Why Black Lives Matter

November 24th, 2015 Comments off

The black community needed to make a statement regarding the continued and repeated killing of innocent, unarmed black people at the hands of the police or others using violence as a result of prejudice, so they began the Black Lives Matter movement. It wasn’t about just Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, or any other one case. It was about the hundreds of unarmed black people killed by police, and more still killed by others, every year, year after year.

Conservatives shot back with “All Lives Matter” and “Cops’ Lives Matter” memes, thinking that they were being righteous and clever: belittle and denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement, while at the same time making it look like the Black Lives Matter movement itself was the one belittling and degrading others. After all, who could argue that the lives of the police, or indeed, all lives don’t matter? How callous and wrong of those black people!

That response by conservatives is, at best, completely missing the point—and, at worst, is at once disingenuous, asinine, and deeply racist in a very fundamental sense.

Why? Simple. Because when people say that Black Lives Matter, they are not talking about the relative worth of the lives of members of any one group compared to any other. They are, instead, making a statement about how people are treated.

When a police officer is killed, under any circumstances, it instantly becomes a significant case. Police begin massive operations to hunt down and capture or kill whomever committed the crime. When the perpetrators are captured, they are punished far more harshly than one would be for killing just about any other person. Meanwhile, the community grieves and shows utmost respect, and very commonly, funerals with auspicious honors are held and attended by hundreds, treating the victim as a hero.

In short, when a police officer dies, the reaction shows that that person’s life mattered to the community, and mattered a great deal. The entire community, and indeed the law itself, reacts in a way as to say, “This person was a fine, honorable person who will be remembered with pride, who sacrificed everything; they will be honored in a special way.” There is no question about whether their lives matter.

However, when an innocent, unarmed black person is killed by police, the response is the exact opposite. Until forced to pay attention only recently, the media ignored such cases. The powers that be refuse to even keep track of the numbers of innocent, unarmed black people killed. The police force closes ranks to protect their own, and investigations almost universally find that the killing was “justified.” The victim, far from being honored, is painted as a villain who deserved death. Every mark on their record is dragged out and exaggerated to play up the idea that the person was obviously a criminal who must have been at fault. The police leak prejudicial information to influence the public’s reaction. The community shuns the victim and their survivors, gives them no respect and no honor.

If the black person was even once arrested for an altercation or a charge of drug possession, that is made to be their identity. And such blemishes are not hard to find in a society whose law enforcement targets black people simply because they are black, and when a prosecution is carried out, it is rigged all too often to force a plea to that effect. In contrast, if the police officer’s report says that the black person “advanced in a hostile and threatening manner,” or that the black person “appeared to have a weapon,” that statement, even without a shred of evidence to back it up, is given every benefit of the doubt—even if it is inconsistent with every other indication in the case.

In short, when an innocent, unarmed black person is killed, the community’s reaction shows that that person’s life did not matter at all, at least not to the community. The system and the law itself gives their killers a nod and a pass, and shows utter disrespect for the victim and their rights. The message is clear: black lives don’t matter.

That is what the Black Lives Matter movement is responding to. Not, as their callous detractors insinuate, that only Black Lives Matter, but that society is committing an injustice when it acts as if their lives do not in any way matter. When no respect is given, no grief is displayed, only the disrespect of blaming the victim for their own death and allowing the killer to walk free.

All lives matter. Everyone knows this.

The point made by the movement does not at all dispute this. It simply points out that our society acts as if the lives of black people matter far less than do others—and the Black Lives Matter movement feels it to be an imperative to point this out as wrong.

The conservative reply, in the true context therefore, is essentially saying, “No, they don’t matter, not as much as other’s lives matter.” But they engineered it look like the victim is the villain, and the villain is the victim.

Aren’t they so clever?

Categories: Race Tags: by

Where Did That Come From?

November 17th, 2015 1 comment

The very cogent point is made that no one believes that people like the KKK, who claim Christianity is a core value, is representative of Christianity and Christians, but somehow we do believe that ISIS, or Islamic extremists in general, are representative of Islam and Muslims.

Two points are made, however: first, that fundamentalist Islam is ascendant if not dominant in the Muslim world, and second, that these fundamentalists are more extreme, oppressive, and violent than their counterparts in the Christian world. As far as I understand the situation, these are true; this should not be denied, excused, or minimized.

Those facts should be contextualized and understood, however. Why is there more radicalism, more oppression, more violence in that world? Is it something about Islam?

A point we miss is our own hand in the matter—indeed, we even harshly criticize those who even suggest that somehow we have any responsibility for the current state of affairs. However, for the past century, the Middle East has been overrun by Western forces and interests, much to the detriment of the people there. Regions conquered, made into colonies, borders redrawn (sometimes randomly), resources plundered, governments overthrown, with constant invasions and slaughter over time.

Now imagine if the tables were turned. What if the Arab and Islamic, and not the Christian European and American cultures, were ascendant and powerful coming into the 20th century? What if Europe and North America were invaded by Islamic countries, our borders redrawn, our people killed and pitted against each other, our resources plundered and puppet governments installed? What if our attempts at self-government were overthrown, our fragmented nations put into the hands of sadistic dictators? What if, say, Italy were handed over to the Armenian or Romani people as a homeland, and the natives evicted from their domain of many centuries, marginalized and subjugated, their holy city in the hands of people from a different culture?

If all of this were done to the Christian world at the hands of the Islamic world… what would we be like by now?

Something tells me we would rather uncomfortably resemble the radical Islam that we see today. I think that we are much less different than we believe.

As a result, when dealing with the issues we have before us, we must take these facts into account and consider what will or will not work as a long-term solution for the region—especially before heading off into yet another war of conquest that will again slaughter tens if not hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Categories: Political Ranting, Religion Tags: by

Apple Sucks at Security

November 14th, 2015 Comments off

Three and a half years ago, I posted about Apple doing insanely stupid things regarding security, namely:

  1. giving user redundant prompts to enter their account password outside of any identifiable app; and
  2. giving users email links in unsolicited emails where they should enter their account id and password.

Both of these are incredibly and dangerously idiotic, as they are exactly the manner in which malware, hackers, and scammers steal information from you; training people to respond positively to such things is essentially training them to fall prey to the first attack that comes along.

Recently, I have suffered from dealing with more and more similar and harebrained idiocy from Apple. First of all, in Keychain, when I want to see a password, I am asked for my system password; I enter it. But then I get another prompt for my password and my ID, after having just entered my correct password. Why? No explanation given, just enter the ID and password. If I cancel the second request, the password I was trying to uncover is still hidden. If I do enter the information, the computer tells me it was not correct, and the password is still hidden. This is precisely what I expect to see if I am presented with some sort of malware.


The same happens with iCloud. I am asked to enter the password repeatedly, for no apparent reason. I could not remember it, so I checked Keychain—and could not access it. So I reset it. Everything went okay: I clicked “I forgot,” went to Apple’s site, asked for email authentication, did that, reset the password online. So far, so good. Then I went to the System Preferences and signed in to the account. It worked. Okay.

But then I got another prompt to enter the password, apparently not attached to any app. Not thinking, I typed in the password. Then I got another identical prompt, asking for the same password. This is when I lost it—there was no reason for Apple to ask me for my password, not the second time and certainly not the third. It looked exactly like a malware password heist. The thing is, I checked, and apparently it is not malware or a hacker. However, it makes me feel exactly as if I was hacked.


