Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lesson for this week: Don't mess with Trig

Yesterday I mentioned, in the midst of a rant about haters hating, a post at a site called Wonkette (no link this time) about Trig Palin.  The past 24-or-so hours since attention was focused on this post has shown me several things.

Before I get into that, I will clarify, without being asked, that I posted the picture of the author, Jack Stuef, not to make fun of how he looks (though others have done just that in the past 24 hours, and while I don't rate that as being as bad as making fun of a defenseless 3-year-old Down Syndrome child, it's still not a good thing to insult how someone looks) but to highlight that this was the picture he himself chose for his Twitter account.  This is just my perception filter talking here, I suppose, but he looked angry in that picture.  I don't know if he is an angry person in general, but his picture looks that way to me.  And that angry look, to me, seems to fit in with the hate-filled writing he inflicted upon the world this week.  (Per Legal Insurrection, this is not the first time he has gone after Trig Palin using a form of the word "retarded".)

Okay, with that done, let's get back to what I've seen in the past day.

I saw things start on Twitter with just a few comments.  The first person I saw really calling attention to Wonkette's scummy post was Big Hollywood's John Nolte, whose Twitter handle is confusing at first glance.  After he pointed to the post, Wonkette got the unintended benefit of the most traffic it's seen in two months (which is one reason why I'm not linking them again), but it also got a lot more people riled up.  Very quickly, some people started tweeting the advertisers, and also very quickly, several advertisers pulled their advertising from Wonkette.

This was when I saw the other phenomenon of yesterday.  On seeing the first advertiser, Papa John's, pulling its ads, Wonkette tweeted the following:

(Yes, the editing is mine.  I'm sure you can guess what the word was, but that doesn't mean I feel the need to print it on my blog.  You want to print it?  Start your own blog.)

It should be noted that there were several other tweets directed at Papa John's trying to explain that Wonkette was satirizing Sarah Palin's use of Trig as a "prop" (again per Legal Insurrection, that seems to be a common theme at Wonkette).  Because, you know, that completely excuses insinuating that Trig was the product of incest and saying he doesn't dream because he's "retarded".

So, as can be seen, the powers that be at Wonkette apparently do not feel any need for things like personal growth or responsibility.  All that could be managed was throwing the author, Jack Stuef, under the bus, as seen in this Daily Caller piece:

However, later on in the day, Layne told Adweek, “Jack [Stuef] has been admonished and put on night probation until further notice. Anything involving Palin, I want to make it extra clear that *Palin* is the problem with America. Not her kids. Not her little kid, anyway.”

Layne also sarcastically noted that giving Stuef comment deletion duties was fair punishment because “he gets to read all the Palin fans’ insane unmoderated comments calling him an a*****e [editing mine] and threatening to kill him.”

Well, that makes everything okay, doesn't it?  Um, no.  Wonkette is still way off base here.  And apparently they realize the midst of the multiple companies pulling ads from their site, Wonkette pulled the piece off their website.  Can you say "too little, too late"?  Caches exist of the post, y'all, as well as all the incredibly hateful comments that you deleted last night before you took the whole thing offline.  This won't go away that easily.

But I won't end with the sorry half of the story.  People from both sides of the political aisle have denounced Wonkette's sorry excuse for a post in the past day, renewing a little of my faith in humanity.  (Matt Lewis even compiled a list of "principled liberals" slamming Wonkette for going after Trig.)

But the two best responses that I've seen today have come in the form of two open letters.  The first, by K.J. Adan, is entitled "An Open Letter to Jack Stuef" and relates a touching family history of her having a brother with Down Syndrome, in the hopes that Mr. Stuef will "be remembered as the guy who bothered to learn about Down Syndrome and redeemed himself by helping others to do the same."  Since I can't really summarize it or take one paragraph by itself, the whole letter should be read by everyone.

The second was Lisa Graas's "Letter to Sarah Palin", which is best summarized by the following:  "What I offer to you today is the consolation of Christ, that when the serpents bite, that you gaze upon the Cross. Look to Him, not at them."

(Picture of someone viciously attacked on a left-wing website this week, along with his mother.  Picture courtesy, used under "fair use" clause.)

Given what I've seen today, I hope this is the last I ever mention Wonkette, but I hope to have much more to say about people standing up for what they believe to be right.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In which some nasty hate-filled writers are called out

In a recent treatise on my dealings with burnout with regard to blogging, I asked whether my continuing to write was worth it.  I think I have a new answer to that question.  My writing is definitely worth it, if only to counterbalance some other people's attempts at writing.  There are some people out there who seem to be filled with hatred, which seems to cause them to write some of the nastiest things I've seen in a while.

