Too Far

October 8th, 2016 2 comments

Oddly, the recording of Trump bragging about his predatory habits with women is probably the one thing that will bring him down and completely shatter any chance he ever had at winning the election.

I say “oddly” because, in the context of all we know about this man, this tape is hardly even surprising. We already knew this about him. And we knew so much more that was similarly horribly, much of it out of his own mouth, and yet none of that hurt him like this will.

We knew that he was a racist, from the first moment he opened his mouth. We knew that he was perfectly comfortable making scapegoats, appealing to fear, anger, and hatred. We knew that he was a bad businessman and a cheat; we heard countless stories about how he refused to pay people for work done. We knew that he went through multiple bankruptcies, in part due to his business failures, but also in part due to his shameless willingness to work the system to his personal advantage. We knew that he lost a billion dollars in one year and probably didn’t pay taxes for almost two decades. We knew that he was a pathological liar, more than anyone we had ever seen run for office. We knew that he has no self-control, no attention span, a contempt for following the rules, and a temperament to be truly feared. We knew that he was a serial adulterer, cheated on his wives. We knew that he was rude, crass, and lewd, objectifying women.

Everyone knew all of this about him, and yet more than 40% of the people seemed willing to accept this and vote for him to be president of the United States of America. It came to the point where we believed that there was literally no line that he could cross—as Trump himself put it, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and he wouldn’t lose support.

There does appear to be a line, however, and Trump strode brassly over it. Actively stating—no, bragging—about sexually assaulting women, about attempting to rape a married woman, about how his fame made it possible for him to do this, using graphic language to state his gross intent to continue doing so—it is hard to tell if this is the last straw or simply unacceptable on its own, seeing as how we are drowning in straw.

Nor did he make more than a half-hearted attempt to clean up after himself; what the media generously called an “apology” was in fact a feeble attempt to blow it off, claiming it was “private banter,” and then accusing the other candidate’s husband of being worse.

At no other time have I felt as confident in pronouncing Trump’s campaign dead.

Categories: Election 2016 Tags: by

How Low Does He Have to Go?

August 1st, 2016 4 comments

To any and all Donald Trump voters out there, I have a very serious question: What would Donald Trump have to do to lose your vote?

A while back, Trump said that he could go out and shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any supporters. Well, this seems to be true.

He has shown that lying, being an egomaniac, and making ludicrous, salacious, degrading, and bizarre statements on a daily basis does not lose him support; he has shown that spewing hatred upon various groups—even veterans, like John McCain—does not lose him support; the fact that he went bankrupt six times, has had shady business dealings, and violated any number of business codes does not lose him support; the fact that he refuses to reveal any tax returns, even though he may be in hock to Russian oligarchs, does not lose him support; the fact that he fails to pay employees and contractors until they sue him, even to the point of destroying family businesses he hires, does not lose him support; the fact that he ran businesses like Trump University with transparent fraud does not lose him support; the fact that major figures in his own party call him unqualified or dangerous does not lose him support; the fact that he clearly does not know enough to be president and is not in any way—especially in terms of temperament—qualified to be president does not lose him support.

In 2002, Trump said of Jeffrey Epstein: “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Epstein is a sex offender and pedophile, having served time for soliciting an underage girl, but evidence was found that he committed statutory rape and probably ran an underage sex ring.

That doesn’t bother you?

The man who ghost-wrote his famous “Art of the Deal” book reveals that Trump has almost no attention span, and is literally a sociopath—and that doesn’t bother you?

And now we have the case of Trump openly and rather vilely insulting a Gold Star family, casting bigoted slurs against them.

And you still support Trump?

This is why I truly, honestly want an answer: What would Trump have to do to lose your support? Exactly how far would he have to go? Would he literally be able to shoot someone on 5th Avenue and still have your support?

Categories: Election 2016, Right-Wing Slime Tags: by

Trump and Character

July 31st, 2016 No comments

This really kind of sums it up.

Trump is a Disgrace

How much more of a disgrace can you be? Trump is not just unfit for office, he barely qualifies as a human being.

Categories: Right-Wing Slime Tags: by

A Cowed Media

July 31st, 2016 No comments

I was just reading about Trump’s complaining about the timing of the debates, and the article quoted Trump as saying he’d received a letter from the NFL complaining about it. The article noted that the NFL denied ever sending him a letter, but made nothing of it. It struck me that this is quite common—Trump lies about everything, the media just lets it slide.

Remember back in 2000 when all Al Gore had to do was to confuse which of 17 trips he had gone on with the FEMA director and everyone called him an insufferable liar, with the media questioning his integrity and electability?

Now Donald Trump makes up lies literally every single day, and it’s just kind of glossed over.
Standards have changed, haven’t they?

Oh no, wait—you know who is branded an insufferable liar? Hillary. No one even doubts that, including so many on the left. Despite the fact that sources like Politifact actually found that she has been the most honest of all the candidates this year. And yet, the Washington Post declares, “Hillary Clinton has a major honesty problem,” the Baltimore Sun proclaims, “Hillary Clinton’s lies can’t survive the age of social media,” and the Boston Globe says that Hillary deserves her special standard. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the right-wing media… while a search for Trump and Honesty not only yields fewer results, but many of them are headlines parroting Trump’s statements about Hillary’s honesty.

Why does this happen? The answer lies in the media.

In an objective media, Trump would have more than ten times the headlines proclaiming issues with his honesty, let alone his other faults. But the media has long been cowed by conservatives into finding an “equivalency,” where they must be equally critical of both sides, even if the one on the right is a hundred times worse, or else face scathing attacks for being a “Liberal Media.” Remember the boast, “Without Fear or Favor”? So much for that—the media cowers in fear at any such charge; the right wing has “worked the ref” so thoroughly that honesty and objectivity are long forgotten memories of the institution that we depend on for accurate information.

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

Sometimes the Stupid Is Blinding

July 19th, 2016 3 comments

KingHere’s Republican Representative Steve King from Iowa (the same guy who keeps a Confederate flag on his desk) making a complete fool of himself after a panel member on the TV show he was a guest on said that the time of “old white people” is passing:

This ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization … [t]han, than Western civilization itself. It’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.

Do you hear that? The only significant contributions to civilization came from The United States or Europe. He doesn’t mean just “white people,” it just happens that Europe and the United States are dominated by white people, just a coincidence there.

Of course, he’s wrong on a number of levels. For example, writing developed in Mesopotamia, which I’m pretty sure is in the Middle East. And our numbering system? It’s called “Arabic” for a reason. See those stars up in the sky at night? A lot of them got named by Arab astronomers, who pioneered the field. Remember back in high school, in fact, when you heard about the “Cradle of Civilization”? That wasn’t in Rome. Not to mention things like gunpowder, the compass, and movable type, all invented in China. Many contributions in math (ever heard of Pythagorus?), astronomy, and metallurgy came from Africa.

But the most hilarious way that King is wrong comes from his very own statement. See if you can spot it:

It’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world.

That’s right: the one contribution that King himself would probably rank as the greatest contribution to civilization ever, the one that he mentioned in that very statement, and it most decidedly did not come from Europe or the United States.


What an idiot. Though, I suppose I can’t blame him too much: in the American education system, history and culture are taught pretty much as if only Western civilization mattered.

Categories: Republican Stupidity Tags: by


July 15th, 2016 No comments

Today, I read a writing which essentially said, “Most law enforcement people are good people! Don’t lump them all in with the bad ones.” It is pretty much the umpteenth time I have heard that sentiment repeated. I have repeated it myself several times—because it is very much true.

You know what I’ve never heard? Anyone on the side critical of BLM and the cause of protest saying, “the majority of black people and of the membership of BLM are peaceful, non-violent, law-abiding citizens fighting for their rights; it’s just the few bad people on the margins making the rest look worse.” We pretty much *never* hear that stated aloud. Quite the reverse: the Dallas shooter was not BLM, but he discredited the entire movement just by being black—something that is supposed to be avoided at all costs when regarding the police.

Why is that?

This is one of the central issues, in fact: cops are automatically afforded respect, society demanding that we give them the benefit of the doubt even when they commit a crime; the reverse is true for people of color in this country.

