Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Rules They Don't Live By

A while back, Vann Jones (former climate guy for President Obama and current socialist/fag lover/grandma plug puller/statist who wants to rape all of our children) was asked why the Republicans get to behave the way they do. His answer?

"Because they are assholes."

He got fired over the remark by President Obama.

Gotcha right winger James O'Keefe captured former NPR exec Ron Schiller saying that the Tea Party was racist and generally slamming conservatives. He was fired along with Vivian Schiller (no relation) from NPR for his comments.

Sensing a pattern here? Other than the fact that Jones and Schiller were both accurate, of course:)

It's pretty simple. Generally speaking, the right wing of America does not have to live by the rules. They are, in fact, assholes and get to do pretty much whatever they want. They can call Barack Obama "the magic Negro" and it's not racist. They can sting other people in heavily edited videotapes but refuse to allow themselves to be videotaped as is the case with Mr. O'Keefe (so much for him being the right's answer to Michael Moore as Moore can wait to have his mug anywhere people will have him). Or they can say things like this:

Pussy. And YOU ARE STILL WRONG. NPR is run and produces nothing but liberal drivel. Pussy.

Yet I am the one with "voices in my head."

Democrats, liberals, and progressives have to live by the rules. Conservatives don't. And the more the left lives by them, the less the right does. This has lead to the right trying to "catch" the left in not living by them so they can (in typical school yard bully fashion) point and say, "See? They do it too!! N'yah N'yah!" See, when people like Schiller or Jones say things like they did, they get fired. When Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin says it, they get more money and supporters cheering them. Understand the difference between conservatives and liberals these days? It gets worse.

Governor Walker and the rest of the GOP in Wisconsin ignored a judge's ruling and are moving ahead with the bill they passed anyway. Starting on April 21st, union dues will no longer be collected from workers paychecks. The state of Wisconsin will also begin deducting more money for health benefits from each state worker's check. They had the law published already which basically means they are already in contempt. If they actually take this next step, they will have defied a judge's ruling twice. But, hey, she's a fucking commie so fuck her!

Will they do it? They say they are going to but I'm more interested in their frame of mind which is pretty much how most conservatives around the country think. They are under the (quite mistaken) impression that liberals cheated when they passed health care. Libs shoved it down their throats and rammed it through (time out for a chuckle on the penis metaphors) and, in their very warped minds, they can now do the "same" thing. Except it's not the same but they don't really know the difference. We are dealing very low emotional intelligence after all.

I'm curious to see how far they will get-both with the law and the American voter-but one thing is very, very true and I've said it all along. It's not that they don't like government. That's just their t 8 year old boy temper tantrum talking and looking for something to pick on. It's that they don't like certain laws and think that they don't all apply to them. Out of this comes a general attitude and perception-which is hilariously ironic when you think about it but perfectly consistent with their interaction and behavior with people on the left. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, given how they continually flaunt the rules, that they feel this way and it's one simple word.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Thanks to Last in Line for this link which has the film "Inside Job" in its entirety for no charge. If you haven't seen it, check it out!

How Does This Play Out?

I had a very enjoyable exchange with one of the many anonymous posters in comments. I'm not sure who he or she was but even though we were ideologically in different places, we actually had a reasonable and substantive debate.

The poster said something which stuck with me and left me curious.

I submit to you and your readers, that most people could handle the complexities of life if they were just allowed to do so. At some point, your mother 'cut the apron strings' and allowed you to 'sink or swim'. Unless we are all still breast-fed, adversity was overcome starting at an early age.

Conservative vs. Liberal seems to disagree on the amount of adversity a citizen should be allowed to experience before 'the system' provides for that individual.

I enjoy this person's optimism and agree that people in our culture need to handle the complexities of life in a more diligent and effective way. They are very emotionally retarded about it now and I see it every day. I constantly pummel my own kids with "Figure it out yourself." In the end, it will help them.

Yet this comment evokes several questions. First, who is not "allowing them" to manage complexities? Second, what is meant by "cutting the apron strings and allowing you to sink or swim?" I would assume the latter means cutting or eliminating Social Security and Medicare. Is that correct? I'm not just asking the poster. I'm asking all of you because that seems to be a general sentiment.

By intimating that some people will "sink" (sort of Darwin's survival of the fittest thing), how do any of you envision that will play out? Social Security, for example, has been proven to have reduced poverty in the elderly. So when the plug is literally pulled on grandma, are you going to be alright with that?

As the poster said, conservatives and liberals do disagree on the amount of adversity a citizen should have to face before aid steps in. I'm just wondering if the conservatives have really thought how "sink or swim" works as a practical application in reality. We're talking about the elderly in our population here and they are already treated like crap by a culture trapped in the hubris of worshiping youth.

So, I'm hoping that the poster clarifies his comments because I could easily have misinterpreted them. Anyone else should feel free to offer their always:)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

GE's Bright Idea: No Taxes

Recently General Electric announced that it made $14 billion in profit last year ($5.1 in the US). Its tax bill? Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. In fact, it claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

It did this through a maze of loopholes and tax breaks, and by not moving profits back to the United States. According to the Times article:
In a regulatory filing just a week before the Japanese disaster put a spotlight on the company’s nuclear reactor business, G.E. reported that its tax burden was 7.4 percent of its American profits, about a third of the average reported by other American multinationals. Even those figures are overstated, because they include taxes that will be paid only if the company brings its overseas profits back to the United States. With those profits still offshore, G.E. is effectively getting money back.
In other words they're playing a shell game to avoid paying taxes. This has serious implications for the rest of us:
Such strategies, as well as changes in tax laws, have pushed down the corporate share of the nation's tax receipts -- from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.
This is not the first time GE has done this sort of thing:

As it has evolved, the company has used, and in some cases pioneered, aggressive strategies to lower its tax bill. In the mid-1980s, President Ronald Reagan overhauled the tax system after learning that G.E. — a company for which he had once worked as a commercial pitchman — was among dozens of corporations that had used accounting gamesmanship to avoid paying any taxes.

“I didn’t realize things had gotten that far out of line,” Mr. Reagan told the Treasury secretary, Donald T. Regan, according to Mr. Regan’s 1988 memoir. The president supported a change that closed loopholes and required G.E. to pay a far higher effective rate, up to 32.5 percent.

Some people don't find anything wrong with this, and think that corporations should pay any taxes at all. "It's double taxing," they'll say. Or, "They'll just pass it on to the customer."

First, it's not double taxing: corporations deduct all their expenses -- including salaries they pay to workers, cost of materials, local and state taxes, cost of production, even hotel stays and meals for CEOs -- to calculate profit.

As for passing the cost on: since taxes are only on profits, that price increase may be insignificant. Let's say I buy a blender for $100 and the company's profit is $10. Let's say the manufacturer's effective tax rate is 6%, or 60 cents on that blender. If the company's tax rate goes to 30% it will pay $3.00 in taxes. If it passes every penny of that on to me -- which is not a given for many reasons -- the blender will cost $2.40 more, or 2.4%.

But more importantly, if I don't buy a company's products, they won't be passing the cost on to me at all. If I save my money instead of buying big sailboats, and giant TVs and $500 tickets to football games, I won't be paying the taxes for those companies.

The money to pay for things like roads and the military has to come from somewhere. By reducing corporate tax burdens we are increasing the tax burdens on regular people. If corporations pay more, citizens can pay less.

But when you come right down to it, most everything the government spends its money on -- weather satellites, the FBI, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, highways, bridges, harbors, ports, the military, education -- is for the benefit of business. Yes, individuals benefit from these things, but they would have never happened without business demanding them.

For example: if you're like most people, the majority of the time you spend driving is between home and work. The highways are filled with trucks delivering stuff to businesses. Almost every time a new highway is proposed the argument is, "it'll be good for business."

Our military is used to "protect our interests" abroad. Those interests are entirely business interests. We invaded Iraq to ensure a stable supply of oil from a volatile region. We need oil to run our businesses. Shouldn't businesses help pay the salaries for the men and women in uniform who are protecting their interests?

Even the education system is essential for business. Without a system of free public education the United States would be totally uncompetitive in the world marketplace.

To be honest, there are some taxes that corporations already do pay their fair share of: Social Security and Medicare, the biggest part of the federal budget. Corporations should contribute their fair share to the rest of the federal budget as well.

Finally, when the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the political process they declared that a company is a person for the purposes of free speech. If a corporation has the same right to free speech as a person, it should have the same responsibility as a person to pay taxes.

I'm not talking about sticking it to big corporations: I'm just talking about restoring effective corporate tax rates to the reasonable values they had under Eisenhower and Reagan. Is it right for companies like GE to turn their backs on America and avoid taxes by shipping all their profits off to the Caymans?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Holy Hell!

As soon as I read about Rob Bell's new book, I knew what would happen right away.

"Satan is having a field day," Ruth Ward commented on Love Wins.

