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 No 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 3 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

Up and Coming Pet Peeve

April 25th, 2015 No comments

What’s annoying? Web sites that constantly reload, especially when the reset sends you way back up to the top of the page, even more so when what you were just about to look at is now gone and replaced with something you don’t want.

Fox News is one of the oddest that I have noticed. Not that I visit it often, but sometimes I want to see what conservatives consider to be newsworthy and what their general take is, and sometimes, I want to see how they are treating a certain story that’s in the news. (Today: Hillary may face criminal inquiry! City near Ferguson elects black mayor by voter fraud! Obama-released Bergdahl is a traitor!)

The annoyance: Fox’s site refreshes (somewhat randomly), usually very soon after a page loads, or after you return to a tab with a Fox page open in it. It’s a minor annoyance in this case, a blip in the page’s appearance, like an extended page load. It gets in your way, though.

Nor is it a quirk limited to one ideology or the other; Salon does the same thing, though differently: every five minutes, you get reloads. I’ll be perusing some stories, and while deep down on the page, it will reset, and pop!—I’m back at the top, and have to find my place again.

For me, these reloads did not really make any sense; after the reloads, the content all looks the same. Then I realized that I have ad blocking on the browsers I usually use, so I loaded up Salon on Opera, which I do not use blocking for (handy for sites where comments and other features don’t work if you use blocking and filtering), and waited for a refresh. Sure enough: all the ads had changed. These sites force the reloads so they can throw more advertising at you. Just when you thought they had no more ways to annoy you.

Which makes Fox’s reloads a bit more amusing: I notice that they sometimes reload just 5-10 seconds after you load a page. Which means that they likely know that average page views are short, and want to make sure they get to double their ad exposure even for people who visit for a quick peep at something.

Facebook is the worst offender among sites I visit. A big part of this has to do with their strategy to keep visitors returning so they can make the experience more addictive and sell more ads. Facebook will not show you all of what your friends post; instead, every time you visit the site anew—or reload—they will rotate content in and out. They also apparently juggle the order so that you do not recognize patterns of posts, therefore making it feel like there is unseen content still there.

This annoys people enough as it is; however, every once in a while, the page will auto-refresh, meaning that the content you were not finished with is now half-jumbled and half-yanked. The stuff you meant to look at may never even appear again at all.

Yes, I know: sites have to pay for themselves. The problem is, they do so in ever-more pervasive and annoying ways.

I have long said that all they have to do to get my ad views is to have ads which do not move. Remove other annoyances like the refreshes and content juggling, and I’ll be even more loyal.

Hell, I’ll even help you: add a feature where you allow people to request ad types or content. I not only respond better to ads for movies and electronic gadgets, I like them more. If most ads were for those things, I’d probably click more often, and I’d have no problem with ad agencies knowing that if it meant the experience were better. People hate ads because something like 97% of them are for things they don’t want or are repulsed by. Change that, and the ads will be more effective and more valuable.

It is very similar to music sales: be grabby, greedy, and gratuitous, and people will gravitate to methods that exclude your asinine sales model. Give customers what they want and how they want it, and your business will do better.

Why the hell can’t they figure this out?

Categories: Corporate World Tags: by

The Gaijin Tax?

April 19th, 2015 4 comments

A few years ago, I went to Akihabara and tried to buy some cables at a shop there. The four cables I got were in boxes with prices clearly marked; the total was ¥500 ($4.20). The guy at the counter tried to charge me ¥1380 ($11.60). I later realized that my dress was different—I probably looked more like a tourist, so they probably figured that I would pay without question.

At the time, I was pretty shocked; this really had not happened to me much in Japan. It happened in Europe when I visited, like the bakery counter lady in Athens who crassly gave me way too little in change, and when I complained, she took it back and gave me even less. I never imagined that happening in Japan.

However, I have noticed that recently, clerks “accidentally” make “mistakes” with me quite often.

Just the other day, Sachi and I went to a local burger joint, and got a standard lunch set each. There was nothing on the menu more than a thousand yen (less than ten bucks). Even the beer I ordered only cost a few dollars when swapped out for the drink that came with the lunch set. So, for two people, the total should never be more than, say, ¥3000. Even that’s a bit high.

So when I went to pay, I was rather shocked that the total was more than ¥5500 (about $50). The restaurant guy, who had served us and knew that there was only the two of us and we had not ordered anything special, had rung up the total, announced it to me, and then stood there waiting for me to pay.

