I thought CNBC was supposed to be slightly “liberal”

Some people think so. But then I ran across this article: This simple tipping trick could save you over $400 a year. Before you click the link, guess what the “simple trick” is.

It’s the stunning insight of “tip less”. In order to justify two dozen paragraphs, a video, and a fancy info-graphic, though, they have to justify it with some cheesy detailed rigamarole about how instead of shifting the decimal point in your bill one to the left and doubling it to get 20%, you should know the sales tax rate in the state, look at the tax on your bill, and use that to calculate the tip.

The second group uses the information provided to them on their bill to double the tax (8.875 percent in a place like New York City) and arrive at a tip close to 18 percent. In a state like Maryland where tax is 6 percent, they triple the tax instead.

It’s math, therefore it is correct. Never mind that you’re simply stiffing the staff a few bucks and then inventing a secret formula to rationalize it.

And then they have a bar graph to illustrate how much you’d save by tipping less, and went out to Times Square to interview people and ask if they were supportive of their “trick”. I hope the nerd who slapped that stupidity together feels really dirty right now.

Their earthshaking conclusion: less money tipped is more money saved. No shit, Sherlock. I am forced to conclude that CNBC is simply stupid, not liberal at all.

Schools and privilege

Can we stand to hear any more horror stories from the college admissions scandal? Of course we can, because it’s ongoing and universities aren’t doing anything substantial to fix the underlying problem (a major part of that is the college athletics loophole, which, when any university admits that it is corrupting the educational mission of the college and shuts the whole nonsense down, will cause me to faint.)

But it’s the parents who are pissing us off right now. Such causual greed, such arrogant assumption of privilege.

The word entitlement—even in its full, splendid range of meanings—doesn’t begin to cover the attitudes on display. Devin Sloane is the CEO of a Los Angeles company that deals in wastewater management. Through Singer, he allegedly bribed USC to get his son admitted as a water-polo player. But a guidance counselor at his school learned of the scheme and contacted USC—the boy did not play the sport; something was clearly awry. Singer smoothed it over, but the whole incident enraged Sloane: “The more I think about this, it is outrageous! They have no business or legal right considering all the students privacy issues to be calling and challenging/question [my son’s] application,” he wrote to Singer.

How dare they notice that he lied about his participation in water polo!

But the college counselor at the girls’ high school had always doubted that the first girl rowed crew; when the second one got into the same school for the same reason, she realized that something suspicious was going on. She confronted the girl.

The counselor was acting honorably. Loughlin and Giannulli—if the affidavit is to be believed—were in the midst of a criminal operation. Yet instead of hanging his head in shame, Giannulli apparently roared onto the high-school campus apoplectic. Singer got a panicked email from his USC contact: “I just want to make sure that, you know, I don’t want the … parents getting angry and creating any type of disturbance at the school … I just don’t want anybody going into … [the daughter’s high school] you know, yelling at counselors. That’ll shut everything—that’ll shut everything down.”

How dare they notice that she lied about her participation in crew!

That’s the thing. These parents are indignant about being confronted with their lies — they have a right to lie, cheat, and bribe their children’s way into the prestigious school of their choice, and what will the kids learn? That learning and knowledge are irrelevant, that their presence in a school is a status symbol, one that doesn’t need to be earned but only paid for.

Rich people. Up against the wall, assholes.

But wait…are middle class white people, you know, the ones who are happy to see their kids go on the state school, blameless? You want to see more poison, look to privileged parent associations. They can get ugly, too. Here’s what happened when a public school proposed to broaden the school boundaries and let in those other kids, the poor ones, the brown ones. The parents freaked out.

The Thursday night meeting at Quince Orchard High School in North Potomac, attended by about 50 people, included questions of what would happen if students from schools with poor academic performance were moved into schools with higher achievement.

“They won’t be able to keep up and they won’t study,” one parent said.

Other parents said white families are being punished for “working hard and doing well and choosing to live in a certain community.”

If they can’t keep up, they will do poorly. But how does that detract from your child’s performance? I went through school with a range of my peers, some smarter and more disciplined than me, others were slackers. It did not harm me. And why assume they will be unable to keep up? Maybe new opportunities, better teachers and facilities will inspire them to excel.

Somehow, I think that’s their real fear, that if they don’t keep those others down, they might prove themselves the equal of their little darlings.

I don’t see how having a more representative student body punishes anyone. And why do you think you’re working harder than people in a poorer community? My experience has been that the opposite is true. I grew up with a father who was often working two jobs to make ends meet, so that assertion is BS.

