Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The tragic story of Tony Mahon

You probably haven't heard of Tony Mahon. Or maybe you have.

Tony Mahon was a young kid, seventeen to be exact, growing up in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. One night he had run out to the 7/11 down the street to buy a six-pack of beer (he looked old for his age, and would often get away with using his older brother's ID) when he noticed a vehicle was following him. He didn't know it yet, but the driver was 28-year-old Gene Zachary.

Recent weeks have revealed that Tony was a somewhat troubled kid. He was failing a couple of classes in school, and had recently been suspended after being caught smoking pot on school grounds for the second time. In junior high, he'd gotten into a couple of fairly rough fights. Still, he'd managed to get a spot on the varsity football team recently, and things were looking up.

Tony was on his phone with his girlfriend when Gene Zachary started tailing him, and according to her testimony, it was setting off all kinds of alarm bells in Tony's head. "This big black dude in an SUV is following me. I'm not sure what he wants," he told her. His girlfriend said to walk faster, to get away, but Tony's pride dictated otherwise. He pulled the brim of his Eagles baseball cap lower on his brow, and trudged on.

This went on for several minutes, with Tony stubbornly maintaining a normal walking pace while the menacing Escalade puttered along behind him, until finally Gene Zachary pulled over, vaulted out of the vehicle, and approached Tony. Despite the fact that his assailant outweighed him by nearly 100 pounds, Tony stood his ground. "What's your problem, man?", he said.

"What 'choo doin' here?". replied Zachary, as he closed the final few paces separating the two men. And that was when all hell broke loose.

What happened next is a matter of some debate, but most witnesses agree Tony threw the first punch. "He was scrappy," his mother would say later. "He never let anybody intimidate him, would never be cowed just because someone else was taller or stronger. If he felt somebody was trying to take advantage of him, he would fight back."

A struggle ensued, and as witnesses frantically called the police, Mr. Zachary fatefully pulled out a 9mm pistol and put a bullet through Tony's chest. Tony was pronounced dead at the scene. His only crime: underage drinking, a phony ID, and a moderate chip on his shoulder. That earned him a death sentence.

Gene Zachary was arrested by the arriving officers, treated for minor injuries from the scuffle, and upon release from the hospital he was charged with first degree murder. However, the following weeks saw a huge amount of political pressure from the African-American lobbying groups, who said that Zachary was being unfairly targeted. Mental health advocacy organizations also weighed in, pointing out a litany of bizarre complaints Mr. Zachary had filed with the city council. Moreover, Pennsylvania has a "stand your ground" law which allows strong leeway for a properly licensed gun owner (as Mr. Zachary was) to use deadly force if they feel threatened. Critics responded that is was Zachary who had been pursuing Mahon, not the other way around -- this point is not in dispute by any of the involved parties, by the way -- and that therefore if anyone was justified in using force, it was Mahon. And while Tony had technically been in violation of the law (according to the police report, all he had on him were his and his brother's driver's licenses, a six-pack of Bud Light, and some loose change), the idea that a kid could be executed in his own neighborhood for such a mundane crime just seems incredibly cruel to most people, myself included.

Despite all this, following an emotional appeal from the Rev. Al Sharpton, the prosecutors in the Tony Mahon case decided to reduced the charge to manslaughter. Can you believe the racial politics in this country? These minorities are always playing the race card to get out of trouble. This should have been an open-and-shut case, and yet due to special interest lobbying, Gene Zachary will be back out on the streets in as little as 1-2 years, assuming he gets parole.

This country just makes me sick sometimes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why requiring ID to vote is a bad thing, explained simply

You need an ID to get on a plane, to open a checking account, to buy beer, you need an ID for all sorts of things in order to prove your identity. So at first blush, it seems only logical that you ought to be required to present an ID in order to vote, too, right? You don't want somebody stealing your identity to open a checking account, and you don't want somebody stealing your identity to cast a vote for a different candidate. And besides, getting an ID is pretty easy, all things considered.

This is all very appealing to plain common sense. Unfortunately, it's also wrong. The reasons why it is wrong are counter-intuitive, but they are also relatively simple to explain. I don't recall ever seeing the reasons summarized succinctly, logically, and dispassionately (as we will soon see, this debate tends to inflame passions due to its relationship to race and class issues). So without further ado, I offer here my attempt to explain as simply as possible why ID requirements for voting are a bad thing:

In a nutshell, it's because of two reasons. One, there are significant negative side-effects; and, two, there is virtually no benefit in terms of preventing meaningful voter fraud.