The thing is, the amount was so far off it stood out like a sore thumb—like going to McDonald’s, ordering two Big Macs, and getting asked to pay $25.

This guy was not a newbie, we’ve seen him since last year; he maybe even owns the place. The total should have immediately stood out to him as incorrect, more than it did to me. But it took me to give him a puzzled expression—for several seconds, no less—before he caught the “mistake.” I put that in quotes because, frankly, I don’t think it was a mistake.

The thing is, after this happened, I began to recall other similar incidents over the past few years. I always just discounted them as errors, and maybe in fact they were—but the thing is, they are happening with increasing frequency, and are typically not minor overcharges. Several times, mostly at restaurants but also at other shops, I have had to check the tally carefully when I am given a total that seems suspiciously high. So much so that I now almost reflexively check my receipts, even when the total doesn’t seem unusually high.

Generally, I am beginning to get the feeling that this is a “gaijin” thing—something that’s happening because I’m a foreigner here. If so, it is relatively new; this never happened with such frequency before. (Although I would be interested to hear if Japanese people get the same thing as often as I do.)

I’m not counting the trivial stuff, like the conbini that gave me a 100-won coin instead of a 100-yen coin in my change (the Korean coin is worth 1/10th the Japanese currency), or whoever it was at McDonald’s giving me a single patty in a double burger. Just the times when the amount I am asked for is significantly over the total I am supposed to pay.

In Japan, when they give you change, it is (or at least used to be) customary for them to politely ask you to check the change to make sure it is accurate. I never really used to do that because it was always right. Now, I don’t hear them saying that as much—and I’m checking the change a lot more now.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2014 Tags: by

The Wrong Kind of Concern

April 17th, 2015 1 comment

Conservatives have been making noise about how income inequality is bad and that is so important to them:

Appearing at a candidate forum in late January, three likely Republican presidential contenders — Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul — all made a striking confession: They considered “the increasing gap between rich and poor” to be a problem.

Yeah, the problem they see is that income inequality is being noticed more and it’s in danger of being opposed. We can’t have that.

Which is not too far from their stances: they brought it up primarily to say that it can’t be addressed with government action—in short, we should not raise taxes on the rich or mandate minimum wage hikes, stuff like that.

To prove their extreme concern over income inequality being challenged, Republicans in the House just passed (on heavily partisan lines) a bill that would repeal the estate tax.

To be clear, the estate tax does not affect you unless you are handing over more than $5.43 million upon your demise, and that’s only if you’re single. For a married couple, it’s $10.86 million. And that means that if parents pass away with a $15 million estate, no tax is applied until the first dollar after $10.86 million. After that, the rates go from 18% to 40%, the 40% kicking in after $1 million. So on the $15 million estate, the inheritors would pay about $2 million in taxes.

So, how is this about Republicans protecting people of lower incomes?

Republican Majority Whip Steve Scalise explained, “the vast majority of our members in the Republican conference have never had the opportunity to stand up for small businesses who are threatened by the death tax everyday.”

Ah, yes. The small business owner. The Republicans’ favorite go-to prop when they want to help the super-wealthy.

But wait! Those small businessmen could get hit! Really! It happens!

Well, in 2014, the average and median small business sold for about $185,000.

In fact, only about 20 “small” businesses and farms each year are subject to any estate tax every year. And that’s figuring businesses which value at $5 million, not $10 million. And those 20 per year usually owe only about 5% in taxes.

Not to mention that there is no language in the bill whatsoever mentioning small businesses, just an unqualified repeal.

So, are Republicans really voting to protect small businesses? Of course not. It’s an asinine lie. Nothing new—I have written before about how Republicans habitually trot out “small businessmen” when they want to give massive tax cuts to primarily wealthy people.

In short, it’s pure, unadulterated bullshit.

The estate tax repeal would cost the federal government about $27 billion per year, mostly so that people with hundreds of millions, as well as billions of dollars can maintain vast treasuries of unearned wealth.

For example, Emma and Georgina Bloomberg stand to inherit their father’s $31 billion fortune. Assuming they get it all (and are not largely cut out like Paris Hilton), and they split the fortune evenly, each would, after the estate tax, only receive $9.3 billion. The horror!

As Thomas Piketty pointed out, it is amassed wealth that is the biggest problem in the world—and the estate tax is pretty much the only established tax on that wealth.

