SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Clinton Runs First, Thinks Last

The revealing headline: “Hillary Clinton Will Run; She Still Has to Explain Why.”

The money quote from the story beneath that headline: “For months, Mrs. Clinton has lamented the stagnant wages holding back lower-income people and the concentration of wealth among a sliver of the wealthiest, a sentiment echoed in her first public remarks as a 2016 candidate.”

Linger on that sentence’s introductory phrase: “For months.”

Months?

!

What?

Hillary has been a political animal for decades. She’s been a possible future presidential candidate since at least 1996 — the year she last drove a car. She’s just getting around to figuring out what her politics are?

(By the way and speaking of which, someone in Hillaryworld needs to clue in She-Who-Must-Be-Driven to basic automotive vernacular. When one is a passenger, one does not say, as Secretary Clinton did yesterday, “when I was driving here.” Driving is something one does, not something that is done to you. Unless you are actually, you know, driving, the correct phrase would be: “when I was riding here.” Unless, of course, this is one of those misremembering “dodging sniper fire” senior moments.)

Maybe I took high school civics class too seriously, but I thought the correct order was:

First, come up with list of ideas, policies, and bills that you would, as President of the United States, promote, enact and propose.

Second, run for President of the United States.

This, however, is no longer how a professional political class so removed from the lives of the average citizen that they not only don’t drive but don’t even know words about driving — who think being worth $25 million equals “dead broke,” and that earning $12 million a year makes you “not truly well off” — sees it. First, they fundraise. Second, they run. Third, they figure out what they believe in.

With a campaign warchest likely to set new records, the task of selling influence in a 2017-2021 first term is well underway. Unless she dies or gets hosed by a new scandal, Hillary has the Democratic nomination all sewn up. Which means it’s time for the last priority: ginning up a platform.

At this writing, Clinton says she wants to be a “champion” for “everyday Americans.” What does that phrase even mean? As opposed to what — Americans who live outside the standard Sunday-to-Saturday space-time continuum? Is there some special eighth-and-a-halfth day for one percenters?

There are, she told Iowans, “four big fights that I think we have to take on.”

Hillary’s big fight #1: “We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday.” Question: will there be flying robots? If there are flying robots, I’m in! But not flying robot murderers, like we use to kill Pakistanis and Yemenis. Too much tomorrow.

Big fight #2: Strengthening families. “When families are strong, America is strong.” You’ve been warned, single people who drain America’s strength — Hillary is coming for you! “Because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.” Hell-o, Oprah!

Big fight #3: Campaign finance reform. “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all – even if that takes a constitutional amendment.”

Big fight #4: National security. “We need to protect our country from the threats that we see, and the ones that are on the horizon.”

With all due respect — in other words, none — Hillary’s “platform” reads like a mash-up of Dick Morris’ focus-grouped pabulum and a schoolchild answering test questions about a book she didn’t read.

The “big fight” thesis gets an F: Who’s against “an economy of tomorrow”? Does anyone oppose stronger families? If a presidential candidate has ever run in favor of letting threats go unanswered, it’s news to me.

Of Hillary’s “big four fights,” only a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision has substance. But campaign finance reform is a low priority for Americans. What Americans care most about, polls have shown consistently, is the economy. People want more jobs, higher wages, better job security.

In all fairness, Hillary isn’t the only run-first-think-second presidential contender. With the exception of Rand Paul, there isn’t much beef on the Republican side either.

Still, Hillary’s lameness towers above the rest if for no other reason than the fact that she’s had at least 20 years to think about what she’d do as president. If this is all she can think up after all this time, how slowly will she react when she gets that hotline phone call at 3 a.m.?

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Rand Paul Proves That the American Political System is Broken

http://www.alan.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/randpaulandflag.jpg

I have been arguing for years that the American political system is broken. Not in the way that everyone else says it is – the Democrats and Republicans unable to compromise or get anything done. Given what happens when the two major parties cooperate – “free trade” agreements that send American jobs overseas and cut wages for those that remain, wars we have no chance of winning, and tax “reform” that only benefits the extremely wealthy and the corporations they control – we could use a lot more Washington gridlock.

