Jobs

July 4th, 2014 3 comments

Wow. The job market improved so much that even Fox News couldn’t find anything bad to say about it. That’s a rarity.

But seriously. 288,000 jobs, 5th straight month of 200,000 or more added jobs, unemployment back down to 6.1%.

We still took dramatic damage since 2001 and 2008 that has not been repaired. We are still crippled by debt. Taxes for wealthy people are still too low. Spending on infrastructure is still too anemic. Jobs still pay less. Who knows, maybe if Republicans in Congress hadn’t obstructed Obama for the past six years solid, maybe things would have improved a lot more—though Obama did not exactly try nearly as hard as he should have.

Bottom line, economies recover sometimes just because they do. But the political bottom line is, for better or worse, whoever is in office when something happens, they get the credit or blame.

Of course, just because Fox can’t find anything bad to say, doesn’t mean they give Obama any credit at all—a search of their main article on the story or other articles shows they do not mention Obama once, even indirectly, alongside good economic news. The opposite holds for bad news, naturally.


On a related topic, Obama shows promise to finally dig himself out of the hole that Bush dug for him. In the past, it has been a reliable fact that job creation under Democrats has been better than under Republicans—so consistently so that the poorest-performing Democrat (Kennedy) did better than the best-performing Republican (Nixon).

Obama’s problem: In his first year, his performance was crippled by Bush’s disastrous recession. Although Obama immediately turned job prospects around for the better, he still had to pull up out of a record-breaking dive. In that first year, 4.3 million jobs were lost. No fault to Obama, as I said, but he gets those losses put onto his portion of the ledger.

As it turns out, with the latest reports factored in, Obama has added a total of 4.8 million jobs net—and more than 9 million jobs if you don’t count the first year. Which is more fair—Obama only improved things, he did not create the abyss he dragged us out of. Obama’s record looks even better when considering that Republicans in Congress not only obstructed but did everything they could to sabotage things, up to and including the debt default threat, which did serious damage.

Compare this with Bush, who only added a net of 1.1 million jobs over 8 years. More fairly, if you count from February 2002 to January 2010, assuming it takes a year for one’s policies to get started and wind down, Bush lost 1.3 million jobs. But the official record, however undeserved, is +1.1 million.

Obama has overseen job gains of 1.4 million in the past 6 months alone, and 2.5 million in the past one year.

Alas, even at that rate, by the time he leaves office, he will only have added only an additional 7 million jobs or so—maybe a total of 12 million jobs added, net, over his eight years. That would probably end up being only a 1.1% average increase over his term, placing him of Ford or Coolidge territory.

Sadly, even if you don’t count that first year of climbing out of the hole, his yearly average job creation would only reach about 1.8%, still below Reagan (2.1%) and Nixon (2.2%).

Unless job creation really takes off and we regularly see numbers over 300,000 until January 2017, Obama will break the trend of Democrats always performing better than Republicans.

Categories: Economics Tags: by

The Imperial Presidency

July 3rd, 2014 1 comment

Boy, that Obama is just out of control. Boehner just has to sue him!


Republican charge: Obama rules by decree. Evidence: Has issued 180 executive orders.

George W. Bush: Supposedly not ruling by decree. Evidence: Issued about 210 executive orders by the same time in his presidency.


Republican charge: Obama lied when he said you could keep your health care plan if you liked it. Evidence: Undetermined number of Americans forced to change health care plans; some got somewhat worse plans, many more got more advantageous plans. Obama made a formal apology for his statements, saying that his assurances had been wrong.

George W. Bush: Bush lied about Iraq having ties to al Qaeda and terrorism, about Iraq working on a nuclear program and having massive stockpiles of WMD, about how an invasion would be short-termed and not costly, how we would be greeted as liberators, and how sectarian concerns would not be a problem. Evidence: A decade-long was costing trillions of dollars, 4489 American soldiers killed, 32,000 wounded, Iraq destabilized and sent plunging into a sectarian civil war. Bush never admitted doing anything wrong, said he would make the same decision again if he could go back; Republicans blamed Obama for anything bad happening concerning the war, including costs and outcome.


Republican charge: Obama’s “Imperial Presidency” via executive orders and end-runs around Congress is “Unprecedented.”

George W. Bush: from an article in 2007:

As he tries to end-run a balky Congress, Bush is taking a page from Bill Clinton’s playbook by adopting a series of mini-initiatives to change policy through executive orders and administration actions that don’t require legislation.


Let’s face it, this is just a media stunt. According to Republicans, every Democratic president is “the most corrupt ever,” or “the most imperial president ever”—just like every single Democratic presidential nominee is immediately and automatically labeled as “the most liberal nominee ever.” It’s a knee-jerk political attack, similar to how every domestic mass murderer or terrorist suspect is automatically labeled as a “Registered Democrat” in Freeper forums.

This is not about Obama doing anything even remotely controversial. It’s about Republicans running out of ideas about how to attack Obama and still make it look serious somehow.

Japan’s Mac Tax

June 28th, 2014 3 comments

DriveThere’s a spiffy Mac accessory, a 128 GB SD card from Transcend that sticks into your SD slot and doesn’t stick out. I’d love to get it, as my 256 GB SSD is just too small for me.

The item costs $80 at Amazon in the U.S.

The same item in Amazon Japan costs $126. That’s priced down from $146 just a few weeks ago.

