Unmarried, 51-year-old Ann Coulter says marriage is “the most important institution.”

Anne Coulter went on a squawk fest against John Stossel tonight, attacking libertarians and at one point branding them as “pussies.” Don’t be afraid to click that. It’s just a link to an article with the video.

Most interesting was her choice to preach the importance of defending marriage against the homosexual scourge. 

“Marriage is the most important institution to civilized young people,” said Coulter. She goes on to add that “liberals want to destroy the family.”

Interesting beliefs for someone who has neither married nor established any variety of family.

Desaparecidos’ Conor Oberst, Encourages Hacktivism at Tallahassee Show

Desaparecidos delivered a politically charged performance at The Moon in Tallahassee, Fla,. Wednesday night.

Desaparecidos, a post-hardcore band fronted by Bright Eyes singer Conor Oberst, is a band that many, this writer included, never expected to see performing again when they broke up in 2003, and Oberst’s primary act, Bright Eyes, took off.

Though the band only released one album, “Read Music/Speak Spanish,” the album has maintained a faithful listenership.

Desaparecidos expertly combines punk ethos lyrics with the controlled chaos and the divinely aggressive marriage of melody and shouts which best defines the post-hardcore genre. The album’s lyrics lampoon and confront issues such as inequality, rampant consumerism and aggressive militarism.

It’s worth noting that it was written prior to the 9/11 attacks, as this indicates a true passion rather than the reactionary partisanship parading as anti-war sentiment, which is all but quiet now in the music scene.

In a New York Time’s interview Oberst, who donated the maximum $2,300 to President Obama in 2008, as well as performed benefits for Obama, revealed he is upset the current drone policy.

“Obama increased drone strikes and targeted assassinations of American citizens,” he told me. “All the promises he made in the course of that 2008 election, all the things that I thought I heard him saying when I was standing there in the primaries in Iowa on a frozen morning listening to him speak, the person I thought I was hearing, is not the person that is running our government.”

Since reuniting last year Desaparecidos has released four new songs which focus on different issues:

“MariKKKopa,” which takes aim at the controversial Joe Arpaio, Arizona’s Maricopa County sheriff.
“Backsell,” which dashes music industry practices.
“The Left is Right,” which pays homage to the Occupy movement with it’s line “If one must die to save the 99, maybe it’s justified.”
And, lastly, “Anonymous,” which is in support of Bradly Manning and named after the hacker group of the same name

Before launching into “Anonymous” last night, Oberst spoke to the crowd in one of many tongue-in-cheek addresses:

“I recommend if you have any computer skills, what I recommend you to do is to break into any financial institution, and steal as much money as you possibly can, and to find any little, [expletive deleted] corrupt Florida congressman, I’m sure there’s many, hack into their emails, find out — find out about their mistresses, and then put that all out on the [expletive deleted] internet.”

The evening was one of catharsis for the politically frustrated, and likely one of much confusion for one Oberst fan girl I overheard say she was only here because she liked Bright Eyes, and had never heard Desaparecidos.

While Bright Eyes is not devoid of social commentary, Bright Eyes tends to ply the listener with it, where as Desaparecidos makes no qualms about sounding their seemingly barbaric yawp. Although, after listening to the album for 10 years I understand there is no barbarism attached. Calculated, thoughtful and impassioned conveyances of dis-contentedness should never be equated with barbarism.

Desaparecidos makes angry music, and if last night was any indication, that anger is more than matched by their professionalism.

The set list:
1. The Left is Right
2. The Happiest Place on Earth
3. Mall of America
4. Backsell
5. Man and Wife, the Former (Financial Planning)
6. Manana
7. Greater Omaha
8. Survival of the Fittest/It’s a Jungle Out There
9. $$$$
10. Anonymous
11. Man and Wife, the Latter (Damaged Goods)
12. MariKKKopa
13. Spanish Bombs [The Clash Cover]
14. Hole in One

When You Play the Game of Drones…

Carl Hess, a man who has written many, many letters to local papers in my area, gave a speech to my opinion writing class last week. It was interesting to finally see and hear him after I’d seen so many of his letters.