The best indication that the United States government is no longer a viable entity, and so beyond reform that we need to start from scratch, is the fact that the best and the brightest no longer aspire to a career in politics or governmental inspiration. It’s not just anecdotal; polls and studies show that the millennial generation, like the generation Xers before them, care deeply about the nation’s and the world’s problems but don’t think that it’s possible to solve them through the political system, refuse to sacrifice their personal privacy in a campaign, and are disgusted by the requirement of raising millions of dollars in order to run.

Despite the obstacles, every now and then – like that one tadpole out of a thousand that manages to evade the snapping jaws of hungry fish – someone interesting and intelligent decides to enter public life. Unfortunately, these poor souls must present themselves as boring and stupid in order to do so – and shred every last ounce of integrity they had before they entered the political process.

If there is a better case for this political system being over and done, I don’t know what it is.

Current case study: Rand Paul.

The senator from Kentucky has been a principled voice of resistance to the Obama administration’s most egregious violations of privacy and civil liberties. He has relentlessly opposed the National Security Agency’s wholesale collection of Americans’ personal communications and digital data, filibustered to protest the attorney general’s refusal to rule out using drones to kill American citizens on American soil, and followed his libertarian father’s tradition of non-interventionism by opposing the post-9/11 endless “war on terror.”

In many respects Paul, a Republican, has been more liberal – and certainly more vocal – than the most left-leaning members of the Democratic Party.

Now, however, he has officially declared that he is running for president next year. And so the usual coalition of GOP officials, Washington Beltway pundits, and no doubt his campaign advisers are telling him that he must abandon the interesting, intelligent and true-to-the-Constitution stances that got him noticed in the first place.

Gotta become “electable,” you see.

In just one week as a presidential candidate, he has backed away from his 2007 statement – which happened to have the virtue of being correct – that Iran did not represent a military threat to the United States. To be a Republican these days, you have to be against everything Obama does, and he just finished negotiating a deal to normalize relations with Iran.

Paul made some major efforts to reach out to African-Americans over the last few years – rare for a Republican – but there are early signs that his unwillingness to call out the racist “dog whistles” of his Tea Party-besotted opponents will neutralize his previous expressions of sympathy for black victims of police profiling and brutality.

He even flip-flopped on drones. “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him,” he said recently.

What’s next: selling us out on the NSA? Apparently maybe.

I am tempted to argue that Paul is wrong, and that he would be better off personally as well as politically sticking to his guns. After all, he has, or at least has had, these popular positions all to himself. Why follow the lead of Al Gore, who foolishly decided not to emphasize his credibility as an environmentalist in 2000?

Be that as it may, let’s focus on the big takeaway: the perception among the political class that, to be electable, you have to adjust your positions to conform to the banal, the uninspired, the illegal, with total disregard for the will or the greater good of the American people.

Broken.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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NSA Bombshell: US Is Selling Americans’ Personal Data to Iran, Russia [exclusive]

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

aNewDomain, Moscow, 01.04.2015 — The National Security Agency is selling Americans’ personal data to private corporations in order to raise revenues for stretched federal coffers, according to a blockbuster report to be released by Second Look Media.

It turns out that Second Look, which is 50-percent owned by billionaire eBay founder Iranian-American Pierre Omidyar, is a 25-percent spinoff of First Look Media, known for transcribing NSA documents leaked by former NSA/CIA contractor Edward Snowden.

Second Look is scheduled to publish the details on April 1.

NSA bombshellThe program began during Barack Obama’s first term in office, when congressional Republicans began “cockblocking” Obama’s every move and denying even routine budget appropriations. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is reported to have suggested to the frustrated president that the government should consider “rolling big-data style, like they do in Silicon Valley” i.e., monetizing valuable personal information that is in the hands of its agencies and federal departments.

Attention naturally turned to the NSA, which methodically intercepts, stores and indexes every digital communication on earth, including those between American citizens. The communications include, but are not limited to, email, text messages, voice phone calls, cell phone metadata, faxes, bank wire transfers, and even telegraph, which is still used by remote train stations in Nevada and Utah. “If someone figures out a way to bring back the passenger pigeon, we’ll snag the sucker, Xerox its ass, and implant a chip in his brain just in case someone wants to use him to say something,” said former NSA director Michael Hayden in 2009, prior to his resignation.

According to sources, the NSA held secret online auctions on the so-called “darknet” to offer transcriptions, recordings, bank account numbers and even the sexual habits of Americans to the highest bidder, regardless of whether its country of origin has good relations with the United States.

