Saturday, June 30, 2012

Won't Get Fooled Again

A while back, last in line chided me for not talking more about Fast and Furious, the ATF flap that has currently engulfed Congress and now has resulted in the first ever contempt vote for an Attorney General of the United States. Honestly, I should have listened to his advice and started digging into it. In fact, the same can be said for the media who were accused of ignoring the story because they are in the tank for the Obama Administration. Right wing bloggers all over the nation screamed that the media should start reporting more on this topic.


I guess they woke up the sleeping giant.

The agents faced numerous obstacles in what they dubbed the Fast and Furious case. (They named it after the street-racing movie because the suspects drag raced cars together.) Their greatest difficulty by far, however, was convincing prosecutors that they had sufficient grounds to seize guns and arrest straw purchasers. By June 2010 the agents had sent the U.S. Attorney's office a list of 31 suspects they wanted to arrest, with 46 pages outlining their illegal acts. But for the next seven months prosecutors did not indict a single suspect.

Why didn't they arrest them? And, if they were purposefully walking guns, how is it that it comes out now that they wanted to arrest these guys?

Quite simply, there's a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn. 

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time. 

Wait. How can this be? Every single thing that is published on a right wing blog is 100 percent accurate and never retracted. Oh, wait, I see...

How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today. It's a story that starts with a grudge, specifically Dodson's anger at Voth. After the terrible murder of agent Terry, Dodson made complaints that were then amplified, first by right-wing bloggers, then by CBS. Rep. Issa and other politicians then seized those elements to score points against the Obama administration. 

Amplified, huh...shocking, simply shocking...

Sorry, folks, I really dropped the ball on this one. Had I listened to my regular commenters and dug into this story more extensively we could have been where we are at right now: the truth.

So, I'm very happy to continue to talk about this issue now that all of these facts have come to light.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Health Care Conversation

Here's a recent conversation I had with a Facebook friend who is positively apoplectic about the Supreme Court's decision on health care. I thought I would copy and past some portions of it as it speaks to some of the comments I have received here thus far. His comments are in blue.

Mark, you're missing the point. The Court didn't say that Congress has the power to tax people for not buying insurance because insurance is important and necessary. The Court said Congress can simply tax people for not doing whatever Congress wants them to do. The point is that if Congress can tax us for not having insurance, it can tax us for not exercising or not eating enough green vegetables.

 I disagree. In looking at the brief, it's very clear throughout the entire opinion that this ties to health care and shared responsibility. For example, 

A tax on going without health insurance does not fall within any recognized category of direct tax. It is not a capitation. Capitations are taxes paid by every person, “without regard to property, profession, or any other circumstance.”  The whole point of the shared responsibility payment is that it is triggered by specific circumstances—earning a certain amount of income but not obtaining health insurance. The payment is also plainly not a tax on the ownership of land or personal property. The shared responsibility payment is thus not a direct tax that must be apportioned among the several States.

To me, this says that the health care market is unique and sets up a precedent that Congress cannot tax people for not doing whatever it is they want them to do. Roberts details that further. 

Congress’s ability to use its taxing power to influence conduct is not without limits. A few of our cases policed these limits aggressively, invalidating punitive exactions obviously designed to regulate behavior otherwise regarded at the time as beyond federal authority.

And the fact that everyone should have decent health care doesn't give Congress or the Court the right to trample to trample the Constitution and invent new powers for Congress to achieve a desired end. I agree that those who benefit from receiving health care should pay for it. But that doesn't mean that the federal government, having gotten in the business of providing and paying for health care, has broad power to compel people to buy health insurance.

From the brief... 

None of this is to say that payment is not intended to induce the purchase of health insurance. But the mandate need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Affordable Care Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS. And Congress’s choice of language—stating that individuals “shall” obtain insurance or pay a “penalty”—does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct.


The Act, however, bars the IRS from using several of its normal enforcement tools, such as criminal prosecutions and levies. §5000A(g)(2). And some individuals who are subject to the mandate are nonetheless exempt from the penalty—for example, those with income below a certainthreshold and members of Indian tribes. §5000A(e).

So, it's not "broad or new power." In fact, Roberts points out (as does the law), that it is limited power. Roberts also goes to great lengths to point out in the commerce clause section and necessary and proper section that the Constitution does indeed limit the power of the federal government. So, no trampling here certainly. I'd also urge you to read pgs 41-43 of the brief and take note of Roberts reference to Benjamin Franklin's letter to M. Le Roy regarding the Constitution and taxes. 

What if we moved away from an insurance-based model and simply expected that people were going to pay hospital and doctor bills on their own? The cost of healthcare is ridiculously inflated by the comprehensive insurance model, which keeps larding benefits into plans. The government can tax people to put money into a pool available on a means-tested basis for those who can't pay for major health problems. Let people take back ownership for their own health care costs, decisions and priorities. 

The issue I have here is inelastic demand. If services and products were directly available to the public without insurance in the way, what's to stop the supplier from charging a high price. In many health care markets, demand is inelastic because people aren't going to leave the market when the price goes up. The suppliers will know that they have their customers trapped and will undoubtedly act to increase profit. So, these markets would not allocate resources efficiently and consumer surplus would erode. Believe me, I'd love to remove insurance from the equation. My wife and I pay nearly 800 dollars a month for our family! But that would lead to higher prices unless the government got involved and put price controls in place. That also would be detrimental as it would erode market efficiency. 

Don't forget that the Democratic Congress and the Administration argued loudly and repeatedly that revenue in re: the individual mandate was NOT a tax. The Court has declared that it is, so therefore it is constitutional. It's bizarro-world. Again, what practical limits are there now on Congress' power to force people to do whatever it happens to decide is in the people's best interest?

These practical limits are pointed out extensively in the brief as I have listed above. You and I have different sensitivities when it comes to the federal government so we will likely have to agree to disagree here. My hope is that you take some solace in Roberts' words, though:) 

Enumerated powers is effectively a dead doctrine, and now the federal government can do anything that the constitution and Court precedent have not explicitly forbidden. Think about that, and what that might mean when a political party and/or President you don't like get back in power.

Well, this speaks to our differing views on government. Yes, government is indeed bigger today but so is the private sector. I don't see a problem with that. We have a 15 trillion dollar economy and a global marketplace that is in a constant state of change every single day. In my view, having less government in light of these facts (and regardless of who is in power), would be detrimental.

That's it so far. Likely the conversation will continue...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Today's Decision

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-4 to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Directly after this decision was handed down, conservatives around the country went even more batshit than they are already are and took to Twitter and Facebook to scream about the federal government.

"What doesn't the federal government have the power to tax?" one of my FB friends asked? Xanax? Therapy?

Anyhoozles, here are my thoughts on the decision.

As I noted yesterday, everyone wins. The president's signature bill is Constitutional. The Democrats can now run with a very large win under their belt as there will be no more legal challenges to the ACA. Mitt Romney wins because now he can now energize the base for this election with promises of repeal. I know he is saying "Repeal and Replace" but I have yet to see the "Replace" part of that equation. In fact, is there a solution from anyone on the right other than "Do Nothing?" Regardless, there are a lot of Armageddon shelter builders out there that will now turn out to vote.