Both are sold and shipped by Amazon. They’re the exact same item.

I’ve encountered this repeatedly in Japan. Whenever I look for peripherals or accessories, anything labeled “for Mac” or which lists OS X compatibility is bound to be half again as expensive as similar PC-ready models, which most peripherals are marked as. I refuse to believe that creating OS X drivers for most basic peripherals (e.g., DVD drives, web cams, film scanners) is that hard—and in the case of the Transcend device, drivers are obviously not the issue.

Instead, it seems that Japanese sellers believe that people who buy Macs are willing to pay a premium. They may be right about a very small subset, and they may just be able to fool a larger subset into thinking they have no choice (and thus helping create the myth that Mac ownership is too expensive). But for the most part, it’s a stupid presumption, because that only applies to products which are, in fact, worthy of being labeled “premium,” which most of the overpriced stuff is not. The Transcend thing is a nice idea, but it’s just flash memory inside a frame; its main advantage is simply that it doesn’t stick out when it’s plugged in. That’s it.

The idea that I’d be willing to pay a $45 premium just because I use a Mac is asinine. I imagine that some people pay the higher price because they don’t know any better and think that’s the only option; a lot of Mac users, however, simply look around for the best price, and read customer reviews which tell if items not branded as Mac-compatible will actually work with a Mac. At worst, I’ll just wait until I go back to the U.S., by which time it might be even cheaper, or a 256 GB version might be priced competitively, which would be cool.

Until then, anyone wanting to sell me exorbitantly priced stuff can bite me.

Categories: Gadgets & Toys, Mac News Tags: by

Conservative Projection Syndrome

June 25th, 2014 4 comments

This out of Wisconsin:

Robert Monroe, a 50-year-old Shorewood health insurance executive, was charged Friday with 13 felonies related to his voting a dozen times in five elections between 2011 and 2012 using his own name as well as that of his son and his girlfriend’s son.

… Monroe was considered by investigators to be the most prolific multiple voter in memory. He was a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker and state Sen. Alberta Darling, both Republicans, and allegedly cast five ballots in the June 2012 election in which Walker survived a recall challenge.

According to the John Doe records, Monroe claimed to have a form of temporary amnesia and did not recall the election day events when confronted by investigators.

Amnesia. Right. Because forgetting that you cast your vote in one state five times causes you to vote in two other states. Under different names.

I’m pretty sure something else caused this, and I’m pretty sure I know what it is. There’s a phenomenon amongst conservatives to accuse liberals of a wrongdoing, claim it’s destroying the country—and then proceed to do that very thing yourself, to an extreme. Conservatives feel justified in doing this along a specific train of thought: Democrats did it, they got away with it, so why can’t I do it in spades?

We’ve seen this a lot of times before. Democrats used the filibuster—in what was truthfully a limited fashion—to stop Bush’s most extremist judicial nominations, which he repeatedly nominated for court seats. The Republican response? Claim that Democrats are abusing the filibuster, call that the worst crime in history, and then, once they lost power, use the filibuster to block every last thing in sight.

Republicans accused Democrats in 2006 of being so adamantly hostile to Bush that, if elected to power in Congress, they would hold endless investigations of Bush and would try to impeach him, all of this being a dire threat to America. Democrats won and did not investigate or impeach—but in 2010, when Republicans won the House, they began exactly that process, to extremes.

They claim that Democrats are on a campaign to “annihilate” the Republican Party, despite no evidence to support that—and then launch campaigns to destroy traditional Democratic power bases, such as unions and teachers, vilify liberal causes, deny any compromise for the purpose of destroying any chance of opposition success, and even attempt to destroy the very names for the other side—“liberal” becomes “The ‘L’ Word,” and “Democratic” becomes “democRAT.”

They claim that Democrats are reckless spenders responsible for the debt, and then go on a spending spree that takes a budget surplus and transforms it into a (second!) Republican-generated record-breaking national debt. They claim that Democrats are “takers,” a then acquire more government handouts for red states than the more-productive blue states are given. They claim that Democrats voted for Obama just because he is black, and then vault men like Michael Steele, Herman Cain, and Alan Keyes to high-profile roles in the shadow on Obama. They cry “class warfare!” and say it’s tearing the nation apart, and then seek to destroy the minimum wage and actually raise taxes for poor people even in light of a supposedly inviolable “no tax hike” pledge.

And then, on the issue of election fraud itself, Republicans claim Democrats steal elections, their claim based on nothing more than rumor and conspiracy theories… and then launch the grandest, most thinly-veiled nationwide campaign for election fraud imaginable.

The list goes on and on and on. This is what conservatives do.

So why did this Robert Monroe guy think it was perfectly fine for him to commit exactly the kind of voter fraud that conservatives claim, without any evidence whatsoever, is rampant amongst liberals? My guess is, this exact phenomenon: conservatives make up ludicrous false claims about liberals, believe their own fairy tales, and then feel perfectly justified to do exactly what they have railed against, only to more egregious extremes than they imagined liberals were doing.

We already have ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome); what we see here is another conservative malady—call it “CPS”: Conservative Projection Syndrome.

The Straight Sell Wouldn’t Have Gone Over Well

June 23rd, 2014 1 comment

So, in 2003, if Bush and Cheney had approached the American people and given a truthful summing up of what they wanted to do?


