Gays, Women, and the GOP – Rant Roundup

More and more I’ve been seeing posts about “The GOPs War on Women”. Which is sort of funny because gays have less rights than women at the moment and if you’re a gay woman, god help you. Generally it goes something like “Limbaugh said something, look at it!” and it’s a video of Rush or someone saying something inflammatory. I usually just post back the Bill Maher video.

But, something more recently dawned on me. People don’t get it. People, if they bother to respond at all to the Maher video, usually defend it with “oh but it’s humor”. On the face of it, Rush too hosts a program which is just humor, or just commentary. The issue goes a little bit deeper than this, it’s not that the GOP or the Republicans or the Democrats have a war on women, it’s that you wouldn’t say these things in the workplace. (I actually had someone yell at me for posting the Maher video to their page in response because they did watch it at work, with the volume up, completely ignoring the warning in the first 5 seconds). This isn’t particularly about a “war on women”, from any particular side, this is about the permissiveness and moral decrepitude of the average voter. I wouldn’t make a racist joke at work anymore than I would make a joke about a woman at work. If you wouldn’t make the joke at work, why is it then OK to make these jokes about women from either political party? Call misogyny as misogyny and realize these are two sides of the same coin. This means both parties engage in this sort of things.

On the issue of gay rights it actually is even more subtle. The Republicans are the traditional boogeymen of gay rights, but has a Democrat President actually made gay marriage legal? So much anger and noise is invested in making a boogeyman for people to direct their rage towards that no-one has noticed the Democrats have done absolutely nothing for the gay rights issue. The best we’ve come up with is moving it to a states rights issue. This is a band-aide at best because we’ve otherwise codified the idea of marriage at the federal level (tax code). Really the only politician who has carried the Gay Marriage idea to the logical conclusion as it stands today is Ron Paul. If we got rid of the tax code, it really would be a states rights issue. This is the point of the entire rant though – neither party has worked to actually affirm or deny gay rights at the federal level.

On the idea of religious freedom for those of us who roll our own theology, this is another great place to point out the Democrats doing nothing for us. The Democrats have taken the separation of church and state to the point where any showing of religion is treated poorly. By the same token, the Republicans have embraced religion, but it’s usually ascribed as “Christianity”. Funny thing is though, three decades ago it was Catholicism. Now it’s “Mainsteam Christianity”. Now they’re talking about running a Mormon, and the only people who seem to have noticed he’s a Mormon are the Democrats. In terms of progressive religion, the Republicans are more open about discussing theology than the Democrats. You would think the party who was offended by the G word (God) would have already helped out with the other G word (gays) but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, it hasn’t happened. Instead they’re happy to accuse other people of being religiously motivated, but then they can’t execute when they’re supposedly “free” from such hangups.

The biggest problem here – a government which doesn’t want to acknowledge the divine – is that laws become inherently secular. What secular states have we seen in the past? The south before the civil war. World War 2 Germany. Can we cite any examples of states which allow for religion without being religious? Sweden comes to mind. It’s possible to find a middle ground here, but it’s also possible to be too far right or left. To be too far right subscribes to religious dogma and things would probably look like the Middle East, and to be too liberal results in comments from politicians comparing women to animals. Of course they’re animals – if you work from a worldview that there’s nothing particularly special about humans then we’re just particularly bald apes. The middle ground is to acknowledge that people are religious without espousing a religion. We can’t do that if we vote for the party that doesn’t talk about religion at all. (Actually this is the paintbrush of the Democrat Smear Machine. Don’t talk about religion so that anyone who even listens to Dishwalla’s “Counting Blue Cars” can be questioned).

On that theme of acknowledging things for what they are, we must also seek to understand things completely. A frightening number of people simply didn’t read the recent Georgia abortion law proposal about transvaginal ultrasounds. Instead, they reacted to a soundbite or the hilariously bad Huffington Post op ed on an op ed. “This person said women are animals!” isn’t thinking about the path this person took to get there, it’s simply an animal reaction to a comment without realizing that the apex of subscribing to evolution and denying the divine is that people are ultimately just very clever animals. This is where we know where people are married with kids, or pregnant. The unmarried, reactionist people operating on an animal level say “I wouldn’t want that in me!” But this is really the point. This medical tool didn’t spring gestalt from the pages of the proposed bill, whirring and throbbing veins intact. This medical tool (a transvaginal ultrasound device) has a legitimate purpose in pregnancy and it’s used by doctors all the time for pregnancy situations which might require surgery. What is abortion if not surgery? Do you really want the doctor grabbing around in there blind?

This previous paragraph is mostly for naught. If anyone had actually read the proposal, they would have seen the text included an opt out for this particular part of the procedure provided there was not a medical necessity to use the device for the protection of the mother during the course of the procedure. You can read HB 954 here. Also included was the objection that anesthesia drove the cost of the abortion up out of reach of “low income unprivileged women”. Lets think about that for a moment – why anesthesia? Because doctors who perform fetal surgery during and after the 2nd trimester know the fetus feels pain and that it will abort if it’s not anesthetized. So think about that, we’re performing abortions on fetuses, who we know from the medical establishment feel pain. Just because you can’t hear or see the pain doesn’t make it any more right than it wouldn’t be murder if I taped your mouth shut and dumped gasoline all over you. Why didn’t anyone bring this up? Because to acknowledge that the fetus feels pain and should be anesthetized because it’s the decent thing to do also acknowledges that the fetus is a person who has rights and we should be decent to our fellow people. But you can’t say that. We would rather call it a child in surgery and a fetus in an abortion setting so we can save a few dollars.

