Getting REALLY Tired of Video Ads

March 27th, 2016 Comments off

In an age where more and more is being expressed in video over the ‘net, I am watching them less and less.

Seriously, you try to watch a 15-second video, you are forced to sit through a 30-second ad, which as often as not also has a banner ad at the bottom about five seconds into the video. Some ads allow you to skip the ad after 5 seconds or so, but more and more I have found these to malfunction, with the ad’s audio continuing over the video.

Not to mention that a lot of these ads are running over private content, even ones that have a very short running time.

This is why I started using ad blockers for web pages. Ads are okay, but ads which overrun the content are simply just asinine.

For all the time I have run this blog, I have kept it ad-free. I am considering starting up a parallel blog along with my new community Facebook page, and perhaps to have ad content there—but would only want “acceptable” ads to run. However, the more I look at things, the more I suspect that it would be very difficult indeed to find such an ad source.

What are “acceptable ads”? I blogged in detail on them last October. AdBlock created a mode where it would allow only “acceptable ads” to show. I tried it for a while, but discovered that—at least at that time—the ads were anything but “acceptable.”

Here are a few of the criteria:

  • no animation or auto-running video/audio
  • preferably text-only ads
  • unobtrusive ad positioning (reasonable size, never within the text)
  • clearly marked as ads
  • no links that lead to redirects
  • no misleading links (e.g., disguised as “next page” buttons)

If I can find a reliable source for that, I might opt into i. If I knew a site was firmly adhering to such principles, I would gladly white-list it.

Many sites disable content as much as possible if an ad blocker is running, most notably site comments, but more and more the whole page fails to load properly. I understand that, and care very little if I don’t see your page. Crash my browser, you make me want to not visit your site. Put up a notice that you strictly adhere to an acceptable-ad policy, then you have my business.

Video ads break most of the “acceptable ad” rules. They fail to recognize the length of exposure—there should be no ads for content under 10 seconds, only banner ad for video under a few minutes, and no video ad running more than one-third of the content length.

I have to start looking for a popular alternative to YouTube. It is just turning into an ad bazaar and little else.

Categories: Computers and the Internet Tags: by

Immigration, Boiled Down

March 20th, 2016 Comments off

LibertyThe first thing we need to realize about immigration is that any problem which exists does not lie with the people who come to this country without documentation.

Immigrants do not “take” jobs. They are offered jobs. They are sought out for jobs. No immigrant ever came to the United States, pointed a gun at someone, and said “give me that job.”

Rather, the problem is with businesses who draw them in and take advantage of them, and because of certain economic and political realities which make it easy for them to do so.

Here are the facts.

No immigrants looking for work would come to America if no jobs were being offered.

No working immigrants would be here illegally if we offered them a legal recourse which matched the jobs being offered.

The conclusion is simple. They are not the problem. We are.

We have millions of immigrants coming to work in this country for three basic reasons. In no particular order:

The first reason is that there are many jobs which Americans generally will not do. You hear about Americans complaining about immigrants stealing their jobs, but it is a sure bet that none of those people want to be migrant farm workers. We need these people—but in most cases, we do not give them a legal avenue to come.

The second reason is that there are many jobs which Americans will not do for the amount of money that the job can pay, given consumer demand. Americans do not want to pay more for food, clothes, or labor in a variety of categories, prices which would be necessary if we did not employ immigrant labor.

The third reason is simply greed. Employers want more profit. They could hire American workers, and they could make a profit and sell at a price that American consumers would accept, but they want to keep more and more of that money for themselves—so they hire immigrants. And since it is cheaper to do so if the immigrants are illegal, they lobby against change.

Therefore:

Part of this is the consumer’s fault: we want cheaper goods and services. You don’t want so many immigrants? Fine. Be prepared to pay a lot more for many of the goods and services you consume. It’s a stark choice; you cannot have it both ways. Part of this is consumers of general goods, such as food and clothing, who support industries who use immigrant or overseas labor. Part of this is people who hire immigrants directly, for jobs such as child care or other labor in or around the house.

Part of this is the country’s fault, the fault of voters and politicians: we clearly call for these people to come and work, but we steadfastly refuse to create a visa system which would accommodate them. They come illegally because we give them little choice. And if you think that one choice is to simply not come, then I invite you to go to the countries where these people come from and live in the conditions from which they come. You will be clamoring to come back to America immediately.

The greatest fault in all of this is the fault of business, and our tolerance of their greed and maltreatment of the workforce. These are the people who take advantage, these are the people who spread fear and doubt, these are the people who most directly influence the laws which maintain the current system. For the jobs Americans do not want or would not pay for, Americans would otherwise be happy to allow the system of immigration to allow these people in legally—but that would cut into profits. For the other jobs, there are many Americans who would be happy to pick up the jobs in fields from construction to high tech, but the companies involved reject these workers and either hire people without documentation, or even specifically import them with valid visas, obtained by fraudulently claiming that American workers cannot be found.