“Look, folks, we know that there is no link between Iraq and the terrorists who were behind 9/11—in fact, we’re fully aware that Iraq has been hostile to them and other terrorist groups—and we’re pretty sure that Hussein is not really a threat to anybody, and might even be preferable to the alternative, holding the unstable religious and ethnic groups in check. However, we really want to invade this country because we have this vision of American dominance, spreading our moral values in the Middle East, and, let’s face it, it would be really great to control the flow of oil in the region. Not to mention the Cold War ended and we need continued justification to finance our military spending.

”For the Iraq War alone, it will cost at the very least about $16,000 per U.S. household over the next decade—we’ll be billing you in advance—and about four and a half thousand U.S. soldiers will die over the same period of time. An additional 32,000 soldiers will be wounded, many of them permanently so. That cost, by the way, is only the direct cost; there will be a lot more to pay in many other ways, and a lot more soldiers will die indirectly as a result of the war. There will be a tremendous psychological burden on countless thousands of troops, and the cost and resources needed to treat them will pile up over the decades—if we feel like seeing to those obligations, that is.

“And let’s be frank here: this is a quagmire. We will either have to stay in Iraq indefinitely, or resign ourselves to the fact that, once we leave, the country will break down into fundamentalist-led chaos which will only create more problems than we have there now.

”So, how about it, folks? Each American household pays $1600 a year for ten years, for starters. About 4500 troops will be killed, 32,000 wounded, countless more disabled or traumatized, and, well, let’s face it, our good name and influence around the world more than a little battered. In return, we’ll kill Saddam Hussein and tens of thousands of Iraqis, we’ll try but ultimately fail to spread our moral and political values, and we’ll be able to control, for as long as we stay there, the flow of oil.

“What do you say?”


It’s not really a mystery as to why they lied to get us into Iraq, when you think about it.

Remember what they were selling? They said that Hussein was a ruthless dictator, which was true enough. But then they also said that Hussein was building a nuke and had vast stores of other WMD, had ties to terrorists and would shortly be giving the nukes and other WMD to al Qaeda which would lay waste to America. (Remember Bush’s “mushroom cloud over an American city” in his State of the Union speech?) They claimed that the estimates of $50 billion in costs were probably too high, that Iraq would pay for it in oil revenues. They said the whole enterprise would be a cakewalk, lasting only a few weeks, and we would be greeted as liberators. They said that the Sunni/Shi’a/Kurd factionalism would not be a problem. They said it would spread peace and Democracy throughout the region. I am not exaggerating; quotes to the exact effect are easily found on video. They then ordered tailor-made fake intel to support their claims, cherry-picked and distorted what was known, and presented it is solid fact.

The only true thing they said was that Hussein was a ruthless dictator (though they exaggerated the hell out of even that). They did not mention that a ruthless dictator was just about all that could keep the artificially-drawn country from falling apart.

And now they claim it’s all Obama’s fault that anything has gone wrong, that we should still be in Iraq. They shift blame by claiming that everyone believed that Hussein had massive stores of WMD, which was not true, and to the extent it was true, it was because they lied to everyone and made so many believe it.

What is happening now was inevitable the moment we toppled the Hussein regime. The only alternative would be paying endless billions to maintain our own ruthless dictatorship in the country with our own troops, our own blood spilled on a regular basis—something the American people would not choose to do.

Blame is easy. We want out, and we want to blame somebody. But the people who are almost wholly to blame are the same ones now granted a TV spotlight to spout their revisionism, when they should righty be in The Hague.

Categories: Iraq News Tags: by

Surface Pro 3: Not Quite the Slam Dunk

June 21st, 2014 1 comment

Microsoft is still trying. Now out with the Surface 3, it’s trying to sell its muddled toaster-fridge with an array of contradictory comparisons.

It’s major tag line is, “The tablet that can replace your laptop.” Except, not really. The problem with the Surface is that it tries to be a tablet and a serious computer, but does so by sacrificing key elements of each form. A laptop is literally that—a computer you can use on your lap. By “computer,” I mean a fully-functional device in the sense that you can author on it easily. I am doing so right now, with my retina Macbook Pro on my lap. The Surface, however, has a keyboard which only really works reasonably if it’s on a table. In your lap, you would have to be uncomfortable, or else use the virtual keyboard—a wholly different experience which many people, including myself, are not comfortable with.

So, while the Surface may look like a laptop, it is actually a desktop-bound machine which can transform into a large, boxy tablet.

They make a big deal about the pen. The thing is, writing with a pen on a largish slab where brushing your hand against the touchscreen surface might lead to problems is, well, not exactly a premium experience. Much more to the point, why use a pen when I would rather be using a keyboard? Have you tried working on a computer by writing with a pen? One of the reasons I like using a keyboard is because I want to avoid writing by hand. I know some people will prefer the experience, but after actually doing it, how many really like that better? When you need to draw instead of write, your finger usually works well enough, and if not, good styluses are available for the iPad as well, usually for about $15.

It gets ridiculous when they run a comparison of the Surface 3 to a Macbook Air. Their 6-panel comparison is laughably slanted to favor the Surface. They lament the lack of a pen, and lo, the Macbook Air has no rear camera! Really? How about the fact that the Air has a Core i5 instead of the Surface’s i3, or has double the capacity in its SSD? The Surface’s only real advantage is its higher-resolution touchscreen display (the Air will probably match the resolution within the next year), meaning it could be a better choice if you value the display more than power, longevity, storage capacity, and form factor.