Most of the gigantic data files ended up in relatively benign hands, such as an affiliate of the Brazilian social network Bazoo, which ran searches on Portuguese-sounding names in order to market spam email offering 35-percent discounts on Brazilian waxes.

However, the Russian energy giant Gazprom, which is closely affiliated with President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, allegedly purchased voice recordings of every phone call in the upper Midwest between February 2012 and January 2013. Although their intent can’t be known positively, analysts believe the Russians wanted to learn more about the fracking industry, both as a form of industrial espionage, and also in order to use shell companies to acquire drilling rights under the homes of registered Republicans.”

Obama administration officials speaking under condition of anonymity confirmed the basic details of this account, but deny that they did anything wrong. “First and foremost, we ran this past the lawyers. There’s a reason that they call people who live in the United States ‘Americans.’ That’s because they live in America. Anything that is in America belongs to America. In other words, people are just like dogs, cats, wild turkeys, worms, what have you – that’s the government’s property. That’s pretty much been the case ever since the Emancipation Proclamation.”

Bob Jenkins of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern about what he called a “novel” interpretation of constitutional law that he said “seems to contradict two centuries of legal precedent and 800 years of Anglo-American common law dating back to the Magna Carta.”

But the administration official says that the data is the president’s to sell, and he will do so as long as there is a huge federal deficit to pay off to China. Says the source, ‘Anyway, section 215(b) of the USA Patriot Act authorizes the president to do anything it takes in order to defeat Al Qaeda, and we won’t be able to take on the terrorists if we are too broke to buy any weapons.’ “

Speaking under condition of anonymity based on threats of this reporter, a representative of the NSA who may or may not work there said that the government takes care to sell American data only to private companies who “we know can pretty much be trusted.”

But that seems to be belied by a $14-million sale of DNA records belonging to Millennials and Generation Xers who make $38,000 to $54,000 a year to FarsiNet. After the sale was complete, the NSA was surprised to learn via Twitter that FarsiNet was, in fact, affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Still, the NSA has no plans to change the program as long as there is no reaction from the public. “We desperately need that extra spending money,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “For example, you know the $14 million everyone’s making such a fuss about? We used that to add a new wing to the NSA’s new data farm in Utah. And will use the data we store there to make another $140 million, and so on and so forth, until we can finance maybe a quarter of our next war.”

For aNewDomain, I’m Red Tall.

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Exclusive: Apple To Debut Its Apple Gun Smart Firearm in 2016

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

apple gun newsaNewDomain exclusive  Auckland, NZ, 01.04.2015 — Apple is soon to announce a smart firearm and will unveil the new weapon, called the Apple Gun, at a special scheduled to coincide with next spring’s Las Vegas Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade show, the largest gathering of gun fans and dealers in the nation.

The event, according to documents leaked to aNewDomain reporters at the Auckland Gun Show in New Zealand, will be timed to coincide with Apple’s 40th anniversary celebration in early April 2016.

The Apple Gun is a continuation of the Cupertino giant’s strategy of expanding its reach beyond personal computing into other products, like its planned Apple Car and widely-anticipated Apple Drone, sources close to the effort told aNewDomain.

Legal correspondent T. E. Wing unearthed Apple’s Apple Gun patent application, as filed with US Patent & Trademark Office, in August 2014. A rendering of the Apple Gun as Apple lawyers drew it in the Apple Gun patent application is below. At this writing, the patent is still pending.

apple-gunApple PR woman Katie Cotton refused to comment on the Apple Gun information that sources revealed to aNewDomain, saying Apple does not confirm or deny “rumors or unannounced products, however slim and sexy.” Apple CEO Tim Cook, contacted via his Google + account, refused to comment on the report, saying simply: “Imagine.”

Luckily, we don’t have to. Early ad copy obtained by aNewDomain reveals a forthcoming Apple-branded firearm that is is “beautiful, simple and accurate.” Not necessarily affordable to every consumer, Apple Gun is about to do for personal protection what the Apple iPhone did to the telephone, sources say. 

The ad copy, leaked to aNewDomain at the New Zealand firearms convention early today, continues:

Imagine a firearm that doesn’t make a sound when fired. A weapon that doesn’t look ominous, but to the contrary, sports beautiful design that fits in at the office, at Whole Foods, even in the classroom. A gun with state-of-the-art quality front and center, making accidental maimings a thing of the past. 

