Quick Thoughts on Abortion, Choice and Language

I was browsing the America Speaks Out website (created by the Republican party at taxpayer expense).  Its a goldmine of funny.  But it also offers up some rather useful insights.  Take these two quotes:

the sanctity of life should support whatever of woman wishes to do with her body. Without this right freedom is meaningless

vs

Abortion is a complex, difficult moral issue. It is not the proper role of the government to make our moral decisions for us. Let people make up their own minds and take responsibility for their decisions. If we are to be the party of small government, less government intrusion, and personal liberty, we must stop trying to legislate abortion away. It’s not the government’s place to be a nanny that chooses our morality for us.

The first has 2,710 votes, largely against it (but relatively close).  The second has 1,960 votes hugely in favor.  Both are pro-choice statements.  One is effective.

What makes it effective?  It deftly makes use of conservative goals and language to make the case for a supposedly progressive cause.  What it reveals is reproductive choice is not simply a progressive issue.  It is a universal issue, and conservatives not under the thrall of theocratic dictate are allies.

Turtle is Awful Behind the Camera

A turtle’s horrible camera work has shocked the world.

Clearly the beast has issues, recalling the works of the tortured, now banned Dutch film maker Jurgen Haarbermaaster:

British Petroleum was quick to step up to the plate with a cheeky response.  “Our impromptu thoroughly planned full body turtle reeducation program doesn’t seem so far fetched now, does it?”.  The oil spill has been noted for its robust turtle reeducation efforts.  While BP’s PR team

has been hard at work keeping their proprietary turtle reeducation methods secret, a leaked image from some misguided environmentalists shows a partially educated turtle:

Not to worry.  BP has some solid defenders in the GOP.

Because Criticism Always Works Better With Fat Hate

I know this will seem like I am signaling out Karoli at Crooks and Liars, but seriously, what the hell dude?

In an otherwise spot on article tackling what a piece of shit Limbaugh is (emphasis mine, fat hating his):

The idea of this fat bastard SOB ridiculing hungry children by telling them if they just look in the kitchen cupboards they’ll find Ding-Dongs, Twinkies, Lays ridgy potato chips and all kinds of dip just makes me sick. It makes me want to deface his pudgy ugly picture.

What the fuck?  I get the point, how dare this wealthy, well fed conservative make fun of and attack poor starving children.  But does he really need to throw in the fat-people hate at the same time?  Would it be any better if Rush was thin?  Would he be any less well fed and wealthy?  Nope.

Ignorance and Incompetence Mar Sex Crimes Battle

This article at the BBC bears reading:

“Ignorant” officials are obsessed with punishing victims of trafficking rather than targeting those behind the crime, a report claims.

They cite specific examples, this looks like more than mere claims.  Until we make viciously and effectively prosecuting slavers, pimps, and rape organizers a priority over attacking sex workers and immigrants without documentation, we will not make progress stopping slavery.

Articles like this engender a certain natural rage and helplessness.  How can we help?  There’s a lot we can all do to help fight slavery and human trafficking.  In addition we can organize campaigns from the grassroots to start dialogues and set the tone.  Criminals who force adults and children to have sex for their gain, and who bring in slaves to do unpaid or low paid work under threat, should face the same penalties as cross state kidnappers and murderers.  The crimes are that serious.  We need to recognize their victims as just that, victims.  Thus make every effort you can to set the priority to supporting trafficking victims and taking down slavers.  Every tool for PR is open to you: letters to the editor, blog posts, emails, word of mouth, and social networking status updates.

We need to electrify public opinion so that there is a real demand to end these crimes, rather than the current status quo of prosecuting the victims and letting the criminals escape to prey on more innocents.

The AP and Soft Support of Theocracy

Lightning struck down a giant statue placed alongside a public highway in Ohio.

No author is listed for this piece, which is just as well.  It is an embarrassment.  It softly offers up uncritical support for the religious statue (emphasis mine):

Travelers on Interstate 75 often were startled to come upon the huge statue by the roadside, but many said America needs more symbols like it. So many people stopped at the church campus that church officials had to build a walkway to accommodate them.

Oh?  Many said they want more Jesus statues in public?  How many, dear anonymous AP writer?  10?  50?  1 in 10 people surveyed out of 6,000?  Or 3 of the 10 people you called on the phone but didn’t bother to source?

