The Utter Hypocrisy of Republican “Investigations”

May 8th, 2014 4 comments

So, what are Republicans doing, since they’re certainly not passing laws to help the American people?

House Republicans on Wednesday will take the first in a series of steps intended to spotlight what they are convinced is a pattern of cover-up and political whitewashing by the White House, but what Democrats contend is an election-year stunt.

The House will vote late on Wednesday to hold in contempt Lois Lerner, a former Internal Revenue Service official who is at the center of multiple investigations into possible acts of political retribution.

Then, on Thursday, the House is expected to formally approve a resolution to establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 attack on American facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

Through multiple congressional investigations in both chambers, Republicans have sought to link President Obama and his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to a politically motivated effort to obscure what really happened in Benghazi when the American ambassador to Libya and three others were killed.

At the same time, parallel investigations on Capitol Hill have tried to show that the president and his aides used the I.R.S. to persecute Tea Party groups in the hopes of muting their political effectiveness during the 2012 elections.

Hmmm… the IRS “scandal” in which the IRS actually targeted liberal organizations more than conservative ones? Yes, what a terrible scandal. And we know that when political favoritism is in evidence, Republicans always begin years-long investigations.

Like in the following cases from ten years ago:

In 2004, before the election, a liberal-leaning church in California called Bush’s doctrine of pre-emptive war a “failed doctrine,” and urged parishioners to take all they knew about Jesus into the voting booth. The IRS responded by threatening the church with taxation, that it would lose its tax-exempt status and be virtually destroyed by the IRS if it did not apologize and cease any such talk in the future. …

In fact, a Baptist pastor in Arkansas praised Bush for his performance while slamming Kerry for his views, while showing photos of both candidates on the church’s AV system–the Bush portrait flattering, the photo of Kerry degrading. The IRS declined to investigate or take any action. Furthermore, the progressive church in California which is under siege by the IRS did not endorse either candidate, nor did the man who gave the sermon, who was just a guest speaker and not formally attached to the church. The Arkansas pastor was formally attached to the church and was far more blatant in his politicization. So why leave the Arkansas church alone, and go full-blast after the California church? According to reports, the California church was not even given the usual obligatory initial warning; the IRS came after them, guns blazing, from the very start.

In fact, the IRS has gone after other left-leaning churches as well as the NAACP for political speech, but not Pat Robertson or a host of other tax-exempt conservatives. Even the Catholics, famous for their intervention against Kerry during the 2004 elections, at the very same time called for the IRS to go after a liberal church in Florida. This article [link broken] demonstrates two churches with heavily political speakers, one liberal (with Bill Clinton), one conservative (with Jerry Falwell and invited Republican representatives)–but only the liberal church was investigated by the IRS. Falwell was not investigated or punished even though he openly endorsed George Bush in a ministry newsletter.

Republicans, who ran Congress back then, despite open evidence of IRS political targeting, did not even consider an investigation.

And how about after 9/11, when there was clear evidence of massive failures by the Bush administration to detect and stop the terror attacks? Republicans dragged their heels for years before allowing even a ridiculously gentle investigation, which treated the president and vice-president with kid gloves. How about the staggeringly disastrous and knowing lies the administration told to sell the Iraq War, which cost untold amounts of money, lives, and damage to the country’s reputation? The massive intelligence failures involved in that debacle? The use of torture? The unwarranted wiretapping of American citizens? The political retribution exposing a national security agent when some of these lies were exposed? Did the Republicans investigate any of these?

I will let a Republican from 2004 explain:

When President Clinton was in office, Congress exercised its oversight powers with no sense of proportionality. But oversight of the Bush administration has been even worse: With few exceptions, Congress has abdicated oversight responsibility altogether.

Republican Rep. Ray LaHood aptly characterized recent congressional oversight of the administration: “Our party controls the levers of government. We’re not about to go out and look beneath a bunch of rocks to try to cause heartburn.”

In fact, when the 2006 midterm elections loomed, Republicans started issuing hysterical warnings about what Democrats would do if they gained control of Congress—from the Republican National Committee:

The Democrats’ plan for 2006? Take the House and Senate, and impeach the President. With our nation at war, is this the kind of Congress you want? … Democrats should to be focused on winning the War on Terror, not undermining it with political axe-grinding of the ugliest kind.

And:

This year, we face another momentous choice. Fight and defeat the terrorists, or retreat from the central front in the War on Terror. Live up to our calling as Americans to stand for freedom, or choose Democrats, who are being as clear as they possibly can that they will censure and impeach the President if they win back Congress.

That’s right: Republicans’ greatest fears for the security of the United States was that Democrats, if given power over the Senate or House, would start partisan investigations of the president, which would lead the country to ruin.