The main thing I keep thinking about is how this was originally a GOP plan. It originated at the Heritage Foundation and does, in essence, what the right bitches about all the time-ELIMINATE THE FREELOADERS. Since the law states that we must treat everyone, then everyone should have health insurance. If you choose not to (that's right, no one is forcing you), you have to pay a penalty.

Now the GOP were all for this until January of 2009 when Obama and the Democrats got behind it in the completely hilarious hope that the Republicans would support it as well. That ended up going something like this.

"What?!!!? Dad and Mom support it now??!! Fuck that noise!"

And then they hated it.

Toss in all the feelings and emotions they have about the other side winning and you have all the usual.

I'm sadly disappointed in Anthony Kennedy for not siding with Chief Justice Roberts and the other four justices in the majority. For being a "swing voter," he certainly does seem to fall on libertarian grounds more often than not. The fact that he couldn't see it as a tax shows how his personal ideology interfered with his supposed blind judgement. That's also true of Scalia, Alito, and Thomas.

Speaking of taxes, wasn't it great how Chief Justice Roberts did the Democrats job for them? The fact that they were so chicken shit back in 2009-2010 that they couldn't call it a tax says a lot. Now, of course, it's fine to talk about raising taxes on the wealthy after the OWS movement but where were they back then when it took real guts?

Doing a piss poor job of effectively communicating why this bill is needed while allowing the right to panic monger the shit out of it.

I guess I'm happy, mostly, though with the outcome today. It's the best option we have right now for dealing with this problem and I'm grateful that John Roberts saw this in a larger picture rather than his personal ideological lens.

Chief Justice Roberts Mans Up

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, is constitutional in a five to four decision. The ruling lets stand the personal mandate and most of the other provisions, the exception being the  penalties imposed on states that refuse to expand Medicaid.

This is a major milestone for the Supreme Court, which for the last twelve years has made many decisions for political instead of legal reasons. This ruling, along with Monday's on the Arizona immigration law, may indicate that Chief Justice John Roberts is evolving into an independent jurist who takes his stewardship of the law of the land seriously, and is not a political puppet bent on satisfying his political masters or pursuing a partisan agenda. The different between Roberts and Antonin Scalia is particularly striking.

The interesting thing about the ruling was that the mandate was found constitutional not on the commerce clause, but on the federal government's authority to levy taxes. This was always obvious to me from the beginning, but Democrats avoided characterizing it that way because they didn't want to be painted as creating a new tax. During oral arguments the justices seemed to denigrate the commerce clause as a justification for the mandate, making many think it would almost certainly be overturned. Scalia attempted to equate the mandate to forcing people to buy broccoli.

This was always a bogus argument, because people who don't buy broccoli don't eat broccoli, but people who don't pay for health insurance can still use health care. If you have a medical emergency the hospital is required by law to treat you. Which means that if you have a heart attack while jogging you won't die just because you didn't have your insurance card with you.

The law does not make it a crime to avoid buying health insurance. You just have to pay a penalty if you're not covered. In essence you have the choice between a) buying health insurance and b) paying an obstinacy tax. Furthermore, if you really can't afford to pay for health care the law provides subsidies and exceptions.

People have characterized the mandate as Obama's plan, but during the 2008 presidential primary he frequently voiced his opposition to it. Hillary Clinton had endorsed mandates by 2008 because conservatives, like Mitt Romney and Bob Dole and the Heritage Foundation, had proposed it to counter the health care plan she developed during the first Clinton administration. Obama and many Democrats compromised and reluctantly signed on to the mandate thinking that they could get some number of those same conservatives to be consist and continue to support what they themselves had invented. But almost no Republicans signed on; they only cared about handing Obama a political defeat.

Everyone knows that our health care system is too expensive and inefficient, that hospitals can't be expected to provide emergency room treatment for free, and that people should be responsible for themselves. Republican opposition to the health care law is simply political sabotage.

It's a relief to see Justice Roberts admit that and do what's right for the country.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


'Twas the night before the Supreme Court ruling and all through the house, predictions and prognostications were stirring even the mouse! Any thoughts on how it will go? Politico has an interesting piece up that essentially says that if the law is partially or entirely struck down, everyone loses.  

I agree. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

To the Ends of the Earth!

A lot of the people who support Big Oil are skeptical that human CO2 emissions from the burning of coal and oil could possibly change the climate. But Big Oil is about to make out like bandits because the receding arctic ice cap has uncovered a new supply of oil near the North Pole. Because the ice cap is now gone most of the summer, Shell Oil will be able to start exploratory drilling this summer.

According to an article in Scientific American (which has frequently run ads for Shell):
The US Geological Survey estimated in 2008 that the Arctic holds up to 90 billion barrels of oil — 13% of the world’s technically recoverable supply. Exploration and production is already under way on the other side of the Arctic, off Norway and Russia, for example (see The great Arctic oil race begins). Many parts of the Arctic circle are becoming ever-more accessible thanks to improved technologies and a reduction in summer sea ice because of climate change.
That 90 billion number is interesting, because the estimated world consumption of oil for 2010 is about 90 million barrels a day, according to this website and by adding up the numbers on the CIA world factbook website.

That means the entire reserve in the arctic would last the world about a thousand days, or less than three years. However, it will likely take years or decades to extract that oil, because the oil fields are remote, frigid and deep beneath the ocean. If you thought the technological challenges of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico were daunting, imagine drilling for oil when the temperature is 40 below zero and the wind is blowing 50 miles an hour. Because even though the arctic sea ice now melts almost completely in the summer, winter at the pole is still terribly harsh. And since countries like Russia, Norway, Sweden, Canada and Finland will also have claims to arctic oil the amount the United States could drill would likely last less than a single year.

Doesn't it seem a little crazy to spend that much money and risk men's lives in such a treacherous environment to extract that last little bit of oil from the ends of the earth? At this point it makes more sense to invest those resources on a renewable source that will provide us with energy for long term. We can always wait to go after that oil later, after the technology has improved.

But it makes you wonder: are Big Oil's supporters intentionally lying about global warming so they can get at that last bit of oil?

Step One: Be A Giant Dick

When 14-year-old boys sound exactly like you do and can produce radio shows and books and speeches that sound exactly like yours, maybe you should rethink the shit that comes out of your mouth. Remember the Republican debates we had this year? They applauded for the idea of letting a sick man without insurance die. Herman Cain got cheers for saying he’d electrify the border fence. They booed a gay man serving his country in the military. No wonder 14-year-old boys can do your act, you act exactly like 14-year-old boys.

There’s no ideology here. It’s just about being a dick.


Monday, June 25, 2012

A Victory? Really?

