O’Reilly Teaches Sam Harris Manners

Sam HarrisThis is interesting: Bill O’Reilly has a conservation where he’s the reasonable one! I like Sam Harris well enough. He’s a pretty good thinker. But there are times…

He really became noted as an atheist neoconservative. His rhetoric toward the Islamic religion was shocking. What I think I found most disturbing was that his knowledge of Islam is actually quite limited. He claims that the religion has jihad as a fundamental part of it. But this really is not more true of it than it is any of the Abrahamic faiths. The question is always how much any given follower is going to focus on this stuff. It is certainly the case that at times in the past, Muslims were a whole lot more reasonable than Christians. And today, I think the vast majority of people of all beliefs just want to be left alone to live their lives.

The following video is interesting in that it shows how a fine intellect can be used to justify base prejudice. Basically, his argument is this: All I know about Islam is what the terrorists claim; I haven’t heard any moderate Islamists attack the terrorist; therefore, Islam is a terrorist religion. This is a particularly shameful exercise, because Sam Harris must know that here in the United States, we really don’t hear a lot of Christians going out of their way to argue against anti-abortion Christian terrorists. If Harris cared to look, it isn’t hard to show that there are tons of Muslims speaking out against terrorists. (By the way: I’m neither pro-Islam nor anti-Islam; I find the faith as interesting as any of the Abrahamic religions; but I think it is pretty silly to believe in, of course; the same as I think about any of the Abrahamic religions.)

This video is remarkable in that it makes Bill O’Reilly seem reasonable. At least in the first interview; in the second one, O’Reilly is his usual stupid self. There is something really bizarre about seeing O’Reilly be the voice of reason. “I don’t know what good [using such inflamatory rhetoric] does other than to t-off Muslims around the world.” Well shut my mouth!

I think that I’ve noticed some thawing of Harris’ rigidity on this issue. But it may be just that he doesn’t talk about it much anymore. Regardless, on most other issues, he’s a pretty reasonable guy.

Minimum Wage is a Winner for Democrats

Bruce BartlettBruce Bartlett is one of those Republicans who stood still. But he is still a Republican and still has a real conservative bent. But I’m the first to admit that not all conservative ideas are bad; I just think that all Republican ideas are bad (in as much as they have ideas). Today, in The Fiscal Times, Bartlett writes, The Minimum Wage: A No-Lose Issue for Democrats. Most of the article is some really vile strategizing about how the Republicans might win the fight over the minimum wage.

Basically, he offers the Winner-Take-All Politics approach to defeating popular legislation that you hate. “I am totally in favor of raising the minimum wage. If we were raising it to $8.99 per hour, I would vote for it. But I just cannot support $9 per hour!” Actually, Bartlett has some great ideas. He notes a couple of ways that the Republicans could kill a minimum wage bill by adding poison amendments like applying it to unpaid interns. (Actually, I kind of like that idea. I think the whole unpaid intern thing is totally out of hand.)

The first part of the article discusses why the minimum wage is such a great issue for Democrats. Even Republican women overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage. And Republican men (“You know: morons!”) are against it, but not overwhelmingly so. What’s more, he notes that if raising the minimum wage hurts jobs (and he certainly believes so), it doesn’t hurt the currently employed; it just hurts people who would have gotten a minimum wage job at the lower rate:

It is almost unheard of for employers to fire workers rather than pay them a higher minimum wage. They may not fill vacancies, they may adjust hours, they may move toward automation, they may scale back benefits and many other things. But firing workers is not one of them.

Of course, we should care about this. But even still, Bartlett makes no argument that this will happen. As noted before, the increased wages of the poor will increase demand economy wide. And what this economy desperately needs is more demand.

My Defense of Comic Sans

Comic SansA couple of years ago, David Kadavy wrote an article explaining to all the prols why the Comic Sans font sucks. But it is also kind of a defense of the font. As he notes, Comic Sans is very readable at low resolution. So what is the problem with the font? There are some technical matters—mostly just that text is not consistent; it tends to be splotchy. But just how much does that matter?