Did the Democrats, who in fact gained power of both houses in 2006, do that? No. They utterly failed to start any such investigations, despite a constellation of powerfully convincing reasons to do so, in the name of calming inter-party enmity.

But now? With Republicans controlling only the House, and that despite losing the popular vote, only having control because they clearly gerrymandered their way into office? Are they showing restraint of any kind?

Of course not. They doggedly investigate the IRS despite evidence that the opposite of what they charge is actually true.

And Benghazi? There is little question that if Hillary Clinton were not the clear Democratic front-runner for 2016, Republicans would not be so interested (although any chance to smear Obama is hard for them to pass up). Even at that, it has been clear for some time that Republican charges of al Qaeda being behind the attacks are patently false, and while it was a security failure, it pales before the monumental failures of the previous administration, and does not seem to have any of the elements Republicans charge—including the charges of a cover-up. It was a tragic situation that happened more than a dozen times under Bush, when none of the incidents were ever investigated like Benghazi is now. Did Republicans investigate after clear evidence emerged that Bush used terror warnings to undermine Kerry’s momentum in 2004? Did Republicans investigate when the Bush administration failed utterly to provide U.S. soldiers with sufficient armor and protection when we sent them to Iraq? Hell, no.

Both Benghazi and the IRS are, without any doubt whatsoever, patently political attacks being carried out by Republicans in hopes of gaining advantages in the next two elections.

It is an absolutely hypocritical abuse of government power for rankly partisan attacks.

Which, of course, Democrats will never even consider investigating. Because that would cause enmity.

Categories: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

Racism

May 4th, 2014 1 comment

In recent years, there has been the pernicious claim that racism is over. We are post-racial, living in a color-blind society. In 2002, two black actors won the best actor and actress awards. In 2008, we elected a black president. Racism is thoroughly stigmatized.

In short, Mission Accomplished. We no longer need institutional protections against racism. Quotas? Long outdated. The Voting Rights Act? Defunct. Who needs bulwarks against something that is extinct?

Somehow, even as there is a resurgence of Jim Crow laws, the Supreme Court ruled that protections against such laws were unnecessary—thus setting off a surge of even more egregious laws designed to shut out minorities from the voting booth.

Perhaps one reason this hasn’t struck home as hard as it should is that the effects are almost never directly visible to most people. Evidence is usually statistical or theoretical, and these can be rather easily denied. Will a law keep more minority voters away from the polls? That’s just a theory, and Fox News is always ready with some statistic or another which lets me deny it. What about the study [PDF] which shows that job applicants with white-sounding names get 50% more callbacks than applicants with black-sounding names? Surely there’s something wrong with the methodology, as hiring is purely about qualifications. There’s always some excuse for the evidence. None of my friends are racist, they told me so. I never see racism.

However, surely even the most die-hard adherent to the idea that racism no longer exists in America must be at least somewhat shaken by the two rather marked public displays of racism in the past few weeks.

Cliven Bundy made headlines recently when he turned from being a right-wing folk hero to a flaming racist by casting black people as criminal, abortion-seeking layabouts who never learned to pick cotton and would be happier as slaves. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who had been slated to receive a (second!) lifetime achievement award from the NAACP for his contributions to the minority youth community, also came under fire when a tape surfaced of him demanding that his girlfriend delete photos of black players on her Instagram account, and not to bring black guests to the games.

It’s kind of hard to see these two recent cases, and accept that they are somehow radical exceptions in an otherwise non-racist society. Although these displays are the least of what is damaging about racism, there are the most visible, and the most difficult to dismiss. As a result, they become highly conspicuous examples.

However, holding up Bundy and Sterling as being representative of racism is part of the problem.

Here’s the problem: most people don’t understand what “racism” is. Bundy and Sterling themselves are excellent examples of this: even as they made racist statements, both professed the belief that they were in fact not racist.

You might just dismiss that as a self-serving delusion, but I think that this highlights a central problem in dealing with racism.

If you ask someone what racism is, a standard response would be, “someone who hates people of another ethnicity.” If you ask them to give an example of what a racist looks like, they might bring up a white supremacist who posts on Stormfront and unabashedly uses racial epithets and states their hatred for people of color.

A more considered response might take into account the fact that racism has become so stigmatized in society that racists have taken it underground; that a racist might look and sound like a normal person, but would quietly harbor such beliefs and act on them in a disguised way.

However, even that view overlooks the greatest misunderstanding about racism: that you can be opposed to racism, even despise racism, and yet you can still do something racist without even realizing it.

As Bundy and Sterling demonstrate, even rather extreme displays of racism can be unrealized by the people who perform them. This should demonstrate the fact that countless other acts of racism much less clear also go undetected by the people who perform them.

