Class, Gaussians and Islam in the world…

Islam in the world I wrote about this earlier. Evidently many conflate criticism of Islam (and its practices) with a justification for discrimination against Muslims; those are very different things. A Pakistani woman wrote an open letter to explain why the points brought up by Bill Maher and Sam Harris are worthy ones:

And in yesterday’s issue of Pakistan Today, you’ll find her piece: “An open letter to Ben Affleck“. As a few quotes below will show, she goes after Affleck for trying, as she argues, to minimize the plight of Muslim women like her. Just a bit to give you the flavor:

Noble liberals like yourself always stand up for the misrepresented Muslims and stand against the Islamophobes, which is great but who stands in my corner and for the others who feel oppressed by the religion? Every time we raise our voices, one of us is killed or threatened. I am a blogger and illustrator, no threat to anyone, Ben, except for those afraid of words and drawings. I want the freedom to express myself without the very real fear that I might be killed for it. Is that too much to ask?

When I wrote a children’s book that carried a message of diversity and inclusivity for everyone, my life changed. My book, ‘My Chacha (uncle) is Gay’ has the innocent anti-homophobia message, ‘Love belongs to everyone’. This was not palatable to many of my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Since that project I have been declared an ‘enemy of God’ and deemed worthy of death. All because I want to help create a world where South Asian children too can have their stories told, so they too can know that love comes in all forms, and that that’s okay. My Muslim brothers and sisters were hit hard by this work because it addresses the issue of homophobia within our own community. It is not something they can pass off as ‘Western’ immorality. Just like they deny that any issues exist within the doctrine of Islam, many deny that homosexuality exists amongst good, ‘moral’ Muslims. Just like that, millions of people’s existence is denied. Please do not defend people who think this way, and let me tell you Ben, many ‘good’ Muslims do think this way.

What you did by screaming ‘racist!’ was shut down a conversation that many of us have been waiting to have. . . You became an instant hero, a defender of Islam.

Here is something to remember: the most radical right wing American Christians would be …flaming liberals if they were Muslims:

In your culture you have the luxury of calling such literalists “crazies”, like the Westboro Baptist Church, for example. In my culture, such values are upheld by more people than we realise. Many will try to deny it, but please hear me when I say that these are not fringe values. It is apparent in the lacking numbers of Muslims willing to speak out against the archaic Shariah law. The punishment for blasphemy and apostasy, etc, are tools of oppression. Why are they not addressed even by the peaceful folk who “aren’t fanatical, who just want to have some sandwiches and pray five times a day? Where are the Muslim protestors against blasphemy laws/apostasy? Where are the Muslims who take a stand against harsh interpretation of Shariah? These sandwich-eating peaceful folk do not defend those suffering in the name of Islam, Ben, and therein lies our problem.

Accuracy in media
Here is an example of Fox News reporting something that is blatantly false, but not issuing a correction. The claim was that Colorado law allowed for people to print out their own ballots; that is only true for Military personnel living overseas.

Epic Class Warfare rant
Marc Randazza is a famous First Amendment lawyer. He can’t stand some attitudes exhibited by some rich people, even though he is well off. Read his “candy woman” rant.

Ok, I have a few hang ups about Halloween Trick or Treaters but these tend to be “Larry Davidish”.

Mathematics and statistics Some statistical distributions appear over and over again. This one appears to be half Gaussian, half exponential.

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Fox News Lies Again, mathematics, political/social, politics/social, poverty, religion, rich, science, social/political, statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s moderation and racism insurance

Tongue in cheek: “racism insurance”

Policy: Paul Krugman points out that President Obama has been trying to get moderate policies past the Republican party’s hard right wing:

I actually agree with a lot of what David Brooks says today. But — you know there has to be a “but” — so does a guy named Barack Obama. Which brings me to one of the enduringly weird aspects of our current pundit discourse: constant calls for a moderate, sensible path that supposedly lies between the extremes of the two parties, but is in fact exactly what Obama has been proposing.