There is one more reason that illegal immigration is rampant: we could stop it, but we do not.

The solution would actually be simple. Trying to arrest and deport immigrants is pointless, as they are not only mobile and have every incentive to return, but they are not the root cause—they’re just people trying to live.

The definitive and simple solution is to police and punish the real offenders: employers. They are the ones asking for immigrants to come in the first place. They are not mobile, and they would respond quite strongly to being caught and punished.

We don’t even come close to doing this. In 2004, a grand total of three—yes, three—businesses were cited for hiring undocumented workers. Nor is the reason for this a surprise. From the New York Times in 2006:

Employers have long been the main driver of immigration policy…. Not surprisingly, they tend to dislike the provision in current immigration law for penalties against employers.

That may explain why fines for hiring illegal immigrants can be as low as $275 a worker, and immigration officials acknowledge that businesses often negotiate fines downward. And why, after the I.N.S. raided onion fields in Georgia during the 1998 harvest, a senator and four members of the House of Representatives from the state sharply criticized the agency for hurting Georgia farmers.

So we make laws: first offense, a warning; second offense, a hefty fine; third offense, a major fine and prison time. And then we set the people we now have chasing immigrants and guarding the borders, and set them to police the employers.

I guarantee you: illegal immigration would halt, and immigrants here without a visa would leave soon after.

But this is what it boils down to: we don’t want to send these immigrants packing. These people do not drain our resources, they enrich us. They do not cause an increase in crime; in fact, they commit fewer crimes than the native population. These people do not sap the economy; they make it robust.

The solution is simple:

  • create a guest worker visa program for jobs we really need filled by immigrants
  • create strict laws against employing illegally
  • crack down on businesses that violate these laws
  • stop allowing companies to import workers for jobs that citizens are trying to fill
  • set up tax and tariff laws which penalize companies that use cheap labor abroad

If we do this, we won’t have immigrants coming in to the country against the law. We will maintain all the benefits that we now have. It’s good for everyone. Everyone honest and fair, that is.

Why don’t we do this? Because businesses don’t want it; businesses want their workforce to be here illegally because it profits the businesses, makes the immigrant workforce easy to manipulate, and disempowers citizen workers. And we have bought into the fear and frenzy that people who profit from the current system, people like Donald Trump, have whipped up to make us believe that it is all the fault of the impoverished, powerless, and mostly law-abiding people who these people of wealth and power take advantage of.

Agree? Then do something about it.

A good start: don’t vote for Donald Trump. Do vote for politicians who espouse the right thing to do. Write and agitate for the correct solution for the issue. Write your current representatives. Make a stink.

And vote. Vote. Vote.

Police: Our Privacy Was Violated When We Didn’t Smash All the Cameras

March 16th, 2016 1 comment

Some Santa Ana, CA police officers were charged recently after a raid on a pot dispensary last year. The raid was carried out because the shop apparently did not have a permit to operate. This matter is dodgy because the city issues permits based on a lottery which appears to be rigged.

That wasn’t what concerned me about the raid, however.

After the police broke in with a battering ram, three wearing ski masks and most of them pointing guns as if they expected armed resistance, the officers’ behavior was less than exemplary. One of the main charges is that the officers helped themselves to the snacks owned by the shop and intended for the staff, and may have even eaten some products that were edibles.

While that’s illegal, that’s not what concerned me about the raid, either.

The person running the shop that day was a wheelchair-bound amputee, with whom the officers had words. After showing her out, one police officer complained that she wanted to “kick her in her fucking nub.”

While unprofessional, no physical abuse took place, so that’s not what concerned me about the raid, either.

This is what concerned me: the shop had a conspicuous and operating 16-camera surveillance system monitoring the shop, and the first thing the cops did was to disable it. They took large wire-cutters to the cables, and one officer even disabled five of the cameras by smashing them against the counter and the register. What they didn’t know was that there was a second security system of four more cameras which were hidden from view. That’s how we know about all the stuff the officers did—stuff they usually deny because, well, they had successfully disabled 16 different security cameras.

The officers then claimed, in their defense, that the evidence against them should be dismissed because—get this—the shop violated the privacy of the police officers.

Yep. In their legal filing, the attorneys for the police charged that the dispensary “secretly recorded the officers in a clear violation of California’s Invasion of Privacy Act, which criminalizes the non-consensual recording of confidential communications.”

I have to wonder, is that even possible? Can the police actually raid a shop, smash an extensive security system, and then charge the shop owners with invasion of privacy because the police didn’t find and smash a second camera system?

Beyond that, however, is the initial question: how is it legal for the police to destroy the main surveillance system in the first place? What was their justification, not just for damaging the equipment, but for disabling it at all?

Aren’t we supposed to be in an age where such footage is supposed to help us trust the police? And what does it say about that trust when, after thinking that they disabled all the cameras, the cops suddenly start stealing food, playing darts, and generally acting like asshats?