In other words, a giant shit storm would be unleashed. Because if there's one thing I know about old school evangelicals these days, they need to have the threat of burning in hell for eternity. Otherwise, it's meth amphetamine fueled gay sex morning, noon, and night.

Bell is one of a new wave of ministers who have seen the writing on the wall. The "All Fags will burn in Hell" meme isn't playing so well with the younger crowd and they are losing followers to other denominations at alarming rates. His ideas in the book are actually quite sound when you think about it. You can't have a loving God and an angry god at the same time. It makes no sense. Even the Bible itself says that God will remember our sins no more (Heb 8:8) and that the sacrifice of Christ propelled us into a period of grace. Why many Christians refuse to accept this is very frustrating. Honestly, I don't think they like themselves very much.

But what absolutely slayed me about the Bell flap was this article containing an all too familiar talking point/tactic.

It seems that where Bell’s arguments begin to break down, he simply walks away instead of pursuing consistency and logic. This book could not stand the rigors of cross-examination. It has little cohesion, little internal strength.

Now where have I heard those lines before?

Setting aside the fact that this discussion is about faith, not logic, did all you guys go to some sort of seminar or something? I can just see the notes in the course syllabus...

When liberals, progressives or RINOS have a new idea, all of which threaten our way of life, attack first on reason and logic. Continue with a merciless attack on their courage. Make their argument look flawed and their person cowardly so we can maintain our support base of frightened and angry people whose ignorance we so desperately need to cling to power.

Maybe I should go undercover and sign up for the next class. When does Spring Session start?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nary a Peep

So, let me see if I have this straight. Schaeffer Cox, Lonnie and Karen Vernon (along with others) conspired to kill an IRS employee as well as a US District judge and Peter King isn't investigating? It seems to me this is terrorism, right? Given that the Vernons are part of the "Sovereign Citizens" Group I would think hat there should be some sort of committee set up to investigate some of these very clear threats. Oh, and I guess they wanted to kill some state troopers as well. And the family members of the IRS agent, the judge and the troopers.

I'm surprised, readers. We had a lot of links pointing to plots that evil Muslims were about to carry out yet nary a peep on this one. Hmm...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Polarization and Condescension

I find very little with which to disagree in Syl Jones' latest piece in the Strib. He really hit the nail squarely on the head with this one. I've been a fan of his opinion pieces for awhile but this one should be put in the hall of fame.

Major Garrett, former national correspondent for Fox News and once with CNN, has now added an additional wrinkle. Garret told MSNBC viewers that Fox thrives on polarization: "Fox actually wants to keep that polarization. ... That is an embedded part of the marketing that surrounds what happens in the news division at Fox. It's been incredibly successful."

The fact that Fox both creates and exploits polarization says a lot about today's world and those who spin it. Across America, many seem to enjoy the trauma of loose cannons firing in every direction. The folks at Fox recognized this long ago and now, when it suits them to do so, they wrap themselves in the American flag,

It's not just Fox, though. It's all of the right wing information sources especially the blogsphere. Like all bullies, they are lost without an adversary to pick on. It's how they define themselves in the world.

Of course, we know all this. So, Jones takes it a step further by bringing in the Juan Williams incident from last fall and making a most excellent point.

Williams and other black journalists have long understood that a liberal is someone who thinks he or she knows your history better than you do. A conservative doesn't know your history and doesn't care to know it.

Both sides of the political spectrum have a galling habit of trying to exploit people of color to justify their rather narrow interests.

Indeed. As many of you can probably imagine, I've experienced the liberal side of this quite a bit in the various schools I have either worked in or my children have attended. The yearly battle regarding Huck Finn is one example of this. It's white liberals, not blacks, who want to ban the book because that word makes sick.

Too bad.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the greatest American novels ever written. Being a big fan of Loewen, I have to say that the controversy surrounding this book smacks of that avoidance of laying blame that he talks about frequently. The same white liberals that want to ban Huck Finn also fall all over themselves like idiots during Black History Month. Every year, I receive astonished looks and (very fake) loud gasps when I suggest that we do away with Black History Month and integrate its content into the course of the entire year. I do it anyway and the new social studies standards for our state will as well but something tells me BHM will be around for quite some time. It actually is worse, as Jones aptly points out...

Conservative and liberal media outlets are too busy slinging mud to pause and listen to what we know so well. Privileged interests are depriving people of the right to know the truth, to earn a living wage and to make truly informed decisions about the world in which they live.

We can see that neither side is right and that both sides are wrong.


Friday, March 25, 2011

The Answer...Again....For the Nine Zillionth Time

How do corporations exert force on us again? Watch the last minute of this video for (yet another) answer.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Double Dose Of Irony

I had someone leave the following in comments recently.

When leftist ideology reigns, there is no point in striving or failing. If you succeed, the fruits of your labor will be taken from you and given to those who don't care to strive for anything beyond playing the lottery and watching American Idol and believing that anybody who has wealth must have gotten it by nefarious means. This is what produces countries like North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe. Equality is celebrated and encouraged until everyone but those at the top of government have become equally miserable.

When conservatism reigns, people are left alone to either succeed or fail on their own in freedom. If you don't like the fail part, then you don't understand the value of failure. Ray Kroc was nothing more than a mediocre paper cup salesman until he discovered and bought the restaurant from the McDonald brothers. Walt Disney failed over and over to find the right people to financially back his ideas for most of his life. Edison tried a thousand different ways to create a light bulb before he found the right design. The common denominator to success in this country has always been freedom and a rule of law that protects individual freedom.

Both of these would be great examples of what I mean when I speak of fantasy management. Ray Kroc, for example, did far more than sell paper cups. He was a jazz pianist, worked at a radio station, handled room and board in the restaurant business, and sold milk shake mixers. Nothing more than a mediocre paper cup salesman? I think not. He had vision and it was through his milk shake mixer sales that he got in contact with the McDonald brothers and saw how much bigger they could be. He purchased McDonald's in 1961. What did our country look like in 1961?

In 1961, the tax rate for high income earners was 91 percent. Congress passed Medicare a few years later. Social Security, at that point, was nearly 30 years old. So, with two gigantic socialist programs in place and very high taxes, Kroc still managed to wildly succeed and build an empire across the world. No one curtailed his freedom and, like Walt Disney, he prospered in the our system of welfare capitalism. That makes the assertion above is one giant pile of lying shit.

Further, there is not a single idea with which I agree in the first paragraph and I am a Democrat. I'm more moderate than some folks I know on the left but I have no problem with being called a liberal either. Every liberal I know works 2-3 jobs and has no time to play the lottery nor watch American Idol. They are more interested in figuring out how to pay for health care and educate their children. Interestingly, these same liberals don't complain about the "fruits of their labor" being taken away as they realize that their tax money supports the infrastructure of our society.

Oh, and they also don't "value equality above all else." That's code for at least two of Ferguson's four areas of denial and avoidance regarding racial issues. Suddenly, equality is bad as a word as "liberal" or "progressive." Super...

As I have stated previously on this blog, every liberal I know is employed and all the unemployed people I know are conservative. These conservatives actually do play the lottery, watch American Idol, spend hours a day watching and listening to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, post on right wing blogs or have their own right wing blog, and complain that their lot in life is due to liberals and progressives.

It's ALWAYS the fault of liberals. The first paragraph above is a fine example of this hypocrisy. You can't complain that an entire swath of our culture plays the victim card too much and the victim car by blaming that same group. Honestly, the supply of irony is abundant. The descriptions, in addition to being devoid of all fact, above are accurate but in the reverse. Like the wild eyed idealists on the left in the 60s, the wild eyed idealists on the right today continually blame someone else for their problems in the most overgeneralized ways imaginable.

I make it a point to teach my kids to learn from their failures and revel in them. Out of failure, comes immeasurable reflection and self actualization which invariably leads to success. "When one door is closed, another one is open" is what my grandmother used to say.

My DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST grandmother, b to the w!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Tea Partier and The Progressive

During his time in office, he fought bitterly with Democrats over the budget. He criticized the excessive spending of social programs, sought to cut them, and was vilified by the left for his views. He compared the federal government to his business and said there was no way he would run his own affairs that way. His business, taken over from his father, was built by a family of rugged individualists who had tireless work ethics. So, White House spending was cut drastically with all the frills of fancy meals and desserts being eliminated. He even went as far as turning off the air conditioner so it was raging hot during the summer. All of this, to cut ridiculous levels of government spending.

Right after him, another man came into office. He spent money like it was going out of style-tripling the deficit and bringing it to heights not seen since WWII. The government grew as never before during his tenure. He gave amnesty to illegal aliens. Before he was president, he was a governor who signed a bill into law allowing public unions. He himself was the head of union for many years. Worst of all, he negotiated with Iran and sent them weapons.

