Smartasses of the world unite!!

Generally a smartass and believer in the Twainism that Against the assualt of laughter, nothing can stand. Mission: mock bigotry, narcisism, and ignorance. This is a collection of thoughts on baseball, politics, economics, and occasional other things.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

History Channel...........you kinda suck at history

A stern middle-aged man with gray hair is wearing a dark red suit. He is standing behind a table, holding a rolled up document in one hand, and pointing with the other hand to a large document on the table.

This past week (Jan 25th - 27th) the History Channel broadcast a 6 hour miniseries (1 - 2 hour episode each night over 3 nights) entitled The Sons Of Liberty. Did you see it? I saw it. There are 5 things that really suck in the History Channel presentation. They suck mostly because, you know, history seems to have been less important than entertainment. That's disappointing because it was on the History Channel, and with "History" being in the name of the channel one would think history would be pretty important. They probably should have called it "Boston 90210" or "Boston Place" or something more bullshitty because it's like nothing happened outside of Boston. Hello??? New York City, Philadelphia. Here are 5 things that just sucked.

1) Sam Adams is shown as THE central figure in the beginning of the movement for independence. Now, Sam Adams was a pretty important  figure in the early days of the independence movement, but he's portrayed as a pissed off tough guy itching to fight the British. Early in his political career he was quite a advocate of the Colonies. He's the one responsible for the idea "No taxation without representation" which in the context of the times meant that the Colonies should be responsible to collect taxes (which is funny because he collected taxes for the Colony early as a professional) and administering the affairs of the Colonies - not the British Parliament where there was no representation on the Colonies' part. He's also shown in the show as fighting, running across rooftops, causing trouble among the British troops, and even climbing aboard a ship during the Boston Tea Party brandishing pistols at the 2 guards on the ship before they jump into the harbor. In actuality Samuel Adams was not AT the Boston Tea Party, and physically he was not a tall, lean, athletic man. He was really kinda just a regular guy of his era. A great patriot, but not a brooding tough guy badass.

2) John Hancock is portrayed in the first 2 and a half episodes as a spoiled little rich kid merchant who has to be dragged along by Sam Adams. John Hancock is correctly remembered as a pretty ballsy guy who put his money where his mouth was when it came to the cause of the colonials. He was a merchant, and a rumored smuggler (though the Crown never got the charges to stick) who was with the movement very early on. He was a wealthy man who put it all on the line. Picture Bill Gates putting his fortune on the line to upend today's political environment. This mini-series really does him discredit. If you believe the show, he never really comes over to the movement until General Gage takes his house while Hancock tries to bribe him. I'd expect John Hancock to roll over in his grave, dig himself up, and beat the shit out the writer of the screenplay. They really make the President of the 1st Continental Congress look like a little pussy.

3) Where are Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson? Where the fuck is Patrick Henry? He WAS IN the Sons Of Liberty, and had the most badass quote of the movement. "Give me liberty, or give me death!" Now, neither Paine nor Jefferson were in the Sons Of Liberty, so it's fair that they're not really covered much at all, but when we get into the 3rd episode, and we see Adams and Ben Franklin at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.  We see George Washington there. He meets our heroes, but shit it's George Washington. Gotta have some Washington in there. There's a "There's Thomas Jefferson" scene. Jefferson is mentioned by Ben Franklin as a candidate to write a Declaration of Independence when Sam Adams finally convinces the Continental Congress to declare independence - cuz it was originally his idea. The writings of Paine, and Jefferson - what were they?

4) General Gage is sent from England to replace the Governor of Massachusetts, and is such a dick that his wife has an affair with Dr. Warren - another member of the Sons Of Liberty. Gage was a dick, and it's been a historical rumor that his wife did get secrets to the colonials. But General Gage really never left the Colonies. After he fought in the French and Indian War, he remained in the Colonies as Governor or Montreal, and later as Commander in Chief of British Military Forces. As for his wife, the mini-series tells she was a pretty typical trophy wife of the era until she saw the good general giving it to a chamber maid through a keyhole, because back then keyholes were HUGE. I guess it's a good thing she saw that in the end, because she hooked up with the good  Dr. What luck!! If Gage doesn't take the chamber maid over the desk would we even be here today?! Gage does get a measure of revenge as he finds out about her dalliance, and kills Dr. Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Warren did die in the battle, but was it at the hand of General Gage? Doubtful.