When the five cops is Dallas were killed, *everyone* hailed them as heroes and decried the villain who shot them. If any of them had a blemish on their record, bringing it up after their deaths would be unforgivable; it would quite rightly be pointed out that such a thing would be irrelevant, and trying to make it relevant would be crass and indecent. Suggesting that the shooter was anything but the worst of criminals would be literally unimaginable, and any fate they suffer would be justly deserved.

When an innocent black person is killed by a police officer, however, the exact opposite happens: that victim is instantly demonized, every blemish on their record is instantly released to the public so as to define who they were, and their names are dragged through the mud—while the person who killed them is shielded, excused, defended, and in almost every case, exonerated.

In short, we treat black people as if their lives don’t matter.

Ergo the movement.

Categories: Social Issues Tags: by

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

July 10th, 2016 3 comments

DeputiesI agree that when rogue police officers kill an unarmed black person, it does not and should not reflect on the million-plus law enforcement officers who are doing their jobs well. The problem is, though a million do their jobs as expected, thousands of others are corrupt and violent, and some of them commit murder. The majority of the good cops do not make the minority irrelevant or excusable.

When black people on the periphery of a Black Lives Matter protest commit wrongs, it is blamed directly on all of the non-violent, law-abiding Black Lives Matter protesters, who are castigated for not instantly condemning such acts—even when they do exactly that.

You see the disconnect: one group is not shamed for failing to condemn their brothers who commit crimes, the other is shamed even when they do.

Those million good cops are said to be protecting the people on any given day, which is true. They work hard for little pay, they face danger, they protect us, and they sacrifice. No one questions that.

However, there is an exception to the duty of protection. It is called the Blue Wall of Silence. Cops defend other cops. Along with a legal system inclined to not prosecute cops, a serious fault emerges. As asked by the Roman poet Juvenal, “Who will guard the guards themselves?” Because even the good ones are shielding the bad ones. It’s the code.

Can we really say that the police are in fact protecting the public when they defend their own who harm the public?

We did not accept that from the Catholic Church, when otherwise good clergy defended child molesters, allowing them to molest more children still—all in the name of defending the order.

CastileWhy should we accept it from the police? This is far from a victimless crime. Just the deaths alone are in the hundreds each year. The beatings, tasings, stops based on race, and false arrests not ending in deaths number far greater than that.

If the police are truly committed to defending the public, they must not shield those who violate that trust.

That is not happening, however. They do shield their brethren.

And that is a legitimate and powerful objection to the “good cops” point. They are supposed to be held to a higher standard; in fact, they are held to a much lower one.

The same can be said of prosecutors and judges who, even when the victim of a police shooting is known to not be a criminal, the word of the police officer is given every benefit of the doubt—even when video evidence directly contradicts their statements—while any blemish on the record of the accused robs them of any credibility, and it takes only the most egregious and blatant of crimes to result in a prosecution.

This is not justice. So long as this happens, the police are indeed failing in their duty to protect the public. Nor should you accept this as “the way it is” or “the way it has to be” simply because the job is difficult, or (hopefully not for this reason) you are not the one likely to be tased, beaten, shot, or killed at a traffic stop.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? It is a valid and important question, as it is rather clear that, at this time, the police are not policing themselves.

There is a term for that: being above the law.

Categories: Law, Social Issues Tags: by

Different Rules

July 3rd, 2016 2 comments

Reading this CNN story about Hillary at the FBI today brought two points to mind:

1. “The timing … couldn’t be worse.” Gee, it’s almost as if someone engineered an investigation of her so that it would culminate at just the right time.

2. In the story, Bill Clinton’s meeting with Loretta Lynch and Hillary’s use of a private email server “fuel the narrative that the Clintons operate under different rules than the rest of the political world.”

They are correct: a string of Bush administration officials did the same thing as Clinton, and they never got investigated for it. Their Attorneys General just gave them a bye, as did their congressional ethics and other committees. Different rules indeed.

Remember when it was discovered that George W. Bush had a drunk driving conviction? He got away with that history and the fact that he hid it, just by crying foul at the timing of the release. All he did was to say, “The Democrats are playing dirty tricks!” and it all went away: the “liberal” media decided that a presidential candidate arrested for drunk driving and then lying about it was not worth reporting on. Different rules indeed.

Remember how, when Democrats took control of both houses of Congress in 2006, they launched massive congressional investigations into the Bush administration for every imagined misdeed?

Of course you don’t, because they never did—even though (a) Republicans warned that they would, and (b) they had a large number of very real, serious crimes to investigate: massive illegal warrantless wiretapping, torture, lying to get us into a war that killed thousands of troops, the mishandling of Katrina leading to many civilian deaths, various lapses in security, the outing of a CIA agent as political payback, the US Attorney scandal—and, oh yeah, private email servers. They held back, and did not use their power as a cudgel. What investigations there were were limited, and did not punish anyone.

Not so the Republicans—they immediately went hog-wild when they got control back, and as soon as they were able, began using that power to attack not just Obama, but in particular Hillary, the presumptive nominee after Obama. And not just once, but multiple times (at least eight different Benghazi probes, for example, new ones sprouting even after previous ones cleared Clinton of wrongdoing).

Can you imagine what Republicans or the media would have said if Democrats in Congress had investigated John McCain in 2006 for his own past scandals? Or better, in 2008, when McCain rather clearly violated election laws, then Bush fired the only FEC member who objected? Did Democrats hold hearings on that? Of course not—both Republicans and the media would have screamed “Dirty Tricks!” Instead, Democrats in Congress and the “liberal media” both gave both McCain and Bush a free pass on it.

Different rules indeed.

Stories like these very often bring me to ask that question again and again: “What if it had been the Democrats who had done that, how would Republicans have reacted?” The response is obvious: if Republicans do something, it’s no big deal; if Democrats do the exact same thing, it’s a scandal so big that investigations never cease. IOKIYAR.

Yes, the timing couldn’t be worse, and yes, they live under different rules. Just not how the CNN author meant, though.

We’re the Civilized Ones Here

June 16th, 2016 7 comments

Rudy Giuliani said on CNN just yesterday (emphasis mine):

Well, look, we argue about gay marriage in the United States. There’s nobody in the United States who argues for death for homosexuals in the United States. So this is a very, very different culture. And we’re at a very different level of civilization. And somebody should point out the superiority of our civilization to the barbarians that we’re facing.

Well, aren’t we the superior ones? All we do is debate over how much gays should be discriminated against! We don’t have anyone who calls for gay people to be killed!

Except, how about this guy, Theodore Shoebat, an evangelical Christian:

I don’t believe in vigilantism, but I do believe in the government killing the sodomites. I do believe in the government arresting the sodomites and executing them for homosexuality. Under my rule, that sodomite club in Orlando, it would have been destroyed, it would have been demolished, bulldozed and all the bastards in there would have been arrested, tried, found guilty for homosexuality and executed.

But hey, that’s just one guy.

How about Yosef Edery, an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn, who believes that the Bible commands us to kill gays?

The Old Testament is a book that is respected by all faiths, and everybody knows that God says, “A man that will lie with another man, both of them shall be killed.”

… Gay club? I mean, they deserve to die.

But hey, these are just a few extremists! True—but Giuliani said that no one in our culture calls for gays to be put to death.

You want someone more mainstream? How about Pastor Kevin Swanson, director of Generations with Vision, who has a radio show in Colorado. He not only advocated death for gay people, but he did it on the stage at a conference he hosted, which Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal all attended:

There are instances in which both the Old and New Testament speak to the matter with unbelievable clarity. There’s not to be any debate about it. You know what that sin is – it’s the sin of homosexuality. In fact in Romans 1 Paul affirms that this particular sin is worthy of death. The Old and New Testament, I believe both speak with authority and we outta receive it.

Granted, in that speech, he suggested that gays should be “given time to repent” before being killed, so it’s not as if they should be put to death immediately. Because this is a loving guy.

Want more? How about Arizona pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church?

“The Bible says that homosexuals should be put to death, in Leviticus 20:13. Obviously, it’s not right for somebody to just, you know, shoot up the place, because that’s not going through the proper channels. But these people all should have been killed, anyway, but they should have been killed through the proper channels, as in they should have been executed by a righteous government that would have tried them, convicted them, and saw them executed.”