Categories: Social Issues Tags: by

Why the Republican Party Hates Trump

March 14th, 2016 8 comments

There is a concerted effort within the Republican party to oppose Donald Trump. People assume that this stems from Trump being so horrendously offensive and outrageous, that they don’t want the man to be their party representative.

That is not true. Under the right conditions, Trump’s message and presentation would be perfectly acceptable to them, and they would love to have a candidate so successful and popular.

Instead, Republicans oppose Trump for a simple reason: he’s not their man.

In politics (and advertising, by the way), you create an atmosphere, usually based on fear and other negative emotions, and then you use it to manipulate people into acting in your interest. The problem with this method is that the atmosphere is free-floating, and can be hijacked by someone else. This is what happened after 9/11: al Qaeda created an atmosphere of terror—and the Bush administration grabbed it and ran off with it. Republicans used the terror to manipulate people, milking it for every vote and every election they could, until it became a joke (“a noun, a verb, and 9/11”).

This is precisely what Trump did. For years, Republicans and conservatives in general have been carefully cultivating an atmosphere of fear, paranoia, and outright loathing so they could use that atmosphere to manipulate the public, and Trump simply walks right up—excuse me, he just coasted down an escalator—grabbed it, and walked off with it.

Trump is not opposed by Republicans because of his political views, his language, or his outrageousness. The sole reason they are panicking right now is because he is not beholden to him. He’s not a party man. He does not owe the party or its patrons. He hijacked their mojo. He has no reason to do what they want or put their players into positions of power.

That’s why they oppose him: because he’s not under their control.

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

Sanders vs. The Media

March 9th, 2016 3 comments

I have often noted a bias in the media against certain candidates. It is not isolated—it tends to span across all the major media outlets—and it trends noticeably against the candidate less likely to be friendly to big-money interests.

For much of 2015, Sanders was drawing incredible crowds. Vast seas of people to listen to him speak. How did the media cover it? Hardly at all. In January, when it looked like his support—despite media inattention—might actually give him a chance to win, there were pieces in the media trying to explain themselves, and how they had somehow inadvertently “overlooked” Sanders.

Most cited the idea that a socialist Jew had no chance to win, but that was bullshit—their own polls had repeatedly shown that Sanders performed better than Clinton in one-to-one match-ups against Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. More to the point, the polling data showed that while Clinton is one of the most disliked candidates in history with huge negative numbers, Sanders’ appeal was broad, his positives high and his negatives low, and his appeal reached much more deeply into independent territories.

Since January, as primary and caucus numbers have come in, the media has taken a different tack: pay minimal attention to Sanders, ignoring his come-from-behind performances, and instead drone on about Hillary’s inevitability.

In New Hampshire, Sanders was supposed to win by 13% according to poll averages. He won by 22%. Media response? Yawn. Sanders will get crushed in South Carolina.

Sanders had been behind in Iowa by double digits until just a few weeks before the caucus, but came from behind to nearly win; similarly, Clinton had been ahead in Nevada by more than 20 points until just a few weeks before. Sanders’ near-wins in those states was a huge victory for him, and should have been the big story. Instead, the media declared Hillary the winner and kept going on about how she had already won with superdelegates anyway.

I was told that Sanders’ near-wins in Iowa and Nevada were not reported because polls tightened before the final results—but if so, where was the big coverage of that?

However, today we are seeing an excellent example of how the media is studiously disregarding Sanders. With primaries in Michigan and Mississippi, Sanders was expected to lose in both states. Michigan is much bigger, with 141 delegates as opposed to Mississippi’s 41. Up until just a few days ago, Hillary held an average 21.4% lead in the polls.

The current count? With 58% of districts reporting so far, Sanders hols on to a 3% lead over Clinton, 50.6% to 47.6%. While that lead could dissipate and Clinton could eventually win Michigan, it represents a huge surprise surge for Sanders in a pivotal state.

By any rational measure, that should be the story of the hour. Mississippi is over with, and there’s no surprise in Trump winning both states. This is a real horse race, a contentious battle over a big prize. The media would normally being making a huge deal about it, reporting on the nail-biting drama and the potential huge upset.

So, how does the media cover it? What are the headlines?

Los Angeles Times:

Live updates: Donald Trump wins Mississippi and Michigan primaries
Another round of primaries Tuesday could push the Republicans further apart, while Hillary Clinton aims for a predicted win in Michigan.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump win Mississippi’s primaries
Trump is declared the winner in Michigan, too

CNN:

Primary results: CNN projects 2 wins for Donald Trump, 1 for Hillary Clinton

CBS:

Polls: Trump, Clinton continue to lead their fields nationally

WaPo:

Trump is projected winner in Michigan; earlier he and Clinton won Mississippi

It goes on. The Google News page collecting primary news coverage mentions Trump 28 times, Clinton 10 times—and Sanders just once, in a sentence about how Hillary is “trouncing” him.

Nobody better tell me that I am only imagining a pronounced media bias against Sanders. It has been plainly evident for quite some time now.