It seems clear to me that this is in large part because of our simplistic definition of what racism is. We think of Bundy and Sterling as being the face of racism. We think that in order to be racist, you have to be like them, or much worse. This is simply not true.

Having open hatred of people different than you is simply a more extreme form of racism. Racism, in fact, is any act influenced by a consideration of race.

Reading that, you might see this as a classic example of liberal overreach: “Oh, so everything a white person does is racism!” No, no: in order to understand the emphasized sentence above, you must first remove from your mind all connotations you have for the words “racism” and “racist.” Do not jump from “racism” to “act filled with overt hatred.”

This is why we need new vocabulary on this: the words “racism” and “racist” have such extreme associations that they instantly and radically blur the lines between thoughts and actions that are worlds apart from each other.

Consider someone who is hiring for a job. They do not hate people of other ethnicities; they have acquaintances, coworkers, and friends who are people of different races, and they regard and treat these people with compassion and respect. However, they have also been exposed throughout their lives to certain ideas of how people of certain groups behave, from stories they hear from friends, to representations in TV and movies, to reports on the news, and more. So, when hiring for the job, these ideas creep in, usually unconsciously, and influence impressions and judgments which contribute to decisions being made. This employer, seeing two candidates, one their own race, and one of another race, might make a decision they truly believe to be based on non-racial considerations, and yet racism could very clearly have been a tipping point in the decision. Were this person made aware of the nature of their actions, they would likely be appalled.

Is this person a “racist”?

In a very real sense, they are racist: they made a decision which discriminated against a person based on their race in a way that could have a severe impact on that person’s life, and when repeated endlessly in a society, has a chilling effect on racial equality.

However, because we equate “racist” with the nastiest, most overt form of racism, using that word to describe their actions would immediately alienate this person who otherwise would be sympathetic, giving them tremendous offense and perhaps leading them to think of you as a shrill, judgmental ass ridden with “white guilt” who calls everything racism, and that you are slandering them in the worst way possible. The person can then rationalize their behavior in any number of ways, from arguing that they are only responding to statistics to outright denial.

You see the problem.

Part of the difficulty is to get people to accept that they may harbor feelings which are influenced by race even when they are not what most people would consider to be racist. Our feelings on race are not simply binary or clear-cut. They exist on a rather broad spectrum, and are scattered about our psyches. These ideas and feelings are usually subtle, based on unchallenged assumptions, and are often by definition unrealized. Take one of my own experiences, not directly about race, as an example. I wrote a blog post years ago about the connection between poverty and crime. I tried to explain how it could be true that poor people commit crimes more often. However, years later, I realized that I had made a critically unchallenged assumption that poor people actually commit more crimes. I simply accepted this without question—something I no longer do. We make these kinds of assumptions constantly.

Consider walking down a mostly empty city street late at night. You become aware that a young man is walking not far behind you. Your thoughts turn to the fear that you could be in imminent physical danger. You glance back to get a better look. How differently will you react if you see that the person walking behind you is white or black? Not in the safety of your armchair considering the scenario, but actually being there? Can you honestly say that the race of the person following you has no effect on how you feel? Is it at all possible that you would feel less safe if the person was black? Even if you yourself are black?

You can perhaps relate to this experience, and hopefully understand how irrational it is to feel that way, whatever your justifications may be. Perhaps you can then understand how your judgment of the person behind you is not a unique or isolated feeling, but one of many, only this time enhanced by the prospect of personal danger. Perhaps you can accept that the same feeling might influence your thinking when you do not feel that you are in danger, but instead are just reacting to something. Perhaps you can reflect on how certain thoughts and impressions which you are ashamed of come unbidden to your mind—and perhaps you can accept the idea that you do not recognize all of them as being shameful. Perhaps you can accept that sometimes these impressions are subtle enough that you do not even recognize them at all, and yet they influence how you think, feel, and act.

So, are you a racist?

Once again, you can see how the terminology is woefully inadequate. There are clearly a great many levels and nuances, from the morally sound person reacting to subconscious assumptions, all the way up to the despicable monster filled with violent contempt.

What we need are new words, words clearly defined, words which do not equate the best people making an unknowing mistake to the worst people perpetrating considered hateful acts. We need words for various feelings of uncomfortableness that you get when you see a person of another race, one which brings enough painful awareness so you will recognize it and deal with it, but not present so strong an accusation that you will reject it out of hand. We need words for actions based upon assumptions which may seem reasonable in a pragmatic sense but do harm to individuals. We need to publicly explore and chart these different areas, enough to create broad awareness of them, but not so complex as to make common acceptance overly difficult.

