a feckless hypocrite who deserves none of the spotlight. While others may choose to forgive, you have no right to preach.

As for their defenders? Again, ask yourself what their reaction would be if this were a prominent liberal family. It is doubtful in the extreme that more than a handful of the people forgiving the Duggars would even remotely consider forgiving such things from a family whose politics they disagree with—no matter how clearly Christian, no matter how sorrowful and repenting—much less accept the idea that such a family be allowed to continue to speak their opinions from the pulpit of the national media.

And here’s the kicker: liberals wouldn’t be defending such a family either. They might not go after them as vociferously as they now do the Duggars, but they would not, as a rule, defend any of their own guilty of such a thing.

But for Christian conservatives, and conservatives in general… well, this is just another variation of IOKIYAR.

Categories: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

Big Shaker Today

May 25th, 2015 1 comment

A 5.5 earthquake hit northern Saitama today at 2:28 p.m., just 40 km (25 miles) north of Tokyo. The quake was a “Shindo 4” in Shinjuku Ward, where I work.

A 4 on the Shindo scale is defined as:

Many people are frightened. Some people try to escape from danger. Most sleeping people awake.

Hanging objects swing considerably and dishes in a cupboard rattle. Unstable ornaments fall occasionally. Very loud noises.

Of course, where I work, it feels worse than that. My college’s building has 7 floors, and the faculty office—where I was today as well as during the 2001 earthquake—is on the 6th floor. For some reason, the force of earthquakes are magnified considerably in that building, especially on the higher floors.

To me, it felt like a slight shaking at first, but then heavy, forceful shaking. All the phones starting blaring out earthquake warnings, though the warning arrived seconds after the quake did. The big rolling continued for at least a half minute after that, taking another half minute or so to settle down. Everyone was running about afterwards, checking for damage and trying to figure out if an evacuation was called for. (It wasn’t.)

Two hours later, when I went to catch a train home, the lines were still recovering, with significant delays just about everywhere. When I got home, Sachi reported that it was pretty heavy here as well, but the only effect was that a few cupboard drawers were rolled open, nothing else.

Definitely quite a shake and rattle there.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2015 Tags: by

See?

May 22nd, 2015 1 comment

Six years ago, Jonathan Chait wrote this:

Quite possibly, four years from now we could still be mired in a worldwide depression and Obama could be facing dismal — who knows, even Bush-like — popularity ratings. The world is unpredictable. But isn’t there a pretty decent chance that the economy will have recovered, and Obama’s policies will look fairly wise in retrospect? Do Republicans want to make any political plans for this contingency?

My response:

Sure they have a contingency plan: lie. That’s how they claimed Clinton was not responsible for the booming economy he oversaw. If the economy gets better, claim it was because of actions taken by Republicans in the Bush years which came to fruition later, because of economic conditions completely divorced from Obama, and because of pressures Republicans exerted to shape policies during the Obama administration. Meanwhile, they will blame Obama for every piece of negative news during that time (there is always something bad happening), and will claim he’s the most liberal and worst president ever.

Is Chait new here or something?

I’d call my prediction six years ago as pretty much spot-on. Some claimed that Bush was the real savior (e.g., via TARP and the Fed’s reaction), some simply claimed that it was the “natural forces of the business cycle,” and yes, Republicans have blamed Obama for every last thing that went wrong in between, and yes, they have called him the most liberal and worst president ever.

If anything, I understated it. Republicans not only ignored and misattributed what recovery we did experience, they simply flat-out claimed that the stimulus was an unmitigated failure. And calling Obama “the worst president ever” is perhaps the least savaging of all the names they have called him.

Categories: Right-Wing Slime Tags: by

Making a College Degree Worth It

May 22nd, 2015 2 comments

You hear a lot these days about how college is really not so important, that having a college degree often doesn’t get you a good job, and that going to college is just something people do because it is expected. And, you know, if you treat college as something where you do the minimum possible work to pass just so you can get a diploma, just a piece of paper to list on your resume—which so many students do—then I think that characterization is true. A diploma is nothing by itself. If college is nothing more than crossing a “to do” off your list, then it’s probably not worth it.

