Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snowe Fall

Mark expressed pleasure at the announcement that Olympia Snowe is retiring, but I wish she could stay. And I wish there were more Republicans like her. With the fall of the last Republican moderates, I fear more deadlock in Congress in the near term, but the eventual fall of the Republican Party in the long term.

It's a common trope that both the Republican and Democratic parties are gathered at the extremes of the political spectrum, but it's the Republicans that have all clustered in the deep end of the ideological pool. The truth is, there are almost no liberals in the Democratic Party anymore.

You need look no further than President Obama for an example. Republicans insist he is a radical socialist, but he has compromised on dozens of issues, agreeing to solutions Republicans once embraced wholeheartedly just a few years ago. Including, but not limited to, the health care mandate, which Obama strongly opposed during the 2008 election campaign but agreed to in a compromise with the health care industry.

Democrats generally reflect the political bent of the districts they represent, ranging from right of center (there are dozens of Blue Dog Democrats like Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona until she resigned, and so on), to liberal few (Dennis Kucinich). Even though they don't agree on every little issue, the common thread among Democrats is that they want government to work for the people they represent.

But the vast majority of Republicans in government are now radically conservative no matter where they come from. They have either always been that way, or have been forced to change (like John McCain) or face being "primaried" by the Tea Party and Grover Norquist. Republicans like Snowe and Arlen Specter are being drummed out of the party. The only real exception is Scott Brown, because half a Republican senator from Massachusetts is better than none. (But if he loses, Republican pundits will say it's because he was too liberal and didn't do enough to "differentiate" himself from Warren.)

Republicans constantly carp about "political correctness," but they've got their own ideological enforcers who will viciously destroy any Republican who dares stray from the one true faith of Grover Norquist.

There are dozens of pro-life Democrats in Congress, but almost no pro-choice Republicans. Even though a thoroughly convincing libertarian argument can be made against the government telling you what you can do with your own body. There are hundreds of anti-gun control Democrats, but no pro-gun control Republicans. There are hundreds of Democrats in Congress who agree that we need to do something serious about Social Security and Medicare to avoid a future default, that we need to plan for balancing the budget and reducing the deficit, that we need a strong defense. But there are essentially no Republicans who will admit that real taxes on corporations (not the official rate, which almost no one pays) and the wealthy—especially capital gains taxes—are too low and a combination of budget cuts and selective tax increases are needed to fix our long-term problems.

The dictatorial nature of the Republican Party does not bode well for its long-term survival. Americans actually believe in freedom, and will grow tired of being constantly lectured about it by people who want to take their right to self-determination away, to be told when and with whom they can have sex, when and how they can have kids and who they can marry.

If one good thing comes of the bile and sewage the Republican primary campaigns and their Super PACs spewed over the airwaves, it will be a reversal of the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision. Perhaps then Republican candidates can focus on what their constituents want and need, instead of the demands of the cabals at Grover Norquist's Wednesday meetings, corporate board rooms and Fox News.

It's A Fine Line, My Friends, A Fine Line...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Maine Senator Olympia Snowe has announced she is retiring which puts Maine in play now for the Democrats. I'd say there is a very good chance they take that one back. They are certainly going to need every chance they have with the way things are looking in the Senate.

Goodbye Hello!

Well, I had to wait 15 years and, even though it was due to redistricting and not an election, I am FINALLY represented by a Democrat, Keith Ellison. And the 1st Muslim in the US Congress!

Goodbye CD3. You are now more conservative and Erik Paulsen will be your representative for as long as the Democrats continue to nominate people who have never been elected to public office. Hello, CD5, perhaps you may end up being too liberal for me?

The Anti-College Crusade

The other day Rick Santorum said:
Not all folks are gifted in the same way. Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people have incredible gifts and ... want to work out there making things. President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.
The fact is, Obama said that he wants everyone to go to a university or two-year community college or vocational school of their choice. In this modern world of computerized cars and highly-automated factory floors that require the people running those machines to have programming skills, you need to know more than just readin', ritin' and 'rithmetic. After the tea-party crowd finished applauding, Santorum continued:
There are good decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.
Santorum went to Penn State (I wonder if he knew Jerry Sandusky?). He also got an MBA and a law degree. He seems to have escaped his indoctrination by liberal secular state university professors. Santorum also seems to be unafraid of his own children being indoctrinated: his two oldest have started college, though they're taking a break to work on his campaign.

The fact is, on average people with college educations make a lot more money than people who don't. The unemployment rate among the college-educated is half that of the rest of the nation. Their divorce rate and out-of-wedlock birthrate is much lower. They have better health and live longer. People make connections at college that will set them up for life, even if they drop out like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

For a long time now Republicans seem to have been striving to become the party of stupid. Now they have a candidate who's actively denigrating getting a college education. It seems crazy for the party of the rich and soon-to-be rich to advocate against the best track to wealth and influence.

Is Santorum off his rocker? Or has he unwittingly revealed the Republican party's real agenda?

Two camps of Republicans have long been at odds. The first camp is big business and its frontmen, guys like Rick Perry, George Bush and (until recently) John McCain. These businesses have relied on large numbers of illegal aliens to pick tomatoes, clean hotel rooms and butcher chickens. The same group has been relentlessly busting unions, most recently with states like Wisconsin and Indiana gutting the ability of unions to even exist.

The second camp is relatively uneducated lower- to middle-income, blue-collar, union-hating, anti-amnesty Republicans who are afraid that illegal aliens will steal their jobs. Because the only real qualification the aliens lack is the ability to speak English. So they want the aliens out now, though they aren't interested in taking the aliens' jobs because they don't pay enough to live on.

Is the real Republican agenda to encourage the economic descent of the average American so that they will fill the void left by all those deported illegals? To get this to work, Republicans have to make low-wage blue-collar Americans feel smug and superior and that they're somehow more authentic than college-educated politicians (and their multi-millionaire CEO buddies, but let's not mention them). Santorum and Sarah Palin seem to be doing just that.

Or would we be better served by sending more people to college who will study computer science and engineering to fill the hundreds of thousands of current high-tech job vacancies here in the United States? Jobs that are now going to foreigners with college educations. These well-educated Americans could start companies that build machines that pick tomatoes, butcher chickens and clean hotel rooms, eliminating the need for illiterate aliens who can't speak English. Maintaining and programming those machines would create decent-paying jobs for Americans who like to work with their hands. This would also increase the productivity of the American economy and allow us to beat out China, which still relies on prison slave labor and low-wage workers stacked eight to a dorm room.

Will all these Tea Party Republicans still feel proud and smug when it's their kids lopping off their fingers on the meat-packing floors instead of illegal aliens or shiny metal robots?

Maher on the Bubble

This is the bubble they live in. It's hard to get actual facts into this impermeable membrane. They are running against a fictional president. A president who has slashed defense, who has raised taxes, who goes around the world apologizing to different countries, who coddles terrorists, all of which, of course, never happened. But that's who they think the president is. And it's very, very hard. That's why we have this bubble we built on this show to physically illustrate this.---Bill Maher on "The Bubble."

Monday, February 27, 2012

It's Not Just Fox News

I'd add in the Right Wing Blogsphere as well. In fact, it's really more appropriate for them:)


The Keystone Fight Is Uniting Tea Partiers With Environmentalists. 

I knew it was only a matter of time before there was some crossover. It makes sense when you really sit back and think about how one could make a case for the government failing to protect property rights.


Some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them? Into what exactly? Someone who can think for themselves? Good grief...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

No Shit

Sunday's Epistle

Social issues have once again come up in the political dialogue and with many states taking up the issue of gay marriage now and in the fall, Lisa Cressman's recent piece in the StarTribune is quite timely. More than that, it's wonderfully welcome in its elegant way of expressing several simple truths. And, coming from an assistant priest at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Lake Elmo, MN, it carries with it a great deal more weight.

