Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XXVII

In the 27th installment in a weekly series, Steve Benen at Rachel Maddow's Blog notes 72 lies told in the past week by the Republican presumptive nominee.

"What's especially striking, in addition to the volume and frequency of the falsehoods, is how often the dishonesty is obvious, Benen wrote. "Jonathan Bernstein has labeled this 'lazy mendacity' -- untruths based on 'the indifference to any fact-checking,' and 'the insistence on continuing to use a lie long after it's been definitively debunked.'"

Selections from the August 15, 2012 issue

Friday, July 27, 2012

Portable Internet Player Offers Progressive Lifeline

By Jim Cullen

For those of us who have resisted the siren call of smartphones — and we are still in the majority, although the gap is closing — there is a workaround that can give us much of the convenience of remote Internet access without paying hundreds of dollars more to cell phone providers.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project in February found that 46% of Americans say they have smartphones, while 41% of Americans get by with regular cell phones and 12% have no cell phone at all. Smartphone adoption rates of 60% or more were reported among college graduates, 18-35-year-olds and those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more. Among seniors, just 13% of those ages 65 and older have smartphones. But 53% of seniors (and 78% of American adults) use the Internet.

If you don’t have a smartphone, portable Internet access can be particularly useful if you live in the 90% of the country where conservative radio executives deny us access to over-the-air progressive talk radio. A portable media player such as the iPod Touch, which costs $199 to $399, depending on the “flash memory,” is a little thinner than an iPhone but has most of the same functions when you are in a “wi-fi” area, and you don’t have to pay the extra $100 monthly cost of remote Internet access.

(Similar portable media units that use the rival Android operating system include Samsung’s Galaxy players 4 and 5, which cost $229 and $269, and Sony Walkman Z, at $249.)

I got the iPod Touch (or iTouch) two years ago, partly because I needed to understand how these portable devices worked so that we might figure out how to incorporate The Progressive Populist into them. We still haven’t figured that out, but I found the iTouch was useful as a substitute for a smartphone.

If you’re looking for tablets that have the same functions as the iTouch but with a larger screen, which is especially useful when reading books and long texts, browsing the Web or watching videos, consider the iPad ($399 and up) and its less-robust Android rivals, the Kindle Fire ($199) and Google’s Nexus 7 ($249). But if you want something you can put in your pocket or purse, an iPod Touch, for my money, is the best choice.

The iPod started out as a device for storing music, and it’s still useful as a repository for your digitized album collection, but the iTouch debuted in 2007 as the iPhone’s poor cousin, though its features have been upgraded until it has most of the functions of an iPhone except the cell phone.

Since October 2011, when iPhone Operating System 5 was released with the fourth generation iTouch, you no longer need a computer to activate the iTouch, although you need to be in the vicinity of a wi-fi signal to get Internet access and obtain third-party applications (apps) from the App Store through iTunes. And it’s useful to have access to a computer that you can use as a base for your iTouch.

The iTouch comes with about 20 apps pre-installed, including email, calculator, calendar, camera, clock, contacts, FaceTime video telephone software, iBooks, iTunes, maps, music, notes, newsstand, photos, Youtube, stocks, weather, voice memos, videos and the Safari web browser.

The only apps for which I have paid money are TuneIn Radio (99¢), which allows you to record online broadcasts if you have a wi-fi signal, and RSSRadio Premium ($1.99), which allows you to download podcasts when you have wi-fi access and play offline. Among the podcasts I download are the Stephanie Miller Show (which is telecast as Talking Liberally on Current TV — if you can find Current TV on your cable); Sam Seder’s Majority Report; the Ed Schultz radio show; and Best of the Left, a compilation of progressive radio offerings. I also record Thom Hartmann’s radio show, among assorted online broadcasts on TuneIn Radio.

Other podcasts that are available include many NPR and Pacifica shows, Counterspin, Democracy Now!; Mike Malloy; Randi Rhodes, Ring of Fire with Mike Papantonio and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., WTF with Marc Maron; and many foreign radio shows. An iTouch can be a lifeline for progressives who are stuck in a small town or even a good-sized city, such as Austin, where talk radio is dominated by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the local right wingers.

Among my most-used apps that I can use offline — that is, when I am away from home and don’t have a wi-fi signal — are the Calculator, Calendar, Contacts, Clock, Dictionary, Music, Photos. If I have downloaded the current edition of the New York Times and The Nation, I can browse them offline.

Useful apps at home (where I have a broadband wi-fi signal) include the Internet Movie Database (, so I no longer need to bug my wife about who that character actor is on TV, and where else I have seen that actor, and the Safari web browser. Also handy are Facebook, Twitter, Weather and various news and sports apps.

Useful apps on the road, which you can check at wi-fi places, include Maps, which in addition to telling directions will tell whether highways are congested or closed, GasBuddy, to check gas prices down the road, the Weather Channel, which is particularly useful when traveling to or from Iowa in February. And podcasts and audible books that you can download to the iTouch are a pleasant diversion when you’re driving long distances in areas where the radio choices are evangelists, right-wing talkers or bad country music.

Places that offer free wi-fi include most Arbys restaurants, Barnes & Nobles bookstores, IHOPs, McDonalds, Starbucks and other coffee shops and most public libraries and many roadside rest stops support public wi-fi.

