Wednesday, April 24, 2019

It's a Question of Fairness

A common refrain among conservatives is that Democrats want illegal immigrants flooding into the country because they want more people to vote Democratic.

This, of course, is bogus. Illegal immigrants can't vote, and it takes at least five years to become a citizen after you get a green card, if you stay in the US consecutively. So bringing in new people won't help the Democrats in the near future. (Plus, most immigrants are socially conservative, and if Republicans weren't always scapegoating them, they'd probably vote Republican.)

The real reason Democrats oppose Trump's tyrannical policy on immigration is that it's all just grandstanding to whip up anger among the white supremacists that make up the majority of Trump's dwindling base.

Trump's administration just increased the number of H2B visas, allowing thousands more foreign workers into the country. His own companies are hiring hundreds of workers on those visas because he doesn't want to hire Americans, because Americans expect permanent jobs that pay well. And Trump just wants employees he can treat like slaves that he can threaten with deportation to keep them in line.

We're building a house, and most of the work crews (siding installers, roofers, masons) are Hispanic. They were nailing siding on our garage in the dead of winter when it was snowing and 10 below zero.

These people are not lazy bums looking for a handout. They're working jobs that Americans don't want. These workers aren't stealing jobs from Americans -- Americans are doing the skilled craftsman jobs that pay a lot more -- architects, designers, managers, electricians, plumbers, HVAC installers, tile installers, and framers.

The arguments Trump is levying against immigrants from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East are exactly the same arguments that were levied against Jews in the 1930s and 1940s, and against Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Chinese, and Japanese immigrants in the early 20th and late 19th centuries, and against Germans and French immigrants in the early 19th century.

Donald Trump's German grandfather and Scottish mother would never have made it into this country if the people like Trump had had their way -- they were dirty, diseased Huns and Gaels and weren't pure English blood.

A lot of our Irish, German, French and Italian ancestors were escaping famine and war in Europe, just like Latin American immigrants are trying to escape social chaos in their home countries. Democrats don't think it's right to use innocent people looking for a better way of life as scapegoats for race-baiting demagogues.

This country is not full. My dad, who is a big Trump supporter, recently went into the hospital for a heart procedure. He was so weak that he couldn't take a piss by himself. He needed help to hobble to the bathroom, and who got him there? An African immigrant orderly.

We can't find enough people to do the jobs that American-born citizens won't do. We need immigrants to do that work, especially considering the low birth rate and huge wave of retirements that's coming down the pike as baby boomers age out of the workforce.

It's really a question of fairness: our ancestors had the chance to come to America. As long as we need people to do the jobs Americans don't want to, we should give them the same shot my dad's Norwegian father got.

Because modern Norwegians sure aren't lining up in droves to help my dad take a piss.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Morning Reflection

This year on Easter, I'm thinking about the fact that the number of US citizens that belong to a church has plummeted 20 percentage points over the last two decades. We now stand around at around 50% of this country that affiliate themselves with churches. From the link.

Among Hispanic Americans, church membership dropped from 68% to 45% since 2000, a much bigger decline than for non-Hispanic white and black Americans. 

There was a big discrepancy over that 20-year period in regard to political affiliation: Church membership among Democrats fell from 71% to 48%, compared to a more modest drop from 77% to 69% among Republicans.

David Campbell, a University of Notre Dame political science professor who studies religion's role in U.S. civic life, attributed the partisan divide to "the allergic reaction many Americans have to the mixture of religion and conservative politics." 

"Increasingly, Americans associate religion with the Republican Party – and if they are not Republicans themselves, they turn away from religion," he said.

Indeed. And I would add in the fact that the ongoing issues with the Catholic church and raping boys doesn't really help at all either.

This cultural shift is a stunning development when you consider how, during the Bush years, we were all worried about the growing evangelical movement and how that would affect politics. No longer. Mega churches are closing down, regular sized churches struggle to retain families, and the number of people that identify as "unaffiliated" in this country now stands as the majority.

That would be me. I consider myself a libertarian Christian. I don't need someone who is insecure about their faith screaming to me about what the Bible really means. I'm a smart guy. I can figure it out for myself. I can read, after all:)

Further, while I enjoy the fellowship of churches and the communities they serve, I'm very wary of sharing faith with people. It should be more private in my view...kinda like taking a shit. It's a moment when you are vulnerable and there shouldn't really be anyone else witnessing it. Adding more people tends to muck it all up as they bring all their nonsense into the mix. Dilution of Christ's simple message invariably happens after that.

