WE DEEPLY REGRET THAT YOU GOT ANGRY

Posted in Quick Hits on September 15th, 2014 by Ed

The internet was afire on Monday with the baffling Urban Outfitters Kent State sweatshirt featuring the university name and logo with a splatter of blood. Get it? Because the school is best known for the National Guard shooting in 1970? Hi-larious.

As a fan of the non-pology, what the company released later in the day after the item went viral was nothing short of spectacular. This may be the crappiest excuse for an apology in the history of human language.

Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.

This is the Sistene Chapel of the "We are sorry that you got mad" genre. It may be imitated but never will it be equaled.

It's just a faded vintage sweatshirt. It happens to have a Kent State logo and it happens to have some stains that look exactly like blood. Also some holes. Totes coincidence.

NPF: DILEMMA

Posted in Quick Hits on September 12th, 2014 by Ed

Audience participation post.

Which is superior: horribly offending some people in the process of strongly pleasing others or being neutral enough to avoid offending anyone but not making a lasting positive impression on anyone either?

Asking for a friend.

LABORIOUS

Posted in Quick Hits on September 1st, 2014 by Ed

As one of the growing number of Americans who work on Labor Day, join me in stealing a few minutes of company time to re-read this classic post on Battered Worker Syndrome and why nothing about the Right to Work-era attitude toward employment makes any sense.

DEATH BY MISADVENTURE

Posted in Quick Hits on August 26th, 2014 by Ed

On Tuesday a 39 year old firearms instructor was fatally shot near Kingman, AZ when the nine year-old girl he was instructing on the use of an Uzi submachine gun lost control of it…while it was on full automatic. This resolves once and for all the question of whether it is a good idea to give a nine year old girl who appears in the linked video to weigh about 20 pounds (note: the video shows only the events leading up to the fatal incident, but does not include the incident itself) a submachine gun set on full auto. The facility, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, caters to the vacationing yahoo crowd:

KINGMAN, Ariz. — An instructor who was shot by a 9-year-old girl who fired an Uzi at a northwestern Arizona shooting range died Monday night at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

The girl fired the weapon at the outdoor range that caters to heavy tourism traffic along U.S. Highway 93 between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Highway signage and Internet advertising beckons visitors to stop in, fire a machine gun and enjoy a meal at the Bullets and Burgers enterprise at the Last Stop, about 25 miles south of Las Vegas.

The instructor had, among others, the following hilarious pro-gun images posted on his Facebook wall (h/t Balloon Juice):

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Charming. Get it? Ha ha. If you don't love guns you're a great big Fag. While it's hard to argue with scientific reasoning of that caliber, I'd rather be Gun Gay than have the coroner's office scrape my cerebral cortex into Ziploc baggies because I wasn't smart enough to realize that a tiny child should not be handed a fully automatic weapon designed for Israeli special forces units.

A+ parenting too, by the way. I'm sure the child will not be haunted by this incident forever because her dad, presumably some d-bag Fox News enthusiast from Seacaucus, thought it would make for hilarious video to allow his nine year old daughter to be given the aforementioned weapon. I guess the prospect pulling off the highway on the way to the Grand Canyon to fire submachine guns screams "family fun." If you're an asshole.

STOCK TAKING

Posted in Quick Hits on August 25th, 2014 by Ed

The older I get, the less satisfied I am with the decisions I've made in life. Despite being gainfully employed and not universally considered a terrible person by those who know me, I can't shake the feeling that I could have turned out a lot better than I did.

Then I see people rallying in the streets to support a white cop who shot an unarmed black teen under still-mysterious circumstances and I feel better. At least I didn't turn out like them. See? It could always be worse. I could be holding up a "We are all Darren Wilson" sign in Ferguson right now or I could be donating money to him along with some choice racist words of wisdom. Maybe I haven't succeeded at anything in life, but at least I don't have thoughts like, "Isn't it time somebody finally stood up for the white power structure?" and then act on those thoughts to let The Man know that I am a good, reliable, authority-worshiping bootlicker who can be counted on to defend that which actively screws us all. At least I'm not a mulleted, scowl-faced piece of white trash hiding virulent racism behind the facade of "support" for someone who has been on paid vacation for two weeks and has the support of every single institution of our society from law enforcement to the media to the courts to (white) public opinion. At least I'm not plastering the internet with excuse after excuse for a white cop shooting an unarmed black teen six times even though it benefits me not one bit to do so other than to reinforce the social order that allows cracker assholes like me to kill black males with impunity because, you know, they're scary and shit.