Gay marriage opponents had put up a questionnaire titled ""Six questions for supporters of same-sex marriage to answer" and so, Cressman did. I have decided to reprint her entire response here as it is just that good.

1. Were our ancestors all dumb and bigoted? 

Our ancestors knew many truths, but not all. A common example of what our ancestors held to be self-evident, biblically sanctioned truth, which we now hold in abhorrence, is slavery. It's appropriate to ask ourselves whether a particular societal tradition is the best way for us to continue. 

If the Bible condoned slavery, doesn't that mean that the authors may have not been completely accurate about everything?

2. Don't our sexual organs exist for reproduction? 

Reproduction is one of their purposes, but so is intimacy. If our sexual organs existed solely for reproduction, couples would have sex only at the times necessary for procreation. Moreover, if this were the case, physical fulfillment in marriage wouldn't be enjoyed by couples who cannot have children (for medical reasons or by virtue of advanced age) or who choose not to do so. 

3. Do we just give in to our sexual desires? 

Our sexual desires have been channeled through the worthy tradition that people choose one mate and make a promise of fidelity through marriage. A mutual, joyful and public commitment, permanently held, one to another, is the healthiest way to build stable families and a stable society. This would argue for encouraging members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community likewise to make a commitment of marriage as the appropriate avenue for their sexuality. 

4. Adultery, pedophilia and bestiality are wrong. So homosexuality? 

Adultery is a problem because of the trust shattered when marriage vows are broken. Pedophilia and bestiality are anathema because there cannot be mutual consent -- an adult always holds power over a child or an animal. Homosexual commitment is mutual between consenting adults. 

Consenting adults is the key here. You don't have that with children, animals or inanimate objects.

5. Changes in norms require universal acceptance. Prevalent homosexuality will not work. 

Many changes in our country have taken place without universal acceptance. Indeed, many laws in our country were designed to protect the very people who do not receive universal acceptance. As to prevalent homosexuality, the long-held estimate is that roughly 10 percent of the population is homosexual. No law has the ability to increase or decrease those numbers. 

Civil rights, anyone?

Now the best one...

6. The religious question: Shouldn't we be trying to encourage others to repent of a wrong? 

The assumption is that homosexuality is wrong. Assumptions are fair to question, even religious ones. We understand now, in a way our biblical ancestors could not, that medically and psychologically, homosexuals are born, not made. Would a loving God deliberately create someone who is fundamentally a mistake?

This is the very essence of the debate. Gay people don't learn to be gay or give in to their "sinful desires." They are born that way. That's how God made them.

If it's a question about "love the sinner but hate the sin," the way we discern whether something is, in fact, sinful, is to look at its consequences. The consequences that result from committed homosexual relationships are as positive as they are for committed heterosexual relationships: stable, tax-paying, caring-for-one-another-through-thick-and-thin families. These are the kinds of consequences that benefit all of society.

This brings up an issue that I have never understood. If the anti-gay crowd thinks homosexuals are engaging in deviant behavior, why are they against them trying to change that into something much more healthy? Like a marriage?

Personally, I think it's because the anti-gays are (surprise surprise) paranoid that accepting homosexuals will push they themselves over the edge into sin. You know how those folks love to have people all thinking the same way (due to massive insecurity).

Marriage matters to the GLBT among us as much as it does to the rest of us. Surrounded by family and friends, to make a promise to cherish that one other person until parted by death, matters. 

This is a big change, surely. I am persuaded, however, that change based on a commitment, a lifelong commitment of mutual joy, will benefit us all. 

It's obvious that those benefits are quickly becoming economical:)

Gay hair stylist drops New Mexico governor as client because she opposes same-sex marriage 

Man, I love the free market!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why is it OK when he says it?

If You Are Really Concerned About The Debt and The Deficit...

...then the person you should be supporting is Ron Paul. After that, it's Barack Obama.

A recent report by the non partisan U.S. Budget Watch, a project of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, showed that Mr. Paul's plan would only add less than 500 billion dollars to the deficit by the end of 2016. President Obama would add just a little more than that with 649 billion.

Yet, Mitt Romney would add 700-800 billion dollars to the deficit with 2.6 trillion added to the debt by 2012.  Rick Santorum would add over 1 trillion dollars to the deficit by the end of 2016 with the debt rising to 4.5 trillion dollars by 2021. The worst offender, Newt Gingrich, would add 1.5 trillion to the deficit with a whopping 7 trillion dollars added to the debt by 2021.

So, why so much under the plans of the GOP hopefuls? Tax cuts. Well, they worked so well before...

Now that I think about it, they did work. The tax cuts have enabled the right to blame President Obama for all our economic problems.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Have All the Wrongs Been Righted?

Recently the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on affirmative action at the University of Texas. The legalistic argument usually made against affirmative action is that racial preferences are bad no matter what, even if they exist to right historical wrongs.

But when you dig a little deeper, the general sentiment of many who oppose affirmative action is actually, "Get over it! Slavery ended almost 150 years ago. How long are you going to make us feel guilty for what our great-great-grandfathers did?"

But the surprising fact is that slavery did not really end until 1941! The Thirteenth amendment abolished it, but left an exception for punishment, which was widely abused in the South until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At which point Roosevelt ordered a crackdown to avoid a propaganda attack by the Axis. The Thirteenth Amendment states:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. 
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Everyone knows about chain gangs and share-croppers in the South, which were effectively slave labor. But after Reconstruction whites in the South used the Constitutional exception to falsely imprison millions of blacks and force them into slavery in industries such as logging, manufacturing, construction and mining.

This practice, known as convict leasing, is the subject of a PBS documentary called Slavery by Another Name. It's based on a book by The Wall Street Journal's Atlanta bureau chief Douglas Blackmon. Blackmon, a white southerner, wrote an article in 2001 about how many companies, including U.S. Steel, used convict leasing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He expanded his research into a book in 2008.

It worked like this: whites passed laws against vagrancy, loitering, gambling, spitting and so on. They also turned lesser crimes, such as stealing a pig worth one dollar, into felonies. Blacks were stopped on the street and if they couldn't prove they were employed, they were arrested on the spot. The state then sold the labor of prisoners, the vast majority of them black, to companies for a few dollars a month. The slave economy was back in full force, just in time to create an economic boom in the South as the industrial revolution hit.

Convict leasing was in some ways worse than slavery. It's in the best interests of slave owners to avoid abusing slaves because they have a lot of economic value: a slave can labor for decades. But convicts were leased by the month. If one died you just got another one. Many convicts were forced to work for 16 and 20 hours at a stretch at filthy, dark, cold, and wet jobs at coal mines, lumber camps and railroad lines. Overwork and mistreatment killed them by the thousands.

Another common practice in the South was peonage, or indentured servitude, where people were enslaved to work off debts. This practice was common in Mexico and supposed to be illegal in the United States. But in the South it was common for debtors to be forced to sign contracts to provide labor. Even worse, there were cases where law enforcement would round up blacks, claim they owed them money, get a justice of the peace to falsely "legalize" the claim, force them to sign a "contract," and then force them into slavery for money they never owed.

In one famous case in the early 1900s the U.S. government convicted the leader of one of these gangs, John W. Pace, of peonage. On appeal Pace claimed he was innocent because the people he enslaved didn't really owe him money, so he couldn't be guilty of peonage. And since there was no actual law against slavery—Congress didn't think to pass one since it was a Constitutional amendment—Pace's lawyers said he'd done nothing illegal. Teddy Roosevelt later pardoned Pace who went back to using peons.