On the other hand, if you treat college as a way to actually learn things, as a means to acquire knowledge and skill, as an opportunity to explore and discover—it can be life-changing. If you go into a foreign-language program and really learn the language; if you study computer programming and really pick up the skill; if you take on philosophy and really discover a passion for it—these things will change you, transform you.

The catch: you have to try. You have to work hard. You have to pour yourself into it, and make it your existence for the years you are there. Because you don’t gain anything from just coasting. A banquet is useless if you just pick at your food; you need to devour it. With college, you can’t just experience it, take it in like you would a movie. College is not about people telling you things to remember. No one class is just about the class: each class is a starting point for something else.

If you take a Math class, don’t just run through the pages of problems and then forget about them. If you study Psychology, don’t just go, “Oooh, that’s interesting,” and leave it behind. Ask, “Where can this take me? What could I do with this?” Ask an instructor who knows the many fields that can spring from the work. If you find something that you do well at, go deeper, and find out what kind of careers call for this talent. Don’t worry that 99 out of 100 of these leads will end with something you don’t want. If just one leads to something great, that’s all you need. And it’s usually the last one you look at.

And don’t be shy about contacting professionals in a field you’re interested in. If you think architecture is something you may have a flair for, search out a professional architect who is known for really good work, and just tell them you’re a college student interested in the field and ask for an hour of their time. A lot of professionals love the idea of helping budding artists. They’ll know all of the best stuff to tell you and get you started down the right path. And don’t wait until you finished college to seek that advice—seek it out right from the start.

There’s an old joke about how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb. The answer is, just one, but the light bulb has to want to change. College is like that. You have to want to change, to grow, to evolve. Just floating through gets you that piece of paper, but then you’re just a 22-year-old high school graduate with a piece of paper. Whee.

You know what gets you a great career? For one thing, knowing what you love, which you can discover in college. Also, skills to do that thing, which you can get started on in college. Not to mention discovering how much you can do if you take control over your work and make it yours. College can be the perfect place to develop all of this. College is a transition point, a launch pad for countless potential life journeys. That’s how you should look at it.

But you have to want it, you have to work for it, and you have to own it. If you do, then the diploma is nice, but what you have really gained in college cannot possibly fit on just a piece of paper.

Categories: Education Tags: by

He Was For It Before He Was Against It

May 15th, 2015 2 comments

One of the reasons John Kerry lost the 2004 election was the now-famous statement by Kerry on the Iraq War: “I was for it before I was against it.” Except, he never said that. He said,“I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” The quote was about an $87 billion appropriation bill for military operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, not Kerry’s actual position on the Iraq War. Kerry voted for a version of the appropriations bill that would be paid for by getting rid of some of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, but later voted against a version which lacked that provision. His statement, which Kerry admitted was “inarticulate,” was then taken out of context and now is almost as famous as Al Gore’s “I invented the Internet,” another quote that was baldly misrepresented. Still, it cost Kerry dearly.

Well, how about Jeb Bush now? He’s had years to decide where he stands on the Iraq War. What’s his position on it?

Well he was for it, and would do it again if he had to face the same choice.

But that was Monday. On Tuesday, he didn’t know.

Tuesday is so long ago, though; on Wednesday, he said that answering the question would offend the troops.

And now? Well, it’s Thursday, and Bush is now against the war.

So, he was for it before he wasn’t sure before he wouldn’t answer before he was against it.

I admit, it’s not as catchy as what they made Kerry’s quote out to be. How about, “He was for it before he was against it, and waffled a few times in between.”

Or maybe just stick to the classic, “He was before it before he was against it.” Sure, you lose the waffling, but the short version has merits: it’s catchier, it demonstrates flip-flopping, it illustrates irony—and it is a far more accurate representation of Bush’s actual statements than it ever was of Kerry’s.