I reset the password again, and this time I ignored the superfluous generic password requests, just canceled them—and there was no apparent ill effect. So why in hell is Apple adding these?? Not to mention, Apple should never have a free-floating request for a password that is not clearly attached to an official app. Such requests must always be the “windowshade” style requests firmly pegged to the window of an app you can trust—otherwise, it’s identical to what a hacker would use, and thus trains users to fall prey to the first attack that comes along.

I swear, Apple’s security gets so easily crapped up that it is completely unworth it. I am going to trash Apple’s security as much as I can and go with a third-party solution.

Categories: Mac News Tags: by

Conservative Claims and Rookie Economic “Mistakes”

October 26th, 2015 7 comments

MwcOne axiom I have noted over time is that when conservatives trumpet right-wing economic success or decry left-wing economic disaster, the claims are consistently riddled with distortions and errors, but there is usually at least one big, whopping Rookie “Mistake” involved. I use the word “Rookie” because the errors usually involve simple, fundamental errors in economic reality which a first-year Econ student could easily spot. I put the word “Mistake” in quotes because it seems pretty evident that they are not actually mistakes, as the errors are not random, but always work to conservatives’ favor.

This came to my attention again recently upon hearing the old conservative chestnut that minimum wage hikes will result in massive layoffs for minimum age workers, and a hike in unemployment overall. While no support for such a claim can be presented, and the record says the opposite, the claim is still made, and “facts” are published to “prove the point”—“facts” which feature these Rookie “Mistakes.”

Let me give you three whoppers from over the years and disassemble each one. The three are:

  • Reagan cut taxes and doubled revenues;
  • Obama drove up the unemployment rate to 10%; and
  • Minimum wage hikes from 2007 to 2009 drove up unemployment for young people.

Jeff Cox at CNBC wrote in 2011, “During the Reagan years, the man they called Dutch cut taxes but doubled revenue…” while Sean Hannity in 2005 gave the meme in it’s most basic form: “Reagan cut taxes and doubled revenue in his eight years.” Limbaugh has repeated this chestnut repeatedly over the years, most recently in 2015, when he claimed that “the amount of money collected from the tax code’s almost doubled to 900 some odd billion dollars by reducing the rates.”

The “doubling” of revenue comes from taking the revenue from 1980 to 1990, and yes, it did increase from $517 billion to $1.032 trillion (find the data here). And yes, Reagan did cut taxes.

However, Reagan also raised taxes 11 times, including one of the biggest in history. How that comes out in terms of hikes vs. cuts is difficult to say, but there is naturally an evening out in play.

More importantly, Reagan was not president in 1980, and his first budget did not take effect until the beginning of 1982 (conservatives love to include 1980 because it contains the biggest distortion). Realistically, we should use 1981 as a baseline and 1989, the last year Reagan’s budget was in place, to compare. Between those years, revenue increased from $599 billion to $991 billion. Not a doubling, but still, a 65% increase. So, still impressive, right?

Well, here’s where the Rookie “Mistake” comes in. Reagan oversaw massive inflation in his early years. The inflation rate from 1981 to 1989 was 36.4%. Take that into account, and in constant 1989 dollars, we saw revenue rise from $871 billion in 1981 to $991 billion in 1989—a much lesser 21% increase.

The lion’s share of the increase that conservatives claim under Reagan came from inflation. Were Carter’s revenue increases to be measured in the same way, we would have to say that after only 4 years in office, he increased revenue by 69%! Even bigger than Reagan’s increase on a year-by-year basis! Jimmy Carter was even more an economic genius than Reagan! No conservative would agree to that, making their unadjusted claims about Reagan dishonest as hell.

But hey, we’re not done. Reagan’s biggest tax hike was in Social Security taxes. Sure enough, Social Security revenue increased 44% during his budget years. Personal income tax revenues rose only 14% in contrast.

Not to mention that revenue increased in part because the population of the country also rose, by 17.4% in total, and by 8.2% in working age population. Reagan could not have been responsible for that! These changes would increase consumer spending, the amount of business done, and the amount of revenue collected overall. By how much, again it is hard to say—but it likely cuts Reagan’s revenue increase due to tax policy down to the single digits, possibly the low single digits.

How much of the remainder was normal economic cycles? Again, hard to say. However you slice it, though, Reagan did not even come remotely close to doubling revenue. Accounting for inflation and factors beyond his control, it is arguable that Reagan oversaw almost no revenue growth at all.

Conservatives will try to muddle the picture by claiming that it was Democrats who raised taxes and who also raised spending, that Reagan did everything positive but Democrats sabotaged it—but Reagan signed every tax increase into law—none were passed over a veto—and seven of the eight Reagan-era budgets Congress passed were less than what Reagan proposed.

Next, let’s look at the unemployment claim. Some, like Limbaugh, not only claimed that Obama raised the unemployment rate to its peak at 10.1%, but even tried to get people to believe that he inherited a 5.7% rate from Bush—not even remotely true. Some claimed that Unemployment “rose steadily” for two and a half years after Obama took office, from 7.8% to 9.2%, neglecting to mention that it peaked 9 months after Obama took office and decreased on and off since then. Most were slightly more honest in saying that the rate rose from 7.8% when Obama came in to office and peaked at 10.1%, but were dishonest in claiming that Obama “caused” this.

The immediate and obvious fact that conservatives “overlook” is momentum. To blame Obama for the economy mere weeks or months after he walks into the Oval Office is dubious at best—not that conservatives were even that constrained, many instantly proclaimed the “Obama recession” in full effect mere days after he was elected. Reagan had a 10.8% unemployment rate after inheriting a 7.5% rate, hitting the peak a full 22 months after he entered office; I don’t hear conservatives saying that Reagan spiked his unemployment numbers. They’ll likely blame that on Carter.

I have often made the analogy to pilots flying an airplane: one pilot, Bush, pushes the plane into a steep dive, from 40,000 feet to 20,000 feet; in mid-dive, he hands the controls over to the new pilot, Obama, who immediately struggles to come out of the dive, but drops to 10,000 feet before he can level out. Critics immediately blame Obama for the 10,000-foot altitude, noting that he’s been in control of the plane for a full minute and a half.

However, the real Rookie “Mistake” comes into play when you consider the fact that unemployment is a lagging indicator—often changing only 2 or 3 quarters after an upturn in the economy. Take that into account, and Obama’s influence on the unemployment rate begins at 10.1%—and has fallen steadily ever since. This tracks with the fact that job numbers took a rare sharp turn very soon after the Obama stimulus, and when a 9-month lag is accounted for, tracks pretty much exactly with the unemployment rate.

And how does the lagging indicator account for Reagan? Not well—when unemployment caught up with Reagan, it had gone from 7.5% to 7.9%, only minor fluctuations. It shot up to 10.8% only after Reagan fully owned the numbers.

In short, Obama did not raise the unemployment rate to 10.1%, from neither 5.7% nor from 7.8%; the 10.1% was pretty much inevitable. As I have often pointed out, Obama has driven it down, now to such a low number (5.1%) that conservatives have been forced to resort to a variety of other metrics to make Obama look bad. (Reagan, by comparison, never got the number down past 5.3%.)

Finally, let’s look at the minimum wage. The conservative claim has always been that raising the wage will increase unemployment, using the very simple idea that businesses have a finite budget, and so if wages are raised, they will be forced to lay some people off. I recall Mary Matalin asking the question, “Where do you think that money comes from?”

The answer is part of the Rookie “Mistake”; to find out where the money comes from, first look at where the money goes. It goes to workers, who then have more disposable income, who then start buying more things, which then winds up in the hands of businesses paying the wages. They don’t even need to raise prices. That’s how the economy works, but it only works if done on a societal level—one business raising wages can’t trigger that effect.

