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A guest-post by Maddie Fitzgerald

I have always been against Trump. I consider him vulgar and unbefitting of the office of the presidency. But sorry, I just need to take a moment to tell everybody to get a grip. It’s not about defending him. I don’t like him. I just feel compelled to respond to and defend him from every single criticism from the media.

The media. Remember them? You should never forget that they hate not just Trump, but all Republicans. that’s why it’s extremely important that Republicans take a stand against media criticisms that are used against Trump today, but might be used against Trump tomorrow. I don’t want to defend Trump, believe me, but somebody has to keep the media in check.

The latest example is Trump’s comments about setting up internment camps for Mormons. Yes, this sounds bad. But the important thing to remember is that the internment camps were originally put in place by FDR, a Democrat. Yes, internment camps are wrong, but where were they then? Is this really an objection to internment camps, or is this just an objection to the fact that it’s Donald Trump, and not their icon, that is proposing it? Nobody is asking this question because everybody is too busy freaking out over what was really just Trump floating an idea. Compare this to Democrats, who have actually implemented policies that would put Mormons in prison if they refuse to bake wedding cakes for gay couples (and refuse to pay fines). I’m not at all in favor of Trump’s proposal, but let’s get real: Are we really supposed to believe that it’s Donald Trump who is against religious freedom here?

This is on the heels of Trump’s previous comments about dropping nuclear bombs on cities that vote against him. Once again, the elites and media are taking a legitimate criticism (that it would be had for a president to drop nuclear bombs on American cities) and blowing it completely out of proportion. Once again, the media is responding to Trump literally and unseriously. Obviously, Trump is not going to detonate a bomb on an American city. Hillary Clinton called tens of millions of Americans deplorable while everybody freaks out over an off-the-cuff hypothetical annihilation of Chicago.

More than anything, however, it was the story about taking CNN’s Leigh Horvit “behind the shed” and “having her shot” that caught the media’s attention. Lordy, lordy, is there anthing the media won’t try to make themselves the story of? First and foremost, the news cycle has to be about them as much as possible. Trump is threatening to kill a lot of people at any given time, and while the media panics every time, when it’s their lives that are threatened they take it to a whole new level of hysterics. Even while Hillary Clinton was refusing to grant press conferences, the media became positively fixated on loose chatter of putting newspapers out of business and having reporters shot.

Frankly, it has grown tiresome to watch conservatives fall into the liberal media narrative over and over again. They ask leading questions like “Are you concerned about your lack of Mormon support?” and get the answer they were hoping for. It may be Trump’s fault for failing to avoid the minefield, but the media are the ones laying the lines. Conservatives usually know better, but they are so wrapped up in their Trump-hatred that they can’t see the obvious.

I’m really not saying all of this to defend Trump. I am simply concerned over the degree of deference we’re giving to the press here. Right now a lot of you think it’s okay because it’s Trump, but what happens the next time a conservative talks about removing disfavored minorities from society? The media is going to use this as an example of why it’s wrong, because that’s their way, and conservatives are just handing it to them.

Category: Newsroom
A guest post by Mike Hunt Ray Rice

In September 2014 Lena Dunham’s memoir Not That Kind of Girl was released. In it, she talks of molesting her younger sister. There was some minor negative commentary, but Dunham was defiant, and seems to have suffered no loss of popularity because of it, and her show Girls was renewed in January.

It has come to the public’s attention that Josh Duggar, the oldest child on 19 Kids and Counting, molested 5 girls when he was a teenager, 4 of whom are his sisters. In contrast to the mild reaction to Dunham, a firestorm has erupted over Duggar. TLC has currently decided to suspend its airing of the shower.

These stories seem similar to me, yet there is a big difference in the public reaction. The question is: why? One possible reason is that Dunham is a woman, while Duggar is a man. It seems more wrong and predatory when a boy explores his curiosity with his younger sisters than when a girl does it.

However, I think it is more than that. I think the reason for the differing public reactions is that Dunham is “cool” and Duggar isn’t. Since Dunham is cool, any great criticism of her is going to make the critic seem uncool. However, since Duggar and his family are seen as weird, any criticism of him is going to be safe. As much as people cry about “punching down” people seem to enjoy it when it comes to Duggar.

Also, Duggar’s politics and his religious beliefs are far out of the mainstream, and he has actively worked against the expansion of LGBTQ rights. Since they are the current favored minority, people are going to do anything they can in order to poke a hole in Duggar’s credibility.

Duggar did these things as a minor. There is a reason why juvenile police records are sealed. The fact that these reports were redacted so cavalierly is a major concern to me. Duggar apologized to those he hurt, and he told his wife before they were married, and she still married him. It really isn’t anyone else’s business. Dunham put it in her memoir in order to make money from her molestation; Duggar was forced to talk about it publicly.

