Jesus Is to Save Christians, Not Guide Them

August 11th, 2014 1 comment

One element of Christianity that I have discovered over the years is that, for many Christians (in America, at least), Jesus is most emphatically not a role model. He is a savior, a rescuer, a hero image. Christians are to worship him as they would a hero—and like a hero, they leave the saving and rescuing to him, and otherwise adopt a “don’t try this at home” attitude.

Have you ever heard Christians say, “When it comes to turning the other cheek, I’m more of an old-testament kind of Christian”? Have you noted so many Americans who have plenty for themselves coldly shouting to turn refugee children away at the border? Have you noted a preponderance of Christian values claimed by people who clearly prefer money over morality?

It crystallized for me when I read about reactions from Christians in a neighborhood where a sculpture of Jesus as a homeless man on a bench had been placed:

Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help. We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy.

To this woman, Jesus was not someone who you emulate. You do not have to actually follow his teachings, because, I assume, they’re just evidence of how great Jesus was. It’s not like Christians are supposed to do those things.

No, Jesus is more like Superman: he flies around and rescues people, not you. You admire him, and depend on him to help you. But you don’t try to go around flying or stopping crime yourself.

For such people, Christianity is not about becoming a better person. Instead, it’s mostly about the perks.

This understanding clears up a lot.

Categories: Religion Tags: by

To Be Polarizing, You Have to Actually Do Something Polarizing

August 10th, 2014 1 comment

I am getting pretty tired of people referring to Obama as a “polarizer” or a “polarizing” figure. Sorry, but that’s complete bull.

Scenario A: you get a job in an office where there are desk workers and field people. As a person who works in the field, you start making all kinds of insinuations about the desk workers, calling them “desk jockeys,” “do-nothings,” and “lazy fatasses.” You begin to advocate for budget increases for field workers at the cost of the desk workers, and you spread rumors about the desk workers stealing supplies, taking too many days off, and spending most of their time playing games or surfing the web on their computers. Worse, you claim, the desk workers are spreading malicious rumors about the field workers, trying to get them fired so the rest will be disorganized and easy prey for office politics.

Pretty clearly, in this scenario, you are polarizing the office, trying to create a rift between the two groups.

Scenario B: you get a job in an office where there are desk workers and field people. You have a field work position. You do nothing untoward, just your job and not much else. Instantly, several of the desk workers arbitrarily decide that they hate your guts. They get most of the desk workers to agree with them, and begin a campaign to make your life miserable and get you fired. They start spreading lies about field workers, using you as a poster boy. They start sabotaging your work and the work of other field workers. They begin trying to cut every bit of the budget that might make field work easier, and every time you hand in work that they will later process, they “lose” parts of the work and blame you. You suddenly become the reason they cite for every bad thing that happens in the office, and some even claim that they will go on strike or up and quit unless “something is done” about you.

Are you a polarizer in this scenario? Pretty clearly no. Are you “polarizing”? Perhaps in a starkly technical sense—but not because of anything you did. Describing you as “polarizing” is patently misleading, as it implies that the polarizing is somehow your doing. Worse, if you object to this patently unfair treatment, you are even more strongly labeled a “polarizer”—“See? Look how he’s bashing the desk workers!”

To polarize is to “divide or cause to divide into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs.” The thing is, when you do nothing that could reasonably cause such division, but others overreact bizarrely because they decide they do not like you, then you’re not doing the polarizing. If you come to a group of people and say, “I’d like to do something about this issue, so let’s begin by using your plan with a couple of my ideas thrown in,” and they react by rejecting not only your ideas but their own plan, calling it the most drastically radical and disastrous idea ever, and instead spend all their time twisting and distorting the proposal and fighting against it only because you are proposing it—I’m sorry, but no way on Earth are you the one being “polarizing.”

And that’s the case with Obama. Despite constant references to Obama “polarizing” the country, he has done nothing of the sort. He has gone a great distance to give everyone what they want, to ameliorate the dissatisfaction of his political opponents. He has done pretty much what he promised when he campaigned in 2008: to try to bring everyone’s concerns to the table, address them, and find a solution that everyone can get behind.