But The Wall Street Journal, unsurprisingly, used bogus figures to back the conservative claim. In a 2010 article, often cited by right-wingers, they showed that minimum wage hikes instituted by Democrats after they took control of Congress in 2007 resulted in rising unemployment figures which tracked almost exactly with the wage hikes:

WSJ Bogus Chart

This chart was further exaggerated by right-wing bloggers, with the comparison skewed even more by dual axes:

Even More Bigus Chart

Wow! Look at how those figures line up so perfectly! Iron-clad proof that the minimum wage destroys jobs!

Except for the other Rookie “Mistake,” that being the fact that unemployment rose in both charts because of the sub-prime mortgage crisis leading to a near-depression, and had nothing to do with the minimum wage. A first-year post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, committed by the supposed “experts” at the Journal, the kind of rational thought we can expect from people who blamed the sub-prime meltdown on businesses wishing people “Happy Holidays.”

This is par for the course. Conservatives “overlook” these “errors” in basic economic figuring only when it suits them. Despite the common stereotype that conservatives are more expert when it comes to financial matters, one has to question every claim and assumption made, especially by these jokers.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

Another Reason Why I #%$@& Hate Flash

October 17th, 2015 Comments off

Nowadays, it seems that half of the videos I try to view on the Internet bring up this dialog:

Flash Cookie

On my Mac, no matter which browser I use, this message will appear—and cannot be dismissed. It will sit there, doing nothing, whether I try to click on “allow” or “deny.”

The only way you can get rid of these annoying intrusions without a convoluted hack is to go to Flash settings and always allow them to store data on your computer.

However, that “stored data” is what is called a “cookie,” the kind of thing that often invades your privacy and works for marketers—in this case, a Flash Cookie, which is even worse, because it is not restricted to one browser, and is not purged when you clear cookies from all of your browsers.

Added to this: Flash is like a magnet for hackers. It is like installing a dog door for a Great Dane on your computer, allowing intruders in with relative ease. Every few weeks, my videos shut down and I have to install yet another new version of Flash, which I do by going directly to Adobe’s site for the download. Why don’t I use automatic update or a link? Because it is a common avenue for infection, that’s why. And even if you do update, it’s still not protection—the latest version of Flash was released with a zero-day exploit already active for it.

Flash is almost as much a bane to the Internet as spam is. It is high time is was put to a quick, violent death.

Categories: Technology Tags: by

Fukushima Radiation Causes Serious Loss of Mental Capacity

October 13th, 2015 Comments off

I get real tired of alarmist reports of Fukushima mutations. A recent one: ‘Mutant flowers’ found near Fukushima. The Mirror warns about how someone in Tochigi Prefecture found “mutated” flowers. Such reports are quickly spread across the Internet by Fukushima-themed anti-nuclear web sites.

The problem: one can find such mutations nearly anywhere in the world. There’s even a name for it: Fasciation. While it can be caused by radiation, it can also be caused by “bacterial infection, mite or insect attack, or chemical or mechanical damage.”

There’s rarely proof that these were found where they claimed to be, and one can find identical photos taken throughout the world by normal people in normal places. Make no mistake: Fukushima was a horrific disaster, with powerful effects. However, nothing is helped by jumping at every shadow and then running around with your hair on fire.

In effect, this “mutant flower” is little different from a four-leaf clover, something with identical causes but which we usually find delightful. It’s pretty much certain that the exact same mutations were happening in those places before Fukushima, but now people jump to conclusions when they see them.

Here’s an idiot intrepid reporter who actually blames Fukushima for mutations in birds and flowers found in Michigan and Massachusetts. You see the problem: these places probably have about a thousand times more radiation from natural background sources than from Fukushima radiation (if there is any Fukushima radiation in these locations at all).

Nor is it just online hacks; there was a medical study published back in June 2011, just 3 months after the disaster, which claimed that there was a “35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities” that “may well” be due to Fukushima radiation. Naturally, the study was a crock, cherry-picking random spikes in specific cities to produce the desired conclusion.

One thing that you can be sure is caused by Fukushima radiation: hysteria.

He’s a Savior, Not a Role Model

October 6th, 2015 6 comments

Conservatives follow Ronald Reagan the way conservative Christians follow Jesus: they say he’s their savior but then ignore 90% of the things he said and did.

Categories: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

“Acceptable Ads”

October 5th, 2015 Comments off

If you use AdBlock, you may have noticed a pop-up this week:
Aside from the irony of AdBlock giving you a pop-up, this was sure to get your attention because of what it implies. It has attracted a great deal of criticism from people who hate ads almost as a matter of principle, and from people who see this as a sell-out.

As far as I am concerned, though, this seems to be a good thing.

First of all, let’s admit one thing: ads help provide the content you enjoy. I know people have this attitude of “It should be free,” but not everything can be. And if you prefer not to pay directly for your content, then ads are the way to go. I recognize that, and fully support it.

The problem is that ads, almost universally, are powerfully offensive. Not in that they insult you (except, perhaps, for your intelligence), but in that they are intrusive, annoying, and often even invade your privacy (check your browser’s cookie list, and note how many of them are placed by advertisers).

I have used ad blockers for some time now, and I love them. They make my web surfing immensely more comfortable. I often am surprised when I see a browser that does not have ad blocking, at first wondering, “Why are all those ads there?” before I go, “Oh yeah….”

That said, it is not the idea of ads itself I find offensive; it is the way they act that has always been annoying as hell. I am one of those people who cannot relax if there is something moving on a web page, even just a little. It draws my attention to it—which I understand is exactly the point—but it also makes it difficult for me to consume the content of the page, which is the whole reason I am there in the first place.

I have always said: if sites made their ads inoffensive, I would not block them.

This new AdBlock policy may be the answer to that. It was a bit hard to find, but here are the criteria that the “Acceptable Ads” program claims all of its whitelisted ads follow:

  • Static advertisements only (no animations, sounds or similar)
  • Preferably text only, no attention-grabbing images
  • Ad placement:
    • Ads should never obscure page content (e.g. require users to click a button to close the ad before viewing the page).
    • For pages featuring a reading text ads should not be placed in the middle, where they interrupt the reading flow. However, they can be placed above the text content, below it or on the sides. The same applies to search results pages: paid search results cannot be mixed with organic results.
    • When ads are placed above the content of a main page, they should not require the user to scroll down. The available vertical space is likely to be at least 700 pixels. Advertising should not occupy more than one-third of that height. Paid search results on search pages are allowed to occupy more space, but they should never outnumber organic results.
    • When placed on the side ads should leave enough space for the main content. The available horizontal space can be expected to be at least 1000 pixels, and advertising should not occupy more than a third of that width.
  • Advertising should be clearly marked as such with the word "advertising" or its equivalent, and it should be distinguishable from page content, for instance via a border and/or different a background color.
  • Marking and placement requirements do not apply for hyperlinks with affiliate referrer IDs embedded in the content of the page. Additional criteria for hyperlinks with affiliate referrer IDs:
    • Redirects originating from the hyperlink should not present any other webpage than the destination page.
    • In texts, not more than 2 percent of the words can be hyperlinked for monetization purposes.
    • Hyperlinks should not be formatted or behave differently than other links.
    • Hyperlinks should not be misleading, in either content or placement.

The question, of course, is whether or not the ads on the whitelist will really follow those criteria, and more importantly (because you know they will violate the criteria at some point), whether the ad blockers will strictly enforce the policy. There will be not a little financial pressure over time to “adjust” the list and allow a little of this and a little of that; will the ad blockers cave in to that pressure once they become dependent on the revenue?