In looking at each of these men, the first would fit well within the Tea Party today and the second would surely be labeled a progressive, right?


The first man was Jimmy Carter and the second man was Ronald Reagan.

Somehow (and I'm really not certain as to how this happened) an incredible work of fiction has grown around both of these men. I suppose it's typical when you look at how history is changed into myths over the years. But the Reagan myth truly sickens me. The guy was not a Tea Partier. Heck, he wasn't even a conservative by today's standards. Yet, there is no doubt in my mind that if he was in office, he'd be doing the same things that Barack Obama is doing and none of the mouth foamers on the right would care. Why? Because they love and believe the fiction.

The right's view on Reagan reminds me of my friend Chuck and Neal Patrick Harris. Chuck loves the show How I Met Your Mother, He REALLY loves Harris' character of Barney Stinson-the somewhat sleazy, Playboy-esque friend in the group. Barney is set up as being every man's dream...a confirmed bachelor....wanton sex with hot babes....loads of money working for a heartless corporation. Chuck loves all of this and secretly dreams he could escape his life in suburbia just to be Barney for one day.

So, imagine his surprise when he found out that Harris was gay in real life. He couldn't believe it. He was devastated. Then an interesting thing happened. He started to ignore the real life Harris and lose himself in the fiction. He simply couldn't give up on the character of Stinson and the adulation he showered on him. Barney was his hero and it didn't matter what was real. The fiction was what he wanted and 6 years into the run of the show, he doesn't care that Harris is gay. Reality to him is Barney.

It's the same fucking thing with Reagan.

As Saul Alinsky so accurately predicted right before he died, Ronald Reagan came riding in on his horse and saved the frightened old white people of the middle class from all the scary change. Except that he didn't, really. He made it worse for them with his tax cuts and trickle down economics. Wealthy people became wealthier and the middle class and the poor could go fuck themselves. It didn't matter that they were miserable and still doesn't today. They want to believe the fiction of Reagan.And, boy oh boy, do they hate Carter.

Honestly, this is true with the right on most issues. They blame the left for all their problems but it's really the folks they support that are sticking it to them with the left actually making their lives better. But that doesn't matter. Like Reagan, only the fiction matters.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oh, The Irony...

I find it incredibly ironic in the most devastating of ways that for all the protestations about socialism, the right wing of this country (which includes republicans and libertarians) are doing everything in their power to ensure a plutocracy.

I guess history begins for them the day Ronald Reagan took office.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Managing Fantasies, Wasting Time

Last in Line recently sent me an amusing email that apparently has gone viral in right wing circles of late. Essentially, it says that the new health care law will somehow morph into sharia law and that's been Obama's secret plan all along. Being the reasonable man last in line is, I know he sent it in jest but I found his note to be serendipitous considering Bill Maher's final new rule last night. It starts at about 2:25

While this is amusing, I find the truth of it to be very frustrating and sad. "One reason nothing gets done in America is that one of the political parties puts so much more into fantasy problems." Indeed. Not only is it holding us back from advancing as a nation but it may well threaten our status as the leader in a unipolar world. Dangerous when you consider that it is our democratic society combined with our military and economic strength that keep the world in line.

My other thought on this was...does Bill secretly read my blog? Because this does sound an awful lot like things I have said. Or maybe it's the simple fact that he feels the same frustration I do that we have to waste our time managing people's fantasies. Ignoring them clearly won't work as it was these fantasies that, more or less, won back the House of Representatives.

His list is quite ridiculous, though, and when you hear it all together one has to wonder how much longer are we going to have to dither with these manufactured crises? We have real problems that we need to deal with and the screaming about the New Black Panther Party pushes us backward.

Of course, this makes complete sense when you consider one of my favorite books, recently updated, by Barry Glassner. In The Culture of Fear, Glassner's essential point is that we are afraid of all the wrong things. It is our perception, not reality, that has changed. I submit that perception is exactly what the right wing media (in particular the right wing blogsphere) very much want to control. They have found great success in doing this and will continue as long as there is an audience.

So, what would cause them to lose that audience? Teachers and media outlets like NPR.

What a coincidence....
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bombing Libya

I'm of two minds when it comes to bombing Libya. Gaddafi is a butthole dictator who murders innocent people. He's also taken leave of his senses and probably needs to be taken out. And supporting fledgling democracies in the Middle East is essential if we are to move to a Type 1 civilization in this century.

Yet, his oil only represents about 2 percent of our country's imports. This is, after all, a civil war and do we really need to be involved in ANOTHER conflict in the Middle East? Especially one that will cost more money?

One thing I do know is that President Obama's approval ratings are going to go up now that he is unleashing the Tomahawks.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Recently, I have joined the ranks of the millions who own iPhones. I am not ashamed to admit it: I am addicted. There are so many cool apps that I can hardly control myself. The main ones I love are the music related apps (like iConcertCal, Concert Vault etc) but I also love the news ones, of course, being the current events junkie that I am. I think I have about a dozen or so apps that are news related. One is the Al Jazeera app and I have to honestly say that Hillary Clinton is 100 percent correct.

Ms. Clinton said last week that Al Jazeera "real news" and lambasted the American media for being distracted by the bright, shiny object of Charlie Sheen for an entire week. She's absolutely right. The app that I have on my iPhone lets me stream the live feed of the network, staffed mostly by ex-BBCers, which (gasp!) actually reports news of significance to the world. Ms. Clinton noted the United States is losing the information war in the world and it's due to the fact that our

"Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it's real news," Clinton said. "You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners."

Media critics like Jeff Jarvis have also contrasted Al Jazeera with American news networks. "Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one-not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media-can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can," Jarvis wrote in January.

Exactly true. I will say, though, that CNN is at least attempting to provide real news with the less of the divisive WWE wrestling themed programming of Fox News and MSNBC. In what is sadly reflective of our culture, CNN's ratings are in the toilet.

Al Jazeera may, at times, be the Fox News of the Middle East but that's changing. There is a growing number of people (myself included) who want real, hard news and are tired of hearing Lawrence O'Donnell talk about his latest tiff with Glenn Beck  Now they can have it streamed right to their iPhones.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Funnies

Another "fake" story from the Onion that seems pretty real to me.
  • Nov. 2008: Following their failure to capture the presidency, Republicans are split into two factions: one supporting the traditional elephant logo, and another backing a new logo featuring an elephant that has a machine gun for a trunk, sunglasses, and a humongous erect penis.
  • Nov. 19, 2010: Mississippi governor Haley Barbour takes a swing at Mitt Romney, misses, and then has to sit down for 45 minutes to catch his breath.
  • Dec. 8, 2010: In a live broadcast on Fox And Friends, Mike Huckabee and Texas governor Rick Perry get into a heated argument over who hates science more.
  • Dec. 21, 2010: An irate John McCain rips into Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a bronze bust of George Washington, and a figure only visible to him that he calls "Stephen," accusing them all of plotting to steal his things while he's in the bathroom.
  • Jan. 8, 2011: Numerous prominent Republicans gang up on Tim Pawlenty for taking more than two whole hours after the Tucson shooting to stand up for gun rights.
  • Jan. 28, 2011: As criticism of her unsanctioned State of the Union rebuttal mounts, a furious Michele Bachmann finally bursts into 10,000 spiders on the House floor.
  • Feb. 2, 2011: Michele Bachmann delivers response to Punxsutawney Phil's (D-PA) response to shadow.
  • Feb. 6, 2011: On Face The Nation, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal hits Sarah Palin below the belt by suggesting she has as much chance of becoming president as he does

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's Official: I Love Math

E.J. Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post, recently asked "What If We Are Not Broke?" A more appropriate question is this: if we aren't broke why are John Boehner, Scott Walker, and many others on the right saying we are broke?

The answer is: They are lying to play to people's fears. 

In the case of Scott Walker, he is lying and here is how.  So, he's completely full of shit and, for all intents and purposes, it's very clear as to why he did what he did. 

In the case of John Boehner, other conservatives, and they hyper sensitive to spending Tea Party, here is why they are wrong.

The U.S. today is able to borrow at historically low interest rates, paying 0.68 percent on a two-year note that it had to offer at 5.1 percent before the financial crisis began in 2007. Financial products that pay off if Uncle Sam defaults aren’t attracting unusual investor demand. And tax revenue as a percentage of the economy is at a 60-year low, meaning if the government needs to raise cash and can summon the political will, it could do so.

Here's another little number you might want to consider. Any care to explain to me how a 15 trillion dollar economy is "broke?" Dionne's got the right idea.

We pretend to be an impoverished nation with no room for public investments in our future or efforts to ease the pain of a deep recession on those Americans who didn’t profit from it or cause it in the first place. Give Boehner, Walker and their allies full credit for diverting our attention with an arresting metaphor. The rest of us are dupes if we fall for it.