Oh, and let’s not forget the canard that Bush threw in at the start: that Hillary voted for the war too. “I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody”

As I have pointed out, that’s yet another asinine Republican lie. Clinton voted for the war powers act, and possibly did that as a political weasel, but she also made crystal clear in a Senate floor speech that her vote was to give Bush a bargaining chip to pressure Saddam, and that war was only a “last resort.” Only an idiot would presume that Clinton, on her own, would have taken us into Iraq. As much of a hawk as Clinton is, she clearly would not have done that.

Desperately Seeking Victimhood

May 13th, 2015 5 comments

It’s a common meme now for conservatives to try to hold themselves up as victims, but especially when they are trying to cast aspersions on others and are, in part or in full, prevented from doing so. They then immediately look for any event that could show a double-standard, and, without really thinking about it very hard, indignantly shout about how they are being mistreated.

Part of it is simply a matter of wannabe martyrdom, somewhat of a long-standing niche favorite amongst conservative Christians. Take this story of a woman who went to Walgreens to get some bible verses printed up. The clerk noticed that there were images in the documents that could constitute a copyright violation. The woman was asked to sign a waiver stating that she attested to the fact that she had the rights to print them. Fox News elevated this to a national-level story about how Walgreens was discriminating against Christians by making the ludicrous claim that Walgreens had somehow claimed that the bible verses were under copyright, with the implied meaning that Walgreens just wanted to harass Christians because, you know, whatever. Even after everything was made clear and the store even offered to print the documents for free, the conservative media still trumpeted this as an attack on Christianity.

A more specific form of this phenomenon is when conservatives are on the defensive regarding some issue or another, and try to use some event in the news or elsewhere to show how the opposition is being hypocritical. After Ferguson, for example, when it was becoming more publicly clear that white police officers are killing unarmed black men in large numbers, conservatives rushed to find any cases at all of black police officers killing unarmed white men. They found a few, and proceeded to make a huge deal about it. “Why aren’t liberals in an uproar when this happens?” they lamented. The obvious reply: because that’s just two cases. It’s not a few hundred each year. Show me a rash of black cops killing unarmed white men on a massive scale, nationwide, and I’ll join in your indignation.

Another aspect of this is when conservatives accuse liberals of being okay with something when it happens against Christians but not when it happens against Muslims. For example, after a Christian bakery refused to make a cake for a gay wedding, some conservatives came up with a great idea: let’s go to Muslim bakery shops and see if they refuse to make the same kind of cake. Some Muslim-run businesses in fact did refuse, and conservatives whooped it up: “See! A Muslim bakery did the same thing, why aren’t liberals upset about that?!? It’s because of a witch hunt against Christians!!”

Except that the point is stupid. If a Muslim bakery had been the one to refuse service in that first now-famous case, the result would have been no different. Liberals and activists would have been just as appalled and the media reaction would have been the same—or, actually, stronger, as right-wing news sites would likely have piled on in that case as well. Liberals never said that Muslims discriminating against gays was okay or more acceptable; conservatives simply jumped to that conclusion without even asking. Nor have liberals had the chance to really protest, as these bakeries did not refuse any actual service—just fake, partisan, gotcha-style we’re-the-real-victims-here idiocy, which is kinda hard to rally behind. If tomorrow a gay couple went to one of these bakeries (which, you’ll have to admit, are not exactly everywhere) and they refused service, the protest would be no different than if another Christian bakery did so. But not because of some asinine political stunt.

This conservative desire to be outraged has become almost a reflex reaction now, with right-wingers taking offense at the drop of a hat, assuming that anything that could even remotely be a sign that something may be biased against them is in fact full-fledged persecution, and running full-speed to the media crying about how they are being victimized, without first bothering to check if their outrage is in any way justified.

This is in some ways similar to the right-wing practice of banning Sharia law, as if there were somehow a real danger of Sharia being instituted publicly anywhere in the United States, so of course we have to make special laws to avoid that. We’re so much in danger of being subjected to Muslim authority that we have to take action now!