Negative side-effects

Most Americans drive. So you've already got an ID. For most of us, producing an ID seems like the simplest thing in the world. Within this context, our "common sense" seems to tell us that only the most irredeemable fuckups are not going to have an ID.

But as always, we are better served by looking at the data than we are by consulting our "common sense", and the data is clear: Laws which require voters to present ID disproportionately affect minorities, the poor, and Democratic voters. We don't have to speculate about this or that, because the data is already there.

The first two groups are historically disenfranchised already, so it seems to me like a demonstrably Bad Thing to disenfranchise them even further. If you think that preventing minorities and the poor from voting is a positive thing, well, I probably cannot convince you of anything (but I would like to tell you to bite me, please). But for those of us who, at the very least, feel that it's downright shameful to disproportionately exclude black voters from the political process, especially in a nation that so recently was regularly lynching it's not-white-enough citizens, the data speaks for itself.

Whether or not the disproportionate disenfranchisement of Democratic voters is a good thing I imagine constitutes a rather straightforward political Rohrshach. But if nothing else, it ought to call into question the motives of the exclusively-Republican legislators who are the ones pushing for such laws: It directly affects their odds of future employment. If that's not a conflict of interest, I don't know what is.

But all of this might still be excusable if such laws really did reduce voter fraud in a meaningful way. Do they?

No Benefit

More than once in this post, I've drawn an analogy to the act of presenting an ID to open a bank account, so let's continue in that vein. Let's say there was a bank that didn't require any sort of ID. Somebody could come in with just my name and address and open a checking account in my name, write all sorts of bad checks, and I'd be on the hook for it. That's pretty shabby, I agree.

But wait a minute now, there are problems with this analogy. What if there were about a 57% chance that I would be coming into that very same bank, on the very same day in order to open a legitimate checking account of my own? What if I already got there first? Now it will be mighty embarrassing for the would-be fraudster! Even if the fraudster beat me to it, someone might remember what she looked like, and the odds of getting caught are non-trivial.

And yet, the analogy gets even worse. Turns out that the fraudster can only get fifty bucks or so for each fraudulent bank account she opens. In order to actually make it worthwhile, she will have to visit dozens of no-ID banks, she'll have to do it all on the same day, and for each identity she steals there is a better than 50/50 chance that the person in question will be visiting the same bank on the same day to open an account.

This is starting to look like a pretty lousy way to make a buck. And so it is with this method of voter fraud: You have to steal a lot of votes in order to make it worthwhile, and each vote you steal comes with a non-trivial risk of getting caught.

This analogy was a bit of an over-simplification -- for instance, in reality, you are better off stealing the identity of the recently deceased rather than a living person, since there is a 0% chance they will be making it to the polling place that day, but this still presents problems in that a) you have to obtain a non-trivial number of names of the recently deceased in order to make it worthwhile; and b) given that polling places tend to service a relatively small community, there's still a damn good chance of getting caught. The point remains: This is a really inefficient way to influence an election. Especially when there are much more effective means of tipping the scales which also carry a relatively low risk of getting caught.

So yeah, I admit it's counter-intuitive. In this era of identity theft paranoia -- I just had some fraudulent charges on my debit card less than a week ago! -- it almost seems absurd not to require an ID to vote. But when you crunch the numbers in regards to who is affected, when you look at the feasibility of actually pulling off an election-changing fraud that could be thwarted by ID requirements, it just doesn't add up.

The silver lining to the Hunger Games display of Twitter racism

Most readers of this blog will probably already be well aware of the disgusting displays of racism on Twitter by Hunger Games fans who were just shocked -- shocked, I tell you! -- that a couple beloved characters whom they pictured in their minds as having adorable white skin were cast as scary brown people. Never mind that the book explicitly mentions the characters had "dark skin", of course...

But there's a silver lining here: It reminds us that there's a reason Hollywood rarely deviates from the formula of the white male protagonist, and it's not because the movie studios are secretly in league with Stormfront and MRAs. It's because that's what audiences expect. The only way to change that is to be really vocal that, at least for this audience member, that is not what we expect.

To be honest, as a white male, it's really easy to just not even notice this trend. When I am supposed to identify with the protagonist, it is not hard, because that guy looks just like me (Yes, I totally look like Brad Pitt. I promise!). It doesn't even seem weird to me most of the time.