I am not saying this out of admiration; I wish he wouldn’t do that, because it’s stupid. When your opposition is bent on making you fail, when they obviously will not cooperate no matter how much you give them, when you wind up giving them more than they originally asked for and still they vehemently oppose you—then you’re an idiot to keep on trying that strategy. When someone not only refuses to work with you but takes every opportunity to knock you down and crack your head open, you don’t keep on trying to shake their hand. You have to deal with the situation you’re confronted with.

The point, however, is that Obama is not the polarizer nor is he in truth polarizing. Republicans are clearly, undeniably responsible for the divisions we see today, taking extremist positions solely out of an unreasoning hatred for Obama—a hatred founded in the desire to crush the opposition for the sake of gaining power, money, popularity, and influence.

Going a Bit Too Low on the tech

July 21st, 2014 7 comments

Headline: Foreign Governments Consider Reverting To Typewriters To Thwart NSA Surveillance. From the story:

In a television broadcast, German politicians said members in the Bundestag — Germany’s parliament — are strongly considering dropping email altogether, opting for typewriters and penned notes to prevent the United States’ National Security Agency from eavesdropping, the Guardian reported Tuesday. Russian government officials also said last week they were reverting to paper communications. The FSO, an agency that protects the Kremlin government and other top officials, has already ordered nearly two dozen typewriters, according to USA Today.

“Any information can be taken from computers,” former head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the domestic successor the KGB, Nikolai Kovalev, told Izvestia. “[F]rom the point of view of keeping secrets, the most primitive method is preferred: a human hand with a pen or a typewriter.”

Seriously? Nobody ever heard that computers and even entire LANs can be disconnected from the Internet?

Categories: Technology Tags: by

What Do You Think of These People?

July 17th, 2014 6 comments

There is a crisis going on in Northern Africa, one causing immeasurable violence in impoverished areas. The situation is intolerable even for the strongest of people, but the children are being hit the worst. If they stay, they face worse and worse fates, many likely to die. Thousands of children are forced to flee, and make their way across the Mediterranean to France, a nation with not just proximity but political investment in their home region. Boatloads of young children, wave after wave, wash up on the shore, hungry, desperate, frightened, and lost. It is a refugee crisis, but made up of the most innocent of the displaced.

The French, however, are pissed. Sure, they had a hand in what happened in that region, but these children are unwanted. They don’t give a crap about their plight, they don’t even care that they’re children. Thousands of French people, backed by millions throughout the country, mass at the shores and around the holding camps where the children are, yelling and screaming at the children. “Nobody wants you!” those in the crowd shout angrily at the kids. “Go back where you came from!” they spit. “They should come here legally,” protesters tell reporters. “These kids carry disease, and they expect us to pay for their needs,” one French patriotic group claims, distributing fliers vilifying the children. “They should go back to where they came from.” When reminded that such a return would likely result in their deaths, the protesters shrug. “Not our problem.” As buses filled with the young refugees drive out of holding centers, protesters surround the buses, beating on the side of the vehicle and shouting angrily. Some even go so far as to call it a literal “invasion” for which the military should be tasked to respond.


This, of course, is not happening in France. But reading the story, tell me: if it were, what would you think of these people?

More importantly, what would the people who are doing this now have thought if this were France doing it a year ago? Having helped create a crisis in a nearby developing country, to have waves of innocent children forced to flee for their lives… and then have the wealthy, comfortable first-world nation callously treat them like vermin and go ballistic at the thought that we might actually help them or something. No, let’s go out of our way and scream at them.

And send them back to the slaughter.

I think that even these wingnuts would have been taken aback at that—had another country done it. But us? No, that’s perfectly justified.


The idea of looking at things from a different perspective works with immigration in a more general sense as well:

Imagine you are married with two kids. The country hits really hard times, akin to the Great Depression of the 30′s (we almost went there a few years ago, remember). You lose your job, your house, almost all of your possessions. No work is available, though you would take any job and are constantly looking. You are reduced to living in a shack in a filthy part of town. Your kids frequently border on starvation, gravely need basic medical care. You are desperate.

Then a well-off family in a gated community tells you they will hire you to clean their house. It’s for way less than minimum wage, but you are way past that by now. Anything is better than going without food. But in that gated community, they voted in rules to disallow such hires—only approved cleaning services. The problem is, those services charge a lot, and this family would rather hire you for cheap—so they’ll bend the rules for their own sake.