This bizarrely ludicrous fear came to light recently when Allen West published a blog post about how how “Sharia law” resulted in “Christian persecution” at a Walmart in Dallas.

There was a young man doing the checkout and another Walmart employee came over and put up a sign, “No alcohol products in this lane.” So being the inquisitive fella I am, I used my additional set of eyes — glasses — to see the young checkout man’s name. Let me just say it was NOT “Steve.”

I pointed the sign out to Aubrey and her response was a simple question, how is it that this Muslim employee could refuse service to customers based on his religious beliefs, but Christians are being forced to participate in specific events contrary to their religious beliefs?

Boy howdy, that is one astute young lady.

Imagine that, this employee at Walmart refused to just scan a bottle or container of an alcoholic beverage — and that is acceptable. A Christian business owner declines to participate or provide service to a specific event — a gay wedding — which contradicts their faith, and the State crushes them.

Except, as it turned out, that’s not why the sign was put up. The sign was put up because the cashier was underage, and so under Western law, he was not allowed sell alcohol.

It’s not just that West was wrong, it’s that he ignored a number of indicators that made it obvious that he was wrong. For example, since when does Walmart cater to the dignity of its employees, much less inconvenience customers and slow down business to serve their religious sensitivities? Second, if this were a case of catering to Muslim sensitivities, why only restrict alcohol sales, and not sales of pork products? Critical thinking rules also demand that you consider alternatives—which would not even have required West to think, only to ask either clerk why the sign was put up.

West processed none of this. He only saw an Arabic-sounding name and a no-liquor sign, and jumped right to the conclusion that he was being persecuted because he was a Christian. He did not do this mindlessly; he had to go to a good deal of trouble to connect certain dots. He just followed dots that served his interests and prejudices, and ignored the dots that any reasonable person would follow.

But hey, let’s imagine that West was in fact right, and that Walmart had inexplicably begun to go out of their way to respect the religious rights of their employees. Would this be, as West proclaimed, a matter of injustice because Christians were “crushed by the State” (that’s “State” with a capital “S”!) for the same kind of thing?

As it turns out, no. For two rather blatantly obvious reasons. First, Walmart was not refusing to sell alcohol, they just did not allow it in that one specific register line. West or anyone else could simply move to a different line and buy whatever they wanted. And second, Walmart was shutting down service in that one line to anyone buying alcohol, not just Christians or any specific group. If the bakery that refused to make a gay wedding cake had simply refused to make wedding cakes period, there would be no fuss.

But West’s indignation is even more striking, considering that liberals would not approve of even the one line being shut down because of the cashier’s religious beliefs—they would tell the cashier that if they don’t want to do what the job requires, they should take a different job.

It would, however, be exactly what conservatives want, which is the ability to refuse service of a specific type because it offends their religious beliefs —something that conservatives are fighting for, and have succeeded in enforcing by law in at least a dozen states, and have been reported to happen in any case in nearly half of all states.

But when the Walmart throws up a no-liquor-sales-in-this-line and the cashier is named Ahmed? PERSECUTION! SHARIA LAW! RUN FOR THE HILLS!!

Shoot off your mouth first, ask questions later.

No, That’s Not the Way

May 11th, 2015 1 comment

I am getting tired of people saying that so long as there are Muslims who threaten violence for drawing images of Muhammed, the proper—even necessary—response is to do it more and more, to shove it in their faces to show that they cannot intimidate us.

You’ll have to forgive me, but that is such an unforgivably shallow and narrow-sighted reaction that it is rather startling to me that so many people seem to agree with it. That is absolutely not the way to react.

First, let’s not forget that most Muslims who would be gravely offended by drawings of Muhammed do not approve of killing people who offend them. These are the people you want to have on your side—so what the hell do you think is so brilliant about pissing them off?