Even though it's freakin' tragic that there are people who feel this way, the fact that Twitter is giving them an easy platform for expressing their vile bigotry is maybe a good thing: It shakes the rest of us out of our complacency. It reminds me, as a person of privilege, that it's actually sort of messed up that most movie protagonists look like me. And it reminds me to care about that.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Differences between Words with Friends and Scrabble

Note: In the comments, a lot of people have expressed anger or bewilderment that Zyngo can "get away" with such a close copy of Scrabble. It's actually not surprising at all, and probably not much cause for anger, either. I have written a post examining those issues here

I tried to search online to find a clear, concise, and complete list of the rule differences between Words with Friends and Scrabble, but to my surprise, I couldn't find one. There are lots of off-hand mentions, but no concise and complete lists.

So, I will attempt to compile one here. This will be an evergreen post, updated with any corrections or clarifications I come up with later. Without further ado:
  1. The boards are the same size, but the layout is completely different, as pictured at the bottom of this post.
  2. Scrabble contains only 12 triple-letter spaces, while Words with Friends has 16. Scrabble has 17 double-word spaces (including the opening square) while Words with Friends has only 12. (Both have 24 double-letter spaces and 8 triple-word spaces)
  3. As previously mentioned, the opening move in Scrabble is always a double-word score, while that is not the case for Words with Friends. (However, if you can find a 5-letter-or-longer word, you can always reach a double-word square from the opening square)
  4. English language Scrabble contains 100 tiles, while Words with Friends uses 104.
  5. The letter frequencies are slightly different (as they would have to be if the tile count is different). The only significant deviation is that there are twice as many H's in Words with Friends (4 vs. 2). The complete list of differences is given in the table below.
  6. The letter point values are slightly different. In every case except for H and Y (both 4 points in Scrabble and 3 points in Words with Friends), the point values are the same or higher in Words with Friends. The primary change is that most of the 3-point words in Scrabble are 4 points in Words with Friends. Notably, L, N, and U are only 1 point in Scrabble but are 2 points in Words with Friends. The complete list of differences is given in the table below.
  7. A Bingo in Scrabble is worth 50 points, but only 35 in Words with Friends (since just about everyone in Words with Friends uses computer assistance, this is probably a useful rebalancing of the game)
  8. I have been told there are non-trivial differences in the dictionary of allowable words. One notable difference with strategic and tactical implications is that AHI is allowable in Words with Friends. This may turn out to be confusion over some of the words added in TWL06; AHI and DIF are two words that are accepted by Words with Friends but which many on-line Scrabble word lists don't include because they have not been updated with the latest changes. I've also been told that Words with Friends tends not to accept profanity, while of course that is perfectly acceptable in Scrabble, but I have not yet verified this. I am attempting to collect a list, and any help is appreciated. (Update: Commenter HFMadison reports that Words with Friends does not except FAG. I will attempt to verify this as soon as I can.) (Update: I just opened a game with SHIT -- which aptly described my tiles, by the way -- so at least some profanity is acceptable. My opponent responded by extending it to SHITHEAD. "This is going to be the best game ever" was his comment.)

Letter

Scrabble points

Scrabble frequency

WWF points

WWF frequency

A

1

9

1

9

B

3

2

4

2

C

3

2

4

2

D

2

4

2

5

E

1

12

1

13

F

4

2

4

2

G

2

3

3

3

H

4

2

3

4

I

1

9

1

8

J

8

1

10

1

K

5

1

5

1

L

1

4

2

4

M

3

2

4

2

N

1

6

2

5

O

1

8

1

8

P

3

2

4

2

Q

10

1

10

1

R

1

6

1

6

S

1

4

1

5

T

1

6

1

7

U

1

4

2

4

V

4

2

5

2

W

4

2

4

2

X

8

1

8

1

Y

4

2

3

2

Z

10

1

10

1

Blank

0

2

0

2

Total

N/A

100

N/A

104



Words with Friends on the left, Scrabble on the right. Just to make things confusing, I guess. Click to enlarge.