5) Interesting that the main sponsor of this mini-series was Sam Adams beer. Coincidence?!?!?! Look, the story of the Sons Of Liberty, Sam Adams, John Adams, Paul Revere, and others is really compelling. Does it really need to be sexed up, and made into a "one guy convincing the hesitant crowd that this is what needs to happen" narrative? That's good drama I suppose, but it's really shitty history. Maybe on another channel, but on the History Channel - I'd like to see, you know, history as opposed to a 6 hr beer ad.

Honorable Mention) Ben Franklin comes off as a 18th century hippie and remarks about the idea of independence during a conversation "Well that's an absolutely bat-shit crazy idea."

Really?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

'Merica - loves us some authoritah!!!! (as long as it's the other guy....)




Americans; we love authority. Sure, we say we love freedom, and liberty above all. But goddamn we love authority! We love it way more. Makes sense. Authority keeps us safe, and able to enjoy liberty here at home. It's a balance that we've accepted as a society. I like police, and soldiers. I believe most of them are committed to service. I see them and I feel safe. I'm sure most people do.

There's an interesting facet to this love of authority though. I've noticed over the past few months that some people are reflexively ALWAYS on the side of the authority figure. Whether it's the police shootings, or the CIA torture reports there's a broad segment that reflexively is in the corner of authority figures no matter what  they're accused of. There is not a circumstance that puts them in bad light. The possibility that authority figures might abuse that authority is so minuscule it doesn't even register.

We tortured people. Hundreds of people were tortured in the name of the War on Terror. And collectively, we don't care. Waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, false shootings, hoses up peoples asses (anal infusion). 'Merica! Fuck Yeah. 25 percent of the people tortured according to the Senate report were innocent. Either mistaken identity, or their name was given by another - probably being tortured, and the CIA's own records indicated they had no ties to terror groups. We tortured them. 'Merica - fuck yeah.

Police have killed people that should not have been shot, including a 12 year old kid with a toy gun within seconds of arriving on scene, AAAANNNND a guy within seconds of confrontation, in a store with a toy gun.......in Ohio.......where there's open carry and it'd be perfectly legal to be in a toy store with a REAL gun. So, you'd think police would know how to handle people with guns. Now, police have a really tough job; REALLY tough, but when unarmed people are shot and killed, something is wrong. Reflexively a lot of people default to the police side, and blame the victims. And what's worse than that is when notable people speak out, of make a show of solidarity with the victims, the police have a problem with that. Well, what about the cops that abuse their authority and make anyone with a badge look bad? What about that? Nobody, NOBODY, talks about that.

So after some lip service to "yeah, there's some bad cops, but...." It's "police don't do anything wrong, and if you had a problem with the police, it's your fault." And of you say anything critical about the lack of justice for those victims, THAT'S offensive to police, and you don't appreciate their sacrifice. 'Merica - fuck yeah.

"Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave"

Really???? More like "Land of the - 'listen to the officer,' and Home of the 'whatever you say'"

Monday, November 3, 2014

I hope the GOP wins this Tuesday.



Tomorrow, November 4th, the GOP should win control of the Senate. They will probably win the Governorship of my state, Wisconsin, as well. That's all well and good.

They deserve to win. The Democrats (and while I am a progressive, or a liberal, I am not a Democrat) can't seem to run on any accomplishments. They pass Obamacare, and run from it even when it does the things they said it would do, and even though the things it does people wanted to be done. The GOP just brands stuff, and it sticks, and people vote brands. Like elections are the same as laundry soap. The GOP filibusters everything - EVERYTHING. Nothing gets done, and the Democrats can't even put together a message to say that. Well, fuck it. Lose then. Even if the Democrats manage to hang on to the Senate, it's gridlock till 2016 anyway. Fuck it - give the pyros the zippo.

I've come to the conclusion that there will be no change to the political climate in DC until there is a political reset brought on by economic cataclysm of Great Depression scale. Partisans are locked into their team. The red team/blue team debate is all the mainstream media covers - like it's the next big game. There's no context. There's no objectivity. Red team regurgitates their talking points. Blue team pukes out theirs. "I guess we'll leave it there" is how the "journalists" leave it.