So, Mateen was not wrong about killing gays, he just didn’t follow the proper channels.

California has got people like this too, like Pastor Roger Jimenez from Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento:

“Here’s the problem with that. It’s like the equivalent of asking me — what if you asked me: ​’Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?’ Um, no, I think that’s great. I think that helps society. You know, I think Orlando, Fla., is a little safer tonight. … The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!”

Jimenez claimed later that “there are many people out there who agree with what I’m saying.”

Hey, while we’re at it, how about the Westboro Baptist Church? Just do a Google search on them, you’ll find enough. Nor are they the only ones. Search long enough, you’ll find a very long list of people in these United States calling for gays to be killed, and a lot more people who agree with them but remain silent (though less and less so, it seems).

What was Giuliani’s claim again?

“There’s nobody in the United States who argues for death for homosexuals in the United States.”

So, not exactly true.

Not to mention that virtually half the entire country, while not calling for gays to be killed outright, do call for them to be made second-class citizens, who can be discriminated against, fired from their jobs, prevented from holding office or taking on certain professions, or who can be singled out for various punishments short of death. Imprisoned for having sex, harassed and beaten by random members of society, and in general simply despised and mistreated and called every hateful name in the book.

But hey, we’re so civilized that most of us don’t actively call for them to be put to death by law.

That’s gotta be worth something. Surely enough to tout our cultural superiority against those other guys, who are just barbarians.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies, Social Issues Tags: by

Recommendation for Apple’s WWDC

June 12th, 2016 4 comments

Apple is about to hold their WWDC and announce a number of new hardware and software releases.

I have a few suggestions for great new features.

The first one is called, “Stop Shoving Crap at Me.”

Here’s how it works: if I don’t want to download an iOS upgrade because the current one works just fine for me and I’d rather not risk using an OS version which could cause lots of problems for me, then stop forcing my phone to repeatedly use up bandwidth and storage by downloading it, and cut out the crap with the two-step “reminder” every day. Would it kill you to add a “stop reminding me” button? I know you look better if you have better OS adoption rates, but you are pissing your customers off.

Leave the nagware to Microsoft. You’re making their Windows 10 reminders look good.

And how about this: when I want to do a search for a song on my Music app, stop making me take an extra step if I want to search my own collection of music, instead of searching your store. Yes, I see what you did there. Very clever. Now cut that shit out. If I want to go to the store to search for something or buy something, I know where to find it. Stop making me want to curse Apple every time I want to find a song in my collection and I forgot to specify that after tapping on “Search.”

Here’s my other great idea: make it possible to find apps.

This is actually a tangent of the “stop shoving crap at me” idea. Currently, if I want to find apps for my TV OS or Apple Watch OS, aside from the idiocy of only being able to only search for TV apps on the clumsy TV OS interface, or only search for watch apps on my iPhone (what suddenly happened to interconnectivity?), I am presented with only a few dozen options unless I specifically know what to search for.

For example, if I want to see new apps for my watch, I have to go on my iPhone (why not my Mac?) and select a category… and then see no more than 20 or 30 apps. Total. Obviously there are more, but I can only see them if I search for them.

Which means that unless (1) the app is one that Apple has chosen to grace with their seal of approval by placing it in the category listing, or (2) I can magically guess at the app’s search terms, then I will never find out about it. Same goes for the Apple TV, where the interface is at least twice as hard to use. And even then, I have no way of sorting these.

Apple has put huge effort into making different apps work together, and yet they can’t manage to have app searching controlled by a Mac OS device?

And as for presentation, is a desktop app which can present data sorted by price, popularity, reviews, and other useful information somehow beyond their capabilities?

I know Apple likes to sell you a car in any color so long as it’s black, but getting people hooked up with apps is their bread and butter. Having endless choices of apps was the big selling feature, it’s what people loved.

Instead, we now seem to only see what Apple wants us to see. That might be good for shaking down developers so they pay a premium for window space, but it royally pisses off users and makes if far more difficult for them to enjoy the grand diversity that has been Apple’s major advantage in the off-desktop world.

Oh, one more request: Allow me to set how much of my computer’s SSD space can be taken up by the Photos app. Seriously, I tried to clear what precious little space I have, and then Photos started stealing gigabytes from me by downloading photos I have no desire to see. Let me decide that. Right now, it’s all or nothing, and Apple gets to decide how much free space I have.

Oh yeah, not to mention that Apple’s vaguely worded dialogs make me fear that I am about to delete my entire library of data if I turn a feature off.

No. I am supposedly paying Apple to give me cloud storage so I can be confident that my data is being stored off my computer. Instead, I get this crap.

Look, I am used to Apple being greedy and overcharging. I am used to Apple deciding how things look and shutting me out of control. But Apple could do that because the overall experience was so good. That is now eroding. Whether it’s because of Steve Jobs’ departure from this realm or otherwise, I don’t know. I just know that it’s happening.

It used to be that I would get pissed off only once in a while, like when Apple released a new mouse, or decided to erase app features in a new version release.

Now, I’m starting to get pissed of all the time. I am a die-hard Apple fan who never imagined that I might like the alternative more. Apple is succeeding in changing that.

Seriously, Apple, get your shit together.

Categories: Mac News Tags: by

Hillary 2016

June 9th, 2016 3 comments

To anyone, Sanders supporter or otherwise, who is now thinking of not voting for Hillary, or not voting at all, I have something to say.

Back in 2000, there was a common theme: Bush and Gore are essentially the same, or at least they are both just as bad as each other. It was seen as a choice between two evils. Many sat out the election, and many voted for Nader as a protest vote.

It should be painfully clear by this time that Gore and Bush were not even close to being equivalents. Even if Gore would not have caught 9/11 (there is fairly good reason to believe that he would have) and would have started the war in Afghanistan, he would NOT have (1) started a war in Iraq, which led to the creation of Daesh, or (2) passed an upper-class tax cut that ultimately cost us trillions in debt and lost numerous economic possibilities (do not forget that Gore championed the Internet with early funding—the “Gore Act”—which has given the U.S. many trillions in wealth). At the very least, we would be $4 to $6 trillion less in debt, and would have avoided a major, catastrophic war.

And that is just the beginning. He would not have put Alito or Roberts on the court. Citizens United would never have passed. Heller would not have rewritten the Second Amendment. The Voting Rights Act would not have been gutted.

Even with 9/11, we might not have transitioned to the surveillance state we now have. We certainly would not have had the “Patriot” Act as it stands. New Orleans would not have waited, drowning, for several days before help even began to move their way. We would never have instituted torture as a policy. No Guantanamo Bay. No Abu Ghraib. We would not have shredded international nuclear proliferation treaties. We would not have seen so much deregulation. We might even have possibly avoided the Great Recession, or at least have seen its effects mitigated somewhat.

Now we have an election in which many people see a similar choice: two candidates that they hate, both seen as sell-outs (or a sell-out and a clown/idiot/farce/loon). I have heard rumblings about how some will just sit this one out.


I am no fan of Hillary’s neoliberalism, but even if she is twice as bad as I imagine, she’ll still be ten times better than the best Trump could possibly be.

Despite her predilection for moving to the middle, she’ll be a moderate compared to the extremism of Trump. Despite her shifting on some issues, she is rock steady relative to Trump’s mad flip-flopping. Despite her apparent affinity for banks and corporations, she’ll be much less a friend to them than Trump will be.

Trump will put another right-wing extremist on the court; Hillary, unless Obama is too stupid to withdraw his compromise nominee when Hillary wins, would appoint a reasonable candidate. That alone is worth your vote. And in the next four to eight years, it is possible that several more seats on the court could open up—with Trump in office, the court would become locked in right-wing extremism, the constitution would become shredded.

And let’s not forget that Hillary is experienced and is skilled; even without a comparison to Trump, there’s no denying she’s excessively prepared for the job. Trump, on the other hand, would be an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. And no, I am not exaggerating for effect. He would be literally that.

We often suffer from the delusion that inaction voids us of responsibility. That is a grievous error: there is no such thing as inaction. There is only choice, and not voting is a choice—and it is equivalent to a vote for Trump as sure as if you pulled the lever yourself.