Not to mention, they cheat on cost and dimensions, rather blatantly. They ballyhoo the slender 9.1mm, 800g body for just $799… but everything on the page is in the context of using the keyboard, which adds to each of those: the thickness expands to 13.9mm, overall feeling thicker than a Macbook Air; the weight increases to 1095g, a tad more than a Macbook Air; and the cost, putatively $100 less than a Macbook Air, rises to $928 with the keyboard, topping the Air’s $899 price tag.

When they do own up to the added dimensions of the keyboard, they cheat again—comparing the 12“ Surface to a 13.3” Air, instead of the much closer match, the 11.6“ version. The language used is even funnier: ”Substantially thinner and lighter than MacBook Air—weighs 2.4 pounds with cover attached; 13-inch MacBook Air tips the scales at 2.96 pounds.“ Yes, that extra half-pound is what will kill you.

If, however, you match the Surface against the 11.6” Air, you’ll find that the Surface weighs 800g to the Air’s 1080g—but once again, that’s totally ignoring the Surface’s keyboard, which is stupid. Add the keyboard, and the Surface is 1095g, actually more than the Air. And those extra 15g will kill you!

Here is a chart showing a more rounded comparison:

SP3 iPad Air 64 11.6“ MB Air
Price $799 $699 $899
Price w/KB $928 $799* $899
Width (mm) 292 240 300
Height (mm) 201.3 169.5 192
Thickness (mm) 9.1 7.5 3 ~ 17
Thickness (mm) w/kb 13.9 13.9* 3 ~ 17
Weight 800g 469g 1080g
Weight w/kb 1095g 791g 1080g
Screen 12" 9.7" 11.6"
Resolution 2160 x 1440 2048 x 1536 1136 x 768
Pixels 3,110,400 3,145,728 872,448
Touch Yes Yes No
Battery 9 hrs 10 hrs 9 hrs
CPU Haswell i3 A7 Haswell i5
CPU Model 4020Y A7 4260U
CPU Benchmark 2278 2932* 3688
RAM 4GB 1GB 4GB
SSD 64 GB 64 GB 128 GB

For the iPad Air, I used the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard, which is an excellent accessory. Better than the Surface keyboard, it also acts as a stand, allowing you to use the tablet as a laptop, something the Surface fails at.

So, how do things round up? As usual, it depends on what is important to you. If you want something that runs full-blown Windows apps, can be used as a tablet, has a high-resolution touchscreen, and don’t mind all the disadvantages (of which there are many), then the Surface Pro could eke out ahead of your choices on the Apple side. However, that’s about the biggest overall advantage you can claim.

What are the disadvantages? The price depends on what you are comparing it against—you’ll pay more for the Surface than you would for the iPad or Macbook Air, especially if you have to spring for Office (iWork is free). You cannot use the Surface as a laptop, which for some is a huge down point. The CPU is relatively weak—even the iPad’s CPU is faster, and the Macbook Air and Pro perform far better. The storage on the Surface is half of what you would get on a Mac laptop. Upgrade the Surface to match CPU and storage with the Macbook Air, and the price jumps by $200, meaning that you just paid $230 extra for a higher-resolution touchscreen.

However, most importantly, there are the Surface’s trade-offs, which are completely ignored in the device’s positive reviews. By trying to be both a toaster and a fridge, it comes out being not-so-great at both. As a desktop, it is over-priced and under-powered. As a laptop, it sucks. And as a tablet, it is usable, but is a far inferior experience to something like the iPad Air. By getting the functionality of two extremes, you are sacrificing the performance and experience of both.

But let’s ignore all of that, and focus just on specs—which is what most non-Apple device makers do, and for a reason.


In the Surface vs. iPad matchup, the Surface can run full Windows apps, has 4GB of RAM to the iPad’s 1GB, and has a screen which is 2.3” larger. That’s it. That’s the total list of advantages.

In contrast, the iPad Air wins out in size (5cm smaller in width, 3cm in height, thinner by 0.2cm only without keyboard), weight (about 300g lighter), battery life (1 hour longer), and CPU power (the A7 SoC beats the mobile Haswell i3). All for $100 to $130 less. The touchscreen, screen resolution, and storage come to a wash.

So, if what you crave is something smaller and lighter, with a faster CPU and the ability to use it as a rudimentary laptop as well as a tablet, all for lower cost… well, the iPad easily beats the Surface.


But how about the Macbook Air? The comparison assumes that you do not need a tablet form—which a lot of people are happy with.

In this face-off, the price, weight, dimensions, battery life, and RAM memory are pretty much a wash. While the Surface could argue it has a thickness of 14mm vs. the Mac’s 17mm, that ignores the fact the the Macbook Air tapers down to 3mm, making it feel more slender overall. And if you always want a keyboard, the Air’s attached keyboard will be a huge advantage. Otherwise, the Air wins out in CPU power (60% faster) and storage (double the Surface’s). The Surface wins in only one area: a high-resolution touchscreen. However, if you don’t need a tablet form, the touchscreen is pretty much useless, making the high-resolution screen the only real advantage—one which will probably not last long, as the Air is certain to get a retina display before too long.


Even just looking at the specs only, the Surface does not perform all that impressively against the iPad or the Macbook Air.

It’s better as a laptop than the iPad Air, but it makes a crappy laptop—you really need a flat surface to put it on.