Elections are gerrymandered so that partisans control their districts so much so that competitive elections are largely a thing of the past. The result is that nobody even remotely in the middle gets elected. Republicans run on small government, and how they'll shrink it. They get elected and don't. Democrats run on ethical government and transparency. They get elected and don't. I'm of the opinion that the swamp must be drained, but not by whomever wins the next election. Whomever wins next is part of the same swamp.

So fuck it. Republicans, I hope you win. I hope you get to pass your agenda of tax cuts and laissez faire economics. And just like the past when markets are completely unfettered, and there's a crash at the end. There always is. There's the reset. Just like 1932 the swamp will be drained when the supply side emperor is revealed to have no clothes. Supply side doesn't work. It never has. There is no trickle down. Sure, it sounds good. "Keep taxes at the top low, and the result will be growth in jobs, wages for everyone." Common sense right? Except it doesn't happen that way. Try this common sense; if you get a tax cut you keep it. That's what happens. Since Reagan we've been in this state. "DUHHH - trickle down. We'll all do better because the "job creators will have more money to job create wit." Have middle class wages and salaries kept pace. Ummmm - fuck no they haven't. So when it all crashes the people who "kinda thought it made sense" will see it's bullshit. The people who knew it was bullshit, they won't need to go into the kind of explanation that rolls back the typical voters eyes. They can just say - "See?"

So it's coming. Put your money in a safe place. They're gonna fuck it up - again. They always do.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why do Republicans hate liberty?!?!?














Richard Posner (Credit: Reuters/John Gress)

I don't get it. I have many friends that are Republicans, and to a person they all cite a dedication to individual liberty as one of the reasons they identify as such.

So, why do Republicans want to use the power of government to restrict voting rights through implementing Voter ID laws. They cite voter fraud as justification, but on such weak evidence? I mean, to place any restriction voting rights you'd expect people - with such a dedication to keeping the power of government from limiting free exercise of all individual liberty - to only do so with proof positive that it was needed. They haven't. They haven't because they can't. It hardly ever happens. As conservatives love to say, "If it ain't broke. Don't fix it."

"I believe there are thousands of illegal votes that cancel out legitimate ones." a GOP friend tells me. Well, believing in something, and proving something is real are entirely different things. Or, to paraphrase my father the sailor; "Believe in one hand, and shit in the other. See which one fills up first." I really don't give a shit what you believe. What can you prove, because that's what matters?

Let's see there's the recent James O'Keefe wannabe conservative muckraker video in which, while disguised as a liberal activist, he conversationally gets other voting activists to admit if they did such and such (with early ballots, or absentee ballots which I'm not sure how Voter ID prevents that anyway) they could stuff the ballot box with fraudulent votes. They never do, but for some reason this is "proof" that voter fraud is rampant.

There's the video of the Arizona man dropping off early ballots that he has collected - which is legal in AZ (not that I think we should bring this practice to WI) - as a Republican poll watcher says "What are you doing?" If he's a poll watcher, he knows damn well what the guy is doing. Again, these are signed ballots in sealed envelopes that need to be inspected by poll workers before they're counted. Another conservative friend - OK brother's friend - says "How do you know those are all legitimate votes Dave?!" To which I reply, "You need to prove they're illegitimate. That's how the law works dumbass."

But go ahead, insist that Voter ID is not a solution in search of a problems. Tell us that fraud is rampant while GOP Atty Generals DON'T prosecute any cases while calling for the law. Tell us how you need an ID to do dozens of other things like buy beer (to show age), or cigarettes (again, age), or a bank account (not the law, a bank policy), or cash a check (another business policy, not state law); none of which are Constitutional rights. Insist it's not voter suppression. People are just too lazy to get the IDs, (or pay the poll tax, or take the literacy tests, or not have ovaries, or not be black, or whatever else conservatives have done in the past to try to hold back demographic shifts). Please, insist all these things are really the reason. It's just so precious.

One of your own, Judge Posner, says it's bullshit. When the guy who upheld Indiana's Voter ID law says it's a pile of poo, it's a pile of poo.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Voter ID was bullshit, is bullshit, and will remain bullshit as proposed.