And that in itself is the only really objectionable feature of the new system: it is paid. The advertisers do not get on the whitelist just by having acceptable ads, at least some get on the list by paying a fee. That, effectively, makes the ad blocking companies, at least a little bit, extortionists. Pay or we’ll block your ads.

I’m not saying that the people who make this service available do not deserve financial reward; I am saying that the fact that the money is there leaves the door open for influence and abuse.

One ameliorating factor in favor of the new policy is that it is opt-out: you can turn the “acceptable ads” feature off, and again block all ads. That, in my book, should nix any criticisms for now… until such time as this feature is removed.

For now, I am glad the feature is there, because it is perhaps the only major force which influences advertising in the direction of being reasonable. I’m leaving this feature on, and will not mind at all if the ads start appearing—and, as I have said, I may even begin patronizing them.

So long as they don’t annoy the hell out of me.

The Obvious Lies

October 4th, 2015 3 comments

HandincookiejarKevin McCarthy, who could be the next Speaker of the House, made a boast on Fox News recently in an attempt to show how well he will serve the conservative cause:

What you’re going to see is a conservative speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, and puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee — a Select Committee — what are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.

Liberal blogs tend to drop the last few sentences, which contain a kind of rationalization: that the Benghazi numbers were not to smear Hillary, but to show what they considered to be the truth about Hillary.

That does not, however, make it okay: it still means that McCarthy was admitting that Benghazi is about bringing Clinton down, and not because there should actually be hearings about Benghazi. He essentially admitted that the hearings are political, even if you believe the rationalization.

Whatever the case, everyone is in an uproar about it because McCarthy let slip something that he should not have. He openly admitted, intentionally or not, that the whole Benghazi hearings are a sham. He has since tried to walk it back, but no one is actually buying it.

The reason I bring this up is not to show up that one case, but to show up an entire practice, of which Benghazi is only one example, and which is far broader and much more significant.

Conservatives have a host of issues and agendas which are, like Benghazi, essentially just political lies perpetrated for political benefit. That’s not the significant point, as such ploys are common.

The significant features are that (1) the ploys are obviously and transparently lies in the face of overwhelming, well-established fact, and (2) conservatives get away with them cold simply by publicly stating that they are not political ploys.

This is modeled along the same lines as the open bribery that now corrupts politics: you can be obvious as hell about taking bribes, but so long as you do it in the official manner and claim that it is not a bribe, you can get away with it. So long as there is the tiniest shred of doubt that your egregious fallacy is something that you may actually believe is real, this doubt automatically wins you complete credibility, allowing you to shape policy, pass laws, and potentially harm millions of people.

Mind you, it is not doubt as to whether or not your “facts” are in any sense real, it is about whether or not you publicly maintain that they are real. It is akin to somebody saying that aliens implanted radio receivers in your dental work and you are getting transmissions direct from God, and so long as you maintain the claim, people have to respect it and allow you to act as if it were real.

This tactic has been applied to a range of aggressive political acts of fraud:

  • Voter fraud: conservatives claim that there is widespread voter fraud, something which has been proven false, but use the claim to create voting laws which are clearly aimed at disenfranchising people who vote against them. We know that voter fraud is rare and that the “remedies” are the real fraud, but we just sit and let it happen.
  • Obamacare: conservatives claim it will bust the budget and destroy jobs, even after it has been working for years and clearly is working opposite to how they claim. We know that Obamacare works and is better than the alternatives, but we just sit and let them grind the government to a halt.
  • Trickle-down: conservatives keep claiming that giving tax cuts to “job creators” and getting rid of various taxes on wealthy people and corporations will create jobs and balance the budget when it is undeniably clear that such policies have done no such thing. We know that higher tax rates for the rich and a better minimum wage for the poor and middle class is a good idea, but we let them shape tax policy in a way we understand is destructive.
  • The Iran Treaty: despite the fact that virtually every unbiased expert guarantees that this is as good a deal as anyone could possibly imagine, Republicans continue to insist that it will destroy us. We know that the treaty is the best thing and that Republicans would be hailing it as a miracle if it had been brokered by one of their own, but we give their lies credence all the same.
  • Climate Change: the jury has been in for years now, the facts could not be more clear, but conservatives continue to fight the idea that climate change is caused by human activity and thus we need to change or else the consequences will only become more and more grave. We know this is true, but allow conservatives to run the legislative show as if everything was reversed.

There are more, but I trust that you can see the pattern: in all of the above cases, Benghazi included, it is completely and utterly clear, provable by actual, settled fact, that conservatives are perpetrating sheer, transparent lies. Not just opinions, not just beliefs, but complete fabrications which they obviously know are fabricated for partisan political purposes.

And yet, Republicans are given the benefit of the doubt and a waiver from the press, the public, and even sometimes from the law itself simply by maintaining the shamelessly dishonest pretense that they are not lying and that their fraud is not a fraud.

It is just as transparent as if a child is caught with his hand in the cookie jar and yet claims that he’s not stealing cookies. And yet, here we are, letting the child stand at the cookie jar, just staring at us brazenly and impudently while he downs every single cookie one by one, and we just stand here impotently because, well, the kid said he wasn’t eating any cookies, so what can we do?

Nor is it just us standing here, it’s the media, reporting the lies as if they could be real, as if it were just a matter of opinion, deathly afraid of pointing out the lie lest the child accuse the media of being biased and cutting off their access. And we’re stupid enough to just stand here and let it all happen.

When did it become so easy to cow everybody?

That has to stop. The media has to stop perpetuating these lies just because they’re afraid to be labeled as “biased” by the liars. And the public has to have more self-respect than to accept the lies simply because we like the outcome or feel like there’s nothing we can do.

Stop being complicit, stop being a coward. Call them what they are, and stop allowing the liars to get away with it.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

It’s Time to Collectively, Publicly, and Definitively Denounce the False Gun Nut Hitler Claim

October 3rd, 2015 1 comment

Tt100805Gun nuts* keep repeating their refrain: privately owned weapons are the most effective bulwark against the rise of tyranny, or its continued reign.

They imagine themselves as patriotic heroes, ready to grab their AR-15s and do battle with the minions of Obama-turned-genocidal-maniac. They believe that the model of a modern American tyranny is a liberal coming into the White House, grabbing control in a military coup (because somehow the U.S. military turned ultra-liberal all of a sudden), and confiscating the guns of the people before rounding up all the Christians and conservatives and placing them in concentration camps (no, not those ones, those are okay, and we actually like these ones) before their eventual extermination.

If a tyrant comes to power in the U.S., it is most likely that said tyrant will represent himself as a true-blue patriot, will drape himself in a flag and profess a profound belief in Christianity, and will have the full-throated support of the pro-gun crowd. The same people fearing being rounded up will appear at rallies, declare others like Muslims to be “the problem,” and will ask when their new leader will “get rid of them.”

Tyrants don’t really care about confiscating your guns. Hitler relaxed gun control in Germany. Saddam Hussein didn’t confiscate guns; Iraqi gun culture under Hussein was more open than our own (ironically, we instituted gun control in Iraq). The people under the Taliban have guns. Most tyrants allow their people to have guns for a very simple reason: most tyrants have the support of at least a majority of their people, and very often it’s the people who have the guns.

Gun advocates are the most likely to vote the tyrant into office; tyrants tend to use the most easily frightened segments of society, those who fear they are losing what they have, and Americans who possess guns, including the more reasonable people, are fearful of losing what they feel is their right.