I enjoyed much of Hess’ speech, but was taken aback when I discovered how dismissive he was of critics of drone assassinations.

In 2007 I went through a phase of writing letters to the editor, and several were published. I recall my then girlfriend’s quite Republican father calling me Carl Hess. At the time I was a bit of a libertarian, so I took slight offense to this comparison, but even at that time I could recognize Hess as a voice of reason compared to most other local opinion writers.

Since then, many of my views have shifted, but my foreign policy stances have mostly solidified. Then, I found  trial-free detention, and torture of terror suspects unfitting of a civilized nation, even one waging such a tricky, new brand of war.

Today, I naturally believe trial-free death sentences by drones are worse.

The methods that led to detainment of accused militants was the basis of my opposition. In Guantanamo only a small percent of the prisoners were captured directly by US forces, while 95 percent were captured by warring tribes motivated by bounties.  The justifications for detainment were as shallow as “finding that prisoners carried Kalashnikov rifles, wore olive drab clothing, had Casio watches, or had stayed in ‘guesthouses’—all of which were commonplace in Afghanistan”

According to Jennifer Gibson, a researchers for “Living Under Drones,” a major study released by Stanford University and New York University, drone targets are subject to similarly flawed justifications. Bounties are offered to informants for providing new targets.

But potential to murder innocents is not the only pitfall of the drone strategy. In an interview with On The Media, Stanford Law professor James Cavallaro, author of the Living Under Drones, said there were profound consequences for the communities. 

“We’ve found psychological disorders; post-traumatic stress disorders. We’ve found a break down in the communities. Parents told us they don’t send their kids to school. People don’t go to religious services; they don’t go to group meetings. They are very suspicious of each other.

In effect, an entire area of Pakistan has been turned into a war zone, even though, in theory, the United States is not at war with Pakistan.”

Cavallaro went on to say American media is failing in it’s obligation to question the legitimacy of drone policy.

“Suppose a police officer in New York or Chicago shot and killed a young man and the only media inquiry was whether or not the young man might have participated in a gang. That wouldn’t be adequate by any stretch of the imagination.

The question is: was that person presenting a threat at the time he was shot by the police officer. did he have a weapon? was there an imminence to the danger presented or not? Because if there wasn’t, at most you can arrest that person,

And the same principles apply in areas outside of war zones. And if there is no imminent threat the United States cannot kill a person and then legitimate it by saying ‘this person was a militant.’

Reporting what an anonymous officials says without challenging it, I think, borders on irresponsible. I don’t think the media would apply the same standards in the U.S.”

Cavarallo also points out that the vast majority of drone strike victims, 98 percent, are either signature strikes or casualties, and not personality strikes. Personality strikes are known targets and high level operatives which are subject to review by the president. Signature strikes are suspected militants who are executed on the basis of suspicious behavior.

To minimize the likelihood of casualties, the administration has taken the brilliant safety measure of redefining what is a militant. That new definition includes all military age males within a strike zone, unless there is evidence  posthumously proving innocence.

I’m confident there is a division of the CIA dedicated to reviewing the guilt and innocence of drone victims. Please note my sarcasm on that last sentence.

Retired General Stanley McChrystal cautioned that the use of drones are “hated on a visceral level” and the resentment created  “is much greater than the average American appreciates.”

To illustrate McChrystals point a newly released Gallup poll reveals a staggering 92 percent disapproval of US leadership within Pakistan, which is up from 49 percent when the poll was conducted not even two years ago.

If anti-American sentiment is surging due to the use of drones, and thus, presumably, incentive to do harm to Americans, then how can it possibly be said that the current drone policy is more of a solution than it is a problem?