Imagine a comedian is performing in front of an audience. Most of the people are into the act, enjoying the show. However, a few jerks in the audience are heckling and generally trying to derail everyone’s enjoyment. How should the comedian react? Is the proper response to insult the entire audience? Maybe say, “So this is the kind of idiot who typifies this city? Boy, everyone who lives in this town seems to be a flaming moron!”

Of course the comedian won’t do that—because it is eminently stupid. All it would accomplish would be to offend the very people you want to have on your side. All it will do is drive away the people who want to support you, and put many of them into the company of those you were trying to put down.

With this so plainly evident, why is the reaction of “champions of free speech” to do exactly the wrong thing? Why is the “necessary” reaction to the jerks and the extremists somehow inevitably the one course of action that will offend the good people the most, and only help the jerks and the extremists?

The reaction to violence against those who draw comics about Muhammed should not be to draw more comics about Muhammed. The reaction should instead be to draw comics featuring the schmucks who react violently to cartoons of Muhammed. Draw a cartoon of that person holding a piece of paper marked “Drawing of Muhammed,” and have the schmuck be wetting his pants and crying like an infant, shouting “KILL, KILL, KILL!!” while some reasonable Muslims stand by commenting, “What a dick.”

Why isn’t that evident?

Categories: Religion, Social Issues Tags: by

Jeb Bush and Religious Liberty

May 10th, 2015 No comments

As of late, the expression “religious liberty” has worked as a code word for a variety of right-wing positions; it is a “dog whistle” term amongst conservatives, similar to “academic freedom” (teaching conservative Christian doctrine in public schools) or “strict constructionist” (favoring conservative ideology over constitutional law).

“Religious liberty” currently applies to two issues in particular: reproductive rights and discrimination based upon sexual or gender orientation and identity. However, it will doubtlessly be applied to any issue conservatives see fit which could possibly be framed as a point of religious ideology.

As a sign that virtually any Republican candidate must bow to the extremists on such issues, Jeb Bush gave a now-obligatory speech at Liberty University, “religious liberty” being the theme. That he spoke at commencement and not just at some required assembly speaks to who the favored candidate is.

The speech, of course, blew all the right dog whistles; there was no doubt that Bush was making references to sex & gender discrimination, though he refrained from being that specific. Bush was specific enough to mention reproductive rights by name, speaking on the issue of how conservative Christians should be allowed to make decisions affecting how others live based on their own personal religious ideology.

Of course, foisting one’s beliefs on the lives of others doesn’t sound good even to Christian conservatives, so they have to veil it with a layer of meaningless obfuscation and blame the people trying to stop religious interference with that exact wrongdoing:

“The mistake is to confuse points of theology with moral principles that are knowable to reason as well as by faith. And this confusion is all part of a false narrative that casts religious Americans as intolerant scolds, running around trying to impose their views on everyone. The stories vary, year after year, but the storyline is getting familiar: The progressive political agenda is ready for its next great leap forward, and religious people or churches are getting in the way. Our friends on the Left like to view themselves as the agents of change and reform, and you and I are supposed to just get with the program.

”There are consequences when you don’t genuflect to the latest secular dogmas. And those dogmas can be hard to keep up with. So we find officials in a major city demanding that pastors turn over copies of their sermons. Or federal judges mistaking themselves for elected legislators, and imposing restrictions and rights that do not exist in the Constitution. Or an agency dictating to a Catholic charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, what has to go in their health plan – and never mind objections of conscience.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m betting that when it comes to doing the right and good thing, the Little Sisters of the Poor know better than the regulators at the Department of Health and Human Services. From the standpoint of religious freedom, you might even say it’s a choice between the Little Sisters and Big Brother – and I’m going with the Sisters.

See? By demanding our religious standards be enforced by law, we are not involving theology! We’re not the ones imposing dogma, it’s the secularists! This is not about religion because our religious beliefs are based on reason! We’re just trying to be good, moral people by forcing everyone else to follow our moral code and those liberals are trying to force their views on us by not letting us!

