Sunday, June 30, 2013

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Next Generation?

The recent report that students leaving high school today aren't doing much better than they did in the 1970s seems like bad news at first glance. Dive into it a little deeper, however, and we see this.

The news was brighter for younger students and for blacks and Hispanics, who had the greatest gain in reading and math scores since the 1970s, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card. “In some ways, the findings are full of hope. Today’s children ages 9 and 13 are scoring better overall than students at those ages in the early ’70s,” said Brent Houston, principal of the Shawnee Middle School in Oklahoma and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which administers the tests.

Does this mean the achievement is closing? Possibly. A big part of the reason for this is the Common Core program started by the states, not the federal government, although it does have the full support of President Obama. The key thrust of the CC standards is to develop students' critical thinking skills and not simply test their short term memories. This leads to what we call in the biz "enduring understandings" and the best instructors know how to achieve this goal.

It's going to be very exciting and interesting to watch how our test scores rise over the next decade due to the changes being made now in our education system. It's about time!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Do Big Brothers Make You Gay?

I read this article on Slate that mentions a study that found that fraternal birth order influences the likelihood of being gay:
In men, sexual orientation correlates with an individual’s number of older brothers, each additional older brother increasing the odds of homosexuality by approximately 33%. It has been hypothesized that this fraternal birth order effect reflects the progressive immunization of some mothers to Y-linked minor histocompatibility antigens (H-Y antigens) by each succeeding male fetus and the concomitantly increasing effects of such maternal immunization on the future sexual orientation of each succeeding male fetus.
I knew that the presence of certain environmental hormones in the womb could influence fetal brain development that produced gays and lesbians, but this was the first I'd seen of the birth order correlation. If true, the more older brothers you have the more likely it is you'll be gay.

The irony is that families who belong to religions that encourage large families -- Catholics and Mormons -- are more likely to produce gay younger brothers.

Perhaps this is why so many Catholic priests are gay (from an article in the Washington Times):
Based on his 17 years in the priesthood, [Rev. James Haley] estimates that 60 percent of the Diocese of Arlington’s 127 diocesan priests are homosexuals, which is high compared with national estimates of 30 percent to 50 percent from other authorities on the priesthood.
I guess this worked out for medieval Europe with its laws of primogeniture, which allowed only the firstborn son to inherit, leaving the younger sons with no options except to join the Church.

But it must be frustrating for these groups -- the more they do what "they're supposed to do" (have big families) the more negative feedback they get (bearing gay sons). Is it God's will? Karma? Or just biology?

I got chided the other day on Facebook for saying that I loved my wife's big, round butt. Some women took it as offensive because big supposedly means bad. Well, the image above shows that this wasn't always the case.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Private Contractor Charged Government for Security Clearance Checks it Never Performed

After conducting an initial background check of a candidate for employment, USIS was required to perform a second review to make sure no important details had been missed. From 2008 through 2011, USIS allegedly skipped this second review in up to 50 percent of the cases. But it conveyed to federal officials that these reviews had, in fact, been performed.

The shortcut made it appear that USIS was more efficient than it actually was and may have triggered incentive awards for the company, the people briefed on the matter said. Investigators, who have briefed lawmakers on the allegations, think the strategy may have originated with senior executives, the people said.
I'm so glad we're privatizing all our military and security infrastructure. It costs twice as much and they do only half the work. It's so efficient!

This is the problem with using people whose only motive is profit to do critical work. Apparently there's no room for honor, loyalty and patriotism when it comes to the bottom line.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Voting Rights Act Redux

My initial take on the Supreme Court decision yesterday to nullify sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act is not quite as outraged as my fellow Democratic and progressive colleagues. It's obvious that this was to be expected given the make up of the court but is it really as bad as they say it's going to be? Possibly but I have my doubts and the main reason why I do is the last election.

All of the gymnastics the Right did in 2012 simply resulted in a more concerted effort to get the non white vote out. It worked. They voted in record numbers in 2012. Changing demographics in the states affected by the SCOTUS decision means that there will be very little the state houses can do to suppress votes. The court is right to note that times have indeed changed and, although discrimination still exists, I just don't see any way they are going to get away with it.

And, if I can be extremely political here, the only states that matter for right now out of those nine affected the most by the changes are Florida and Virginia. The other states are going to be red for just a little bit longer, I suspect, with the exception, perhaps, of Texas. But the Lone Star state is a great example of those changing demographics. So is Florida, actually, as we saw people wait in line for seven hours to make sure they had the chance to vote.

People are resilient and will adapt to any bullshit the Right tries to pull with voting. It's happened before and it will happen again.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

We're Number On.....oh...wait a minute...Number Twenty Seven!

Conservatives like to sing about how wealthy our middle class is compared to the rest of the world. After all, look at how everyone has flat screens, X Boxes and cel phones? Never mind the fact that all of that is really cheap shit made in China and in no way a measure of wealth (see: it's not the year 1982 anymore where the family with the cool hi-fi set up is king)

The reality is our middle class isn't number one. In fact, we are number 27.

This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that's what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us. Unfortunately, it's a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people. Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world.

So how do we compare to other countries?

Pretty craptacular if you ask me. Australia is number one? Even with their strict gun laws? I'm surprised that the middle class is doing so well considering that we have all been told by those "in the know" that gun bans lead to totalitarianism. Where is the suffering under communism that was promised?

So how is all of this measured?

Wealth is measured by the total sum of all our assets (homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds etc.) minus our liabilities (outstanding loans and other debts). It the best indicator we have for individual and family prosperity. The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult).

Just north of $38,000. Like I said, pathetic.

Of course, any sort of discussion about addressing this problem jumps immediately to a mouth foaming rant about communism and merrily we go on avoiding how, in some very key ways, we are falling behind the rest of the world.