Now, blacks weren't the only victims of these outrageous crimes, through they were in the vast majority. In 1923 a North Dakotan named Martin Tabert was arrested in Florida for vagrancy by Sheriff J.R. Jones. Jones had a contract with Putnam Lumber: he received $20 (plus expenses) for each prisoner he turned over to the company. Tabert had pleaded guilty to riding a freight train through Tallahassee, and was sentenced to pay $25 or serve three months of hard labor. He didn't have the money and was sent to the prison camp, where they worked him from 4 AM to 6 PM. One Friday Tabert was whipped 100 lashes for failing to keep up with the other prisoners as they marched back and forth to a swamp where they often worked in hip-deep water. He died four days later. Perhaps the worst thing is that Tabert's parents had wired their son some money but, as Sheriff Jones wrote in a letter, "it was sent in his name—I therefore returned it."

This sort of thing happened every day to blacks. But only when convict leasing killed a white man from North Dakota did it draw the attention of the New York Times (the full story is behind a paywall at the Times), and things start to change.

Perhaps the most vile aspect of this whole sorry episode in American history is the corrosive effect convict leasing had on the general impression of blacks. The PBS program points out that before the Civil War blacks were perceived as loyal and hard-working (as they are portrayed in movies about the era). Afterwards, subjected to massive unemployment and false arrest on trumped-up charges, they came to be viewed as lazy and criminal. Which makes me ask: was the pattern of absentee black fathers that society has decried for the past 50 years set in place when young black husbands were abducted off the streets by white sheriffs and sent off to slave labor camps?

There are Americans still alive today who were once enslaved by our justice system. There are Americans still alive today who were systematically prevented by their government from voting and using the same lunch counters, restrooms, buses, classrooms and drinking fountains as the rest of us. And there are Americans still alive today whose fathers and husbands were systematically murdered by their white neighbors while law enforcement participated or stood by and watched. Hell, these lynchings have occurred in my lifetime.

That means there are Americans still alive today who perpetrated those crimes. Can we really say all wrongs have been righted when there are still Americans alive today who feel those crimes were justified?

Barack Obama's Army Of Gun Grabbing Robots

Remember when all those people ran out to buy guns and ammo when President Obama got elected because they were afraid he would take away their guns?

Yeah, that never happened.

But at least the guns and ammo places weren't hurt too much by the recession. I wonder if they will thank the president....

Moreover, my own home state legislature just voted to give the use of deadly force anywhere the thumbs up. This is one of many examples in which the president has largely left the issue of gun rights up to the states. The results of this hands off policy has seen a great loosening of gun laws that honestly haven't been seen in decades. So you think they would be happy, right?


They say that President Obama is a Muslim, but if he isn’t, he’s a secularist who is waging war on religion. On some days he’s a Nazi, but on most others he’s merely a socialist. His especially creative opponents see him as having a “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview,” while the less adventurous say that he’s an elitist who spent too much time in Cambridge, Hyde Park and other excessively academic precincts. 

Yeah...which is it again? I can't keep track.

Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education. 

Isn't he a model that we should point to and say to our kids, "Hey, be like this guy?" After all, he fulfills the checklist of the base in terms of family values and working hard to get himself ahead. In so many ways, he is illustrative of the opportunity that comes with this great country. And yet, they shit all over him.

It’s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies. A significant part of his opposition still cannot accept that Obama is a rather moderate politician quite conventional in his tastes and his interests. And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama’s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and cliches and slanders. 

That's my favorite bit of the whole piece. It's so fucking accurate. And so fucking sad. It's likely that the rest of this election year is going to see them descend into deeper and heretofore unfathomable paranoia.

But there is something especially rancid about the never-ending efforts to turn Obama into a stranger, an alien, a Manchurian Candidate with a diabolical hidden agenda. Are we trying to undo all the good it did us with the rest of the world when we elected an African American with a middle name popular among Muslims?


It makes me wonder what will happen if the president wins a second term. I honestly wouldn't be surprised they started saying that the president is building an army of killer robots that are going to take away their guns.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Another Energy Milestone

For the first time in more than 60 years, The United States has become a net fuel exporter."It looks like a trend that could stay in place for the rest of the decade," Dave Ernsberger, global director of oil at Platts, told The Wall Street Journal. "The conventional wisdom is that U.S. is this giant black hole sucking in energy from around the world. This changes that dynamic." All of this is happening because of new sources of oil in North Dakota and Texas as well as new opportunities in Canada.

But......anyone notice a drop in gas prices?


That's because, as I have stated many times, world demand has been rapidly rising in emerging markets. Brazil used to export fuel to the United States but now they import over 100,000 barrels a day. Singapore has quadrupled its imports from the US.

So, while this is a wonderful opportunity for oil companies, we won't see any difference at the pump, as the Wall Street Journal notes.

But U.S. drivers aren't seeing much benefit in the form of lower prices because refineries on the Gulf Coast are shipping much of their output to places where demand is strong, keeping prices high.

So, we can "drill, baby, drill" all we want but with demand falling off here in the US and rising abroad, it won't matter one bit how much fuel we export.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Suddenly, As If Out of Someone's Ass...

A recent discussion regarding racism prompted me to do a little research on the phenomenon known as denial. I chuckled when I ran across the concept of DARVO which stands for Deny the abuse, then Attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby Reversing Victim and Offender.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Further, psychologist Jennifer Freyd explains. 

The attack will often take the form of focusing on ridiculing the person who attempts to hold the offender accountable. [...] [T]he offender rapidly creates the impression that the abuser is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed. [...] The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense.

Exactly. This is essentially what happens when folks bitch about "playing the race card." Suddenly (as if out of someone's ass), the person who is obviously being racist is now the victim. How ingenuous!

A Serious Commitment

Lost in all the political news over the last few weeks was this announcement.

NRC approves first new nuclear plant in a generation.

It's actually two nuclear reactors that will be located in Georgia. Thomas Fanning, Southern Co.'s chief executive Officer, called the license a "monumental accomplishment" and said the new Vogtle plants would provide cheap, reliable power to Southeast residents for years to come.

The Obama administration has offered Southern and its partners $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees as an incentive. Fanning said he expects the U.S. Energy Department to finalize the loan in the second quarter of 2012. For those of you keeping track, that's 16 times the amount that was loaned to Solyndra and ultimately lost.

I'd say that represents a more serious commitment to nuclear power and energy overall considering that this plant will be the first since 1979.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Maltese Candidate

Remember the creepy bad guys in The Da Vinci Code, the ones who flagellated themselves and wore spiked chains called cilice to inflict pain on themselves? Well, those guys aren't some mad conspiratorial raving of Dan Brown—they're a real organization called Opus Dei, which is Latin for the work of god.

In 2002, while a US senator, Rick Santorum went to Rome to celebrate the centenary of Opus Dei's founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. At the meeting he held an interview with the National Catholic Reporter:
[Santorum] told NCR that a distinction between private religious conviction and public responsibility, enshrined in John Kennedy’s famous speech in 1960 saying he would not take orders from the Catholic church if elected president, has caused “much harm in America.” 
“All of us have heard people say, ‘I privately am against abortion, homosexual marriage, stem cell research, cloning. But who am I to decide that it’s not right for somebody else?’ It sounds good,” Santourm said. “But it is the corruption of freedom of conscience.”
Santorum told NCR that he regards George W. Bush as “the first Catholic president of the United States.”
Brown's fictional depiction of Opus Dei contains exaggerations, according to an ABC story from 2006. But the reality isn't much better:
There have also been claims of excessive control. Tammy DiNicola was a freshman at Boston College when she went on her first Opus Dei retreat. She says what began as as opportunity to deepen her faith quickly accelerated into involvement in an all-controlling group.
"Everything becomes gradually controlled," DiNicola said. "Your mail is read. Your salary's handed over. Your reading matter and your movies, all of this is controlled." 
Opus Dei acknowledges that many members hand over portions of their salaries, but says that there is no truth behind allegations of excessive control and that its only intention is to teach and coach.
It sounds very much like a cult. And the cilice? They're a form of hair shirt, and members of Opus Dei really do wear them, though usually only two hours a day.