Those who have been disgusted by the way Bernie Sanders has been treated—myself included—should take a break, understand that something significant has still been achieved, even if it’s not as much as we wanted, and re-orient ourselves. Leave it for a few weeks, then come back—fighting tenaciously for Hillary.

Do not just vote for Hillary. Campaign for her. Fight for her. Convince anyone who will listen to vote for her. And then VOTE. Vote for her enthusiastically, and be grateful if she wins.

Categories: Election 2016 Tags: by

Obama’s Answer to the Gun Question: The Necessary Addenda

June 5th, 2016 Comments off

Obama got the gun question at a town hall meeting:

Knowing that we apply common sense to other issues in our society, specifically like holding irresponsible people accountable for their actions when they drink and drive and kill somebody, and we do that without restricting control of cars and cells phones to the rest of us, the good guys, why then do you and Hillary want to control and restrict and limit gun manufacturers, gun owners and responsible use of guns and ammunition to the rest of us, the good guys, instead of holding the bad guys accountable for their actions?

And Mr. President if I may, I would like to use Chicago your hometown, a city that has the strictest gun laws in the nation, a city that for decades and still is under Democratic control, a city that has an outrageous and even embarrassing murder rate, as my first example. Why can’t we round up these thugs, these drug dealers, and gang members, and hold them accountable for their actions, or allow the good people in Chicago access to firearms to protect themselves?

If you watch the video below, you’ll see Obama’s reaction, and it’s a good one—he makes several points about gun control which are very reasonable—but he does not answer some of the key right-wing lies about guns and gun control in the United States.

Let’s review this question from top to bottom.

Knowing that we apply common sense to other issues in our society, specifically like holding irresponsible people accountable for their actions when they drink and drive and kill somebody, and we do that without restricting control of cars…

The argument he is giving is a common one amongst gun advocates: for everything else, we punish people for improper actions; we do not restrict prior to that improper action.

We don’t have car control, so why do we have gun control?

However, the fact is, there are far more controls and restrictions to cars than there are to guns.

With a car, you often have to go through extensive training and testing, especially if you are a teen; not so for guns in most places in the U.S.

With a car, you have to get a license and maintain it for your lifetime, something most people don’t have to do with guns—less and less often, in fact, as concealed-carry gun laws are relaxed more often than not.

With a car, you have to register the vehicle and maintain that registration—rarely so with guns.

In addition to that, both cars and guns are treated in the same way in terms of “holding irresponsible people accountable for their actions.” You drive drunk, you get arrested; you discharge a weapon irresponsibly, you get arrested.

So really, the primary difference between guns and cars is that cars have far more prior restraint laws than guns—something which the questioner calls “common sense.” Hmm.

Most gun control advocates would love to see guns treated exactly the same way cars are. No hope of that in the near future, however.

Secondly, the speaker says:

…why then do you and Hillary want to control and restrict and limit gun manufacturers, gun owners and responsible use of guns and ammunition to the rest of us, the good guys, instead of holding the bad guys accountable for their actions?

First of all, gun control is aimed at everyone, not just the “good guys,” as this man claims, and more at the bad guys than the good.

Training and safety laws are for everyone (just like they are with cars). But background checks and registration, in addition to laws that prohibit mass purchases of weapons, are aimed at stopping the bad guys in particular.

Next, since when does anyone not “[hold] the bad guys accountable for their actions”? The suggestion is ludicrous. Of course we do.

The whole idea of gun control, aside from basic safety and competency, is to limit the access criminals and the mentally unstable have to weapons—and, as Obama pointed out, the NRA and so many gun advocates, like the questioner, are the people who are tying their hands, preventing us from keeping guns out of the hands of the irresponsible and the criminal. Obama answers it in greater length in his reply, which you can watch below.

Finally, the speaker moves on to an egregiously specious right-wing talking point: that gun control doesn’t work, and Chicago is a perfect example of why not. Conservatives love this, because it allows them to attack Democrats, black people, and gun control all at once.

I would like to use Chicago your hometown, a city that has the strictest gun laws in the nation, a city that for decades and still is under Democratic control, a city that has an outrageous and even embarrassing murder rate, as my first example. Why can’t we round up these thugs, these drug dealers, and gang members, and hold them accountable for their actions, or allow the good people in Chicago access to firearms to protect themselves?

First, there’s the suggestion that “these thugs, these drug dealers, and gang members” (gee, I wonder who he’s talking about?) are not being hunted or prosecuted for gun violence—an astonishingly incorrect assertion, one which, I believe, the Chicago PD would vigorously disagree with.

Second, he mentions that Chicago has been under Democratic control (at least he didn’t say “Democrat” control), as if somehow Democratic leaders somehow encourage gang violence.

People in urban areas tend to vote Democratic, and urban areas have more gun crime—but neither is the cause or the effect of the other, any more than meth use is caused by Republicans because it happens a lot in rural areas. Why doesn’t he try asking the Republican leaders in those areas why the meth dealers aren’t all “rounded up” and “held responsible”? Maybe it has to do with the fact that law enforcement is not quite as simple as that.

Third, he asks Obama why we shouldn’t “allow the good people in Chicago access to firearms to protect themselves.”

Wait—are drug dealers and gang members breaking into homes in such a way that armed citizens could repel them? Obviously not. The only connection between the two is ambiguous at best—people armed in their homes could not really do anything to affect gun violence on the streets. I don’t know if he understands exactly how gang violence works.

That’s what happens when you regurgitate random memes—you stop making much sense. Like, “There’s a problem with too many shootings, so why don’t we add more guns to the equation?” It’s like suggesting that we have too many explosions happening, so let’s get more sticks of dynamite and more matches, that ought to solve the problem.“

But wait, the questioner is directly stating that law-abiding people cannot have weapons in Chicago: ”Why can’t we… allow the good people in Chicago access to firearms…?“

Is there a gun ban in Chicago? Exactly how hard is it to get a gun there?

Turns out, this guy is dead wrong: in Chicago, you can absolutely get a gun to protect yourself. And it’s easier to do so than it is to get a car.

Illinois requires an ”FOID,“ a kind of ID card, to get a gun for the home. It’s called a ”license,“ but it’s not really—it’s more like a certification that you have undergone background checks. No training or testing is required just for that. In fact, many red states require the same or more for voter ID, and they claim it is not a difficulty at all, even when they shut down most offices which provide such ID.

In Chicago proper, you need to get a ”Chicago Firearms Permit.“ It costs about $150 and requires 5 hours of training. That’s less than the the minimum possible requirement for getting a driver’s license. Getting a driver’s license also requires a behind-the-wheel test, which requires a great deal more practice, making getting a gun far easier.

In Chicago, within 5 days of a gun purchase, you have to register your gun—a much cheaper and less involved process than registering a car.

Concealed carry is also legal in Chicago, you just need 16 hours of training, another $175 or so.

So, although the questioner suggests that law-abiding citizens somehow aren’t allowed to get guns in Chicago, it turns out that it’s actually not that hard. Get an ID card, pay some fees, take a few hours of training, and bam, you have your gun. Another few days of classes, and you can do concealed carry. Even going so far as to get concealed-carry is less effort and expense than getting a driver’s license.

In Chicago, the laws which, the main restriction is against assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons. However, it is perfectly legal to purchase and own weapons in the city and county.

So, exactly what is it that is ”not allowing“ the ”good people“ from owning guns?

Nothing—except in his imagination.

But then there’s the final, and biggest canard: that gun control doesn’t work. Obama only peripherally responded to this, by noting that one can buy as many guns as you like somewhere else, and even ISIL sympathizers can’t be stopped.

That’s a good reply, but he missed a golden opportunity in regards to the ”patchwork quilt“ and his own home state of Hawaii.

The reason why we have a gun problem is not because gun control laws don’t work, it’s because gun control laws are not allowed to work. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and in terms of gun control, the country is riddled with weak links: cities, counties, and entire states with weak and permissive gun laws.

If you have a boat and want to stay afloat, you can’t have any leaks. Even if this part of the hull is sound, and that part of the hull is sound, if there are leaks elsewhere, the boat sinks.