Why? Well, there’s no way to know for certain, but I hold that it is not even a small coincidence that Sanders is the only candidate who is vehemently against big money.

Categories: Election 2016 Tags: by

No, Bill Maher Is Not Right

February 24th, 2016 1 comment

Bill Maher has been getting a lot of press recently about how “right” he is about what he could just as well be calling “The Muslim Menace.” Even liberal news and opinion outlets have been saying that he is correct in his evaluation about how Islam is a threat, how liberals are giving them a pass, and most recently, how Arab countries are unwilling to take on the forces of Daesh.

The thing is, he’s not right. He’s close on a few things, and hopelessly blind on most others. But not right.

First of all, he’s trying to have it both ways. He blames Islam as a whole for the actions of the extremists, as if it were a problem endemic to the religion and not the fanatics, but at the same time, he denies painting all Muslims with a broad brush. He asked on his show why some people refuse to use “Islamic” and “extremist” in the same sentence. A guest replied that the term “jihadist” is much more appropriate—and they were correct. The question is, why use the term “Islamic” when that term is far broader than what is being discussed? Maher claims that he’s not criticizing Islam as a whole, but gets upset when Islam is not considered the problem.

You can’t have it both ways; either you’re condemning the whole religion, or you’re not. At first I thought he might agree to the idea that the problems are due to the extremists, and there are more of them than we see in other cultures and religions, but each time I hear or read his arguments, I find little support for that point of view. And I have known too many Muslims who are quite kind and loving people to believe that just being a Muslim makes you part of the problem.

Second, he takes liberals to task for “supporting” despicable practices in Islamic states. Strangely, he often mentions female genital mutilation when he brings this up, which is odd because it is not a patently Muslim tradition; it is practiced widely in Christian cultures as well, and not practiced in many Muslim ones. It is, as Reza Aslan pointed out, mostly a Central African problem. This shows up the flaw in Maher’s central focus: he blames Islam for problems that are not really centrally about Islam.

However, what gets my back up is Maher’s virtually right-wing take on this: if liberals are not constantly and stridently calling Muslims barbaric, we must love the worst of their practices. Maher: go frack yourself. It’s a facile claim, one that is no less despicable coming from a Libertarian with liberal leanings than it is from a hard-core right-winger.

Here’s the reason why the claim is bullshit: liberals, as a rule, focus inward, not outward. We focus almost all of our public energies at home, where we can actually make a difference, and we know that huffing and puffing about what Saudi Arabia does will make little difference there. We don’t make any more an issue of Boko Haram than anyone else, or civil rights violations in Southeast Asian countries, or any one of a number of cases where we would vehemently condemn what’s going on—unless America is somehow involved. We don’t make a big deal about what Saudi Arabia does, but we do make a big deal about how the U.S. conveniently overlooks such things when we want a partner in the region. We don’t rise up in protest over Chinese labor practices—we only do when American companies take advantage of them. Hell, we don’t even make a fuss when conservatives in Canada or the U.K. do stuff that we disagree with virtually right next door to us. We simply don’t make noise unless it’s a home-turf issue.

However, just because we don’t make a cause célèbre of loathsome and barbaric practices in Muslim countries when you find it convenient to demand one, it does not, in any way, shape or form, mean that we “support” them, you mindless idiot. I note, by the way, that Maher has not, because he can not, name one accepted liberal spokesperson saying that they “accept” much less “support” crap done in the countries because of “cultural tolerance” or “political correctness.” That’s because none of us actually do that, as much as Maher claims otherwise. The claim is utter bullshit.

Finally, we now have Maher making noise about how Middle Eastern countries don’t take care of Daesh when they vastly outnumber them in military force. Salon backs him up, and Politifact judges his claim “Mostly True.”

This argument of Maher, however, serves as an excellent example of Maher’s shallow thinking, and the general media’s mindless willingness to accept what he says.

Yes, as Politifact points out, his numbers are pretty much correct: Daesh has maybe 20,000 or 30,000 fighters, as opposed to around 5 million troops in 13 countries in the general region.

However, beyond just a simple head count, Maher’s implied thesis is utterly bone-headed. Look, I would love to agree and have local forces take on the task so we don’t have to be involved. There’s just one little problem: it’s a hopeless pipe dream of a desire.

Think about this: what if some insurgency popped up in South Korea, and started wreaking havoc in the region. Would you suggest that Japan, North Korea, China, Taiwan, and Russia form a military coalition to handle it? Such an idea would be laughably absurd; these countries tend to hate each other’s guts.

And what would happen if one of these countries acted alone? Would Japan be okay if China invaded South Korea, or the other way around? And forget North Korea doing anything, or accepting anyone else doing anything.