“A weapon for design freaks and liberals,” comments one source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s brilliant. And deadly.”

“Though it’s going to surprise some of the company’s crunchy NPR-listening client base, this is a logical move for Apple,” said Shell Jackson, an analyst at Goldman Sachs’ tech division. And it’s just the beginning.

“Guns are a $32 billion a year business in the United States. Not only is Apple Gun a smartplay for market share in an industry that hasn’t seen a major design development since the demise of the flintlock, it will familiarize the red states – currently PC country – with the Apple brand.” He adds:

“Once Apple Gun has achieved significant market share, it will expand throughout the weapons and munitions sector into high-caliber heavy weapons, long-range missiles and laserguided bombs, armed drones, maybe even nuclear.”

Featuring smooth, clean lines, a clickwheel and translucent whiteness, Apple Gun is the culmination of Steve Jobs’ last product initiative, Project DeepSix, which was initiated 17 months before his death with the goal of reimagining the handgun. “What if guns were invented today? They wouldn’t be hypermasculine death machines for dimwitted nativist jocks. They’d be pretty. They’d have multiple functionalities: text messaging and other telecommunications, music player, flashlight, sports fitness applications, all tethered to your iPhone and uploaded to iCloud. They’d simplify our lives with beautiful design,” Jobs, a Buddhist known for his angry rants, told his team from his hospital bed, angrily yet calmly.

The Apple Gun “will free the gun from the gun owner,” the source said.

According to an internal company memo accidentally shared to a Dropbox folder owned by an Indian restaurant in Mountain View, California, Apple Gun “will revolutionize the gun concept” by “freeing the gun from the gun owner.”

Let’s say, for example, that you’re worried about someone breaking into your home while you’re at work. Simply leave Apple Gun on a table near your front door. A laser-activated sensor will notify you if someone enters, flash their image to your iPhone, which then relays to your Apple Watch, which must be fully charged to work properly.

If you don’t know the person, press “Y” to fire. If it’s your cleaning lady, press “N.”

apple gunWhat if you want to kill someone, or many someones, but you are too busy to stop them or lay in wait for them? Subscribers to the premium version of Apple’s iCloud storage service can load high-resolution photographs or personal descriptions of the target subjects, rank them in order of kill priority, sync up their Apple Gun, and violà! Just like that, thanks to Apple’s patented iHead facial-recognition software, whenever the intended victim steps anywhere near the line of fire, termination is automatic and guaranteed.

The twin problem is still being worked on.

A brief look at the Apple Gun patent application reveals a number of intriguing firearm tech features.

Merging traditional bullets and heat-seeking missile technology, Apple’s proprietary iBullet ammunition costs $100 each and will be sold in clips of 20.

Thanks to special casing and the replacement of gunpowder by the release of an electric charge, the dynamic rotation of the iBullet is fueled by the spin of the Earth’s electromagnetic field, working around the laws of physics that create that unpleasant bang in traditional modern firearms.

The last thing you’ll hear before an Apple Gun kills you is a soft “poof,” like the sound emanating from an especially mellow baby blowing a very tiny bubble.

Relatively small at the traditional barrel equivalent of .375 caliber, Apple Bullets locate a target’s heartbeat and follow it anywhere, even around corners. Upon striking flesh, DNA analysis determines the species of the victim as well as its obesity (or lack thereof), telling the bullet to travel the precise distance to the center of its heart before releasing its explosive charge.

apple-gun

Apple engineers on the gun team spent two years killing, and attempting to kill various life forms at a secret research facility in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, near the site of the annual Burning Man festival. It is pictured at left.

“It’s a combination of experimentation, algorithms and good luck,” explained one member of the team on the condition of anonymity. “Provided the gun is fully charged” – battery power, company insiders concede, has not yet been fully optimized – “you can take out a rhesus monkey, a rattlesnake, a groundhog, a capybara or a drug-enraged human sociopath at 250 meters with 99.965% accuracy,” he said.

I for one am excited — no, thrilled — about the forthcoming Apple Gun. You know, I wouldn’t buy a gun. But you can take my smartgun out of my cold dead hands.