The United States is like a boat in this respect. It doesn’t matter if Chicago has strong gun control laws, and New York has strong gun control laws; if there are leaks—cities, counties, and states with weak gun control—the boat sinks. But not because of the places with strong gun control. The boat does not sink because of the places where the hull is strong, it sinks because of the leaks and the weak spots.

And yet people point to the strong parts of the boat, then point to all the water leaking in, and then claim that the leaking is because of the strong parts. Their solution: create more holes and let in more water.

I suppose it makes sense: if you’re at the bottom of the lake, you don’t have to worry about leaks any more!

This is the ”patchwork quilt“ problem: gun control in one area is compromised by no gun control in a nearby area.

Ironically, conservatives have been caught making this exact argument: Nebraska and Oklahoma filed suit again Colorado because of Colorado’s permissive marijuana laws. Their argument: because you can get pot legally in Colorado, residents of Nebraska and Oklahoma have been going to Colorado, buying pot, and bringing it back to their home states.

Which is exactly why gun control doesn’t work. Apparently, conservatives only see this as a problem when it’s a mild recreational drug, and not an epidemic of deadly weapons causing the deaths of thousands of people.

The fact that states with strong gun control laws find that the vast majority of guns used for crime come from out of state helps prove this point; if gun control doesn’t work, then why are almost all the guns coming from places without gun control?

Hawaii is the best proof of gun control working: it’s an island state far from the mainland. You cannot simply drive to another state to buy a gun. In this way, Hawaii is it’s own boat; weak gun control in other states won’t affect the state.

Hawaii does have good gun control laws. In addition to assault weapon bans, there is state-wide gun registration required. Home ownership requires at least 6 hours of training. There is a 2-week waiting period. Background checks are required. Concealed-carry and open-carry are technically legal, but heavily restricted, only issued in ”exceptional“ cases.

In all, Hawaii has stronger gun control than Chicago. And guess what? Hawaii has the lowest gun death rate in the country, and has one of the lowest gun crime rates in the nation.

Is it only because people in Hawaii are stripped of their guns? Hardly. There are still more guns than people in Hawaii. 400,000 have been registered in the last 15 years, and an estimated 1,000,000 guns exist in private hands since before then.

So we have (a) strong gun control laws, (b) lots of guns in responsible hands, (c) few criminals with guns, and (d) a low gun crime and death rate.

Gun control does work. The problem is places without gun control, not places with it.

More complete video on PBS’s Facebook page here.

Categories: Security, Social Issues Tags: by

Greedy Birds

May 24th, 2016 Comments off

I have no interest in seeing the Angry Birds movie, one case where I don’t give a damn how long it takes to get to Japan.

If the movie is anything like the game as it is today, it will be interrupted every two minutes with advertisements, and every once in a while the film will stop so that Rovio reps can walk through the audience and pressure people to give up personal information. Also, the movie will be shown without audio and the audience will be forced to pay for headphones that require constant additional “in-theater” payments to last through the entire film.

I liked Angry Birds when it was a game. I recently looked at what they have now, and essentially it has turned into a huge commercial. Became a horrendously sucky experience real fast.

Categories: Entertainment Tags: by

Nailed It

May 22nd, 2016 1 comment

Seven years ago, in the midst of the Great Recession, when Jonathan Chait worried that the economy would recover and Obama would actually get credit for it, he fretted that Republicans didn’t seem to have a contingency plan for that event.

My response was that they did 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?

Wow, was I right. Just last week Brit Hume was claiming that Bush deserved credit for the recovery, and he’s far from the first. And in that same piece, he blamed Obama for everything that went wrong. Again, not the first time.

Not that I was unusually prescient or anything. It was totally predictable and easy to see coming.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

For the Love of Oppression

May 22nd, 2016 Comments off

Conservative-Outrage-DispenserYou may have heard about conservatives being in their usual rage about how Facebook is “censoring” them. Complete nonsense, of course, but this is one of their favorite things to do.

Conservatives love being the victim. Christian conservatives adore martyrdom (have you noticed all the movies on that theme lately?), but conservatives in general simply can’t get enough of claiming they’re horribly oppressed. Liberal media! Reverse racism! Feminazis! Religious persecution! Gun grabbers! Voter fraud! The list goes on.

My favorite representative example of this mindset was a news story back in 2005, about how quotes printed on the side of coffee cups at Starbucks were more often liberal than conservative. Right-wingers got in the exact same state about Starbucks then as they are with Facebook now. The media obliged, running stories on the “issue.”

The money quote, however, came from a woman named Yvette Nunez, a 27-year-old Republican from Tampa. Originally, she hadn’t even noticed the supposed imbalance, but once alerted to it, she quickly fell into line. “I’m not surprised,” she said. “I’m used to being under-represented.”

Keep in mind that in 2005, conservatives controlled pretty much everything. They had had the White House for 5 years, control of the House for 11 years, and the Senate for 9 of the previous 11 years. Conservatives dominated the Supreme Court, and similarly exercised controlling influence over the media—all of this in the shadow of 9/11, when the conservative agenda carried more power than ever.

This woman, however, perhaps from reflex more than anything else, felt “under-represented” because her coffee cups disagreed with her more often than not. Not that she had actually noticed or been affected in any real way.

This is more than just a conditioned reflex or personality quirk amongst right-wingers, however; it is also very much a conscious strategy. It’s called “working the ref.” The more you can claim to be disadvantaged and that the deck is stacked against you, the more you can demand things be “corrected” in your favor. It’s a negotiating ploy: insist that the reasonable center is in fact somehow terribly skewed against you and that the “real” center is way more toward you, and you can shift the end result far more in your direction.

Conservatives will play on this any and every time they possibly can. The entire “liberal media” lie is based on this. The claim of a “color-blind” society which actually suffers from “reverse racism” is founded on the same principle. The specter of “religious persecution” against Christians in a country absolutely dominated by them mirrors this imagined imbalance. We see it in “scandals,” like the story about how the IRS was targeting conservative groups, or how Homeland Security was maligning conservatives by citing a threat from their ranks.

It is, in short, one of the favorite forms of “political correctness” that conservatives take glee in demanding. “We’re being discriminated against and disparaged!” we hear. “Correct for that!”

The whole Facebook “scandal” is exactly the same, and based on evidence just as shoddy. Apparently, one anonymous, admittedly conservative, and presumably disgruntled former worker from Facebook made a completely unevidenced and possibly biased claim that other workers at Facebook were allowing their liberal bias to steer them in their control of the “trending” list.

If you read the story carefully, however, the headline and the main claim can be seen for the bullshit they really are. After reading the headline “We [Facebook] Routinely Suppressed Conservative News,” and multiple accusations about conservatives getting “deep-sixed” and “blacklisted,” we read the actual practice:

Stories covered by conservative outlets (like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax) that were trending enough to be picked up by Facebook’s algorithm were excluded unless mainstream sites like the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN covered the same stories. …

“We were told that if we saw something, a news story that was on the front page of these ten sites, like CNN, the New York Times, and BBC, then we could inject the topic,” said one former curator. “If it looked like it had enough news sites covering the story, we could inject it—even if it wasn’t naturally trending.”

In other words, Facebook was trying to exclude political bias—not practice it! They were told that if a story was not being picked up by the major news sources—not just liberal ones—then it should not have free rein on Facebook. Note that the description of the process did not exclude the possibility that liberal stories would also be held from trending if they were not also reported in the big news outlets—which was probably the case, if any of this was true.

If that’s how it worked, then that makes eminent business sense: Facebook would not want to let itself devolve into a partisan cesspool, where any one point of view dominates—thus alienating potentially half their audience. It is fully likely that liberal-leaning trending stories were “suppressed” exactly as much—but the anonymous former worker, a self-described conservative, didn’t notice or care about those.

In the wake of this, conservatives acted true to form: they railed and wailed about how badly they are oppressed, taking advantage of the idea that tech companies are so liberal and conservatives are so put upon. What, at worst, would have been a subtle act of bias only a fraction as significant as run-of-the-mill daily business as Fox News (which is actually a “news” outlet, unlike Facebook), was treated as so utterly scandalous that even a congressional investigation was warranted—and immediately threatened.

Facebook, in a strikingly acquiescent move, agreed to have a group of notable conservatives come to Facebook to judge them first-hand. Among them was Glenn Beck. I will admit, I figured him to be the most explosive of the bunch, and fully expected to hear him lead the pack in ranting and hair-pulling, no matter what Facebook told them.

