Sunday, March 31, 2019

Mexican Countries?

Check out what just blew up the internet...

The question I have is this. Are Fox News employees that dumb? Or are they doing this because they know their audience is that dumb?

Republican Opposition Politics is Killing this Country

Alex Jones, the right-wing rabblerouser who once claimed that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax "staged" by a massive government conspiracy and that no one had died, is being sued by Sandy Hook parents. These parents have faced harassment and death threats from people who bought into Jones' lies.

Jones has been trying his case in the media, trotting out his lawyer and filling his followers' heads with his typical nonsense. Now the lawyers for the parents have released Jones' deposition in the case, and it reveals a great deal about how Alex Jones -- and rightwing blowhards in general -- think and form their opinions.

For example:
Most notably, Jones refused to acknowledge whether his actions added to the grief and distress of those who had lost loved ones in the shooting, and he claimed the lawsuits filed against him were retaliatory for Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid in the 2016 election. When shown short video clips of himself from his own TV show, Jones continuously claimed they had been manipulated or taken out of context.

He also blamed his years of misinformation and spin about the massacre on “psychosis.” Jones claimed that years of witnessing “corrupt” governments and institutions made him deeply skeptical of the “mainstream media” and the “agenda hidden behind things.”
Right, Alex, right. You're crazy because "they" made you that way. The parents sued you because Hillary lost. No, you dummy, they sued you because you were lying when you said their kids weren't killed by a nut job that the NRA, the Republicans and idiots like you armed and encouraged.
During the questioning, the Sandy Hook attorneys outlined the main conspiracy theories Jones has broadcast during the last six years and provided evidence debunking each one. Jones acknowledged that some of the so-called anomalies that initially inspired his conspiracy theories were later proven to be false. But he stopped short of taking responsibility for creating those theories; he told the Sandy Hook lawyers he was simply reporting on Internet chatter and providing a platform for the free exchange of ideas.

Jones claimed that the media, corporate lawyers, “the establishment” and the Democratic Party tried to make it seem like he was obsessed with the Sandy Hook massacre and that it was his only “identity.” They “tricked” him into consistently debating it, he said.
This is the common thread on the right: the Democrats "make" us do and say these idiotic things. We don't make up this crap, we just "report" on nonsense we see on the Internet.

In essence, whenever the mainstream media or a Democrat says something is true, they are forcing Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the conservative horde to say it is false, because they must reflexively oppose and contradict anything that their perceived enemies say.

This also seems to be the pattern shaping up for Republicans to deny responsibility for their obstruction on climate change. Now they're claiming that Al Gore "politicized" the issue when he took it on during the 2000 presidential campaign and the documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Because Al Gore said climate change was a problem, Republicans were forced to say it was not, because they must oppose Democrats on every issue that Democrats think is important.

This shows the how utterly corrupt and empty Republican philosophy is. They aren't for anything: they simply have to oppose everything that the Democrats believe or support, no matter how important that issue is to the welfare of the country.

If Democrats are for abortion, Republicans are against it. If Democrats want to tackle climate change, Republicans literally want to burn more coal. If Democrats want to take guns out of the hands of wife beaters, Republicans want to put guns in every purse and waistband. If Democrats want to outlaw carcinogenic chemicals like Roundup, Republicans want to spray them on like perfume. If Democrats want birth control, Republicans want women barefoot and pregnant. If Democrats want to show immigrants compassion, Republicans want to throw them in prison -- even though people like Donald Trump are the ones hiring immigrants to do everything from building his golf courses, to cleaning his bedroom and ironing his shirts, to driving his family's car.

This is why American democracy is failing. It isn't that Democrats won't compromise. It's that the Republicans reflexively oppose everything the Democrats support.

Democracies work by negotiation: one side gives something the other side wants in exchange for something they want. Nobody gets everything they want, but everyone gets something.

We should be thinking of the country as a big family that doesn't always get along. If Joey gets a new pair of $300 basketball shoes, Lizzy should get that crappy phone replaced. Mom and dad -- the president and Congress -- should make sure everyone is treated fairly.

But Republicans have made everything into US vs. THEM, and turned government into a warzone, with no holds barred and no prisoners taken. And they're proud of this. They brag about how inflexible and dictatorial they are. They are so wrapped up in opposition politics that they would take the side of a corrupt foreign power that has actively been trying to destroy the United States for the last century -- Russia -- over their fellow Democratic countrymen.