You can still have the community without the church. As I write this, I'm hanging out with my in laws in rural Iowa. We have around 30 people coming over for a family meal and Easter egg hunt. Very few of them are heading to church. Most of us just want the family time and the fun of being together.

We are all people of deep faith and we don't need a building to have those core convictions.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

People Who Aren’t Victims and Why Volume #3: Puppet Offense Takers

If a person is not offended by words or an action that another person takes toward them, YOU are not allowed to be offended for them.

Everyone has different morals, sensitivities, and likes/dislikes. That’s what makes our planet and the people on it fun and interesting. Taking personal offense for someone else is actually a giant fuck you to the person who you think should be upset. Shouldn’t you be considerate of their feelings? If it doesn’t bother them, what’s it to you? Kindly, get over yourself.

More importantly, deal with the obvious problem of jealousy and inadequacy that you feel because you aren’t the one getting the attention.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Monday, April 15, 2019

Death, Destruction and Picking Winners and Losers in the Aircraft Market

The following is a story of greed, technical incompetence and political malfeasance that will only backfire and hurt the American economy. Oh, and it will kill people too.

Boeing's 737 Max 8 passenger jet has been grounded after two deadly crashes. The FAA grounded the Max 8 only after every other civilized country in the world did so.

Boeing is trying to sell this as a "software glitch," but the fact is that Boeing radically changed the flight characteristics of the aircraft by installing bigger engines in order to compete with Airbus's A320neo, which was based on the A320. This video explains the technical details.

Basically, the A320neo engine upgrade improved engine efficiency by 15%, which would save the airlines billions of dollars in fuel costs. Because the engine could be slipped onto the wing with no other changes, it didn't require much extra training for pilots qualified on the A320.

Boeing wanted to do the same thing, but the 737's 50-year-old design is lower to the ground, which means the bigger engine can't fit under the wing. So a Boeing exec had a brilliant idea: move the engine up so it's partially above the wing.

This drastically changed the flight characteristics of the aircraft, causing its nose to pull up during full thrust, potentially causing a stall during takeoff. Boeing "fixed" the problem by adding a software system (MCAS) that forced the nose down when it detected a potential stall.

This meant that the plane did not behave like its predecessor, and pilots should have received significant training and simulator time on the aircraft. But Boeing lied, and said it was the same as the old plane and just offered an iPad course to train pilots on the new plane.

Because the MCAS system depends on sensors to force the nose down, the plane will crash if the sensors aren't operating properly. If the pilots weren't aware of these details, which Boeing didn't go out of their way to tell anyone about, they wouldn't know that MCAS is what's forcing the nose down. Boeing also made optional some of the safety features that alert the pilots when something bad is happening. Some airlines don't want to pay extra for these warning systems, so the pilots aren't alerted when these problems occur.

After the second crash, most countries in the world grounded the Max 8 almost immediately. But the FAA and the Trump administration diddled around for a couple of weeks before doing the right thing.

Of course, this could spell economic doom for Boeing, which makes a lot of money selling these flawed planes.

So, last week, Trump announced this:
“The World Trade Organization finds that the European Union subsidies to Airbus has adversely impacted the United States, which will now put Tariffs on $11 Billion of E.U. products!” President Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday morning. “The E.U. has taken advantage of the U.S. on trade for many years. It will soon stop!”
Yes, you got that right. Just after he grounded Boeing's Max 8 fleet for being unsafe, Trump imposed tariffs on Airbus's safe airplanes.

Because the engine is placed too high on the Max 8, it is never going to be as safe as the A320neo. It is inherently unstable under full thrust and requires a software hack to avoid stalling. But Trump wants to stop US airlines from buying Airbus and buy Boeing instead. He wants to force Americans to fly in unsafe aircraft.

Trump doesn't care if you die. He's got Airforce One and a personal 757.

Trump claims that Airbus receives unfair subsidies from European governments. But Boeing also receives subsidies in the form of tax breaks from South Carolina and Washington state. It isn't news that everyone coddles big companies that promise lots of high-paying jobs.

As with every trade war, the EU will retaliate with its own set of tariffs on American products, which will hurt American companies, in particular, Boeing and the rest of the US aircraft industry, which is already hurting because of the Max 8 fiasco. Nobody wins a trade war.

