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Apple Watch = 6G iPod Nano, Minus Function, Plus $275

The Apple Watch = 6G iPod Nano - Function + $275.  Am I wrong?

A company whose name rhymes with “Schmapple” would like you to forget that the much less-expensive iPod nano worked as a watch by itself years ago.  You have to own another Apple product, costing another few hundred dollars, before you have the privilege of spending another $350 on the Apple Watch.

Marketing genius wins over consumer credulity and status seeking.  Am I wrong?

What Makes These The Five Racial Groups?

The school district that my children attends asks parents to classify their children as belonging to “the following five racial groups”:

“AMERICAN INDIAN OR ALASKA NATIVE: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition. e.g. Cherokee, Mohawk, Inuit.

ASIAN: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Island, Thailand, and Vietnam.

NATIVE HAWAIIAN OR OTHER PACIFIC ISLANDER: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

BLACK: A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

WHITE: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.”

5 racial groups for school

This scheme of races brings many questions to my mind. Just a few of them are:

1. How are students with ancestry from Australia or South America supposed to be classified?

2. How come only “American Indian or Alaska Native” peoples must maintain cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition? Why don’t “White” students have to prove tribal affiliation or community recognition to have their whiteness accepted?

3. Which “The Philippine Island” are they talking about? There are many of them.

4. Why are people from “the Middle East” called “White” and not “Asian”?

5. Which African ethnic and cultural groups are “White”, and which ones are “Black”, and how can we tell the difference?

Heads Up: Section 215 of the Patriot Act (Warrantless Seizure) Expires June 1, 2015

Before she ran for the U.S. Senate, civil liberties advocate Shenna Bellows sounded the alarm on the USA PATRIOT Act’s Section 215:

“The USA PATRIOT Act created new powers. It says that the government can now conduct what are called ‘sneak and peek’ searches, that they can go into your home, conduct a search of your property, and not tell you, if it was ‘connected’ or ‘relevant’ to terrorism. USA PATRIOT Act Section 215 is what we call the ‘library records provision’ because under Section 215, government agencies could access any business records or any tangible thing without a particularized warrant, without a court’s finding of probable cause, just by saying it was ‘relevant’ to a terrorism investigation.”

The general authorization for searches under Section 215 stands in direct opposition to the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which declares that We The People are to be free of searches and seizures of our homes, our belongings and our records unless the government issues a warrant declaring probable cause, describing the particular place to be searched, and identifying the material to be seized.  Section 215 powers of the USA PATRIOT Act require no warrant and are not specific to any place or material.  The unconstitutional Section 215 powers have been vastly abused, serving as a foundation for the massive NSA surveillance program under which huge numbers of Americans’ call records, e-mail records and text message records have been swept up and declared government property without permission, without probable cause, without particularity, without a warrant.  Even the Republican member of Congress who wrote the provision has declared his outrage at government abuse of powers under Section 215.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying its darndest to put out the word that Section 215 is expiring on June 1, 2015.  Why do we need to know about this in advance?  Because the friends of warrantless surveillance are going to do their darndest to pass an extension of Section 215 with minimal public attention and therefore minimal fuss.  You and I can make this impossible through one simple act: spreading the word.

Spread the word.

Atheists Under Assault

In Egypt, 22 year-old Sherif Gaber has been convicted for creating a page on Facebook discussing atheism. The student was arrested after his home was surrounded by four military vehicles, and has been sentenced to one year in prison. While awaiting trial, Gaber was subjected to torture, including electrocution.

Also in Eqypt, 23 year-old engineering student Karim al-Banna has been convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for declaring himself an atheist on Facebook. He will to return to court on Monday for an appeal of his case.

In Bangladesh, US citizen Avijit Roy was hacked to death by an angry crowd as punishment for his openly-atheist identity appearing in public at a book signing.

Here in the United States, the assaults against atheists are mostly legal, rather than physically violent. The City Hall in Warren, Michigan has denied equal access to atheists after Christians were granted an official local government “prayer station” at which to promote their religion. In Nashville, atheists aren’t being allowed even to post a billboard.

What can atheists do in the wake of these kinds of incidents? Hunker down, endure it, and continue to speak up for equal rights. Here in the USA, people emerging from religion into atheism can call the phone number 1-84-I-DOUBT-IT, where people are waiting to listen, and talk sympathetically according to the following guidelines:

Don’t argue or debate
Don’t command or persuade
Don’t criticize or preach
Don’t threaten, blame or criticize
Don’t display negative emotions
Don’t make assumptions about callers
Don’t interrupt
Don’t make any promises
Don’t multitask (wait, what were you saying?)
Don’t assert your own worldviews, beliefs or stories into the caller’s situation

Bill Shuster Gets Tough on Amtrak Food Concessions, Goes Woolly on the F-35

Republican Representative Bill Shuster is pulling out all the stops in congressional bill H.R. 749 to get Amtrak to cut, cut, cut its budget for paying the workers on its trains so that the federal government can stop paying $80 million a year to support Amtrak’s on-train food sales.