But here is the irony: when tyrants rise, they will not take the guns. Their first act will be the same as it always is: to control communications. They will take the television and radio networks, and they will try to control the Internet, just as China does. They will monitor phone conversations and Internet activity.

Well, in our country, communications are heavily licensed and registered, right down to ham radio sets. You never hear the gun extremists worrying about any of this. They are, in fact, very often vocal supporters of the government surveilling phone and Internet activity.

When a tyrant rises, their second act will be to identify and monitor the people so as to corral them and control them. Any depiction of a fascist state would be incomplete without a picture of security officers stopping people in public and demanding to see their papers.

And yet, who is it that wants to have the police demand to see people’s papers? Who demands we all get IDs to prove who we are? Yep: the same people who spread the fears that dictators will be confiscating our guns.

When a tyrant rises, their third act will be to control the movement of people. We have traffic cameras everywhere now, and any kind of public or private transportation is heavily licensed and regulated.

And yet, the people who say they are the bulwark against the iron fist of dictators seem completely unconcerned with such facts.

All of this belies the idea that the gun nuts actually oppose dictatorships at all. At best, they believe they will be champions coming to the rescue with their trusty firearms. Like this guy in Texas, who came to the aid of a carjacking victim, his gun blazing—and then promptly shot the victim in the head while the criminals escaped. Then he panicked and scrambled to pick up all his shell casings before fleeing the scene and going into hiding. At worst, they just like their guns and will go to any length, make any claim no matter how bizarre, as a justification to use guns without restriction.

So tell me, Mr. My-Gun-Will-Stop-American-Hitler, if a tyrant has control over TV, radio, the Internet, and the phone system, monitors all communications, controls what you see and hear, knows exactly who you are and everything about you, tracks you everywhere you go and controls your movements—and in addition to all that, wields armed forces with not just rifles equal to yours, but also tanks and artillery and drones and jets and weapons of mass destruction—exactly how do you plan to overthrow that tyrant with your AR-15?

The answer: you don’t. Because you were the guy who voted the tyrant into power in the first place. If you’re one of the extremists, you want the tyrant—that is, you want the tyrant to make everyone else do what you want. But the "tyrant"? He’s your guy. And you’re likely the one standing in front of him blaming all your problems on a group of Americans you hate, calling them “the problem,” and asking when your new leader is going to “get rid of them.”

Tyrants are those who impose their will on others in a way that make others suffer. Well, look at all the people who now lay dead because of how you bent society to your will. And they are just the first wave of your victims should your influence grow beyond the unchecked and uncontrolled proliferation of guns.

More often than not, tyrants come from within.

The Unbearable Hypocrisy of Self-Pleased Liars

September 22nd, 2015 2 comments

SmugpatakiI swear to God, if I hear one more conservative say about the Iraq War, “Oh, you mean the war that Hillary voted for?” and then wear a smug expression like they just won the argument, I am going to lose it. Any person using that particular fraudulent contention deserves a righteous smack in the face.

That statement is the pat conservative response whenever someone points out that it was conservatives who led us to the war, who caused it in the first place—usually after a conservative has blamed Obama for ISIL and the current situation in Iraq. Often John Kerry is cited along with Hillary, depending on the focus of the lie.

The use of Clinton’s vote as some kind of magical Get Out of Jail Free card to absolve conservatives for their criminally devastating actions is nothing less than a facile, asinine, deceptive, self-serving fraud which deserves to be shouted down with not just scorn but scathing fury at the smug dismissal of their complicity in manufacturing a war that has so savagely devastated our nation and laid waste to what little stability there was in the Middle East.

Here are the facts:

  • Were Bush not in office, Democrats never would have chosen to go to war in Iraq—not even a hawk like Hillary would have led us to a war there.
  • Neither Clinton nor Kerry voted to start the war, but insisted that before a war could be waged, conditions would have to be met—conditions which would have prevented the war from starting had the Bush administration not rushed into war, or would have made the war far less a disaster than it was.
  • The Iraq Resolution to grant war powers was presented as a means to negotiation—you can’t negotiate strongly if you don’t have authorization to go to war—and the Bush administration swore up and down that the war powers would be used only as a last resort after every other recourse was exhausted; Bush said, “Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable.”
  • The primary reason why Clinton, Kerry, and many others believed Hussein had WMD and was a building threat was precisely because we were all working from information from the intelligence community, which was being manipulated by the Bush administration to provide a patently false view of the potential and imminent threat from Iraq.
  • Weapons inspectors, despite some difficulties, were making a great deal of headway and were being effective in finding and arranging for dismantling of what little Iraq had left in the way of WMD support equipment; ignoring this progress and the pleas of the weapons inspectors as well as international voices of restraint, Bush ordered the inspectors out and started the war in violation of his own promise and of the conditions under which Clinton and Kerry gave their approval.
  • Even if Clinton and Kerry had been both virulently pro-war, it would not in the least negate the fact that the Bush administration and Republicans in general were the instigators of the war, and responsible for the disastrously incompetent manner in which it was executed.

So, what is the glibly fatuous assertion supposed to mean? That because Clinton, under the huge political duress of the post-9/11 atmosphere of fear, made a self-serving political calculation and demanded full inspections and international cooperation, that Bush was therefore not responsible for providing the false intelligence which prompted that view and intentionally driving us into the war?

Or that the conservatives who helped drive us into the war are free of guilt because people like Clinton didn’t try hard enough to stop them?

Not to mention: Hillary Clinton has long since publicly announced that her decision was wrong; neither Bush has done so.

Cheney, Bush, and Republicans wanted that war to happen, made that war happen, and executed it disastrously, and bear the primary and overwhelming responsibility for the war and what followed it, and anyone who still supports that war shares that guilt in how it will warp our future actions.

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

Try “Leadership,” “Responsibility,” or Simply “Not Tolerating Extremism.” Take Your Pick.

September 19th, 2015 1 comment

Rick Santorum spoke in defense of Donald Trump’s shockingly tolerant reply to a question which demanded ethnic cleansing in the United States:

[Santorum] told reporters at a presidential forum here in Greenville organized by Heritage Action that it’s not the job of presidential candidates to “police” questions or voters.

“It’s not my job, it’s not Donald Trump’s job, it’s not anybody’s job to police a question. The questioner can say whatever he wants, it’s a free country,” Santorum said told reporters.

Actually, it is your job, if the job you are trying to acquire is one of leadership and responsibility. Any position of authority, in fact, requires that you, at the very minimum, lead those who follow you on the path of at least minimal moral and ethical standards. If you run a playground and the kids start fighting, you are required to stop the fight. If you run a business and you hear one employee planning to sabotage the career of another, you put a stop to it. And if you are running for president of the United States, and your followers begin demanding what amounts to an international war crime, then you bet your goddamned ass you better set the record straight on that. You don’t respond to a call for ethnic cleansing by saying, “Yeah, that’s a good idea, we’re looking into that.”

Santorum here is, at the very least, trying to dodge the minimal responsibility a leader must display—or, at the most, and perhaps just as likely, simply agrees with the sentiment that Muslims should be cleansed from our country.

Either way, neither he nor Trump is showing the kind of responsibility or leadership which is minimally required for any position of authority—which is excellent evidence as to why neither deserves any.

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by

Somewhere Along the Line, This Stopped Being So Funny

September 18th, 2015 2 comments

When Kim Davis was jailed for contempt of court after she refused to carry out her legal duties and denied gay couples the ability to exercise their right to be married, her lawyer, Matthew Staver, said:

“What happened in Nazi Germany?” Staver asked on Crossfire, a current affairs program hosted by the Christian Information Radio network. “First, they removed the Jews from government public employment, then they stopped patronizing them in their private businesses, then they continued to stigmatize them, then they were the ‘problems,’ then they killed them.”