Instead, surprisingly, Beck was actually the voice of reason in the group—which might tell you something about how rabid the group was. Beck wrote:

Walking out of the meeting, I was convinced that Facebook is behaving appropriately and trying to do the right thing. They were humble, open, and listened intently to everyone in the room. …

Conservative media, which was started as a reaction to the inherent bias in the main stream media, does not trust anyone outside our circle. Hell, we don’t even trust the people inside our circle. So it’s understandable that going to Silicon Valley, for many conservatives, is like going into enemy territory. … as a general rule, we do not trust them. And with one story, conservatives told Facebook, “There’s nothing left in the trust bank. There’s no goodwill. You must have been scamming us this whole time.” …

So what disturbed me about the Facebook meeting?

I sat through a meeting that, to me, felt like I was attending a Rainbow Coalition meeting, that people (not me) had come with a list of demands.

I looked around the room, I heard the complaints, I listened to the perspectives, and not a single person in the room shared evidence of any wrongdoing. …

I sat there looking around and heard things like:

1) Facebook has a very liberal workforce. Has Facebook considered diversity in their hiring practice? The country is 2% Mormon. Maybe Facebook’s company should better reflect that reality.

2) Maybe Facebook should consider a six-month training program to help their biased and liberal workforce understand and respect conservative opinions and values.

3) We need to see strong and specific steps to right this wrong.

It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges.

He also stressed several times that this whole thing was based upon one story from one source, not something with any real evidence behind it.

Beck’s point about the conservatives being so liberal-like in their demands, however, shows up another propensity on the right: accusing the left of doing something, then doing it far more vehemently themselves. “Democrats filibuster!” they raged in 2005, and then when Republicans took over Congress, they filibustered several hundred percent more. “Liberals are too politically correct!” they rage, and then demand that no one says “Happy Holidays,” and rage when anyone publicly discusses gun control after yet another mass shooting.

They despise exactly the things Beck pointed out the conservatives were demanding—but only when liberals do it. But It’s OK If You’re A Republican.

Not that Beck isn’t still biased in his reporting, or that he won’t go all nutball again tomorrow. However, when Beck himself sees his own people as going off the deep end, you know that it’s not all “fair and balanced” in that crowd, to be sure.

Conservatives Are “Mistaken” about the Minimum Wage

May 14th, 2016 1 comment

BoehnerquoteI have written before about how conservatives make rookie “mistakes” in economics when it serves their purposes. They claim that Reagan doubled revenues but “neglected” to take inflation into account; they claim Obama drove unemployment up to 10% but “forget” that unemployment is a lagging indicator; they claim minimum wage hikes caused job losses in 2008, but “overlook” the subprime mortgage crisis.

With the current minimum wage debate, conservatives are at it again. With willful ignorance, they make two glaring “mistakes” in their claims.

“Mistake” #1:

In 2013, Boehner said, “When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it.” This quote exhibits the exact same knowing ignorance behind the whole minimum wage issue: that increasing wages is an cost, and when cost goes up, consumption goes down.

The rookie “mistake”? That employees are a commodity. They’re not. They’re an investment. Saying that raising wages will make businesses hire less is like saying that when stock prices go up, people don’t buy as many.

When you raise wages, people leave the job less; turnover is reduced. Employees stay on longer, acquire more experience, have greater job satisfaction, and they become more skilled, more efficient, and more effective at their jobs. In short, their value rises. Employers recognize this, and give the employee greater responsibilities. End result: by investing, the employee becomes more valuable, thus returning on the investment and making it worthwhile to the employer.

“Mistake” #2:

Conservatives often claim that businesses will not be able to afford higher wages; a common retort they have is, “Where do you think that money comes from?” The answer is easy: where do you think the money goes?

If all minimum wage earners get a higher wage, that is a massive amount of money going into the economy. Minimum wage workers do not stash their money overseas like a rich person would; they buy goods and services here and now, because they need them. Where do they shop? They shop at the exact kind of business that pays their workers the minimum wage. So the money that pays minimum wage workers goes right back to the businesses paying minimum wage.

That’s where the money comes from.

Categories: Economics, Right-Wing Lies, The Class War Tags: by

How Did Donald Trump Happen? Here’s How

May 5th, 2016 2 comments

Donald J. TrumpCruz and Kasich are out, and many now are beginning to fear that Trump might actually win. The question is being asked, “How is this possible?” How did it happen that Donald J. Trump could be in striking range of being president?

I can tell you exactly how this happened.

In order: Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Rupert Murdoch, George W. Bush, the Koch Brothers, and Sarah Palin. Allow me to walk you through it.

Ronald Reagan opened the doors in two ways. First, he was an actor who made the presidential race a scripted, fictional play on a stage, where someone who was more about flash than substance could be president. People embraced it because it made them feel good, feel hopeful. Second, he began in earnest to create the “Narrative,” an alternate reality populated by Welfare Queens and Job Creators, a faux reality that people could believe existed based solely on partisan politics and faith. “Reaganspeak,” using euphemisms for political gain, were a significant development which helped establish and build The Narrative.

Rush Limbaugh was one of the biggest innovators of the partisan media, which he used to further The Narrative, using what Stephen Colbert would later term as “Truthiness.” Limbaugh used demagoguery, never worrying about whether his “facts” were actually true. His high ratings and broad appeal triggered the generation of dozens of talk radio personalities of the same ilk. They justified their value by creating the myth of the “Liberal Media,” setting themselves up as the disseminators of actual truth.

Newt Gingrich began the Congressional trend of the “take no prisoners” style of politics. Based more and more upon the fictional Narrative, ultimately a revision of reality, he began the fortification and coordination of the Republican Party, allowing them to dominate the airwaves with a coordinated message. Remember all those montages Jon Stewart made for us on The Daily Show where dozens of conservatives would use the exact same phrasing? Gingrich pioneered that. The Narrative fed by The Message. While he was often outmaneuvered by Clinton, he did set the stage, and was the author of a pivotal document: “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” in which he codified the completely fact-free use of language begun with Reaganspeak.

Rupert Murdoch, meanwhile, arrived from Australia via Britain, buying up 20th Century Fox and using the profits from the Entertainment division to build Fox News, which quickly dominated the ratings, based upon a rock-riffed, outraged version of reality, and the beginning of the death of modern journalism. While partisan journalism existed before then in small pockets, Murdoch exploded it, using the already burgeoning myth built by Limbaugh, Gingrich and others about a fictional “Liberal Media.” This development ripped from our culture any hope of maintaining its most vital resource: a trusted source of objective information for an informed electorate. Walter Cronkite left the building, Edward R. Murrow was surely and truly dead.

George W. Bush took the mantle of Ronald Reagan one step further. Where Reagan was more than anything else a figurehead behind which a team of neoconservatives rewrote our nation’s character, George W. Bush was a hand puppet, and the puppeteer—Dick Cheney, one of the same behind-the-scenes neocons from the Reagan administration—was virtually acting in plain sight. Bush was a prop for others to control, he was a lightweight—and he established the dangerous precedent of electing a complete idiot to power.

The Koch Brothers were not the first billionaires to support politics, but they were pioneers in shamelessly building a political machine. Their greatest creation: the Tea Party. By this time, Reagan, Limbaugh, Gingrich, and others had built The Narrative to the point where it was not just believed by tens of millions, but had generated a culture of outrage based upon a groundless but raging set of fears which prompted millions to froth and act wherever the trusted source of “fair and balanced” non-“liberal media” told them to rage. Thus was born the Tea Party, but the most important element was that free-floating fear and anger by which they were manipulated. The Koch brothers also began the accepted practice of billionaires openly directing politics, along with others like Sheldon Adelson.

Sarah Palin was the last straw that began with Ronald Reagan and was refined with George W. Bush. She was the idiot’s idiot, who repeatedly insisted that Death Panels were real and that she was qualified in foreign policy because Alaska was close to Russia. Completely devoid of any substance, she was endorsed and backed by the conservative establishment, praised endlessly by the right-wing media, and loved by millions. She lowered the bar for political acceptance to the all-time low of being snarky and borderline coherent. She drew the connection between so many of the elements of the foundation already made: the idiot figurehead spouting the fantastical fictional Narrative, using the power of the conservative media to rally the enraged shock troops of the Tea Party mindset.