“If Montgomery County was paying my taxes, then they could do that. But they’re not, so I have a right to go to my local school,” one parent said. “I made a decision to live where I live and pay the price I pay based on that school. They want to change everything and you can’t pull the rug out from under our feet. That’s wrong. Actually, it’s criminal and they will all be voted out.”

That’s the attitude of the Loughlins and Giannullis. An education is not a right, it’s something that the privileged deserve and anyone else should be begging for scraps. Yes, you should have a good school in your neighborhood for your children, and so should those kids in other neighborhoods. How can you justify depriving one child to meet the needs of another? Just because you’re wealthier?

Capitalism poisons everything.

Making the rounds

I’m seeing this pop up all over the place lately, so I might as well echo it. This is great writing by Charles Pierce.

This video should be the only news from now until Election Day, and probably beyond that, all the way to the next Election Day in 2020 as well.

This video captures perfectly where we are as a nation at this moment in history. It shows with startling clarity the end result of civic disengagement and democratic apathy. It shows without question that we have allowed our republic to fall into the hands of a sociopath whose feeling for his fellow human beings can be measured against a poker chip. It shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the better angels of our nation have been sold out to anger, and greed, and stone hatred. It shows precisely the depths to which our fellow citizens will follow this bag of old and rancid sins. Some of those citizens know better. Some of them don’t. All of them are dangerous blockheads.

Look at the man behind the seal of the President of the United States, mocking the recollections of a survivor of sexual assault. In my life, I have watched John Kennedy talk on television about missiles in Cuba. I saw Lyndon Johnson look Richard Russell squarely in the eye and and say, “And we shall overcome.” I saw Richard Nixon resign and Gerald Ford tell the Congress that our long national nightmare was over. I saw Jimmy Carter talk about malaise and Ronald Reagan talk about a shining city on a hill. I saw George H.W. Bush deliver the eulogy for the Soviet bloc, and Bill Clinton comfort the survivors of Timothy McVeigh’s madness in Oklahoma City. I saw George W. Bush struggle to make sense of it all on September 11, 2001, and I saw Barack Obama sing “Amazing Grace” in the wounded sanctuary of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

These were the presidents of my lifetime. These were not perfect men. They were not perfect presidents, god knows. Not one of them was that. But they approached the job, and they took to the podium, with all the gravitas they could muster as appropriate to the job. They tried, at least, to reach for something in the presidency that was beyond their grasp as ordinary human beings. They were not all ennobled by the attempt, but they tried nonetheless.

And comes now this hopeless, vicious buffoon, and the audience of equally hopeless and vicious buffoons who laughed and cheered when he made sport of a woman whose lasting memory of the trauma she suffered is the laughter of the perpetrators. Now he comes, a man swathed in scandal, with no interest beyond what he can put in his pocket and what he can put over on a universe of suckers, and he does something like this while occupying an office that we gave him, and while endowed with a public trust that he dishonors every day he wakes up in the White House.

The scion of a multigenerational criminal enterprise, the parameters of which we are only now beginning to comprehend. A vessel for all the worst elements of the American condition. And a cheap, soulless bully besides.

We have had good presidents and bad—a Buchanan is followed by a Lincoln who is followed by an Andrew Johnson, and so forth. But we never have had such a cheap counterfeit of a president* as currently occupies the office. We have had presidents who have been the worthy targets of scalding scorn, but James Callender went after giants. We never have had a president* so completely deserving of scorn and yet so small in the office that it almost seems a waste of time and energy to summon up the requisite contempt.

Watch him make fun of the woman again. Watch how a republic dies in the empty eyes of an empty man who feels nothing but his own imaginary greatness, and who cannot find in himself the decency simply to shut the fuck up even when it is in his best interest to do so. Presidents don’t have to be heroes to be good presidents. They just have to realize that their humanity is our common humanity, and that their political commonwealth is our political commonwealth, too.

Watch him again, behind the seal of the President of the United States. Isn’t he a funny man? Isn’t what happened to that lady hilarious? Watch the assembled morons cheer. This is the only story now.

There’s nothing we can do, short of a revolution, to remove that buffoon from office. Not even his vast incompetence is addressable in our political protocols, which is a huge oversight.