Cop Bingo

If you want some insight into the mindset that produces this kind of quasi-fascist sucking up among white people who loathe the government with every fiber of their being yet will defend the police to the death, refresh yourself on Adorno's classic The Authoritarian Personality or, for a slightly more recent take, Bob Altemeyer's work on authoritarian followers (and how they can be simultaneously so submissive and aggressive) and Right Wing Authoritarianism is always worth a read. These provide interesting looks into the minds ("minds") of people who want to secede from the United States because Congress passed a health care law but rally to the defense of a cop for actively killing an unarmed citizen.

If we didn't have these deeply unwell people among us we might have to invent them for our amusement.

COOL STORY BRO

Posted in Quick Hits on August 19th, 2014 by Ed

It really isn't my intent to post about this every day, but the release of a surveillance camera video from the store allegedly robbed by Michael Brown has been posted to YouTube. It's impossible to say exactly what's going on there, but it looks an awful lot like Brown pays for cigars, doesn't have enough money for all of them, and throws the ones he can't pay for on the counter and floor. The clerk then comes around, probably to call him a dick for throwing merchandise, and then he shoves him/her and leaves.

That's just my interpretation of it. It happens to be supported by the fact that the clerk didn't call the police or report a robbery. So then why did the police hold a press conference to let everyone know that Violent Thug Mike Brown was a suspect in a "strong-arm robbery"? All that matters now is that white America has been given the narrative it needed to stop giving any shits about what happened. You know, just another story about another Thug (wink!) who pushed a convenience store clerk and therefore deserved to be shot six times later on by a police officer who had no idea that this alleged robbery took place or that Mike "Jaywalker" Brown was supposedly a party to it.

I don't know what it is about this case that makes me want to see the Ferguson PD get it as badly as I do. The more I see how brazen their illegal and cocky behavior is, the more I hope to see them in cuffs in a Federal courtroom. I feel about them the way every baseball fan feels about A-Rod or Barry Bonds: "I hope I'm around to see this jagoff get what's coming to him."

PRECOGS

Posted in Quick Hits on August 13th, 2014 by Ed

This is such an amazingly, staggeringly terrible idea that it is hard to believe anyone would even try it. I mean, it's essentially the plot of Minority Report. Then you think on it for a moment and realize that this is exactly the kind of thing that we were bound to try at some point:

Risk-assessment advocates say it’s a no-brainer: Who could oppose “smarter” sentencing? But Mr. Holder is right to pick this fight. As currently used, the practice is deeply unfair, and almost certainly unconstitutional. It contravenes the principle that punishment should depend on what a defendant did, not on who he is or how much money he has.

The basic problem is that the risk scores are not based on the defendant’s crime. They are primarily or wholly based on prior characteristics: criminal history (a legitimate criterion), but also factors unrelated to conduct. Specifics vary across states, but common factors include unemployment, marital status, age, education, finances, neighborhood, and family background, including family members’ criminal history.

Such factors are usually considered inappropriate for sentencing; if anything, some might be mitigating circumstances. But in the new, profiling-based sentencing regimen, markers of socioeconomic disadvantage increase a defendant’s risk score, and most likely his sentence.

It's pseudoscience at its most dangerous, with the false precision of tables and formulas and point systems coming together to create a matrix of your criminal future. Funny how reactionary assholes are rabidly anti-science and anti-intellectual until someone at the right think tank cooks up a Rube Goldberg machine that produces the exact results they want.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Posted in Quick Hits on August 12th, 2014 by Ed

Another great day in a country in which it's far safer to be a white male openly walking around with a deadly weapon than a black male armed with either a fake gun (while in the fake gun aisle at Wal-Mart) or nothing at all. Rest assured, though, that when the cops gun down another black guy on suspicion of being a black guy with a gun (I mean, They all carry guns, right? To use against our womenfolk?) the news will focus on reporting about a handful of people who vandalized and looted a QuikTrip rather than the fact that the police added another name to the list of unarmed black men shot for being Probably Armed black men.