And what appears to be the common thread tying many of these writings together?  Trig Paxson Van Palin.  Yes, the youngest child of Todd and Sarah Palin, who infuriates many "progressives" simply by existing, it seems.

Some of them, not having any writing talents (as if I have any room to talk there...) use the rather pedestrian tactic of making fun of his name.  Now, it's obvious to most people in America that Todd and Sarah used rather, well, unorthodox names for their children, but so what?  I've lost count of the number of times I've heard their precious little boy referred to as "Twig".  Seriously, that's incredibly lame.

(But Snowed, your side makes fun of Obama's name!  Do I?  Have I?  Ever?  I don't think so.)

And then, of course, there are the people who are bent on finding some long-lost proof that Trig is not Sarah's son (spoken about previously in this blog here, so now I don't have to mention a certain former editor of The Atlantic).  Most recently, this mantle has been taken up by some professor at Northern Kentucky University named Brad Scharlott.  This guy, fueled, it seems, by a few Palin-hating blogs in Alaska read by about the same number of people as read mine, has tried to beat the dead horse of Trig Palin's parentage using the same old thought that Bristol Palin must have been Trig's real mother, even though she had a child of her own just over eight months later.  John at Verum Serum gives this idea all the attention it deserves:

The fatal flaw with this theory is that back on September 1, 2008 Bristol Palin was announced to be five months pregnant with a baby who would eventually be known as Tripp Palin. Tripp was born December 28th. Even liberal bloggers noticed that it would be difficult for any woman to give birth to Trig on April 18th and then give birth again on December 28th. How does Dr. Brad Scharlott explain this problem away:
The validity of the logic that Bristol could not have been Trig’s mother depended on two unsupported suppositions – first, that Bristol was indeed five months pregnant at the convention,and second, that Trig was in fact born on April 18. Concerning Trig’s date of birth, the Mat-Su hospital will not confirm whether Trig was born there, let alone when. (Blogger Andrew Sullivan called the hospital and was told there would be no comment regarding Trig Palin.) And no evidence was offered concerning Bristol’s stage of pregnancy. Thus, if Trig was born, say, in January, and if Bristol was only four months pregnant at the convention, not five as alleged, then the logic of the argument that she could not be Trig’s mother falls apart.
So there are two “unsupported suppositions” at work here. Let’s look at those. First, was Bristol really five months pregnant in September 2008? Well, we know she gave birth on December 28th to a health baby which many press outlets reported weighed over 7 lbs. Babies this size are not born at six or seven months of pregnancy, only at term or very close to term.

John goes on, showing photos of proud grandparents, Chuck and Sally Heath, holding what appears to be a newborn Trig on April 18 (for that matter, even People Magazine had, and still has, a birth announcement page for Trig, and that page very clearly was created on April 18, 2008) , so one would think that Dr. Scharlott would give up at this point, but no, he responded:

I am going to revise paper and explicitly say I am not pushing her as the mother. I don’t know who is.

If there was a hoax, ANYTHING is possible.

John entitled his post "Spiral of Stupid", which appears to sum it up nicely.  (Now, for those concerned about my tone, I'm not saying Dr. Scharlott is stupid.  His theory, however, seems to fit the bill.  Honestly, who ever said there are no stupid questions was just wrong.)

(Just a reminder:  this isn't even the worst of it for this week.  That comes later.)

"Uffda" at Barbaric Thoughts had a few things to say about the esteemed Dr. Scharlott as well:

This is what he teaches:

Dr. Scharlott has taught in Journalism at NKU since 1991. He teaches journalism and mass communication courses.

His research focus is on the relationship between communication technology and society. Additionally, he serves the department by coordinating the journalism department and directing the journalism lab…

Dr. Scharlott has been teaching here at NKU since 1994 and teaches courses such as photojournalism, research methods and news writing.

And this is where he found his info and who he was in contact with. And I assume he trolled the other Palin-hating, Trig-truthing blogs populated by losers with pea-sized brains as well.

This guy teaches other people about journalism and journalistic research. Murrow is spinning in his grave.

He goes on to take aim at all the other rumors about Sarah Palin, pointing out that there are also a lot of rumors about President Obama, yet no one takes those seriously, so why are the Palin rumors given any credence whatsoever?

Oh, I remember, it's because it's Sarah Palin, she who must be destroyed.

(Sidenote:  I take no responsibility for Uffda's comments about "pea-sized brains".  I do not presume to speak to that point, but I will yet again point out that they certainly do have a lot of hatred seething inside them.)