Comment on your favorite podcasts, apps and players. In case you wonder, we didn’t seek or get any consideration from Apple for this article.

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2012
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Consistent NCAA & Penn State decisions show that it’s always about the bucks

By Marc Jampole

The public argument over whether the NCAA was too harsh, too lenient or just right in punishing Penn State has replaced the argument over whether Penn State should have taken down or left up the statue of Joe Paterno.

What I find so remarkable in the unfolding of the Penn State sex abuse cover-up is the consistency in the decisions reached by both the NCAA and Penn State. They both held one value above all others.

If OpEdge was a TV or radio show, this moment is when we would hear a hard rock base line followed by a slightly spacey sounding male voice yelping a single word, ”Money!.....”

That the NCAA’s decision is all about the Benjamins, Grants, Jacksons, Lincolns and McKinleys is fairly obvious.

The NCAA’s actions constituted a stiff fine, but does not prevent Penn State from doing business in the future, as ending the football program would have. Cleaning out some 13 years of Paterno victories cost no one anything—except the pill of bitter pride for the players and coaches. Thanks to the good fortune of dying quickly and unexpectedly, Joe Paterno never suffered the torments of seeing 13 years of victories and the NCAA record snatched from him because of his own hubris.

The $60 million and loss of bowls and scholarships hampers Penn State, but a “death penalty” would have put thousands of people in Happy Valley out of work and led to a major depression in an area in which college sports, and particular football, is a major industry.

The Penn State decision was also about money. After the revelations that Joe Paterno knew that Sandusky was raping boys on campus and engaged in a cover-up of those horrifying facts, how could the statue of the former saint remain standing?

But why keep the name on the library? It’s simple: Joe Paterno raised the funds that built it, contributing several millions of his own to the project. When people give that kind of money to any charitable or educational institution, there is always a contract. I’m guessing that somewhere there’s a contract in which the name of the library is bestowed upon Paterno.  And if there’s no contract, there’s a letter of understanding, or public minutes, a mission statement or something in writing.

Where there’s something in writing, lawyers lurk, and we know what that would mean in the case of the Paterno Library: a long and very ugly law suit in which the public would learn once again of the special circumstances that might give PSU the right to change the name of the building.

In short, the statue is an amusement, but a library is real money.  Once a statue is gone, it’s easy to forget it was ever there. But you can’t tear down a library.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Those who dream of cowboy justice wake up to the reality of mass murder at the movies.

By Marc Jampole

Facing the facts on guns in American society completely demoralizes me, and no more so than when I have to view those facts through the prism of yet another mass murder committed by someone who legally purchased his weapons and ammunition.

Perhaps most depressing is the nature of the political discussion. The debate should center on the formulation of a mix of new gun control laws and regulations that could screen a nut like James Holmes, who killed 12 and injured nearly 60 during a midnight showing of a new Batman movie in an Aurora, Colorado theatre.

But the discussion in the news media is not about fixing the problem, but about the extreme unlikelihood that we will even consider stronger gun control laws.  At the root of every article about the inability of our political system to consider tighter gun control is the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the billions of dollars it has spent over the years to buy politicians and spew pro-gun propaganda to the public.

The NRA has achieved its goals. Compared to 20 years ago, more Americans currently support loosening our already sieve-like gun control laws. One of the weapons Holmes used was an assault rifle, which is essentially a light machine gun. The assault rifle is a weapon neither of the hunt nor of sport shooting, and yet a majority of Americans now support their legal sale. 

As with global warming, healthcare reform and tax policies, a large portion of Americans prefer to ignore the facts of gun violence in the United States. Here are some I pulled from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence:
  • The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates.
  • Among 23 populous, high-income countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States.
  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides and 94% of gun-related suicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present.
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide than to be used in a self-defense shooting; 11 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault or homicide and four times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting death or injury than to be used in a self-defense shooting.
  • Every year there are only about 200 legally justified self-defense homicides by private citizens compared with more than 30,000 gun deaths.

In short, loose gun control laws in the United States sacrifice the lives of 30,000 people every year, all to shield from prosecution 200 people who killed others with guns while protecting themselves.

These facts are never part of the core discussion concerning gun violence. And yet we hear—and the news media publish—the yahoos who propose that if more people had guns, perhaps fewer people would have died in the Aurora movie theatre or other mass murders.

Let’s play out the nightmare of which these gun supporters dream.  You’re in the theatre and all of sudden the air is filled with smoke and gun shots.  So you pull out you gun and start shooting back in the direction you think it’s coming from. Someone on the other side of the theatre sees you fire your weapon and thinks you’re the shooter and starts aiming at you. Meanwhile, the hundreds of other people in the theatre now have gunfire coming at them from three, maybe even more, directions. I know that Will Smith survived the Mexican standoff at the end of Enemy of the State, but that was a movie.  Remember, all the other actors survived as well, because the bullets were fake. Not so in Aurora. More guns shooting would have lead to one thing only—more dead and more injured.

Considering that it was gun-loving Colorado, I want to thank the x number of gun owners who were packing that evening who decided not to draw their firearms.   

Gun control laws demonstrate the corruption of our current political system.  Any number of politicians would be delighted to support stronger gun laws, that is, if enough people would pony up both the small fortune they would lose from the NRA and the large fortune to match what the NRA will spend to defeat them. It’s all about money and getting elected.