Today in what many are calling a victory for the Arizona immigration law, the Supreme Court ruled most the law unconstitutional:
The justices let stand for now the part of the law that requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) declared that decision, on the part of the law that had generated the most controversy, a victory. 
The court ruled that Arizona cannot make it a misdemeanor for immigrants to fail to carry identification that says whether they are in the United States legally; cannot make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to apply for a job; and cannot arrest someone based solely on the suspicion that the person is in this country illegally. 
The court also said the part of the law it upheld — requiring officers to check the immigration status of those they detain and reasonably believe to be illegal immigrants — could be subject to additional legal challenges once it is implemented.
This means that the state of Arizona can force the police to you for your papers if they've stopped you on the street for some other reason, but the cops can't arrest you if you fail to do so, they can't arrest you for applying for a job without producing papers, and they can't arrest you just because they suspect you're here illegally.

What's the point of being able to ask for your papers if you can just say no, and there's nothing they can do if you refuse?

Basically, the Supreme Court says it's okay for Arizona to make laws that require the police to hassle people on the street. It's okay to pass laws that produce an oppressive cloud of suspicion on anyone who looks "Mexican."

The Court also left open the door for challenges the law once it goes into effect. This seems quite likely because different jurisdictions will enforce it differently, and different officers will exercise varying degrees of "reasonable suspicion," meaning that there will be selective enforcement and individuals will not all receive equal treatment under the law.

This doesn't sound like a big victory for Jan Brewer and the "centerpiece" of law. It sounds like this law was just gutted of its enforcement provisions, and will promptly be challenged when Joe Arpaio's men start harassing people for DWL (driving while Latino). And since the entire basis of it is blatantly subjective, it will probably face a skeptical Supreme Court if the state bothers to appeal it that far.

Dude, Is This My Flying Car?

Ever since the year 2001 we've been living in the future, but we don't computers like HAL, jetpacks, or flying cars. That may be changing soon.

The e-volo volocopter won the Lindbergh Prize for innovation in aviation in April, but I didn't hear about it until I recently read this article in Scientific American.

At first glance the thing looks crazy and more than a little dangerous with all those whirling knives. The design calls for a small 50-75 kw engine (typical of ultralight aircraft) that generates electricity for the 18 electric motors that drive the carbon-fiber propellers. There's also a lithium battery backup power supply. It steers by changing the speeds of individual rotors, using a joystick for control rather than standard helicopter rudder pedals, control stick and throttle. A computer will magically translate your directions into commands for the 18 rotors.

Using a bunch of small inexpensive rotors instead of one big rotor and tail boom drastically reduces the mass of the aircraft. Having 18 rotors provides redundancy that standard helicopters don't have—the craft should be able to fly with as few as 12 rotors, as long as they don't all fail on one side. That doesn't really comfort me, though: if you run into a tree or power line you're gonna lose all the rotors on one side.

They've done exactly one test flight as a proof of concept. The test vehicle used an exercise ball as its primary landing gear. The thing looks like something they built in a garage. But the Wright brothers built their first plane in a bicycle workshop, so more power to them.

I don't know if the volocopter will ever get off the ground, but the amazing thing is that the inventors are from Germany. Apparently not all innovation has been crushed by that over-regulated union-run health-care-for-all socialist European economy.

Bladerunner was set in LA in 2019. Maybe Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott's bleak vision of a future with flying cars and megacorporations where Americans speak a patois of German/Spanish/Japanese/English isn't so far off.

Now, where are those basic pleasure model androids that look like Daryl Hannah?

A Sad Witness

I'm glad Nikto got up a post yesterday as I was too ripped to put anything up after my weekend in Wisconsin for my mom's retirement. Sadly, I was a witness to an old and dear friend (he's 84 years young) complete submission to the Cult.

It didn't take him long to bring up Barack X as he loves to talk politics.

"The biggest problem I have is that Barack Obama is a Muslim," he said with vehemence.
"No, he's not. He went to the same Christian church for over 20 years. Reverend Wright, remember?" I replied.
"Ah, bullshit. He wasn't even born here either. That birth certificate is fake."

I tried to convince him but the facts just bounced off.

And no, he's not an outlier. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

—All You Zombies—

The New York Times has an interesting article about the employees at Apple stores. These guys, mostly in their 20s and mostly with college degrees, make up 30,000 of Apple's 43,000 US employees and earn between $11.25 and $17.31 an hour.

It's a decent enough job, as far as retail goes. Unlike Walmart, they offer health care, 401(k) contributions, a chance to buy Apple stock and discounts on Apple products. But unlike employees at Verizon and AT&T stores, they're not on commission. They work in very hectic and stressful conditions and have no real path to career advancement. It's a dead-end job. But many Apple store employees move up to $3 million a year of expensive Apple products.

Now, some people will say that these guys don't deserve a piece of the action because Apple products sell themselves. Apple's customer base is essentially a cult who will buy anything emblazoned with the logo, no matter how expensive it is, and they will buy it over and over again each time the company releases a new version with even the most trivial enhancements just so they can say they have the latest Apple gewgaw.

As such, Apple store employees are just glorified cash registers. But the fact is, these guys do more than ring up purchases. They help you pick the right product and provide tech support: no matter how fabulous the product might look in the ads, there are always problems that require real human beings to fix.

But let's say that this is true. Apple store employees are interchangeable cogs that don't deserve a living wage because Apple customers are zombies with an insatiable hunger for brains—err, iPhones. The genius of Steve Jobs, his vision, drive and cynical manipulation of his customers' egos made Apple what it is today. Fair enough. But if so, what's good for the employee is good for the CEO.

According to the article, Apple CEO Tim Cook "received stock grants, which vest over a 10-year period, that at today’s share price would be worth more than $570 million." Yes, Apple's CEO Tim Cook is worth half a billion dollars just because Steve Jobs died. Cook did squat to earn that kind of compensation, he's just the guy who happened to sit down in Jobs' chair when the music stopped.

This is a perfect illustration of what's wrong with executive compensation in this country. Pretty much anyone could have inherited Steve Job's job and kept Apple profitable, just be staying out of the way of product designers and marketers. If Tim Cook got hit by a bus tomorrow, Apple wouldn't skip a beat.

The fact is, the guys on top of pretty much any publicly owned corporation are just as interchangeable as Apple store employees. But since interlocking corporate boards of directors (CEOs typically sit on the boards of other companies) decide compensation, for the last 50 years CEOs have been sitting around voting each other pay raises. In that time CEO pay has risen from 40 times the average employee's salary to 400 times.

But we still haven't mentioned the people who are really responsible for Apple's success: the engineers and programmers who design these products, and the workers in China who work 18-hour days at a rate of $22 a day to build them. And, lest we forget, the legions of zombies who ultimately provide all the company's profits, the customers themselves.

It's really All You Zombies out there who made Apple a success. If you think the guy at the Apple store who fixed your iPhone helped you more than Tim Cook ever did, let Apple know that Apple store employees deserve a piece of the action.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Conversion and a Remembrance

Yesterday one of the staunchest opponents of gay marriage, David Blankenhorn, had a change of heart and announced his support for gay marriage in an editorial in the New York Times.