The evil feminist plot against Scrabble

In case you've been living under a rock, Words with Friends is a wildly popular online Scrabble clone that is tied into Facebook. I was playing last night, and I could have turned a 31 point play into a 64 point play if only "ZE" was a word. Despite the fact that I once had all the 2-letter words memorized, it took me a while to convince myself it wasn't a word, since I see that very word used frequently by a few bloggers at FtB (e.g. Crommunist, Natalie, etc.) as the subject form of the gendered-neutral personal pronoun.

The past decade has seen a number of two-letter words added to the Scrabble lexicon, including QI, ZA, etc. Some have complained that this makes Scrabble dangerously close to becoming unbalanced, as some of the more difficult letters can now be dumped more easily.

Surely, adding ZE and HIR would be the beginning of the end for Scrabble. So my question is: Feminists, why do you hate Scrabble?

(j/k)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Analysis: Mike DeWine's rejection of the petition to put marriage equality on the ballot in Ohio

Freedom to Marry Ohio has been collecting signatures to get an amendment to the Ohio state constitution on the ballot which would recognize same-sex marriage. Today the news came down that Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine, a well-known opponent of marriage equality, rejected the petition. He had three purported reasons:
  1. The summary is longer than the amendment.

  2. The summary states that "political subdivisions" would not have to "recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals", while (DeWine claims) the amendment itself says no such thing.

  3. The summary states that the amendment "retains the portions of Title 31 that codifies this Amendment", while the amendment itself makes no reference to Title 31.


So, being the pedantic skeptic I am, my first thought was: Sure, DeWine has plenty of motivation to find reasons to deny this petition -- but that doesn't automatically mean the reasons are illegitimate. There might be legitimate problems with the petition despite DeWine's nefarious motivations.

After doing some digging, I think the first and third complaints are complete and utter bullshit. The second complaint might be legitimate, although I'm somewhat mixed on it. It's certainly a red herring, but it may be a technically valid reason to deny the petition.

Overlong summary

First, the summary-longer-than-amendment thing... DeWine cites a piece of Ohio constitutional case law called "State ex rel. Hubbell v. Bettman, 124 Ohio St. 24, 176 N.E. 664 (1931)". I did not find the original decision, but I did find that DeWine's predecessor denied an amendment petition citing the same case, and explaining some of the reasoning.

At first blush, it looks like DeWine is legit: The Hubbell court did indeed explicitly complain that a "summary" is not much of a summary if it is longer than what it proposes to summarize, and other Ohio AG's have cited it thusly. But here's the problem: In both the original Hubbell case, as well as in the petition denied by former Ohio AG Nancy Rogers, both the amendment and its summary were several pages long. The Hubbell court rightly ruled that if the purpose of a summary is to make the proposed law understandable to the average voter, a summary of a couple dozen pages is not of much use.

By contrast, Freedom to Marry Ohio's proposed amendment is 72 words by my count. We will get to the full text of it in a moment, but suffice to say it is a very small change to the Ohio Constitution, but one which has a ripple effect on existing Ohio law. It only makes sense in this case that the summary would elaborate on that ripple effect. This is a clear misapplication of Hubbell.

Title 31

I'm now going to skip ahead to the Title 31 thing, because this is also an easy one with a crystal clear answer. First, some background: Article XV, Section 11 of the Ohio state constitution defines marriage. It is part of the state constitution and thus cannot be easily changed by the legislature. Title 31, on the other hand, is Ohio's revised code for domestic relationships. It is legislation -- i.e. not part of the constitution -- which spells out the details of Ohio law in relation to marriage.

The full text of Article XV, Section 11, is as follows:

Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, signi´Čücance or effect of marriage.


The proposed amendment would replace that with:

In the State of Ohio and its political subdivisions, marriage shall be a union of two consenting adults not nearer of kin than second cousins, and not having a husband or wife living, and no religious institution shall be required to perform or recognize a marriage.


Note that neither the existing version nor the proposed change mention Title 31. Nor would it make any fucking sense if they did: This is Ohio's constitutional definition of marriage, and Title 31 is supporting legislation which details how that constitutional definition shall be implemented. There is no need to mention it.

In fact, if the amendment did mention it, that would muddy up Ohio's constitution something awful, as it puts the cart before the horse: The legislation only makes sense within the framework of the constitution, so having a part of the constitution make reference to legislation just makes no sense at all. Hell, what would happen if the Ohio state legislature voted to strike Title 31 and instead moved the marriage code elsewhere in the Ohio lawbooks? The constitution would stop making sense until another amendment was passed. That's just dumb.