I have never watched 19 Kids and Counting, or Girls for that matter, so I have no vested interest in either show airing or not. I am only writing this post because the hypocrisy that people are showing is troubling. I wish I could say it was surprising, too…

Category: Newsroom

smartphonesI was quite pleasantly surprised when the Obama administration responded quickly for allowing cell phone users to unlock their phones.

There has been some misunderstanding about what unlocking a cell phone means. It basically only means that you can prevent the phone from being carrier-specific as they are manufactured and released to be. This actually has very limited application, however, because in the United States, the carriers are generally incompatible with one another anyway. That’s one of the reasons that despite the current prohibition against unlocking, most of the carriers will let you do it anyway. Most Verizon phones cannot be unlocked to run on AT&T. No AT&T phones can be reworked to get onto Verizon’s network. Really, of the four major carriers, only T-Mobile plays really nice.

Derek Khanna, the GOP wonderkind who was fired from a thinktank for advocating a reworking of copyright laws and who initiated the petition, wrote a follow-up in The Atlantic stating that allowing the unlocking and jailbreaking/rooting* of phones is not enough.

Currently there is an exception for personal jail breaking (allowing individuals to install unapproved applications by altering the OS), but developing, selling, trafficking, or discussing the underlying technology is still illegal and there is no personal exceptions for tablets or other devices. This is unbelievable, especially when according to @Saurik, 23 million iOS devices are running a version of Cydia – a rough barometer of the number of devices jail broken. Until recently, personal jail breaking was illegal as well – meaning that all of the owners of those devices could be criminally liable. Unlocking new phones, as previously explained, is now illegal in all circumstances.

Accessibility technology has received an exception, but it is so narrow that it is nearly useless for persons who are deaf or blind. This exception was not the one requested on behalf of persons who are deaf and blind. And like the jail breaking, while there is a narrow exception for personal use — developing, selling, trafficking, or discussing the underlying technology is still illegal. What use is an exception for accessibility for personal use, if no one can develop the tools?

Technology to backup legally purchased DVDs and Blu-Ray discs for personal use is widely available and widely used but is completely illegal (in the US) – thus making millions of Americans criminals for a what most would consider non-infringing activity (if they own the content).

I agree with every one of his recommendations. I would, however, go a step further. The biggest problem in limiting legitimate smartphone usage is untouched by allowing jailbreaking, rooting, and unlocking. Namely, it’s the degree of control carriers exert over the phones in the first place. Daily Dot touches on it:

There’s another reason why Congress needs to step up to the plate: Open mobile devices and networks are key to future innovation. We’ve seen this before: In the 1960s policymakers finally put a stop to this kind of corporate nonsense in the landline market by allowing customers to attach their own devices to the network. The FCC’s “Carterfone” decision in 1968 ended AT&T’s practice of squelching attempts to innovate on its network or the devices that connected to it. The decision forced AT&T to allow unapproved devices to connect to its network—in this case, a device that helped increase the reach of rural telephone networks. More importantly, the move unleashed a wave of innovation in the U.S. and around the world. Telephone handset prices plummeted, answering machines and cordless phones became commonplace and computer modems were invented, ushering in today’s Internet era.

Once upon a time, I had a job that involved working on prototype smartphones. I primarily worked with devices that were under development from two sources. Both are names you would recognize. Both had a good product. Some of us preferred one, some of us preferred the other. Only one of these two companies would you associate with smartphones. The company that had the phones I preferred never released it in the United States, despite the fact that it was a fully operational device when I tested it. Why did one of these highly successful companies succeed in becoming a fixture in the smartphone world while the other remains just another electronics company? Because one of the companies got their devices onto the carrier networks. The other didn’t. So it wasn’t a question of which one made the better phone. It was a question of the carrier playing favorites.

To some extent, this is unavoidable. Carriers cannot endorse every every phone made by somebody somewhere. Even if they mean well. Except our carriers don’t. Unless you’re Apple, your phone only gets picked up by a carrier if it meets certain requirements that benefit the carrier and not the customer.

But companies that depend on the carriers are forced to play along — and as a result, they’re not allowed to compete on equal footing with giants like Apple and Samsung. The HTC One X is a high-end flagship device designed to compete squarely with the iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S III, but Verizon and Sprint aren’t carrying it: instead, Sprint offers a variant called the Evo 4G LTE, and Verizon is selling a downgraded device called the Droid Incredible 4G that simply doesn’t match up to higher-end competition. How is HTC to compete for Verizon customers with a weaker device? Why should HTC depend on struggling Sprint to market and sell a custom phone when it could just leverage its existing One X campaigns to take on Apple directly?

And because success in the wireless marketplace can only come with carrier support, innovation is stunted as companies design their future products around what they think carriers might want, not where the market or consumer behavior is heading. “Companies build phones that the carriers ask for instead of taking risks and testing new concepts in the marketplace,” says Vizio’s McRae. “The result is a collection of handsets that are fairly homogenous from a small number of brands.”