Blankenhorn was a big supporter of California's Proposition 8, and was one of only two witnesses called in the California Supreme Court trial over the anti-gay marriage proposition that had been adopted by voters (Proposition 8 was pushed hard by the Mormon Church). But his testimony in the trial has often been characterized as being personal opinion rather than expert scientific testimony, and many believed that he actively hurt the case by testifying that gay marriage would reduce the divorce rate. The ban was struck down by the court.

Blankenhorn's evolution on gay marriage is good news, and further evidence that acceptance of gays is continuing an inevitable trend. I welcome his recognition that gays should enjoy the same rights as everyone else, and that they can and have made significant contributions in science, society and even war.

Take the case of Alan Turing, who was born this day 100 years ago. Turing was a mathematician and, by many accounts, the father of the digital computer. During WWII Turing worked at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking center. He was responsible for building the machine that was able to find the settings for the Nazi Enigma cipher machine, which played no small part in the Allied victory over Hitler. (By the way, today's Google doodle is a reference to the Turing Machine.)

After the war Turing went on to design one of the first stored program computers. In 1952 his home was broken into and matter-of-factly Turing mentioned to the police that he had a male lover. He was charged with "acts of gross indecency." Turing accepted chemical castration by taking female hormones. He died two years later of cyanide poisoning. At the time his death was ruled suicide, but some recent theories posit that his death was accidental (he was experimenting with cyanide in his home, as his research had expanded beyond computing into chemistry and biology). Rather than being despondent, Turing was characterized as defiant, cheerful, and humorous by acquaintances in the days before his death.

In Turing's day, a mere sixty years ago, laws across the world were used to persecute gays and lesbians. Now such discrimination is limited to countries like Iran, where they executed three men for homosexual activity last year and have sentenced four more men to hang last month. Does conservative America really want to align itself with Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs on the issue of gays and gay marriage? Doesn't the American ideal of liberty and justice for all have a better ring?


Any of the commenters that migrated from Kevin's site care to explain this video?

The last four years have seen more relaxed gun laws and, honestly, the decimation of the gun control lobby so I don't get it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Blatant Quid Pro Quo

The basis of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is the assumption that the presence of unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns does not lead to corruption, or even the appearance of corruption. The incredibly naive assumption they're making is that when people donate money to political campaigns there is no quid pro quo expected.

The Supreme Court should hear what some of these donors have been saying recently to see how campaign donations work in practice. From an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Bob Cummins, who has donated more than $3.5 million to Minnesota Republican causes, is telling allies he has had it with Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature and will not give their campaigns any cash this year, according to multiple sources.
The reason? Cummins paid Republicans to put a union-busting "right-to-work" amendment on the 2012 ballot, and they failed to do so. Instead, they put a voter suppression "voter ID" amendment and an anti-gay "marriage" amendment on the ballot.

The Republicans wanted to bust the unions, but they feared a backlash that would bring a flood of union money and a big labor turnout on election day that would defeat all three amendments and their Republican backers. Since this is a redistricting year, the whole legislature is up for grabs--there are no "safe" Senate seats. If there's a huge Democratic turnout in 2012 the Republicans will lose control of the House and Senate, which they took in 2010.

Now, you can see why Cummins is mad. He gave a quarter million dollars to Republicans last year, expecting them to pass a union-busting amendment. All he got was this stupid gay marriage amendment. The Republicans just aren't doing what he paid them for.

Everyone assumes that there's an unspoken quid pro quo associated with campaign contributions, but big Republican donors aren't even hiding it anymore. They have publicly announced that they expect direct and immediate action when they give politicians money.

Cummins and Grover Norquist are committing blatant political extortion and assassination. Norquist has already driven several conservative Republican icons such as Dick Lugar from office because they were too accommodating to their constituents' concerns: i.e., working with Democrats to actually get things done.

Republicans will come to regret Citizens United and the increasingly demonic role of money in politics. Soon, it won't matter how conservative you are: the only thing that will matter is how much pork you provide your corporate donors. Business interests will quickly diverge from mainstream conservative thought and focus purely on promoting a corporate kleptocracy that has no ideology other than money.

You need look no further than Mitt Romney's campaign promises: he would cut all government expenditures, except for defense. Why? Defense spending goes directly into the pockets of giant corporations. The same old military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.

What Does This Say To You?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Using Government to Enforce Religious Orthodoxy

This November Minnesota has an amendment on the ballot to ban gay marriage, although there's already a law on the books that prevents it. This has brought out many of the usual suspects, such as the Catholic Church, which supports the ban, and the ACLU, which opposes it.

But there have been a few surprises, such as General Mills coming out against the ban, and two influential pastors who have decided not to take a public stand on the amendment.

This last development seems surprising, but is quite logical once you think about it. Both men have spoken out against gay marriage in the past, so it's clear what they think. But the Rev. John Piper said in a sermon:
Don't press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism, Expect from your shepherds not that they would rally you behind political candidates or legislative mandates, but they would point you over and over again to God and to his word.
I applaud these men, because they realize that it's not in religion's best interests to enlist the government to enforce religious beliefs on others.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, does not get it. If the Catholic hierarchy believes government has the ability to dictate something as basic as who you can and can't marry, then government certainly has the authority over picayune details such as requiring Catholic universities to provide their employees with health insurance policies that include birth control.

In other words, the Church can't complain that the government is trampling their religious freedoms while simultaneously calling for the government to trample other people's religious freedoms.

Hasn't the Catholic Church  learned its lesson after centuries of bloodshed in its name? The Church has burned homosexuals at the stake, executed people for heresies as trivial as the Protestant rejection of transubstantiation and the heliocentric theory of the solar system, and gone to war for that most heinous of heresies, the Protestant heresy, which according to current Catholic doctrine "denies the infallible authority of the Church and claims that each individual is to interpret Scripture for himself."

Amending a state constitution to enforce Catholic orthodoxy on everyone is less bloody than the Inquisition or the massacre of thousands of Calvinist Protestants on St. Bartholomew's Day by King Charles IX of France. But it's no different than Muslim countries incorporating Sharia law into their legal code, something which Catholics and Protestants alike can agree is a bad thing.

The Question

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Bristol Palin's latest foray into television, the reality show Life's a Tripp, was less than stellar: its premiere had a 0.2 rating, much less than the 0.8 rating its lead-in, Dance Moms, drew on the Lifetime cable network.

It's not surprising. The Palins are old hat. Everyone is buzzing about Ann Romney's horse being in the Olympics. Who cares about the trials and tribulations of a has-been Dancing with the Stars contestant and her illegitimate child?

I missed the show Tuesday night, but based solely on the title I can imagine that it's all about the wonderfulness of her choice to bear Tripp to term, and to not have an abortion. I'm guessing she goes on and on about how little Tripp has brightened her life and made everything worthwhile and more meaningful. And, just like all the conservatives who constantly posit what Obama must really believe, I'm under no obligation to find out what she really said.

But there is a Question at the heart of this show, the same Question that abortion opponents always throw in your face during arguments: what if your mother had aborted you?