Boeing simply has an inferior and unsafe product. One that has killed hundreds of people. It makes no sense to punish Airbus for having a better airplane. People won't want to fly on Max 8s no matter how many software kludges they issue. The Max 8 design is literally fatally flawed.

Why is the president of the United States using tariffs to interfere with the market to force Americans to fly in planes that have a major design flaw? I thought Republicans thought government should let the market decide, rather than have government pick winners and losers.

But Trump isn't a real president. He's a stupid, senile old man who should be out cheating on the golf course instead of running the world's economy into the ground with his childish showboating.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

New Zealand Shows The World What Secure Adults Do

New Zealand has just shown the world what to do when you have ONE mass shooting: BAN GUNS. Their parliament just voted 119-1 to ban military style, semi automatic weapons. No longer will racist right wingers be able to commit the great acts of violence that they fantasize about on a daily basis. Like Australia, New Zealand will now join the rest of the civilized world and keep these types of weapons out of the hands of ordinary citizens where they never should have been in the first place.

We're about due for another mass shooting here, eh? It's been a little while and these things tend to work in cycles. How many more Americans have to die just so some insecure older white male with saggy tits can have his safe space? Sadly, several more.

There is some good news, however, and the gun humpers seem completely oblivious to it which is fine by me. Take a look at all of the victories that are piling up on both the federal and state level. The pace of these has increased since Parkland and if there is another mass shooting, there will be more until we finally get it right.

If I were a gun rights activist, I'd be beyond worried now. You've lost the argument. It's merely a matter of time now before they start coming for your guns...hee hee...

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Gun McNutt Goes Too Far Even for Texas

A gun nut, ironically named Chris McNutt, who thinks anyone should be able to walk around carrying a gun without a permit has eighty-sixed the very law he was advocating for:
A Texas bill allowing gun owners to carry concealed firearms without a permit is now indefinitely stalled after a pro-gun activist advocated for the legislation by stalking state lawmakers — even appearing at their homes.

On Friday, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced plans to abandon the “constitutional carry” bill after the activist, Chris McNutt, showed up at his doorstep and at the homes of two other lawmakers.

McNutt, executive director of the nonprofit Texas Gun Rights, was reportedly outraged the bill failed to advance quickly through the legislature. He posted a series of rants to his group’s Facebook page complaining about the legislative inaction. He followed these posts with videos of himself visiting the neighborhoods of two Republican state lawmakers, Reps. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock and Four Price of Amarillo.
This nut job went to Bonnen's house while his wife and son were home, and Bonnen was 200 miles away in Austin for a scheduled legislative session.
Friday, Bonnen called McNutt’s actions “gutless intimidation tactics.”

“One fringe organization’s leader disturbingly traveled over 700 miles in 24 hours just to visit the homes of lawmakers — knowing full well that members were hundreds of miles away in our Capitol while wives and children were alone,” Bonnen said in a statement.
The fact is, people like McNutt want guns precisely because they want to threaten and intimidate people. They want to flash their firearms in public around because they don't want "people to mess with them." That is, they want to be able to bluster and insult and intimidate and threaten other people at will, and then flash their guns when they're called out for their dickish behavior.

There are legitimate reasons for some people to have guns: deer hunters, Olympic biathletes, bounty hunters, cops, security guards, etc. People who shouldn't have guns include dope dealers, wife beaters, and racist dickheads.

Racism is the motivation for laws like Florida's Stand Your Ground law: George Zimmerman wasn't convicted of murder for killing Trayvon Martin because that law was passed for the express purpose of letting whites shoot blacks at will.

People who fervently want guns are exactly the ones who should not have them, because strong emotions and guns do not mix. If emotion -- fear or anger -- is the entire rationale for gun ownership, those people shouldn't have guns.

They should instead work to remove that source of fear or anger from their lives through legal means, rather than thinking that they can shoot their way out of it -- because the source of their fear can also have a gun.

The second and third words of the Second Amendment are "well regulated." The First Amendment contains no such wording about freedom of speech, yet there are numerous laws and regulations governing what you can and can't say and where and when you can say it -- libel, slander, obscenity in public places and on television and radio, as well as specific calls to violence against public figures.

We have freedom of speech, yet licenses are required for television and radio broadcasters on public airwaves. Why not licenses for guns on public streets?