However, because of these rules they passed and supported, they demand that you sneak through the hedges in the park near the creek in the back area of the community. If you’re caught, they’ll deny knowing you, and you could go to jail for trespassing. It’s degrading, not to mention a pain to do this at 5 a.m., but you have no choice. You do what they demand.

Later, reports come in that grungy-looking people have been spotted in the community. The neighborhood is outraged, fearing for their safety and worried about property values dropping. “These people just steal things, use drugs, and are violent,” the refrain goes—and the people who hired you echo these complaints. Worse, they scream at you because the landscaper is charging extra because of lawn damage in the private park—something you can’t help because the only way in is across that field right after it has been watered. But you employers blame you for it anyway.


What would you think of people like this? Because the gated community asshats are pretty much who we are.

We hear all the time about illegal aliens causing all these problems. How come we never hear about illegal employers? Because they’re far more at fault. You think the immigrants are the ones causing Americans not to be hired? You think the immigrants are the ones making off with the loot? You think they would not rather come into the country legally? No, they don’t want these things—but they have no choice. We have the choice—but instead of doing the right and responsible thing, we do it the screwed-up way.

You know how often illegal employers are caught or penalized? Almost never. And the “penalties” are a joke—usually a pittance, and then negotiated downward from there.

The immigrants are not the problem. Not by a long shot.

Categories: Social Issues Tags: by

What Stereotype Do You Fit?

July 15th, 2014 3 comments

Pew has a “Political Typology” quiz you can take, but fair warning: it’s a very blunt tool, and shouldn’t really surprise you much at all. Unsurprisingly, I was tagged as a “solid liberal,” but was very unhappy with a lot of the choices I was forced to make. You could very easily see where the questions were taking you to, and you will probably find yourself making statements you don’t agree with, being steered towards a group you don’t feel comfortable with.

The questions, mostly polar opposites, tend to be incredibly simplistic and often force you to extremes. For example, you either believe that you have to do “whatever it takes to protect the environment” or that we’ve “gone too far” already. Answer one way, you’re a tree-hugger; answer the other way, you’re a hard-nosed industrialist. In terms of U.S. international involvement, you have to decide if we usually make things worse or if things would be worse without us. Answer one way, and you’re an isolationist; answer the other way, you’re an adventurist. What if you believe in tempered involvement? Not major land wars, except in true emergencies (WWII was the last one to qualify), but definite strategic involvement with a military element. How is that factored in? The answer is that it isn’t—you’re forced to choose way too far in either direction.

In fact, I am not sure that you can test out as a moderate—the results do not even allow that. The categories in the center are called “hard-pressed skeptics” and “young outsiders,” but you get there by being polar on some issues that are left and some that are right. There is pretty much no allowing for people who want middle-of-the-road solutions.

Some questions are too politically vague for the spectrum they are laid upon. For example, is it best for our future to be active in world affairs, or should we concentrate on problems here at home? That supposedly falls along a spectrum from liberal to conservative—despite the fact that I have seen people on both extremes, and in the middle, voice that particular sentiment.

Finally, many of the questions and vague in a general sense; for example, “stricter” environmental laws are good or they are bad. Well, what does “stricter” mean? Stricter than we currently have? Stricter than is currently acted upon? How much more “strict”? Strict in a harsh, arbitrary way, or strict in terms of protecting the environment while maintaining the best future for business? Does this allow for or discount laws which encourage green technology which can be a significant economic benefit?

In order for this to be a meaningful quiz, it should be allowed more depth. For example, take this choice:

This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment
This country has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment

These should be changed to:

The country should do whatever is necessary to protect the environment
The country should focus all available resources to stem the damages
caused by global climate change
The country should use strong economic incentives to discourage
non-renewable energy sources and encourage renewables
The country should focus on using nuclear power to stem coal, oil,
and gas use until renewables become economically feasible
The country should allow market forces to determine the best use and
development of energy resources and technology
Renewables are a pipe dream and should be abandoned in favor of all that
can be done to make coal, oil, and gas resources more available

My list is probably incomplete or not properly balanced, but you see where I am going with this. The answers could then be sorted into more coherent political identities. Questions could be added which would determine specific tax policies; instead of “taxes are too high” or “corporations make too many profits,” we would be able to set what we believe would be proper fundamental tax types–e.g., income, capital gains, and corporate taxes.