According to the NCR article, Santorum isn't a member of Opus Dei, just an admirer of its founder. But Santorum is a member of the Knights of Malta, an organization that goes back to the Crusades.

In 2004 Rick Santorum and his wife Karen were invested in the Knights of Malta as Knight and Dame of Magistral Grace. The full name of the organization is "Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of MaltaSM". At the time Santorum was still a US senator representing Pennsylvania.

The Knights of Malta, or Knights Hospitallers, originally provided medical care for Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem. In the First Crusade they became a full-fledged military order. After they were ejected from the Holy Land, they governed the island of Rhodes as a sovereign state, and then the island of Malta. After Napolean kicked them out, they went to Rome.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) claims to be a sovereign state in the same way that the Vatican does, though it has no actual land other than its offices:
SMOM has formal diplomatic relations with 104 states and has official relations with another six countries and the European Union. Additionally it has relations with the International Committee of the Red Cross and a number of international organizations, including observer status at the UN and some of the specialized agencies. Its international nature is useful in enabling it to pursue its humanitarian activities without being seen as an operative of any particular nation. Its claimed sovereignty is also expressed in the issuance of passports, licence plates, stamps, and coins.
SMOM issues passports, currency and license plates! It has diplomatic relations with Italy, Spain, all of South America, almost all of Eastern Europe, including Russia, and half of Africa and Central America.

This means that Rick Santorum accepted a title of nobility from a self-proclaimed sovereign state, whose sovereignty is recognized around the world. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution states:
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
Now, since the United States does not recognize the SMOM's sovereignty claim, so Santorum may not technically be in violation of the Constitution. (And Congress may have consented to it and I simply can't find it on the net.)

But SMOM is a foreign organization that purports to be a sovereign state. And it has the express intent of influencing political outcomes in the United States. If you look at look at the PDF file announcing Santorum's knighthood, you will find it filled with condemnations of gay marriage, dictates over end-of-life care, and overt political statements such as the following:
non-negotiable tenets of the Catholic faith which hold, unequivocally, that these actions,
which involve the destruction of innocent human life, are intrinsically evil and, therefore,
are prohibited:
• abortion at any stage of life
• embryonic stem cell research (from fetal tissue)
• euthanasia/assisted suicide
• human cloning
Curiously absent from this "pro-life" list is any mention of the death penalty, "preventive" war like Iraq, shooting guys who ring your doorbell, and similar acts which the Catholic Church is supposed to oppose. It's fine to vote for politicians who condone killing living, breathing human beings, but blastocysts are sacred! The pro-life proclamations are really just a very narrow agenda to restrict individuals'—and especially women's—health care choices.

A lot of Americans are uneasy about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith. But Santorum's connections to Opus Dei and SMOM put him ever further out on the fringe.

Does Santorum think of himself as a latter-day crusader? Would he literally be taking marching orders from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome? Would he have an Opus Dei consigliere at his right hand and a papal nuncio on his left? Would he be incapable of separating his fealty to the Catholic Church from his loyalty to the Constitution of the United States of America? Is Rick Santorum a Manchurian Candidate, brainwashed by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta?

Many will complain that asking questions like this about Rick Santorum is a blatant attempt at character assassination and guilt by association. But Perry's now-defunct campaign did the same thing to Romney with his Mormon faith, and Newt Gingrich and the Republicans have been doing this to Obama incessantly for years, trying to link the president to Saul Alinsky (who died when Obama was 10), Jeremiah Wright, and Obama's dead Kenyan father's Muslim roots.

The difference is that Obama has consistently disavowed or disparaged the very ideas that Republicans try to link him to. Obama has time and again shown that he will work out a reasonable compromise to try to accommodate other Americans' views, though his efforts are constantly thrown back in his face by Republicans who feel that eternal political conflict is beneficial to their cause.

Santorum, on the other hand, has parroted the standard Catholic line, and worked tirelessly to force his beliefs on the rest of the country, especially in the area of women's health care.

When John F. Kennedy answered the question about his fealty to Rome and his loyalty to the United States, he answered forcefully and forthrightly: he was an American first. By repudiating Kennedy, Santorum has answered the question equally clearly.

The Church of The Blessed Skeptic

Rick Santorum on climate change

An absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life.

Hmph. Sounds exactly like the voices inside my head that post here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

President's Day Calvacade

President's Day Calvacade

President's Day Calvacade

President's Day Calvacade

President's Day Calvacade

Mind-Reading Republicans

After apologizing on CBS' Face the Nation for saying that President Obama had a "phony theology" Rick Santorum said:
This idea that man is here to serve the Earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth--I think that is a phony ideal. I don't believe that that's what we're here to do. That man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth. But we're not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. And, I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down.
Yes, Rick, it's phony because you're presenting a phony strawman. President Obama has never said that we're here to serve the Earth like satyrs servicing Mother Gaea.

Does Santorum believe he's reading Obama's mind to learn the president's secret thoughts about man's place in the universe? All Republicans -- Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich -- claim the supernatural ability to channel the president and tell us what his ultimate goal is, be it death panels, reeducation camps and massive gun confiscations. Well, let me get out my crystal ball and see if I can read the president's mind too.

Ommm... Mene, Menu, Tekel u-Pharsin. Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres. Yes, it's becoming clearer now...

President Obama believes that the Earth is the place where we live. He believes we shouldn't foul our own nest. The president wouldn't fill his basement with toxic sludge from a coal-fired power plant, incinerate mounds of trash in his kitchen, store radioactive waste in his refrigerator, run an oil pipeline through his living room, or frack for natural gas in his front yard, poisoning his well water. But the president knows that all of these things have to happen in someone's back yard, and he thinks we should take a conservative approach and exercise discretion and judgment when considering such developments, rather than letting power plant owners and oil companies ram through whatever projects they want for a quick buck regardless of what's good for the long-term health of the country.

In fact, my crystal ball tells me that Obama thinks exactly the same thing that Rick Santorum is saying about being a good steward of the Earth. And it tells me that 99.9% of environmentalists think the same thing.

What Santorum and his ilk completely misunderstand about environmentalists and climate science is that it's not really the Earth that they're concerned about. It's about us and our kids, and the kind of place we'll live in. Heavy metals from leaded gas and coal plant emissions cause brain damage in children and those fetuses that Santorum is hell-bent on protecting. Polluted air causes asthma, emphysema and heart disease. Lakes, rivers and groundwater tainted with toxic chemicals cause cancer and other insidious diseases. Heavy industry produces poisons that sicken and kill people as well as frogs, snail darters and cute baby seals with big eyes.

No matter how much crap we put into the air and water, the Earth will still be here, it will heal itself over the millennia, and some form of life will survive, evolve and eventually thrive again, just as it has after several asteroid strikes and massive volcanic eruptions. But if we screw things up bad enough, our complex technological civilization will collapse.

Climate change will cause severe weather, floods, drought, famine, rising oceans, and mass migrations. Coupled with global pandemics, mutated tropical diseases, fuel shortages, depleted natural resources and ultimately global war, billions of people may die. If the war goes nuclear the planet could be shrouded in a cloud of radioactive dust that ushers in a new ice age.

On the grand scale of things, I don't really care if the last polar bear dies off. I'm more concerned about the welfare of future generations of Americans and their place in a world of ever-declining resources where the population is pushing nine or ten billion people. So does the president and so does Rick Santorum.

There are plenty of real ways for Santorum to disagree with the president. There's no need to invent phony ones.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Click on image for larger size.

Well, That Didn't Take Long

We knew it was only a matter of time.