It's a pointless existential Question. If my mother had aborted me I wouldn't be here, and you wouldn't have asked me that question. It's like asking, what if your mother had miscarried? What if you had been creamed by a bus this morning? What if Stalin's father had strangled little Iosif in the cradle? What if the star of Bethlehem that the wise men followed was an asteroid that hit the earth and killed all the water buffalo in the manger? What if that little girl hadn't beat up Karl Rove when he said he would vote for Nixon in 1960?

The Question is a psychological trick to elicit a personal revulsion against abortion in the listener. It's a shameless gimmick to remove attention from the real issue, which is women exercising control over their own bodies, to promote a me-first mentality.

But if you're going to ask the Question, why not ask Tripp Palin, "What if your mom hadn't fornicated?"

Conservatives are always talking about abstinence, but here we have Bristol Palin on national television telling us how Trippy it is to have a child out of wedlock.

Looking at this more closely, we actually see that fornication is good because it creates life. Like abortion, abstinence is bad because it denies life. Like abortion, abstinence is bad because starts with "ab."

Fornication gave Bristol Palin a wonderful child and a fulfilling relationship with him. Fornication got her on Dancing with the Stars, it got her memoir published, it got her dozens of $15, 000 to $30,000 speaking fees, and it got her a TV show. Fornication made Bristol Palin rich. Fornication also made Levi Johnston rich, but he's already blown his wad and is living the life of a pauper with his mom.

Fornication is fabulous. Fornication is fun. And like fornication, adultery and rape are also pro-life, at least when it's guys on girls. That's why we must oppose abortion, even in cases of incest and rape.

We must still condemn Jerry Sandusky and all those priests who fornicated with boys. But we should slyly wink and give a prayer of thanks to all those men who fornicated with girlfriends, committed adultery with mistresses, hooked up with hookers, cavorted with drunk girls at parties, consoled female parishioners and forced themselves on stepdaughters. They're doing their part to create more life! Down with condoms and the morning after pill! Up with Viagra!

Maybe the Lifetime network will get all those impregnated unmarried women their own TV shows, like Bristol Palin. Or at least get them a webcam so they can follow in Octomom's footsteps.

Yay For Them

You really have to hand it to the Republicans sometimes. There are moments when they can really be quite clever.

Take, for example, yesterday's contempt of Congress vote for Eric Holder which spurred an executive privilege order from President Obama regarding the "remaining documents" that the GOP led committee is claiming must be produced. Either way, they win on this one.

Now they can run around, stomp their feet, and  foam at the mouth about how the president and the AG are hiding something. If they end up releasing the documents....documents which certainly contain sensitive law enforcement information...they can point and laugh and say that the Obama administration truly doesn't know what it is doing and are bumbling fools. Yay! It's a pretty ingenious plan but will it work? 

Perhaps not. To begin with, no one (save for gun bloggers) really cares about this issue. And someone who really doesn't care is Mitt Romney who considers this a distraction from his central message on the economy (yes, we are the ones who dumped rats, bugs and other assorted pests in your house to fuck it all up but now here we are four years later as exterminators who promise to clean it up). The Romney campaign knows that this is the best way to beat the president and, with the monumentally low approval rating of Congress, this whole thing could backfire.

By "thing," I mean a whole lot of juvenile payback. The GOP is still smarting from all of the ethics investigations during the Bush Administration. Of course, back then, there was a lot more evidence as they really were breaking the law. So, when Darrell Issa took over the Oversight Committee, he promised "seven hearings a week times forty." This without any investigation having even commenced. Clearly, we know what the motivation is here.

As always, the Cult of Both Sides has already popped out and the people that are paying attention see the Democrats as being just as guilty as the Republicans even though that is completely false. Some of you might like Holder to release all the documents and pin the fallout on Issa and his goons on the OC.

But then would mean that more operations would be jeopardized and some people would likely die. I guess I'm pretty thankful that the adults are in charge and that won't happen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Third Party Delusion

Tom Friedman is at it again: he's wishing wistfully for a gallant knight to come loping out of the wilderness to become a moderate third-party candidate who would magically force the presidential campaigns to discuss substantive solutions to our problems.

Dana Milbank realized how silly this idea was last month when his Americans Elect pipedream evaporated. Jonathan Bernstein pointed the problems with third parties in his PostPartisan piece, "Elections are about the party, not the man."

The fact is, third-party candidates do indeed affect the election. But not the way you want them to. Generally, they steal the election from the candidate they're most similar to and give it to their opponent. In modern politics the party is more important than the candidate.

In the last four Minnesota gubernatorial elections a third party candidate has received a substantial number of votes. In 1998 Jesse Ventura won running as an independent. He remained in office for a single term, deciding not to run again because media jackals were hounding him and his family. But the real problem was that he had no base of support in the legislature and had a devil of a time getting anything passed because neither party was obligated to help him.

People like to think that governors and presidents can somehow make things happen through sheer force of personality. But the structure of our government requires that all laws originate in the legislatures. Unless a governor or president has the support of a party in the legislature, he can accomplish nothing. That's why Obama had only a very short window in 2009 to accomplish his agenda -- the few weeks after Al Franken was seated and Ted Kennedy died. Basically, only enough time to get the health care law passed. Before and after then Republicans in the Senate could stop any Obama initiative cold by threatening a filibuster.

In Minnesota, the Democrats generally worked with Ventura, but he had no permanent sway over them. Democratic and Republican governors can always count on the party to introduce their bills, and to deliver a certain number of votes for them, but Ventura had to depend on members of other parties to get his legislation drafted. That made his job much harder and, I imagine, very discouraging. Ventura was in many ways a jerk, but in office he mostly seemed to want to make things run well. After his term as governor Ventura bugged out on the Independence Party, fled to Mexico and grew a squidgely beard.

In 2002 a former Democrat running as an independent delivered the 2002 election to Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, by siphoning off votes from the Democratic candidate. In 2006 another former Democrat ran under the same independent banner and got Pawlenty reelected. And in 2010, a former Republican ran as an independent in that same party, giving the election to Mark Dayton, a Democrat.

And we all remember how Ralph Nader delivered Florida into the hands of George Bush, by taking hundreds of thousands of liberal votes from Gore, and helping make the Florida ballot that much more confusing, with the zillion candidates and all the idiotic manual hole punching that was involved. Bush won by some 500 votes, only after the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a state recount on a 5-4 decision.

Twenty or thirty years ago, when most Republicans in Minnesota were still reasonable, it was possible to split the ticket and vote across party lines. I voted for many Republican candidates like Al Quie, Dave Durenberger and Arne Carlson, and things worked out. These men were reasonable, but more importantly, the Republican Party was still reasonable. They wanted things to work smoothly, not wage endless ideological battles to score political points. No longer.

The Republican Party is now a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Koch Industries and Sheldon Adelson's worldwide casino empire, dedicated solely to promulgating their power and wealth. Many people feel George Bush was just a figurehead and that Dick Cheney really called all the shots. If elected, Mitt Romney will be in even less control than Bush was.