But what really crossed the line this week was a beyond-the-pale post at Wonkette titled "Greatest Living American: A Children’s Treasury of Trig Crap On His Birthday" by some guy named Jack Stuef.

This is Jack Stuef:

As to what Mr. Stuef presents in his piece:  before a single word appears, he starts with a sexually explicit picture as part of a collage in which Trig Palin appears.  The words aren't much better:

Today is the day we come together to celebrate the snowbilly grifter’s magical journey from Texas to Alaska to deliver to the America the great gentleman scholar Trig Palin. Is Palin his true mother? Or was Bristol? (And why is it that nobody questions who the father is? Because, either way, Todd definitely did it.) 

Believe it or not, it gets worse:

What’s he dreaming about? Nothing. He’s retarded. 

Yes, that is an exact quote.  (There was previously a link in that quote, to a video by a known Palin-hater claiming that Sarah Palin regularly used that word to describe her own son.  I took it out because this discussion is already pretty lousy without adding another unsubstantiated, probably untrue, rumor into the mix.)

So, why should I write?  Because I have to be better at it than some of these haters are.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Tax Day

Do people still line up at the post office on the deadline day for mailing taxes?  I've e-filed for over ten years now, so that seems so foreign to me.

But for those looking forward to spending their evening that way, or for those who just dealt with taxes this weekend, or for pretty much anyone else, I present these fun facts about taxes:

The power of Congress to collect income taxes was granted by the 16th Amendment, which reads:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

The Internal Revenue Service actually predates the 16th Amendment by 50 years; per its website, it was created when an income tax was enacted in 1862 to pay for the Civil War, though it was later repealed after the war had ended.  Once the 16th Amendment had been ratified, per the IRS, "Congress levied a 1 percent tax on net personal incomes above $3,000 with a 6 percent surtax on incomes of more than $500,000".  For those keeping score at home, Wikipedia's IRS entry* states that, adjusted for inflation, $3,000 would be worth about $65,000.  So, then, to pay for the federal government under those standards today would require a 1 percent tax on income over $65,000, and a 6 percent surtax on incomes over about $10,833,333.  (I think I could live with such a tax table.)

The very first Form 1040 is available for viewing on the IRS's website.

E-filing, per Wikipedia*, came into being around 1995.

Sixteen years later, "only 30 percent of tax forms are now sent by mail", according to The Coloradan.

The filing deadline was delayed until April 18 this year because of the celebration of Emancipation Day* in Washington, D.C.  This holiday became official in Washington in 2005 and is celebrated on April 16, unless, of course, it falls on a weekend, in which case an alternate day off from work must be provided.  (Meanwhile, I'm finally past the midpoint of my New-Years-to-Memorial-Day period of no holidays whatsoever.  Such is the life of the small-business employee.)  And, since the day selected for observance this year was April 15, no one was available to process tax returns, and so the deadline was moved to April 18.

The Tax Foundation celebrates Tax Freedom Day each year.  That is the day when the average American will have made enough money to cover all federal/state/whatever taxes for the year.  This year, Tax Freedom Day was April 12.

However, if the total cost of covering our budget deficit is factored into the equation, Tax Freedom Day would not be until May 23.

The average tax refund this year is $2,895.  This means a lot of people have way too much money withheld from their paychecks.  People who do that are giving the federal government a free loan for many months.  My general rule is to work through the allowance worksheet on your W-4 form and add at least one to get the total number of allowances to claim.  Of course, that takes into account my deductions; your mileage may vary.

45% of all American households will have no tax liability this year.  None.

The article which provided the previous fun fact has the absolutely-not-meant-to-be-inflammatory-no-really headline "Super rich see federal taxes drop dramatically".  I'm sure that has nothing to do with President Obama's renewed cry to raise taxes on "the rich".

The U.S. corporate income tax rate is 35%, making it one of the highest rates in the world.  It's no wonder that some companies, through totally legitimate means, use off-shore subsidiaries and other methods to lower their tax rates.  This, of course, leads some to protest in the streets, when a better way to change things would be to lower corporate income taxes, so that doing business in the United States wouldn't be so costly.  And what conservative mind had that thought?  Why, none other than President Obama's Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner.

And since we're talking about people up in arms regarding supposed unfairness in income taxes paid, I'll just point out that, per the Wall Street Journal, the top 1% of wage-earners in the U.S. paid 38% of all federal income taxes in 2008 (the last year for which data is available).  And to those who think we can solve our debt crisis by taxing the rich, as apparently the president thinks is a winning answer, the Journal also points out the following:

If you took all [emphasis mine] the income of people over $200,000, it would yield about $1.89 trillion, enough revenue to cover the 2012 bill for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—but not the same bill in 2016, as the costs of those entitlements are expected to grow rapidly. The rich, in short, aren't nearly rich enough to finance Mr. Obama's entitlement state ambitions—even before his health-care plan kicks in.