That’s quite a headline

Dr Gary Kohls is extraordinarily angry about a deep injustice that he writes about in a column for the Duluth Reader, but it might take a while for you to figure out what it is. It’s certainly not in the headline: Lessons from Martin Niemoller for Justice-seeking Activists that are Currently Being Oppressed by Government, Corporate or the Mainstream Media Powers-That-Be America has been Taken Over by Anti-democratic Forces that are Inside Both Government and Industry – and Your Movement Could be Their Next Target. It starts with the usual quote from Martin Niemoller, about Nazis. Then it has a long quote from The Invisible Government, an 1963 book about stealthy government agencies, like the CIA. Then it has a third long quote from a book titled Greed, Inc., about sociopathic corporations. OK, I get it: there’s an evil, Nazi-like cabal of capitalist corporations and secret spy organizations planning to…what? That’s what it takes a while to figure out.

It turns out that this wicked camarilla is out to … vaccinate children. His strategy in this article is to constantly associate vaccines with Nazis, to the point where it becomes a parody of itself.

The Godfather of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels (loyal Hitlerite and Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment), didn’t have an internet to spread his propaganda, but he had the planet’s newest technology – the radio – and he had his brownshirt thugs who were energized and mobilized by the many Nazi rallies and the even more frequent radio broadcasts that got the fascist message across.

It was on Hitler’s orders that these brownshirts burned every book that had been written by anti-fascist intellectuals (communists, socialists, liberals) throughout history. Brownshirt thugs later gleefully smashed every liberal printing press in Germany and imprisoned every liberal newspaper editor and journalist, thus accomplishing even more efficiently what the tyrannical powers-that-be are all trying to do in our supposedly democratic society.

Authoritarian entities inside wealthy, powerful and influential Big Corporations like the pharmaceutical corporations put a lot of money and strategizing effort into silencing pro-justice activists that pose threats to their profits, even when the activists have unbiased science on their side.

Two perfect examples that I am personally involved in are the world-wide anti-over-vaccination movement and the opposition to the experimental copper mining planned for the lakes area of northeast Minnesota. The efforts to silence the truth-tellers in those two movements will soon be applied to other resistance movements that are happening simultaneously.

OK, I can sympathize with his stance in opposition to allowing mining interests to rip into the Boundary Waters, one of the natural treasures of this state. I don’t think, though, that they’ve got an army of brownshirts imprisoning liberals and burning canoeing guidebooks.

I also don’t think that doctors following tested, safe vaccination protocols are at all equivalent to concentration camp guards. You want to convince the public that anti-vaxxers are nuts? This is how you convince the public that anti-vaxxers are nuts.

Then he closes his argument with 17 mostly irrelevant quotes from various people like Robert F. Kennedy and Joseph Goebbels. All right, Gary G. Kohls, MD. You’ve persuaded me. You’re a kook. Also a bad, lazy writer who pads his columns with extensive over-quoting.

That’s just how capitalism works

You didn’t think it was to benefit citizens, did you? It’s to enrich the already wealthy.

If you wear glasses, you might have noticed that they’ve been getting steadily more expensive in recent years, no matter which brand you buy and no matter where you shop.

That’s because a giant-but-obscure company called Luxottica bought out Sunglass Hut and Lenscrafters, then used their dominance over the retail side of glasses to force virtually every eyewear brand to sell to them (Luxxotica owns or licenses Armani, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Polo Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Tiffany, Valentino, Vogue and Versace); and used that to buy out all the other eyewear retailers of any note (Luxottica owns Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut and Target Optical) and then also bought out insurers like Eyemed Vision Care and Essilor, the leading prescription lens/contact lens manufacturer.

Controlling the labs, insurers, frame makers, and all the major retail outlets has allowed Luxottica to squeeze suppliers — frames are cheaper than ever to make, thanks to monopsony buying power with Prada-grade designer frames costing $15 to manufacture — while raising prices as much as 1000% relative to pre-acquisition pricing.

It’s even worse for lenses: a pair of prescription lenses that cost $1.50 to make sell for $800 in the USA.

That’s why I bought my last couple of pairs of glasses through Zenni Optical.

There is this utopian dream that with more automation, workers will be required to work fewer and fewer hours while maintaining the same productivity, eventually leading to a paradise where only a few hours of routine work will be required of every person, allowing them to pursue their own muse and be creatively productive. We know now this is not going to happen. Instead, the capitalist class will reap all the benefits, will use their power to arbitrarily demand greater profits for themselves and themselves alone, and will keep the working classes in their thrall with a) economic desperation, b) racism & division to keep them fighting among themselves, and c) cheap entertainment, like reality TV.

We’re doomed, aren’t we?

What could be more British than a mutual sense of despondency?

Just how long has Britain been suffering under Theresa May’s dithering leadership? This video is almost two years old and it’s like it could have been made yesterday! Either Tracey Ullman is a prophet with supernatural powers, or the UK is afflicted with a horrible case of chronic stasis.