 

image - Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel files
Voter ID is bullshit. Know how you can tell it's bullshit? One of the first things it's supporters say - after of course you show them that voter fraud is exceedingly rare - is that you need an ID to cash a check, or buy beer. Bullshit. Voting is a right, buying beer is not. Cashing a check is a business transaction. I've actually heard people say they can only prosecute voter fraud with the new law. This is stupid. It's already illegal to voter as someone else. It's also quite basic to compare a signature on a registration form to the signature on the voter rolls one signs on election day. We know GOP Asshats have plenty of volunteers to look at signatures.

You see, in America we have rights, and there can only be a law restricting your rights if the government proves there is a need for the greater good (like it's against the law to yell "fire" in a movie theater as the notable free speech exception). There would have to be demonstrated threat to others' rights to fair elections to restrict voting access. You would need to PROVE that actual, in person, voting as someone you're not, voter fraud happens a LOT. That's how it works. State Patrols can't start pulling people over at random to prevent speeding. You have to speed to get a ticket right? That's how liberty works.

Dr Lorraine Minnite of Rutgers University, as an expert testifying in a case about voter ID in Wisconsin had this to say;
  1. As part of a report she prepared for the trial, Minnite said, she found a total of 31 voter fraud prosecutions in Wisconsin since 2008. She said that amounts to one case for every 283,000 votes cast in the three federal elections during that time span. 1/283,000th = 0.0000035335689, or 0.00035335689% that's 3/10,000ths of a percent - (bold added by me, and yes you could round up to 4/10,000ths. It's still fucking miniscule)
  2. Ten of the case didn't really meet her definition, she said, because they involved improperly collected signatures or filing false voter registrations for others, or lying about a felony record to get a job as a voter registration worker.
  3. Of the 21 remaining cases, 12 were felons who voted, three were double voters, four were people who voted in the wrong place and one was a man who obtained and voted an absentee ballot for his dead wife -- a case Minnite conceded may have been prevented if the dead woman wasn't already registered and would have to show photo ID to get the ballot.
So it's not a case of people voting who shouldn't, or voting over and over and over. Only one, ONE, that could conceivable been prevented by a photo ID requirement. That's 1 of the original 31, or 1/31st of the 1/283,000th. Wanna see the math? It's 0.00000011398609, or 0.000011398609%, or 1/100,000th of a percent. "Well (I've heard) What about undetected fraud?" To even move an election 1% there would need to be 100,000 times the fraud that's undetected.That's why the voter fraud argument is total bullshit.

Another thing they like to say is that Voter ID is used in nations in Europe, or India. And it's true other countries have voter ID laws.
  1. “In Switzerland, every registered voter is sent a registration card prior to an election, and if the voter brings her registration card to the polling place, no additional identification is needed.”
  2. “Canada permits any voter who lacks one of the allowed forms of photo identification to present two of forty-five other forms of identification or documentation that have the voter’s name and address on at least one. Acceptable documents include leases, student transcripts, and utility bills.”
  3. Sweden’s policy is a bit more vague, requiring that a “voter who is not known to the voting clerks [produce] an identity document or in another way verify her or his identity.”
  4. “India allows the use of fifteen different types of identification, ranging from property documents to arms licenses to income tax identity cards. Included, too, are forms of identification most likely to be possessed by the poor.... For instance, voters can present ration cards issued to the poor to allow them to buy food staples and kerosene oil at subsidized prices.”
As you can see, it's exceedingly easy to get voter ID in these countries that require it. You can see Switzerland actually sends you the card. No need to take a vacation day to make a trip to wait in line at the DMV. Requirements as to what constitutes acceptable ID are also much more relaxed than the Wisconsin voter ID law just put on hold by the US Supreme Court, or the Texas law struck down by a federal court.

So it's not fraud. Voting is a right. Buying beer is not. Cashing a check, or opening a back account are not rights. While other countries use it, it's also not as restrictive as proposed here. Voter ID proponents continue to have flimsy arguments crumble to any scrutiny.

This begs the question; why does the GOP have such a hard-on for voter ID laws? I could say the GOP Asshats cynically have proposed these laws to restrict turnout of traditional Dem constituencies. I could say they know that low turnout elections typically favor GOP candidates. I could say they know their core demographic is shrinking as a percentage of the electorate. I could say more and more millennials are not identifying as Republicans, and the GOP knows this.

That would make the GOP a bunch of cynical assholes who seek to hold power because they know in the long run they're losing, but I'm not saying that (out loud)