Also, you may have noticed one of the anti-LGBT dog whistles in the above quote, even if you don’t recognize it. The part about ”officials in a major city demanding that pastors turn over copies of their sermons,“ which ominously implies that government is attempting to either intimidate pastors or to demand the right to edit their speeches.

If your source is Fox News, then this is over a law allowing ”men to use the ladies room and vice versa,“ and this is all about secularists attempting to suppress freedom of religion.

In fact, it is over a Houston anti-discrimination ordinance, one which was challenged by local preachers who wanted the right to discriminate, and so used their pulpits to get signatures of petitions in a way that may have violated the city charter—thus the subpoena for ”all speeches, presentations, or sermons“ related to the issue, so that the validity of the petitions could be measured. And the court ruled in favor of the city.

Which no doubt is one of the cases referenced by Bush when he mentioned ”federal judges mistaking themselves for elected legislators,“ paraphrasing another right-wing dog-whistle expression, ”legislating from the bench,“ which means ”judges who make legal decisions that we disagree with.“

Bush’s speech was chock full of platitudes involving charity, the homeless, the lonely, the ill, the weak, and the innocent… even ”giving hope to the prisoner“… despite the fact that Bush’s own policies have callously disregarded these exact populations.

All part of the new right-wing approach to social justice: talk the talk, but walk the other way.

Categories: Religion, Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

Blaming the Victim Is Not Just for Rape

May 6th, 2015 No comments

A month ago, a guy named Larry Pfeifer started a false rumor that Harry Reid was actually injured not by exercise machinery, but instead by his drunken brother in a fistfight. Conservatives ate up the story without bothering to do the slightest checking on its veracity.

It makes me wonder: if I were to make up a fictional story about an unarmed black man shot in the back by a white police officer from, say, San Antonio, Texas, and was able to get it slipped into a right-wing web site somewhere, I wonder how long it would take before all kinds of “revelations” popped up about the shooting victim’s background and actions on that day?

Because that’s the knee-jerk reaction amongst conservatives these days: if there is an African-American victim of any sort, especially a sympathetic one, right-wingers fall all over themselves in a rush to paint the victims as vile, despicable “thugs” who deserve no compassion or human respect. After the Zimmerman shooting, Trayvon Martin was painted as some gangsta criminal, usually using photos of someone else tagged as Martin. Black victims of Katrina were accused of all manner of deviances, and stories of black refugees terrorizing generous white people were common in right-wing circles—primarily as a way of making Bush’s criminal inaction seem justified.

Things have gotten no better as time passes; instead, the reaction now seems pretty much deep-set, even institutionalized. When the Freddie Gray story broke, conservatives came out with a flurry of stories about how Gray’s death was his own fault, and the police were, if anything, the “real” victims.

Reports were spread about how Gray gave himself the spinal injury by throwing himself around inside the van so as to frame police for excessive violence and therefore win a legal settlement for quick cash.

Another story that spread in the right-wing bubble claimed that Gray had had spinal surgery a week earlier—and managed to make the story about how he was scamming Allstate for a cash settlement in a lawsuit. The kicker: when The Baltimore Sun, as well as Snopes, debunked the story, the right-wing stories carried updates that played down or flat-out ignored the fact that the reports of spinal surgery were fake, and instead claimed that the news organizations confirmed that Gray was involved in some legal scam against Allstate.

And virtually every right-wing story contained or focused on Gray’s arrest record, with the clear implied message that this was a dishonest, drug-using criminal who deserves no sympathy and was just asking for what he got.

Never mind the fact that the list represents arrests, not actual crimes committed. Never mind the fact that when Gray was arrested that last time, it turned out that the reason for the arrest was unlawful—but, had Gray not been killed, the arrest would have been one more charge on the rap sheet. Never mind the fact that almost every entry on that list of for marijuana busts, and it is a fact that black people are arrested for marijuana possession as much as ten times more often than whites, who use the drug with equal frequency.

These stories persist and amplify in the right-wing bubble, and are what conservatives use as the context for the issue—explaining at least in part their irrational response to such things, seemingly inexplicable in an objective context. It’s the classic “narrative,” building a version of reality based upon ideological mythology which justifies all manner of horrible assumptions and actions.

