As the peaceful negotiations over a nuclear deal with Iran happily make their way to a resolution, many opponents of the current deal (or any deal with Iran) raise irrelevant alarm bells over some of the rhetoric that emanates from the Iranian leadership. A recent example was Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s agreement with a crowd chanting “Death to America” during one of his public appearances and the ensuing backlash from Western opponents over the situation. While it may not be the most pleasing thing to hear, it should be taken for what it is in the grand scheme of things: empty rhetoric to please his people and nothing more.
In fact, if we were to step back from the situation and look at it objectively, it’s a perfectly rational thing for him to say. It’s what leaders and politicians do. They talk tough and make promises they have no intention or capability of keeping in order to keep their people behind them. What would it look like if he did anything else? What would he be saying? I’m guessing it would go something like:
“People of Iran. This is your Supreme Leader announcing to you that we will be letting the U.S. and Israel run our country however they please. I know. I know. They were directly involved in the military overthrow of our democratically elected leader in 1953 and installed a ruthless dictatorship that we had to overthrow. They were also responsible for the Stuxnet cyber attack, an action one of these countries has officially and hypocritically declared is an act of war. But we can totally trust them now and I’m sure we will be the best run Western colony in the history of the world!”
Yeah, it would be completely ridiculous.
But hey, let’s remember that all spoken rhetoric eventually comes true. Just look at all the things Iranian leaders have said in the past and then carried out that have been 100% prophetic, such as “Death to Russia”, “Death to England”, “Death to France”, “Death to Israel”, and “Death to Saddam” (not Iraq). Oh, the overwhelming nostalgia! Remember France before Iran destroyed it? So much culture and fancy paintings. It was almost like being in modern day Paris!
The point is, rhetoric is just talk and it should be expected to be tough and reflect a self-interest for whoever is speaking. The actions Iran is taking by negotiating with the P5+1 and seeking a peaceful resolution is what truly matters. And just to drive the point home that Khamenei’s rhetoric should not be taken too literally, here are some more examples from history of rhetoric that either never came true or did not match the actions taken by the speaker.
Fidel Castro, former Cuban President
I propose the immediate launching of a nuclear strike on the United States. (1992)
Yes, remember the Cuban nuclear missile strike on Florida in the ’90s? The radiation hit some counties so hard they lost the ability to properly count votes in presidential elections.
Nikita Khrushchev, former Soviet Premier
Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in. (We will bury you.) (Remark to Western ambassadors, 1956)
It’s really unfortunate Western society was buried by Communist Russia in the 1950s. But look at the bright side, comrades. At least we all got really cool furry hats!
John McCain, former Maverick and current regretter of vice-presidential choices
That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran’. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah… (2007)
Really a missed opportunity here, folks. Think of all the money the military industrial complex has missed out on with him losing in ’08. There’s always 2016!
Hugo Chavez, former president of Venezuela
Let’s save the human race, let’s finish off the U.S. empire. (2006)
Coincidentally, he said this while in Iran. Now we know where they got it from. Peer pressure!
Ronald Reagan, former U.S. president
President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment…I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. (1982)
Uncle Ronny was clearly a great judge of character. Montt was, at the time, in the process of committing genocide in his own country, a crime he would eventually be found guilty for conducting (he is currently awaiting a new trial after the conviction was overturned in what appears to be a scheme to keep him out of prison until he dies). Nicely done, Mr. Reagan!
Kim Jong-Il, former Supreme Leader of North Korea
I’m an Internet expert too. (2007)
No…just, no. Kim was a bit of a recluse, as most know, but the state-run news agency did release direct statements that threatened to “wipe out” the United States while he was in charge. Just another successfully unsuccessful bit of rhetoric.
Mother Nature, current ruler of Pangea
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men… (continues)
The quote is kind of long and is still being spoken. But she’s getting pretty close to the end and I’m assuming what happens when she is done speaking is going to be pretty ugly for her constituents…
Richard Nixon, former U.S. president
I did not wait for my inauguration to begin my quest for peace (in Vietnam). (1969)
An absolute lie. We now know that Nixon actually sabotaged peace talks with Vietnam in 1968 while still a candidate for the presidency and did so to help his own political campaign at home. Just a disgusting moment in history.
The point of all this is to simply note that rhetoric can frequently mean little while the actions of the speaker can be something very different. This reality should be particularly considered in the case of Iran as they have been logically talking tough against the West at times but, according to U.S. and Israeli intelligence, shut down their nuclear weapons program years ago. We should always remember that the phrase “all politics is local” doesn’t just apply to the United States and it should be no surprise when we hear some foreign leaders score points with their people by taking shots at us. In fact, if you don’t expect that to happen, you should really tone down the hubris a bit.