Santorum says Obama agenda not 'based on Bible'

No, that's not a headline from the Onion. It's real, folks!

Obama's agenda is "not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology," Santorum told supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement at a Columbus hotel.

This sounds so familiar....I can't quite place my finger on it...hmm....oh yeah....

10. Invoking the Christian God. This is similar to othering and populism. With morality politics, the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and "real Americans" (those are inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America. And hates taxes and anyone who doesn't love those other three things. Because the speaker has been benedicted by God to speak on behalf of all Americans, any challenge is perceived as immoral. It's a cheap and easy technique used by all totalitarian entities from states to cults.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

We're The Ones Who Should Bitch (But We Don't)

A few days back I posted this graphic which ruffled a few feathers. I always chuckle when this happens because the more acute the mouth foaming, the closer I know I am to reality, facts and bursting the bubble that surrounds the conservative utopia that the base has created for itself. The land where Ayn Rand and Jesus are worshiped side by side every night while the Constitution and the Bible are never EVER questioned. And liberals are statist thugs bent on penetrating that bubble-taking away guns, rights, and letting their women use contraception in their never ending pursuit to bankrupt this country with social welfare programs that take the fruit of hard earned worker's labor and give it to black people who use it to get a flat screen TV.

The simple fact is, as I pointed out the other day, the people who bitch about government handouts are usually the ones that benefit from them the most. 

Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.

Oh really? Was this before or after he made his Tea Party T-Shirts? In fact, it was both.

More interesting is this map which shows the areas of the country that take the most money from the federal government. Let's see we have darker red in Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona (really, Jan Brewer?), Florida, Texas, Alaska (hee hee), Kentucky, Tennessee, and Oklahoma-states that always or mostly deep GOP. Scroll over Oklahoma, for example, and see the various counties that are receiving over 30 percent of personal income from programs like food stamps and Medicare.

Dean P. Lacy, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College, has identified a twist on that theme in American politics over the last generation. Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.

Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Professor Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues.

As I have suspected, these people are completely full of shit. Bitching about the government is like a hobby for them and, if their little slice was taken away, they'd shit themselves silly. Of course, this is another shining example of the adolescent who bitches about his parents but then comes running to mommy and daddy when he or she gets into trouble.

Lately, the government has been very good, indeed. The county, with federal financing, bought a corner of Mr. Peterson’s farm to build a new interchange for Interstate 35. He used the money to open a gas station at the edge of the farm in 2008 to serve the traffic that rolls off the new ramp. The business is prospering, and he no longer worries that he will need to depend on Social Security.

Yeah, they're "independent" alright.

Given this data, shouldn't Democrats be the ones that bitch considering that OUR taxes are actually paying for several million conservatives on the dole? Nope.

Because we understand what it means to be a grown up.

Yeah...No...Not Really

If I had a buck for every time I heard a conservative whine to me in the last couple of years about how "the president and the Democrats haven't passed a budget in a thousand days," I'd be a millionaire (and I'd still be a Democrat with all my money:)). The problem with this ripe of piece of poo (like most of the other things they say) is that they aren't really telling the whole story and (as usual) are being childishly dishonest.

To begin with, budget resolutions aren't binding. They're simply parameters for the House Appropriations Committee to use when they actually pass their various bills and spend money. Their actions are what ultimately execute the budget and guess what? They've been doing it all along even with all the acrimony that's been taking place since the GOP took back the House.

More importantly, when the Senate passed the Budget Control Act last summer that resolved the debt limit battle, they passed an actual binding bill that set binding appropriations caps for this fiscal year and the next and instituted a mechanism to contain spending on domestic discretionary programs — education, research, community health programs and the like — through the next decade. This would be why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won't bring the president's budget to the floor of the Senate: it's redundant.

So, the next time you hear some ass hat foaming at the mouth about how the Democrats haven't passed a budget in a thousand days, point out these two facts to them.

And remind them that the Republicans did the same thing 1998, 2004, and 2006.

Friday, February 17, 2012


The Obama campaign has seized upon a brilliant way to address the fictional character created by the right known as Barack X. Check out THE TRUTH TEAM.

This site is divided into three sections. The first is AttackWatch which takes all the comments that reside under the "Managing Fantasies" heading and addresses them head on. For example, the Republican Jewish Committee has made the false claim that the president is cutting funding to Israel. Click here and you will see what is actually happening in reality.

The second section, Keeping GOP Honest, looks at their policy points and breaks them down. For example, Mitt Romney has repeatedly said that he would've let GM and the auto industry to fail. Here is some information that illustrates the folly of that idea.

The third section should be dedicated to our very own last in line. Keeping His Word has a complete list of his accomplishments. Click on any of the six sections and see the benefits of his policies.

All in all, a very smart move considering what we all know is coming: more fictional history of the man named (dum dum DAH) Barack X!

If only John Kerry had been smart enough to do this in 2004 then he wouldn't now still be known as a French war criminal.

A Load of Papal Bull

I heard an interview on the radio today with Michelle Bachmann. During her rant against President Obama's decision on birth control, she characterized the regulation as an attack on religious freedom and democracy. But while pretending to call for religious freedom and democracy, Bachmann is actually giving a foreign dictator the power to control the most intimate part of American life.

The big stink began when American Catholic bishops complained about regulations requiring employers to pay for birth control. Obama relented and said that the insurance companies would pay instead. Why do the bishops oppose contraception? There's a papal bull called Humanae Vitae. It was issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968 and condemns artificial birth control.

In the Catholic Church one man dictates all policy. Tomorrow the pope could issue another bull and say birth control is fine and is necessary because we have fulfilled the commandments of the Bible. We have been so fruitful and so successful at multiplying that there are now seven billion of us. To be good stewards of the earth, he could say, we must prevent overpopulation. He could cite Leviticus and Exodus and justify birth control on the basis of the idea that the fields must be allowed to lie fallow for a time: once we've had two kids, we can use birth control. The bishops would reverse course and accept Obama's regulation the next day, with the proviso that they would only pay for contraception for married couples with children. Yes, this whole argument is that arbitrary and capricious.

It's estimated that between two-thirds and 99% of all American Catholics are using or have used artificial birth control. The majority of Catholics think the pope is wrong, and if they were allowed to vote on this issue the pope would lose. Several of the bishops themselves have disagreed with the pope on this issue in the past, but have been silenced by threats or replaced.

But, you say, the Church isn't a democracy. The people don't get to vote on this. Sorry, that's just not true. The people do get a vote, and they vote with their feet. That's why Moses left Egypt, Christianity separated from Judaism, why there was a Schism between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, and why Luther had a Reformation. The ban on birth control is a major reason why more than 20 million Americans are lapsed Catholics. That's enough to qualify them as the second-largest denomination in the United States.

Now, on the merits, the scriptural argument against contraception is tenuous a best, usually justified with the injunction to "be fruitful and multiply" and the case of Onan spilling his seed.

Onan's story is particularly interesting: when his brother died the law required him to give offspring to his childless widow to preserve the family line. Onan had sex with her several times, but since he didn't want her children to become his heirs he practiced coitus interruptus, "spilling his seed on the ground." For this Onan was sentenced to death. The Catholic Church cites this in their arguments against contraception and masturbation. But they completely miss the real point of this story.

The crimes Onan committed were lusting after another man's wife, incest, adultery, rape and breach of contract by failing to provide agreed-to natural insemination services. Onan was supposed to deliver the semen into her womb, but spilled it on the ground instead. This says nothing about birth control within marriage, or masturbation for that matter. 

In fact, the Catholic Church does not forbid all birth control—it encourages the use of "natural family planning," an updated version of the rhythm method. By monitoring a woman's cycle, temperature and cervical mucus you can attain 95-99% effectiveness, which rivals artificial means. Only 75-88% is typical, however, which is about the same effectiveness as the withdrawal method that Onan practiced.