That was how the groundwork was laid for Donald Trump. That was how he was possible. Because actors behind the scene made the American public accept the specter of the bizarrely fatuous figurehead becoming president; because they created millions of fervently dedicated followers who could be led by whomever was most entertaining and whomever could best manipulate the fear and anger generated by The Narrative so carefully cultivated. He was even a billionaire, but even better, a billionaire who could claim he was not beholden to any special interests. Even better still, he was earnest, “authentic” being the word used, in that he was able to display a natural sincerity which, via Reagan and Limbaugh and Palin, was valued and prized far more than any kind of factual accuracy or attention to truth or detail.

Conservatives created a huge base of voters and supporters who lacked a key element: an anchor. When people are anchored on principles, they tend to follow those who represent those principles. This new base the conservatives built had no anchor; they were instead founded on fear and anger. These are free-floating, meaning that they can be hijacked by anyone who knows which buttons to push.

And who knows which buttons to push better than a professional entertainer and media clown like Donald Trump? He’d been pushing the buttons in the background for years, getting lots of play on Fox News by being the Birther-in-Chief.

THAT’s how we came to the point of Donald Trump being where he is.

Categories: Election 2016, Republican Stupidity Tags: by

Lies that Forbes Told Me

April 23rd, 2016 1 comment

I avoid the Forbes site like the plague. Not only do they indulge in click-bait and are aggressive in their advertising and anti-privacy tracking of you, but their bias is even more pronounced than the Wall Street Journal’s, and that’s saying something. Still, I do use Facebook, and so I get Forbes thrown in my face anyway.

A recent lie: Seattle’s decision to boost the minimum wage has resulted in an increased unemployment rate. The Forbes hack author shows this chart, and then comments:


As you can see we have a fall in the number of people employed in Seattle since that higher minimum wage began to bite. You should go see Perry’s post as he’s got three different charts and all three of them are telling us much the same thing. There’s fewer jobs, the unemployment rate is higher and the number of unemployed is higher. The combination of those three means that it’s not a change in population size driving this: it really is that more people who would like to have a job don’t have one.

Wow. That seems pretty iron-clad. I mean, look at that chart! And the ones at his source! The numbers go way down right after the wage hike! Hard to argue with that! And he said that it’s not because of population change, so that pretty much nails it, right?

Sure—if you don’t look too hard or try to find the facts out for yourself. Like I did, when I went to the BLS site and got all the data for myself.

The first thing I noticed was that these people used only the numbers for the city of Seattle, and not for the metropolitan area. That’s dishonest: many people who work in Seattle live in the surrounding areas. So I got the numbers for the metropolitan area, not just the city.

Here are the stats for the Seattle metropolitan area between April 2015 and December 2015, the numbers cited in the article:

Labor Force Employment Unemployment Unemployment rate
4/2015 1,971,701 1,887,637 84,064 4.3%
12/2015 1,983,893 1,884,635 99,258 5.0%
Change +12,192 -3,002 +15,194 1.0%

Hmm. First glance, he seems to have a point: employment dropped by 3,002 jobs. The minimum wage hike got three thousand people canned! Holy cow!

Let’s look at the chart showing the long-term numbers for Seattle, city only (so it matches the data he shows you):


The red vertical line shows when the wage hike went into effect. Hmm. When it started, a peak. At the time of the article, a drop. So, the Forbes guy is right, yes?


This is what you could call a “temporal lie.” It takes a very small segment of time in a volatile data set where there are many short-term variations up and down, and tries to claim that the short-term volatility somehow represents a long-term trend.

Notice on the chart that there was a huge spike just before the wage hike. Notice that there was a drop just before that, and there were similar spikes every year. Oh, hey! Look! A pattern! Every year, in April, there are spikes! And every year, around December, there are drops!

Let’s look at that!


Hey! Who would have thought?! Every April, there’s a bump up, every winter the numbers drop. And, conveniently, the Forbes hack author uses that exact time frame to tell us that the variation is due to the minimum wage drop! Wow! I’m sure that it never occurred to him, because to be a Forbes author, you have to be a completely blind idiot!

Well, I suppose you can excuse him on a few accounts, like (a) he’s biased, and (b) his source is the American Enterprise Institute, a heavily biased right-wing think tank, and (c) the AEI’s chart is built in a way to disguise these yearly regularities unless you look really hard.

So, we now can see that April is usually high and December is usually low. According to the pattern, we should see numbers jump up again in early 2016.

Fortunately, I can show you this, because the article was published two months ago, and we now have two more months of data. And lo, look at what happens:

Labor Force Employment Unemployment Unemployment rate
4/2015 1,971,701 1,887,637 84,064 4.3%
2/2016 2,019,459 1,912,335 107,124 5.3%
Change +47,758 +24,698 +23,060 1.0%

And jeez, will you look at that. Numbers jumped in February. What do you know. Here’s the updated chart, again limited to the city of Seattle:


If the trend follows the usual yearly pattern, then we should see the numbers for March and April increase even more, sticking to the previous trend line, and thus prove wrong the assertion that Seattle is suffering because of the wage hike.

Looking at the whole actual numbers in a larger context, we can see that in fact, Seattle is doing great!

What they’re doing here is playing on a common illusion in charts: base your claim on a very small part of a trend line and claim it’s proof of something much bigger. It’s what conservatives did with climate change data.

It’s what they do: lie with numbers.

Categories: Economics, Right-Wing Lies, The Class War Tags: by

Why Taxing the Rich Works

April 20th, 2016 2 comments

Laughing-Rich-ManThose who advocate trickle-down, tax cuts for the wealthy, are dead wrong. The amazing thing is, it’s not very hard to work out why—but people seldom do the math. Let’s take a look.

The idea behind cutting taxes for the rich is that wealthy people will take that money and create jobs with it.

First of all, let’s deal with this “job creator” falsehood. Purchasing (mostly by the lower and middle class) is what creates jobs, not wealthy people or businesses. Businesses hire workers only when it is absolutely necessary, and never simply because they have disposable income. Businesses only hire people when demand exists to justify the expenditure. Otherwise, businesses work hard to destroy jobs, because profits must be maximized, and payroll is one of the greatest expenses to a business.

So these people and businesses are not “job creators.” Still, the claim is that their investments will drive businesses that will hire people. Is that true?

Mostly, no, and certainly not in essence. Just ask this: when wealthy people get more money, what happens?

The idea behind trickle-down is that they invest it. Investment drives businesses, businesses hire more people, people get more jobs, etc.

However, there’s a major error in the very first step of that assumed process: that wealthy people invest the money in businesses that hire people. That’s not a valid assumption, especially in a bad economy.

When wealthy people get money, they do not say, “Terrific! I can hire more workers now!” Instead, what they do is to ask, “what is the best way I can put this money to work to get me more money?” And in a slow economy, when demand is low, they do not invest in businesses that offer goods and services—the kind that hire people. Instead, they invest in things like real estate, commodities, foreign currency, or a variety of derivatives—none of which drive the creation of jobs. When they do invest in businesses, they want ones that maximize profits—usually at the cost of the worker, demanding that pay and benefits be minimized and that “productivity” (translation: making each worker do more work) be maximized. This is often accomplished by using cheap foreign labor.

So giving money to rich people in a slow economy will not result in that money circulating back into the part of the economy where you most need it. In fact, it’s the entirely wrong end of the economy to put money into. Wealthy people are driven by the desire to accumulate wealth. Giving them more wealth—their end objective—will not drive them to go faster. It’s like giving the horse the carrot at the start of a trip instead of at the end. In another way, it’s like putting gasoline into your tailpipe.

So let’s look at reversing the idea. Instead of cutting taxes for the wealthy, what if we raise taxes—let’s say, for a start, to 50% at the highest margin. Take the money made from that added tax, and the money that would have been used to give the rich a big tax break, and instead, give it to the lower and middle class, in the form of both tax breaks and infrastructure jobs.

First off, we get a lot of value simply from the infrastructure spending alone. The infrastructure in our country is in bad shape, and is essential to the economy—it’s money we have to spend anyway, and the payoff down the line is great.