Just a few thoughts to tide you over as you sit hunched over your keyboard, hoping that Turbotax will give you the correct answer.

Oh, and are you running late this year?  If you qualify for FreeFile (adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less), you can still e-file Form 4868 for an extension at the IRS's website.  Of course, if you owe tax, it's still due now, or you can always pay whatever penalty the IRS sees fit to assess.

(Hat tip:  The Daily Caller)

*Information obtained from Wikipedia is, as always, not guaranteed to be accurate.  It is entirely possible on any given day, for example to find the entry for Atlantic Records replaced with a fairly rude statement.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Stuff I missed, Part 1

In my self-imposed exile from blogging (partially brought about by happenings highlighted in my previous post), I missed quite a few items about which I would normally have blogged.  For the sake of my thousands of readers catharsis, here are a few of the high points:

1.  RIP, Geraldine Ferraro.  Regardless of her political stances, she was absolutely a trailblazer.  I doubt, though, that she would have been too impressed with the way that far too many people commemorated her by slamming Sarah Palin.  (Language warning for the previous link, because some amount of slamming of Sarah Palin apparently is required to use objectionable language.)  Really?   Is the death of Ms. Ferraro a mere tool to continue your crusade against the idea, nay, the possibility that a woman might have conservative leanings and be treated with a modicum of respect?  It's sad, really.  Wendy K over at NewsReal Blog calls this behavior "the death of dignity".

2.  Prior to that, Sarah Palin (yeah, I write a lot about Sarah Palin...if you've been here more than once, you know this) had issued a statement about the Supreme Court's controversial ruling upholding the right of Fred Phelps and his ilk to protest at military funerals.  I actually did start a blog entry on this one, but I never finished (there is, after all, a reason why this blog has a label entitled "I have no time management skills"), so in the interests of not having a bunch of stupid unfinished drafts lying around, I present some old thoughts of mine, with slight editing:

I think some Palin-haters just love to parse every little thing Sarah Palin says in the hopes that they can have a "gotcha" moment.  (Sadly, this includes a Facebook connection of mine whose utter contempt for Gov. Palin led to what was in effect the end of our friendship.)

This week's [week of February 28] favorite topic for the everpresent wordsnatchers was a tweet from Gov. Palin on Wednesday the 2nd relating to the Supreme Court's ruling with regard to the Westboro Baptist Church and their continual practice of making Christianity look really, really bad.  The tweet read as follows:

Well, according to some, obviously that meant that she was against the decision and therefore against free speech.  "PALIN MISINTERPRETS THE FIRST AMENDMENT!!!!!11!" I hear them shouting.  No, I'm not linking them.  Go find it yourself if you're that interested, 'cos these people are flat out wrong.

And how I know they're wrong?  Well, someone bothered, rather than to assume what Sarah Palin's opinion is, to ask her.  I know, what a concept.  Well, the Daily Caller got a response from Gov. Palin about what she meant.  And it's a good thing, as, well, as they point out, "Her quote was interpreted by many news outlets, including The Daily Caller, to mean that she disagreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling."  But they do post her take on this:

“Obviously my comment meant that when we’re told we can’t say ‘God bless you’ in graduation speeches or pray before a local football game but these wackos can invoke God’s name in their hate speech while picketing our military funerals, it shows ridiculous inconsistency,” Palin told TheDC. “I wasn’t calling for any limit on free speech, and it’s a shame some folks tried to twist my comment in that way. I was simply pointing out the irony of an often selective interpretation of free speech rights.”

And that's as far as I got.  Anyway, whether or not Gov. Palin's interpretation is correct, it probably deserves more of a real discussion than it ever got.

Moving on...

3.  How do you like this?  One of the very few entries I've actually posted this year linked to a news article about what turned out to be a hoax study.  So, once again, men will have to find some other way to justify staring at women's breasts.  I'm sure we'll continue to see coverage of this quest as it develops.

I think, after that item, we'll leave it at that for the moment.  More stuff I missed will undoubtedly be coming, if and when I ever get around to it.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Snowed In vs. Burnout

I suppose I owe the few regular readers I have (who usually say things like "you write Snowed In?" when they see me in person...hopefully they continue to visit after that, but who knows) an explanation for the incredible slowdown in posting frequency in recent months.  In addition to the decisions that weighed on the Snowed family, 2011 has given me pause to think about things, and as most people know, thinking and blogging don't always go hand-in-hand.  At least not around this blog.