Such a poll would be much more complex and would require quite a bit more work—but I would be really, really interested to see how that comes out.

Categories: Journalism, Social Issues Tags: by

What’s a Jobs Bill? Who Cares, SUE OBAMA!

July 13th, 2014 3 comments

Boehner’s petition to sue the president included this claim:

After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ The House has passed more than 40 jobs bills that would help. But Washington Democrats, led by the President, just ignore them.

Wow! More than 40 jobs bills! Why haven’t we heard of this before? Must be the Liberal Media just trying to make the Republicans look bad.

So, what were the bills he’s talking about? There’s a list of 46 “pro-growth jobs bills” on this page.

One thing you notice right away is that six of the bills listed here were either signed into law or are supported by Obama. We know that because Boehner’s list itself makes this clear. So, exactly how are “Washington Democrats, led by the President” just ignoring them?

But hey, that’s still 40 jobs bills that Democrats haven’t approved! They must be anti-jobs!

Let’s look at the list, starting at the top. Right there is the Keystone pipeline bill that Democrats refuse to pass in the Senate. They’re preventing oil from being more easily delivered from Canada!

Umm, wait. That’s a jobs bill?

Ah.

A piece of legislation called a “jobs” bill should be first and foremost focused on creating jobs. If it is focused on a very different task, even though it results in some jobs being created, then it’s not a “jobs” bill.

For example, let’s say I write a bill proposing that all businesses must submit 100 extra pages of forms every year for some purpose or another. Those businesses will obviously need to hire more people to collect that information, confirm it, and submit the forms. Arguably tens of thousands of new jobs must be created to accomplish this task.

Did I just write a “jobs” bill? No.

No, a “jobs” bill is one that is at the very least mostly about creating jobs, and should be directly about creating jobs. For example, in 2012, Obama was pushing strongly to pass a bill that would give tax incentives to companies which would bring jobs now outsourced overseas back to the United States. That’s clearly a “jobs” bill, as creating jobs in the United States is the primary objective. Republicans opposed it because it would make it less advantageous to hire cheap foreign labor.

Then there was the “American Jobs Act” in 2011, which Obama was also pushing, and Republicans also blocked; Obama split the bill up and got a few elements passed, but Republicans stopped most of it. The bill called for suspending some payroll taxes for employers and employees; unemployment benefits and jobs training; spending for creation of infrastructure, construction, teacher, firefighter, and police jobs; prohibiting discrimination against the unemployed; and loosening regulations on creating capital for new business projects. Again, the theme of all of this is clearly to create jobs, both directly and by economic stimulation.

So, how is the Keystone pipeline a “jobs” bill? The primary objective for the Keystone pipeline is to support the production and sale of controversial tar sands oil. It’s kind of hard to argue that approving an oil pipeline to profit oil companies—one of which is not a United States firm—is somehow primarily an American “jobs” bill. It is, however, part of a distinctly partisan pro-corporate agenda.

In fact, an estimate of the impact of the project says that the project would create only 2,000 short-term construction jobs over two years, with as many as 40,000 “indirect” jobs (providing food services for workers as one example) which are just as if not more temporary. That’s a job increase worth just 15% of last month’s job increases—and those are temporary jobs that would expire after two years, creating a jobs lurch whenever that happens.

Remember back in 2009 when Obama was really pushing the economic stimulus, and a big part of that was to create jobs on infrastructure projects? At the time, Michael Steele and the GOP claimed that these weren’t “jobs” because they were not permanent:

Steele: “You’ve got to look at what’s going to create sustainable jobs. What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work.”

Stephanopoulos: “But that’s a job.”

Steele: “No, it’s not a job. A job is something that a business owner creates. It’s going to be long term.”

Stephanopoulos: “So a job doesn’t count if it’s a government job?”

Steele: “Hold on. No, let me finish. That is a contract. It ends at a certain point, George. You know that. These road projects that we’re talking about have an end point. As a small-business owner, I’m looking to grow my business, expand my business. I want to reach further. I want to be international. I want to be national. It’s a whole different perspective on how you create a job versus how you create work.”