Perhaps if we have a greater understanding of this issue, and can communicate it without extreme misrepresentations, it will help us get to a point where we can realize what racism is, to the point where enough people would see the current claims of our society being “color blind” as the outrageously ludicrous misstatements that they are.

When Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won the best acting awards, a lot of people were saying that this proves America is color-blind. It seemed so clear to me that this was patently absurd. You know what would have been “color blind”? If Halle Berry and Denzel Washington had both won the Oscar, and no one thought about or cared that both were black.

A year later, maybe, someone would sit up and say, “Hey, I just realized, Berry and Washington won the same year and both were black!”

To which the common and reasonable response would be, “So?”

We don’t live in that society yet. We are nowhere close to being “color blind.” We have made a lot of progress, to be sure. However, the importance of that event was defined by the fact that it was, in every sense of the word, remarkable. We have to begin to realize why that is, and take the next of many, many more steps.

Categories: Race Tags: by

Microsoft Bing: Small Tsu = Porn?

May 3rd, 2014 1 comment

I am on Facebook a lot now, and try to read some Japanese-language posts, especially ones written by my wife. They have the “See Translation” option, provided by Microsoft’s Bing, which supposedly translates the Japanese text into English.

The problem is, it often translates like it was written by a deranged screenwriter specializing in bad porn. Seriously, it’s like one of those Chinese dictionaries that resulted in obscene English labels in Chinese supermarkets.

Now I know that machine translation between European and East Asian languages is spotty at best, but one would think that certain words would simply not be in the translation matrix, or whatever it’s called.

However, it seems to be mostly related to a single Japanese character.

Take this sentence in Japanese:

フィギュア男子素晴らしい演技でしたね。 すごいっ!ステキっ!

A fair translation would be, “It was a wonderful performance in the men’s figure skating. Wow! Great!”

On Facebook, it was translated as:

Figure men’s amazing performance was … wow.! Nice boobs!

I tried going to Bing translation directly, pasted the sentence there—and it was even worse:

It was the figure men’s great acting. Amazing boobs! Nice boobs!

Seriously? “Boobs”?

Turns out that the “boobs” comes whenever a small “tsu” () appears out of place, used often in Japanese to create a sudden stop, acting kind of like an emphasis for the exclamation point. On Google translate, it comes out as “tsu” or (strangely) “LI.”

But “boobs”?

Here is a Bing translation of a single Facebook post:

In less than two hours March! (early!) fliped over my private calendar is out! (did buy a desk calendar “Hoshino Chan” thanks for accepted calendar for a super House by mistake, I have is and & my husband face big boobs a March to forgive.) was indeed warm day, so it was just a happy. Mood shop & cold hardens me you cum Sasha! I’ll do it! (what? for) of switch “chubby!”, I feel that it was. (Lol) weekend winter mode is, but another relapse is also no sense.

Seriously? “Big boobs,” and “cold hardens me you cum”? I’ve been getting questions from my family as to what exactly Sachi is writing in Japanese.

When I put the text into Bing’s official page, again it identified the small “tsu” () as the part translated as “boobs”—but it also translated the exact same character into “cum” in another sentence! What the…?

This is what you get if the exact same message in Japanese is put into Google Translate:

March in less than 2 hours to go! (Ll soon) Tsu was turning a private calendar of my home!
(And me accepted me to buy a desk calendar calendar super home for you’ve had “Hoshi-chan” by mistake and … face Deka-tsuna March excuse of & husband thanks) Today is because it was a warm day, I was happy with it. For me, that hardens and cold moody & was the day that was popular, the feeling that “Pochi” was the switch “Yaruzo pretensions” of (what for) … (laughs) The weekend seems to winter mode, but there is no sense going back.

As you can see, the translation as a whole is better on Google. It’s still mangled, but much more clear, and no porn terminology.

The thing is, it’s not just the two strange “tsu” related hiccups I found—strange words find their way into the text fairly commonly. Here’s a collection of sentences that I have strung together from various sources, to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

Gaping! I always do you have weed… Hand fetish with me! Will drink your father who ate and I’m sure. Walk to him cum ♪ suffice in the exercise of said. I was the time you pack. Also to go out, when combined in the dog ultra-most fortunately I’m a boobs. Requests off my husband cum!

So, was Microsoft’s software intentionally sabotaged, and after months or years nobody at Microsoft noticed? What the hell is going on there?

Sterling and…

April 29th, 2014 5 comments

In the wake of Sterling’s alleged recorded comments demonstrating his racism, major sponsors for the Clippers are now pulling out, and the NBA may be considering suspending Sterling for “conduct detrimental to the league.” Fans are boycotting the games and merchandise. The NBA could eventually put enough pressure on Sterling as to essentially force him to sell the team.