Bottom line, Iran has come to the negotiating table and is making a deal. If the GOP warfare queens in Congress decide to kill the deal and the situation eventually disintegrates into military actions, the blood of every American and Iranian that dies will be on their hands and history should properly place the blame squarely on each and every politician that turned away from peace.
Every once in a while a news headline on Yahoo’s home page catches my eye, mostly because it seems completely ridiculous. Yesterday was no exception when I saw the ominous headline “Restaurants in Seattle Going Dark as $15 an Hour Minimum Wage Looms“. A scary headline for an article with content that shouldn’t scare anyone that made it past kindergarten.
When it comes to right-wing scare tactics on minimum wage increases in general, one is forced to accept a fallacy that would crush their argument if they ever had to address it. The fallacy is this: people making minimum wage would not spend the extra money they would make from a wage increase. In other words, the money would simply be paid to them and then find its way into a black hole, never to be heard from again. There would be no increase in consumer spending on basic products or other goods and services and no increase in the sales and production of residual businesses not paying their workers minimum wage. The article linked is no exception as it feeds the reader the fallacy and makes no mention of the reality of minimum wage increases.
Another right-wing tactic is to always focus on restaurants and how they will fail if the minimum wage is ever increased. This is nothing more than using a convenient target to try to sway the uninformed. Depending on what statistics you use, the failure rate of restaurants in the first three years is generally accepted at roughly 60%. In other words, most restaurants will fail regardless of the minimum wage so its an easy but deceiving target for the right to use when arguing their absurd points.
While this is no surprise, there is another snippet of info given in the piece that deserves further analysis. The article gives us some numbers that seem scary on the surface when read:
Washington Restaurant Association’s Anthony Anton puts it this way: “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.”
“He estimates that a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs). The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restauranteur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year.
Gasp! The owner only making $28k a year on a $700k a year restaurant? Sounds horrific…unless we choose to do some math. Let’s play this game.
$700k divided by 365 days gives us an average daily revenue of $1918. Let’s assume the restaurant is open on average 12 hours a day (10 am-10 pm, for example, lunch and dinner). $1918 divided by 12 gives us roughly $160 per hour. Assuming the average customer spends $10 per meal and drink, we get 16 customers per hour. If a restaurant in a major city like Seattle is only getting that many customers per hour, they are clearly on their way to closing their doors anyway. But wait, there’s more.
As is noted, 36% of funds are devoted to labor. 36% of $700k is 252000. A 36-hour per week worker (6 days, 6 hours per in this scenario) making Washington’s minimum wage ($9.47) makes $17,725 a year. $252k divided by $17,725 gives us roughly 14 workers. With a 12 hour day, you would need a minimum of two workers per position. That gives us 2 hosts/hostesses (assuming you need it), 2 cooks, 2 kitchen preps, 2 dishwashers, 1 additional manager, and 5 servers (who apparently make the state minimum wage in Washington). Here’s where an important reality comes to light in their numbers given.
With 5 servers, you would have 3 working half of the time to split the previously derived 16 customers per hour, which is completely ridiculous in terms of being grossly overstaffed. Assuming the 16 customers are 8 couples dining together, this means a little less than 3 tables per hour per server. As someone who was once an atrocious excuse for a server in my earlier working days and can speak from experience, a server can easily handle 6-7 tables per hour without breaking much of a sweat. And that’s if you’re terrible at your job, like I was.
In other words, the restaurant in the example given is clearly overstaffed and badly run on top of not getting enough foot traffic in the first place. If we were to bring the server situation down to a more appropriate level, what happens with the owner’s $28k a year takeaway on a $700k restaurant? What if you take away 1 or both hosts/hostesses because they aren’t needed due to the light customer traffic? If we take out 4 workers, we suddenly get an additional $70k. Obviously, some of this would go to the additional manager and (hopefully) some raises, but the owner is likely taking a good chunk of this home. What happens to that $28k per year? Exactly.
If the right wants to scare the country into believing the minimum wage should not be increased or should go away entirely, they should probably use a better hypothetical example than a badly run, overstaffed restaurant with too little of a customer base to survive in such a big city.
Money, money, money, dru-ugs…and guns. I forget how that song goes.
- GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio lays out his economic plan for the country and it’s all kinds of terrible. Nothing overly surprising in the plan as it’s a giveaway to the wealthy and will hurt the poor and middle-class, like most GOP proposals. Tax cuts for corporations, elimination of dividends and capital gains tax, and cuts to Medicare and Social Security to pay for it. Please keep trumping that idea around so everyone is clear about what you want to do to us. I’m sure that presidential run will go great, Senator Nochanceinhell!
- In economic inequality news, David Geffen donates $100 million to Lincoln Center. It’s great he wants to make such a donation to the arts but it’s hard to ignore the economic disparity when these donations are made at the same time the wages of the majority have stagnated for so many decades. It must be nice to donate the equivalent of 6631 minimum wage earners’ combined yearly salaries in one shot. The donation is great but it does help exemplify the huge difference between the have-everythings and the have-littles.