So, if Keystone passes, how many “actual,” that is to say, permanent, jobs would be created in America? About 50. More jobs that that would be created—but in Canada. The real profit from this would not be in jobs, it would be in the source of oil. This oil must be refined, but there is no new refining going on, we’re just using a different source. Which means no more new jobs on that end, not in the United States.

But wait a minute. The pipeline delivers oil, but is not the only delivery method. Is this oil that would never be delivered without the pipeline? No. It’s not like we’re not getting the oil—we’re just transporting it by less cost-effective measure, namely rail, truck, and/or barge. Which creates jobs for people running those lines of transportation. Which are currently well-paying, permanent, full-time jobs—which will be killed by the pipeline.

Then there is the fact that the pipeline will lead to higher fuel prices in the midwest, which will have a negative impact on jobs. Oil spills kill jobs over time. The costs for the pipeline will have an opportunity cost on investment in green energy, an industry which has been a true job creator and source of economic value for the United States.

According to various reports, Canadian oil companies would be the biggest winners for this project, with a few jobs spilling over to the American side, which will probably be offset by job losses created by the pipeline. Oh, and tar sands oil is incredibly polluting. In contrast, look at clean-energy car technology initiatives—which created 150,000 long-term manufacturing jobs in the United States. But that’s the kind of industry Republicans mock and deride.

So, no, Keystone is obviously not a “jobs” bill. It’s an oil-industry bill, aimed to mostly profit oil producers and refiners, mostly in Canada, with a minimal or negative jobs impact.


But hey, maybe they just really like the Keystone project, so they topped the list with it. Maybe the 39 other bills on the list are actually “jobs” bills.

How about the “Offshore Energy & Jobs Act” which will “revitalize manufacturing, create jobs, and restore our nation of builders”? That’s offshore drilling with the word “jobs” attached to it. There are other bills for “onshore drilling,” and for deregulating fracking, and other general “drill anywhere” and “get rid of all environmental protection regulations.” Essentially, most of the energy-related jobs bills are “drill & pollute as much as you like” legislature—which, like the Keystone project, is about energy interests making tons of money, and oh yeah, some jobs may be created in the process. Those are not jobs bills.

In fact, nearly half of the “jobs” bills are actually let’s-give-billions-to-morbidly-profit-rich-energy-corporation giveaways, mostly bills which attack Democratic policies to keep air & water clean and not completely wreck the environment.


But hey, maybe the other two dozen or so bills on the list are actually “jobs” bills.

The first non-energy bill listed: kill Obamacare. Which would result in millions losing the first affordable healthcare they have seen in a long time, and in many other greatly beneficial policies getting struck down. But hey, the CBO said 2 million jobs would be lost!

No, the CBO said that the equivalent of 2 million jobs in hours worked would be reduced, mostly from people working themselves half to death to pay for pre-ACA health care, which now they don’t need and so can work less but still get the same benefits. Overall, the ACA is probably more job-neutral than anything else—primarily because it’s not a jobs bill. Killing it will not create jobs, that’s GOP fantasy politicking.

So, what’s next on the list? Oh, the next three “jobs” bills are also about killing Obamacare. Go down the list, and you’ll see that they are mostly of this stripe: partisan laws trying to get Republican political agendas signed into law and Democratic political agendas repealed. Privatization of schools, half a dozen limits or prohibitions on government regulation, importing cheaper labor in high-tech industry, more attempts to get rid of the ACA, defunding welfare, spending cuts (which ironically fund jobs), cut food stamps (which are actually job-stimulative due to increase sales business), tax cuts & credits for corporations—stuff like that.

You can read it on the list. Once you get past the hyperbolic “jobs, jobs, jobs!!” titles & language adorning the proposals, you will see that none of these bills are in fact focused on creating jobs, but depend on side effects (many of them fictional) to create the jobs. But the bills themselves are all about something other than jobs.


So, essentially, John Boehner and the Republicans are complaining that Obama is not passing their partisan legislative agenda which is not about jobs, but instead is about rewarding Republican constituents and breaking down Democratic ones.