If you limit sexual activity to even more specific times of the cycle you can be virtually guaranteed that pregnancy will not result. What is the difference between spilling seed onto the ground and into a womb that you know has no uterine lining and will not receive an egg for two weeks? Well, one could say, you might still get pregnant by a hitch in the woman's cycle or especially hardy sperm. But the same is true of withdrawal, the pill, condoms, diaphragms, and spermicides. All methods of contraception have non-zero failure rates—even the surgical means of tubal ligation and vasectomy.

If avoiding pregnancy by artificial means is a sin, is not the intent to avoid pregnancy by natural means the same sin? After all, if it's God's will that you become pregnant, condoms can break and pills can fail. And if God is demanding fruitfulness, isn't abstinence in marriage is just as much a violation of His will as contraception?

As the religious right keeps telling us, the institution of marriage is having a tough time. It's particularly galling that a pope who's never known the love of a woman thinks he knows what's best for married folks. Sex binds husbands and wives together. Without it they feel unloved, unfulfilled and alone. Just ask Newt Gingrich.

The three main causes of divorce are money, kids and sex. Since sex the papal way causes kids, and kids cost money, one could argue that it all goes back to sex. Couples with too many kids and not enough money are extremely stressed. Now the pope wants to add even more stress by telling these married couples that they can't have sex?

That's a load of papal bull.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Still A Massive Success

General Motors reported its highest profit in the history of the company. 2011 saw earnings of 7.6 billion dollars.Strong sales in the U.S. and China helped the carmaker turn a profit of $7.6 billion, beating its old record of $6.7 billion in 1997 during the pickup and SUV boom.

I wonder how this will be spun in the land where Barack X is president. Ah, I'll just wait for the comments below and I'll get my answer.

The Turning of the Fatherland

Man oh man, people are pissed about Fox News these days. Perhaps Roger Ailes and Co have discovered how far that bearing wall on the right goes before ratings start to suffer.

Adding insult to injury is the latest poll from FOX News. Check out how the president does against any of the contenders in the Dixie States of Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. And a 50 percent approval rating?

No wonder two thirds of the base want someone else to jump in the race.

Gay And Retarded

There's not a day that goes by that I don't hear the words "gay" and "retarded" in school. In fact, I myself have said them in the past on several occasions while out at the pub or some other such social occasion.. But something clicked in me many months back and I realized that I just didn't want to say them anymore. If you sit back and think about it, if something is "gay" that means it's stupid. That's connecting stupidity to homosexuality. And if something is "retarded," that's belittling someone who has a disability. So I stopped saying them. Most of my students still do although they know I don't like it. I might throw them a look or make a quick comment which usually elicits a quick apology. They don't really mean much by it and, sadly, it is part of their slang these days.

They may not mean much by it but, people being who they are, will always take things further. What happens at that point? Well, this.  I've had several requests to comment on this story and so here it is.

I'll start off by saying that the Anoka-Hennepin School District from the top down has done an awful job of handling this situation. Rather than focus on handling the bullying side of it and adopting a zero tolerance rule for such behavior (as is the case in both my district and my children's district), they chose to give a forum to people who talk of "radical homosexual agendas." (side question: Just what exactly is the "agenda that homosexual activists are seeking to advance?") This lead to the very justified entrance of GLBT and civil rights groups which, in turn, leads to a situation that is FUBAR. In playing the "Cult of Both Sides" game, they ended up losing.

What the school district should have done was tell the No Homo Promo crowd that, under no circumstances, will they tolerate people being treated poorly for any reason. As Howard Stern so eloquently explains at the end of this post, there should be zero tolerance for these people.

Now, to be fair, the situation isn't exactly as depicted as it was in the Rolling Stone article. We have this recent vote in which the policy was changed. And we have another look at the school district in which we see a different angle to what was originally reported. Some of what the school district officials say in this latter article ring true. The original article is distorted and the side of the story that isn't being told is seen in both of above links.

The fact of the matter is that teachers have far too much on their plate to talk as much about sex as all of the stories seem to illustrate. Other than health classes, there really isn't that much cause to talk about homosexuality and kids don't really bring it up-in a bullying environment or otherwise. There is some of random stuff here and there that goes on in most districts but, for the most part, this sort of thing isn't common. Essentially, the Anoka-Hennepin suicides (along with their recently reversed asinine policy) are an anomaly. Just like GSAs aren't "sex clubs," rampant bigotry leading gay kids to suicide is also an outlier.

There are far too many other mountains to conquer such as making sure students achieve state standards, perform well on the various standardized tests they need to take, and trying to inspire and motivate completely checked out parents to give at least one shit about the lives of their children. Tiptoeing around the issue of homosexuality isn't something that most educators have the time for these days. Hell, some days, the simple act of motivating a student to do a simple assignment on the Constitution is nearly impossible. Some are tired, some are ADHD, some are intervention, some are bored, and far too many simply don't care. Again, this all comes back to the parents of the Michael Jordan Generation expecting "The Help" to nanny their kids.

Still, it's tough not to get angry when you hear people like Barb Anderson, the founder of No Homo Promo, Rick Santorum, or Michele Bachmann, whose district is the home to Anoka-Hennepin schools, talk about homosexuals. They sound like fucking Nazis and I'm being kind in saying that. Part of me really struggles to say that this situation is an outlier and I shouldn't take it as the norm which is more or less the reason why I wrote what I did convince myself. And the times they are indeed a-changin' as most younger people don't give two shits about whether someone is gay or not so I'd do better if I thought about that more often.

But 9 kids are fucking dead and people who think that it was their "gayness" that caused it are very, very dangerous people. Gay people used to be subjected to asylums and electro-shock therapy. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali said, "To be tolerant of intolerance is cowardice." Howard Stern expands on this point in this clip.

It's times like this when I have to have patience and remember that one of my biggest heroes is the non-violent Dr. King.

And that people like Barb Anderson, as history has always shown us, end up in a fucking bunker somewhere.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Using History to Lie

Usually politicians use statistics to lie, but the current crop of Republicans have turned to history. The other day Rick Santorum said:
When you marginalize faith in America,. when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the guillotine.
Despite what Santorum might think, the French Revolution had nothing to do with birth control: it was about overthrowing a corrupt and absolutist monarchy that was inseparable from the Catholic Church. Generations of Catholic French kings and Catholic bishops had persecuted and murdered thousands upon thousands of French Protestants. This oppression was one of the key elements that sparked the French Revolution.

President Obama is not starting a revolution here. All the regulation does is tell church-related organizations (not churches themselves, by the way), that they can't force their employees to obey the dictates of a bunch of crotchety old male spinsters who are beholden to a pope that lives in Rome.

The bishops who are whining about the new regulation all live in the lap of luxury and have life-time appointments to jobs that they'll never have to worry about losing. Men who, should they happen to lose those jobs because of a scandal like, say, covering up sexual molestation of children, will be able to toddle off to Rome to live out the rest of their days in sybaritic comfort. They don't have to make a decent living to feed their families. Because they don't have families. Many non-Catholics and tens of millions of American Catholics who do use birth control disagree with them on this impractical dogma against birth control. Kids cost money. If you have more kids, that's less money to spend on the kids you already have. Not everyone can afford (or survive) having 12 kids.

The fact is, hundreds of other denominations disagree with the Catholic Church about birth control and abortion on scriptural grounds. The compromise regulation requires insurance companies to pay for the birth control of employees who work for Catholic-aligned organizations. Not Catholic organizations themselves. Employees have religious freedoms too. My medical care shouldn't be dictated by my employer's beliefs.