People are comparing Sterling’s remarks to Bundy’s, but I see an even more appropriate comparison: Brendan Eich.

Now, Sterling has been accused of institutional racism for years, most notably in two suits brought against him, one for housing discrimination (favoring Korean tenants over blacks and Hispanics), and one for pay discrimination. Both involved allegations of racist remarks by Sterling, but there was no definitive proof. His contributions to an array of minority advocacy groups may have smoothed over the ruffled feathers—enough, apparently, that Sterling was about to receive his second lifetime achievement award from the NAACP.

How does this compare to Eich? Well, keep in mind that there was no firestorm over Sterling until the recording was made public. While it hasn’t been positively proven as genuine, there is little doubt regarding its authenticity. And now pretty much everyone has started shutting down their relations with the man, leading to much harsher consequences than Eich suffered. Remember, there was relatively mild reaction to Eich—employees and users protested, and one company disallowed Mozilla’s browser. In response to Sterling, however, fans are in an uproar, employees are protesting, virtually all sponsors are pulling out, and the league is probably going to get involved.

In Sterling’s case, we suspect that he was discriminating against minorities, while at the same time, we know he was helping them in other ways. The key point is that no great public outrage happened until there was evidence of a racist belief; the charges of actual discrimination have been around for years, and never sparked anything like what we see today.

Eich is usually defended on the basis that only his beliefs are in issue—so how is that not equivalent?

In Eich’s case, however, we know that he not only believed that gays should be denied the civil right of marriage, but that he wanted that discrimination written into law. Not just applied to people he dealt with directly, but to one of the most populous and influential states in the country.

Naturally, the two cases do not line up perfectly, but I find it hard to see how the reaction to Eich is unjustified if the reaction to Sterling is justified—unless you consider discrimination against gay people somehow more acceptable.

One common response is that the discrimination against gay marriage was more popular, that millions of people voted for it. Is that supposed to somehow make it better?

Tell me, if Eich had contributed to a bill that would have made it illegal for non-whites to get married, would the reaction have been different? Would it have been more OK if millions of people had sided with such a proposal?


An amusing side note: though Sterling was already drowning out the Bundy story, conservatives did not waste a minute pointing out that Sterling is a “Democrat donor,” and that “100%” of his political donations are to Democrats. See? Democrats are racist! And hypocrites!

What they don’t mention is that Sterling has been a registered Republican for the past 16 years.

They don’t mention that the donations to Democrats were made 22 and 24 years ago and amounted to all of $4000.

They also do not mention that Sterling made a grand total of three donations to three politicians. Two of them—Bill Bradley and Patrick Leahy—were basketball players before becoming politicians. How about that. For all we know, the NBA or someone within the organization may have solicited the donations in order to garner support for the organization. The other donation was to a California governor. Sterling has not donated anything since then, suggesting that he is not exactly a political activist. In short, there is as much reason to believe that Sterling made the donations for pragmatic rather than political reasons.

Not that I am surprised at the conservative attempts to frame Sterling as a Democrat; it’s what conservatives do, especially when right-wingers are on edge about associations of such people with conservatives and conservative causes. Take, for example, mass shootings; whenever there is a notable mass murder involving firearms, there is a common assumption that these people are wingnuts, so conservative forums, web sites, and bloggers waste no time in labeling them as “Registered Democrats.”

A recent viral email (which made it into letters to the editor as well) identified a half dozen infamous mass murderers as “Registered Democrats”:

Adam Lanza was tagged as a “Registered Democrat” on nothing more than that Connecticut is a blue state. Lanza was said by people who knew him as politically conservative, and he was never registered to vote.

Nidal Hasan, the (first) Ft. Hood shooter, was also tagged as a “Registered Democrat”—but lived in states where there was no registration by party affiliation.

Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, was called a “Registered Democrat” despite the fact that he was not even a U.S. citizen and thus not eligible to vote.

James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter, was described not only as a “Registered Democrat” but also as staff worker on the Obama campaign, an Occupy Wall Street participant, and a progressive liberal. The voter registration was based on someone else of the same name. The other stuff is complete fiction made up by conspiracy theorists.

Finally, while Columbine shooters Klebold and Harris were too young to vote, their families were identified as (you guessed it) “Registered Democrats” and progressive liberals. This claim was never substantiated; the families lived in a conservative suburb; and the boys’ ideology was most marked by admiration for Timothy McVeigh. Which is not to say that they or their families were conservative, but rather to point out that what little evidence there is points in neither direction in any conclusive regard.

Versions of the email also included “Timothy McVey” (presumably Timothy McVeigh) and the Unabomber.