Dupes, indeed. The right is engaging in one gigantic (and VERY manufactured) lying festival because they know they can use people's irrational fear to further their own ends (i.e. gut the government, privatize everything except the military, and continue to commit theft and fraud). All you need is math to see how incredibly full of shit they are. It's funny because I was never a big fan of math in school but I sure as fuck am now. With math and a little time, anything is possible:) Yea!!! Seriously, I can even go better than Dionne. Take a look at these figures.

The net worth (that's NET, mind you) of our country stands at 56 trillion dollars. And there are people out there (regular posters in comments) that say that we're broke and going to end up like Greece?

Folks, this is simply a continuation of the greatest propaganda campaign since the "Commies" burned down the Reichstag. Nothing is on fire and things are not bad in any sort of logical or fiscal sense. The people that say things are bad are fucking liars...pure and simple.

My message to any of you who think they are is this: You have the wrong enemy. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


400 people in our country control 1.37 trillion dollars in wealth. The bottom 60 percent of our population control about 1.26 trillion in wealth. What goes through your head when you see figures like this?

Can't Turn It Off

The situation with the nuclear reactors in Japan is causing many in the United States and around the world to reconsider the recent push for nuclear power, which even many environmental activists such as Greenpeace have come to accept.

Predictably, many are saying that liberals are inciting hysteria and exploiting the catastrophe for political ends. Of course, when oil prices were skyrocketing in 2008 that didn't stop those people from pushing for more off-shore drilling (as if accidents like the BP spill never happen), or using the recession and state budget crunch as an excuse to jam through union-busting legislation.

Nuclear power has obvious advantages: unless there's a terrible accident it's pretty clean (though there are problems with radioactive tailings at uranium mines that people always forget about).

But nuclear power has serious problems once the electricity has been generated: there's no place to put the waste. Right now it's sitting in casks, often out in the open in full view of the public, near the nuclear plant that generated it. The possibility that terrorists can gain access to radioactive material scattered in dozens of places around the country is an obvious problem. The waste problem is technically soluble, but no one wants it in their back yard.

We've had three serious accidents in the last 40 years -- Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Japan. There have been hundreds of smaller incidents: minor releases of radioactive gas and employee deaths at power plants. The total number of dead is relatively small, probably numbering in the thousands, mostly due to cancers and other radiation-induced diseases in Ukraine.

Deaths in oil, gas and coal extraction and production number in the tens of thousands every year, and air pollution from fossil fuels kills millions every year. That, and the threat of climate change, is why so many environmentalists have grudgingly accepted the necessity of nuclear power.

The problem isn't with nuclear power, per se. It's with reactor designs that require power and personnel using heroic efforts to prevent a meltdown during catastrophic failures.

With a coal-fired power plant you can just stop shoveling in coal when there's a serious problem. With a natural gas plant you can shut off the valve. Within minutes or hours the fires will all burn out and the plant will be inert. If there's a catastrophic accident these plants will be damaged and will shut down -- their fuel may burn and explode, but it's a problem limited to a relatively small area.

With this nuclear reactor design the fuel is inside and can't be removed -- even the spent fuel, which in the Japanese reactors is starting to burn because the cooling pond is evaporating. In fact, this reactor, Daiichi Number 4, was actually turned off for maintenance during the quake and tsunami. And yet it's still experiencing a reaction that would lead to a melt-down without plant workers taking action to stop it.

This design is seriously flawed. It has the potential to explode, killing thousands of people instantly or within hours, and sickening millions who may struggle for years with cancer.

This is exactly analogous to the Toyota accelerator problem, only much worse. We don't accept cars that accelerate madly. We can't accept nuclear power plants that have the same problem.

There are designs that have a better failure mode, but they use different kinds of fuel, and produce weapons-grade plutonium or other bad things. Instead of plunging ahead with current reactor designs that could have the same problems as the Daichi reactors we should think very carefully.

It's not hysterical to require that future nuclear reactors be able to be shut down completely, safely and passively when there's a catastrophe such as an earthquake or terrorist attack. When we turn something off it should stay off.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dog Days at NPR

National Public Radio has taken a number of hits in the last few months. Ron Schiller, the fund-raising exec from NPR who recently resigned, was depicted on a video with what he thought were potential donors, but were actually guys posing as Muslims. He apparently made statements in a private conversation that were against official NPR policy ("NPR would be better off without public funding"). He seemed to laugh at their jokes ("NPR stands for National Palestinian Radio"). He appeared to say things he thought they would agree with ("Tea Partiers are racists."). None of this was said on-air, or by a reporter, or an editor, or an announcer. It was basically a sales guy saying the sorts of things sales guys always say to win an account.

And, it turns out, the video was heavily edited, making Schiller appear to say things that he never did. Schiller actually said positive things about the GOP and his own history with the Republican Party. And who was the investigative journalist that helped uncover this? None other Glenn Beck, as reported on his website, The Blaze. And this isn't the first time the "journalist" who made this video has played this trick: Jame O'Keefe did the same thing to Shirley Sherrod, getting her fired as well.

What Schiller said shouldn't have been enough to get him fired. But Schiller let himself get duped by not doing his due diligence on potential donors, and caused NPR great embarrassment. If he had checked these guys out, he wouldn't have fallen for their trick. He was not only a victim of a gotcha moment, like the governor of Wisconsin was a few weeks ago, but of a heavily edited video that completely misrepresented what he said. Still, I would have fired Schiller for doing bad research, wasting his time on phonies, and missing an opportunity to expose NPR's detractors as liars, not because he insulted Tea Partiers' delicate sensibilities.

So, really, all this episode does is paint O'Keefe as a dirty, mendacious crook, and NPR executives as timid and afraid to insult conservatives in any way possible.

It was much the same with Juan Williams. I would have fired him because he was working for a competitor, Fox News. Fox appears to have it in for NPR and CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting), viewing them as serious competition. Does it really make any sense for NPR to employ a man who's dishing inside dirt to someone who wants to see their funding cut? I've listened to NPR for 30 years, and a couple of years ago I noticed that Williams' tone had changed completely. He was parroting right-wing talking points when he subbed for Daniel Schorr on the Saturday morning news analysis spot. I didn't know it at the time, but he was working for Fox. If I was at NPR I too would have been looking to cut him loose ASAP. They probably thought his fraidy-cat comments on Muslims were a good excuse. Wrong. They should have fired him months or years earlier when he went to work for a competitor.

Some people think that there's a vast right-wing conspiracy against NPR and CPB. There's not. There are many conservatives and businesses who donate millions of dollars to CPB, PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR. David Koch, for example, donated $7 million to the PBS show Nova. If he really believed PBS was that bad, he wouldn't have done that. Hundreds of other millionaires and corporations donate to NPR, CPB, PBS and local public radio and television stations across the country.

The "controversial firings" and "embarrassing antics" of NPR employees are rather tame compared to revelations at Fox News. There, execs demand straight news reporters to spin stories on climate change and the health care bill to skew opinion against them. Fox producers doctored coverage of Tea Party rallies to make them seem much larger than they actually were. Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, told Judith Regan to lie when she was interviewed by federal investigators when Bernard Kerik was being vetted for Homeland Security secretary. Mr. Kerik was later sent to prison.

As for political bias, NPR executives are scrupulous about avoiding the barest appearance of bias, going so far as to forbid employees not covering from attending Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity. Even MSNBC sanctioned Keith Olbermann for donating to a Democratic political campaign. Meanwhile, Fox News runs non-stop rants on air against the president and Democrats, while contributing millions of dollars to Republican candidates and action committees. So much for "fair and balanced."

There are only two arguments left for eliminating federal funding for NPR, PBS and CPB: the federal government shouldn't spend money on things that duplicate the private sector, and I shouldn't be forced to pay for stuff I don't believe in or want.

PBS and NPR are the only outfits that make decent educational programming, especially for children. The History Channel and Discovery Channel pretend to do programming like PBS, but their stuff is, to be brutally honest, complete junk. It has to be written for people with a five-minute attention span because of commercials every eight to ten minutes. Every time these shows break for commercial, they spend the first five minutes when they return recapping what they told you in the previous ten-minute segment, five minutes of which was a recap from the segment before that. PBS programming does not have these interruptions and they do not spend half the program repeating themselves endlessly. Anyone who watches shows like Mythbusters (which I love and hate at the same time) knows exactly what I'm talking about. One hour of "educational" programming on commercial stations is really only 20 minutes of information, while one hour of educational programming on PBS is really one hour.

All but one basic cable channel on our system is riddled with commercial interruptions, even though I am already paying them to get this programming! That one exception is TCM, which is an absolutely fabulous channel that shows old movies in their entirety without any idiotic chopping for commercials.

Commercial interruptions are the worst thing about commercial TV. They prevent logical chains of thought in educational programming and constantly interfere with story development with fictional programming. This is why so many people use DVRs to skip commercials; DVRs may ultimately doom the entire commercial model of television.