On a practical level, the regulation helps people afford medical treatment that will reduce health care costs for all of us by preventing unwanted pregnancies. It will reduce the number of abortions. And reduce the number of single mothers and kids on welfare, and reduce the number of disaffected youth who become criminals because their single moms never wanted them. It's a win-win-win-win solution.

Now, if Santorum wants to talk guillotines, let's talk guillotines.

Just as Newt Gingrich does all the time, Santorum is making a historical reference in order to lie. He can do this because he knows that no one will understand the reference in its full context, or even bother to look it up. Like Gingrich, he makes the reference to pretend he's got the force of history on his side. When exactly the opposite is true.

During the Reformation, the Catholic Church was allied with the monarchy in France and used its power to oppress a competing religion that was making serious inroads into its base -- Protestantism, whose members in the 1980s made the Republican Party what it is today.

One famous example of Catholic abuse of power in France is the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, in 1572, when the Catholic king of France had thousands of Protestant Huguenots assassinated and murdered. The Catholic Church was also the biggest single land owner in the country and taxed people as if the Church were the government, while being itself exempt to taxes. The church was an oppressive employer that denied its subjects basic religious freedoms. Thus, the Catholic Church was no innocent bystander in the French Revolution: its persecutions of Protestants were one of the revolution's root causes.

In the broader context of the Reformation the Catholic Church tortured, beheaded, burned or hanged millions of Protestants throughout Europe. The Catholic Church burned people at the stake for saying that the earth orbited the sun. Sir Thomas More, the English Catholic saint, burned people at the stake for denying that the eucharist was Christ's flesh -- even though anyone with taste buds can tell it's not meat (unless the Pillsbury Dough Boy is the second coming of Christ). To be fair, Protestant rulers did the same thing to Catholics when they gained power: witness English history during the period from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I.

The modern secular nations of Europe -- which Republicans insist we are in dire danger of becoming -- have all outlawed the death penalty: their "marginalization" of religion has eliminated the guillotine. Most of the countries where the death penalty is still practiced -- the United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, China, Viet Nam, North Korea -- are dominated by absolutist conservative religions or doctrinaire ideologies.

Just to be clear, I'm not just picking on Catholicism. Other religions have murdered millions of people as well, and so did Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot. And, just to be clear, it's not the Catholic faith itself that demanded this murder and mayhem: it was the political hierarchy and moneyed interests who claimed its authority to enrich and empower themselves. Those who demand total obedience to an absolutist interpretation of a faith or ideology to strengthen their grip on temporal power are the ones who ultimately resort to murder to impose their will on others.

The president is doing exactly the opposite. He's saying, "People should be free to use birth control if they want and their employers shouldn't be able to stop them. And, by the way, I'm not gonna make the employers pay for it if they really don't want to."

President Obama is advocating religious freedom for all. The Catholic Church is interested only in promulgating its version of the faith, and denying certain freedoms to others.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Maps Are Always Helpful

Nope, no racism here, none whatsoever, please move along..



John Flemming, Republican Representative from Louisisana, posted a link from the Onion as his status update recently thinking that it was a real story. The story, entitled “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex”, was completely fake (obviously) and Flemming falling for it is a darn fine example of what happens when the froth from the mouth foamers get's extra thick.

The Onion’s editor, Joe Randazzo, said the publication is proud to count Fleming as a reader. “We’re delighted to hear that Rep. Fleming is a regular reader of America’s Finest News Source and doesn’t bother himself with The New York Times, Washington Post, the mediums of television and radio, or any other lesser journalism outlets,” he said in a statement.

Hee Hee...:)

The Still Not Dead Yet Narrative

The numbers are in on how many people ditched their banks last November and, I have to say, it's pretty impressive. Over 5 million people switched from the big banks to local and community banks and credit unions. Around 600,00 said it was because of Bank Transfer Day. Increased fees were cited as the main reason for people leaving their banks.

“Banks are facing difficult times on multiple fronts: Profits are being squeezed, regulators are more demanding, foreclosures remain problematic, and consumers are fighting back on fees. On top of all this, many banks are losing customers, including defections prompted by grassroots efforts like the recent Bank Transfer Day," ACSI founder Claes Fornell said.

The Occupy camps may be closed down but the banks are still feeling the effects of the movement and, honestly, I think it's going to be permanent. People aren't looking all that kindly at Wall Street and the big banks these days and it's likely going to stay that way.

The Fence and the Market

Remember the vaunted border fence that would protect us from Mexico? Well, it has a few problems.

Because the border between Mexico and the US is defined by a river prone to flooding, the fence actually has to be built some distance from the border. Which means some Americans wind up on the other side. And that means they have to have a way to get back and forth between their land and the rest of the United States.

The solution is to install gates:
The arrival of the gates will reveal whether the government's solution for this border fence problem will work. Can sliding panels in the fence controlled by passcodes allow isolated workers to cross when they need to while keeping intruders out?
How will the gates work?
Gates will roll open on a metal track after a passcode is punched into a panel on or near the fence. Landowners would have permanent codes and could request temporary ones for visitors. Customs and Border Protection has begun testing its first two gates and plans to install 42 more in South Texas this year at a cost of $10 million.
So, there will be hundreds if not thousands of people who will have the codes to open these gates. And they would never accept bribes for the codes, or could never be coerced on pain of death to reveal them. Brilliant.

And how does the fence work in general?
But farmers point out that there is a lot the agents can't stop. They point out dusty footprints scaling the columns and say illegal immigrants can climb the barrier in seconds flat. 
"It's the biggest waste of taxpayer money," said Leonard Loop at his produce stand east of Brownsville, where his family farms and some relatives' homes are in an area between the fence and the river.
I guess that's why Herman Cain wanted an electrified fence and a moat with gators. But unless there are guards along the entire 2000-mile length of the border, even the more severe obstacles are trivial to breach. If Cain were still in the race at this point he'd be suggesting we lay Claymores along the border.

Now, I know what you're thinking: why was Obama so stupid to build the fence on our side of the border? Why didn't he just steal land from Mexico? Well, first off: the fence was started under Bush. And second: taking land from other countries is a dandy way to start a war. Sure, we could win a war against Mexico. But we already had two wars going. And after we won the war against Mexico we'd have to build a giant embassy in Mexico City and spend a trillion dollars rebuilding their infrastructure. And then we'd have to deal with pesky Mexican terrorists for the next century.

So, why are we building the fence again? Generally there are two answers:

1) To keep out illegal aliens out who are willing to do jobs that Americans won't at the wages American employers are willing to pay.

2) To keep out evil murdering drug smugglers who fill the incessant demand of Americans for cocaine and marijuana, while smuggling weapons back into Mexico.

Both these problems seem to be within our control. Illegal aliens wouldn't come here if American employers refused to hire them. And drug traffickers wouldn't smuggle drugs here if we didn't buy them, or smuggle guns into Mexico if we didn't make it so easy to get guns.

These are issues of simple market-based supply and demand. If we eliminate the demand for illegal alien workers and illegal drugs, the supply will dry up. The magic of the marketplace will make the problem disappear.

What, you think getting Americans off illegal cocaine and marijuana is harder than putting down dozens of criminal gangs financed by billions of dollars in foreign drug money and armed by lax American gun laws? You think getting American employers to obey employment law is harder than correcting centuries of intractable poverty and illiteracy?

If we really want to solve these problems, we've got to make hard decisions that require serious tradeoffs. One of them is pretty straightforward: end the war on drugs. Let non-violent drug offenders out of prison, put them into treatment and save billions of dollars a year on prisons. That also ends most gang warfare in the United States and reduces our murder rate. It does increase the unemployment rate. Well, can't win 'em all.

The illegal alien problem is harder, but there are still options: we can more strictly enforce employment laws, which will force many farmers, slaughterhouses, restaurants, motels to either go out of business or raise their prices so that they can afford to employ Americans who need to make a living wage. That would also help reduce the unemployment rate, at the cost of more expensive food, lawn care, restaurant meals, hotel stays, etc.