EDIT #1: I wrote this blog and titled it the night before I published it. This means I did not see this report from Al Jazeera titled “Game of drones.”

O big brother, where art thou?

Last Monday an armed robbery happened outside of Troy University’s Alumni Hall. Although a suspect has been captured, I couldn’t help but notice something when I was walking through the area that it had happened. Why aren’t there any cameras? Or, if they are there why can’t I see them?

Image

Image

Now, I’m not saying that Troy is a dangerous or violent campus to attend, because it is quite safe, but

certainly there is benefit in having an expanded level of video surveillance.

If not for the potential to deter crime and provide peace of mind to students, then for the fact that video surveillance can provide priceless evidence to the police when crimes are committed.

I’m aware of some on campus cameras, but they all seem to be in-building cameras. If there are external cameras then they are inconspicuous. I’m aware of outside surveillance cameras at the school’s IT department, but that is slightly off campus.

Despite this entry’s title, I’m not suggesting an Orwellian level of surveillance. Light camera placement around the perimeter of dorms and heavily trafficked areas would be enough to gather images of who was where and when.

If there are cameras around campus, then perhaps strategic placement of signs like the one posted above would be more helpful to student safety than the one’s informing us of the tobacco ban.

Is it really all about the Benjamins?

Those who would give up a rational discussion by purporting to know what a dead man would say about a modern issue deserve a reality check.

There is an appeal to authority that is often made in the realm of gun control talk. This appeal is in the form of a mutated strain of a Benjamin Franklin quote.

“Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither,” is what those wielders of Franklin’s infinite, immutable wisdom would have everyone believe. It’s most likely that these quote slingers honestly believe this is the quote in full, and are oblivious to the falsity they are peddling, as these things tend to have a viral quality.

This is the full quote:

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Clearly there is a bit more nuance in this quote, and in its full form it reflects Franklin’s pragmatic thinking. Franklin makes it clear that there is a difference between essential liberty and any liberty and the scale of security which is achieved by the surrender of a liberty.

But even if he had written the quote in the obtuse form that it has mutated into, what authority could Franklin hold over such a modern matter? I’m not saying that the thoughts of great and long dead thinkers be discarded. But shouldn’t we consider the reality of their times before we go imposing their words on wholly modern issues?

Just think: What absolute advice could you possibly give today, specifically about public safety, citizens and weapon ownership, that would not be obsolete after another 250 years in technological advancement?

I can only think of one time-proof statement.

“The hell are you doing quoting me? We didn’t even have pocketable disintegration ray guns yet.”

Some issues with the “logic” of 2nd amendment “advocates.”

There are a few pro-gun arguments that make me grind my teeth. I encountered quite a few of them when I was linked what I was told would be a logical analysis of gun control laws. What I found was a long-winded mess of more of the same.

Exhibit A:

The United States of America is a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy. Even if second amendment support were not pervasive – 40-45% of households report owning a gun – a majority vote to ban guns would remain unconstitutional. Even if only 1 single American gun owner were left and all others unanimously decided that all guns should be banned, the second amendment would still protect the right of this individual to be armed. It is important to understand the United States is not a democracy, and that the fashionable and fickle whims of the majority cannot alienate you from a right endowed to you by your creator and enumerated in the foundational documents of your country.” http://www.danielvitalis.com/2013/01/on-gun-control/

Why do people think this is a smart statement? A republic is a democracy. Democracy does not only mean “direct democracy,” as it seems this statement’s promulgators imply. There is zero significance to this argument, yet it is parroted quite often.

Using their logic, one might be prone to go around asserting “Nikes aren’t shoes, they’re Nikes.” And while Nike’s brand marketers, and school-aged children of my past, may have liked to pretend that were reality, anyone should be recognize that as a silly statement. 