In the very next sentence the reporter is at it again, uncritically mentioning that church official had to build a walkway, on account of so many people stopping.  How many is so many?  Was the walkway built do to a massive outpouring of support for Jesus and the church?  Was it built to accommodate the few people who did stop?  Was it built later on regardless of the number of people coming, simply as a wise addition to the church?  No answers are provided, just the presumed word of church officials without a hint of sourcing, evidence or what lay people might call proof.

The 4,000-member, nondenominational church was founded by former horse trader Lawrence Bishop and his wife. Bishop said in 2004 he was trying to help people, not impress them, with the statue. He said his wife proposed the Jesus figure as a beacon of hope and salvation, and they spent about $250,000 to finance it.

Are statues built to either help or impress?  How about persuade?  The clear evangelistic angle of the statue looming over a public highway is left entirely out of the equation.  Surprising since earlier in the same article the church is referred to as the “evangelical Solid Rock Church”.  (As of this writing their website is currently down).

The article makes it seem as though the giant Jesus statue intruding into public life was either a surprising curiosity or a welcome reminder of religion, which enjoyed wide support.  Perhaps appropriate for an article concerning religion, no proof was offered.

Browsing on Linux

Swiftfox is broken on the latest Ubuntu (10.04), and the forums are ghost towns.  To run it you essentially have to run Firefox first every time.  So I figured I’d reassess my browser usage with a simple test: benchmarks.  I had gone to Swiftfox out of frustration with Firefox’s noticeable sluggishness.  Now that it was a pain to use and my favorite distro had rendered a once functional program annoying, it was time to look further afield.

This fellow had a few benchmarks to try, and I gave the only one still up a go.  Here are my results by browser (key: I ran the test three times, with the format “first render” | “refresh” | “close browser and render again”):

http://scragz.com/archived/mozilla/test-rendering-time

Chrome: 1.6070001125335693 | 1.3510000705718994 | 1.5179998874664307

Opera: 2.129999876022339 | 2.1589999198913574 | 2.301999807357788

Firefox: 7.715000152587891 | 5.833999872207642 | 5.708000183105469

Swiftfox: 4.740999937057495 | 4.521000146865845 | 5.492000102996826

An important note, during each render the entire Firefox interface would freeze until the page finished rendering.

As you can see, Firefox lags significantly behind the others.  Swiftfox makes up the difference, but not reliably.  (I was occasionally getting results of up to 8 seconds for both Firefox and Swiftfox).

The point is, Firefox and Swiftfox even at their best can’t hold a candle in speed to Chrome or Opera.  Further, the way they freeze the entire ui while rendering makes browsing multiple pages a chore if any one of them takes a while to load.  How useful does that leave tabbed browsing?

Using Chrome and Opera more regularly, I’m struck by how snappy the interface is, and how I can open new tabs without having to wait for the browser to finish thinking.

Stupid Headline: How the New Wealth Taxes Won’t Hit You

Let’s say I wanted to write an article about how a local tax in a South Carolina town might effect local residents.  I wouldn’t give that article a sweeping title implying residents of Massachusetts or Texas might face the task.  Well, I’m not a writer nor an editor for the Wall Street Journal.

In an article by the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Sanders, she writes “How the New Wealth Taxes Will Hit You“.  That would be a pretty short article.  The answer is, they don’t.  She’s talking about families raking in more than a quarter of a million dollars annually (or laughably, families whose only income comes from stocks!  Yeah this is certainly geared towards the common man).

The language used in the headline plays into a couple conservative myths:

  • Obama is raising taxes – Not for the majority of the population, in fact they are lower.
  • Taxes on the wealthy will somehow impact the average voter.  Nope.

Using slick tricks like this to spread conservative propaganda shows how compromised the Wall Street Journal’s journalistic integrity is, and how weak the conservative economic platform is.  It just won’t sell without a dollop of snake oil.

Crooks and Liars Projecting and Critiquing Yourself

Crooks and Liars is one of my daily reads.  They’ve got just the right mix of outrage and insight, coupled with good bits of hard to find essential news.  Every so often one of their otherwise excellent writers make a gaffe, and this one is worth point out and discussing.  Karoli discusses the right’s forthy little response to the Obama administration’s desire to promote healthy lifestyles (gasp!  scandal!).  However in so doing he makes two errors with rhetorical consequences.