It’s worth noting here that not all carriers are equally closed. T-Mobile plays nice, by and large. AT&T is also at least somewhat flexible (though it’s tougher to get one with 4G connectivity from a non-approved device). On the other end, Verizon will not let any phone onto their network that isn’t branded for them and they place significant demands on what they’ll activate.

In addition to the innovation issue, there is also the customer freedom angle. Which is to say that the carriers are erecting their own barriers-to-exit. Even if I relocate to an area where T-Mobile is an option, as a Verizon customer I will have to replace all of my phones and tablets to make the transition. That’s a bigger barrier than any contract I’ve signed. It’s not just that my specific phone cannot work with AT&T’s network, but that I couldn’t purchase – and Samsung couldn’t make – one that would allow me to do so. Now, maybe in a competitive market such phones still wouldn’t exist, but cross-network compatibility is not a novel concept and it’s the carriers that have a lot of incentives to prevent it from happening. It doesn’t matter whether T-Mobile plays nice if nobody else does. An open phone is just a T-Mobile phone by default, or a crippled AT&T one.

There are a couple arguments against forcing carriers to open their networks to non-approved phones. The first is one of free markets, the second one of quality assurance.

The free market argument goes that if T-Mobile is playing nice, but Verizon isn’t, if this is important to consumers they will flock to T-Mobile. The market will work itself out. Or, alternately, the government simply shouldn’t get involved because it’s simply not the government’s place. The problem with both of these arguments is that we are facing a natural (though government-assisted) oligopoly. The capital costs are prohibitive for a new entrant to set things right. T-Mobile is open in part because they lack the capital costs to be a technically competitive network. Their policies are, I suspect, borne more of necessity and desperation than actual goodwill. Since we’re stuck with only four carriers, there is a public interest argument for disallowing competitive behavior that is made more strong by the fact that they exist on the shoulders of government-assigned frequency spectrum. It’s hard for a really free market to exist in this sort of environment.

The quality assurance argument is relatively weak and ultimately can be worked out. The argument here goes that Verizon disallows unauthorized phones because it reflects poorly on them if someone buys a cheap phone and thus gets crappy service. This is true, but only to an extent. This, however, applies to a whole bunch of areas where we do trust consumers to know the difference. If I buy a crappy television and DirecTV’s signal looks poor, that may reflect negatively on DirecTV but we wouldn’t allow DirecTV to demand that only their approved TV sets can be used with their service. If they tried to do that, we would probably respond to them the same way we responded when landline telco tried to do that.

I am sympathetic to Verizon et al demanding that phones they don’t approve of can’t be branded with their name. I’d even support some limitations on how those phones can be advertised (perhaps the requirement of a disclaimer stating that while the manufacturer makes the claim that it works on Verizon’s network, Verizon makes no such claim).

There is a third argument, but it’s a non-starter. That argument goes that if people can take their phones from one carrier to the next, it will kill the subsidization model where people pay a steeply discounted price for a phone with the condition of a two year contract. If only this were true! I hate the subsidy model. There are better ways even for cash-strapped customers who cannot easily afford the full price of a new phone. But the primary stick of the carriers is not locked phones, but rather early termination penalties. All they need is for those to reflect the subsidies, or go the T-Mobile route and have people purchase the phone in installments (all payments due upon service termination).

The solution, as far as I am concerned, is that the providers must provide handset makers the technical specs for compatibility with their network and are forced to either rely entirely on a SIM card for operability, or alternately that they have an automatic registration system for devices.

Lenovo is looking at entering the American market. Lenovo is the current maker of ThinkPad computers, of which I am a devotee. Whether Lenovo can succeed here on its merits is an open question. The ThinkPad brand is better known than the Lenovo brand and other computer makers – such as HP and Dell – have tried and failed in the North American market. But whether they succeed or fail should not depend on the customers, not the cooperation of four corporations here.

* – Unlocking means breaking the lock that connects a specific phone to a specific carrier. Often confused with unlocking, jailbreaking and rooting a device removes the barriers that prevent people from making unauthorized customizations of the device, ranging from installing carrier’s software to installing unauthorized or system-modifying software.

Old-school readers of Hit Coffee and associated blogs will remember Sheila Tone’s “Prole Test.” Originally posted on Vikram’s old blog, it went down when his old site did. However, as Charles Murray causes a wave with his Bubble Thickness Test, I thought that it was high-time to reproduce it.


A few weeks back, Vikram wrote a sweet little post about how people should be more sympathetic to my woes. (sniff) But he gives me too much credit, saying I was poor. I wasn’t. Not by any government definition anyway.

But I wasn’t middle-class, either. So what am I talking about? I hope the little quiz below helps clarify things.