The writer also employs a common straw man tactic of the pro-gun crowd.
Not going to waste time on this, so here goes:

Linking proposed gun control to outright handgun ban and criminalization of current gun owners is a misrepresentative farce.There is no movement to ban handguns, or even the ownership of assault weapons by current owners.

Then the writer hammers away on the constitutionality of his position. However, a look at reality reveals the situation is not as black and white he is convinced. There is precedent to legislative limitations to what armaments are acceptable for civilians. We don’t allow for the ownership of a number of dangerous weapons, and there are constitutional precedents for firearm restrictions: full-auto weapons have had heavy restrictions since 1986, when new purchases were outlawed and the ownership and transfer of previously owned weapons were made permissible.

On display, also, is a flawed perception of just how the constitution works. Sure, the document is meant to define the parameters of the law, but there is also an amendment process. If you think a democracy, even a republic, would not respond to the “whims” of 320ish million to one by amending the constitution then I’d say there is some serious detachment from reality going on. I bet there are more than a hundred American’s  whom would support private owner ship of nuclear, biological and nuclear armaments, but guess what they aren’t allowed to do?

The reader is later invited to partake in a “thought experiment.”

…whenever you hear mention of “guns” or “firearms”, change the word in your mind to “weapons”. If you hear “assault rifles” mentioned, change the word and mental image to a medieval long-bow. Should you hear the term “hand gun” change this – both word and image – to “dagger”, and if the term “shotgun” should come up, shift it to “cross-bow”. When you hear the word “magazine” switch it to “quiver” and “bullet” to “arrow”. This exercise gives you an opportunity to alter your perspective on the topic, removes the major “trigger” words, and reduces the emotional response to the issue. It may offer you a view point that was previously crowded out by rhetoric and emotion.

And to respond to this I offer a counter thought experiment:

Whenever you hear the words “weaponized smallpox” replace it with “itching powder.”

The fact that this is not an uncommon thought, that knives and bows and blunt objects share the same lethal capacity as a firearms, is an obnoxious distortion of reality.

Republic Wireless: first month review.

Republic Wireless is an exciting new cell phone service which aims to deliver customers a smart phone with unlimited talk, text and data for the low price of $19 a month.

I first heard about Republic late last summer while the company was still in closed beta testing. The idea is to offset the cost of the customer’s cell phone usage by the customer linking their phone to Wi-Fi. When the customer is away from an area with Wi-Fi the phone utilizes the Sprint network for data and calling.

Intrigued by their business model, I signed up for their beta program. I don’t talk on the phone too often, so I figured call quality would have to be terrible before I would pass up such a good saving opportunity.

I gave the only phone they offered, the Mortorola Defy XT, a test, and decided it didn’t match my needs. Despite otherwise acceptable service, texts, my primary use for a cell phone, were not getting to me in certain buildings.

I returned the phone and, though the process was frustratingly slow, I eventually received my refund.

By the time I had received my refund I saw Republic had began open beta testing and unveiled a new dual band version of their phone which it claimed would markedly expand coverage for Republic users. Also, on the horizon was Republic’s plan to release an update for the phone which allowed texts to be delivered through Wi-Fi.

I figured if the expanded dual band coverage wasn’t enough to resolve my texting woes, then the update would. I re-enrolled in the program.

This time around everything went well enough and I’ve decided to keep the service and ditch my $65 a month Verizon service.

Motorola Defy XT

Customized with Go Launcher app

The cost:

Republic customers must first buy the phone for $259 plus taxes. For me, this came out to $281.01.
The monthly charge is $19 plus taxes. This cost me $22.05

According to the Republic’s savings calculator, the switch will save me $1,028 in two years.

However, my calculations show the first two years plus the phone equals  $811.21

Two years under my Verizon contract would have been $1560. Though nearly $750 in savings still isn’t bad, the calculator doesn’t represent the true cost of Republic’s service. Be sure to account for the cost of the phone and deduct it from whatever Republic’s calculator says you will save.

