By Enrique on March 6, 2013, at 6:49PM
[Enrique is on assignment this week, i.e., he's tied up with his day job, and will return next week. In view of Attorney General Eric Holder's recent finding that the president has the power to use drones against Americans on U.S. soil, please enjoy this "classic" Story Time with E that originally appeared May 24, 2012. Sorry if the links haven't held up.]
The militarization of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. has been a depressing trend for some time, putting America on a path toward becoming a fullblown police state so gradually, barely anyone even noticed. Although we already live in the nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world, the U.S. is still nominally a free country in which law enforcement officers have to respect the rights of average citizens.
If law enforcement agencies expand their use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (i.e., drones), America will have reached a tipping point it might not be able to turn back from. But expanded use of drones by the police is exactly what might happen as a result of a provision in the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act passed earlier this year.
By Enrique on February 27, 2013, at 7:47PM
You may recall in 2011, as part of a deal to raise the federal government debt ceiling, our elected officials agreed to automatic across-the-board spending limits – I hesitate to call them cuts – as a way of imposing the appearance of fiscal discipline. Those spending "cuts" are due to go into effect on Friday, although by the time you read this they may have been averted by some act of craven self-interest.
Leading up to the sequestration (the name politicians use to describe these fake spending cuts), there has been a lot of fear-mongering about the supposedly disastrous consequences. As you may have guessed, this fear-mongering is utter rubbish. For our story this week, let's have a look at some charts I've collected (and even sourced) that illustrate how badly politicians and their water-carriers in the media have misled us.
By Enrique on February 20, 2013, at 7:28PM
President Barack Obama's State of the Union address last week was the lowest rated since Bill Clinton's swansong in 2000. If you feel it's hard to get excited about the rubbish this guy continues to peddle, you're not alone. But there's always a chance Obama's misaligned priorities might have an undesirable impact on our daily lives, so we might as well have a look at what he's planning.
Among the tedious list of bromides and half-truths, two objectives seem to stand out in Obama's speech – raising the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour, and establishing a universal preschool entitlement. I wish I could say it's not often the POTUS advocates policies that are unsupported by available evidence. Since I can't say that, let's review the evidence that shows minimum wage hikes and government preschool are bad ideas.
By Enrique on February 13, 2013, at 7:18PM
In his State of the Union address this week, President Barack Obama did not comment specifically on his policy of killing people with drones without oversight. He obliquely mentioned it when he said, "I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world." And he said a bunch of other stuff that we have no reason to believe is true.
Admittedly, Americans are not particularly alarmed about Obama's institutionalization of drone murder. Most of us seem to assume that drone assassinations will only be carried out against people we know for sure to be terrorists. Given the government's long history of dishonesty and incompetence, that would not be a safe assumption. What's more, with public officials trying to expand the use of drones within the U.S., what assurances do we have that domestic assassinations are out of the question? The assumption that "it can't happen here" does not appear to be well founded.
By Enrique on February 6, 2013, at 10:16PM
I was never a Boy Scout, but it's my understanding the organization once played an important role in American culture. Since they don't sell overpriced cookies like their counterparts of the opposite sex (and probably for other reasons), the Boy Scouts of America are an institution of diminishing relevance that must adapt if it wants to continue.
On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts had scheduled a vote on whether or not to take an important step into the 21st century by lifting their ban on homosexuals. They've apparently decided to delay that decision for a few months, so for now the ban stays. Prior to the delayed vote, Rick Santorum said that the inclusion of gays would be tantamount to "murder." Just in time, too – it's been months since we've had excuse to disparage Santorum.
By Enrique on January 30, 2013, at 7:53PM
Based on the election outcomes of the last decade-plus, it seems clear that U.S. voters are enthusiastically in favor of Big Government. As our elected officials have responded to the wishes of their constituents, the U.S. federal government has grown into a lumbering behemoth that runs trillion dollar annual budget deficits and more debt than can possibly be paid off. Among the consequences is that the federal government now routinely performs (or attempts to perform) functions it has no business doing.
Last week, a story surfaced that reminds us there is no facet of life the federal government isn't trying to meddle in. Apparently, the U.S. Department of State put out a warning on how to avoid "Internet Dating and Romance Scams." Surely, we can all agree this is something the federal government should not be involved in (giving dating advice is clearly the role of state and local government).
By Enrique on January 23, 2013, at 7:31PM
Dear readers, welcome to the second term of President Barack Obama (i.e., the fourth term of George W. Bush). If the first term was any indication, by 2016 the U.S. debt will be over $20 trillion, it will have become embroiled in one new war (if not more), and half of us will be detained indefinitely without due process.