It’s better as a tablet than the Macbook Air, but it makes a crappy tablet; it’s big, heavy, thick, and boxy.

As a tablet, the iPad beats it hands-down. As a laptop, the Macbook Air beats it hands-down.

So really, it only is a better device if you absolutely need both form factors in one device, and are willing to suffer from the trade-offs. That’s what it comes down to. If you don’t mind those trade-offs, love Windows 8, and depend on games and business apps only on Windows, then the Surface definitely has an advantage, and you might well be very happy with it.

For the average user, however, Apple’s products will likely fit the bill much more often, and will give the user a much smoother ride.

Categories: Gadgets & Toys Tags: by

“Good News … I Guess”

June 18th, 2014 2 comments

Conservatives are now officially chronic hypocrites. Obama announced the capture of the ringleader in the attack on Benghazi. Considering how Republicans have been raging about how important it is to catch these people, you’d think that they would at least show a modicum of interest.

Remember, however, that these are the same people who actually complained when Obama took out Osama bin Laden, something that would have earned George W. Bush apotheosis, had he even been interested in catching the man. They rather pointedly thanked everybody except Obama, and grouched about how every detail of the operation was somehow handled the wrong way.

So, when Obama nabbed Ahmed Abu Khattala, conservatives concluded:

  • The capture was timed to sell Hillary Clinton’s book;
  • The capture was timed to distract from the IRS scandal;
  • The capture was timed to best benefit Obama politically;
  • Obama should have caught him earlier;
  • Obama should have caught more terrorists;
  • Obama is going to Mirandize the guy (which Bush/Cheney did all the time);
  • Obama is going to try him instead of putting him in Guantanamo;
  • Obama was bad for allegedly going golfing when the guy was captured; and
  • it’s not significant, who cares?

You know that the movement has gone way too far around the bend when they get really excited about things that hurt America, and really turned off by anything that is good for the country.

Update: One can only imagine how they will react to reports that the Benghazi attack was, in fact, spurred by the anti-Islamic Internet video.

Categories: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

Because They Can

June 17th, 2014 No comments

Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA) says that Republicans could swing the votes for impeachment:

A Republican congressman thinks a vote to impeachment President Obama would pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Speaking with the Gary Sutton radio program on Monday, Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said a vote to impeach Obama would “probably pass” the House.

“He’s just absolutely ignoring the Constitution, and ignoring the laws, and ignoring the checks and balances,” Barletta said. “The problem is, you know, what do you do? For those that say impeach him for breaking the laws or bypassing the laws. Could that pass in the House? It probably, it probably could. Is the majority the American people in favor of impeaching the president? I’m not sure.”

In case you may be fuzzy on the details, impeachment requires a simple majority vote in the House, but a two-thirds majority in the Senate. So, naturally, even if Republicans can manage to win a majority in the Senate this year, they still won’t have nearly enough votes to get a conviction, making any impeachment symbolic.

But here’s the thing: either way, they would do it. They did it to Clinton, for what was essentially a set-up regarding a question about a sexual dalliance, knowing it would never pass the Senate. The vote there was 55-45 against, all Democrats voting not guilty, along with 10 Republicans, Arlen Specter voting “not proven.” It was a foregone conclusion, so why impeach in the first place? Because they were pissed, and they could. Even then, at least roughly one-fifth of Senate Republicans showed sanity, but of those ten, two (Jeffords and Specter) would leave the party, and another two (Collins and Snowe) were the Maine centrists.

It has been about fifteen years since then, and though Snowe and Collins are still there, the party is still moving in an extremist direction. Remember, although 10 Republicans showed sanity, almost all in the House and 45 of 50 in the Senate did not.

And now we have House Republicans talking about the same thing; certainly they would be willing. What do they have the president on? The Guantanamo transfer, apparently. Even less than with Clinton, certainly far less than Bush could ever have been charged with.

However, I totally believe they would do it. They are that far gone. They care very little about the law, only about how they can use their power for political purposes. We see something similar on the Supreme Court: not just Bush v. Gore, but the conservative justices simply making crap up based not on law but upon their own personal ideologies. They are so deep into their own echo chamber that most of them probably do believe most of the idiocy they spout. That 99% of mass shooters are registered Democrats, that Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya, that FEMA concentration camps are just around the corner. And if not, they are certainly willing to act on it as if it were.

We have arrived at an age where the GOP, had they enough votes in the Senate, would actually convict a Democratic president not for any real cause, but just because they could.

We are in a time when one party has gerrymandered half the country and passed blatantly political Jim Crow laws to hold on to power, and has practiced a working strategy of zero compromise, ultra-hyperbolic rhetoric, utter obstructionism, and absolute enmity. The politics of hate, lies, and scorched Earth.

At some point, this has got to break. But, tragically, not before an unthinkable amount of permanent damage has been done.

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by

Spitting on Returning Soldiers

June 6th, 2014 3 comments

For years, we have heard the stories about how liberal protestors of the Vietnam War spat on returning veterans on the tarmacs of airports. Everybody accepted that as truth. Even I did.

However, it wasn’t true. It was made up.

In the first place, such a thing would have been impossible. Anti-war protesters were not allowed on military bases to spit on veterans on tarmacs. Nor were they allowed on civilian tarmacs, nor would they have been able to know when any veterans returned on civilian jets. What about elsewhere? Columnist Bob Greene solicited for and collected dozens of letters telling of stories where soldiers were spit upon, but upon closer investigation, these stories always fell apart, being second- or third-hand reports that could never be corroborated. The stories only started cropping up after the mythical image had been spread via media, such as the first Rambo movie, and records one would expect, such as police reports of brawls that erupted or narratives from studies at the time, simply do not exist.