Attacking Yourself Through Your Opponent

You don’t want to weaken your own position – or that of an ally – through ineffective criticism.

Of course, this is just a riff on the “big government is bad” set of conservative talking points. They really hate big government until they love it. They don’t want to make lifestyle changes, but are outraged — OUTRAGED — that Big Government hasn’t stopped the oil spilling into the Gulf, sent Superman to clean it up, and restarted drilling in deepwater worldwide.

There is nothing unreasonable with expecting government to have some functions, and not others.  In fact, that is a defining principle of most political movements, liberalism included.  Karoli’s attack works here because conservatives like to rail against “big government” while still working and whining for more of it.  However the way this is phrased could cut back towards liberals.  We also dislike big government (think big military, impositions on civil liberties, etc).  A better way to phrase the same attack would be to call out a uniquely conservative position that is a real example of hypocrisy (my changes in stylish bold italic, oooh):

Of course, this is just a riff on the “free market/anti-regulation” set of conservative talking points. They really hate government regulation of business until they love it. They don’t want to make lifestyle changes, but are outraged — OUTRAGED — that the government hasn’t stopped the oil spilling into the Gulf, sent Superman to clean it up, and restarted drilling in deepwater worldwide.

One might also address their shifting attitude towards BP’s fiscal responsibility for the spill.  They don’t want a corporation to actually pay for damages caused, but the thought taxpayers will have to if BP doesn’t makes their little brains explode.

Projecting

Karoli ends his post with:

Do these people ever suffer from outrage fatigue? Is there a little blue pill for that?

We ought to know.  From 2001-2008 liberals suffered outrage fatigue.  I will straight up quote the onion here, because humor grows out of truth.

In fact we still suffer this.  Anyone who cares does.  With our own government’s corruption and complicity continuing to come to light, with the Supreme Court’s rank political rulings and the media’s slow bloody descent into irrelevance, it’s easy to find issues to be enraged about.  That takes it toll.  It impacts how we argue, how we approach new problems, even whether we stand up (and if so, how much we hunch).

Calling out a problem that as clearly effects us as anyone else is – outside of an informed discussion of that problem itself – a self-defeating endeavor.  It opens us up to attack, when really there is nothing to attack.  It creates something solid where there ought only be smoke.

Depressing Corporate Shit

Hello Dear Readers.  My my, its been a while since my last post.  How about something thoroughly soul crushing?

Our Supreme Court has gone against the grain and showed us the appointment of Roberts and Alito won’t always lead to pro-corporate rulings by issuing a fucking ridiculous pro-corporate ruling: Exxon needn’t pay up for its oil spill, HAHA ALASKANS YOU DUMB FUCKERS.  Seriously they might as well have individually slapped every Alaskan.  Though Palin would still be shouting “thank you sir, you may drill another!”.

Barack Obama has decided he needs to do more to live up to his campaign promises of promote transparency and delivering change we can believe in by doing the exact fucking opposite.  This shit deserves to be quoted:

only through leaks that we tend to learn of the incompetence and fuckery of the government. When stories surface that show how various government agencies are screwing the pooch, the only correct course of action is to fix the fuckups, not punish those who made the fuckups public.

Prosecuting, nay, persecuting whistleblowers is an anti-freedom, anti-transparency move.

Great move oh Hope inspiring one.

Finally let’s have a look see at the economic writing on the wall.  Will the middle class thrive into the future?  Will we realize that asking the middle class and poor to suffer to support the gambling habits of the ultra rich is not only unsustainable but utterly unjust, and rise up to at least make a fucking peep?  Nope.  Now click the shit out of this link and read the whole article.  Come back when you are done.  I’ll be waiting.

Holy shit, right?

So that’s our glorious new world.  To keep from plunging into utter despair I will leave out the current economic/environmental disaster known as BP, the gaping holes in our government that let the oil spill through, the fact that a larger rig with safety violations galore (operated by BP as well) is being allowed to keep running, the massive displays of racism in Arizona, etc etc.

We live in interesting times.