These tactics may give Republicans a temporary tactical boost among their most virulent supporters. But they are ruining this country, undermining its moral authority around the world, alienating us from longtime allies and destroying the social fabric that holds us together.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The College Admissions Scam

A couple of weeks ago the FBI arrested a bunch of wealthy parents who had cheated and bribed their kids' way into elite colleges like Georgetown, UCLA, Yale, Stanford and USC. The media liked to emphasize the Hollywood aspect of the scandal by bandying about the names of two actresses (whom I'd never heard of), but this wasn't a Hollywood scandal: most of the parents involved were just wealthy billionaire businessmen.

To make it that much worse, one of the students was an "Instagram Influencer," who didn't really seem to want to go to college in the first place. She was taking up a slot at USC, but would much rather just spend all her time taking pictures of herself hawking products by Calvin Klein, Lulus, Tressemme, etc.

One particularly disgusting aspect of the scandal is how coaches took bribes to accept students who had never played the sports they coached. The man heading up the scam photoshopped the kids into sports action shots and fabricated fake awards on applications.

Which brings up the question: why do we have sports scholarships for colleges in the first place? Every year there are dozens of scandals with boosters and college coaches committing recruiting violations, players being arrested for sexual assault, and now student athletes are demanding salaries. The NCAA is a cesspool of corruption. Universities should be institutions of learning, not farm teams for the NFL and NBA.

But back to the scandal: the thing is, none of these wealthy kids need any kind of college degree to succeed: because their parents are stinking rich, they'll get everything they want handed to them, like Donald Trump. The only reason these kids were in fancy colleges was to stoke the parents' egos.

Today there's a story in the news about how these elite colleges have record low acceptance rates: Yale has 5.91%, USC 11%, Harvard 4.5%. What the headline doesn't mention, though the body of the article does, is that lots of kids apply to lots of colleges.

This is the scam: if large numbers of kids are applying to 20 colleges, sending applications to Harvard and Stanford just for kicks with no hope or intention of going there, the acceptance rate for these schools is completely meaningless. These schools are advertising these low acceptance rates to rationalize jacking up their tuition rates sky-high.

The question is, do you need a degree from one of these these high-falutin' colleges? Is an elite institution a requirement for success?

In general, a big fat no. In some fields, perhaps, the answer may be yes: every current Supreme Court justice has attended Harvard or Yale.

But that's the exception. I graduated from the University of Minnesota 40 years ago with a degree in Russian (with most of my coursework in computer science) and had no trouble getting a job. My wife took BS, MBA and master's degrees in Electrical Engineering from Minnesota, and worked in semiconductor design for companies like CDC and Honeywell. We were able to retire from corporate life after working full-time only 25 years.

Things are different now, you say. Not so much. I know a woman who graduated four years ago from Winona State (a small no-name college in Minnesota) with a degree in Information Sciences, and she got a job immediately at Medtronic, the big medical device manufacturer, for a high five-figure salary. She is already a senior analyst making six figures today.

Kids are stressing out too much about making it into big-name colleges. State and local colleges provide degrees that will let you earn a decent living even though they don't have the cachet of an Ivy League school.

The most important factor is not the school students choose, but their chosen field of study. They should pick a major that they excel at, which is in demand in the place where they want to live.

Sometimes it seems that every other kid I meet wants to be a veterinarian or a marine biologist. The thing is, vet school is very expensive, vets don't get paid a lot, the work is stressful, and they have to work weird hours. I personally know working vets, and it's a tough gig. Marine biologists aren't in all that much demand, and they need to work near the ocean.

If people love animals, they should get a dog, not a DVM.

Also, if kids aren't college bound, they shouldn't waste tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a degree from one of these bogus for-profit colleges, many of which are going bust these days (like ITT Technical Institute and Education Corporation of America). Many of these "schools" are just scams (a la Trump University and the Golf Academy of America). These are sadly still being pushed by Betsy DeVos, Trump's education secretary, who has a vested interest in such ventures.

Local community colleges and vo-tech schools are much better deals, and often credits are transferable to four-year institutions if students change their minds. These schools teach vital skills like programming and repairing industrial robots, which isn't glamorous, but is highly essential these days.

Finally, college just costs too much. When I went to college a Pell grant and a part-time job were enough to pay for it all. I didn't have to take out any loans. College doesn't have to be free, like so many Democratic politicians want it to be. However, every state college and university should set in-state tuition so that if students live at home and work part-time they can pay for it all without taking on debt.

Yeah, they won't have the "college experience" of living in a dorm, whining about cafeteria food, getting drunk out of their gourds and finding themselves naked on the mall at 6 AM Sunday morning.

But they'll have a degree and won't be in hock up to their eyeballs.