No private broadcaster puts together news programming like PBS and NPR. All the commercial networks and newspapers are cutting back on international reporting. NPR is not. Commercial broadcasters fill their shows with fluff, or anxiety-inducing scare stories that emphasize the latest bizarre murder, or celebrity gossip (who gives a damn about Charlie Sheen?). The "news" channels like Fox, MSNBC and CNN are spectacularly barren of news. Fox has endless hours of right-wing tirades. MSNBC has endless hours of ranting from all sides. CNN has endless hours of mindless blather.

When covering major news events all three cable network news channels stand around saying nothing for hours on end, repeating themselves, reporting rumors, and soliciting speculation from "experts." They have five minutes of blather, then five minutes of ads, then five minutes of blather, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. On NPR stations they give you the news, talk with someone on the scene for a few minutes, then when they've run out of things to say, they give you actual historical background. And when that runs dry, they go on to another story about something else. Just because there's a revolt in Egypt or a tsunami in Japan doesn't mean the rest of the world has stopped.

NPR runs news stories that vary in length, from a minute, to five, to ten, to 20 minutes long. They take the time necessary to fully explain the situation. They don't break for commercial every five minutes. On NPR call-in shows they weed out the ranting nut jobs, and when loudmouths do get through the hosts try to calm them down and then shuffle them quickly off if all they can do is vent angrily.

The closest thing commercial television has to NPR programming is 60 Minutes, which is a shadow of its former self, and it's just 40 minutes a week. Other than that, no private American broadcasting company does programming remotely like what NPR and PBS do. CPB and NPR are not stepping on any private toes. They are providing a unique source of programming in the US (only the BBC is comparable, and it's not American).

Public radio stations are also the only source of classical music programming in this country. Classical music is one of the great treasures of Western Civilization, and it's wrong to let one of the great traditions of our forefathers die out in this country.

Federal funding for CPB is essential for stations that can't possibly support themselves with local contributions alone, mostly in rural and small markets that aren't served by cable or local news radio. These stations are run by local people, often at universities, and reflect local sensibilities, not the dictates of head honchos at NPR headquarters. Cutting federal funding for NPR will close down community radio stations across rural and small-town America, but leave the stations in big cities unscathed.

Many conservatives complain that they shouldn't have to pay for PBS and NPR because they're politically biased and they don't want to pay for something they don't like.

The only bias NPR has is to tell the truth. They bend over backwards to avoid bias. They don't broadcast long rants in which the host claims the president is a racist, anti-colonial communist socialist fascist. They don't even raise their voices on-air. I do my own ranting, I don't need to watch someone else do it, thank you very much.

There are things government does that all of us don't want to pay for. I didn't want to pay a trillion dollars for George Bush's invasion of Iraq. I knew that it was bogus, that there were no WMDs, that Saddam had no connection to 9/11, that it wouldn't be a cakewalk, that we would be stuck there for many years -- if not decades. Now we all know it.

I don't want to pay millions upon millions of dollars for abstinence-based sex education. How can you possibly spend millions on that? How long does it take to say, "Don't have sex. You can get pregnant and get a disease." That's the entire curriculum. What more need be said?

I don't want to pay for "faith-based initiatives." It's a scam to give government money to politicians' religious cronies.

I don't want to give oil and gas companies tax breaks for oil exploration. Selling gasoline is extremely profitable. Why do they need special treatment to do it? They use our ports and roads to deliver their oil, and our Coast Guard to drag their employees out of the drink when their oil rigs explode. Why can't they pay their fair share of taxes?

I can see giving them tax breaks for basic research into something new, but there's nothing new about searching for oil in different places. This country's having serious financial problems, and we're still handing out special breaks for companies that are charging us $3.50 a gallon for gas? Soon to be $4 if things in the Middle East continue to be hosed up?

But even though I don't like all those things, I accept the necessity that I must pay for some of them, because this is a democracy and democracies are based on compromise: everyone gives a little and everyone gets a little.

And, yeah, I know times are tough and everyone has to pitch in. I have no problem with CPB and NPR taking a funding cut. But if you cut them off completely a lot of local stations are just going to shut down and years of investment will be lost, never to be regained.

But if you want to go with the "it's wrong for me to be forced to pay for something I don't want" argument for a moment, I can do that. Because I can fully appreciate that sentiment. And it happens not only with my taxes, but in other parts of my life.

My wife and I pay about $75 a month for cable TV. That includes all the local channels, basic cable stuff like Disney, Discovery, Comedy Central, Univision, and news channels like CSPAN, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. Now, I will never watch Fox News or MSNBC or Univision or QVC, but if I want to get Comedy Central or TCM I am forced to get those channels as well. That means I am paying money to Rupert Murdoch against my will and being forced to support the right-wing propaganda machine.

And I can't escape this by using a satellite TV provider. If I want Comedy Central or TCM I am also forced to get Fox News on Dish Network and DirecTV. My only option is to not get cable or satellite TV at all, which is problematic because the on-air signal is extremely poor where we live, in a hollow 20 miles from the TV antennas in our area. That means my only "freedom" is no freedom at all. It's like me telling you to move to Mexico if you don't want to pay taxes that will be spent on the CPB.

Then there's the special treatment cable companies get. These days they're basically phone companies. They provide cable TV, Internet access, and quite frequently phone service. But they aren't bound by the same regulations phone companies are, even though they provide phone service. I never thought I'd see the day, but there are companies that I now like less than the phone company: my local Comcast provider.

Then there's the extortionist behavior of certain broadcasters, Fox in particular. At least twice in the last couple of years Fox has blackmailed cable providers by threatening to cut off local channel access to cable subscribers during football season. They charge cable companies a boatload of money to retransmit a signal the local Fox affiliates beam into the ether, free for anyone to receive. If they're giving it away, why are they charging some people so much money for it?

So, to everyone who's insisting that they shouldn't be paying for CPB, NPR and PBS: I'll agree to cutting federal funding for those organizations when the following conditions are met:
  • A private broadcaster has programming of equal breadth and quality, written without the endless interruptions that destroy the pedagogic and entertainment value of the program.
  • Congress stops cable companies from forcing me to buy expensive bundles of 20 or 30 channels that I'll never watch just to get the six or seven that I do (a mandatory a la carte option).
  • Congress imposes the same regulations on cable companies that provide telephone and Internet service that telephone companies are subject to. Now that they're firmly established (some have been around 30-40 years) cable companies no longer need special treatment reserved for startups.
  • Congress stops Fox's blackmailing of cable companies by allowing free retransmission of signals broadcast over the public airwaves, as long as the signal is unmodified and retains all advertising as is.
  • Cable channels that I pay extra for should have no commercials. If I'm paying for a channel, why should I have to watch commercials?
There's no real broad-based conservative demand to end public funding for CPB, NPR and PBS and the local stations. There's a relatively small group of conservatives who want to stamp out anything that might disagree with them.

We are in a media age, and media companies are getting bigger and bigger. Comcast just bought out NBC/Universal to form a vertically integrated production/distribution monolith, intent on wiping out competitors like Netflix. Fox has always been pushing to change federal laws so they can buy more and more TV and radio stations, newspapers, movie studios, and so on. Fox is now also trying to extend its sphere of influence over the financial markets with its purchase of the Wall Street Journal.

And now, as a paean to Fox News, our moment of xenophobia:

Is it wise to allow Rupert Murdoch to have so much control over what Americans see and hear? He is, after all, really a foreigner. He only acquired American citizenship in 1985 so that he could own American TV stations. How can we trust a man who betrayed his own country out of financial convenience? How can we be sure he won't sell out out to the British or the Australians or the Chinese when it's convenient? Murdoch's papers in England have been caught hacking people's cell phones. How can we be sure he isn't doing it here?

Do I believe that crap? No. But that's the quality of the reportage at Fox News.

I trust the news I get from NPR, which in the grand scheme of things has no almost no money and never will, and has no axe to grind. How can I possibly trust the the pronouncements of reporters hamstrung by the dictates of huge, multinational corporations like News Corp and Comcast/NBC/Universal who stand to make hundreds of billions of dollars by monopolizing US media? Corporations that have no real allegiance to this country, except what can be denominated by the almighty dollar.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Calm Before The Storm

Remember this serene moment as we are about to witness a mountain of shit squirt forth.

President Obama: We must seek agreement on gun reforms.

Upon reading this headline alone, tens of thousands are already screaming and foaming at the mouth. It gets worse.

I know some aren't interested in participating. Some will say that anything short of the most sweeping anti-gun legislation is a capitulation to the gun lobby. Others will predictably cast any discussion as the opening salvo in a wild-eyed scheme to take away everybody's guns. And such hyperbole will become the fodder for overheated fundraising letters.

But I have more faith in the American people than that. Most gun-control advocates know that most gun owners are responsible citizens.