- An appeals court has upheld a California city’s ban on gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. A small victory for commonsense gun policy but the case will go through more appeals as gun nuts desperately beg for an increase in the size of their magazines. Blah blah blah penis joke. Bob Loblaw penis joke. Blah blah blah penis joke. Moving on.
- Heroin death rates in the United States have quadrupled since 2000. So odd it is happening. It’s almost as if the market has been flooded with more heroin from the people who grow the most heroin in the world since the year 2000 for some reason. I wonder how that happened?
The article is filled with good information until the end when this quote appears:
David G. Evans, of the Drug-Free America Foundation, blames the use of less-harmful drugs for the uptick in heroin use.
“I think heroin deaths are going up in part because the attitude has changed towards marijuana,” he said. “Kids now think marijuana is a medicine so it’s okay to use it. You get involved in a drug culture, you get high, you get addicted, one drug just seems like the other, and I think that’s a big part of it.”
Ah, the good ole Gateway Theory. Hasn’t that myth been killed enough by academics to never bother quoting in a serious article on drug use? It’s like finding a fossil fuel funded climate denying scientist to quote in a climate change article. We’re better than that now, aren’t we?
- Palestinian president Abbas calls Israel gangsters over the tax dollars they are holding from the Palestinian people. If you read the article closely, it clearly maps out how this situation could easily (and will likely) devolve into more violence due to Israel’s horrendous action. Israel will then “mow the lawn” again and kill more innocent Palestinians in the name of their security, despite the fact they will have caused the situation to begin in the first place.
Already many of the PA’s 140,000 civil servants have had their pay cut by around 40 percent…
Gosh, why would 140k people be angry about their pay being cut nearly in half by an occupying government that just killed more than 2,000 of their people? But remember everyone, it’s Israel that is being treated terribly by the Palestinians and not the other way around. Just listen to their leader. If Netanyahu wasn’t busy lying about the non-existent nuclear threat of Iran, he would be able to lie to you about the threat of Palestinians.
Can’t avoid the impending Iran deal and the circus now around it but more good news on gay marriage.
- Climate change was a contributing factor to the war inside Syria. This has been suggested before but now a team of scientists put together a report explaining this fact for the world to understand. They also mention refugees arriving from Iraq as a contributing factor (who caused that again?). But it’s cool everybody because all we have to do is send senile Senator Inhofe over to Syria with a few snowballs and this whole mess will be cleared up quickly. Peace is on the way!
- Netanyahu’s lies are starting to sink him. A great video on AJA appeared today giving you 5 things he will refuse to admit when he testifies to Congress and is worth watching to give you a quick version of why we should barely pay attention to him. The Intercept also put together a good piece pointing out the many times he has “cried wolf” over the years. Both pieces mention his testimony to Congress about Iraq’s advanced nuclear technology in 2002. Listening to Netanyahu about other country’s nuclear ambitions is like listening to idiot preachers continually predicting the end of the world. No matter how many times these tools are wrong, the foolish still think they speak the truth.
- John Boehner is one of the foolish and can’t hide it. Boehner defended his invite to Netanyahu by stating “Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say”. Yes, because Bibi has no way of transmitting his message to Congress in any other way than to give a speech there during an Israeli election year. No one will put a camera on him or a microphone in front of his mouth. Poor fella. It was like he was a ghost prior to giving his speech. By the way, Mr. Speaker. What is the cost of this versus, say, a conference call with Bibi? I mean, you guys are fiscal conservatives so this is the cheaper route, correct?
- Iran is and has been a rational actor throughout all of this and there is no evidence they are pursuing a nuclear weapon. An excellent read from The Atlantic focusing on this reality but one section is worth quoting here and should be constantly noted about the situation:
That’s why the Bush administration’s 2007 National Intelligence Estimate said Iran is “guided by a cost-benefit approach.” It’s why Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in 2012 that “we are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor.” It’s why Benny Gantz, then head of the Israel Defense Forces, declared the same year that “the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.” It’s why Meir Dagan, the longtime head of Israel’s intelligence agency, called the Iranian regime “rational” in an interview with 60 Minutes. And it’s why Ron Burgess, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.” Could all these men, who analyze intelligence about Iran for a living, be wrong?
- Nebraska’s ban on gay marriage has been struck down by the courts. Another state is added to the ranks of those on the right side of history. I guess they wanted to be able to say they legalized gay marriage prior to the Supreme Court legalizing it across the nation this coming June. No reason, at this point, to be a state that has to be drug kicking and screaming across the finish line by the federal government.