Romney likes to pretend you can run a country like you run a corporation. Romney would be the "CEO of America." But CEOs don't answer to the employees or even the shareholders, they answer to the board of directors. And the Republican Party's board of directors consists of the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Grover Norquist and all the other wealthy fatcats we've never heard of who've been donating tens of millions of dollars to Republican Super PACs.

You see, no one in the Republican Party actually likes or trusts Romney: they only picked him because they believed he was the candidate independent voters would find least objectionable in a race against Obama. They hate everything that Romney did as governor, they hate that he's from Massachusetts, they hate that he's a rich elitist who's totally clueless about normal people live their lives, they hate that his wife rides dressage, they hate that he's a Mormon. But they knew full well the guys they actually liked (remember Gingrich, Cain, Paul, and Santorum?) were too far off the deep end to beat Obama.

By choosing Romney, the Republicans have made it eminently clear that it's all about the party and not about the man. But if Republicans have to hold their nose when they vote for Romney, why would anyone else want to vote for him? We won't be putting a rich Mormon businessman in the White House if we elect him, we'll be installing the party of Bush that brought the current recession down us with lax oversight over greedy and incompetent bankers, locked-in profits for big pharmaceutical companies, huge tax cuts for the richest people, needless and bungled wars in the Middle East, and hundreds of thousands of veterans with serious medical problems that will haunt them for the rest of their lives -- as well as cost us trillions of dollars over the next sixty years.

Sore Winners

One of Kevin Baker's commenters?

They, like me, are relieved that the state I grew up in (and where my mom still lives) was saved from those teachers and civil servants who make 30K a year who were poised to ruin hard working Wisconsinites lives. Thank goodness that the victims of this monumental attack (the Koch Brothers and other billionaires) are now free to live their lives!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Last week, President Obama announced that the children of illegal immigrants would no longer be deported and would be allowed to have work permits to stay in this country. It may not be the Dream Act but it is an important first step in recognizing that the complexities of illegal immigration have to be managed in a nuanced way.

These children had no control over whether or not they came into this country legally and they shouldn't be punished for it. Now that they are here and especially if they want to work and make a life here, they need to be embraced. No doubt, the president is doing the right thing.

Even Republican darling Marco Rubio thinks so.

Today’s announcement will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer. There is broad support for the idea that we should figure out a way to help kids who are undocumented through no fault of their own, but there is also broad consensus that it should be done in a way that does not encourage illegal immigration in the future. This is a difficult balance to strike, one that this new policy, imposed by executive order, will make harder to achieve in the long run.

Of course, he didn't want to be ex-communicated from the Cult so he threw in mouth foaming about the Constitution and Barack X just to keep them happy.

Still, Rubio himself has put forth a very interesting first step himself regarding immigration.

The bill would offer 50,000 new visas so that US-educated foreign students achieving a master’s degree or PhD in so-called STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, or mathematics – can receive green cards. It likewise offers 75,000 visas for entrepreneurs who have legally immigrated to the US to stay in the US for up to three years. Both options also include a path for the visa recipients to become permanent residents or American citizens.

This is the answer that was offered a few years ago by Jim Manzi in regards to investment in human capital vis a vis immigration. It's a fantastic plan that needs to be acted upon immediately. Why?

The nation is getting grayer. The labor force is expanding at a meager 1 percent per year while the median age continues to rise, meaning that in the absence of more immigration the US will have to wring more and more productivity out of a steady number of people in order to grow its economic output. That's a tall order, economists say.

Right. And what sort of effect will they have on our economy?

Research shows that immigrants provide important fuel to America's economic engine. The line of thinking goes like this. Between 1980 and 2005, startups (businesses less than five years old) created an average of 3 million jobs per year and accounted for nearly all net job creation during that time. Immigrants, research suggests, are disproportionately likely to be in the entrepreneurial mix.

Of the current Fortune 500, more than 40 percent were founded by a first- or second-generation American. While immigrants are 12 percent of the US population, they account for a quarter of the nation's Nobel Prizes and patent applications, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy survey. Nearly half of the top 50 venture capital-backed companies in the US last year had at least one immigrant among their founders. 

And the outcome? A study by Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Enterprise Institute found that every immigrant with a graduate degree from a US university working in a STEM field creates 2.62 subsequent American jobs.

We need to embrace these people and encourage them to become the future innovators of our country. That's why the president's unilateral action  was necessary. It's yet another illustrative example of how he wants to actually solve the problems of our nation in a competent and effective way.

Well done, Mr. President!

Monday, June 18, 2012

I'm Shocked, I Tell You, Shocked!

Well, I'm stunned.Truly.

36 percent of very conservative Americans think it's more important to stick to your guns while 37 percent of very liberal Americans think it's more important to compromise. So much for the Cult of Both Sides.

Who are the juveniles again?

The Same-Sex Parents Tautology

People have been debating whether same-sex couples should be "allowed" to raise children for years, and the issue of children is one of the biggest slams against gay marriage. Mitt Romney has said gays should be able to adopt, and  when his right flank grumbled he backtracked, saying he only meant it was legal.

A recent study by Mark Regnerus claims that children of parents who have had a same-sex relationship (usually extra-marital) fare more poorly than children in stable heterosexual families. Writers in Slate and Scientific American have found fault with this study, as have many others, for methodological reasons.

In essence the study found that kids whose parents who commit adultery have more problems than kids whose parents don't. Well, duh. That goes without saying. But why did Regnerus have to do the study this way, instead of comparing same-sex and heterosexual families straight-up?

Well, there just aren't numerically enough children of stable same-sex parents to make an apples-to-apples statistical comparison. Previous studies of children of lesbian parents have found them to be more well-adjusted than children of heterosexual parents, but the results have been questioned because those families were well-off financially and their numbers were so tiny that the statistical significance of the conclusions was questionable.

So let's take the following hypothetical, a common situation that has occurred innumerable times throughout human history. A woman's husband dies in Afghanistan, leaving her a widow with two children. The only other person is her life is her husband's sister. The aunt has been especially close to the children, since her brother had to serve three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The aunt has actually spent far more time with the children than their father ever could, because he was serving his country since before his first child was born, up until the time of his death.

This is an age-old pattern: when men die in war, their wives and sisters are left to pick up the pieces and raise the children.

The two sisters-in-law move in together, sacrificing their own romantic goals in order to provide a stable environment to raise the children. All other things being equal, the kids would almost certainly turn out better with these two women as their parents, than if their mother went through a series of relationships with various men and was lucky enough to eventually find one who wasn't a jerk.

Now replace the aunt with a lesbian spouse who was a mother to the children from birth. There is no material difference in the relationships between the members of such a same-sex family unit and the first example, except that the bond of love between the parents is romantic rather than familial.

The real difference between the two situations is the way society responds. The children of same-sex parents are treated differently than children of heterosexual parents. Any trauma the children suffer does not derive from the quality of parental love, because all parents can love their children equally well regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Trauma the children might suffer  from question of "who's my daddy" is caused by society when it forces the kids to confront that question on a daily basis.