You would not want to read a book printed with Comic Sans. But a flyer? Or even a website? Who cares? The truth is that most hatred of Comic Sans comes down to a lot of pretentious brats ostentatiously showing off their graphic design knowledge. And I really question how much they all hate the font so much as just use said hatred to self-identify with a particular group.

I understand why people like Comic Sans. It is a friendly and fun font. It seems unpretentious. And for people who would once have created a “lost dog” flyer by hand, using Comic Sans is the closest thing. Personally, I find the font kind of boring at this point. But it certainly has its uses as with the t-shirt in the Vsause video below:

Helvetica

But there is one good reason to use Comic Sans on websites. HTML has very awkward font capabilities. In most cases, you just provide a large number of font names and hope that the client computer has one of them. The last time I checked (about 13 years ago), Comic Sans was by far the most common font, found on over 90% of all computers. So as a webpage creator, you could depend upon pages looking the same way on your computer as they do on your readers’ computers. And that is kind of important. (I tend to use Verdana, because it is a pretty good font and probably as ubiquitous as Comic Sans at this point.)

But really, don’t use Comic Sans. If Cute Overload is not using Comic Sans, you shouldn’t either.

Afterword

Here is the excellent Vsause video:

GOP Still Against Democracy

GOP Still Against DemocracyNia-Malika Henderson and Felicia Sonmez reported yesterday on liberal and conservative responses to the president’s voting rights commission, Obama’s Proposed Voting Commission Under Partisan Fire From Both Sides. I’ve already provided the liberal complain: low expectations and working with anti-democratic conservatives. But I’m really surprised by the conservative complains about the new commission.

The arguments basically come down to the same thing they were saying about the Voting Rights Act. “Some conservatives view the initiative as federal overreaching on an issue that is rightly the province of states…” I see: if the states want to limit voting rights then the federal government should have nothing to say about it. After all, it isn’t like we have any founding principles or a document that says people ought to be equal before the law.

This is all interesting. Conservatives love to wrap themselves in the Constitution the same way they wrap themselves in the flag. They’re like typical American Christians who love the Bible but never take the time to actually read it. As Andrew Sullivan wrote yesterday, the GOP lunges “malevolently toward anything that is not far right. That includes the Constitution…” To them, the Constitution is just a stick to beat liberals with, “You’re not patriotic enough!” It is shameful.

Hans von Spa­kovsky of the Heritage Foundation makes the specious argument that since the average waiting time for voting is only 14 minutes, we should do nothing. In other words, because in Northern California I never have to wait at all, Floridians having to wait 6 hours is not a problem. Or to put it another way: the average temperature of my oven is only about 80 degrees, so it doesn’t work at all!

Of course, von Spakovsky’s main point is the usual conservative one: the more people who vote the better liberals do. “Obama’s commission may just be a stalking horse to implement liberals’ latest partisan ­fantasies of automatic and election day voter registration—so-called reforms that will stifle real improvements and endanger the integrity of our elections.” In other words: don’t make it easier to vote!

As I’ve said before: I understand why conservatives are against voting rights. Just the same, they could be a bit more subtle about it. They could at least claim to believe in democracy. But I suppose the onus is on liberals to highlight this fact. Conservatives are against democracy. Do you really want these people in control of government?

Sullivan on Revolutionary Republicans

Andrew SullivanNo entity in our polity right now is more radical and revolutionary than the current GOP: their contempt for institutional custom knows few bounds when it comes to the short-term tactical possibility of impeding even a newly re-elected president, after losing the popular vote for the presidency, Senate and House. The whole concept of putting country before party is that sometimes you take the long national view rather than the short partisan one. You give the other party a chance to govern, as the Democrats did Reagan. But the anti-conservative revolutionary party that Gingrich began and Kristol egged on is now in its zombie stage—with no viable way back to majority status but lunging slowly and malevolently toward anything that is not far right. That includes the Constitution and its evolved customs and parliamentary traditions.

—Andrew Sullivan
Holding Hagel Hostage, Ctd