For aNewDomain, I’m Red Tall.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Germanwings Mass Murder-Suicide Caused by Punitive Rules, Coldhearted Capitalism

 

Investigators are still putting together the pieces, but from what we know so far, it’s likely that 27-year-old German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz committed mass murder-suicide when he flew a Germanwings passenger jet carrying 149 passengers and fellow crewmen into the French Alps.

Authorities say they haven’t found a suicide note, but it’s a safe bet that Lubitz’s final act was prompted by depression (they found the meds), diminished vision, a deteriorating romantic relationship and his worry that the Lufthansa subsidiary would ground him if they found out about his problems, crashing a career he loved and blowing up his livelihood.

Though rare, pilot suicide isn’t unheard of. As long as the current system remains in place, it will happen again.

By “system,” I’m referring both to specific rules issued by the FAA and other countries’ aviation authorities to regulate pilots, and to that most coldhearted of socioeconomic systems, you’re-on-your-own capitalism.

“Before they are licensed, pilots must undergo a medical exam, conducted by a doctor trained and certified by the aviation agency,” explains The New York Times. Some airlines impose additional screening procedures, but they vary from company to company. Active pilots are required to have a medical screening once a year until they turn 40 and then twice a year after. Only when pilots are found to have mental health problems are they sent to a psychiatrist or psychologist for evaluation or treatment.”

At first glance, an incident like the Germanwings disaster seems to call for increased physical and mental monitoring. But leaning harder on pilots would only fix half the problem.

The current system is punitive – thus it encourages lying.

“But the system, Dr. [Warren] Silberman [a former manager of aerospace medical certification for the FAA] and others said, leaves pilots on an honor system, albeit one reinforced by penalties to discourage them from concealing any health issues that could affect their fitness to fly, including mental illness. Pilots who falsify information or lie about their health face fines that can reach $250,000, according to the FAA.”

Imagine yourself in that position. Knowing that public safety is at risk, you might do the right thing and step forward after your psychiatrist tells you that you shouldn’t be working, as happened to Lubitz. Then again, you might not.

First of all, you might doubt the diagnosis. That’s the thing about mental illness – victims’ judgment can be impaired. For example, there is evidence that Ronald Reagan suffered from early signs of dementia while serving as president. If true, that’s scary – but was the Gipper aware he was fading?

Second, you might think you could handle it, that with the help of psychiatric treatment and antidepressant medications, you could push through what might turn out to be a temporary crisis. Why risk everything over a passing phase?

Third, and this is likely, you might keep your problems to yourself because to do otherwise would ruin your life – or at least feel like it. At bare minimum, it would end your career, forcing you to start from zero. For many people, that seems too horrible to bear. In our society, social status is determined by our careers.

“The stigma [of having a mental illness] is enormous,” Dr. William Hurt Sledge, professor of psychiatry at Yale who has consulted for the FAA, the Air Line Pilots Association and major airlines, told the Times. “And of course, none of them wants that to be known, nor do they want to confess it or believe that they have it.”

And for those who decide to ignore the stigma, what comes next? Where’s the safety net, professional, social and economic, for people who run into trouble, whether of their own making or not?

At the root of Lubitz’s decision to kill himself – whether he gave much thought to the 149 people on the other side of the reinforced cockpit door cannot be known – is that he lived, as we all do in the Western world, in a disposable society. Lose what you do and you lose what you are. The bills keep coming long after the paychecks stop; soon you have nothing left.

I could throw a dart at any daily newspaper to illustrate this point; today it would probably land on the results of an AARP survey that found – unsurprisingly to anyone over age 50 – that a single layoff after that age has devastating, long-term consequences. People over 50 are overwhelmingly more likely to wind up classified among the long-term unemployed and typically wind up earning less if and when they find a new job, often starting again from scratch in a new industry because their experience was in a line of work that no longer has openings.

I imagine a system in which people like Andreas Lubitz don’t need to see a psychological or other setback as the end of their world.

What if he could have confided in his bosses without fear? What if Lufthansa policy was to stand by him through his treatment, guaranteeing him a respectable job at equivalent salary – for as long as it took for him to get better? And if he couldn’t recover, what if he knew that his country’s government would provide for him financially and otherwise? Finally, what if no one cared what he did for a living, and it was just as prestigious and remunerative to work as a file clerk as to fly a plane?