A few days later, he followed that up with a similar statement on a right-wing radio show:

“Back in the 1930s, it began with the Jews, where they were evicted from public employment, then boycotted in their private employment, then stigmatized and that led to the gas chambers. This is the new persecution of Christians here in this country.”

As I pointed out when this happened, Staver was ludicrously wrong—although millions of conservative Christians believe it to be literally true.

As it happens, however, something along the lines of 1930’s Germany is happening in the United States right now. However, it’s not liberals putting Christians in jail.

Read this exchange between the front-runner for the GOP, and one of his supporters at a rally:

To kick things off, Trump pointed at a man in the audience: “Okay, this man. I like this guy.”

“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims,” the man said. “We know our current president is one. You know, he’s not even an American. Birth certificate, man.”

“Right,” Trump said, then adding with a shake of his head: “We need this question? This first question.”

“But any way,” the man said. “We have training camps… where they want to kill us.”

“Uh huh,” Trump said.

“That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?” the man said.

Naturally, Trump immediately saw this as a red flag, and warned his followers off of that particular dangerous line of thought.

No, of course, I’m kidding. Trump did no such thing. Responding to the statement in which Muslims in America were defined as murderous and “a problem” followed by a query as to how we “get rid of them,” Trump responded:

“We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. You know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to look at that and plenty of other things.”

Now, Trump is not being like Hitler or anything; his reply is a generalized, content-free, non-committal reply intended to appease the questioner without really saying anything. However, for a public official, indeed the front-runner for national leader, is presented with an almost unveiled question regarding what is essentially a call for ethnic cleansing, to respond positively in any manner is disastrously, almost criminally irresponsible.

While I still believe that Trump cannot possibly win the presidency, while I still see him as a joke who usefully exposes the radical nature of the conservative base, I am becoming less and less comfortable with his candidacy. I hate to make this kind of analogy, but Hitler also was seen early on as a buffoon, an amateur, easily mocked and dismissed. Nor am I the only one to see uncomfortable parallels. As I just wrote, I do not see Trump as being like Hitler; he is more of an opportunist, jumping on the bandwagon to create a power base. However, his followers are beginning to sound eerily like those who followed any number of genocidal dictators.

As a result, this isn’t as funny as it used to be.

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by

Tradition Is Not Always a Good Thing

September 13th, 2015 2 comments

I’m still hearing conservatives argue that one-man-one-woman is the “traditional” form of marriage, presented as logic as to why gay marriage should not be allowed. The accuracy of that dubious statement aside, my question is—and I’m sure it has been asked many times before, but is worth pointing out again—why is tradition a reason for not changing something? Slavery is a tradition as old as marriage; does that mean we should fight to preserve it? “Slavery has always been about one master and many servants! These new laws redefining slavery as unjust are an abomination!”

Clearly, just because something is traditional does not mean it is virtuous or good, just as “the Bible says so” is not a good reason to make civil statute—which is ironically relevant, as the Bible also records and sometimes supports the tradition of slavery as well, an argument used against abolitionists of the day.

Some traditions should be changed in the light of modern—and more rational and compassionate—understanding.

Categories: Social Issues Tags: by

How Can You… Oh, Forget It

September 13th, 2015 1 comment

6 years ago today I asked, How can you belong to this party and not be horribly ashamed?

Jesus. If I knew then what the GOP is like now, I would probably have had a very different perspective. At the time, I could hardly have imagined them being more insane than they were then.

Now I know better. What scares me is, what will we be looking at 6 years from now? Just thinking about it scares the crap out of me.

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by

The ABC’s of Data Deletion

September 13th, 2015 Comments off

Hillary claimed ignorance regarding how the process of “wiping” a hard drive works. That doesn’t surprise me, but the ignorance of journalists in the matter is surprising. Doesn’t anyone do even basic research any more? Here’s the Washington Post—the Post, for crying out loud:

“To make the information go away permanently, a server must be wiped — a process that includes overwriting the underlying data with gibberish, possibly several times.”

Really? A “server” must be wiped? With “gibberish”? Oi. Hold on, I’m about to get into the nuts and bolts of it. If you don’t want to know how erasing data from a computer works, move on—but it’s good knowledge to have, especially if you want to protect your data when disposing of an old device!

First of all, a “server” is not being wiped, the hard drive is. A server is technically not even a computer, it is software running on a computer, and the computer running it is often referred to as a “server”—but the part that is wiped is the data on the hard drive.

Next, “wiped” is not the most technical term, it is at least somewhat vague.

There are four basic ways to delete data on a disk: first, delete it from within a program; second, simply trash the files and empty the trash; third, reformat the hard drive; and fourth, to “zero out” the drive.

The first three ways of deleting data that I described (deleting, trashing, and reformatting) are, depending on the circumstances, recoverable. None of them actually destroy the data; in all three cases, the data remains on the disk, but either (depending on the file system used) it is marked as occupying space that can be taken up by new data at any time, or its directory information is erased so the computer “sees” the disk space as “blank” and therefore it’s allowable to write new data there.

In both of these cases, data stays on the drive until the computer, at some point, needs to save newer data, and decides to use the space taken up by the older data. This happens bit by bit, and depending on how full the drive gets, “deleted” data can remain on the disk for weeks, months, or even years. Data is often only partly destroyed. If the disk used is nearly full, then perhaps most of the data is destroyed as all the space is quickly needed; if the disk is mostly empty, there’s a good chance most of the data still remains, but the data still could be partly or fully overwritten.

That last way to delete data is what the Post is rather cluelessly referring to, and is the only way to securely erase data from a hard drive.

The technical term for this—the one everyone should be focusing on—is to “zero out” the disk. This is a process in which the computer literally writes all zeroes (rather than zeroes and ones) in every single place that the disk contains data. (It does not write “gibberish,” which would be random zeroes and ones.) The “zeroing out” process usually completely destroys the data that used to exist on the disk.

You may wonder why this process is not always used; the answer is, it takes time. When you save data on a disk, it takes a certain amount of time; to actually destroy the data, it would take the same amount of time. Try saving a long video from your smartphone on your computer; it might take a minute. However, you throw it in the recycle bin and then empty that, it takes almost no time. That’s because the data is not being zeroed out. It’s not necessary, and people would be annoyed if emptying the trash took several minutes every time. To zero out a whole disk takes hours.

You may need to consider this the next time you sell, give away, or even throw away an old computer: unless you “wiped” the hard drive in a way that took hours to accomplish, your data has not really been erased, and can be recovered!

So, is the data really destroyed when you zero out the disk? It depends. Remember the post wrote that it must be done “possibly several times.” Older hard drive technology was not so precise, and the marks used to indicate a 1 or a 0 might not be in exactly the same position, in which case overwriting with a zero might not completely cover up all the previous data. (It would be really hard to recover more than just fragmentary data, though.) As a result, older drives would need to be zeroed out many times. Apple has the option of zeroing out the whole drive 7 or even 35 times! Just once can take a few hours, so, well, you do the math.

Newer hard drives are more precise, and may only need to be zeroed out just once. I am not certain, but there may be a way that super-uber-geeks have to still recover that data, but I would bet against even them getting more than just a few crumbs here and there. It’s supposed to be pretty secure—but zeroing-out software still provides for the option of multiple overwrites.