Not only is it unnecessary for the proposed amendment to mention Title 31, it is highly desirable that it doesn't mention it. Moreover, since the proposed amendment affects the interpretation of Title 31, it is also highly desirable that the summary does mention it. DeWine's objection, while factually accurate, is simply ludicrous once you put it in context.

Legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals

The final point, on this right of "political subdivisions to not recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals" thing, is a little murkier. Return again to the full text of the existing Section 11 above, and note the second sentence. What this says in plain English is, "Domestic partnership laws are out, too." Ohio will not recognize any arrangement that attempts to approximate marriage, no matter what you call it.

Now, arguably this is a moot point if Ohio recognizes same-sex marriage. The only reason anybody wanted that provision is to deny domestic/civil partner status to same-sex couples, so if same-sex couples can get married then nobody cares about that aspect of it.

But if the summary portion of the petition really did say that the protections afforded by this part of the existing section were being retained, then that is factually false, at least by my reading. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate the full text of the summary (Freedom to Marry Ohio has a, erm, summary of the summary, but I can't find the whole thing) so I don't know if DeWine is accurately representing the summary. Based on his other two arguments against the petition, I am skeptical.

Does it matter? I'm not sure. Technically, the Ohio state legislature would now be free, for example, to recognize polygamy in a sort of "multi-partner domestic partnership", as long as they didn't call it "marriage", whereas with the existing Section 11 they would be constitutionally barred from doing so. Certainly at present there is absolutely zero chance of that happening; only same-sex domestic partnerships were realistically on the table at the time the existing Section 11 was codified. But I could potentially see a pro-same-sex marriage anti-polygamy voter who would be concerned about this as a future possibility.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's my analysis. Two of DeWine's arguments are complete bullshit, an obvious move to quash the petition with legal smoke and mirrors. One of them I am less sure about. If I could find the full text of the summary, I might be able to say something more definitive. But if DeWine accurately represented the summary in that regard (a big "if", I must say!), then there is probably a reasonable argument in his favor.

Update: I found the full text of the initiative petition. The summary here contains two bullets which are not listed any longer on the summary as it appears on Freedom to Marry Ohio's website, specifically:

4. Retain the rights of section 11 of Article XV for political subdivisions to not recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals;
5. Retain the portions of Title 31 that codifies this Amendment.

As I wrote before, I do not think the amendment as written does preserve the existing Section 11's disposition in regard to the "legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals." This bullet point is actually a little confusing to me, because the existing Section 11 explicitly prohibits Ohio or any of its political subdivisions from recognizing a marriage-like status for unmarried individuals, whereas this bullet point seems to be interpreting it as political subdivisions having a right not to recognize a legal status that is recognized at the state level. Either I'm misreading the summary, or the author of the summary misread the existing law.

I am sorry to say it, but I think Freedom to Marry Ohio may have screwed the pooch here. I do not understand what they mean by point 4 in the summary, and I feel that it carries misleading implications. DeWine's other two reasons are clearly grasping at straws, but this part, despite being somewhat of a technicality, may be legitimate grounds for denying the petition.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's true: Dogs really do hate mail carriers

At least our dogs do. I was thinking the other week about why this is the case, and actually, if you think about it from the dog's perspective, it actually makes a lot of sense that they would have a special animosity towards mail carriers. Consider:

You are a dog. You live in a pack with one or more humans, maybe some other dogs or even some cats. You have a very well-delineated home territory; in fact, you spend quite a bit of your time inside a closed structure that defines your home territory.

Almost every day, a particular man (yes, man, not woman: I am writing this from the perspective of my dogs, and our mail carrier is a man) comes on to your home territory, and approaches the enclosed structure which you are so keen to defend. He's a stranger; possibly an enemy, more likely a guest. Certainly someone worth greeting and smelling.

But this particular man, he doesn't come in to be smelled. Rather, he stops at the threshold, fools around with some random objects that seem to be interesting to the humans for some reason, and then turns and goes. Perhaps the stranger was an enemy after all, and you frightened him off?

But no, there he is, the very next day, back again. Once again he approaches, but stops just out of sniff-range, turns and goes.

What the hell is he playing at??? Is he scouting out a possible future attack on your pack? Does he have something to hide? Was he frightened by your display of dominance, and if so, why does he keep returning, day after day, almost every day?