Sorry, Mr. President, but you have just unleashed a giant shit storm. Everything you recommended in this article makes complete sense and should be carried out immediately.

It will never fucking happen.

You have too much faith in the American people and the "others" of which you speak will grant you absolutely no fucking quarter whatsoever. Their brains aren't wired that way. In their eyes, you are a liberal/socialist/fascist/commie/fag who has been "waiting to pounce." To make matters worse, you're black which plays even more into their fears, hatred and anger. You are the enemy, sir, and even though you have done the exact opposite in your time in office, you are a gun grabber. You are an enemy of the state. You always will be.

You lost them after the word "guns." All they heard after that was "They's a comin!"

Voices in My Head

I've been waiting for this video to come out in its entirety. Sit back, pop some corn, and enjoy 44 minutes of the "voices in my head."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Trial of the Century

Today a Minneapolis jury found against a blogger who had written a post that got someone fired from his job at the University of Minnesota. This case had been billed by many as the blogosphere "Trial of the Century." Like so many things on the Internet, this is wildly overstating the case.

The defendant, John Hoff, who blogged as "Johnny Northside," was ordered to pay $60,000 to Jerry Moore. On his blog Hoff had accused Moore of being involved in a mortgage scam that landed real estate agent Jerry Maxwell in jail for 16 years. Moore was not prosecuted in that case.

The jury found that although Moore had been involved in the mortgage, he hadn't been convicted of anything and Hoff's blog post "intentionally interfered with Moore's employment contract with the University of Minnesota Urban Outreach and Outreach/Engagement Center."

It's not clear from the story whether the jury found any validity in the charge of defamation of character, or just found for the contractual interference. So I'm not really sure that this case would have gotten anywhere if Moore had not been fired. The question is, if Hoff had simply mouthed off about Moore and Moore had kept his job, would there have been any case at all?

I've been ambivalent about blogging for a long time. I only started doing so at Markadelphia's request because he has less time now. Blogs and the bickering that accompany them seem to generate only heat and no light. No one is convinced of anything: most people seem intent on gotchas and zingers. (Yes, and in the heat of the moment I've been guilty of it too.)

Is the Johnny Northside case a warning for all bloggers? One of the issues in the case was the defamatory comments that appeared on the blog. Usually, though not always, the comments on blogs are far worse than the posts themselves. (Just read the thoughtless, hate-filled, anonymous comments on stories on news websites for millions of examples.)

The FBI can probably find out who anonymous commenters are by asking websites and ISPs for the IP address of the commenter, but there are many ways of getting around even that if you're really determined.

Though Hoff uses the pseudonym "Johnny Northside," he makes no attempt to hide his true identity. His gmail address appears on his blog, composed of his legal name. If Hoff had taken pains to make himself anonymous he could have likely have said far worse things about Moore and never been called to account.

I'm all for more civility in Internet discourse. But unfortunately this case won't change anything. The most obnoxious and inflammatory posts are general in nature, not directed at private individuals, but at groups or public figures (who cannot sue for libel). When they do attack specific individuals they're not usually accusing them of involvement in specific criminal activity, as with Moore, but simply launching petty, ad hominem attacks at bloggers or fellow commenters, or accusing politicians or groups like unions or corporations of amorphous conspiracies and working toward some secret agenda. When such accusations come to light they can easily be characterized as the rantings of an anonymous crank. When someone believes enough in their message to identify themselves it lends it somewhat more credence.

The most worrisome aspect of this case was that the jury found for the "interference with the contract." Known as SLAPP suits, corporations love to use this as a threat against individuals to prevent them from lodging protests against their activities. Don't like the deal a company made with local government? Don't like the crap a company is dumping in a local landfill? Complain about it in public and the company will sue you for interfering with their contract. Companies across the country have been suing local activists to silence them. And you never hear about them because of the gag order that always accompanies the settlement or the judgment.

From the Johnny Northside case it seems that you get into trouble when your identity can be verified and you accuse a private individual of involvement in criminal activity, and that accusation causes the victim some material harm. To stay out of trouble, don't let anyone connect you to your vitriol and keep it vague.

And, sadly, that's exactly what makes so much of the Internet a dismal place to be sometimes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just Fucking Ugly

It was only a few months ago that Boehner and the GOP took over the house. They said their number one priority was jobs. Instead, we've had the repeal of health care, defunding planned parenthood and NPR, anaphylaxis about the Defense of Marriage Act and now the McCarthy like hearings on Muslims. So much for focusing on jobs.

Contrary to Robert Mueller's prediction six years ago, we haven't had any Muslims blowing themselves up in shopping malls. The Muslims that move here do so to get away from all the scumbags back in their home countries who are blowing everything up. They come here because this the land of opportunity and freedom. They have integrated in our society quite well and their children (many of whom I have taught in the last few years) are as American as iPhones, incessant texting, gross farting noises, and loud yelling over something that someone said to someone who heard it from someone else after 2nd block.

Oh, and wing nuts? Check your feed to see if some loco weed has been mixed in with it. Sharia law is not going to be instituted in this country.

King is actually making things worse and it's pretty fucking sad. I'm not surprised, of course, that the fear, hate and anger crowd in their never ending quest to manufacture a problem have done it again. Al Qaeda is officially on the wane. Revolutions in the Middle East happened without their input. Their ideas have now been proven to be completely without merit as this article in the Times so eloquently demonstrates. and they have failed to capture the imagination of the youth.

For many specialists on terrorism and the Middle East, though not all, the past few weeks have the makings of an epochal disaster for Al Qaeda, making the jihadists look like ineffectual bystanders to history while offering young Muslims an appealing alternative to terrorism.

Indeed. So how moronic does King look now?

King's political theater and pandering to paranoids reminds me of one of my favorite comic books (yes, I am a comic book geek) from the Miracleman series. In the issue written by Neil Gaiman, Mircaleman has to create an area of the world for former spies from both the Soviet Union and the United States to live out their lives. Y'see, they can't function in any sort of peaceful and cooperative environment. They only know adversarial types of interaction and relationships. So, they lived out their days in this little corner of the world...spying and killing each other....until they are all dead.

I can't think of a better solution for the xenophobes in our country and the hirabists scattered around the world. Let's find a nice place for them where they can live out their hate, anger, fear, and paranoia of one another. South Carlina maybe? Texas? They can fight each other until they are all dead which suits me just fine. The rest of us can go about solving the real problems of the world which would now be much easier with these two groups out of the way.

Who knows, though? They are all conservative so maybe they'll figure out a way to get along:)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lazy, Cheating Wisconsin Public Employees

There's a group of Wisconsin public employees that make $49,943 year, plus up to an $88 dollar a day "per diem," which many of them have been collecting under false pretenses for years.

These people only work part time: according to their own schedule they're working at most 70 days this year. Not only do they get to collectively bargain for their own wages: they get to decide what their wages are.

Yeah, these guys make the same salary as your average Wisconsin teacher, get a public pension, but every day they go to work they also get their breakfast, lunch and dinner paid for at tax-payer expense! In addition, they get a whopping $30,000 a year for "office expenses!" They can rake in almost $100K a year with a little creative accounting!

And the worst thing is, all they do is sit around and argue! They don't do any actual work! They don't teach any kids, build any houses, or sweep any floors.

Who are these lazy, good-for-nothing public employee layabouts?

Wisconsin state senators.

Do these arguments misrepresent the true extent of what a state senator does and their value to the state? Yes. Has all the ranting about Wisconsin teachers and other public employees in the last month misrepresented what those people do, and their value to the state? Oh, yeah...

Classic Overreach

After last night's vote in Wisconsin, I received a flurry of panic emails and calls. Most of you know that I have a vested interest in what is happening in WI as both my mother and best friend (John Waxey) are public employees of the state. While I am concerned about the vote, I guess I'm looking at the bigger picture.

In the short run, it will be interesting to see what the AG of WI does. Will he allow the vote? Regardless of what he does, the recall effort of Senators is underway. It's reasonable to assume that a few are going to be recalled and voted out of office. So, in the next few months, we could see a shift in the WI state senate that would put Democrats in chage. In the long term, you can bank on Walker being recalled. The question much damage can he do in a year? If some Senators get recalled, it will be limited.

So, I guess I'm not of the mind today that we are all being thrown into a boiling pit of sewage yet. Honestly, I think it's classic GOP overreach. My chief concern right now is the pensions. There is no fucking doubt whatsoever that private concerns who have backed Walker want to rob the pensions in Wisconsin. That's where this is headed and where the ultimate battle will be fought. This is my mother's retirement and I shudder at the thought of those despicable people doing what they did back in 2008 to the entire country.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Reagan "Doctrine"

When I was a grad student in 1979 I had two friends: Rommel, who was from Nicaragua, and Said, who was from Iran. Even though they were from opposite sides of the world, they had a lot in common: both their countries were torn by revolution and civil war. You could see the mutual understanding in their eyes whenever our group talked about the situation, something the rest of us couldn't really understand.