And so naturally, Republicans, newly concerned about income inequality, want to completely erase that tax, to the exclusive benefit of the 1%.

Sounds legit.

Of course, we can breathe a sigh of relief: the bill will never become law. Democrats stand to filibuster it in the Senate, and even if not, Obama will veto it. And Republicans know this. Despite that, they passed it purely as a stunt—which, strangely, kind of puts the lie to their recent claims of concern for income inequality. (Alas, billionaires like Sheldon Adelson can hire lawyers to set up massive trusts to get around billions in estate taxes.)

It’s almost as if they figure that independents know full well they are lying all the time, or they believe independent voters are idiots who won’t notice.

Categories: Right-Wing Hypocrisy, Taxes, The Class War Tags: by

Tipping

April 17th, 2015 3 comments

Living in Japan, tipping is just something you don’t have to deal with. You don’t tip here, ever. Not at any restaurant, not for taxi drivers, not for deliveries, hotel service, nothing. It’s actually very nice, as you don’t have to research and remember complex rules about how much to tip which kind of service. You don’t have to deal with the fear of seeming like a cheapskate, or worry about how the person serving you will feel if it’s this much or that much. Here in Japan, paying for something is a stress-free process.

Honestly, to this day, I have no idea how much I would tip a taxi driver for a fare (is it different from short and long hauls?), or a bellhop to show me to my room (I have to ask family and friends when that’s something I have to deal with). I recall that 15% used to be the standard for restaurant tips, now it seems to be 20%.

This causes problems for me when I travel back to the U.S., as I have to break long-held habits. Once, some years back, while on vacation from Tokyo, I went to a restaurant in San Francisco with a friend who was also visiting from Japan. We ate, paid, and left. I realized I had left my jacket at the restaurant, so I went back. I told the waiter who had served us that I had forgotten my jacket. He said, “You forgot your tip, too.” Somewhat abashed, I got out a generous tip as I tried to explain why that happened; I am guessing he didn’t believe me, but whatever.

So I was a bit confused on more recent trips back when I would go to a place that had general seating, but I would instead order something for take-out. There would be a tip jar on the counter, and when I pad by credit card, there would be a line for the total, the tip, and the total with the tip, so that you would have to write the same amount twice, essentially making an outright statement that you are not tipping at all. I was rather taken aback when I first encountered it, and have never been comfortable with it—it seems excessively pressuring, like a few years back when many businesses asked out loud in the line at the register if you “wanted” to make a donation to a charity (which you usually had never heard of and knew nothing about) with your purchase, and to refuse you had to say it out loud in front of a line of people.

When someone waits on me, that deserves a tip. They have to show me to a table, be prompt with service, carry stuff back and forth across the restaurant, make sure your water glass is full, deal with complaints corrections, take care of the payment, maybe other things we don’t even notice. With a home delivery, well, they drive across town to deliver for you, presumably doing so promptly but safely. The standard is, special work is being done.

But a counter pick-up? Really? The person behind the counter is doing no more work than any other register person at any other store. Do you tip the check-out person at the supermarket? Do you tip the concessions seller at a movie theater? Nope.

The argument is often made that these people are paid minimum wage. If that’s the standard, then why are only restaurant people afforded this generosity? Not to mention that servers get tipped because they get paid a pittance (well below minimum wage, often just a few bucks an hour) as the tips are expected to be their main income; cashier people, I understand, are paid a regular wage, as are the cooks.

I’m also pretty sure that a tip was never demanded for counter service when I was younger—of course, tip jars were hardly ever there, either. I’m not arguing that counter staff don’t need the money; however, a lot of minimum wage earners who never get tips deserve better as well. It just seems like an attempt by restaurants to justify paying more workers less, and/or an attempt by better-paid staff to get a gratuity simply because it is a close extension to an established but separate gratuity system.

I would be quite happy if America followed Japan’s example and just got rid of the system completely. Pay people a living wage ($15 at the very least for a minimum wage for whatever job), and just factor that into the prices.

Of course, what would probably happen is that the businesses would all pretend like the difference would cost them a lot more than it really would, and would take the opportunity to hike prices too much… still, the change would be a good thing.