I’m not sure, but I bet 150 people would be alive today.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Could the anti-immigrant loudmouths pass a U.S. citizenship test?

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

Et Tu, "Native" Californians?

To listen to talk radio and cable television, which are dominated by conservatives, the national and state debates over immigration give the impression that most legal residents of the state of California oppose immigrant workers here illegally and might even be favorably disposed to Mitt Romney’s suggestion that they “self-deport.”

It’s not a crazy assumption. After all, state voters in 1994 overwhelmingly approved Proposition 187 – which prohibited people here illegally from using such public services as schools and healthcare.

As it turns out, however, the voices of anti-immigration forces are disproportionately louder than their actual numbers.

A new poll of likely California voters shows that a whopping 73% support granting citizenship to immigrants here illegally if they agreed to pay back taxes, pass a background check and learn the English language.

Support for legalizing the status of people currently living in the shadows is not only majoritarian, but broad. “Even 61% of Republicans favored it, although nationally GOP politicians have been the biggest obstacle to immigration reform. All ethnic and age groups strongly supported such citizenship. So did every California region, whether blue or red,” writes Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton.

At this point, it’s clear that nativists have lost the argument. Although I am and have always been sympathetic to the concept that a nation-state isn’t truly sovereign if its borders remain unguarded, the reality is that there are at least 10 million people in the United States illegally. There are about 2.6 million in California, accounting for about 10% of the workforce. ]
It’s also ironic that we demand that people who come to the United States learn English, yet 14% of U.S. adults can’t read. Should we throw them out? –

They’re already here. They’re working. They’re our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues, our loves and our spouses. Fortunately, there isn’t the political will to deport them. Since these workers are not going anywhere, it seems ridiculous to condemn them to being terrified every time the cops pull them over for speeding.

Seems to me that immigration opponents ought to focus not on the people who are here and who should be grandfathered in, but on preventing future illegal immigration by lobbying Congress to build an impermeable border between the United States and Mexico.

Of course, they’re not likely to get very far, since both major parties have a vested interest in the status quo. Immigrants here illegally represent future Democratic voters and are easily exploited by the business interests near and dear to the Republican Party. The GOP must draw votes from Latinos if it’s to remain viable in a nation in which the demographics are becoming less white.

Today’s cartoon is partly a jab at the anti-immigration types who pretend to be motivated by economic or patriotic motives but are really just racist. It is also a reference to the fact that many native-born Americans would have trouble jumping through the hoops required of those seeking to become naturalized citizens.

A 2012 study found that one out of three native-born American citizens would fail the civics section of the test administered to those applying for U.S. citizenship. Among the highlights: 85% couldn’t identify “the rule of law” – well, maybe that’s because they’ve been watching one president after another ignore it – and that 75% didn’t know what the judiciary does. Also, 62% couldn’t identify the governor of their state.

As for the requirements that the 73% say they would impose on people here illegally, I wonder how many people with legal status could survive an IRS audit that required them to pay all the taxes on income they’ve failed to declare since they turned 18 … or would be able to cough up the dough.

It’s also ironic that we demand that people who come to the United States learn English, yet 14% of U.S. adults can’t read. Should we throw them out?

Here’s an idea: Let’s deport everyone who can’t pass the basic requirements to become an American citizen, whether or not they were born here.

The country will empty out in no time.

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One Delta Flight That Highlights Why Air Travel Sucks So Bad

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

why air travel sucksOn Friday I traveled from Seattle to New York on Delta. By the standards of American air travel in the year 2015, flight 419 was fine.

My seatmates were nice, the woman in front of me didn’t recline her seat until halfway into the flight, the flight attendants were attentive, and we arrived at JFK 45 minutes early – during a snowstorm, no less.

Yet it totally sucked.

The unacceptable state of commercial aviation has become accepted. The insane has been normalized.

It was the best possible terrible experience — one that perfectly exemplified why air travel sucks these days — and everything that’s wrong with the airlines.

Knee Torture

As the guy next to me exclaimed upon sitting down, “They design these seats for midgets!” (It was early, so I didn’t inform him of the more politically correct terms “little people” or “persons of short stature.”) But he’s right: Delta is tied with United Airlines for the dubious distinction of offering the least legroom in coach.

why airtravel sucks

I’m 6’2″. At under 200 pounds, however, I’m a skinny dude. Especially by American standards. I can’t imagine what bigger people do. Or taller ones. Or pregnant ones.