Those two revolutions, as far as they were from the United States, had a tremendous effect on American politics. The revolution in Iran cost Jimmy Carter his reelection, and the intertwining of Iran and the Nicaraguan counter-revolution that Reagan supported could have cost him his.

In Iran the American-backed dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown by Islamic revolutionaries. The American embassy was stormed and 50-some hostages were taken. In Nicaragua the American-backed dictator, Anastasio Somoza, was overthrown by the Sandinistas, who eventually established a liberal democracy and held elections after a bitter civil war, funded in part by Reagan.

This history is important because some people's hazy memories of those days are leading them to the wrong conclusions about events in the Middle East, in particular, Libya. A recent column written by Marc Thiessen, a commentator at the Washington Post, tries to explain what a smashing success Reagan's doctrine was:
From his days as deputy CIA director during the Reagan administration, Gates knows there are options for removing a dictator short of sending in "a big American land army." In the 1980s, U.S. policymakers figured out a way to roll back Soviet expansionism without committing American ground forces to every flashpoint around the world. There were motivated people willing to fight their own wars of liberation. They did not want American soldiers to fight for them. They wanted America to provide weapons, training, intelligence and other support so they could fight and win those wars themselves. By providing such assistance, America helped resistance fighters in places such as Nicaragua and Afghanistan liberate their countries. It was called the "Reagan Doctrine," and the time has come to apply it in Libya.
Thiessen's thesis is that we should help the rebels in Libya in the same way that we helped the Taliban in Afghanistan and the right-wing death squads who killed American clergy in Nicaragua.

But a closer examination of the facts -- actually, just remembering what happened -- shows that the Reagan Doctrine caused many of the problems we face today.

When the shah of Iran, who had been installed in the 1950s by the CIA, MI6, and oil companies like BP, was overthrown the American embassy was overrun and hostages were taken. The hostages were held for more than a year, during which there was a presidential election in the United States. The hostage-taking was probably the last nail in the coffin of Jimmy Carter's presidency.

The thing Reagan's campaign feared the most was an "October Surprise," where the hostages would be released during the last phase of the campaign, and the good feeling of their homecoming would give Carter the boost he needed. That never happened.

However, there was an "Inauguration Day Surprise:" the day Reagan assumed office the hostages were freed. Coincidence? Wait and see what happens next...

During 1980 Iran and Iraq went to war. Reagan publicly supported Iraq; the US allowed war materiel to be sent to Saddam. This included chemicals that could be used for manufacturing nerve gas.

In the Iran-Contra affair, as it was known, Oliver North arranged for weapons to be sold to Iran. The proceeds of those arms sales went to finance the Contras, right-wing forces aligned with the former dictator Somoza trying to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Congress had passed a law making it illegal to supply arms to the Contras. Ultimately the Contras and their death squads were defeated; Nicaragua remains a democracy, but the Sandinistas have been in and out of power since then. Not from Reagan's secret machinations but because of elections held by the Nicaraguan people.

Was there a quid-pro-quo involved with the arms sales to Iran? Was Reagan paying for the delay of the release of the hostages until Inauguration Day? Many people believed so, and Reagan's CIA chief apparently went to Iran in the months before the election. Did Casey make a deal with the Iranians to release the hostages after the election, to seal a Carter defeat? He's dead, he died of a brain tumor about the time people started asking the question, so we'll never know.

Oliver North went to jail over Iran-Contra, and George Bush pardoned the high-level decision makers before they were convicted, preventing embarrassing details from coming out in court, and exposing the extent of Reagan's and Bush's involvement.

But back to Saddam. Using materiel provided by the US and Europe, Saddam made nerve gas which he used on Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians -- Iraqi citizens. The US Senate passed a resolution condemning Saddam and threatened to cut off all support to Iraq. Reagan vetoed this.

During the Bush presidency Saddam stated that Kuwait was part of Iraq. The American ambassador at the time made a statement to the effect the United States had no position on Iraq's territorial claims. Saddam apparently took this as a green light to invade Kuwait, resulting in the Gulf War.

Now, this has bearing on the other part of the Reagan Doctrine because, during the war in Afghanistan, Reagan funded the Taliban and proto-Al Qaeda against the Soviet occupation. Osama bin Laden was one of the guys we supported in Afghanistan. After the Soviets left, the Taliban turned the place into a misogynistic hell hole and haven for terrorists.

Many people credit Reagan for breaking the Soviet Union, but in reality Mikhail Gorbachov deserves most of the credit. The real reasons the Soviet Union fell were his policy of glasnost and allowing Poland to escape Soviet domination. Previous Soviet regimes had invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia under similar circumstances. The Soviet Union fell because they finally had a decent man in charge, as much as the dire state of their economy and their corrupt system.

When Saddam attacked Kuwait George Bush assembled a grand coalition against Iraq. The world beat Saddam rather quickly. One thing we did was base our troops in Saudi Arabia, in order to protect that country and improve logistics for the Gulf War. Bush stopped short of deposing Saddam because he knew that Iraq was an important counterweight to Iran (a lesson his son never understood and Cheney soon forgot).

But after the war we kept our bases in Saudi Arabia. This raised the ire of Osama bin Laden, and was the direct cause of the bombings of the embassies in Africa and ultimately 9/11. George W. Bush quietly closed the bases in Saudi Arabia during the Iraq war, finally giving bin Laden exactly what he wanted.

The lesson we can learn from this is pretty simple: all the petty machinations instigated by the Reagan doctrine -- Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, Nicaragua -- all either backfired and gave us more death and destruction, or were contrary to democracy and peace. George W. Bush tried to extend the Reagan Doctrine with the unilateral invasion of Iraq, using lies and nonexistent threats to justify it. A trillion dollars and thousands of American lives later, can we really say we got a good deal?

We rarely get a good result when we overtly meddle in foreign countries. We used to be a lot more covert about it -- as in Iran in 1953 -- but in this day of CNN, Al Jazeera, Facebook, Twitter and Wikileaks, that's all but impossible.

Sending in "advisors," as Thiessen would have us do, was the first step we took in Viet Nam. If we send such advisors to Libya and they're killed, say by a bombing of their barracks, the way 241 Americans were killed in Lebanon in 1983, what will people like Thiessen demand Obama do? Certainly some kind of retribution, otherwise the world will perceive us as weak.

But what did Reagan do when those marines died in Lebanon? Nothing. We got the hell out of there because we had no business being there. We blamed Iranian-backed terrorists, but never did a thing about it. Perhaps because Reagan was selling missiles to the Iranians on the sly?

We should give the Libyan rebels our moral support, and lobby in the UN for international action. But charging in there on our own, setting up a no-fly zone and sending in advisors and weapons would be a colossal, Reagan/W caliber mistake.

Action against dictators can be taken and can succeed. The ejection of Saddam from Kuwait was a good example, and Clinton's bombing of Serbia -- with NATO's involvement -- deposed Slobodan Milosevic and sent him to the Hague for trial. So unified international action against tyrants is completely reasonable, and that's what we should do. Or even better yet, let the people of those countries do it for themselves, as they have in Tunisia and Egypt.

But any unilateral action taken in Libya without the consent of the Arab world is doomed to failure. Perhaps not in the next year, but most certainly in the next 20 or 30. And that's what we should be concerned about: not that gas might hit $4.00 a gallon next month.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Truly Ashamed

Such hypocrisy on the right. Somewhere along the line, CEOS, Wall Street folks, bankers and the wealthy became Holy. And teachers are the ones being vilified...there are days when I am truly ashamed to be an American.

Tell The Truth and Run

Things seem to be getting more interesting and stranger by the minute in Wisconsin. Meetings at the state line...a few GOP Senators starting to question supporting the bill....a pregnant Democrat who might give birth sometime soon...

So, while we watch this all unfold, let's take a step back and take a look at the 20 lies Scott Walker has been peddling over the last few weeks (courtesy of Russ Filtered News). These are some of the same lies we have seen in comments as well so it's nice to be able to finally dispense with them.

Walker: His bill is about fixing a budget crisis.

The truth: Even Fox News’ Shepherd Smith couldn’t swallow that one, declaring that it’s all about politics and union busting, and “to pretend that this is about a fiscal crisis in the state of Wisconsin is malarkey.”

Walker: says he campaigned on his budget repair plan, including curtailing collective bargaining.

“We introduced a measure last week, a measure I ran on during the campaign, a measure I talked about in November during the transition, a measure I talked about in December when we fought off the employee contracts, an idea I talked about in the inauguration, an idea I talked about in the state of the state. If anyone doesn’t know what’s coming, they’ve been asleep for the past two years.”