The fact is, liberal protesters during the Vietnam War generally were supportive of the soldiers, not antagonistic. This explains why 94% of returning Vietnam vets reported “friendly homecomings from their age-group peers who had not served in the military.” The protesters opposed the policies and actions of the administration, but wanted soldiers to come home safe—which explains why many veterans were among the protesters, something that would be inexplicable if those protesters treated soldiers that way.

So, how did we get the myth of spitting on soldiers? Primarily, it was a way for conservatives to discredit the anti-war movement, and later, as a convenient narrative to paint liberals as unreasonable, or even traitorous. Since the 80s or even earlier, conservatives have used soldiers and veterans as weapons or shields to protect themselves from scrutiny or to attack their opponents. Reagan, on the spot for having put U.S. Marines in harm’s way in Lebanon, was in deep trouble politically when so many were killed. His response? That critics and reporters were attacking the soldiers, suggesting that they “died in vain.” George W. Bush continued that tradition, constantly spinning any criticism of his lies or mismanagement as “attacks” on the troops.

However, the truth remains: liberals or anti-war protesters did not spit on or, as a general rule, otherwise disrespect returning soldiers for political, ideological, or any other reasons.

Well, now we are in a different situation. For the past several years, an American serviceman has been held captive by the Taliban. Conservatives have consistently, over that time, made an issue out of his captivity; they called him a hero, and demanded that he be brought home. Republicans even said that we should trade the five Taliban leaders in Guantanamo for him. We do not leave soldiers behind.

So Obama did exactly that.

So naturally, conservatives went apeshit, calling the return—something they supported until just a few days ago—illegal, unethical, dangerous, even traitorous.

But here is the disgusting, despicable, hypocritical part: they have decided, for political and ideological purposes, that it serves them to spit on this returning soldier.

Conservatives are now in full attack mode. The man they called a hero before, now that Obama was the one to arrange his release, is now characterized as a deserter. A traitor. He speaks the language of the Taliban. His father looks like a Taliban. He got other soldiers killed. His return puts others in danger. He is not worth it. He is scum.

Now, I have no idea if any of the stories and rumors about Bergdahl are true. Nobody does. And that’s the point. The man served in the armed forces, spent five years in captivity, and is not even out of the hospital yet. We have no idea what is or is not true.

For conservatives, it doesn’t matter. They don’t give a shit. All they know is, they can attack Obama over this. For that, Bergdahl gets spit upon. For political and ideological reasons.

He didn’t even get to an American tarmac yet.

Categories: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

Enforcement and Bias

May 27th, 2014 1 comment

Despite their constant cries of being persecuted, the fact remains that when conservatives protest, even disruptively and sometimes threateningly, they get more or less a free pass. When liberals protest, however, then the hammer comes down. Paul Waldman at The American Prospect details one rather notable example:

The latest, from the New York Times, describes how law enforcement officials around the country went on high alert when the Occupy protests began in 2011, passing information between agencies with an urgency suggesting that at least some people thought that people gathering to oppose Wall Street were about to try to overthrow the U.S. government. And we remember how many of those protests ended, with police moving in with force. …

If you can’t recall any Tea Party protests in 2009 and 2010 being broken up by baton-wielding, pepper-spraying cops in riot gear, that’s because it didn’t happen. Just like the anti-war protesters of the Bush years, the Tea Partiers were unhappy with the government, and saying so loudly. But for some reason, law enforcement didn’t view them as a threat.

He cites the more recent example of Cliven Bundy’s ranch, when protesters actually pointed guns at law enforcement officials—and got away with it. Liberal protesters sit quietly, and they get doused with pepper spray. Maybe they should have all brought AR-15s.

Nor is this the only example. When liberal protesters did literally the least offensive form of protest possible—wearing T-shirts—they were singled out by the secret service, detained, or even arrested. When Obama became president, conservative protesters went armed with handguns and semiautomatic rifles at presidential events. Nothing happened to them, aside from being “closely watched.”

Nor is it just when arms are present. When liberal churches had guest speakers, not affiliated with the church, whose speeches at the pulpit had a political tone, the IRS went after them rather assiduously. When leaders of conservative churches outright endorsed Republican candidates to their congregations, even when the Catholic church itself publicly inserted itself into the presidential campaign by condemning John Kerry, not a thing happened. When the IRS went after all political groups but, for a while, only the Tea Party tags were known, it became a full-blown scandal still pursued today, even after being disproven. But when the IRS clearly discriminated against liberal groups in favor of conservative ones… not a peep.

It is one aspect of the IOKIYAR mentality. Which perhaps is one reason that conservatives play up being persecuted all the time. Aside from rather common right-wing projection, it helps to deflect attention from your faults if you can claim that the real victims are doing it to you.

Categories: IOKIYAR, Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

Why Are There No Good Conservatives Comedians?

May 25th, 2014 5 comments

It’s a good, legitimate question. Some answers are based upon the idea that conservatives are simply shut out of the business. “The mainstream media is mostly liberal, so conservatives are not given a chance.” This doesn’t ring true; first, there are plenty of right-wing outlets (not the least of which is Fox), and second, if someone is funny they will find an audience—and an audience pays, which always gets you on the air. It’s not as if there haven’t been attempts to popularize right-wing comedians; they simply have not taken off.