Before that happens, they'll have to take our guns. Speaking of which, Obama just signed off on a bunch of executive orders that he claims will reduce gun violence – although upon cursory inspection, it's obvious that they will do no such thing…but they might create opportunities for the government to limit our 2nd Amendment rights. Four! More! Years!
By Enrique on January 16, 2013, at 8:15PM
The influence that Hollywood movies have on society at large is always up for debate. Following the recent massacre in Connecticut, plenty of conservatives were willing to say that make believe movie violence was a contributing factor. While people who have actually worked in the industry would deny that Hollywood is to blame for gun violence, there are other instances when actors are willing to take credit for the positive influence they believe movies can have.
As you may be aware, there is a movie in theaters called Django Unchained that is set in the pre-Civil War Southern U.S., and its central subject is America's dark history of slavery. Director Quentin Tarantino has been widely praised for the film, but one source of criticism has been the movie's use of a particular racial epithet, and the possible influence it may have. For our story this week, let's have a look at the one word that no one wants to use – even when we're talking about that very word.
By Enrique on January 9, 2013, at 7:11PM
President Barack Obama's second inauguration will be upon us in just over a week. It seems like it was only a few years ago Obama was telling us that America was better than the policies of the previous eight years. Now it's clear he doesn't think those same policies are all that bad. Based on his record, in many ways Obama's second term will be indistinguishable from George W. Bush's fourth.
Last week, we looked at how Obama has taken full ownership of the warrantless spying policies initiated by his predecessor. This week, let's have a look at Obama's record on indefinite detention, rendition, presidential pardons, and more. Incidentally, if any lefty progressive folks want to start criticizing Obama for these awful policies, nothing is standing in your way.
By Enrique on January 2, 2013, at 7:20PM
Happy 2013, dear readers. It's a relatively slow news time of the year. It seems like the only stories most folks are paying attention to are the avoidance of the fictitious fiscal cliff, and the possibility of more rubbish gun control – neither or which are particularly meaningful, but give journalists and politicians something to talk about.
While the MSM has been focusing on those unimportant topics, the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama quietly enacted legislation allowing them to spy on you without a warrant for another five years. Wouldn't it have been nice if someone told you? Strangely, those who have been trying to tell you still seem to think George W. Bush is president.
By Enrique on December 26, 2012, at 7:54PM
Hope you had a merry Christmas, dear readers. For our last "Story Time with E" of the year, I thought we'd look at some possibly touchy racial issues, because there's not nearly enough of this kind of thing on the internet. A couple of weeks ago, some guy called Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III a "cornball brother" for kinda sorta not being black enough. Although I had an idea of what cornball brother meant, I wasn't familiar with the term, so I had to ask my one black friend if it was indeed in common parlance.
Except I don't even have one black friend. I've never had any black friends. Obviously it would be a bad idea to assume my own experience is normal, but I can't imagine it's rare either – and even if it is, I certainly wouldn't be the first person to write ignorantly about race on the internet, so what the hell. Let's have a look at why white people and black people can't be friends (and hope it's not a dreadful bore).
By Ashish on December 20, 2012, at 8:52PM
John Boehner's "Plan B" political stunt has failed, as he could not even get his House Republicans to support the bill. This is a pretty stunning political failure by a guy who is cementing his legacy as one of the weakest Speakers ever. Why Boehner would even attempt this political stunt (and it is a stunt since the bill was never going to pass the Senate or get signed by Obama) when he wasn't 100% sure he could even get his own party to support it is a head-scratcher.
It raises questions about whether Eric Cantor and/or other high-ranking House Republicans are even sincerely working with Boehner at this point, or if they are part of the sabotaging of Boehner's power that is clearly going on now.
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By Enrique on December 19, 2012, at 7:36PM
Following a horrific event – i.e., terrorist attack, mass shooting – the general public and our elected representatives are overcome by do-something-ism. A lot of us mistakenly believe that every tragedy could have been prevented, and politicians are more than willing to appeal to our emotions by doing something, which usually involves proposing bad laws. Although we can probably assume most of them are being sincere, government actions taken in the wake of tragedies don't have a good track record: the Global War on Terror, the PATRIOT Act, the Transportation Security Administration, and murder by drone are only the most recent examples.
President Barack Obama's first remarks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting included a promise of "meaningful action" by the government. We always expect our elected officials to do something when awful things happen to good people – even when there is no evidence that new laws would have prevented whatever tragedy they are named after. Early indications are that our government's response to Sandy Hook will be more of the same.
By Enrique on December 12, 2012, at 7:17PM
It a season filled with grim tradition, one of the most tedious is Bill O'Reilly's protest over the non-existent War on Christmas being waged by godless secularists on patriotic Christian Americans. Every year at about this time, the most-watched commentator on the Most Power Name in News helpfully informs us that Judeo-Christian values are under attack.