The best term I’ve been able to come up with is working-class, which leaves some loopholes. How about semi-prolehood? Whatever it is, it describes an important difference. It means you’re not poor, but there’s still a big difference in what you get to do for a living, where you get to go to school, and how you live.

Remember, this isn’t about being in the underclass. That’s why many serious hardships aren’t scored. It’s about how you might eventually graduate from college, but you’ll never get to work for the New York Times. You could maybe be a lawyer, but you’ll never work for one of those big firms. Definitely a schoolteacher, but probably not a professor. And for God’s sake, don’t try to get into screenwriting or directing. Yes, I know about Quentin Tarantino, but name three others who are under 60. Finance or politics will also be rough (but good luck, Dizzy).

The following are a few telltale characteristics of the non-middle-class:

1. Military service.

This obviously only applies at times your family was in the United States, so apologies to recent immigrants. Did anyone in your family serve? As an enlisted person? No points for officers. One prole point for each grandparent, uncle or cousin. Two for each parent. Three for each sibling or yourself.

2. Professions.

Is anyone in your family a medical doctor? Minus three points for the first, one point for each additional. Minus two for the first lawyer or university professor (must be an accredited university), one for each additional. Either parent work for the government in a non-management, non-elected position? One prole point — unless it’s your mom and she was a teacher. Then no points, because women from higher classes often become teachers.

3. Education.

How many people from your graduating high school class went to an Ivy League university? Any? Minus one point for each, up to a maximum 3 points. Edit: Add one point if you had to travel more than 30 minutes to get to that high school.*

How many people in your immediate family (counting grandparents, parents, siblings and spouses) have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited, non-online institution? Minus one point for each — but only if they got the degree prior to age 24. Minus two points for each USNWR first-tier. Don’t count anyone you already counted as a professional in Number 2.

Two prole points if no for both parents and all grandparents. Three prole points if your answer is zero for all immediate family besides yourself, and you have at least one sibling.

Minus one if you graduated from any accredited college before the age of 24. Minus one more if it was a USNWR first-tier.

Notice there are no points assigned based upon who paid for your education. This is not an oversight. Many non-middle-class parents and grandparents — cops, aerospace workers — proudly pay for their descendants’ attendance at USC, Loyola Marymount, University of LaVerne, and Cal State whatever.

4. Health Insurance.

Growing up, was your health insurance HMO or private? One prole point for HMO or none.

I remember in a political science class, we were going on a class trip and needed to provide our medical insurance carrier. A list was passed around. I was last to sign. I saw that every other student had either Blue Cross or Blue Shield. And that was even at my crappy state school. (The polisci kids tended to be future lawyers, and seemed younger and wealthier than the general student population.)

5. Travel.

Prior to age 24, how many times did you travel outside the continental United States by airplane or boat? Minus one point for each time — but no points if it was to visit relatives. One prole point if your answer is never.

6. Discipline.

Did your parents physically discipline you after the age of 7? One prole point. Three points for after the age of 12. Minus one if your answer is never — unless you’re Jewish, then no deduction. My understanding is that Jewish people in the United States never physically discipline regardless of their economic status.

7. Inheritance.

Prior to age 30, did you inherit money? If so, minus one.

Yes, choosing 30 is a bit arbitrary. It’s an age when you’re still in the youth demographic and at least one parent is usually still alive. How much you got doesn’t matter. You’re either from the type of family that does that, or you’re not. A semi-prole could easily have a parent die prior to 30, but the parent either would have died with no money or left all assets to the other parent, probably passing by intestacy. If both your parents died I’ll let you decide if the point is fair.

More likely scenario is that your grandparents left you money. That kind of estate planning is for the upper classes.

8. Traditional family.

Were your parents divorced or estranged prior to your entry into high school? If so, one prole point. Same if they weren’t married at the time of your birth. This does not apply if at the time of your birth, your parents lived in either California or New York and were working in entertainment or the arts. Those people live by different rules.

One point if a parent died prior to your entry into high school and the surviving parent failed to remarry within five years (speaks to economic problems and lack of social ties).

Do you know the full names and maiden names of your grandparents? If not, plus one. Great-grandparents? Minus one. Got any pictures of the greats? Minus one. Edit: Unless they’re still alive, then plus one. OK, no points either way if they’re over 100.


If you ended up with any points, you’re on Sheila’s side of the wall. Sorry. Have a Happy Meal, it always makes me feel better.

* Like in Half Sigma’s high school, probably half the class went to Ivies, but he had to take a boat every morning to get there. That should count for something.

Clarification: If you are married, include your spouse and his family in your the answers to 1, 2, 3, and 7. Those are about current status. Don’t count your spouse in 4, 5, 6, and 8. Those refer to your individual background.

Addendum: Earn up to six additional points for Native American heritage!

Category: Coffeehouse