Now, you may be wondering, how can I do zero out my data? If you have a Mac, zeroing out is built in to the OS; if you look in the Finder menu, under “Empty Trash,” there is an option to “Secure Empty Trash”; this will zero out only the data you have in the trash. If you open an app provided by Apple called “Disk Utility,” there are options to “securely erase” whole disks. For Windows, you can download free software that does the same thing. Just search (in a trusted software source) for “zero out utility”.

If you don’t feel like you can do this yourself, get a geek friend to do it for you. If you can’t, then be aware that your data can be accessed by the next person to get their hands on that device.

Zeroing out is what Karl Rove and the GOP did when they tried to destroy 22 million emails they didn’t want the public to see. In 2010, an archive of the email was in fact found—but we still don’t know what was in them, as they are going through a review that has so far taken 5 years, presumably to week out classified material.

And then, there’s another flaw in this now-raging “news” story: the only information is that the company that maintained the server—but obviously not the only ones to have access to it—said that they didn’t have a record of it being “wiped”—but not only does that not mean they didn’t zero it out, it also has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not someone else, like Hillary’s IT guy, zeroed it out. If they were smart, then they would have taken the email archive, deleted the emails they felt were personal, then copied the reduced archive to a new disk, and then destroyed the original archive data.

It appears that Hillary’s email deletion was far more casual—but I’d be willing to bet good money that if the files can be recovered, Republicans will waste no time rifling through every last one they can find and then leaking the juiciest ones, probably completely out of context and even partially made-up to boot, just like they did with the Benghazi emails.

And in the end, this is all about nothing more than an attempted smear job. Conservatives could give a rat’s ass as to whether Hillary actually did anything wrong, and they sure as freaking hell do not give a crap about whether national security was at risk (these are the people who outed a CIA agent for political payback, remember—one of they key issues discussed in emails the Bush White House deleted). No, this is about shooting Hillary down and nothing else.

The press should be ashamed that they’re giving this more than back-page attention.

Categories: Journalism, Technology Tags: by

The Inevitable False Equivalency

September 8th, 2015 4 comments

Davis-StanleyIt was bound to happen: with Kim Davis, conservatives found their false equivalency.

Charee Stanley, a Muslim flight attendant working for ExpressJet, converted to Islam a year after she started working as a flight attendant. A year after that, she learned that she was prohibited by her faith not just to drink alcohol, but to serve it as well. She asked the airline for exemption from the duty of serving alcohol, and the airline reasonably accommodated her.

The accommodation should be simple to figure out: when serving meals, she always does the food end, and not the drink end of the cart. And if a passenger asks for an alcoholic beverage at any other time, she takes the order and hands it off to another attendant. If that causes her coworkers to complain that she’s causing them more work, then she can simply pick up the slack in other duties. Simple.

But then this happened:

It seemed to be working out until another flight attendant filed a complaint against Stanley on August 2 claiming she was not fulfilling her duties by refusing to serve alcohol, Masri said. The employee complaint also said Stanley had a book with “foreign writings” and wore a headdress.

Well, it’s not hard to figure out what happened there. The headdress and “foreign writings” complaint are an unmistakable tip-off: the co-worker, clearly hostile to Muslims, and probably a fundamental stripe of Christian, either was freaked out by a religion they did not understand or just simply was filled with hate. I would gladly lay down a sizable bet that had the attendant asked for an exemption because her Christian beliefs prohibited serving alcohol, the complainer would have had no problem with it. Even if she had a Greek bible.

Sadly, the airline felt that this was more trouble than they wanted to deal with, and responded by rewarding the asshat xenophobe and essentially fired the Muslim attendant—precisely the opposite of what I would have done were I running the outfit.

Not that I am completely on Stanley’s side: if her religious sensitivities make handling the affair too difficult, she has no right to demand the exemption; if the position more or less requires the handling of alcohol and there’s no easy way around it, then that’s the job. If it would have caused too much extra work for her co-workers, again that would be a problem. Stanley didn’t have the right to demand the exemption were it an undue burden for the employer or others on the job.

However, that wasn’t the case: handling the affair was, for quite some time, a simple enough matter. It was only when her hostile co-worker complained that the problem arose. The difficulty issued not from Stanley’s exemption, but from the co-workers personal issues. Stanley was essentially fired not for her religious beliefs, but because of bigotry on the part of a co-worker, which the company unreasonably accommodated.

So the Muslim flight attendant sued the airlines, the issue hit the media, and now right-wingers are gleefully whining about how those hypocritical liberals are coddling the Muslim in what was the exact same situation as Kim Davis, whom those same nasty liberals were savaging.

This is a much different sentiment than what’s been said about accommodating Kim Davis’s religious beliefs at her place of employment. In addition, Stanley’s job duties were known when she took her position, unlike Kim Davis, who had her responsibilities change after the Supreme Court ruling.

Many will state the difference is that one position is a public office and the other is not. This too is flawed. According to Davis’s opposition, the fact she is an elected official changes what’s expected of her, and they therefore believe she should have resigned if she could no longer comply with her duties. However, if we want to talk about the proper way to handle an elected position, let’s discuss what Kim Davis should have faced. There should have been an immediate recall election. Why didn’t her opposition do this? Because they knew she’d likely be reelected. Therefore, does this not infringe on the rights of voters to choose their county officials? The appropriate procedure was circumvented in an attempt for the liberal left to demand their way.

So, let’s look at the objections stated above:

#1: Stanley knew her job requirements when she took her job. Sure; and if her converting to Islam made it impossible to do her duties, then the result would be the same as Davis: live with the conflict, or quit. However, Stanley had an accommodation that was simple and easy to carry out, as was demonstrated.

#2: Kim Davis had her responsibilities change after the Supreme Court ruling. Yep. And if the Supreme Court ruled that headdresses were a health hazard for flight crews and that religious exemptions could not be made, the same would have applied to Stanley.

#3: It is flawed to argue that the cases are different because one position is a public office and the other is not. It is not at all flawed. Davis had to swear an oath to uphold the law, and was not exempt just because the law changed. Also, if Stanley didn’t want to serve drinks, that would not send her to jail.

#4: The proper way to handle Davis’ situation would have been an immediate recall election. Um, no, actually, that’s stupid. That would suggest that the public had the right to judge whether or not Davis could ignore the law; they do not. Had Davis won a recall election, it would have simply landed Davis right back where she was at the start: in contempt of court.

As quickly becomes apparent, the objections are based on convoluted distortions, misrepresentations, and apparent ignorance of how things work, with attempts to dodge the central issues and claim issues where none exist.

Not to mention that there is one major, significant difference that cannot be honestly ignored: Stanley agreed to serve customers with a work-around, while Davis explicitly refused any work-around, and forbade all workers in her office from doing their duties. Davis’ actions would be the equivalent of Stanley forcing the entire flight crew to stop serving alcohol against the airline’s strict orders.

Indeed, Davis was specifically offered an accommodation by the court, exactly like the one Stanley was offered—in this, their cases were the same. The difference was that, while Stanley happily accepted hers, Davis outright rejected hers. Stanley was happy to allow others to enjoy their rights, Davis was intent on denying others their rights.

Do you think I would care one bit if Davis had done exactly what Stanley had done, and allowed people to enjoy their rights under the law while herself avoiding direct participation? Absolutely not. No one would have. Davis could have avoided any problems from the start by doing that.

Liberals have absolutely no problem with anyone of any religious calling receiving accommodations for their beliefs, so long as this does not infringe on the rights of others or interfere with their lives in any significant manner. So come down from the ceiling, conservatives—the hypocrisy is not from this end.