The benefit:

The Motorola Defy XT is not the latest greatest smart phone on the market. In fact, it’s hardware is slightly less impressive than my last phone, the nearly three year old HTC Droid Incredible.

This is not to say it is a bad phone. It runs smoothly, and allows me to listen to streamed and stored music on Spotify and browse the internet. I don’t game on my phone much, but I have played Ruzzle on it without issue.

It is also worth noting the Defy XT it is a rugged little monster capable of working after being submerged in water. Though I’ve not been willing to personally test that feature.

Calls are satisfactory when utilizing the cellular towers or a good Wi-Fi connection. The only drawbacks have been the inability to send images over text, and dropped calls when I have attempted to leave a location with Wi-Fi while talking on the phone.

My experience has been mostly positive. I like the service well enough to abandon Verizon after five years. If you are a low need customer like me, then I say give it a shot. With a 30 day refund policy you really have nothing to lose.

Update 1. 

I reader requested I perform a speed test on the device. I downloaded the speedtest.net app and ran four checks from both my home Wi-Fi and the network access from within my room.

It should probably be noted that I live in south-eastern Alabama, and had two bars during the entirety of the test.

wifi versus 3g

Disingenuous Economics 101 with Stephen Moore

Wall Street Journal opinion writer, economics journalist and right-wing ideologue paid a visit to Troy University on Wednesday.

As a general rule, I don’t appreciate being painted an incomplete picture of a subject I’m not the best at by someone with superior knowledge. I appreciate it even less when I’m able to identify that it’s happening.

[PURPLE PROSE ALERT]
The day prior to Moore’s presentation I read a few of his articles, and viewed some of his television appearances online, so I was well prepared for the grinding of his ideological ax and the weaving of his economic obfuscations.

Despite a few attempts during the course of his presentation to assure the audience that he was somehow non-partisan in his conclusions, I knew better.

So it came as no surprise when the deluge his stat, figures and faulty conclusions began. By keeping a critical eye on his many graphics, I was able to pick out a number of things that didn’t jibe with reality, or that merely partially jibed with reality.

I will cover two of those things with the aid of a YouTube video of him performing the same presentation at another school, and the graphics I lifted from a copy of his PowerPoint slides I found with the almighty Google.

Thing 1:
In this portion of the video Moore makes the argument that the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent of earners created increased federal tax revenues from the 1 percent: http://youtu.be/3tHO-j4xTHs?t=32m15s

Click here for a clear image of the graphic he is using.

In arguing that tax breaks on the highest earners caused them to pay more in tax revenue, what he conveniently fails to state is that Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax plan also did other things. Most importantly, it lowered taxes on all other tax brackets, and raised the child tax credit from $500 to $1000.

Where is the shocker? When the people with the least amount of disposable income have more money to spend they spend it. Naturally, those in the 1% are the greatest beneficiaries of such a boon, and thus the increase in their tax contributions.

Their tax contributions increased not because of their tax rates being slashed, but because everyone else’s rates were as well.

Imagine the revenues that would have been picked up had the 1 percent’s taxes not been lowered.

Thing 2:

In this portion of the video he pretends that the education and health care industries are somehow comparable to industries that produce software, computers, apparel and vehicles: http://youtu.be/3tHO-j4xTHs?t=44m50s 

Click here for a clear image of the graphic he is using.

“Look at the two areas of the economy, setting aside energy, where we’ve had the biggest increase in prices over the last ten years,” Moore urges. “Health care and education, health care and education.”

He then insinuates the soaring costs in those industries are because of government involvement.

While I’m willing to concede that the public and private loan industries are not conducive to making universities competitive price-wise, it’s not enough to make me think the costs would be much lower sans government involvement.

How exactly are these industries subject to the same market forces? You can’t outsource: nurses, doctors, surgeons,  emergency medical technicians, teachers, administrators, janitors, lunch ladies, you get the idea.

Moore is just comparing industrial apples to oranges.