Nor is that context limited to blaming the victim; there are other approaches as well. For example, attacking the African-American State Attorney who brought the charges, calling her everything from conflicted to racist, while others belittled her as a “smokeshow.”

But hey, we have to be careful: accusing conservatives of racism is just so unfair and unwarranted. Worse, it’s racist. Because white male conservatives are the real victims here.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

Praying for Gunfire

May 5th, 2015 2 comments

If you heard about the two gunmen who attacked the “art exhibit” in Texas, you should know that the exhibit, which featured drawings of Muhammed, was essentially a big “Fuck You” to Muslims, set up by an organization run by a woman named Pamela Geller, a rabid Islam-hating right-wing nut job.

Naturally, the men who came to open fire were horrible people and it is very good that they were stopped without anyone else getting killed.

However, you must not be fooled into thinking that the Texas exhibit was about free speech. It most certainly was not.

It would be kind of like rabid liberals setting up a “Let’s Burn Aborted Fetuses Whilst Urinating on Bibles and American Flags” exhibition next door to an NRA convention. On purpose. No one would condone what actions the less stable gun nuts might take, but everyone would pretty much take note that the people doing the “exhibit” were guilty of attempting to incite violence about as much as you possibly could.

And that’s essentially what we had in Texas: Geller was trying to make something like this happen—or, if not, was almost certainly hoping for it. She may be an extremist scumbag, but she’s not stupid: she knew exactly how Muslims would react to such a thing. It is not very much of a stretch to imagine that she is at this moment quite gleefully basking in the limelight, having successfully goaded people into violent action which she can now take to the bank. And she is getting tons of attention—and almost none of the condemnation she so richly deserves.

In short, the gunmen were not the greater villains in this story. Geller, in my opinion, should be arrested for inciting violence. She was lucky she didn’t get more people killed. Or perhaps unlucky—it is quite possible, that in Cliven Bundy style, she was hoping for some innocent victims. The optics would have been so much better for her.

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by

Land’O'Quakes

May 4th, 2015 No comments

The Washington Post reported that there was a 4.0 quake in the San Francisco Bay Area yesterday. Wow. I am surprised that made the national news.

Here in Japan, we had three quakes bigger than that. Yesterday. All in the Kanto region, where Tokyo is: a 4.4, 4.5, and 4.8. And there was a fourth, a 5.8 in the ocean south of Tokyo, but we didn’t feel that one. I sure felt the others, though.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2015 Tags: by

John Boehner: Almost No Corruption in D.C.

May 4th, 2015 1 comment

Wow.

I mean, you want to defend just yourself, that’s one thing. But to claim that there’s virtually no corruption in politics? To say that what your party is doing is completely fair and above-board?

Wow.

In an interview on Meet the Press, that’s pretty much what Boehner said.

Americans might see their political system as rigged against them and in favor of big-money donors, special interests and incumbent members of Congress.

But House Speaker John Boehner says he’s not buying any of it.

The Ohio Republican dismissed each of those concerns Sunday in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Money in politics? “We spend more money on antacids than we do on politics,” Boehner said.

Aside from being false (about twice as much was spent on the 2014 elections than on antacids), it’s also completely irrelevant. We’re talking about bribery; amounts don’t matter, the results do. If a politician takes a bribe for $10,000, it doesn’t matter how much we spend on peanut butter or safety pins relative to that. What matters is that a politician was bought and the people were betrayed.

And it is not just clear, but startlingly clear that money sways politics. In both parties, naturally, but it’s the Republicans who are trying a hundred times as hard to please the monied interests. And Boehner is their leader in these endeavors.

Overly influential special interests? “Everybody’s a special interest. When I get home, everybody I talk to has their own interest,” he said.

Yes, they are. But guess what: the only special interest you are supposed to be swayed by are the people. And they generally get to be last in line, and more often than not are duped by the first interests that Boehner serves due to massive corruption in both the media and in political spending.