So, David says that

The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling, considering how much support there is from both parties.

Well, the Obama administration would love to spend more on infrastructure; the problem is that a major spending bill has no chance of passing the House. And that’s not a problem of “both parties” — it’s the GOP blocking it.


It’s an amazing thing: Obama is essentially what we used to call a liberal Republican, who faces implacable opposition from a very hard right. But Obama’s moderation is hidden in plain sight, apparently invisible to the commentariat.

No kidding.

October 25, 2014 Posted by | economics, political/social, politics, racism, republicans | , , | Leave a comment

Bilking the not-so-bright….


Wow…that would be one way to get some action. :-)

But the real con artists are the ones who know how to make themselves rich.

Sarah Palin knows how to do it:

The first pic on Sarah Palin’s website reads the oh-so original tag of: “We must reverse Obama’s destructive policies. Help send real conservatives to fix them”. Underneath the declaration is a button for conservative saps to give money to SarahPac.

According to Open Secrets the fighting Palins have been bilking the pac:

Out of $1.4 million the PAC had available in the third quarter — $978,000 sitting in the bank at the beginning of the July 1-Sept. 30 period, plus another more than $433,000 raised during that time — SarahPAC managed to donate just $45,000 to fellow Republicans running in the midterms. That’s a little more than 3 percent.
For the two-year 2014 cycle, the former Alaska governor’s PAC, a vehicle that helps her stay in the game amid talk that she may run in the 2016 presidential contest, has raised $2.5 million on top of more than $1.1 million that was in the bank at the start of the cycle. It has spent $2.7 million, with about $150,000 — or 5.5 percent — going to candidates.

This isn’t the least bit surprising. Palin quit on the people of Alaska to become a tacky television host and “author” who entered the lucrative conservative entertainment and grievance complex that has made political cancers such as O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh wealthy.

Karl Rove cleaned up in 2012 (note: this article was written PRIOR to election day in 2012).

Yes, Super Pacs are doing very well…for now.

October 21, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, political/social, politics, politics/social, sarah palin | , | Leave a comment

Bobby Schilling’s dishonesty continues unabated….

Back in 2012, then Rep. Bobby Schilling did some very dishonest campaigning. The classic was the “Illinois Democrat” ad he sent out on his behalf, under the guise of being a newspaper of some sort.

And that was merely a continuation of the blatantly misleading NRCC ad that was run on then Rep. Schilling’s behalf. (Cheri Bustos was criticized for voting for money to repair a water main along a road that ran past her house to a Country Club…never mind she was NOT a member of that club or that this was the second half of an already in progress project).

Mr. Schilling has NOT gotten more honest. Get a load of this load of BS:

Oh, but what was the real story?

In fact, the cut in question was not a reduction in veterans benefits at all, but rather a cut in the pensions of military retirees. Further, the reduction was one part of a bipartisan budget deal that averted another government shutdown last December. And more important, Bustos was among the many House and Senate members of both parties who voted to repeal the cut a few weeks later, a fact the ad fails to mention.


The ad refers to the bill introduced last Dec. 10 by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, chairs of their respective budget committees in the House and Senate. Ryan, who was also the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, said at the time: “I’m proud of this agreement. It reduces the deficit — without raising taxes. … I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

And the deal was approved overwhelmingly, by a vote of 332 to 94 in the House on Dec. 12, 2013, with 169 Republicans and 163 Democrats voting in favor. The Senate followed suit a few days later, passing the package on Dec. 18 by a vote of 64 to 36. This time, all 55 members of the Democratic caucus voted in favor, but only nine Republicans did so.

The deal avoided any tax increase or revisions to Social Security, Medicare or other major entitlement programs, and restored some earlier “sequester” cuts to the military budget. But one of the offsetting cuts was a reduction in future cost-of-living adjustments to the pensions of military retirees that would cut spending by an estimated $6.2 billion over 10 years, beginning in fiscal year 2016.