Second, we get job creation right off the bat by actually hiring people. Conservatives claim that “government never creates jobs,” which is baloney—the government hiring people to build infrastructure is far closer to job creation than is giving tax cuts to rich people. However, technically, they are correct, as job creation (as I pointed out earlier) is driven by demand. However, the demand, in this case, is that we need infrastructure. Whatever you call it, jobs are being created here.

Third, and most importantly, you now have millions of lower- and middle-class Americans either with new jobs and/or with more disposable income from tax breaks. These people do not spend that money on derivatives or foreign currency. They may use some of that to pay down debt, but much more, they will buy stuff. That creates demand, and that drives the economy, creating more jobs.

But wait, you say: we taxed rich people too much! They won’t have enough money to invest in new businesses, or they will be so repelled by the higher taxes that they will (as many Randians such as Bill O’Reilly claim) feel that it just isn’t worth it to try to make money any more!

That’s nothing but nonsense. First of all, rich people will always have enough money to invest. That’s why we call them “rich people.” The tax is on new income, not capital wealth. If money is fed to the lower part of the economy and demand rises, then that demand becomes the best new investment. That is what will drive wealthy people to make investments which involve new or better jobs.

But what if a wealthy person’s capital is already tied up? They really could have used that tax cut to invest!

Baloney. Even if a business or a wealthy individual’s assets are all tied up, they are still assets. And you know who just loves to lend money to wealthy people and businesses with lots of assets in a demand-driven economy? Banks. The wealthy have no problem raising capital in such situations. Millions of people are buying a product, you’re a wealthy person with lots of assets, and you want to borrow money to build that product which is in high demand? Of course banks will lend you money.

But what about the second point? Bill O’Reilly said that if Obama were to raise the marginal tax rate to 50%, he would see that as too onerous, and would quit his cushy, estimated $20 million-a-year job, laying off “scores” of workers, because having a take-home of $10 million instead of $12 million (although in reality, no one pays the top marginal rate on all their income) is just too little for him to sit on his ass all day and pontificate to crowds of adoring fans. What a hard life he leads. No, he would rather fire dozens of people who depend on him rather than suffer with only $10 million a year.

But does O’Reilly have a point? After all, if you tax people at 100%, nobody will want to make money, not legally, at least. So isn’t it logical that there’s some kind of limit for most people, where they’ll quit working if they payoff isn’t good enough?

In a way, this is like asking if a starving man would refuse to eat if you took away half his food. How little food could you offer a starving man in order for him to turn his nose up at it? It would have to be a very small portion.

Most rich people work hard for money, not for an optimally proportional after-tax income. If they want lower taxes, it’s because they want more money, not all or nothing.

Not to mention that, for two or three decades in the mid-20th century, the highest marginal tax rates were at or above 90%. These produced the best economic times we can remember! And if you want to want to argue that it was the war economy, be careful—that economy consisted of the government taxing high and hiring millions of people!

In order to understand this better, let’s ask a basic question: why do rich people keep trying to make money? For most people, making money is for necessities and then luxuries. But we’re talking about people with enough money that they could live in luxury for their entire lives without ever having to work again. So, why do they keep working for money? Or, at least, why do they invest?

I see only four reasons:

  • They want to win. They want to be the best at whatever competition they are engaged in.
  • They want to accomplish something. It might be a cause, it might be a beautiful product, it might be simply to be great at something.
  • They love money. They would work no matter what the conditions to just make more money.
  • They have a financial goal. Reach that amount of money, and then I’m out.

If you can think of any other reason that does not fall under any of these categories, let me know. However, that’s it as far as I can see it.

And now that we have defined these categories, ask yourself: will higher tax rates make ANY of these people quit and go home? Will any of these people just stop investing, even in a high-demand economy?

Of course not. None of them would. Let’s look at each type.

For the type that want to win, the tax rate is largely irrelevant, so long as everyone is taxed the same. They want to be the top dog. Taxing wealthy people more won’t change that, and so will have no effect.

The type that wants to accomplish something will similarly not be deterred by higher tax rates. They will still want to accomplish something. If the higher taxes make that more difficult, then they will work harder to do what they set out to do.

The type that just love money would not love it any less if they were taxed. They want more money, so if you tax them more, they will only work harder to make more, not less.

Finally, the type that have a financial goal will have to work harder in order to reach that goal. Some may be satisfied with a lower goal, but few if any would work less for it.

See the point? Higher taxes on rich people will not impoverish them, it will not make investment capital inaccessible, and it will not deter them from working hard—if anything, the rich will work more if you tax them more. If there is some go-home cut-off level, we know from experience that it comes at a marginal tax rate higher than 90%!

Not to mention two other underlying flaws in the Ayn Rand theory of “the productive class will leave the game” theory.

First, one assumes that the rich people are the productive ones. Wrong. They’re the ones who hire the productive ones. And there is no end to the number of people who want to play the business game. Every time there’s a void in the game, hundreds of others fight savagely to fill that void. There is no shortage of people to fill the ranks of business leaders to manage the many productive workers who will make the managers rich.

Second, the whole idea that rich people will stop working if taxes are even slightly higher must assume that wealthy people are weak quitters who can’t handle adversity. Do you really think that people who are driven to succeed for whatever reason are defined by their immediate propensity to give up the moment they encounter a setback?

That, like every aspect of the “don’t tax the rich” argument, is patently absurd.

Taxing rich people will only improve the economy. When we did that more, the economy was better. Since we tax rich people less, the economy has degraded and sunk, while debt has soared. Hard to argue with facts.

Categories: Economics, Taxes, The Class War Tags: by

Media Body Slams Sanders for Doing What Hillary Does All the Time

April 9th, 2016 Comments off

The big story in the Democratic nomination has been about Sanders questioning Clinton’s qualifications, but the press has been entirely unfair to Sanders. (1) It highlights his statement, but buries the fact that it was in response to Clinton’s detailed response to the same question making exactly the same claim in reverse; (2) It plays as if he’s claiming that she doesn’t have the right experience, when Sanders is speaking to her decision-making and banking & corporate ties, which speak just as clearly as experience when it comes to qualifications; and (3) it acts as if Sanders is dragging down the Democratic race into hard-hitting chaos like the GOP has been experiencing, as if Clinton is the one keeping clean when exactly the opposite is true.

None of these are accurate. Clinton was on “Morning Joe” and was asked if Sanders was qualified to be president. Clinton evaded saying outright that he wasn’t, but responded to the question with a litany of statements about exactly why she felt that Sanders was not qualified—the he is focused on a single issue of breaking up the banks, doesn’t understand the issues in general, doesn’t understand the law or how politics works, can’t deliver on his promises, and is weaker on economic domestic issues and on national security and foreign policy.

Hillary supporters claim that she didn’t actually say the words, “he isn’t qualified,” but that’s a complete sham. You can’t go on for several minutes explaining about how your opponent has no understanding of anything and claim that you said nothing about his qualifications. Sanders simply spoke more directly.

As to bringing the race down into the gutter? I am 99% sure that if you analyzed statements made by Clinton and by Sanders, you would find a great deal more trash talk coming from Hillary—that’s the way the race has run. Sanders almost always focuses like a laser beam on the issues, and has shown a clear propensity for *not* trash-talking the other candidates. In contrast, Clinton has always been perfectly willing to deliver hard-hitting gut punches on a regular basis.

See this story about Sanders’ talk with Charlie Rose, and you’ll get a *much* clearer picture of Sanders’ actual tone, even when focused only on the Clinton tangle.

Unfortunately, this only contributes to the bias which is so clearly tilted in Clinton’s favor. She could insult Sanders all day long, and the media would not take notice aside from challenging Sanders with the allegations (between asking him if he would encourage his supporters to vote for Hillary when he inevitably loses the race as they are always so sure he will), but if Sanders says anything negative about Hillary—well, that’s taking it into the gutter.
I have long felt that the media should, as a general service, publish all public statements by all candidates online so that the public can judge on tone and severity. Instead, we simply get fed whatever message the media wants to sell that particular day, and most people believe that it is an accurate representation of the real picture.

Categories: Election 2016 Tags: by