We’re looking at much the same thing here. Maher’s blind simple-mindedness in which he conflates all Arab and Muslim countries and cultures into one hateful blur ignores the realities of the region. The biggest forces in the region are Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. These nations are hardly close friends. Relations between Turkey and Iran have always been strained, at best. Recent Turkish involvement in Syria have been strongly criticized by Iran. While Turkey and Saudi Arabia get along okay financially, they clash politically and ideologically. And let’s not even talk about how Iran and Saudi Arabia get along. To imagine one capable force moving in and essentially taking over huge swaths of territory within Syria and Iraq is virtually unimaginable. Similar rivalries and factions in various countries tend to preclude any viable force bringing about a successful solution in the region.

To make an alliance that would work better than what exists now is nearly hopeless. Again, I would love to see it, but I am not holding my breath. Beyond this huge obstacle, there are a host of other issues which make such actions highly improbable.

So, yeah, Maher can add. But apparently, his analytical talents end there.

Categories: Foreign Affairs & Policy Tags: by

Give Me Liberty, Kind Of

February 19th, 2016 4 comments

I’m not sure if Apple’s motivations in refusing to give the FBI unfettered access to iPhones is altruistic or selfish, nor does it matter to me; I believe that what Apple is doing in this current case, as a general principle, should be the model to follow.

We effectively have little or no Fourth Amendment protection at this point, at least in regard to the government accessing our private data—our “papers,” as it is classically termed. The FISA courts are a joke, essentially rubber-stamping each request. It is not judicial oversight when the judge is complicit and agrees to mass surveillance no matter what.

Will allowing devices like phones or forms of encrypted Internet access allow terrorists to work unimpeded? Perhaps, but there are two huge caveats.

First, terrorists are hardly limited to these forms of security. All it takes is a pre-arranged cypher (A seemingly random communication of almost any type sent at a certain time of day from this person rather than that one equals a call to carry out an attack at x time at y location) which is used only once and then changed, or reliance on carefully discreet personal communication only, or any number of other methods, to confound surveillance and assure security. Opening iPhones will not greatly affect terrorists who are serious about security.

And second, as the saying goes, freedom isn’t free. The founders themselves recognized that greater individual freedom from government overreach would cause greater risk, but that the increased risk was far less important than the potential of losing civil liberties. We’ve become far too willing to surrender those liberties for that modicum of security.

I am not at all impressed by the claims that Obama is a constitution scholar; he seems to be a fairly bad one, especially where privacy is involved. I rather hope he is never appointed to the Supreme Court. But we as citizens must not be cowed by claims of terror and other violence will overwhelm us. What the government is doing has only a limited effect on thwarting determined terrorists from attacking, but it has an overwhelming and frightening impact on our freedoms and liberties.

Categories: Political Ranting Tags: by

Let Us Help You by Ignoring Your Preferred Language!

February 11th, 2016 Comments off

One of the problems of living in Japan but not being Japanese: Geolocation. That’s where they determine your location by your IP address, find out what country you are in, and then use that language—despite knowing that not everyone in a country uses the national language. Too many web sites that I visit detect that I am in Japan, and “helpfully” switch the language, so I have to go to preferences and switch it back. This may help most users, but it’s an incredibly annoying pain in the ass for people like me.

The problems:

  1. the method of switching languages on a site is not universal and is often difficult to find, meaning you have to scroll up and down the page to find the tiny little flag or not-flag icon or link, if they have it on the main page at all;
  2. despite using cookies, many sites will not remember your preferences unless you have an account and sign in, which means you have to constantly switch back or else give them your name, email, and probably more. Even then, they sometimes turn on you; I just had GoDaddy switch me to Japanese, even making a huge deal in an email about how much they were helping me!
  3. even when you do make an account and log in, they often manage to lose your preferences and you have to switch back from time to time anyway. Hulu is one example of that last one, I keep having to set the language every few weeks.

Here’s the kicker: your browser and/or operating system routinely send information making clear what language you use on your computer! It’s called the Accept-Language request-header, and every web site you visit can read it just fine. Most web sites obnoxiously ignore this. You can test your settings by clicking here, then look for the language listed by the “Accept header” tag. If it displays a language you don’t want, by the way, you can check the language settings in your browser.

Also, almost every site uses cookies, and these cookies tend to not expire for years. If you’re going to spy on someone, at least have the decency of doing it in their own language!

Categories: Computers and the Internet Tags: by

On the Other Hand

January 26th, 2016 Comments off

In my last post, I carefully noted that criticism of Track Palin, though tempting at first, was totally off the table. The reasons: first, he threatened suicide, which suggests a serious psychological issue that should never be trifled with; and second, he had served in Iraq, presumably in combat, and could be suffering from PTSD. In such a situation, I would find it unconscionable to mention Track’s behavior in a political context. One does not dick around with such serious issues.

However, I should note that I was doing something wrong: I was taking Sarah Palin’s statements at face value. While I do not regret erring on the side of caution, I should have known that every single statement she makes is likely to be laced with exaggerations, false insinuations, and lies. So it was here.

As it turns out, Track Palin’s records seem to suggest that he saw no combat while in Iraq, meaning that PTSD is highly improbable at best.

