Saturday, July 21, 2007

Prejudice: now in the large Economy Size

A car dealer in south Florida decided to do one of his TV commercials in Spanish.  Not a surprise in south Florida, right? What really surprised Earl Stewart was the response he got from certain members of the public.
The ad began running a week ago and I have been surprised and shocked by the negative phone calls and emails I have received. There have not been a lot, but they have come in steadily every day. There are more people in South Florida than I realized who resent Hispanics. They tell me that they are insulted that I would allow a Spanish language ad to run on the TV set in their living room and that they would never buy a car from me. Some miss the point of the commercial entirely and tell me that “those Hispanics should learn to speak English!” I can’t figure out why they think Hispanic people are watching WPTV Channel 5 news if they don’t understand English. I also hear a lot of people who say they can’t stand the phone recordings that say “touch one for English”, etc. I don’t quite see how that relates to my TV ad. Perhaps the most disturbing phenomenon has been comments from friends of mine who feel strongly that the only language that should be permitted to be spoken in America is English.
I don't live anywhere near Florida, but I have a feeling he wouldn't get a much warmer reception in my region. I'm not convinced that racism has declined much at all since it became recognized as a national problem decades ago. It's just another of the forms of stupidity that humans seem unable or reluctant to let go of.

I think about racism every time I see Obama on the news. My gut feeling—admittedly pessimistic—is that he doesn't have a chance of being elected president, and as a running mate he could easily ruin Hillary's chances as well. Too many racist voters are just not ready for that. And if you want to throw sexism into the mix, I'm not sure Hillary's chances are all that much better either.

I felt a lot better about the US's potential for social progress before GWB got elected—twice! So far the millennium hasn't been too encouraging. Whatever happens next, I doubt I'm going to like it.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Quote of the Day Dept.

Today's pithy observation come from Plog:
To the fascists who run Curves: Why is my Y chromosome a barrier to entry? Fred Astaire could do everything Ginger Rogers could do, only forwards and with more upper-body strength.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Long-Standing Question, Answered

I'm not the best person for detecting sarcasm, but Paul Begala is clearly snarking off when he says that George W. Bush is One Tough Hombre. This is obvious to some people, not always to me. And there are people in the comments there at the Huffington Post who criticize Begala for saying in this piece what he didn't say on TV on the same subject, Libby's pardon/commutation/get-out-of-jail-free-card.

At any rate.

Like I said, I don't do well at detecting when someone is saying what they mean, so maybe Begala means all this stuff and maybe he doesn't. What he said is definitely correct, though, and if I said the same things I would mean them in spades.

Along the way he does clear up one persistent mystery:
Mr. Bush is tough enough to invade a country that was no risk to America, causing tens of thousands of civilian deaths and shedding precious American blood in the process. Tough enough to sanction torture. Tough enough to order an American citizen arrested and held without trial. But if you're rich and right-wing and Republican, George is a real softie. As George W. Bush demonstrated in giving Scooter Libby a Get Out of Jail Free Card, he is only compassionate to conservatives.
So that's what "compassionate conservatism" means to Bush. If you're coonservative, he's compassionate.  Otherwise, it's "Son, you're on your own."  With that thought in mind the last six years or so make a lot more sense.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Them Gosh-Darned Atheists

Ever wonder just what those pesky atheists are thinking?  And why do they have such a bug up their tailpipe all the time?  Now there's a website that'll give you a peek inside the minds of those pesky critters.  It's called Ask The Atheists, and you can even submit your own questions.

My own view is that you never learn anything by only listening to people you agree with.  If you're an atheist, find out what the believers think, and—if you can manage it—find out why.  If you're a religious believer, visit this site and find out what the atheists think and why.

I only know one statement that applies equally to both sides of the argument.  Dave Barry said, "People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Remembering some well-known dead guy

Kristine recounts that she was by sheer stroke of fortune the one to break the news to Richard Dawkins that Jerry Falwell had joined the Thanato-American demographic:
Later that night, I was at Richard’s table when someone asked how Jerry Falwell died. And if there was one moment in my life when I was ready with a clever answer, this was it.

“He had an attack where his heart should have been,” I replied.

Here's something strange. When I heard about Falwell, the first thoughts in my head were of Jim Henson and John Lennon, two people who died unexpectedly and left the world poorer for it. Falwell was just the opposite of that—someone who lived to a ripe old age and made the world worse while he was here.

Some people are always looking for good ideas and good information, and when they find them they spread them far and wide, to the benefit of everybody. Other people fight the spread of information and try to keep people as ignorant and unquestioning as possible. Falwell and his defenders fall into the latter group. The world suffers from the presence of people like that.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Welcome to Reality Island

I always had a problem swallowing the positive-thinking, if-you-believe-it-you-can-achieve-it philosophy—and not just because it bears more resemblance to a sale pitch than a genuine philosophy. Mark Evanier at news from me puts his finger on the real reason:
But then I've never believed there's a lot of value in blind optimism. The few times I watched Fear Factor, I was repulsed way before they got to the part where the contestants eat fried mule anus. At the beginning, six contestants are all saying over and over, "I will win, I will win, failure in not an option." Well, it's not only an's the future for five of them. Five of them are going to lose. I'm all for positive thinking but I've never felt there was any value to believing your victory is predestined. I've always found that if you're aware of the possibility of failure and realistic about its probability, you can do more to avoid it.
Yeah, it's all about how firm you like your grip on reality. Most people don't seem to care for reality much, and I can't say I blame them; I'm not all that crazy about it myself. But you ignore reality at your peril, since by definition—well, one definition anyway—it doesn't go away because you stop believing it.

I'll bet a lot of people first lose their taste for the sciences when they realize that science keeps you from believing stuff that you might well prefer to believe. Same goes for math, and probabilities in particular.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Other shoe, meet floor

When Imus, AKA Snarly McCryptkeeper, got fired, I had an inkling that the situation was bound to become more interesting. Honestly, I expected his public apologies to become gradually more emphatic as the gravity of his situation sank in. Let's face the truth here, Imus had the most cushy and best-paying job you can imagine, one that left him with plenty of time to devote to outside projects geared to play on his celebrity. The only drawback I could see was having to wake up and go to work at such an early hour. At any rate, at the time I was thinking he had to be panicking somewhere behind that foam-latex countenance. He does not want to lose that swank job, thought I.

Now Gail at TestPattern reveals that the I-Monkey is already hatching a Plan B scenario:
Don Imus was all apologies when the fire was raining down on him for calling the Rutgers' women's basketball team names. But he's not taking his firing sitting down, according to They report that the DJ plans to sue CBS radio for the $40 million remaining on his contract.

At first, the alleged suit seems laughable. Imus messed up, he got fired, and now he wants his big paycheck for doing nothing. But nothing is that simple. A source tells Fortune that Imus' contract urged him to be "confrontational and irreverent," and that he was promised a warning before he was fired. I'm no contract lawyer, but if that, especially the last bit, is really in Imus' contract, he may have a case.
I should submit a cartoon to the New Yorker, one of those two-old-guys-in-chairs deals, with one coot saying, "I used to be just a cranky old SOB, but now I'm confrontational and irreverent." Don't you dare, Robert Mankoff, I thought of it first!

Pomposity of the Day Dept.

"Craft an email."


"We need to get the district office to approve this, so I need to craft an email to them."

I don't know if I can explain what I find so hilarious about this. Seems to me that the phrase is condescending to forms of writing that really call for an application of craft.