A little bit of good news and a lot of bad…
- Nearly 80% of the voters in Chicago supported publicly financed campaigns. When put to a public vote, this issue leaves little doubt where many stand on the idea that speech is money and where it belongs in our political campaigns. Most of us want it out and want the corruption that comes along with it gone as well. A Gallup poll showed half of the country was in favor of this in 2013, a number very likely to continue growing as the explosion in spending by outside groups who can hide their donors also continues. Of course, Congress would have to bite the hand that feeds their family members 6-figure salaries to run their campaigns in order for this to change, which means it certainly won’t in the foreseeable future.
- Worker productivity grew 74% in the past 40 years while wages only grew 9%. Because that is totally fair. It’s true that part of the increase is due to technology but the disparity is still startling. Considering the incredible increase in income inequality over the same period, it’s pretty obvious the average American is getting the shaft. It’s also obvious which political party’s ideology is most responsible for this outcome. But hey, voting against gay marriage, climate change, and abortion has worked out really well, hasn’t it?
- The sea level north of New York City rose over 5 inches in 2009-2010. The article states it was a “1-850 year event” and it’s likely we’ll see this type of thing more often. And, since it’s an article from an international media source, it doesn’t bother digging up a climate change denier paid by the fossil fuel industry to refute the reality. So refreshing when media accepts scientific consensus and doesn’t play to the least knowledgeable among us.
- If you live in the U.S. then no, you shouldn’t be very afraid of terrorists. An excellent op-ed in The Guardian by a couple of academics noting the recent change in political discourse about terrorism in the U.S. by mostly the Obama administration. In short, if you live here and aren’t traveling to dangerous locales, you are almost certainly not going to die at the hands of a terrorist. And you probably shouldn’t hand over your freedoms and privacy at home in the name of fighting the so-called “War on Terror”.
It is astounding that these utterances – “blindingly obvious” as security specialist Bruce Schneier puts it – appear to mark the first time any officials in the United States have had the notion and the courage to say so in public.
Speaking of terrorism…
- A Palestinian mosque was torched by an Israeli terrorist group. Not that there will be much outrage in the American media over nefarious Israeli actions, such as the shooting death of a 19-year old college student by the Israeli military the day before, as noted in the article. And it’s not like these Israeli terrorist groups have just started up or are carrying out their first attack on Palestinians:
Hebrew graffiti was scrawled on the walls, including “Revenge for the Land of Zion” and “Price Tag,” a phrase used by Israeli nationalists linked to hundreds of attacks on Palestinian targets since 2008. Some attacks have also targeted Israeli military posts. (Emphasis added)
Which begs the question, will the Israeli military kill over 2,000 people, mostly civilians and children, to get back at these groups like they did to Gaza last summer? I mean, these groups are attacking the Israeli military and “hiding behind civilian targets”, aren’t they? And that clearly doesn’t matter when it comes to bombing populations as they’ve shown in the past, right? What’s the difference? Amazing how the double-standards look when they are revealed.
- Prominent climate change-denying scientist has been outed as a fossil fuel-funded hack. Wei-Hock Soon, who has testified to Congress and state governments and been a guest on conservative news programs, has been destroyed in an article today that contains the following tidbits:
He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work…
Dr. Soon also received at least $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation…
Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard.
But hey, he has a fancy title and says things certain rich people want to hear so he is believed by those that don’t realize what he says amounts to a steaming pile of horse manure. Sorta like the vast majority of conservative politicians.
- War on Terror is killing more innocents in Somalia, but with economics instead of military weapons. In an effort to make sure no money makes its way to terrorist groups, banks have closed off any way for immigrants to send money back to their families in Somalia. “Over 40 percent of Somalis rely on money sent from family living abroad to cover needs like food, housing and education, according to a report released Thursday”. This comes after the ugly reality that 260,000 Somalis died during the famine that lasted from October 2010 to April 2012, half of which were children under the age of 5. A surefire way to make even more people hate the West enough to join a terrorist group will be to cut off their lifelines and push them to the brink of starvation in the name of fighting extremists.
- More children in South Sudan have been abducted from school to be soldiers. 89 boys (possibly more) have been added to the 12,000 other children that have been used as soldiers in the country. It’s a sad irony they are taken so young from school when expanded education would likely lead to a quicker and lasting peace. It’s an awful cycle of violence that actions like this will likely help continue for a long time to come.
- According to a Catholic priest, Yoga will lead you to having good posture and a healthy and loving relationship…with SATAN!!! No, that was not a line from an SNL “Church Lady” skit (although it kind of sounds like it). This was actually stated and is apparently believed by the church at the highest levels. Just when you think the church is starting to evolve a little…
- Giuliani now implying President Obama is a Communist. And he is totally correct. I mean, after six years of his heavy-handed rule, the United States is a Communist country in every way imaginable. Just look at how afraid people are to speak out against him and his policies and denounce him with outright lies in the media. He is such a vicious dictator!