Politicians rationalize their focus on monied special interests by speciously claiming that the people’s interests are best served when the businesses that employ them and supposedly power the economy are served first, second, and last.

Gerrymandered districts that predetermine elections’ outcomes? “You can call it gerrymandering, but in Ohio, the Democrats had the pencil in their hand for 50 years. Now the Republicans have had it for the last 20 years. Our turn to draw the lines.”

If all Republicans were doing was gerrymandering where they happened to win enough elections to do so, that would not be especially remarkable. But that’s far from all they have been doing.

First of all, Republicans made a concerted effort in the aughts that exceeded any previous ones, in which they specifically targeted local and state elections for the purpose of taking over as much local territory as possible in time for the 2010 decennial census—and then proceeded to carve out “the most egregious gerrymandering in American history.” Most of it accomplished due to massive spending by billionaires who now profit obscenely from it.

Not to mention specific cases where liberals have been far more even-handed than conservatives; in blue California, a liberal electorate voted for non-partisan districting, while in red Texas, conservatives decided that they could gerrymander any time they damn well pleased, not just after the decennial census.

Add to that incessant ploys by conservatives to pass laws targeted to disenfranchise liberal voters, cage liberal voters, rig felon’s lists to include non-criminal liberal voters, and a bevy of other Jim-Crow style laws, to claim equivalency in gerrymandering is not just disingenuous, it’s dishonest as all hell.

Categories: Corruption, Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

The Free Market

April 26th, 2015 5 comments

Maybe the conservatives are right. Why should the government always interfere? Why not let everything self-regulate? After all, that is only the most fair and effective means for a productive society, right?

Therefore, we should erase all criminal laws from the books, and get rid of the police. People will self-regulate. After all, if they do something bad, everyone else will disapprove, and that will be bad for them, right? Crime will disappear and everyone will treat each other equitably.

Oh, I’m sorry—that’s not what conservatives mean, is it? After all, you can’t trust the people to behave without regulation and police oversight. But corporations? They’re bound to be honest and fair—that’s their defining characteristic, isn’t it? Left to themselves, they pay everyone a fair wage and never act contrary to public interest, right?

Man, it was hard to type that and not break up laughing so hard that I misspelled everything.

Let’s face it: corporations, if viewed as “people,” are essentially psychopaths. Their single common priority is to make as much money as can be achieved. By nature, they have no moral restraints; in their context, what can be bargained for to accentuate their profit is by definition “fair,” no matter how it may seem from an objective moral perspective. If they could get away with paying workers nothing, defrauding customers, trashing the environment, bypassing safety standards, and in doing so avoid criminal prosecution and sidestep any litigation, they would do so—in a heartbeat.

Which is why people like this stand out so radically:

There are a lot of things that can be said about this guy, but he stresses the one key point, which applies to so many issues of what government does in terms of businesses: If businesses acted in a fundamentally moral manner, government intervention would not be necessary.

If businesses paid their workers a wage that would ensure that they at least could work 40-50 hours a week and not sink into poverty, a minimum wage would not be necessary.

If businesses would see to the basic safety standards for the workplace, OSHA and the regulations that govern it would not be necessary.

If businesses paid workers equally, laws like the Lily Ledbetter Act would not be necessary.

If businesses did not discriminate on the basis of race, then Affirmative Action and quotas would not only be unnecessary, but they could exist and yet never kick in!

I could go on and on, but the theme is always the same: government never intervenes in business in order to interfere. Government only intervenes when businesses violate basic moral values and mistreat people and their environments in the name of excessive greed. Not survival, mind you—but greed.

Conservatives’ number one agenda: to stop government intervention.

That is equivalent to them trying to stop police from “interfering” with people’s actions, like robbing stores, committing acts of violence, etc. and instead, allowing the “free public square” to “self-regulate.”

Funny how we never hear them advocating that. It’s as if they don’t believe it would actually work.

Categories: Corporate World, Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by