Categories: Economics, Travel Tags: by

The Problem Isn’t Just in Ferguson

April 10th, 2015 4 comments

If you or someone you know believe that public and police reactions to white and black people are not distorted, this is an excellent example of how that’s simply not the case. Disproportionate attention means disproportionate response. In the video below, a white man tries to break into a car for half an hour: nobody notices, not even a cop who drives right past him, even as the patrol car is slowed by traffic right in front of him, as the guy is jiggering the door lock and the car alarm is blaring loudly. No reaction. Then his black cohort begins doing the exact same thing, and people immediately begin to react. In just two minutes, a police officer, gun drawn and instantly hurling profanity, arrests him, as more police converge on the scene. Because, coincidence, right?

Check out this video of two young men, one white and one black, trying to steal a bike, even openly admitting to passers-by that that the bike is “technically” not theirs. Predictably, the white guy is left to his business and no one calls the police, while the black guy is instantly surrounded by a group of people who get in his face and call the police. These are just social-experiment videos, but they are not isolated. There’s no end to evidence you can find, if the daily march of videos of white policemen killing unarmed black men isn’t convincing enough for you.

The core problem is how we react to race. Having a name that sounds black on your resume, for example, will make it harder for you to find a job. Are so many employers white supremacists? No.

The thing we don’t hear enough about is the fact that pretty much everyone is part of the problem. Including people who will swear up and down that they never would do anything like this. Our reaction is usually, “Not me!” Guess again. You don’t have to be a “racist” to be part of the problem.

This is a systemic problem in our society, not just with police, but with ALL of us, that must be addressed. The reaction amongst conservatives is to deny and demonize the victims, and the reaction on the left is all too often, “Hey, it’s not me, so what are you going to do?”

The first step is to admit that anyone can have this issue, regardless of color, including people who hate racism, and to understand that this does not mean you’re a dyed-in-the-wool epithet-hurling hate-monger. But you CAN do this, you probably HAVE done this, and you have to acknowledge that before you can begin to deal with it. Awareness is a good first step.

Demanding justice at the societal level isn’t a bad second step. It shouldn’t be hard to be outraged at how this is manifesting today—though a huge segment of our society is trying its damnedest to stay in denial. We should all be demanding a radical change. But if that’s just not in your DNA, then at least stop getting in the way—I guarantee you, history will not be on your side.

Categories: Race Tags: by

Not Hard to Predict

April 8th, 2015 No comments

It happened again, inevitably. A white police officer pulled over a black man for an alleged traffic violation. The details are still scarce, but at some point the officer tries to subdue the driver, uses a taser on him, and then, as the man attempted to flee on foot, the officer fired eight times, hitting the man in the back, killing him. After handcuffing the dying man, the officer then radioed in that the “suspect” had been “threatening” to the officer.

This time, the officer was charged with murder—an extremely unusual outcome, mostly because or third-party video showing the incredibly egregious act.

I had to wonder, how are conservatives reacting to this? Well, it really isn’t very hard to guess, as their tactics are always the same: when there is one incident of an injustice they don’t want to recognize, paint the aggressor as a hero and the victim as a villain; when there are multiple incidents, find any example of the reverse happening and cry in outrage that it isn’t being reported on. It’s what they always do. Always.

And sure enough, when I did a search for exactly that, there should be zero surprise at what I found: two police killings, one of an 18-year-old man in Mobile, Alabama, and one of a 20-year-old man in Salt Lake City, both incidents where unarmed white men were killed by black police officers—and conservatives are just outraged that the media isn’t giving these killings the same level of attention as they gave Michael Brown in Ferguson.

As usual, you can guess who can be counted upon to stand up for the oppressed white men:

Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh blamed the discrepancy between the two cases on “the liberal world view” that portrays whites as oppressors and blacks as victims.

“[I]n the current climate in the United States, a black person can never be the oppressor, and a white person can never be a victim,” said Mr. Limbaugh on his national radio show last week.

This attitude is mirrored in the comments to the articles, where conservatives demand equal attention be paid to these stories, condemn the media as “liberal” for not doing so, and point out that white people, unlike blacks, aren’t rioting and looting everywhere.

The fish-in-the-barrel counter to that, of course, is that when it happens once or twice a year, it’s not news. When it happens at least a hundred times a year, probably much more often (police, for some reason, are reluctant to keep track of how often unarmed black men are shot by white police officers), it is news. When it’s a chance occurrence, it’s not a story that merits strong national attention; when it’s a trend, marked by nationwide racial profiling, countless black people stopped, frisked, tased, arrested, shot, and killed, which creates such a spontaneous outrage that people nationwide protest the massive injustice, then it’s a story.