The argument against same-sex parents is thus a tautology: same-sex parents are bad because society thinks they're bad, and will treat their children badly.

It's exactly the kind of logic the Taliban uses to force women to wear head-to-toe burqas: don't show your face or ankles to us, or we will be forced to rape you for tempting us. In the minds of bigots the victims of their intolerance are always the responsible party.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are saying, "We don't like what you are and what you're doing and we will instruct our kids to ostracize and taunt your children because of it. Don't force us to torment your kids."

Nice family folks, huh?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Health Care A Go Go

In the next two weeks, we should be hearing what the Supreme Court of the United States thinks about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Will they overturn all of it or just parts of it? The political world and, indeed, many others are anxiously awaiting the verdict.

My inkling is that they vote against the mandate but keep the rest of it. But what then? Andy over at has the answer.

If the mandate is struck down, the Democrats have an easier path if they choose to take it. The Court's argument in striking down the mandate will no doubt be something like the government does not have the power to compel people to engage in commerce (like buying insurance) if they don't want to. The solution is simply to structure the mandate differently. Congress could amend the internal revenue code to say everyone has to pay a tax of $1000 to cover the costs generated by uninsured people getting treated at hospital emergency rooms (because Congress has mandated this). However, to help people who are not part of the problem, the same change to the law could give a $1000 credit to anyone who can prove they have health insurance. In effect, this is almost the same as a mandate except that failing to have insurance is no longer a violation of the law. It simply means you lose out on one of the myriad of credits the tax law provides. There is little doubt Congress has the power to tax, so such an approach is likely to be acceptable to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who seems to have acquired the power to veto laws singlehandedly, even though he never campaigned for the job. 

And what of the Republicans?

Be careful what you wish for, you might get it. If, as Republicans are hoping, the Supreme Court strikes down some or all of the Affordable Health Care Act later this month, they will cheer for a week. Then Democrats will pound them on what they plan to replace it with. An answer like "Nothing. The current system works well" is not likely to get many votes among the 50 million people currently uninsured. But despite the real possibility that the Court may strike down part or all of the law, the GOP does not have a plan of its own. 

The problem for the Republicans is that coming up with a minibill that just includes the popular features of the ACA would be a disaster. Allowing young people up to 26 to stay on their parent's plans until 26 would be easy to do--in fact some health insurance companies may do it voluntarily because it means more customers. The tricky part is the provision that allows anyone to sign up for health care regardless of any preexisting conditions. A bill that included that but did not have a mandate for everyone to get health care would bankrupt all the insurance companies in short order since many people would wait until they were seriously ill before getting insurance. Every country in the world that requires insurance companies to take everyone also has a mandate in one form or other.

If this happens, it would be a great example of what I mean when I say that one can win the argument and still lose.

The more I think about this, the more I realize that I'd rather have SCOTUS strike down parts or all of the law so it be changed for the better. The GOP has signaled that they are going to keep the more popular provisions anyway so raising taxes and/or offering tax credits seem much more likely now. Even the public option could make a bold reappearance and pass. It would simply be Medicare for all and that is perfectly legal under the Constitution.

Here is a handy dandy flow chart to help you with all the possible outcomes.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Oblong Zeppelin Toss

The Loud, Shouty Guy

Apparently, it's the new normal to yell out at Barack X when he is trying to speak.  Take a look at this ass hat.

It took me all of a millisecond to realize that the loud, shouty guy was a right wing blogger. Sadly, it seems that this breed of human is breeding like gremlins these days. All it takes is an adolescent power fantasy and a perpetual belief that "Dad" is fucking up their shit.

Certainly, there is no shortage of that sentiment!

Friday, June 15, 2012

McCain Says Corporations Are Not People

After the 2008 election and his reelection campaign in 2010, I thought John McCain had lost every shred of honesty and integrity. But, doggone it, he's making me reevaluate my opinion of him.

In an interview with PBS McCain criticized my favorite billionaire whipping boy, Sheldon Adelson, for bringing foreign cash into US elections:
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Mr. Adelson, who gave large amounts of money to the Gingrich campaign. And much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from this casino in Macau. 
JUDY WOODRUFF: Which says what? 
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Which says that, obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign -- political campaigns. 
JUDY WOODRUFF: Because of the profits at the casinos in Macau? 
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Yes. That is a great deal of money. And, again, we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization that Teddy Roosevelt had that we have to have a limit on the flow of money, and that corporations are not people. 
That's why we have different laws that govern corporations than govern individual citizens. And so to say that corporations are people, again, flies in the face of all the traditional Supreme Court decisions that we have made -- that have been made in the past.
McCain also said:
[Citizens United is] the most misguided, naive, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court I think in the 21st century. 
To somehow view money as not having an effect on election, a corrupting effect on election, flies in the face of reality. 
Look, I guarantee you, Judy, there will be scandals. There is too much money washing around political campaigns today. And it will take scandals, and then maybe we can have the Supreme Court go back and revisit this issue.
It's not just that the Supreme Court's is naive about the realities of money in campaigns: Justice Clarence Thomas immediately cashed in on it by having his wife set up a Tea Party lobbying organization. Why hasn't Thomas been impeached for such an egregious conflict of interest?

Perhaps I'm giving McCain more credit than he's due, given his oblivious comments about Romney and regulation in the first part of the interview. McCain is more like the conservative who used to be a liberal who was mugged, or the liberal used to be a conservative whose job was outsourced to China.

McCain experienced first hand the corrosive and corrupting influence of huge amounts of cash is in the hands of political operatives like Karl Rove. McCain was the victim of one of the worst whispering campaigns in the 2000 Republican primary, when push pollsters called voters in South Carolina and asked, "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew that he fathered an illegitimate black child?"

McCain had adopted a child from Bangladesh, but Bush's campaign operatives turned this into a blot on McCain's honor, much as they Swift Boated John Kerry four years later for his service in Viet Nam (George W. Bush had cowered on a National Guard airbase during the war, only to disappear for the last year of his service on a coke binge or political campaign, depending on what you want to call it). The South Carolina primary was probably the biggest reason McCain saw the light and sponsored McCain-Feingold in the first place.

What's even crazier is how such huge sums of money can change directions in so short a time. Adelson and his family had given Newt Gingrich's PAC more than $10 million just a few months ago, used mostly to smear Romney, and now Adelson has just given Romney's PAC $10 million.

And now Adelson says he'll spend up to $100 million of his dirty casino money to beat Obama. I can just imagine what kind of campaign that cash will pay for.


RNC Latino Site Features Stock Photo of Asian Children

Ah, they are all brown so what's the dif?

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Whether it’s done through the Affordable Care Act or done separate from that with Congress and the states — I think that things that allow you to go over state lines, certain things in terms of guaranteed issue and things of that nature. I think there are good elements. I just don’t think you need the federal government to do most of those things.---Governor Scott Walker on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

And he's not the only one. So much for repealing Obamacare.

Out of Control, As They Should Be

A temporary truce has been called in the conservative war on women on orders from the High Command, but some men are still on the attack.