Of course, since then, the Republican “justification” behind the alleged lawsuit has been revealed as a delay in enforcement of the ACA for some businesses—a move which Republicans not only approved of at the time, but actually pressured the president to do in a different form—until they realized they could use it as a way to attack Obama, at which point they suddenly opposed such delays.

I can imagine that a lot of Americans who are not favorably inclined towards Obama will believe that there is something to the lawsuit, but only because they do not listen, think, or study the issue seriously. They will hear Boehner and other conservatives saying something like, “Obama blah blah blah failed blah blah blah killing jobs blah blah blah shameful blah blah blah destroying America blah blah blah gerbils blah blah blah fluoridation blah blah blah therefore we must [ sue / impeach ] him.”

Apparently, in conservative politics nowadays, this is what is referred to as “Thursday.”

iPhone 6

July 12th, 2014 1 comment

There has been an unprecedented amount of leakage concerning Apple’s iPhone 6, due to be released in 3 or so months. It seems all but certain that there will be two versions, both bigger than the current size, with 4.7“ and 5.5” screens. We know the phone will have more rounded edges, and will be around 6.7mm thick.

So what do we not know?

Premium Features

It has been rumored that there may be more than just a difference in screen sizes between the 4.7“ and 5.5” models. You might have to pay extra to get some of the fancy features this time, similar to what happened with the iPhone 5s compared to the 5c:

Sapphire Screen: Apple’s new sapphire glass technology, being produced in large quantity at their new plant, has long been rumored as a replacement for the surprisingly fragile Gorilla glass. (A key difference is scratch resistance, as a scratched screen is much likelier to break.) It is currently used only for the Touch ID sensor in the iPhone 5s home button. Apple has been ramping up production, and it looks like it is setting up to produce much more sapphire than could be used in an iWatch only. However, you may be only able to get it in the 5.5“ model, if certain rumors are to be believed. Not everyone is saying so; competing rumors hold that there will be enough sapphire to go around, allowing for both iPhones and the rumored iWatch to get the goodies.

Optical Image Stabilization: This should be coming also, but again, maybe only to the 5.5” model. Presumably this would allow users to take movies with a lot less hand-held jitter.

Standard Features

Several more features have been rumored, but nothing is set in stone. What should be included, from most likely to least:

Apple’s New A8 Chip: Apple has been designing its own mobile CPUs for a while now, and these chips have very good performance, at least since the A6, with the A7 showing very good numbers. The A8 will hopefully deliver even more power and speed. Th A8 may deliver better power consumption as well, so you should expect slightly improved battery life—unless the bigger screens take a bite out of that.

Better Camera: which might not mean a higher resolution camera. The built-in back-face camera might still have “only” 8 megapixels. However, the autofocus might be faster and better, and the camera app might have more features—the apparent time-lapse feature to match the previously-added slow-motion feature, for example.

NFC Chip: This would be a surprise, because Apple has said that it is not currently on their radar. However, several reports have come out saying that Apple is ready to deploy a mobile payment system, and that the iPhone 6 could be equipped with the ability to tap or swipe your phone over a sensor and then use Touch ID to clear the payment. Presumably, the charge would come out of your iTunes Store credit card account.

While NFC is still relatively underutilized in America, it is pretty widely used in Japan. I know that I would love it if the iPhone 6 could hold my train pass (I currently swipe my wallet), but in all likelihood, train lines will not let Apple carry their monthly passes, instead favoring their own system. The best that I would hope for would be to use the iPhone for straight purchasing of items or individual train fare payments.

Inductive Charging: We’d all like it if this were true, but it’s one of the rumors I’ve heard least about. This would allow you to charge your phone just by placing it on top of a pad. Apple presumably would supply that (at a higher-than-usual cost, natch; these cost from $20 to $25 and up, so expect Apple to start in the $40 to $50 range at least). It would go along with Apple’s new Cloud initiative, updating less through iTunes than from your iCloud account. This would be nice but far from a huge deal, which is why I am doubtful.

Haptic Screens: Haptic screens provide touch feedback by vibrating as your finger runs over the surface. Aside from the battery drain, this just sounds like to much trouble for too little return. It seems like a nice ornament but not much else—and Apple is trying to make these machines smaller, and not add anything instead, especially for a throwaway special effect. But who knows?

Categories: iPhone Tags: by

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.