Second, the AR-15 he was threatening suicide with? It was not loaded. Which suggests that the “threat” was probably for show and effect, and not from actual anguish.

In short, it now appears that Track Palin was, in fact, just being an outrageously asinine prick. He got drunk, beat up his girlfriend, and terrorized her.

He gets no sympathy card, and is entitled to no break. Even if he did have PTSD and was suicidal, it still does not excuse his behavior, but it would have made the incident out of bounds politically.

As a fellow veteran said of Palin, the only break he gets is that it was his mother, and not him, that said he was a combat vet and insinuated he suffered from PTSD.

For Sarah Palin to lie about that, for her to use PTSD as a shield to protect her family’s image politically, that’s just as despicable, pathetic, and tawdry a lie as the one used throughout the Bush administration, where any attack on the administration was twisted into an attack on the troops—using their courage and sacrifice as a shield to protect the unspeakably, breathtakingly chickenshit cowards who sent those same young people into battle.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

No End to the Depravity

January 22nd, 2016 1 comment

Just the other day, Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for president. At about the same time, her son, Track Palin, was involved in a report of domestic violence, in which an AR-15 assault rifle was involved. Some left-wing web sites have been making something of it since then.

I was of the same mind, to be honest. I remember back in 2008, one popular conservative email story was that, if Obama were elected, he would bring his disgraceful family into the White House. An image was circulated with Obama and some family members, most of them tagged with scandalous—and utterly fake—designations, like gay porn star, crack addict, etc., with a warning that if Obama were elected, “this bunch” would start “running around the White House.” Instead, Obama’s family has been far less controversial, indeed much more upstanding than perhaps any president’s has been for a long time.

Ironically, it was the McCain campaign’s choice for Vice President that got us that level of soap opera drama; the Palin family has been rife with all manner of lurid affairs, each one seemingly worse and more crass than the previous one.

As a result of this, and Palin’s recent endorsement of and possible VP spot in the Trump campaign, I was ready to blog about how the Palins have been an ongoing embarrassment, in contrast with that fake Obama family portrait from years ago, with the new Track Palin story as Exhibit A.

But then I read the details of the Track Palin story. Expecting just another stunningly deplorable Palin family imbroglio, I instead read that Track had threatened suicide with the AR-15 rifle during the incident. At that, there was no story. You do not mess with that. That’s not family intrigue, that’s a man in need of life-saving help. Not that it excuses the punch to the face and kick to the knee that he gave his girlfriend, but it does mean that this is not Palin Family Values at play, it’s something more sobering and serious. In addition, Track served in Iraq in 2008, meaning it could be related to PTSD. Double the hands-off for that. I have lost a lot of respect for the left-wing sites who use her son’s trouble to attack his mother.

You do not make political hay off of that. It would be entirely scummy to do any such thing.

So, predictably, Sarah Palin did exactly that herself.

She took her son’s misery, his apparently tragic mental health crisis… and turned it into a cheap political shot, claiming that Obama was the cause for all of Track’s problems, because he’s just a horrible president who disrespects the troops. Why? According to Palin:

“They come back wondering if there is that respect for what their fellow soldiers and airmen and every other member of the military have given so sacrificially to this country, and that starts at the top,” she continued, touting Trump as the best choice for president. “It’s a shame that our military personnel even have to question, have to wonder if they’re respected anymore. It starts from the top. The question, though, it comes from the top, the question, though, that comes from our own president where they have to look at him and wonder, ‘Do you know what we go through? Do you know what we’re trying to do to secure America and to secure the freedoms that have been bequeathed us?’”

“So when my own son is going through what he goes through coming back, I can certainly relate with other families who kind of feel these ramifications of PTSD and some of the woundedness that our soldiers do return with, and it makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America’s finest that we’ll have that commander in chief who will respect them and honor them,” she said.

Notice how she makes a special effort to drag the crisis to Obama’s doorstep. Not that she’s the most literate person ever, but her segues are rather gallingly obvious.

Not to mention, just as the disgusting 2008 family photo meme, utterly false. Obama has praised the troops and spoken respectfully of their sacrifices endless times over the years. For example, just after taking office in 2009, Obama told soldiers at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune:

“It lives on in the memories of your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who gave their lives. It endures in the wound that is slow to heal, the disability that isn’t going away, the dream that wakes you up at night, the stiffening in your spine when a car backfires down the street,” he said.

Obama said it’s now the responsibility of a grateful nation to carry out its duty to U.S. servicemembers and their families. This obligation underlies Obama’s decision to allocate funding in his budget proposal to increase the size of the Army and Marines to lessen the burden on those serving, he said.

Or how about this, from 2012:

“I cannot begin to fully understand your loss. As a father I cannot begin to imagine what is like to hear that knock on the door and learn that your worst fears have come true, but as commander in chief I can tell you that sending our troops into harm’s way is the most wrenching decision that I have to make, I can promise you I will never do so unless it is absolutely necessary, and that when we do we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation.”