NRA To Shutter Its Doors

A recent and hysterically breathless letter from NRA president Wayne LaPierre states that the NRA could shut down "very soon" and it's all because of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. I realized that the NRA was having cash flow problems and struggling but OMG, where is my fainting couch?

Perhaps the reason why they are struggling financially is due to the fact that they are domestic terrorists responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and they, along with other gun rights groups, are finally falling out of favor with the American public. Being a merchant of death kind of does that to you.

The clocks is ticking on the NRA and their supporters. They better hope there won't be any mass shootings for awhile. Or they could...oh...I don't know...change? Maybe?


Read On Fox News Every 30 Minutes

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The True Odds of Shooting a Bad Guy With a Gun

One of our regular readers sent me this recently from a couple of years back. It's still valid today.

The reality seems to be that when our bullets don't wind up in non-human animals or street signs, then when you use one to shoot someone, about 99 times out of a 100, you will commit a felony, shoot yourself, or shoot someone by accident. In one out of a hundred cases, you shoot the bad guy

Yep. Sorry, "heroes" but your need for a gun makes your life more dangerous to yourself and me. You are a direct threat to my family.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Destruction of Climate Change Is Happening Right Now Before Our Eyes

Last week we drove to Utah for a wedding. Along the way we stayed overnight in Kearney, Nebraska, on I80. The town is famous for the Sandhill crane migration, and we saw tens of thousands of cranes flying overhead and standing in the fields at dusk.

My wife saw that a storm was going to hit Denver the day we planned to visit a nephew and stay there, so we continued on and stayed in Glenwood Springs, on the other side of the pass along I70.

The next day we tried going to Vernal, UT, to check out Dinosaur National Monument, but the highway was in near white-out conditions. We turned back south and headed to Grand Junction instead. On the way we saw a dozen emergency vehicles headed the opposite direction.

The weather reports were calling the storm a "bomb cyclone," and it was hitting everything from Utah to Iowa, so we stayed in Grand Junction. A record was set for the lowest atmospheric pressure in Colorado, at 968 millibars. This was a land-based hurricane, with winds up to 96 mph, equivalent to category 2 hurricane.

We got to Utah without incident, but along the way we heard many stories from several travelers who simply couldn't get home. After the snow there was rain, and then it got really warm, and all the snow melted at once. Highways in Nebraska and Iowa were inundated by flood water, and thousands of people were stranded.

Damage reports are trickling in. Nebraska's bill for the storm will be $1.3 billion. Iowa's will be $1.9 billion. Other states suffered similar destruction.

Meanwhile, temperatures in Alaska have been in the 70s.

Climate change didn't "cause" this storm. But it made the storm that much more destructive. Global temperatures are rising, and that means the air can hold more water. More water means more energy in the atmosphere, more snow, more rain, more floods and more death and destruction.

Places like Alaska, Nebraska and Iowa are strongholds of the Republican Party and climate change denial. Yet they're the ones who are going to suffer the most damage from climate change. Nebraska is sucking its aquifers dry (pretty much every farm uses irrigation) and as it turns into a semi-desert it will cease to be the breadbasket of the United States.

It's so confounding: voters in these states keep electing the people who are responsible for the destruction of their way of life. How long will they let the Republicans play them for suckers?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

We Need To Make Racists Afraid-Deathly Afraid

The recent shooting in New Zealand has made one thing very clear to me: racist gun humpers aren't really afraid of ordinary society. They look at liberals and see vegans who listen to NPR and talk too much about diversity. In short, they see weakness. We need to disabuse them of that notion. Yet how can we accomplish that without arming ourselves to the teeth?

Well, that's not exactly true. The federal government has a standing army that should be put to use on what is clearly domestic terrorism. Rather than focus on the very much weakened (if even existent at all anymore) Islamic rooted terrorism, we should turn the laser focus on assholes like this.

White men are the fucking problem. Period. Social media is filled with assholes like this and they should be targeted and jailed. Terroristic threats are a felony. The shooter in New Zealand live streamed his attack. How about we live stream racist, white pricks getting the shit beat out of them? Better yet, we just make these fuckers vanish into a black site somewhere. Gitmo their asses. 

Until mass shooters feel fear from civilized people, they are going to keep doing what they are doing. It has to be much heavier than just a possible armed person at the scene. That's why the good guy with a gun nonsense won't work. They'd actually probably love that. It has to be a relentless and daily oppression on a number of fronts. Their guns seized immediately or prevention from even owning them in the first place. Their jobs, gone. Constant harassment on social media and in their daily lives. Forced diversity training. Jail for some if they get too out of line. 