The truth: Walker, who offered many specific proposals during the campaign, did not go public with even the sketchiest outline of his far-reaching plans to kill collective bargaining rights. He could not point to any statements where he did. In fact, he was caught on tape boasting to what he thought was his billionaire backer that he had “dropped the bomb.”

Walker: keeps saying that “almost all” of the protesters at the Capitol are from outside the state

The truth: “The vast majority of people protesting are from here — Wisconsin and even more from Dane County,” said Joel DeSpain, public information officer for the Madison Police Department.

Walker: He wants to negotiate.

The truth: He won’t negotiate, but he’ll pretend to so he can trick the 14 Dem senators into allowing a vote on his bill. Walker recently offered to actually sit down and speak with the minority leader – something he should have done anyway and long ago – but only if the rest of the senators came back with him. Why?

“…legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have a quorum because they started out that way…But that would be the only, if you heard that I was going to talk to them, that would be the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of them. And my sense is, hell, I’ll talk to them. If they want to yell at me for an hour, you know, I’m used to that, I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.”

Walker: says his budget-repair bill would leave collective bargaining “fully intact”

The truth: Walker revealed his own lie in the same radio interview when he said it was necessary to use his bill to strip collective bargaining rights, and in his own Feb. 11, 2011 letter to employees about his plan cited “various changes to limit collective bargaining” to the rate of base pay.

Walker: claims that states without collective bargaining having fared better in the current bad economy.

The truth: According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, three of the 13 non-collective bargaining states are among the 11 states facing budget shortfalls at or above 20% (Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina). Another, South Carolina, comes in at a sizable 17.4%. Nevada, where state employees have no collective bargaining rights (but local employees do) has the largest percentage shortfall in the country, at 45.2%. All in all, eight non-collective-bargaining states face larger budget shortfalls than Wisconsin.

Walker: Public employees are more richly compensated than their public sector counterparts.

The truth: According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector employees with comparable earnings determinants such as education and work experience. State workers typically are under-compensated by 8.2% in Wisconsin.

Walker: said we needed a “repair” bill to address a payment owed to Minnesota of nearly $60 million and money owed to the Patient’s Compensation Fund in the tune of $200-plus million.

The truth: Walker’s budget repair bill addresses neither issue.

Walker: said that our budget problems are largely due to employee wages.

The truth: Total salaries and compensation in the last budget were 8.5% of the entire state budget.

Walker: “The alternative” to higher state worker pension and health care payments “is to look at 1,500 layoffs of state employees or close to 200,000 children who would be bumped off Medicaid-related programs.”

The truth: Federal law prevents Walker from taking away the health care coverage of 200,000 low-income and disabled children. Later, Walker told a Madison radio station that the layoff was merely a ploy to gain some political leverage: “I needed to get their attention to show how serious we were about having a balanced budget,” Walker said on the “Sly in the Morning” show on WTDY radio.

Walker: “We’ve seen local union after local union rush to their school boards, their city councils, their technical school boards and rush through contracts in the past two weeks that had no contributions to the pension and no contribution to health care. And, in fact, in one case in Janesville, they actually were pushing through a pay increase. Actions do speak louder than words.”

The truth: Of the 11 such contracts provided as examples by Walker’s staff, all 11 include some employee contributions to health insurance. PolitiFact Wisconsin, which too frequently gets the facts wrong and arrives at strained conclusions, did, at least, contact the 11 communities:

Madison: Unions in the state’s second biggest city have been negotiating contracts for more than a year. Their pacts expired at the beginning of 2010. Contracts with two of Madison’s biggest public unions settled before Walker was inaugurated Jan. 3, 2011, said Brad Wirtz, Madison human resources director. He said who said those deals set the template for the remaining unions, who reached agreement on wages and other key financial issues after Walker took office but before Feb. 11, when Walker announced his plan.

Sheboygan County: Adam Payne, the county’s administrator, said the county’s agreement with the unions was reached between negotiators before Feb. 11 and it mirrors pacts reached with other unions late last year. “There was no special treatment,” Payne said noting the County Board approved the contract at a regularly scheduled meeting.

Janesville: The tentative agreement for school custodians was reached Jan. 25, 2011 — before Walker’s proposals were made public. Eric Levitt, city manager, said that in January he had set a mid-February target to settle contracts with city workers, so the talks continued on the previously set timetable. The two sides were close to reaching tentative agreements prior to Walker’s Feb. 11 announcement, Levitt said. He said the city felt that because of its obligation to negotiate in good faith, it was necessary to continue the talks after the governor made his call for increased payments by employees.

LaCrosse County Administrator Steve O’Malley said the county didn’t rush things since negotiations started last year and the first tentative agreement with a local was reached in December.

Racine City Administrator Thomas Friedel that Racine had been negotiating with bargaining units representing Department of Public Works and clerical workers since summer of 2010 and reached tentative agreements well before Walker made his move.

Milwaukee Area Technical College: Like all of the other governments, the technical college and the union representing teachers and other workers had been talking for months, well before Walker was elected. The board and the American Federation of Teachers Local 212 reached tentative agreement on Feb. 10 — the day before Walker’s announcement. The agreement froze wages for two years.

Walker: “I don’t have anything to negotiate. We are broke in this state. We have been broke for years.” and “We’re broke. We don’t have any more money.”

The truth: The NY Times says “It’s all obfuscating nonsense, of course, a scare tactic employed for political ends.” Even the hyper-conservative Wall Street Journal calls out Walker on this lie. The notion that the state needs to refinance the debt because it’s broke and can’t make its debt payments is “completely wrong,” said Frank Hoadley, the state finance director. Joshua Zeitz, municipal finance analyst for MF Global, said, the shortfall — about 0.5% of the state’s overall budget — is a fairly inconsequential amount. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a question more of politics than it is of a budget crisis,” Zeitz added. ”There’s a good amount of political theater in what you’re seeing,” said Tom Kozlik, municipal credit analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott.

If Walker were truly serious about balancing the budget, he would not be proposing a $36 million cut in the state’s capital gains tax or a $46 million corporate tax cut, on top of the millions of dollars in tax cuts he and the Republican legislature have already approved. Walker could balance his current budget by ending a variety of special interest tax dodging that is occurring in his state.

Walker: state employees pay next to nothing for their pensions and that it is all a big taxpayer give-away

The truth: Forbes — yes, the conservative Forbes! — says Walker is lying:

If the Wisconsin governor and state legislature were to be honest, they would correctly frame this issue. They are not, in fact, asking state employees to make a larger contribution to their pension and benefits programs as that would not be possible — the employees are already paying 100% of the contributions.

What they are actually asking is that the employees take a pay cut.

Pulitzer Prize winning tax reporter, David Cay Johnston, said so, too, at

Walker: said his budget repair bill, which guts the right of most public employees across the state to engage in collective bargaining, will deliver “the tools” local governments and school districts need to balance their budgets. “We cannot put this burden on local governments.”

The truth: Walker is going to both slash state aids and block local governments and school boards from raising taxes. And, of course, Walker’s numbers don’t match anything like reality.

Walker: claims he’s supported by silent majority.

The truth: Majority of Wisconsin residents (nearly 6 in 10) — and a majority of Americans — oppose his attack on collective bargaining and support the Dem 14 blocking it. Gallup found it. The CBS/NY Times poll found it. NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found it, too. The polls are so strong, even the reliably Republican Rasmussen couldn’t spin away from it. The public also overwhelmingly rejects the whole “public employees vs taxpayers” canard.

Walker: He wants to avoid layoffs.

The truth: Layoffs are implicit in his budget. Walker’s budget eliminates 21,325 state jobs

Walker: “To protect our schools, to protect our local governments, we need to give them the tools they’ve been asking for, not just for years but for decades.”

The truth: All four major state associations representing schools and local governments (not their employees) say this isn’t true.

Walker: The Dem 14 who are in Illinois to deny a Senate quorum needed to pass Walker’s budget repair bill are to blame for the layoffs he says he’s about to make to state workers.

The truth: Walker spoke of using layoff threats as political leverage: “We might ratchet that up a little bit, you know.” in his phony phone call with the faux Koch brother. Also, as noted above, Walker’s budget eliminates 21,325 state jobs.

Walker: “I have great respect for those who have chosen a career in government. I really do.”

The truth: Comedian Jon Stewart noted: ”‘I really do’ is a dead giveaway for ‘I really don’t,’ That’s what’s known in the business as the convincing clause. ‘I love you. I really do. That’s why breaking up with you right now is so difficult.’” The contempt he has displayed — in his bill, in his refusal to negotiate with the unions, in his refusal to negotiate with the Democrats and in his phony phone call — reveals why he felt the need for a convincing clause.

Walker admin: The protesters did $7.5 million of damage to the Capitol building by putting signs on marble walls with tape.

The truth: No professional estimate for clean-up has been performed. The Walker-appointed state facilities administrator would not support that estimate and said he’s not seen any damage by the protesters.