It is specious nonsense to say that the Constitution grants the individual absolute right to brandish firearms as they will. And maybe even Texas is beginning to understand how truly whacked these gun nuts are.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

People Who Aren’t Victims and Why Volume #2: Issue Hijackers

Lately I have noticed people bringing their low level of emotional intelligence and, well, crazy ass bullshit into serious issues, latching on to them merely out of childish rage. If someone offends you, stop and think about it. Is this really offensive generally or is it about me?

Hurt feelings or sensitivities aren’t cause to accuse someone of sexism, racism, homophobia or religious bigotry. These types of petulant outbursts erode progress on these issues.

Your personal crap is your responsibility.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Trump Says Solar Power Causes Skin Cancer

AP -- After being ridiculed for claiming that wind turbines causes cancer, President Donald Trump doubled down on his campaign against renewable energy. In Florida for the 165th golf trip of his presidency, the president sported a red MAGA golf hat while doing doughnuts on the greens in his souped-up golf cart.

While the president stopped to rest during the 20-foot walk from his golf cart across the sand hazard at the 13th tee, where his gold-plated golf ball rolled after a bad toss by his caddie, who had fished it out of the water hazard, he took questions from reporters.

"There's no question about it, solar power is very, very, very dangerous," Mr. Trump said, panting from exertion. "I can tell you from very, very personal experience how very, very dangerous the sun is. Just look at my skin. Look how very, very orange the sun has made it. I've been hearing that the sun emits very, very dangerous ultra-violent radiation that causes cancer. So that proves that solar power causes skin cancer.

"My very, very intelligent uncle was a physi-, fizzle- -- very, very smart man with great -- great! genes -- Einstein level genius -- you know, he invented X rays! -- told me if that socialist Green New Deal went through 400 million Americans will die every year from skin cancer.

"He told me that carbon dioxide and soot and ozone and sulfur dioxide from burning coal and gasoline forms a very, very protective layer in the atmosphere that prevents all that ultra-violent radiation from giving us skin cancer.

"The smartest people are saying that if climate change is real -- which it isn't, it's all a hoax that AOC -- who sucks very, very hard -- I should know how hard she sucks, I'm from New York too -- it's a hoax she started in 1985, the same year my genius uncle died -- he was born in Germany in the same town as Einstein, on the same, in the same hospital -- if climate change is real, then we'll have to use geoengineering and put more of that stuff in the air. So burning coal will stop climate change -- which isn't happening! -- and prevent skin cancer!"

In non-fake news, a judge in Arizona ruled that the Central Arizona Project (which buys millions of megawatt hours of electricity to power irrigation pumps) could stop buying power from a coal-fired power plant, which the owners had decided to close because natural gas and renewable energy were far cheaper.

To wit: Idaho Power announced that it would be buying power from a solar farm for 2.2 cents a kilowatt hour. This was part of Idaho Power's announcement that they would switch to 100 percent clean energy within 25 years, relying totally on wind, solar and hydro power.

Note that Trump won the popular vote in Idaho by 59% to Clinton's 27%. Conservative Idaho, often associated with white separatists and survivalists, is not buying Trump's campaign against renewables. Also note that the four of the top five states in wind power production voted for Trump in 2016: Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas.

I don't get it. Most conservatives don't buy Trump's lies on energy production. Most don't buy his lies on closing the Mexican border. Conservative business owners need more workers than they can find, especially in construction and farming. There are thousands of workers eager to come here from Mexico and Central America. Most conservatives don't like his trade policies, with all the punitive tariffs that Americans are paying -- not China, and the retributive tariffs that are literally driving American farmers into bankruptcy.

Why does anyone like this guy?

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Marked Safe!

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Trump's Mental Condition Continues to Deteriorate

Donald Trump has shown serious signs of senility for at least the last five years. And the evidence keeps mounting.

Trump has claimed that his father was born in Germany at least three times, most recently the other day when he was meeting with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg:
"I mean, Germany, honestly, is not paying their fair share. I have great respect for Angela and I have great respect for their country," the president said of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "My father is German. Right? Was German. And born in a very wonderful place in Germany, and so I have a great feeling for Germany."
Trump's father was born in New York. His grandfather was born in Germany, came to the United States as a teenager, went back to Germany after living in the US for a time and begged to stay there, but the Germans deported him for evading military service as a youth. Draft-dodging runs in the Trump blood, I guess.