The DUP wants a “bowl of M&Ms with all the homosexual ones removed” — at least that one’s easy, hand them an empty bowl, because everyone knows all M&Ms are gay.

WND in its death throes!

It’s been sweet watching the Alex Jones empire crumble, and that tin-pot emperor getting his balls ground to goo in courtroom depositions, but this is even better: Whirled Nuts Daily, aka World Net Daily, is collapsing. Best of all, it’s falling apart in a whirlwind of mismanagement and corruption by its founder, Joseph Farah, and has been stiffing the conspiracy theorists they call “writers”.

Coburn recalled in an interview that he had a “very frank and disturbing” conversation last year with Farah about unpaid royalties for his 2017 book, “Smashing the D.C. Monopoly.”

“I accused him of not being honest,” Coburn said. “He doesn’t keep his commitments. He doesn’t keep his word.”

Other authors, initially attracted to WND by the image Farah crafted for himself as a devout evangelical Christian, have groused that they paid WND’s pay-to-publish division thousands of dollars to have their books printed but haven’t received the royalties they were promised or other items, such as audio versions of their works. Their complaints, requests for basic accounting statements and pleas for help were largely ignored, according to emails and interviews with more than a dozen authors.

The secret to keeping their scam afloat for so long was…religion. That was the brand they were peddling, that because they were devout Christians, they could do no wrong.

At points scattered across the country, others reached the same conclusion: They could trust WND because of its Christian values.

I long ago reached the opposite conclusion: if an organization brags about it’s piety, that’s a clear sign that they’ve got no integrity.

While WND provided blog fodder for years, I’m not going to miss them at all. Hillary had Vince Foster murdered, Ray Comfort and Kevin Sorbo as columnists (clearly rivaling the NY Times in quality), aliens, gay bashing, bomb the Muslims, all that kind of crap promoted by Farah and acting as an inspiration to people like Alex Jones…no, just fall into a pit of bankruptcy and die, WND.

Tucker Carlson is simply a dumb, sexist bully

I got glasses in high school. It was great — I still remember marveling at all the things I could see. Apparently, objects 10 feet away from you aren’t supposed to be blurry. I also remember the school bullies having a blast laughing at ol’ four eyes, who was clearly a nerd now, with the final signifier in place.

Smarmy, sneering Tucker Carlson reminded me so much of those chickenshit bullies. He recently went on air to mock Chris Hayes for wearing glasses, which was a symptom now of being a feminist. Further, he spoke contemptuously of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a woman and “29 year old former bartender” who dared to talk about science. Chris Hayes is what every man would be if feminists had power. I had no idea that forcing men to wear glasses even if they didn’t need them was on the feminist agenda; I guess we’re all going to be forced to get degrees from Brown University and a Harvard fellowship, too.

There was more. He compared Hayes to Ellen Degeneres, as if that was some terrible insult.

“He looks like Ellen, kind of a fusion show,” Carlson said. “But did you hear what he said? Our only hope for survival. Holy smokes. That is terrifying. Help us, Chris Hayes.”

That’s not what Hayes said, of course. He said that some saw the Green New Deal as the only way of protecting our way of life. But Carlson’s frequent shtick isn’t to engage with arguments on the merit, preferring, instead, to levy insults.

As he did when first mentioning Hayes.

“Chris Hayes is what every man would be if feminists ever achieve absolute power in this country,” Carlson said. “Apologetic, bespectacled and deeply, deeply concerned about global warming and the patriarchal systems that cause it.”

Let’s compare Carlson to what science says…or at least, what one correlational study found.

To measure this, the researchers looked at Google searches for terms that associated with that insecurity — erectile dysfunction, hair loss, “how to get girls,” etc. — and cross-referenced the frequency of those searches with voting patterns in 2016 and 2018.

“We found that support for [President] Trump in the 2016 election was higher in areas that had more searches for topics such as ‘erectile dysfunction,’ ” the researchers wrote in an article for The Post. “Moreover, this relationship persisted after accounting for demographic attributes in media markets, such as education levels and racial composition, as well as searches for topics unrelated to fragile masculinity, such as ‘breast augmentation’ and ‘menopause.’ ”

But maybe the fact that Carlson is bleeding advertisers is more relevant to his deep insecurities.

Also, if you’re going to sneer at someone who graduated cum laude from Boston University for not being competent to explain science, you might want to get your facts straight, and not misrepresent what was said. What was that about “3 million years of human history”? Homo sapiens is about 200,000 years old, and for most of that we don’t have a record that would count as ‘history’. Is he counting australopithecines in that history?