Only the airlines could make me feel sorry for Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle, both of whom have suffered from deep-vein thrombosis associated with flying while stuck in cramped seats. (Don’t those guys get at least business class?)

Check out the photograph above: those are my knees, pressed totally against the seat ahead of me – before the person in front of me opted to recline. (Side rant: reclining should only be enabled on red-eyes.)

You can’t see it here, but my butt is pressed into the corner of my seat; I am sitting straight up. In other words, there is no way to scare an extra millimeter of knee room out of this torture contraption.

I know it could be worse. Someday, probably soon, it will be. A few years ago, you may recall, Ireland-based discount carrier Ryanair flirted with the idea of forcing passengers to stand rather than sit. I also know that the airlines have thin profit margins in a competitive business. However, you’ve got a problem when your customers are driven so crazy that they get into midair brawls over when or if it’s OK to push your seat back.

It’s an even bigger problem when your service is to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Which I might not even have thought about, much less written this piece about, if not for this charming ad on the seat in front of me:

why airtravel sucks

Grim chuckles emanated all around every time this thing cycled through, you know, 14 inches ahead of our faces because – we were definitely not comfortable.

It is hard to overstate how maddening an ad like this is when your knees look and feel like they do in the photo up above. Who’s handling PR for Delta? Howard Schultz of Starbucks? It’s not like we don’t all want to be in first class. It’s not a choice. We’re not riding in coach because we’re cheap.

We’re poor.

Being poor sucks. But you know what’s worse than being poor? Being reminded that other people are rich. Not to mention being told that your poverty is your own damn fault.

Never Saying Sorry

why-air-travel-sucksOne thing I love about flying is that it can be a great place to get work done, particularly if I get a window seat so no one is trying to get past me to go to the restroom.

Unless I can’t.

Friday’s flight would have been a bust the second the woman in front of me reclined her seat into my face; even Houdini couldn’t jam a MacBook Pro between my relatively flat stomach and a reclined seat on Delta. Anyway, it didn’t matter because the Wi-Fi didn’t work.

A five-hour flight is a long time to go without the Internet when you’re a writer, so I’m willing to cough up the outrageously extortionate rate of $33 for GoGo Inflight Internet. Unless, as happened Friday, that wasn’t an option.

As we taxied away from the gate, the pilot helpfully explained that an on-time departure was more important than “the part we would have needed to wait for” in order to get the Wi-Fi working.

Look, I get that stuff happens. Given the fact that it was starting to snow at our destination, I agreed with the pilot’s decision.

What’s annoying is that when the airline inconveniences you – in this case, denying five hours of potential online work time to over 200 passengers – they shrug it off with a glib “oh well.”

When we screw up, we’re expected to pay through the nose. If, for example, you get stuck in traffic and miss your flight, Delta will charge you at least $50 to change your ticket to a later flight the same day. Why can’t I charge them $50 because the Wi-Fi was busted on Friday’s flight? What’s with this unequal relationship?

Foul Food

I never thought I would say this, but I miss the old days of airline food mainly because it was warm.

The war historian John Keegan has remarked that, all things being equal, armies with access to hot food tend to defeat those without it. That’s because the calories and other nutrition inside food is absorbed more effectively when it’s cooked.

I hate the brave new world of airline food, and not only because you have to pay for it à la carte. Morning noon and night, your options are limited to cold lunch: nasty cold cheeses, nasty cold fruits, nasty cold sandwiches. (And Delta’s options are the best of a bad lot.) Give me those old-fashioned mystery – possibly powdered – eggs! Or that plastic tasting ravioli! Just make it warm!
Seasoned travelers like yours truly have learned to work around the dismal state of airline food, or lack thereof, by grabbing a big hot meal on the way to the airport. But there are times, like Friday, when that just isn’t possible.

Think about it, Delta: the flight is at 7 AM. You have to be at the airport at least an hour ahead of time, add a half-hour if you are returning a rental car. At the Seattle Airport, restaurants aren’t open until 6 AM. And the choices are grim.

All I wanted was a light breakfast, maybe a toasted bagel or something ,but that was too much to ask at SeaTac. The guy next to me settled for something called “French Toast Stix.”

Gross.

I would have happily paid $10 or even $15, for some warm powdered eggs.

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