Or we can reform immigration laws and open the flood gates to accommodate American businesses who want to hire cheap migrant labor while millions of Americans can't find work that pays enough for them to live on.

Or -- and I know some of you are thinking this -- we could take those non-violent drug offenders from problem one and form work camps, selling prison labor to the highest bidders in the private sector. Then we can be just like communist China, using slave labor to do the dirty jobs no one else wants to do.

Or we could let the non-violent drug offenders out of prison on work release and have them do the jobs usually reserved for illegal aliens. Even if the salary needed to be subsidized to make it a living wage, it would still be cheaper than keeping them under lock and key 24/7.

These solutions have trade-offs and winners and losers. But as it stands now, we've got both sides of these problems and none of the benefits. The winners are the drug cartels and private prison industry, while the rest of us are the losers.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Good Grief...

While I'm always sad at the passing of someone, America...please pull your head out of your overly corporate media influenced ass and get some fucking priorities. 

 And people wonder why our children don't know who holds the office of vice president.

And the 2042 Nobel Prize for Physics Goes to....

At the bottom of this post is a list of the 40 finalists in the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search. The competition is sponsored by Intel and Society for Science & the Public, the publisher of Science News. It was started in 1942 as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. The purpose of the search is to find the scientists of the future:
The finalists “exemplify the promise of young people to bring creativity and innovation to bear to create a better world,” says Elizabeth Marincola, publisher of Science News and president of Society for Science & the Public, which has operated the Science Talent Search since 1942. “We applaud their hard work and creativity, and look forward to their continued contributions to human advancement.” 
The 40 students selected were winnowed from 300 semifinalists, who were chosen from a pool of 1,744 entrants. These math, engineering and science achievers join a select group of scientific luminaries: Past finalists have earned seven Nobel Prizes and four National Medals of Science. Physicist and Nobel laureate Sheldon Glashow was a finalist in 1950; in 1980 Harvard University string theorist Lisa Randall was selected. Actress Natalie Portman was a semi-finalist in 1999.
If you examine the names carefully, you'll immediately notice a pattern: most of them are Asian. It's hard to determine actual ethnicity by names -- especially for blacks and American Indians, whose original family names were long ago stripped by slave owners or government edict. So some of the names I've identified as European may actually belong to people who consider themselves non-white. But by my rough estimate only six of the finalists are males of European descent. Five are females of European descent. The rest are mostly Chinese, Indian or other apparent Asian ethnicity.

Thirty or forty years ago, and certainly in 1942, nearly all these finalists would have been males of European descent. Though non-Hispanic whites still comprise 64% of the population of the United States, 73% of the 2012 STS finalists appear to be Asian, who comprise only 4.7% of the population.

This says something pretty dire about white American males: they're getting less education and they're less competitive at the higher levels. Where they used to dominate the fields of science and technology, they're barely keeping ahead of white girls, who have historically shunned math, science and engineering.

Not all these kids will become Nobel prize winners, but they will hold many of the high-paying jobs in medicine, science and technology. They will be the ones developing new medical treatments, new patents and new products. The next generation of technology will be designed by Asian Americans. That means they're going to starting new companies. And running them. And making lots of money.

When we think of the the high-tech nerds who made personal computers, the Internet and mobile computing revolution possible we think of white guys like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. (But, come to think of it, Steve Jobs was actually half Syrian, wasn't he?) Those days appear to be over.

As Charles Murray has noted, lower class whites are falling into the same trap that American blacks fell into decades ago. Conservatives like to blame government largesse, laziness and licentiousness. But we're all living in the same culture with the same access to government support, mind-numbing drugs, sex, sports, television and video games. Yet recent Asian immigrants -- who are almost certainly not very rich -- are able to ignore all that and still strive to work hard and get an education, while whites on the same rung of the economic ladder are falling behind. Why?

The culture of failure became ingrained in black America because no matter what they did, they were kept down. They weren't allowed to vote, get a decent education, hold good jobs or even sit at the same lunch counter as whites. How could anyone succeed in an environment where you're told every step of the way that you're inferior, or strung you up if you just looked at a white girl?

The culture of failure seems to have become ingrained in lower-class white America. Beginning with Henry Ford and the unionization of the work force, lower-class uneducated whites had opportunities to live well and their kids had the opportunity to move up the economic ladder. But for decades now those Americans have seen their lives fall apart. First it was steel mills to Japan, then automobile manufacturing to Japan and Mexico, then general manufacturing to China, then high-tech manufacturing to Asia. Unions have been essentially destroyed and real wages have been in decline for decades. We thought we'd be safe with the high-paying white-collar jobs in technology and finance, but with the rise of the Internet it has become trivial to outsource any job: engineering design, software development, medical imaging analysis, legal research, finance and on and on.

Two and three generations of lower-class white kids have now seen their dads sitting home with nothing to do after losing job after job to foreigners who make 31 cents an hour. How can anyone succeed in an environment where your family's entire life experience proves that no matter how many hours of overtime you put in, the bossman will take it away and give it to someone who's even more desperate than you are?

2011 Intel STS Finalists (listed by state, name, hometown and high school)
ARIZONA Scott Boisvert, Chandler, Basha High School
CALIFORNIA Amol Aggarwal, Saratoga, Saratoga High School;Xiaoyu Cao, San Diego, Torrey Pines High School; Bonnie Lei,Walnut, Walnut High School; Jonathan Li, Laguna Niguel, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School; Selena Li, Fair Oaks, Mira Loma High School; Andrew Liu, Palo Alto, Henry M. Gunn Senior High School;Rohan Mahajan, Cupertino, The Harker School; Evan O’Dorney,Danville,Venture School; Nikhil Parthasarathy, Mountain View, The Harker School; David Tang-Quan, Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Peninsula High School; Chelsea Voss, Santa Clara, Cupertino High School
CONNECTICUT Jenny Liu, Orange, Amity Regional High School;Shubhro Saha, Avon, Choate Rosemary Hall
FLORIDA Eta Atolia, Tallahassee, Rickards High School; Elaine Zhou, Winter Park, Lake Highland Preparatory School
ILLINOIS Krystle Leung, Naperville, Naperville Central High School
MASSACHUSETTS Sung Won Cho, Lexington, Groton School
MICHIGAN Shubhangi Arora, Novi, Novi High School
MINNESOTA Prithwis Mukhopadhyay, Woodbury, Woodbury High School
NORTH CAROLINA Si-Yi Lee, Charlotte, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics; Matthew Miller, Elon, Western Alamance High School
NEBRASKA Emily Chen, Omaha, Brownell-Talbot School
NEW JERSEY Alison Bick, Short Hills, Millburn High School; Joshua Bocarsly, Plainsboro, The Lawrenceville School; Wenyu Cao, Belle Mead, Phillips Academy
NEW YORK Jonathan Aaron Goldman, Plainview, Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School; Jan Gong, Garden City, Garden City High School; Michelle Hackman, Great Neck, John L. Miller Great Neck North High School; Bryan He, Williamsville, Williamsville East High School; Matthew Lam, Old Westbury, Jericho High School; Grace Phillips, Larchmont, Mamaroneck High School;Alydaar Rangwala, Loudonville, The Albany Academies
OREGON Laurie Rumker, Portland, Oregon Episcopal School; Yushi Wang, Portland, Sunset High School
PENNSYLVANIA Benjamin Clark, Lancaster, Penn Manor High School; Keenan Monks, Hazleton, Hazleton Area High School
TEXAS Madeleine Ball, Dallas, Ursuline Academy of Dallas; Rounok Joardar, Plano, Plano West Senior High School; Sunil Pai, Houston, The Kinkaid School