It’s not a story because you can see that your worldview is shamefully wrong so you have to dig deep to find some reverse case which you then claim is equal to the massive outrage.

The Freakout Cycle

April 4th, 2015 4 comments

Gs6EdgebendIt seems we’ve come full cycle now. A video has been released showing that the Galaxy S6 Edge will bend not only as easily as an iPhone 6 Plus, but more catastrophically so.

Expect this to become a major PR scandal everyone will freak out over in 3… 2… 1… Never….

This comes after Samsung and others mocked Apple for making a phone that bent so easily. Nor was this the only time this kind of thing ever happened; in fact, it seems that every release of a new iPhone nowadays has some major, controversial “flaw.”

With the iPhone 3G, it was that cracks appeared in the back shell. With the 3GS, the phone overheated. With the iPhone 4, there was “Antennagate,” which topped the charts and became such a huge thing that Apple had to hold a special event just to address it. With the 4S and 5, there were issues with the screen and camera displaying yellow and purple, respectively. With the iPhone 5 there was “Mapsgate” (a more deserved embarrassment), while Samsung was mocking Apple for the fact that users would have to get all-new connectors. With the iPhone 5S, there was the “scandal” that the fingerprint sensor could be spoofed. With the 6 Plus, it was “Bendgate.”

Never mind that pretty much every single supposedly catastrophic flaw had been an issue with numerous other phones before or since. Apple was hardly the only phone to have antenna interference issues when held a certain way. Nor is it as if no phone had experienced display issues. Fingerprint sensors have always been vulnerable to someone with enough will and opportunity.

Samsung’s mocking of Apple usually turns out to be ironic, like when they hit Apple for changing connectors for the first time in ten years, and then we found out Samsung had changed theirs about a dozen times in the same time period.

No matter: it’s an iPhone that it’s happening to. So many people focus on how Apple fans go nuts over new releases, but few cover how Apple haters similarly go nuts when they find a flaw they can make a big deal over.

I even noted this phenomenon back in 2010:

The iPhone 4 antenna story is the result of a snowball effect, amplified by a media sector looking for a hot story to sell ads and Apple-hating crowd which live to puncture the inflated hype about Apple products. A few users note the antenna signal dropping when the phone is held a certain way. For a few days, most other people are like, “Really? I hadn’t noticed. Hey, how can I replicate that?” The story gets out, videos are produced, more people try to find the problem, and while most can’t, more than enough can make bars disappear and take more videos of that, causing more people to try it. Meanwhile, the media sees a story it can’t resist making a brouhaha about it. Rinse and repeat.

I think I have the cycle worked out even better now:

  1. Apple releases new iPhone
  2. A few users find a flaw
  3. There is a rush to post videos and images on blogs, as these will draw huge audiences and major ad revenue
  4. Most users don’t notice it and/or can’t reproduce it
  5. Some users, who didn’t notice the issue before, try as hard as they can to reproduce the issues in videos, wanting to get more traffic on their sites
  6. The media goes berserk, people who hate Apple have a field day
  7. Competitors pile on, usually with mocking ads
  8. We find out that other phones have had and/or will have the exact same issue and it was never a thing with them
  9. Apple goes on to sell record numbers of the new phone, despite “fatal” flaw
  10. Everybody forgets there was a thing in the first place, until the next time

Rinse and repeat.

There is a similar phenomenon when it comes to labor in Asia. When the media wants to highlight how American firms use cheap labor in Asian countries, the “go to” story is always Apple in China, and inevitably focuses on Foxconn employees killing themselves in droves. Despite the fact that they, well, weren’t really. And while Apple does exploit the cheap labor markets, they tend to demand better working conditions than most other companies and tend to run more frequent checks than other companies to make sure standards are not being violated.

But it’s Apple, and it’s something whiffing of scandal, and that’s what grabs the headlines. So.

Categories: iPhone Tags: by

iPhone Killers!

March 28th, 2015 4 comments

There’s a cute article about 16 smartphones that were ballyhooed as being “iPhone Killers,” listing phones that were destined to dethrone the iPhone and leave Apple behind in the dust. A review of the list brings back some memories, but even more reactions along the lines of, “Why don’t I remember that thing even a bit?” They all tried and failed. But, hey, the article only covers phones between 2008 and 2011.