But these small cuts weren’t popular, and so they were restored in a subsequent bill…that passed with bipartisan support…and

The House voted Feb. 11 to restore the old cost-of-living formula for all who had signed up for military service prior to 2014. The vote was 326 to 90, and Bustos was among the 120 Democrats who voted in favor. The next day, the Senate voted 95 to 3 for final passage, and the president signed the repeal into law on Feb. 15.

Given all that, we find the ad to be shamefully misleading. The man in the ad who says, “Shame on you, Congresswoman Bustos,” might accurately have said instead, “Thank you, Congresswoman Bustos, for restoring our full military pensions.”

Evidently Mr. Schilling can’t win by running an honest campaign.

September 20, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, IL-17, Political Ad, political/social | | 1 Comment

Photo bombing a White Power demonstrator


I almost cried with laughter…

August 24, 2014 Posted by | political humor, political/social, racism | , | Leave a comment

Cops are human too…

I’d like to add something. There was a shooting in St. Louis: in this case the police shot and killed some guy who came out them with a knife. No, the initial story (about how he was holding the knife) was false, but human recollection is often flawed. Not all inaccurate testimony or reporting is lying.

Now, from the safety of my living room/office and the internet, I can say that the police should have made more of an effort to diffuse the situation. BUT, I don’t have someone coming at me with a knife. It is well known that soldiers in combat are almost always scared and often panic. Why would that not also apply to police officers?

Yes, there are some bad police officers who abuse their authority. But in holding the police accountable, we should distinguish between malicious abuse of authority and “heat of the moment” situations. Sure, police candidates are selected and then trained, but the “heat of the moment” situation is going to affect them too; they are not soulless robots.

More stuff
Good media reaction: this article in Time by former NBA great (and UCLA graduate) Kareem Abdul Jabbar is, well, very, very good. It is well written and even handed.

This Media Matters article isn’t so good. It claims that Geraldo Rivera is “blaming the victim”; instead he is making a prediction of how a jury might view the victim. I normally like Media Matters; they’ve slipped a bit here.

Poor communities: Eugene Robison talks about how many of these communities are isolated from the middle class and often invisible to us. This is also why honest discussions are so difficult.

I’ll give an example: most of the black people I know are college students or professionals that I interact with on the internet. Though I know a few and have had honest conversations with them (e. g. one of my friends was profiled by law enforcement and spread eagled on the pavement…this guy is an engineer, for crying out loud!), well, they are only a small percentage of my associates. The college students I see have passed through a sieve of sorts before I see them.

Yes, I sometimes see black people at the gym, or in the parks/rec trails, but these are those with the health and the means to exercise. They are all middle class or above.

My contacts with those in the poor community are minimal and often highly non-representative (e. g. panhandlers…and yes, the demographics of panhandlers vary from place to place; around the University of Texas they were almost all white, at least in the late 1980’s when I was there).

Bottom line: I have no clue as to what life is like in such communities.

I can have some empathy though, at least with regards to how they view police. I got profiled once and didn’t like it (you might read the comment by one visitor who told me that part of the problem was “MY RECORD” (speeding ticket?)), and I imagine that this happens to them all of the time. Still, I mostly see police as “good”; e. g. as being on “my side” and I can understand why others might not have this feeling.

A bit of good news
Teen pregnancy can contribute to poverty, but that is..on its way down! Of course, we aren’t completely sure as to why (e. g. the standard guesses such as “sex education” and “availability of birth control” have been statistically tested, and such tests have proved to be inconclusive).

August 22, 2014 Posted by | political/social, politics/social, racism, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment

Politics: President Obama and Congress

One thing I’ve noticed: more and more, some of the liberal voices that were initially hard on President Obama have warmed up to the results. So, in terms of policy, (e. g. financial reform, health care reform, not rushing into wars), he has done what he set out to do. What has NOT happened was a decrease in partisanship; in fact that has gotten worse. And so, his approval ratings (low to mid 40’s) remain a little bit better than those of President Bush at the same time in his administration:

Screen shot 2014-08-06 at 4.41.24 PM

His presidency has actually become a bit stronger because Congress won’t do anything. Sure, they won’t bass bills that help the country…but they won’t pass bills that retard executive actions either because this divided Congress can’t do anything!