Like some wacky old grandpa, Trump thinks that wind turbines cause cancer because they make noise. Infrasound, in particular. You know what else makes infrasound? The wind. The waves. Whales. And every motor that runs in every city and every farm.

You know what really causes cancer? Coal: coal dust causes cancer in miners and the general population can get cancer from breathing coal soot and drinking water contaminated by effluent constantly spilling from pits filled with coal ash. Oil also causes cancer, from the chemicals used to extract it with fracking, to the crap spewed into the air from refining it (like benzene), to breathing the soot produced by burning diesel, to the fumes you inhale when you fill your tank.

And then there are Trump's frequent speech problems. Trump was unable to pronounce the word "origins" three times on Tuesday, saying "oranges" instead. Which is pretty hilarious, considering how orange Trump looks. Steven Colbert mocked Trump for these mispronunciations, which people politely call "gaffes" but are really signs of his deteriorating mental condition.

It has long been clear that Trump is a senile old dotard, as the love of Trump's life, Kim Jong Un, called him. Trump's Twitter feed and his administration's policies should be evidence enough of that, but when he starts losing it in full public view, even Republicans should realize that it's time to quietly demand his resignation behind closed doors.

Trump can claim he needs to spend more time cheating at golf.

People Who Are Not Victims and Why Volume1: MAGA Hat Wearers

If you put on a MAGA hat and then whine when people take you to the mat about it, tough shit. The MAGA hat is a symbol of hate and oppression rooted in racism and sexism. Expect to be hassled if you are out in public. Stop blaming others for the ideas you have embraced.

Our culture has ZERO room for this shit anymore and you will be held accountable.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

This Is Getting Ridiculous

Last week a woman breathlessly reported that Joe Biden kissed her inappropriately -- on the back of the head in a completely asexual fashion, in front of hundreds of people. It was demeaning, she said. The other day another woman said that Joe Biden grabbed her head and rubbed noses.

This is getting extremely silly. What's next? "When Joe Biden shook my hand he clasped his other hand over mine and I felt oppressed, claustrophobic and unable to escape." Or "Joe Biden yelled in my ear at a campaign rally when everyone was clapping and screaming. And he sprayed spittle on my ear!" Or "Joe Biden leaned in to talk to me and he breathed on me and I could smell that he ate sausage and eggs for breakfast! And I'm a vegan!"

I'm from Minnesota, where physical displays of affection are less common than other places. I used to have a boss from Maryland. He would touch us to express support, putting his hands on our shoulders (no, he wasn't gay...). I didn't really like it, but I tolerated it. He clearly meant nothing by it, that was just the culture he came from.

If it were up to me, shaking hands wouldn't be a thing. It's a pointless invasion of personal space, a vector for disease, an anachronism supposedly hearkening back to ancient Greece to show that you weren't carrying a weapon.

The Japanese practice of bowing is much more respectful and hygienic, and allows for more subtlety and nuance than a handshake.

Then there are the jerks who use the handshake as a form of aggression and intimidation (like that dickhead Trump). I, like a lot of people, have arthritis, and shaking hands with a guy who likes to squeeze hard doesn't intimidate or threaten me -- it just proves the guy is stupid, inconsiderate lout who cannot be trusted.

The argument that "it's different for women" just doesn't cut it. Biden has done exactly the same sorts of things with men, as Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post noted. And other women, including Stephanie Carter, wife of former secretary of defense Ash Carter, have expressed appreciation for Biden's physical expressions of support.

So far, none of the things Biden has done disqualify him in any way for being president. Democrats lodging these complaints are only helping the Republicans. Not because they are tearing down Joe Biden.

But because they further the Republican narrative that Democrats are completely bound up in PC culture, that Democrats are delicate little flowers triggered by the slightest perceived offense, that they are intolerant and can't respect the fact that other people and cultures have different standards of physical intimacy, that they accuse people falsely and imagine slights where none are intended.

This, in the Republican narrative, makes Democrats weak and incapable of running a country in a world filled with rough and tumble people.

I don't think Joe Biden should run for president. He's too old. And, to state the obvious, this behavior is indicative of his age, showing that he's from a different era with different standards of behavior, when physical contact implied trust, camaraderie and affection.

But these allegations of impropriety for innocent acts of support are preposterous and deleterious to all Democrats. Worse, these spurious allegations diminish the credibility of victims of real sexual harassment.

Knock it off, you idiots.