Ever year it's the same thing with O'Reilly…and every year Story Time with E has a laugh at his expense, and at the expense of those Christians who play the victim card because people say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." As I said, grim tradition…
By Enrique on December 5, 2012, at 7:29PM
It seems like the world has decided "Fiscal Cliff" is the term we're going to use when discussing these scheduled tax hikes and spending cuts that will usher in a new recession, etc. Everyone seems to agree that it's very important that we avoid this cliff, but not so important that we do anything serious to change the federal government's insane spending trajectory.
In the middle of all this silliness, there's a guy with a funny name who appears on TV frequently and says that maybe higher taxes isn't the policy our lawmakers should be pursuing. This guy also suggests that it just might out of control government spending that needs to be reined in. For making these completely sensible observations, this guy has been compared to terrorists and dictators. But who the hell is Grover Norquist anyway? Let's find out together, dear readers.
By Enrique on November 28, 2012, at 7:38PM
Apparently it was Veterans Day earlier this month. I know this because retailers offer great deals to veterans and non-veterans alike, television commercials for all sorts of companies remind us of how much they support the troops, and people from various walks of life fall over themselves proclaiming how much they respect the sacrifices made by the all-volunteer U.S. armed forces.
That's all well and good, but when some poor gal can lose her job because she posted a picture on Facebook that might offend veterans…then maybe we need to take a step back on over-praising the U.S. military. It's one thing to honor the military, but it's another to place members of the military beyond criticism. When it's acceptable to fire someone for not sufficiently respecting U.S. soldiers, it's a red flag that the casual militarization of America needs to be reined in.
By Enrique on November 21, 2012, at 7:32PM
Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! To celebrate the holiday, I thought we'd look at an uncontroversial and timely topic. For years, polls have shown that Americans strongly favor cutting foreign aid. To be sure, Americans are very poorly informed as to how much the U.S. spends in this area, but the idea of cutting foreign aid in general is fairly popular. In an America that is as closely divided as ever on politics, it's nice that there's something most of us can agree on.
So no one should have a problem with cutting foreign aid to Israel, right? Not just Israel, of course, but all foreigners including Israel – everyone cool with that?
By Ashish on November 19, 2012, at 8:04PM
The 2012 election just ended, but we're already seeing some serious positioning from two 2016 GOP hopefuls. Both Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio have taken some obvious political directions over the past two weeks that reveal a lot about what they think the path to the 2016 GOP nomination will be.
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By Enrique on November 14, 2012, at 7:33PM
The bad news about the election last week is that Obama won. The good news is that weed will be legal in two states. The better news is that we can take consolation in the fact that some people have bigger problems than we do. Perhaps you've heard about the David Petraeus sex scandal?
As details of l'affaire Petraeus grow more tawdry by the day. There are so many salacious angles to the story regarding families torn apart, possible breaches of sensitive national security information, and insinuations about a cover-up of an illegal CIA detention facility in Benghazi. So for our story this week, let's have a look at the most interesting aspect of the affair – whether the FBI has too much power to conduct surveillance of online communications. Obviously the most interesting aspect of the affair.
By Ashish on November 13, 2012, at 1:00PM
The Houston Chronicle has an article up examining the demographical changes in Texas and whether the state is headed towards true Presidential election swing state status by 2020 or 2024.
A mathematical analysis of demographic trends and voting results by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News finds that Texas Democrats will reach parity with Republicans at the presidential election level by 2024 if current population and electoral participation trends continue.
But there are many variable factors, and the pace of Democratic progress — or Republican resurgence — could change based on shifts in Latino turnout levels, continuing growth in some of Texas' heavily Republican suburbs and, most importantly, whether the GOP finds a way to win the support of a greater portion of the Hispanic vote.
"The demographic tides are going to influence Texas," said Cindy Rugeley, a political science professor at Texas Tech University. "Either a Republican will step up and take the lead in making the party more attractive to Hispanic voters or Texas will return to a two-party state."
Being a native Texan, the biggest challenge a Democratic Presidential nominee faces in Texas right now is running up the margins in Houston and its surrounding suburbs. Obama did very well in Dallas (he won it 57% to 42%), Austin (he won it 60% to 36%), San Antonio (he won it 52% to 47%), and South Texas (along the border of Mexico, where most of the population is Hispanic -- Obama got 70%-80%+ of the vote in these counties). But in Houston (Harris County), Obama and Romney tied at 49%.
For a Democrat to win a state like Texas, which has so many rural areas that vote overwhelmingly Republican, they would have to...
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