Interestingly enough, while Congressional approval has been rock bottom low for a long time, in the past, people hated Congress but approved of those that THEY elected. Now, for the first time in…who knows when…the majority of people don’t like who is representing them.

This might not mean that much for the following reason: we are living in a highly partisan time. When it comes to their own representative, those of the opposite party are more likely than ever to dislike person in office. And every member of Congress will have at least some opposition from their own party; hence approval ratings of over 50 percent are unlikely if the particular district is not solidly one party or another.

So, I don’t expect the House to change all that much in 2014, though the Democrats are going to have a rough time in the Senate, given that the Democrats are attempting to hold seats in some red states (Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina). I’d be delighted to see the Senate at 50-50, in which case VP Biden tips it to us. But that is, well, perhaps a 40 percent shot?

August 6, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, political/social, politics, social/political | | 1 Comment

Politics and the Israel, Palestine violence

This is a very balanced explanation of the current fighting in the Gaza Strip. It goes into the “human shields” charge/counter charge and why Hamas is not, by strict war crime standards, using shields even though that is the effect.

US Politics
Interesting post on Vox about small donors in US politics; basically, the more partisan people are more likely to donate (and yes, I did).

Screen shot 2014-08-02 at 9.32.22 PM

Makes perfect sense, no?

President Obama: Paul Krugman likes some of the stuff he did; the ACA and his work on financial reform. That is, we are less likely to reach a situation in which a bailout is required. Remember that Paul Krugman was a frequent critic (from the left).

August 3, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, Middle East, political/social, politics | , , | Leave a comment

I agree with John Boehner’s office about something….

We hear the talk of impeachment coming from well known Republicans

as well as from some Republicans in Congress.

I don’t know the grounds but hey, it is popular with rank and file Republicans (57 percent)

So, the Democrats have noticed and are raising money off of it:


Of course, Republicans have noticed. John Boehner’s office weighed in (and yes, Rep. Boehner dismissed the notion):

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel noted in a statement that Boehner already ruled out impeachment and dismissed Pfeiffer’s remarks as a “fundraising exercise for Democrats.”

So who exactly among GOP leaders in the House — where an impeachment move could only start in the Judiciary Committee — is jumping on this bandwagon?

Earnest(White House Press Secretary), asked if anybody in the Republican leadership is seriously talking about impeachment, said, “Well, I think Sarah Palin considers herself to be a leader.”

“. . . . I think that there are some Republicans, including some Republicans who are running for office, hoping they can get into office so that they can impeach the president. That is apparently a view that they hold, because it’s one that they have repeatedly expressed publicly,” Earnest said.

Talking up Obama being impeached is certainly a way to try to whip up the Democratic base as Congress gets ready to leave at the end of next week and won’t be back until after Labor Day.

Seriously, this is one way to wake up the lazy Democrats. I hope that the Republicans keep on talking.

Note: President Obama’s approval rating continues in the low to mid 40’s, and is about 79 percent among all Democrats and 81 among liberal Democrats.
His tend line almost perfectly tracks the historical trend line (I’ve also included the trend for President Bush)


click to see a larger version

July 26, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, political/social, politics, republicans | , | Leave a comment

No, Paul Ryan did NOT say that

I’ve been critical of Paul Ryan. But this meme is false:


This is what he did say:

During an interview with WJHL this week, Ryan was asked his view about Rep. Todd Akin, who recently asserted that women could not get pregnant from “legitimate rape.”

“Specifically where you stand when it comes to rape, and when it comes to the issue of should it be legal for a woman to be able to get an abortion if she’s raped?” WJHL Josh Smith wondered.

“I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life,” Ryan explained. “But let’s remember, I’m joining the Romney-Ryan ticket. And the president makes policy.”

The quote came from what OTHERS thought as being the implications of what he said.

July 25, 2014 Posted by | political/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 658 other followers