“McVey” is labeled as “Oklahoma City Bombing raised Democrat and pro-Union.” McVeigh was a registered Republican who also voted for Libertarian candidates. His father was a Democrat and a union member; to label McVeigh, his causes, and his inspirations as somehow influenced by ideological opposites simply due to family association is, to say the least, specious.

Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, is claimed to a “Registered Democrat and inspired by Al Gore’s Book Earth in a Balance.” Kaczynski was neither Democrat nor Republican, but a rather specific breed of anti-technology anarchist, and wrote disparagingly of “leftists.” The Gore reference is based both upon a right-wing meme that connected Kaczynski’s writings to Gore’s book, and an unsubstantiated rumor in the conservative American Spectator that FBI agents had found a heavily notated copy of Gore’s book in Kaczynski’s cabin, but this was “suppressed” to avoid embarrassing the Clinton administration. In short, more conspiracy theorist crap.

In short, just a whole lot more hooey. Not that one could expect much more from a viral right-wing email.

Categories: Race, Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

No, They’re Not Equivalent

April 26th, 2014 7 comments

After hyping Cliven Bundy for more than a week as being some kind of outstanding folk hero, conservatives were sent scrambling into damage control mode when Bundy suddenly started spouting rather racist comments on camera. Most of them loudly condemned what Bundy said—good for them!—but they are complaining even more loudly that liberals are taking advantage of the situation, unfairly smearing conservatives and the Republican Party in general.

One tack is to complain that liberals get away with such statements all the time, and are never criticized in the media when they go racist. Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer:

[W]hat I find fascinating as the chief spokesman for Republican Party is when a guy with a problem with cattle grazing and discussion about the size of government and overreach of the federal government makes a comment, every reporter calls the Republican National Committee asking for comment. But yet when similar incidents happen time and time again on the left, there is zero coverage, absolutely zero.“

”Just this week Gov. Pat Quinn, the Democratic governor of Illinois, president’s home state, made anti-Semitic Jewish and black comments and there was zero discussion until last night when CNN picked it up,“ he continued. ”But, the rest of the national media, a sitting Democratic governor does anti-Semitic comments that were offensive to Republicans and blacks and there was no coverage. So, while I’m willing to call out time and time again anyone who uses inappropriate language and RNC has gotten — time and time again we’re asking from student council elections to county officials … but when similar instance have happened on the left – zero, zero, zero coverage….

His key example is Democratic (kudos to Spicer for getting the adjectival correct!) Gov. Pat Quinn, who, according to Spicer, “made anti-Semitic Jewish and black comments.” These are supposedly more or less equivalent to Bundy’s comments.

So let’s see if this is true. What comments did Quinn make?

Umm, actually, he made no such comment. The incident being reported was about a tweet made by his campaign staff, in the campaign’s Twitter account (separate from the governor’s). So, what was the racist, anti-black, and anti-Semitic tweet?

“If Rauner is willing to throw his own money away like this, what’s he going to do when he gets his hands on ours?” http://t.co/a1vAS0cChl

Umm… doesn’t seem really racist. Who is Rauner? A white Republican candidate running against Quinn. But hey, maybe the article is totally racist. The tweet does not endorse the article, just quotes from it, but I suppose it could be considered and implied endorsement. Click on the link, and you’ll find an article in the Chicago Sun-Times written by Neil Steinberg, which contains the quote. The quote is the last sentence in the article. So, what’s the article about?

The article is a scathing criticism of a woman named Hermene Hartman, a woman who publishes a periodical for the African-American community. According to Steinberg, Hartman was given $51,000 from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, and, allegedly, wrote a glowing piece about Rauner in exchange for the money.

It’s certainly a serious charge, albeit one of relatively minor importance. But how is that anti-black, and anti-Semitic?

It is because of this part of the article, in the first three paragraphs:

“The machine,” political guru Don Rose said, years ago, “could get 30 percent of the black votes for George Wallace over Martin Luther King.”

Though we don’t have to raise hypotheticals. When the actual Dr. King actually did bring his open occupancy marches to Chicago, there was no shortage of black aldermen willing to rise in City Council and denounce King as an unwelcome outsider, their strings pulled by Richard J. Daley.

Let me be clear: As a general rule, individuals will sell out the interests of their groups in return for personal benefit. It isn’t just a black thing. Jews collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, helping them to round up their own people in the hopes they’d be the last to go.

Ah! OK, there’s the Jewish connection. If you read conservative comments, the conclusion is that the emphasized statement above from the article is saying that blacks are like Nazis, and the whole thing is anti-Semitic.

Umm, really? First of all, Steinberg did not say that black people are like Nazis, but rather that in any community, you will find people who will sell out their own, as some Jews did in WWII. And, sadly, it did happen—some Jews did indeed collaborate with the Nazis (examples here, here, and here).