Others respond that “liberals don’t like others making fun of them.” Well, OK, but that only explains why conservative comedians don’t find a liberal audience, and cannot explain why conservative audiences don’t give them all the business they need.

It can’t be that liberals can’t be successfully mocked—watch John Stewart and you’ll eventually see him make fun of Democrats in a way that can evoke more than enough laughter (and scorn) to keep you going.

There’s no way you could convince me that it’s impossible to make enough hay out of video clips of Democrats, MSNBC hosts, and liberals in general saying stuff that could be mocked to fill a half hour comedy show four nights a week, especially if you pad that with takes on media in general and interviews with people pushing something or another. Humor can be fitted to any taste. I once made what I thought was a compelling case as to how Rush Limbaugh could have made a really funny, comic argument satirizing the contraception debate. Instead, he engaged in what amounted to hateful, dehumanizing diatribe—and called it “humor.”

In this way, many right-wing attempts at humor fall disastrously flat. Take this attempt by Fox to produce their own version of The Daily Show:

Pretty much one halfway good joke in there, and it was a really obvious one. Go ahead and look up other videos from the show’s very short run; you’ll find it similarly awful. Not unfunny because of one’s point of view, but simply not funny. Even for conservatives—after all, it flopped even on Fox.

However, the above clip is rather telling in a very important respect: the laughter. Not the fact that the laughter for the video was obviously canned, but the live laughter in particular: harsh, forced, almost angry.

Maybe the difference in humor has to do with a certain mindset. Comedians may often come from backgrounds that include being bullied and outcast, where a person might develop a sense of humor as both a defense mechanism and a way of becoming popular. But this is often tied in with a sympathy for those who are trodden upon, people who are undervalued and at a disadvantage—values more liberal than not. It might be argued that a lot of comedic talent naturally springs from a liberal viewpoint.

The clip from Fox shows the reverse: it comes across as a bully’s humor, even down to the harsh laughter. It does not so much playfully engage in satire and joking as it does condescendingly mock and degrade. This is the kind of “humor” that right-wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh employ. Liberal humor comes from an attitude where the world is falling apart around you and you need to make fun of it to keep from descending into despair. Conservative humor comes from an attitude where you occupy a position of righteous assuredness and you need to make fun of those you see as different and therefore wrong.

And I think that’s at the heart of it: liberals are more apt to feel pain, conservatives to feel anger. Laughter comes from the need to dispel one’s pain; from anger comes something more akin to taunting—and that’s not funny for people who are not taking the bully’s point of view.

Categories: Entertainment, Social Issues Tags: by

Viral GOPer

May 19th, 2014 Comments off

A Republican congressional candidate from Arizona (where else?) is claiming that

It’s totally ridiculous if you look at all of the fiascos that of occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people. So, I don’t think you have a problem with the Republicans.

He is almost certainly citing the viral email I debunked a few weeks ago (go to the end of the post). And, of course, nobody in the media is going to call him on it.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

Age and Health

May 19th, 2014 4 comments

Between Benghazi, Brain Damage, and everything else, the GOP is either relentless in its attack on any potential Democratic candidate, or they are scared to death of Hillary Clinton:

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, insisted on Sunday that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health and age were fair targets for inquiry ahead of a possible 2016 presidential run, as both he and Karl Rove, the Republican strategist who injected those questions into the debate, suggested that such scrutiny might dissuade her from running.

Are health and age fair game? Sure. We should not ignore the health of a candidate who could be in office for as long as eight years.

Do they have any bearing on Hillary Clinton? No. Instead, it’s just another smear campaign.

Remember when John McCain was running? He was not just 72 years old, he was a cancer survivor. As it turns out, he stayed healthy through much of what could have been his two terms (knock on wood—that he wasn’t elected, that is). But it was wholly acceptable to be worried about a man who could be in office beyond the average male life expectancy (77.4 for males in the U.S.), and whose vice president would be a raving lunatic.

In contrast, Hillary will be 68 in 2016, and the female life expectancy is 82.2 years, meaning she would still be six years shy of that age were she to complete two full terms. In terms of how far she is from reaching life expectancy, she also beats out Mitt Romney, Bob Dole, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan when they all ran for a first term of office.

So, what exactly is the “age” issue with Hillary supposed to be?

The answer (whisper it, now) is that she’s a woman!

If you don’t think the GOP is going to play the sexist angle, you’re naive. Of course they are.

And the market is prime for it. Remember when Chelsea announced she was pregnant, and many in the media wondered (a) if it would matter that a grandmother was running for office, or (b) if Chelsea had gotten herself pregnant so Hillary’s chances in office would be improved? Forget that both points contradict each other, they were both speculating negatives about Hillary.

When Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012, he had some twenty grandchildren. Aside from the publicity photos in which this fact was played up as a positive, the fact was never even mentioned in the race at all. McCain had four grandchildren when he ran—did anyone even know that?