White supremacists aren't afraid of us. We need to make them feel that fear. Otherwise, they will keep doing this shit. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hijabs in Nebraska!

My wife and I were taking a lunch break at a truck stop while driving across Nebraska when we saw a woman and her daughter get out of a car. They were wearing long dresses that went all the way to the ground, and had their hair covered.

Clearly, they don't believe in the Constitution, as "Judge Jeanine" implied on Fox News that Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota does not:
"Omar wears a hijab, which, according to the Quran 33:59, tells women to cover so they won’t get molested," Pirro said. "Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?"
Were the women I saw Muslims bent on subverting the Constitution, replacing it with Islamic Law?

I doubt it. They were blonde and blue-eyed and in the middle of Husker country. They were probably Mennonites, like these:

Until the 1960s it was extremely common for American women to wear long dresses and cover their hair in exactly the same way that some (not all!) Muslim women. Many still do: Amish women do. Many orders of nuns do. The Christian bible prescribes modest dress for exactly the same reasons that the Quran does. Are they defying the Constitution?

And it's not just women. What about Jewish men who reject American custom and wear yarmulkes during the US national anthem, putting the law of the Torah before the Constitution? Are they anti-American, or simply devout?

How do you think a Trump supporter would react to a Jew wearing his kippah during the anthem at a football game? The same way they react to Colin Kaepernick?

Personally, I think customs requiring women to cover themselves up are evil: they put the onus of avoiding rape on women, rather than demanding men behave like civilized human beings.

But if women want to wear halter tops, or miniskirts, or hijabs, that's up to them. No one else has any business telling them what they can wear.

But then you've got people like Jeanine Pirro and Sebastian Gorka condemning an American citizen in the starkest terms for a stupid wardrobe choice.

And why? It's not because they actually believe that wearing a hijab means these people are trying to subvert the Constitution, any more than Amish or Mennonite women wearing the same outfit are.

No, Gorka and Pirro and Fox News only care about inflaming public opinion, inciting hatred against Muslims and Democrats in general, and Ilhan Omar in particular. They are always searching for a sacrificial goat to demonize, and this week it's Ilhan Omar because she dared speak the truth about the vile behavior of Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative government in Israel.

They and the rest of the Fox News propaganda machine are a bunch of baby Goebbels intent on perpetuating the discriminatory, racist and corrupt rule of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

Most Republicans don't really care about Jews or Israel. Trump thought many of the neo-Nazis chanting "Jews will not replace us!" in Charlottesville were fine people.

Many evangelicals believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ is contingent on the Jews returning to Jerusalem. And then Armageddon comes, Israel is destroyed, the Rapture comes and the world ends.

These people don't support Israel because they love the Jews (they want to make Christianity the national religion after all). It's because they want their blasted prophecy to come true. The same prophecy that would have all Jews die because they haven't accepted Jesus as their personal savior.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Madam of Miami Massage and Citizens United

Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential campaign was just socked with a huge fine for receiving foreign campaign contributions:
The Federal Election Commission on Monday doled out $940,000 in fines to the super PAC that backed Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential bid and a Chinese-owned corporation that made illegal donations to it.

The unusually large FEC fines came after the commission found evidence Bush’s super PAC took money from a foreign national, which is prohibited under federal election law. The super PAC, Right to Rise, was fined $390,000 for the violation, while the FEC gave an additional $550,000 fine to American Pacific International Capital, Inc. The company had donated $1.3 million to Bush’s super PAC in the spring of 2015, as Bush was gearing up for a run for president.
So what, you say. The problem is that the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision allowed corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to politicians. Other decisions have allowed contributors to donate to PACs (political action committees) with complete anonymity. That means there is no way to know whether foreign money is being funneled into American campaign coffers. Only idiots like Neil Bush (of Silverado Savings and Loan fame) will get caught, however.

Jeb lost, so this is irrelevant, right? Nope. Take the case of Cindy Yang, the founder of the massage parlor where Patriots owner Robert Kraft was arrested for soliciting prostitution.

Yang has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Donald Trump and other Republicans and has made a business of selling access to Trump at Mar a Lago. She brings foreigners into his inner circle, getting them into places that he frequents and connecting them with Trump surrogates like his sons.

Besides the obvious scandal of Trump and his family posing for selfies with the Madam of Miami Massage, who is apparently involved in human trafficking and prostitution, and the pay to play aspect of foreigners buying access to Trump and donating money to his campaign, this is a huge security risk.

Trump conducts real government business in these locations and he's bringing people linked to Chinese intelligence into his very home. Trump is notoriously careless with secret intelligence, blabbing everything to the Russians he can think of, so what kind of intel is he giving to the Chinese at his shindigs? And are they leaving surveillance devices in Mar a Lago?