What, exactly, is anti-black and anti-Semitic about that? It’s a scathing indictment of one woman and allegedly some unspecified others, but not of black people in general. The writer is careful not to label this as only a black issue. And while pointing out that Jewish Nazi collaborators existed is not exactly the most politic thing to do during Passover, it is not false, either.

So, what do we have here?

On the one hand, Cliven Bundy, which most of the conservative community was hyping as a hero to their cause, giving him massive coverage and a national platform few every enjoy, standing in front of a camera and saying that “Negroes” who got abortions and “put” their young men in jail never learned to “pick cotton” and would be happier as slaves. When asked later if he really meant that, he repeated it.

On the other hand, you have, not even the Democratic governor of Illinois, who is little-known and not highly-praised, but a campaign staffer for the governor, tweeting a quote from an article which was not racist at all, but in the opposite end of the article, a statement was made which said that every community including the African-American community has sell-outs, and used Jewish collaborators from WWII as an example.

Yeah, I totally see why it’s reasonable to be outraged at how the national media did not treat these two stories in a similar fashion.

This is what happens when you delve into claims of equivalency made by conservatives when they get all defensive: the truth is nothing like they portray it to be. They just lie, and hope that nobody looks too closely at their claims.

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

The Disk Wasn’t Ejected Because We’re Stupid

April 26th, 2014 2 comments

I simply cannot believe that Apple still has this infuriating bug after all these years. Connect external volumes and try to eject… and OS X comes up with this message:

The disk “(diskname)” wasn’t ejected because one or more programs may be using it.
To eject the disk immediately, click the Force Eject button.

The “one or more programs” is so idiotically vague as to be worse than useless. The thing is, it’s almost always some process in OS X, some stupid Apple service like indexing the volume, something that of course should just shut down when you try to eject… and after all these years Apple still hasn’t corrected it. Freaking pisses me off to no end.

In order to eject the disk, you usually have to close every app you’re running and reboot the computer—something that is so SCSI and 1980′s that it’s pathetic. Follow the “Force Eject” suggestion, and some disk formats will not remount until OS X spends 20-30 minutes working on it somehow.

It should be a simple and obvious point, but Apple seems to be either incapable of fixing it or else doesn’t give a crap.

Categories: Computers and the Internet, Mac News Tags: by

Beware the Heroes You Cast

April 25th, 2014 4 comments

Any statement that begins with the words, “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro” is not likely to end well.

Fox News and many on the conservative side have made a homespun hero out of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who says that the United States does not exist—even as he rides around on a horse carrying the flag of the United States. He says that he will follow every law that Nevada has, but none of the federal government—despite the fact that one of Nevada’s highest laws says that federal laws must be followed. This is a man whose claim to fame is essentially that he’s a thief. For twenty years, he has been raiding resources which do not belong to him. Now that the owners, having been relatively gentle and patient, are asserting their ownership, Bundy has decided to use the threat of violence to solve his problems.

Now, one can understand the siren call of this story for the conservatives. As I pointed out before, it has so many seductive elements: the scrappy, defiant rancher with his ragtag team of compatriots fighting the feds all by their lonesome, the government denying use of land to protect an endangered species, and the allure of a Waco-style conflagration which could amount to a spectacular PR nightmare for the Obama administration. You can almost hear the right wing getting sexually aroused.

Now, the points I mentioned above—essentially, this is a guy who doesn’t bother to know things or to think too hard before he speaks—should have been kind of a warning sign to conservatives that they had a potential embarrassment on their hands. But then, this is the same crowd that not only nominated Sarah Palin, but actually loved her for saying stuff that amounts to “I’m a foreign policy expert because you can see Russian wastelands from the far reaches of my state.” Clearly, the general weight of the conservative movement is not exactly sharp as tacks. Or, to be more fair, they are far more about message than they are about fact or reason.

Nevertheless, you would think that there might have been something of a reassessment in conservative circles when a Bundy supporter revealed that they planned to put women at the forefront of their group as they drew fire from federal forces so that the nation would see women shot to death on national TV, and that would be swell for cattle grazing.

But no, conservatives still figured that this was a good movement to latch onto. After Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Joe the Plumber, people like Rand Paul figured that they’d found someone who would help their cause just as much. And they were right.

So, are you ready to hear what their new hero wants to say?

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,“ he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, ”and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?

They never learned to pick cotton, and perhaps would be better off as slaves.

Now, I am aware that he was not actually suggesting that these people be sold back into slavery (at least I think he was not trying to say that), but instead was criticizing government subsidy. However, his wording could hardly have been less, shall we say, eloquent. When using the word ”Negro“ is the least offensive thing you said, you know that you’ve just made a fairly significant gaffe.