Today Gretchen Carlson walked off the set of Fox & Friends after co-host Brian Kilmeade said, "Women are everywhere. We’re letting them play golf and tennis now. It’s out of control." Yes, Brian, it's out of control. And it should be.

Did this guy say this by accident, or was this whole thing a setup? Is this just "entertainment" for the cavemen that watch Fox & Friends, or this guy's real attitude? Carlson didn't seem particularly peeved, but what's the deal? It amazes me that there are still men to whom ideas like this even occur, must less say aloud. In front of TV cameras. And millions of viewers.

Women are everywhere? Duh. They're 50.8% of the population. At age 65 and older, there are only 74 men for every 100 women. Among 2011 high school graduates, 72.3% of women and 64.6% of men are in college. Overall, 57% of college attendees were women in 2009. Currently in 40% of married couples the wife outearns the husband, even though women in general still only make 81% of what men earn. Given the college stats, these numbers are only going to increase over time.

We're "letting" them play golf and tennis? It's such a tragedy that all those women are tying up all the good tee times. And Bobby Riggs really showed Billie Jean King in 1973, didn't he?

Is the real reason so many conservative men are opposed to gay marriage is that they're afraid women would marry each other, rather than put up with this kind of crap all the time?

It makes me wonder how often Kilmeade unshackles his wife from her washboard and butter churn.

Blame Bush

A new Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans still blame President Bush for our economic and financial woes. 68 percent of those surveyed place the blame on W while only 52 percent blame President Obama. 83 percent of that 52 percent are Republicans so that makes sense.

The interesting number is that 49 percent of the 69 percent that blame Bush are also Republicans. That gives me some hope that at least some folks on the right are willing to admit fault. Of course, on my list Bush and the GOP are number 2 as far as blame goes. The fault really lies with the financial sector of this country and their insatiable greed.

So, for those of you who whine about "blaming Bush," are in the minority.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Test Scores...Improving?

Despite the continued and lazily convenient narrative that our schools are falling apart and our students are all getting horrible educations, test scores in science are improving. Not only are they improving overall but the gap between Latino and black students and their white and Asian peers is narrowing.

Hispanic students made the largest gain, to 137 from 132 (out of 300), while the average score for black students increased to 129 from 126. That might seem small but believe me, it's enormous from a statistical standpoint when you consider that it was a sampling of 122,000 students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

More interesting are the notes in the report that indicated that students do a better job if they have hands on activities rather than just reading or watching. Those who work in teams showed better and more enduring understandings. Differentiation is key here, folks, especially in today's short attention span society. Students need to be doing things and not listening to lectures for entire blocks at a time.

I'm heartened by this and many other stories I have seen from around the country since the president took office and Arnie Duncan became Secretary of Education. There is no doubt in my mind that their education initiatives are the best this country has seen since the mid point of last century.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Profile In Courage

Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad - they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party - and I don't - as having an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement, doesn't allow for finding some common ground.---Jeb Bush, 11 June 2012

A hard time? Try...he wouldn't have even made it through a GOP primary. Like the fiction they create regarding Obama, the Gipper has become a mythical figure that bears no resemblance to what he actually did in reality. I will give Mr. Bush credit, though, for having the guts to admit what most conservatives will not.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Government Created Wealth

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of watching a documentary about the Grand Coulee Dam. It was part of PBS's American Experience series that I have enjoyed for many, many years. Here is the program in its entirety and I recommend watching the whole thing before you comment on the rest of this post.  

Watch Grand Coulee Dam on PBS. See more from American Experience.

My initial awe at what went into this project and the enormously positive outcome gave way to a profound sadness because a project like this could never happen today. Why? Because "the GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.." (Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein)

Before the dam's construction, the likely ancestors of the Tea Party behaved in a similar fashion as described by Mann and Ornstein, shouting all too familiar cries of dissent. Proponents of the dam were called "crackpots" and "Coulee Communists." Big private power interests fought fiercely against it. Collier's magazine downgraded Grand Coulee and, as the structure rose higher, it was labeled as "socialistic, impractical dam-foolishness." Even experts, engineers and geologists debated its usefulness. The president of the American Society of Civil Engineers branded Coulee as "a grandiose project of no more usefulness than the pyramids of Egypt." A Spokane paper sneered. "Baron Munchausen," it said, referring to the legendary liar, "thou wert a piker."

They were all wrong.

The Grand Coulee Dam, a taxpayer funded, government project, resulted in millions of dollars for the defense industry (60,000 planes and the creation of plutonium-239 were built using the power from the dam) and an explosion of agriculture in the state of Washington due to irrigation of a once arid, massive area of land in the Northwest. In fact, it provides irrigation to 2,000 farms in the area. The Grand Coulee Dam is one of the top produces in the country of hydro-electric power.Entire towns...economies...grew up around the building of the dam as thousands of people and a massive amount of materials were needed in its construction. The entire region was changed and became very prosperous as a result of the dam.

So, the Grand Coulee Dam is an example of how the government can create wealth. I realize this is sacrilege  for the right wingers out there but the facts are the facts. So, why again can't we do something like this today?

Looking deeper than the reasons I listed above, one becomes even more confused. Economic conditions were worse back in the 1930s. Unemployment was higher. The private sector had been shown to be a collection of greedy buffoons who were, in essence, addicted to gambling and using the nation's (really, the world's) economic structure as collateral. People put their faith in government and it paid off. The same thing should be able to happen today, right?

No. Because the last 30 years have seen a systematic attack on the institution of government that is so profoundly inaccurate...that I fear the national perception is forever changed. Even as little as two years ago, I have caught myself saying (in derision), "Well, this must be a government operation." It's become part of our zeitgeist to hate the government and yet we so desperately need its structure and organizational principles right now to get ourselves out of this sluggish funk. Combine this with near worship we have of the real Gordon Gekkos of our country and our federal government doesn't stand a chance.

Yet, it's terribly obvious that the private sector is not going to be able to improve our economy on its own. Their motivation is for profit. That's great when you are exclusively operating in the free market. As we have seen far too many times, the free market isn't a universal panacea for all things economical. This is especially true because the government...our government and the governments of the world...are partners in the economy. They have to be because governments can sometimes improve market outcomes. And the Grand Coulee Dam is an excellent example of exactly how this works.

President Obama has been trying to do this for the last 3 1/2 years and has been massively derided for it. He's a "big government liberal" who wants to blah blah blah...have any of the people who say this ever taken the time to see the results of a project like Grand Coulee?

In truth, we don't even have to do something as massive as the Grand Coulee Dam to get our economy moving again. We could simply start with a massive repair plan for our nation's highways and bridges. That would put people to work which would, in turn, generate revenue for the government and the private sector. In essence, I'm talking about the president's jobs plan. 

Of course, the Republicans will never pass anything that could signal a success for the president in an election year. To put it simply, they, like the detractors of the Grand Coulee Dam, have a vested interest in the failure of such policies which essentially means they have a vested interest in the failure of our economy.

And, since the perception of our government is not what it was in 1933, they may very well succeed.