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Gosh I sure hope that QT is alright.

BURN IT DOWN

Posted in Quick Hits on August 6th, 2014 by Ed

I usually use the Gin and Tacos Facebook page to make (attempt) jokes throughout the day. Recently I unleashed this howler, with an excellent rejoinder from a Mr. Martin:

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His joke got me thinking about the thousands of words written over the last few months about the disaster that is the Brownback administration in Kansas. Specifically, I wish I had a better understanding of the mindset of people who vote for someone like Brownback. Mr. Martin and I may have been (mostly) kidding, but as usual there may be a kernel of truth. Do conservatives actually think, "I'm voting for Brownback because things will get better once he is Governor!" or have they simply embraced nihilism and chosen the person they believe will do the best job of destroying the state?

I know enough Republicans to know that they are not all frothy-mouthed sociopaths even if the people they're electing lately are. But a guy like Brownback is so obviously devoid of any skills other than destroying government that it's hard to envision voting for him with any other end result in mind. They do everything but come out and promise to burn the country to the ground, so help them God. The next logical question, then, is why so many people think that when their Teabagging elected officials succeed at destroying the state, Republican voters will survive the ensuing chaos. I mean, who needs government infrastructure or a functioning economy when you've got a whole buncha bad-ass guns and a yard full of buried Glenn Beck gold?

LACK OF CONSTRAINT

Posted in Quick Hits on August 4th, 2014 by Ed

Political scientists have been well aware since the early 1960s that what most people know about politics and government is minimal and that their beliefs lack constraint. Constraint is the idea that the things one believes should make sense together. Philip Converse (who is still alive, believe it or not) made his name by demonstrating that only a small percentage of Americans constrain their thinking in ideological terms. In the past decade or two we've seen an explosion of the use of ideological terms – liberal, conservative, socialist – but that doesn't mean they are used correctly. To the average crank, "liberal" means "Stuff I don't like."

This is not news to anyone. Whether you keep yourself current on public opinion data, study political science, or merely listen to the nonsense ideas people express constantly about politics, we recognize that opinions about one issue are not necessarily connected to opinions on another. This is true of Americans of any demographic, although better educated people tend to have slightly more coherent belief systems.

Writers who need to generate some content but can't think of a good idea can reliably churn out a "Look how stupid Americans are!" piece using polling data. It's hardly surprising. That said, I think most of us were a little floored to see just how little sense the political beliefs of "millennials" make. As in, they appear to make no sense at all.

This made the rounds online recently, and they do require some caveats. One is that young people generally know the least about politics, and this is not unique to the current crop. The second is that it is possible to have somewhat useful political beliefs without being able to answer the kind of questions that academics and pollsters expect you to be able to answer. Even with those caveats, this is pretty bad. A couple things stand out.

Even more than most Americans, their beliefs appear to hinge on how things are pitched and what terms are used. They are repelled by the term "Obamacare" to a greater extent than their elders, despite liking Obama and being supportive of national healthcare (What?). It seems that these responses are twisted by opposing forces – these kids have been bombarded by conservative propaganda since birth (hence their allergy to terms like "liberal" and "Obamacare") while their own political preferences, to the extent that they have any, are not nearly as paleolithic. The years of Fox News and Tea Party-themed lectures from dad lead to them rejecting things that contain the wrong keywords – Government bad! Liberal bad! Taxes evil! – but that aversion is not necessarily connected to any of their actual opinions.

Perhaps I'm trying too hard to read something into the aggregate data; maybe they really are as ignorant as the numerous "OMG look at how dumb they are" pieces suggest. Nonetheless, the data imply that things won't be getting much better in the foreseeable future.