Or this, from last year:

“These sons and daughters, these brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for us – they belong to us all. They’re our children, too. We benefit from their light, their positive influence on the world.”

Or, indeed, from just a few weeks ago:

“As we know, when you’re deployed overseas, it’s tough,” Obama said in brief remarks at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay. He said that although his administration has been bringing home troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, “there are still folks over there every single day and it’s still dangerous, as we saw this past week, where we had some outstanding, brave men and women who were killed.”

“So we never take for granted what all of you do for the American people,” Obama said. “You help keep us free. You help keep us strong. Whatever service you’re in, whatever branch, we are extraordinarily grateful for everything that you do every single day.”

Nor has Obama been mute or inactive on PTSD. He has taken it very seriously, and has taken action on multiple occasions to fight for soldier’s access to treatment and care for the condition, from additional benefits on 2010 to the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act just last year. If anything, Obama has been the most active president ever on this issue.

For Sarah Palin, the issue is a punch line. Worse, a family tragedy she can eagerly turn into a political cudgel. She lies horrifically, unjustifiably, shamelessly. Obama never respects or honors the troops? Sarah, go frack yourself.

Not that conservatives are new to this kind of gallingly inhuman hypocrisy. Back in 2011, when Obama made yet another respectful speech to honor the troops, as he has many, many times since he took office, conservatives actually used that praise and respect to bash Obama, acting as if he he never, ever said a good word about the troops ever before, and was only now changing his tune, insincerely, because election season was coming up. Ironically, Obama’s frequent actions to increase benefits for troops and their families—including help for PTSD—was perverted by these slimeballs into a sign of Obama’s supposed contempt for the troops. They begin by quoting Obama’s lavish praise, called it “scripted,” and then wrote:

The flattering message was a remarkable 180 degree turn from his earlier description of soldiers as victims dependent on social-welfare and medical services offered by the Democratic coalition.

Get that? Obama’s praise is scripted and self-serving, and all those benefits he provides the soldiers are just to get them hooked on the socialist government teat.

Now, play that message next to Sarah Palin’s twisted, demented claim that Obama is responsible for the ills suffered by soldiers because he never gave them praise and failed to address issues like PTSD.

You might be tempted to think that Sarah Palin also should not be attacked, but instead be shown concern, as she may herself suffer from mental illness.

But no. She’s just an asshole.

Silencing the Unions

January 11th, 2016 5 comments

The conservatives on the Supreme Court are finally taking a whack at finishing off unions. Were they only supportive of Republican causes, they’d be safe, but as general supporters of liberal politicians, they remain a target to be destroyed, as they have been since the 1980’s.

The court will hear a case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, in which a group of school teachers object to paying union dues on the grounds that those dues will be used to support political causes they oppose. Naturally, the Wall Street Journal (behind paywall; open article can be accessed via Google News link) is positively gushing over the prospect of shutting down labor’s political speech:

Defending free speech has been a notable strength of the current Supreme Court, and on Monday the Justices hear a case that gives them a rare and splendid opportunity to repair damage to the First Amendment done by the Court itself.

In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, 10 public school teachers object to a California law that forces them to pay union fees that finance causes they oppose. For 39 years the Court has allowed such coercion thanks to an anomalous 1977 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Now is the time to overturn it.

If the court finds in favor of the teachers, it would effectively silence unions politically, leaving their counterparts—corporations—with virtually unchallenged voices in politics, heavily favoring the wealthy and removing what little collective voice remains for the working-class citizen.

The Journal cites Harris v. Quinn, a case that said that “no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.” Of course, they ignore religious organizations using public funds to both proselytize and to make political statements. And they ignore lawmakers using public funds to force their own religious views on laws. That’s okay.

And naturally, there is no case the Supreme Court will hear which allows objections of individual stockholders to silence the corporate executives who spend corporate cash on political donations and messages that the shareholders oppose. No problems there.

The Journal also ignores the 2006 decision, Garcetti v. Ceballos, which specifically stated that employers may control the free-speech rights of individual workers:

When a citizen enters government service, the citizen by necessity must accept certain limitations on his or her freedom. … Government employers, like private employers, need a significant degree of control over their employees’ words and actions; without it, there would be little chance for the efficient provision of public services.

Of course, the conservative side of the court has never allowed itself to be hobbled by little details like consistency. However, the above was written by Kennedy, who could make one of his pivotal stances against the hard-right four, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts.

Only time will tell, but I am not overly hopeful: the court has shown great love of corporate power, and little love for anything that opposes it.

Categories: Law, Supreme Court Tags: by

Terrorism

November 29th, 2015 2 comments

More is coming in on what happened at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. The headlines are, “Planned Parenthood alleged gunman is from North Carolina”; “Gunman’s Past Scoured for Clues to Siege at Planned Parenthood”; and “Suspect in Colorado clinic shooting had past brushes with the law.” The headlines and articles use the words “gunman,” “shooter,” “recluse,” and “suspect.”