Remember those religious orders that refused to allow their workers to get health care if treatments the orders objected to would be included? They were also offered accommodations, and had they accepted them, there again would have been no big deal. Liberals would have been perfectly fine with that. However, the religious orders instead insisted on denying their workers the right to health care of their choice. The religious orders did not try to accommodate, did not try to keep their hands clean while allowing individuals the right to practice their faith as they wished; instead, the deliberately extended their own participation far beyond what was acceptable, and insisted on controlling the lives of others where they had no right to do so.

That’s the line: affecting the lives of others, denying them their rights, interfering with their lives. Accommodations can almost always be made. It is not the people these Christians disapprove of who are causing the problems, it is the Christians demanding religious control beyond their own right to do so.

The First Amendment gives you the right to free practice of religion, and it gives the same right to everyone else. Yours is not special, it does not extend to covering others you believe you have dominance over.

Categories: Religion Tags: by

Clinton and the Emails

September 6th, 2015 3 comments

First, let me say that I am not a big Hillary Clinton fan. My impression is that she will continue everything Obama is doing that disappoints me, and likely will expand that to even more stuff I won’t like. I see her as another candidate bound to wealth and business, only mouthing platitudes to the middle class but likely not much more. Like Obama, she’ll very vaguely be on our side, but will never lead—she’ll only move when the fruit is over-ripe and then catch it falling and say she was behind it all along.

I would be quite happy if Clinton fell from the race and Sanders were allowed to burst forth; he’s my only actual hope for a candidate.

That said, I wanted to comment on the whole email thing. From what I read (Slate’s account seems well-informed and not apologetic), it’s dubious, at best—but like Benghazi, enough dust can be kicked up to make it look like Clinton was guilty of something, and that’s good enough for Republicans. And while it is possible that something may at some time emerge that could be legally damaging to Clinton, it seems unlikely.

However, even if something emerges showing that Clinton did something more than just fishy, and at least unethical, and possibly even something illegal—as much as I dislike Clinton, I strongly believe that she should get a pass on it. Again, I wouldn’t mind seeing her kicked out, but on principle, she shouldn’t be.

There are two fundamental reasons behind this.

First, laws should not be upheld selectively—and the laws in this case are being applied as selectively as you can imagine. During the Bush 43 administration, non-government email servers were used on a massive scale, involving far more damning investigations (including the US Attorney scandal), and as many as 22 million emails were deleted, roughly 500 times as many as Clinton is said to have deleted. And not only were Rove and several others heavily involved never charged with anything, but Republicans threatened the political equivalent of all-out nuclear war if Democrats, having regained control of Congress in 2006, even thought about investigating the matter. So, as far as I’m concerned, until Republicans first begin a thorough investigation into the Bush email scandal, they have zero foundation for investigating Hillary.

A law is meaningless—worse than meaningless—if it is only applied to politicians of one party, and not the other.

The second reason is related to the first: the investigation into Clinton and the emails is about as purely political as you could possibly get. This is not about national security, this is not about whether or not something wrong was done. This is about Hillary being a 2016 powerhouse, and Republicans hating her guts and wanting to take her down if it is the last thing they ever do. If Hillary were not running, there would be no investigation. Period. And when it comes to investigations designed solely to destroy a political candidate, again, we enter the realm of “much worse than meaningless.” It is, is no uncertain terms, a blatant abuse of power, above and beyond the baselessness and the sheer hypocrisy involved.

Not that that ever stopped Republicans.

When You Love Persecution Way More Than Reality

September 5th, 2015 Comments off

Kim Davis’ lawyer actually said this:

“Back in the 1930s, it began with the Jews, where they were evicted from public employment, then boycotted in their private employment, then stigmatized and that led to the gas chambers. This is the new persecution of Christians here in this country.”

Yes, because back in Nazi Germany, 83% of the German people were Jews, along with 90% of the lawmakers, and all of the highest leaders. The Holocaust then began when one Jewish person violated the law and went to jail because she was trying to force non-Jewish Germans to follow Jewish religious beliefs. You see, it started exactly the same way!

Good analogy. Except for, well, everything. However, this is the new reality for many conservative Christians: in the vast majority, with virtual dominance over just about everything in the country, but if they are not allowed to force everyone else to do exactly what they say, well then, persecution and gas chambers for 83% of the country is up next.

Because if Christians are not allowed the violate the law and deny other people their civil rights in the name of their religion, then how can this be called a “free” country?

All snark aside, this is what they truly believe. For them, the norm is not equality for all, it is religious hegemony of Christianity over everyone else, and anything short of that is persecution of all their kind.

I wish I were kidding.

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A Matter of Perspective

September 3rd, 2015 1 comment

According to reports, in an isolated incident, a single worker at an Arby’s in South Florida refused to serve a police officer who ordered a meal. The manager then personally served the officer, saying that if the employee didn’t want to serve them, they did not have to. Now, police officers in that town are calling for a nationwide boycott of the restaurant until the worker and the manager are terminated.

“I am offended and appalled that an individual within our community would treat a police officer in such a manner. It is unacceptable,” stated PPPD Chief Dan Giustino.

The incident prompted wives of officers to stage a protest at the restaurant.

“I wanna cry. My husband spent 25 years. My son is an officer,” said protester Wendy Sorrell. …

“It is beyond comprehension and deeply troubling that a business would deny service to a law enforcement officer just for being a law enforcement officer. … This is yet another example of the hostile treatment of our brave men and women simply because they wear a badge. It is unacceptable and warrants much more than an apology. …” said Florida and Dade County PBA president John Rivera.

Look. Clearly, this was not good customer service. No denying that.

However, let’s get a little perspective here. A single police officer was temporarily delayed because when they ordered a sandwich, one person did not feel like they wanted to serve them. That is the totality of what happened here. A single act of disrespect. The manager personally served them, and tried to make light of it. That’s it.

And now, you have an entire department, including family members, picketing and staging protests, literally weeping in rage, over how one of their kind was not served a sandwich with respect.

To all of those Broward County police officers and their families now in such terrible pain and suffering, let me ask you this question:

Did it occur to you that perhaps the server in question might have been a friend, colleague, or family member of someone who was stopped by a police officer, arrested for not being respectful enough or because of their race, tased, beaten, humiliated, or even shot and killed?

Because, you see, when a police officer, charged with serving the public, commits acts of violence and even murder like that, police officers in general seem to expect us to brush that off and simply accept it. Only rarely does the officer pay any price for such conduct. And cases in which people are unjustly killed by police officers happen hundreds of times a year, all over the nation. Probably thousands of beatings.

You people all break down in rage over a fucking Arby’s sandwich. Consider how it might feel if that officer, instead of not getting a fast food meal served with the proper respect, had a gun pulled on them by a screaming Arby’s employee, who then shoved them to the ground, beat them, and killed them—and then was cleared of wrongdoing by the store’s manager and was allowed to go on serving people at the restaurant.

Now, that would be a good reason to be apoplectic.

But not being served once, possibly by someone who had been personally scarred by police misconduct?

Here’s the deal: if you expect us to simply accept police officers killing so many unarmed people and not be upset about it, I think you can deal with not being served with respect from time to time.

You know the family of the police officer in Texas who was killed by a man just because he was a police officer? Or that of the one in Illinois? Those people deserve to be angry, they deserve to be weeping in rage. As do the families of people beaten and killed unjustly by police. Their tearful protests I will respect and feel the deepest sympathy for.

But not being served a sandwich?

Get over yourselves.

Categories: Social Issues Tags: by