As for health, what have we got? While dehydrated suffering from the flu, Hillary fell and hit her head. She had a concussion, and a blood clot developed (outside her brain), which was dissipated and caused no stroke or other neurological damage. Aside from possible slight, temporary double vision, there appear to have been no lingering or permanent effects. While the clot could have caused a stroke, it did not, in the same way that it could have caused death, but it did not. In fact, at the time, Republicans actually scoffed at Hillary’s medical issues, claiming she was faking it all so she could avoid testifying about Benghazi. And when she did come to testify, double-vision or no, she wiped the floor with them. But in deference to Karl Rove and Rance Priebus, maybe the Republicans on the committee were even more brain-damaged.

In short, what she had is something one can recover from. You know, like McCain’s cancer.

In the meantime, you know that they will play it up. Determined to stay classy, Fox News ran an article from—I kid you not—The National Enquirer:

HILLARY CLINTON has secretly decided to run for president in 2016, but doctors have warned that pursuing her dream of becoming America’s first female commander in chief could kill her!

In a bombshell world exclusive, The ENQUIRER has learned Hillary wants to spurn her doctors’ advice and announce her candidacy on June 4, 2014 – the day her late mother would have turned 95. …

“Hillary’s doctors have painted a grim picture of her health,” said a close source. “Behind the scenes, they’re telling her, ‘Running for president will kill you.’

But Hillary wants to ignore her doctors because she’s so desperate to be America’s first female president.

Omigod Omigod Omigod!!! You don’t SAY!!!

I’m sure that those who consume Fox’s usual crap will have no problem accepting ”journalism“ told in a narrative mimicking a feeble-minded 12-year-old.

Operation American Spring

May 18th, 2014 1 comment

Is “Operation American Spring” a joke or something? On the one hand, I get the impression that it’s a thing made up by some nobody group that liberals are touting just to make fun of it—but then I see just enough conservatives making noise about it to give me the impression that it is, somehow, “for real.”

It is now famous, of course, for projecting “millions, as many as ten million” patriots to descend on Washington D.C., after which a million will camp out in the capital, thus leading to a revolution.

How this could be taken seriously by anyone is rather beyond me. Just the logistics alone would crash the event within hours—assuming, of course, that even minimal expectations were met. Reading the event’s web site show that they pretty much toe the line on every piece of hyperbolic, paranoid, conspiracy-theory conservative tripe imaginable.

But here is what really convinced me the whole thing was a joke: their site’s HTML. Look at this snippet:

<h1><strong><font size=“3”><font face=“Times New Roman”><font face=“Verdana” size=“5”><font color=“#FFCC00” size=“6”>This
is the OFFICIAL Operation American Spring</font></font> </font></font></strong></h1>

Yes, that is the long-ago-deprecated “font” tag. I’m surprised their tags aren’t all-caps. Looking through the code, it is hard to say what caused all of this. The competing font tags declaring different faces and sizes, not to mention multiple font tags around a single snippet of text, suggests a likely old WYSIWYG app where the font was changed back and forth. However, applying a “strong” tag within an “h1” tag? Alternating between “b” and “strong” further down in the code? Either it was a really bad app, or someone tinkered. Usually apps declare themselves in the meta tags in the head, but not here. Heck, maybe this was hand-coded by a really stupid person.

Anyway, the event, as has been reported with no little hilarity, has turned out “tens” of people. The event’s organizer made some pretty bizarre claims about the reasons for the turnout:

“We were getting over two inches of rain in hour in parts of Virginia this morning,” Mr. Milton said. “Now it’s a nice sunny day. But this is a very poor turnout.” … The weather likely delayed some from showing, he said. But as the sun comes out, and the weekend weather dawns balmy, more could show, he said. …

He also said the some of the planned Operation American Spring members who were planning to head to Washington, D.C., instead traveled to Nevada, to give support to cattle rancher Cliven Bundy in his fight against the federal government over grazing fees.

“A lot that were supposed to come here went there instead,” Mr. Milton said.

Yes, I remember all ten million showing up at Bundy’s ranch. I’m sure they left after the racist press conferences, and are now just held up in traffic somewhere.

Ah, wingnuts. They’re destroying the country, but they’re so funny when they do it.

Do Unto Others As You Would Not Have Them Do Unto You

May 14th, 2014 6 comments

Schools in Kentucky have been allowing the Gideons to distribute bibles to elementary school children. Noting that the schools are prohibited from favoring one set of beliefs over another, a Humanist organization decided to go to the same schools and offer free books on Humanism.

The parents’ reaction? Some of them pulled their kids from school rather than allow them to be exposed to such horrors. Others hovered menacingly over the Humanists as they put their books out for any interested students to pick up—also presumably to intimidate any students who dared show any interest:

A small group of adults and children followed Freethinkers Jim G. Helton and Torey Glassmeyer to Walnut Hill and Jones Park, glowering at them from the parking lot as they delivered the books after 5 p.m. Thursday.

Before they arrived at Jones Park, parents walked into the school and demanded to see the table where the books were going to be displayed. Local media were barred from entering the schools and were politely asked to leave when they entered the building.

“We’re here to defend God and his glory,” said one woman, who declined to be named. A male companion muttered to himself as he scanned the parking lot for their car.

One can imagine what these people’s reactions would have been if Humanists had acted the same way when Christians distributed bibles to students.

I do have one question, however: aren’t these angry bible folk the same people who insist that in Science classes, students should be exposed to “both sides of the controversy,” and then be allowed to “decide for themselves”?

I think this is called “situational discrepancy.” Or “hypocrisy” for short.

Categories: Religion Tags: by

The Utter Hypocrisy of Republican “Investigations”

May 8th, 2014 5 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