You never quite solve the mystery of the mail carrier, but you know something isn't right. This is not normal behavior. This is not how you approach another pack's territory. You're not quite sure he's an enemy, but he's certainly not a friend. And one thing's for sure: There's no way you are going to let your guard down when this mysterious stranger is nearby. You can't shake the feeling he is up to no good, and you respond to his presence accordingly.

And if you manage to get outside when this shady character comes around, you might even pre-emptively bite him. It's the only responsible thing to do.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why California's Prop 65 is worse than useless

Prop 65 is the notorious piece of California legislation that results in labels on countless products saying, "This product contains chemicals known to the state of California," etc. It's been criticized -- accurately, I think -- for casting too wide of a net, and therefore winding up crying wolf more than actually educating consumers about possible hazards.

But I think the really awful thing about it is that it doesn't require the companies to list what chemicals specifically triggered the Prop 65 warning.

My son got a model train set from the grandparents for Christmas, and it's got a Prop 65 warning, which has my wife spooked. I explained to her that, generally speaking, "known to the State of California to cause cancer" is a meaningless statement. But she wants to know exactly what the chemicals are, so she can make her own decision. And I can't tell her.

Most likely, it has something to do with the plastics, in which case "Don't let baby Griffy eat the trains" is plenty of precaution. But maybe it is the lubricants used on the track? In which case then maybe the really cautious approach would have my son washing his hands after using the train set.

I dunno, it's just frustrating. It is not right to go around scaremongering without explaining yourself.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Two reasons why this year's GOP primary is not the same as the 2008 Democratic primary

The 2008 Democratic primary took a long time to wrap up, too, and Obama still won... and so therefore (thus goes the argument), the prolonged GOP primary this year should not be a deal-breaker for the Republicans in the general either, right?

Two problems with that:

First of all, the reason it took so long to converge on Obama over Clinton is that both were excellent candidates. Now, maybe some of this is my own personal biases; I am obviously going to say more positive things about a liberal than a conservative. But I don't recall major mainstream news outlets saying, "Hillary? Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?" And yet that's exactly how the chattering classes are reacting to Santorum's ascendancy. There is broad bipartisan consensus that Santorum is a complete wackaloon, and a truly awful choice for the 2012 GOP presidential candidate.

It would be one thing if, say, it was a prolonged fight between Romney and a younger McCain. I'm not fans of either, but I can objectively recognize they are workable candidates. They are both eminently electable. That Santorum still has a dog in this fight (a man-on-dog, perhaps?) is a fuck-up of major proportions. It does not bode well for the GOP establishment's ability to effectively coordinate their actions in the coming months.

The other thing to remember is that up until pretty close to the general election, the 2008 contest seemed as though it could have gone either way. Maybe the prolonged fight with Clinton did hurt Obama's chances. I think the McCain campaign really threw it away when they signed on Palin as the veep candidate. I totally understand their reasons for doing so, but either it just wasn't well thought-out or they did no more vetting than simply reading a resume. Sure, Tea Party types love Palin, but her complete inability to handle herself in a standard interview, let alone a debate, was bound to make her a laughingstock. The kind of candidate who chokes on a softball question like, "What kind of newspapers do you read?", I mean... that type of candidate is just not going to hold up well to the national spotlight.

The GOP shot themselves in the foot late in the 2008 campaign, and they might very well have won the presidency if they'd picked a better VP candidate and been able to sustain the campaign for the long haul. It's doubtful that the Obama campaign will do something so stupid in the lead-up to this November.

The Republican Party is in sorry shape right now, and everyone can see it. Parallels to the 2008 DNC primary are tenuous at best. Getcha popcorn...

Joe Arpaio in the news again

I would just like to say that Joe Arpaio is a paranoid, sadistic, racist piece of shit, and that any news article which doesn't accurately drive this point home is betraying a bias in his favor. The BBC article I linked to does an okay job of making it clear that this guy is a raving nutbag asshole, but it should have been more explicit. There also should have been something making it clear to readers that there is no legitimate controversy over Obama's birth certificate, and that those few hardcore birthers who remain are highly deluded, lying, or both.

I seriously don't know why this guy isn't in jail. Wikipedia has a whole separate article about his blatant abuses of power, separate from his main biography. The guy is a thug and a criminal, and he should be behind bars. Though he shouldn't be forced to wear pink underwear or fed moldy bread, even though he deserves it; some of us actually believe in the rule of law.