And this is all possible because of the Supreme Court's Citizens United, which equated money with free speech and said that there was no appearance of corruption if corporations are free to donate unlimited quantities of cash anonymously....

Sunday, March 10, 2019

How Trump Wins in 2020

Matt Schlapp recently scored the much coveted first segment on Real Time with Bill Maher. Schlapp is the head of CPAC and a conservative podcaster. He had many interesting things to say but the most revealing were his thoughts on how Donald Trump could win the 2020 election. Of course, this is assuming that he will make it to the election. I still don't think he will. But let''s assume that he does, for argument's sake.

Schlapp thinks that Americans will look at what Trump said he was going to do when he got elected and how he followed through on it. Schlapp believes Trump has done a good job on this. Certainly, Republicans are happy that Trump got the two SCOTUS judges, got out of the Iran deal, is (kinda) building a wall, and is being the troll they love him to be. But are independents? Or the two time Obama Democratic voters who voted for Trump in 2016? I'm not so sure. Trump can't win without those voters.

The biggest miss by Schlapp is who Trump will be running against. Obviously, the candidate the Dems put up is going to truly tell the tale. I think it has to be a Gen Xer, non Senator who is a woman of color. This same candidate should have a deep populist streak in her and spend most of her time on kitchen table issues, steering clear of trollbait. The Dems won in 2018 because they took this tack. They should stick with what wins and get back that element of the voter base that peeled off to Trump in 2016. They should start with how Trump voters are pissed about their tax returns.

Here is the full interview with Mr. Schlapp.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Own Your Bad Eggs

Check out the last few minutes of Spike Lee's masterpiece, BlacKkKlansman.

Start owning your bad eggs, conservatives. They are leading to your downfall.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Think Like a Dictator

There's an upwelling of anger against Donald Trump among his allies for his defense of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. When asked about the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died from a brain injury after being released from a North Korean prison, where he had been sentenced to 15 years hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster, Trump said:
I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen; it just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen. Those prisons are rough — they’re rough places — and bad things happened. But I really don’t believe that he — I don’t believe that he knew about it.
He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.
Is Trump totally oblivious? Kim unquestionably allowed it to happen: Otto died, Kim is the absolute dictator of North Korea, he could have let Otto go at any time before the injury. Ergo, Kim allowed it to happen.

No, Kim didn't personally bash Otto over the head with a lead pipe. He lords over an evil dictatorship that kidnaps foreigners and throws them in prison for decades for bogus offenses. He then uses these victims as pawns to extort favors from foreign governments. For example, to get a meeting with Trump.

How can Trump not understand that Kim is evil incarnate and that he is directly responsible for Otto's death? Because Trump thinks like a dictator.

And by the way, Trump is doing exactly the same thing to women and children that Kim did to Otto Warmbier.

When victims of gang violence and poverty come to the United States from Central and South America seeking asylum, Trump's policy dictates the ICE throw them into privately-run for-profit prisons, separating parents from children. Some of these kids are put in cages. Some of them have been sexually assaulted in ICE detention. Some of them have died. Many of them will never see their parents again because they were so young when they were taken that they don't even know their last names, and their parents have been sent back to their home countries (or died).

If Trump admits that Kim is guilty of Otto's death, he would be admitting that he is responsible for all the travesties that happen to children in ICE detention centers.

It's the same with the Saudi prince, Mohammad bin Salman, and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: MbS wanted Khoshoggi dead, and now he's dead. MbS didn't slice up his body, but he ordered the hit and is responsible. But because MbS is best buds with Jared Kushner, and he's a dictator like Trump wants to be, Trump "believes" his denial.

Trump is jealous of dictators like Kim, MbS and Putin (who's had dozens of journalists and political opponents murdered) and wants to pull the same crap that they pull. Trump constantly trashes our democratic allies, but consistently lavishes praise on the most heinous tramplers of human rights.

It just baffles the mind to think that so many Republicans are defending a creature so thoroughly and indisputably corrupt. In a few months or years they will find themselves in exactly the same position that Michael Cohen finds himself in: they will rue the day that they defended Trump, that they lied for him, that they threatened people for him, that they sold their souls to this ineffably corrupt demon who will throw them under the bus the instant he no longer needs them.

Like Michael Cohen, or Michael Flynn, or John Kelly, or Reince Priebus, or Steve Bannon, or Rex Tillerson, or Jeff Sessions, or Rod Rosenstein, or Jim Mattis, or... Well, you get the picture.