While we’re on the subject of transportation, the same Bill Shuster voted against budget cuts of $585 million a year to be realized by ending the practice of hiring two gigantic military hardware corporations to make two absolutely identical versions of the same engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — an attack airplane that, years and years after its $160-million-per-plane, $1.5-trillion-overall funding, still hasn’t been approved for use because it just doesn’t work.

Bill Shuster: railing against peanuts, protecting the elephant.

Jeb Bush Proposes Presidential Election To Be Held In 2016

jeb bush shrugJeb Bush, speaking today before a meeting of representatives from big agribusiness, proposed a new idea for politics in the USA. “The first thing you do is change presidents!” he told the corporate crowd.

So, let’s get this straight. Jeb Bush thinks that, the next time around, we should elect someone President other than Barack Obama.

I think there are some people already working on that project, Jeb. Back in the first half of the last century, they passed a constitutional amendment for term limits and everything.

Jeb Bush was speaking in support of a big government program that seeks to break up families, separating children from their parents when the children are American citizens and their parents aren’t.

Bush’s coaches might want to explain to him that the combination of ignorance and cruelty doesn’t make for good publicity.

The Rot In The American Economy, In One Sentence

“The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged in the trading session today on the back of the strong jobs report released in the morning.” – Stafford Daily

Irregular Dictionary: Noop

Noop. noun. The sound made by mating unicorns.

7 Reasons iWatch the Apple Watch and iShrug

apple watchThe Apple Watch hits Apple stores on Apple Monday… wait, no, Apple doesn’t own Mondays yet. Anyway, the Apple Watch, which is not called the iWatch, because it was developed under Tim Cook, who needs to put his own stamp on things because not every good idea from Apple came from Steve Jobs, damn it… wait, where was I? Starting on Monday, you can buy an Apple Watch.

It’s a watch. From Apple.

Hm. Yeah. I won’t be buying one. The reasons why:

1. I have big fingers and tippy-tapping that tiny little screen to make sure that I activate the calendar and not the camera or the email program will drive me insane.

2. The Apple Watch doesn’t work on its own. The whole idea of having a little computer as a wristwatch is that you can use it as a lightweight mobile device, doing stuff you would do with a smartphone, but without having to carry that smartphone everywhere with you, because smartphones are so big and heavy… wait, are smartphones big and heavy? Anyway, it turns out that the Apple Watch can’t even do much of what it’s supposed to do without being right near your iPhone, with which it has to maintain a Bluetooth connection. So, either you never leave a small circle around the table upon which you have placed your big, heavy iPhone, or you have to carry that iPhone around with you just to use your Apple Watch. If you do the first, you don’t need a mobile device at all. You can just use a nice big powerful desktop computer. If the second strategy for dealing with this flaw in the Apple Watch is to carry your iPhone with you everywhere you go, why don’t you just carry the iPhone with you everywhere you go, and not bother buying an Apple Watch? The iPhone, after all, is easier to use and more powerful than the Apple Watch.

3. This is a watch you have to recharge every single day, and that’s just silly and wasteful. A regular watch goes on practically forever with a single battery charge, because it’s efficient, and doesn’t try to remind you that you have an appointment with your cousin’s stockbroker at the same time as it tracks the weather, plays you music, follows your email, and blah blah blah blah.

4. The Apple Watch is a disposable device, meaning that once its battery wears out, you will have to throw away the whole darned thing, because the Genius Bars over at Apple designed it so that it the battery cannot be replaced. Cue the huge pile of first generation Apple Watches filling up cargo boats going to China to be ripped apart for little bits of precious metals by sweatshop workers who are slowly dying from exposure to all the toxins. Oh, hey, did I mention that Apple is environmentally friendly now?

5. The Apple Watch will stop telling you the time after awhile, until you thwack it to wake it up. A regular wristwatch, or clock on the wall, just tells you the time, and doesn’t need to take a nap.

6. I don’t need to check on stuff so much that I have to latch a little computer of obsession onto my wrist. Heck, I don’t even wear a regular wristwatch for this reason.

7. I have a sense of dignity, and that means that I don’t want everyone else around me to get the idea that I am so pathetically attending to technological fads that I’m willing to throw away huge amounts of money for the latest gizmo just because it’s the latest gizmo an early adopter.

Republicans in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas say Religion means you don’t have to Do Your Job

Bumper Sticker declares of Republicans, We Work Hard So You Won't Have To[A tip of the pen to DocDawg, whose blog post on the situation in North Carolina got me all riled up.]

Republican party officials love to proclaim that theirs is the “party of hard work”, that the GOP stands for the idea that Americans should stop whining, show up to work and get the job done.  It sounds so butch, doesn’t it?  You can practically feel the chaps on your legs as you contemplate the thoughts. You can just feel the lasso in your hand and the cowboy hat on your head. Hard! >>!grunt!<< Work!