All of these reports very carefully and studiously avoid the one most highly accurate and relevant term: “terrorist.” No one dares use that word.

Here’s my favorite headline: “Colorado shooter politically motivated.”

Hmmm… what is the definition of “terrorism” again? Oh, yeah, right here in my dictionary: “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” In short, the Colorado shooting was nothing less than terrorism, and the “gunman,” Robert Lewis Dear, was a terrorist. If it was a shooting at, well, actually, anywhere, but the person shooting was a Muslim from a middle eastern country, no one at all would hesitate to use the word “terrorist”; every single last article would be filled with terror, terrorism, terrorist. But not now, not in this case.

Already people are talking about the man being “mentally unstable,” despite there being no evidence either way on the matter. This is the normal fallback position when a Christian or conservative commits a crime like this, a setup for the “no true Scotsman” fallacy: he wasn’t really a conservative/Christian, he was just crazy. Neither his politics nor his faith are really relevant, is the standard explanation. He was a “recluse,” a “loner,” divorced from the community, we’ll be told.

Nope. From all indications, the man is a terrorist. He mentioned “no more baby parts,” a reference to the recent bogus Planned Parenthood videos which have been all the rage in conservative circles as of late. His target, a Planned Parenthood clinic, was not some coincidence. Officials have stated that his attack was “definitely politically motivated.”

It was the same thing last week when five people were shot at a Black Lives Matter protest. Again, a politically motivated violent attack—and again, the media refused to use the word “terrorism.” Again, it was “shooters,” “gunmen,” “suspects”—but no terrorists.

It’s about time we stopped shying away from calling domestic terrorism for what it is. The problem, of course, is that Fox News and the entire conservative media and much of the core community will explode in anger at the suggestion that politics has anything to do with it.

Fox and other conservative outlets are quickly laying down the crazy-lone-recluse story; Newsmax highlights that he had “few religious or political leanings” and that his mental health is under scrutiny, a story nearly identical to Fox News. Breitbart is almost hilarious in its coverage, going straight for the man’s voter registration and—I kid you not—blaming Colorado gun control laws for the incident, whilst highlighting the claim that Dear was “unknown to pro-lifers in the area.” In short, they are trying to lay down damage control, to give their readers and viewers everything possible to deny that the shooter had any relation to conservatives or the conservative cause.

Nor is that a simple political whitewash; the right-wing noise machine has a serious vested interest in disassociating itself from this case, just like they had when Byron Williams drove his car to San Francisco to kill as many people as he could at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, after watching Glenn Beck on Fox News rage about these organizations taking over the country. Or when Richard Poplawski killed three police officers in Pittsburgh after watching Fox News and reading InfoWars. Or when Dylann Roof killed nine black people in a church after being radicalized by lies spread on conservative web sites.

It is pretty obvious that not just one source, but the entire culture of dramatically, I would even say breathtaking lies and distortion now blanketing the conservative bubble—this is what is driving the more and more violent right wing in the United States, making monsters out of peaceful protesters, painting a women’s health organization as a machine of genocide, and creating a bizarre alternate fantasy world regarding the president in which he’s a fascist, communist Kenyan with a fake birth certificate bent on slaughtering Christians and conservatives in concentration camps.

It has come to the point where fact no longer matters, not even a little bit. Where top presidential candidates just make all kinds of crap up and the press can’t even refute them for fear of being smeared as “liberal media.” Where outrageous lies and distortions are the norm, not the deviation.

It is my fear—and I believe a well-founded one—that we’re just seeing the beginning of a new wave of violence, beyond the simple slaughter being carried out with firearms on a daily basis. The new violence is, simply, terrorism: politically motivated violence driven by a relentless drumbeat of despicable lies and hatred blared to an increasingly desperate and gullible core of conservatives lost in the desolate bubble of modern conservatism.

Categories: Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by

Why Black Lives Matter

November 24th, 2015 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All lives matter. Everyone knows this.

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

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

Aren’t they so clever?

Categories: Race Tags: by

Where Did That Come From?

November 17th, 2015 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Ranting, Religion Tags: by

Apple Sucks at Security

November 14th, 2015 Comments off

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

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

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

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

Kc01Kc03

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

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

Icloud01

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

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

Categories: Mac News Tags: by

Conservative Claims and Rookie Economic “Mistakes”

October 26th, 2015 7 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

WSJ Bogus Chart

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

Even More Bigus Chart

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

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


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

Categories: Right-Wing Lies Tags: by

Another Reason Why I #%$@& Hate Flash

October 17th, 2015 Comments off

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

Flash Cookie

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Technology Tags: by

Fukushima Radiation Causes Serious Loss of Mental Capacity

October 13th, 2015 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s a Savior, Not a Role Model

October 6th, 2015 6 comments

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

Categories: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Tags: by

“Acceptable Ads”

October 5th, 2015 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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