How do we fix this?

The average American voter won’t read the bills. Why anyone would participate in the political process without actually reading the results of the process is beyond me. How do we assess the performance of the governance of the state without reading the laws and proposals? To fix this situation, people need to actually start reading house bills and proposals rather than reading Fox News and Huffington Post. It’s fine to use them as a jumping off point, but half the things posted to Huffpo, for instance, wouldn’t pass muster on Wikipedia. If your source is an “anonymous doctor” and the blog “deletes stupid comments”, not only are you not getting a balanced discussion, but you’re not getting an article anyone would take seriously. Why would you base your political opinions on that?

Read the house bills. Read the proposals. Finally, remember that politicians should be judged both on what they are doing but also on what they’re not doing.

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Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich): How to Block Calls

This tip will work for Android 4.x phones running Ice Cream Sandwich of all flavors. It works on numbers which you know, don’t know and existing contacts. Between Android 2.x and Android 4.x google changed the procedure. The old way was to long press on a contact and select “add to blocked list”, which also gave you another icon (a blocked list) in the contact list. Google has gotten rid of this.

Unknown Callers: Press on the number and create a contact called “Blocked Callers”. I like to set their picture to an “Do Not Enter” sign but whatever you want. If you have this contact already you can simply press on the call in the call log and choose “add to contact” and then select “Blocked Callers”. Eventually you’ll end up with “mobile 1” “mobile 2” “mobile 3” … and so on but who cares. Now proceed to reading the next part….

Known Callers: Don’t feel like hearing from someone? Open their contact and press the properties button (or menu on some phones). The menu will open. Google added a check box called “All Calls to Voicemail”. You guessed it, it sends all calls from this caller to voicemail until you uncheck it. For unknown callers, I add them to the list and they go into voicemail. For known callers, this is an easy, temporary fix. What if you want all calls to go to voicemail for a particular period?

Turn your phone off.

Kiva is a bunch of predatory goatfuckers

It’s actually pretty rare that I call out a site for being totally deceptive for what it claims to be about but when I saw Kiva.org on Hacker News, I figured it was a good way to make some dime while helping out the world.

The premise of it is great – you lend someone money using the USD as principal leverage, they get money they need, they pay you back. Its even better when they point out that you’re helping out people who generally live in third world countries. Your $25 USD investment turns out to be several thousand dollars for their local economy. More on the point – you’re cutting out the middleman. If everyone complains that stuff is “sooooo cheap” in china, now you can lend the chinese money to buy cheap stuff and improve their lives. Seems great, right?

Well, people who are reading at home should realize something. It’s $25 to you. It’s what the guy needs to open a business because he needs several thousand in his local currency to do it. But this also means that he needs to repay several thousand of his local currency plus the interest rate and fees to pay back the loan. If their local economy is so bad in the first place, what’s the likelyhood of this being a good idea for them or even feasable?

The second problem is revealed in the model on the site – you don’t get back USD, you get back “kiva kredits” or somesuch. It’s not actually money. People are currently decrying paypal and microsoft for the evils of fiat currency, why would you rope someone having financial problems in the third world into it? It’s just silly. If you’re feeling like a nice person or trying to make up for the karmic debt of the holocaust, you can actually make the loan an donation. This absolves Kiva of actually having a real economy and your money is lent to someone at interest and just stops existing. It’s all the trappings of a payday loan but you can feel good doing it.

Another rub? There’s nothing that prevents this from becoming a payday loan. You can’t actually see the terms of the loan or contact the people accepting the loan to know if they’re paying 1.33% or 133% on the money. Most of these people are happy pictures of families who need money, but the fine print on some of them is that you’re lending money to money lending institutions in a for-profit format. Think about that for a moment, we’re passing regulatory fees and loan principals and such onto another institution to tack on their own fees and such to stick it to these corn farmers in post-apartheid Africa. There was a movie about it called “Tears of the Sun”. Bruce Willis died for such stupidity.

Finally the worst of the worst? The last line at the bottom of every page: “Kiva does not guarantee repayment nor do we offer a financial return on your loan.” (emphasis mine). Not only are they going to fuck people in Africa but you don’t even get a piece of it.

Camry Timing Belt

The camry was having problems. At almost 200k miles most people would retire a car but it just seemed too easy. Plus money is tight as hell right now with my wife only working one day a week so once again it was time to put on the man pants and fix stuff.

Except that stuff was a timing belt and a water pump which had long since puked out the gasket and bearings. The timing belt itself was driven by a pair of idlers, the new ones sound terrible but the old ones had wobble and had to go. I enlisted the help of my brother to be the second set of hands because there’s some things on the car you simply can’t do on your own.

Note that this is the first car I’ve truly wanted to stab. My knuckles are completely raw. I have no hair left on my hands. I managed to crush a fingertip and it’s still bleeding from under the nail. All in all things went pretty well.

The biggest lesson learned: Adjust the tension before putting it all back together. We had to retime the engine three times because I would go to close it up and the timing would wander enough to get the timing wrong. Once we figured out we were being stupid it was pretty trivial to find TDC and bolt it up.

Gasket juice: Always important.

5SFE timing belt