See, 2011 started in the worst way possible.  Ten minutes into the new year, I learned that one of my best friends from high school* passed away very unexpectedly.  He was a good friend in days when good friends were hard to come by.  We still tried to get together with my friend every time we visited the old country.**

My friend had had a really, really lousy 2010.  His marriage was in the process of ending non-amicably, and his sister had died unexpectedly in almost the same manner in which he would die several months later.  We tried to reach out to him the one time we visited the old country last year, but we never could get hold of him.  I guess when one is going through hell, one does not always want company.

Anyway, my friend's death put things in perspective for me.  It reminded me that we really aren't promised a tomorrow, at least in this life.  And it made me think about how much time I spend in front of a computer when I could be spending it with family and/or friends.***  Is staying up late writing blog entries that are read by as many as ten people in a day really worth it?  Is tweeting?

And then, a few days later, Gabby Giffords and a bunch of other people were shot, and a dialogue started calling for a "new tone".  Or so we thought at the time.  In one of my very few blog postings in 2011, I wrote about that here.  And so, between the death of my friend and this, I have been asking myself quite often if spreading my cynicism around the interwebs is the best use of my time.  (Given that I am writing this portion of the entry at 11:00pm, the answer to that question, at this exact moment, is definitely no.)

And since then, I've watched as people have thrown the "new tone" right out the window, be they Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians****, or whatever.  Meanwhile, I've kept to tweeting, and determining whether I've embraced any new tone myself is an exercise to the reader, and good luck to you, as I'm about to hit 20,000 tweets (and possibly as many as four of them were really meaningful).  I'd like to think that I'm not perpetuating any hatred toward those with whom I am politically opposed; if nothing else, I'm definitely self-censoring myself a lot more.

But I have gotten a better idea of what the teacher meant when he said not to cast one's pearls before swine.  I made the mistake of assuming that the Twitter bio of someone with whom I was unfamiliar, when it read "church-goer", meant that he might respond positively to a scriptural reference...see, he was raining all sorts of hatred on a couple of people with whom I was familiar because they're in my twitstream.  And, as a "church-goer", that made him my brother, right?  Scripture says "if your brother sins, rebuke him", and so I pointed out, quite gently IMO, that "church-goers", aka Christians, are not to hate their enemies.  And what did I get for this?  I was told, by the aforementioned "church-goer", that I am going to hell, where, he hopes, I will be sodomized for all eternity by Rush Limbaugh.  (The actual quote is much, much rougher, and will not be repeated here.)  Where that expectoration of bile that he wrote came from, I have no idea, but it certainly made me wonder even further what the point is of even trying to have a political conversation with other people.  Is it worth it to tweet or blog political ideas?  Does anyone really want to hear what I think, or is everyone looking for their own personal echo chamber?  I don't really know anymore.

(No, I'm not giving this guy a link; why would you even ask?)

For those who've been around here for a little while, you might have seen the first seeds of this line of thought in entries here, here, and here, in which a former friend flushed a friendship with me over political differences.  (As of this writing, that friend has never responded to me, though I changed my privacy settings on those entries so that the friend would see them when I posted them on Facebook.  I no longer expect to hear from that person.  Ever.)

I could go on about the unending antipathy toward all things conservative in some Austin publications and/or websites, or the continuing use of certain disparaging terms to describe Tea Party members, or the aforementioned decisions affecting the future of the Snowed family, or whatever, but I won't today.  Regardless, it all adds up to the question:  is writing still worth it?

I don't know that that question has a simple answer.  I suppose it's cathartic in some sense for me, but catharsis does not necessarily make for an A-list blog.  (For those asking, I believe my blog is somewhere around V.)  I do believe that I have, at times, put more priority on writing than on things than I should; there are many more important things that should take a higher priority.  (Like, say, sleep.)  I'd still like to post the occasional blog entry, but I can't guarantee that I will be able to post in as timely a manner as...well, actually, from looking back over the history of this blog, timeliness has almost never been a trait found around here.  I guess that's not change...that's more of the same.

So no real answers, just more questions here.  And, in a repeat of my last post, a request for prayers for wisdom.  For all of us.

Good night, one and all.

* No, gentle readers, I'm not still in high school, though the mentality seen in a few posts here might fit in well there.

** "Old country" should be read as "the place where I used to live which is not going to be named here".   

*** This is not to say that I don't have online friends as well, but honestly, family takes precedence. 

**** Had to include them because there is one person in my twitstream who definitely has libertarian leanings who has what can only be termed an unhealthy obesssion with one Sarah Palin.  Ooh, she ran a yellow light?  That's worth at least seven tweets and a 13-paragraph post!