The list certainly didn’t stop there! In 2012, the Galaxy S3 was an iPhone Killer; CNN believed it was because it “dethroned” the iPhone 4s… as it was being taken off the market a week before the iPhone 5 was released. Then, of course, it got wiped out.

Not to worry! The Galaxy S4 was the “Real iPhone Killer”! And if that wasn’t good enough, the Galaxy S5 was an iPhone Killer too! Well, okay, maybe neither of those killed the iPhone. But wait! In late 2014, the Galaxy Alpha was absolutely going to kill the iPhone! They had their “next” iPhone Killer all lined up! Then they released their “next” iPhone Killer! Which didn’t kill the iPhone! But not to worry, the Galaxy S6, or at least the Galaxy S6 Edge will almost probably certainly maybe be the Real Next iPhone Killer!!! Yeah!

Well, no reason why Samsung should be the only one to release iPhone Killers. Microsoft Windows Phone 8 also killed the iPhone in 2012, along with the Nokia 808 PureView. And remember how Amazon killed the iPhone?

China Wireless’ Coolpad killed the iPhone in 2013, as did the Blackberry Z10 and the Moto X.

2014 was a bumper-crop year for killing the iPhone, with the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (the “True” iPhone Killer), the Huawei Honor 6 (we all remember that one!), the Xiaomi Mi4 (a household name!), the Nokia Lumina 930 (the “Latest” iPhone Killer!), another Xiaomi (they just can’t stop killing the iPhone!), with Amazon and Sony both waiting to release all-new iPhone Killers!

I could keep going on, but you get the idea. Seriously, Bill O’Reilly should publish a book titled “Killing the iPhone.”

Meanwhile, here in Japan, where people have always just despised the iPhone, the rankings show that the iPhone lost it’s standing as the #5 smartphone to the Xperia Z3. I suppose that it will have to be satisfied with the #1 spot. And the #2, #3, and #4 spots. And #6. And #9. And spots number 14, 15, 16, 19, 23, 30, 32, 33, 46, 49, 54, 60, 61, 65, 66, and 78. What shame! #78! Apple should just stop trying to even sell the 18-month-old 32GB-variant Docomo-sold iPhone 5S! Um… oh, wait. They did. It’s discontinued. And yet, somehow, it’s actually still on the list. Must have been a leftover or two.

The moral of the story: don’t rush to buy stock in any company that is releasing yet another “iPhone Killer.”

Categories: iPhone Tags: by

On Global Warming and Climate Change

March 24th, 2015 3 comments

You’ll be hearing more like this from Ted Cruz and others as campaign season picks up and the race for the base begins:

…[R]emember how it used to be called ‘global warming’ and then magically the theory changed to ‘climate change’? The reason is it wasn’t warming, but the computer models still say it is, except the satellites show it’s not.

Now, of course, Cruz is full of it. This conservative trope is essentially data cherry-picking, and has long since been debunked.

However, that’s not the worst of it. A rather embarrassing fact for Cruz and his fellow travelers is that conservatives pushed for that exact change in name for the theory… for political purposes:

It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of global warming and “conservation” instead of preservation.

  1. “Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming”. As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.

The fact is that on the science side, the terms “global warming” and “global climate change” have both been used, in almost equal measures, since the 1980′s. They didn’t choose either for political purposes, but rather to describe the phenomenon as best they could. Both are true: the planet is warming, and it is experiencing climate change.

There has been a push amongst scientists to leave the term “global warming” behind—but not to avoid embarrassment over incorrect theories. Instead, it is because of what Stephen Colbert termed as “Peek-a-boo-ology,” a political science-denial technique conservatives have been using in force, which basically tries to push the idea that “global warming” means that “every inch of the Earth must be getting noticeably hotter or else the whole thing is false.” If it’s not warm where I am right now, there’s no global warming. If temperatures don’t rise consistently every year, there’s no global warming. Of course, this is idiocy, but to combat this, the more comprehensive “climate change” designation offers more clarity. The climate change is still caused by global warming, but if people see a snowstorm and get confused, best not to tax their intellect too far.

In short, Cruz and other conservatives are trying to deny climate change by claiming that scientists switch the terms to avoid embarrassment over being wrong, when in fact it was conservatives who effected to switch, in two different ways, for political purposes.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies, Science Tags: by