I mean, he’s making about a half dozen incredibly offensive innuendoes in rapid-fire succession. There were lots of kids, despite the fact that they get so many abortions—because these people just do nothing but have wantonly irresponsible sex all day long, don’t they? And their old people and kids can be seen lounging around; shouldn’t they all be working or something? Especially the ”young girls“—good lord, I do not even want to speculate as to what he meant by that. Although perhaps he meant that the young girls should be lined up to be shot by armed federal agents or something. You know, because it’s a great visual.

Pile that on top of the irony that his entire cause is about demanding as his natural entitlement an far greater subsidy than any of these people he imagines are living the easy life… well, it’s all pretty breathtaking.

Sarah Palin, stand aside… allow a master to show you how it’s done. Er, not that I mean anything by ”master.“

Rand Paul was quick to disown Bundy. Rick Perry is now calling Bundy a ”side story“ and the real issue is land management. And for some unknown reason, Fox News seems to have suddenly gone silent about the scrappy rancher. Cannot for the life of me imagine why that could be.

As the conservatives who for days gleefully made Bundy their poster boy now scramble for cover, you have to wonder how long it will be before they again forget to think carefully about who they choose to hold up as a hero for their cause. Because it will happen again. It’s not like Bundy was all that hard to see coming. And they still like Sarah Palin.

Approval Ratings

April 24th, 2014 No comments

A big Fox News headline this week:

Fox News Poll: Many voters say Obama lies to the country on important matters

The article begins with the statement, “About six in ten American voters think Barack Obama lies to the country on important matters some or most of the time.” They of course use a dimly-lit photo of Obama looking shifty and glum.

However, in the very next paragraph, you find that only 37%, or a bit above the Republican base, think that he lies “most of the time”; 24% said “some of the time.” Since “some of the time” could mean a very small amount, it’s rather disingenuous to group those together. Not to mention that probably the majority of people who belong to either of those groups replied as they did in large part because of the concerted effort of Fox News itself over the past six years to paint Obama as a liar and much worse.

A telling point: look at the polls taken by Fox when Bush was at this point in his presidency—a presidency marked especially by the lies the president told—and you will find that they didn’t even ask the question back then.

The article eventually gets around to noting Obama’s approval/disapproval at 42/51. These numbers are buried in the story, however, as they are an improvement in the Fox universe over the 38 and 40% Fox had him at in March.

That’s Fox, though, which normally skews to the right; Gallup has Obama’s numbers at 45/49. Interestingly, when asked to state a general “favorable or unfavorable” opinion of Obama, the Fox poll has him at 45/51.

What is amusing is that, typically, these polls also compare the current president with past presidents at the same time. Where was George W. Bush at this point in his presidency?

He was at 33%, according to a Fox News poll taken in mid-April 2006. Bush’s approval/disapproval was 33/57. Bill Clinton was doing much better, in the mid-60′s (63/31) at this point. They sure don’t mention that. And while Reagan was doing about as well as Clinton by this time, by the same time a year later, his numbers dropped to those Obama is experiencing now.

Categories: "Liberal" Media Tags: by

How Could That Have Happened?

April 20th, 2014 No comments

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

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

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

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

Categories: Republican Stupidity Tags: by

The Republican Mindset

April 20th, 2014 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay classy, Republicans.

Sometimes You Wish You Wrote Stuff Down

April 19th, 2014 No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Technology Tags: by

xkcd? IOKIYAR

April 18th, 2014 3 comments

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

Free Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s very simple when you consider it.

Categories: IOKIYAR Tags: by

The Bundy Thing

April 16th, 2014 1 comment

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

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

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

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

Categories: IOKIYAR Tags: by

Further Dissemination of the Lie

April 15th, 2014 1 comment

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

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

Indeed, PolitiFact reports on exactly that trend:

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

Fox “News” contributor Dick Morris ramped it up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how you disseminate lies in the modern age.

Categories: Corruption, Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

Tweetless Twitter

April 14th, 2014 Comments off

This did not surprise me at all:

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Computers and the Internet Tags: by

About Time

April 14th, 2014 1 comment

President Obama:

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by

More Christian Persecution!

April 12th, 2014 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Religion, Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

Not Impressed by Tsukuba

April 10th, 2014 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Focus on Japan 2014 Tags: by

When to Tolerate Intolerance

April 5th, 2014 7 comments

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

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

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

The answer to that is clearly “no.”

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

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

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

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

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

The question is, is that justifiable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Corporate World, Social Issues Tags: by

Anti-Vaccers

April 5th, 2014 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: People Can Be Idiots Tags: by