But all that posing doesn’t match what Republican politicians across the country are standing for.  In North Carolina, Texas  and Virginia GOP state legislators have introduced legislation that would allow local magistrates and county clerks to stop doing the job they were hired to do: marry people.  All these government workers have to do is proclaim that according to their religion, they don’t like some kinds of people getting married, and — just like that! — they don’t have to do it any more.

Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of provision for the work you do?  I sure would.  “Gee, boss,” I’d say, “I’m not a subscriber to the Norse religion, so I just don’t feel comfortable working on Woden’s tag or Thor’s tag or Freia’s tag.  I will come in every Monday, though.”  But unlike the members of the Republican Party, I recognize that when I applied for a job, I kind of agreed to suck it up and do it.

It is the job of a local magistrate or county clerk to marry people who are legally permitted to be married, whether the magistrate or clerk likes those people or not.  That’s what these local officials signed up to do.  But now they want to slack off, and the Republican Party wants to help them.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “that’s too general!  This is only about the gays!”  I have to admit that in Virginia, that’s true.  In the Virginia bill, the Republican Party would only let government representatives stop doing their jobs if they have a problem “with respect to same-sex ‘marriage’ or homosexual behavior.”  (Did you catch how they put the old air quotes around that word?) But in the Texas and North Carolina bills, any religious belief at all, on any subject, can be used by a government worker to slack off on the job and stop performing marriages.  As DocDawg points out, that means the Republican bills empower racists to stop performing inter-racial marriages and religious purists to stop letting Jews and Atheists get hitched.  Their work stoppage doesn’t have to make sense.  It doesn’t have to be logical.  It doesn’t need any kind of justification at all.  All a person’s got to do, if these bills get passed, is say “my religion tells me I don’t have to do my job,” and guess what?  They don’t have to.  And in two out of the three states, there’s absolutely no provision for anyone else to step in and do the work that these people have shrugged off.

“Party of hard work,” my tush.  The next time someone starts to tell you what the Republicans are the party of, channel your inner cowboy, stop ‘em in mid sentence and let the spittle fly: The Republicans are the Party that Coddles Mealy-Mouthed, Lazy-Ass Whining Bigots!

Roll Call: The Republicans Who Voted To Block Little Spending After They Approved Big Spending

Yesterday, Republican U.S. Representative Tom McClintock introduced a legislative amendment to kill 1.4 billion dollars in spending to support Amtrak passenger rail service. Amtrak rail enables the airline industry to keep running by reducing air traffic control delays due to congestion in the skies – though the airline industry pays nothing for this favor. Passenger rail is much more efficient, both economically and environmentally, than any other method of inter-city transportation (besides walking, bicycling, and horseback riding). McClintock, and 147 other Republican members of Congress who voted for his amendment, didn’t find these details compelling. They say that the 1.4 billion dollars to Amtrak is wasteful spending.

The odd thing is that many of these same Republican members of Congress voted for much higher amounts of transportation spending not very long ago. They’re dead set against allowing 1.4 billion dollars for Amtrak to maintain the rails upon which its trains run, but just months ago, they voted to approve more than 26.8 billion dollars for the maintenance of the roads upon which the vehicles of the automotive industry putter along (at lower speeds, greater per-passenger cost, higher pollution, and lower passenger safety).

The following are the names of the Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to block little spending on efficient travel infrastructure yesterday, but also voted to approve big spending on inefficient travel infrastructure a few months ago:

amtrak versus highways spendingRobert Aderholt
Andy Barr
Joe Barton
Dan Benishek
Gus Bilirakis
Rob Bishop
Kevin Brady
Mo Brooks
Michael Burgess
Jason Chaffetz
Mike Coffman
Michael Conaway
John Culberson
Sean Duffy
John Duncan
Chuck Fleischmann
John Fleming
Bill Flores
Randy Forbes
Bob Goodlatte
Tom Graves
Sam Graves
Brett Guthrie
Gregg Harper
Vicky Hartzler
Joe Heck
Jeb Hensarling
Jaime Herrera Beutler
George Holding
Richard Hudson
Bill Huizenga
Duncan Hunter
Will Hurt
Darrell Issa
Sam Johnson
David Jolly
Steve King
Robert Latta
Blaine Luetkemeyer
Kenny Marchant
Thomas Massie
Michael McCaul
Patrick McHenry
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Randy Neugebauer
Kristi Noem
Devin Nunes
Steven Palazzo
Steve Pearce
Robert Pittenger
Ted Poe
Tom Price
Tom Rice
Mike Rogers
Dana Rohrabacher
Todd Rokita
Tom Rooney
Peter Roskam
Dennis Ross
Ed Royce
Paul Ryan
Steve Scalise
Pete Sessions
Jason Smith
Adrian Smith
Lamar Smith
Chris Stewart
Mac Thornberry
David Valadao
Jackie Walorski
Daniel Webster
Brad Wenstrup
Joe Wilson
Robert Woodall
Kevin Yoder
Todd Young