As a country, we can't go on with a government that represents only the wealthy citizens. While this article presents nothing new (Stiglitz says much of it in his book), all of its bullet points are truly depressing and make me sick. When is it going to end?

More importantly, which party is going to have the guts to change the system we have now?

Monday, June 24, 2013

End of the Phony IRS Scandal?

Well, the IRS "scandal" turned out to be phony. It was apparently what I thought it was: some IRS agents taking shortcuts to determine which political organizations seeking tax-exempt status should receive additional scrutiny. In particular, ones that seemed to be overtly political -- or commercial -- and not "social welfare" organizations.

They demanded more information from groups of all stripes: medical marijuana advocates, groups advocating the president's health care law; interestingly, "occupied territory advocacy" groups received the most scrutiny of all. Most telling to me is the following:
But groups with no political inclinations were also examined. “Open source software” organizations seeking nonprofit status “are usually for-profit business or for-profit support technicians of the software,” a lookout list warns. “If you see a case, elevate it to your manager.”
I'm in software, and I know how these open-source software companies work: they let the broader community of software developers write all their code for them -- for free -- and then they turn around and sell their own version of it (with support) for real money. (These are usually systems like Linux.) In essence, these companies are lining their pockets with the labor of volunteers who nobly donate their own time -- lots of it -- to the cause of open-source software.

In short, the IRS agents were looking for scammers: political scammers on the right looking to offer tax deductions to their billionaire donors for political action, political scammers on the left looking to leverage their smaller donor pool with tax-exempt status, as well as corporate scammers just looking to get the rest of us to pay for their lobbying expenses.

The real scandal here is not the IRS took these shortcuts: can you really blame these IRS agents for using keywords to identify the organizations that are most likely to try cheating the government? They're just trying to do their jobs efficiently. Seriously, isn't that what we'd expect the IRS to do in the first place?

No, the real scandal is that the Treasury inspector general omitted the salient fact that the IRS was looking into all groups seeking questionable tax-exempt status, and was not singling out conservative groups.

Perhaps we could get the NSA to look into the inspector general's cellphone, email and Internet usage to determine who gave him those instructions...

Maybe Old-Fashioned Government Bureaucrats Aren't So Bad After All...

From the South China Morning Post:

Snowden sought Booz Allen job to gather evidence on NSA surveillance

Fugitive whistle-blower reveals for first time he took job at US government contractor with the sole aim of collecting proof of spying activities

Boy, those new-fangled private security contractors like Booz Allen sure do a bang-up job on protecting American secrets. So much better than those fuddy-duddy government employees who stay on the job for life, in order to make sure they keep their government pensions. Which happen to be much less than what Booz Allen pays Snowden and their ilk...

On Stiglitz: Part Seven

The next chapter in Joseph Stiglitz's The Price of Inequality is titled "Justice For All? How Inequality Is Eroding The Rule Of Law?" Even though it is the shortest chapter of the ten in the text, it takes sharp aim at how our justice system has helped to further inequality in this country. The rule of law is supposed to protect the weak against the powerful yet in today's society, if someone is suing a corporation, we have all been conditioned to view that person as "gold digger" and the corporation as a "victim" (This simple fact is covered extensively in the stunning film Hot Coffee).

As Stiglitz notes,

As the old poem goes, "No man is an island." In any society what one person does may hurt, or benefit, others. Economists refer to these effects as externalities. When those who injure others don't have to bear the full consequences of their actions, they will have inadequate incentives not to injure them, and to take precautions to avoid risks of injury. 

The Right has a real cognitive dissonance problem with the sentiment above. They want to live in a society where everyone is a "rugged individualist" yet still want all the trappings of a modernism. They can't accept the fact that in any sort of society one person's actions has a direct effect on another's life. and that's with or without government interference.

Stiglitz writes that one of the big reasons why American corporations have been so successful in the last 30 years is they have been able to avoid the consequences of their actions by rigging the game in their favor. This has never been more true than in the financial sector, specifically the banks. There were no real consequences for the predatory lending and fraud committed by the banks in the run up the financial crisis of 2008. Stiglitz notes that some states like Georgia tried to enact laws that would have stopped this sort of behavior in the first place.They were repaid by Standard and Poor's threatening them to not rate any of their mortgages. This would be the same Standard and Poor's who downgraded the US credit rating. This would also be the same S & P labelled "A" what turned out to be "F" rated mortgages. So, any attempt to stop predatory lending by government entities was met with (ahem) corporate force.

Stiglitz goes on to discuss how bankruptcy law has also become massively corrupted in a similar way. He touches on the student loan problem and how banks seem intent trapping young people into impossible situations with insurmountable, lifelong debt. This helps to cement the inequality in this country.

Stigliiz then turns to the mortgage crisis that was the driving force behind the 2008 economic crisis. In a nutshell, he asserts that "rule of law" was tested in this country and the results clearly showed that there was no justice for all. In fact, there was justice for very few people in the financial sector.

The banks wanted a speedier and less costly way of transferring, so they created their own system called MERS but like so much of what the banks had done in the gold rush days, it proved to be a deficient system, without safeguards, and amounted to an end run around a legal system designed to protect debtors. 

So, the banks unilaterally decided to rewrite property law. When the crisis hit, they were supposed to be able to prove how much they actually owed. They couldn't and it was largely because there was no oversight to make sure they did. It didn't really matter to them anyway. There was so much money flying all over the place that they knew the government would have no choice but to bail them out. What were they going to do? Let the economy collapse?

Worse, Stiglitz points out that if corporations were indeed people, they should have been prosecuted for fraud as they were unable to prove that there financial records were valid. There still has not been any significant pursuit, by the government, towards foreclosure fraud. This is a complete and total failure by the US government, specifically Eric Holder. It's amusing how much people on the right bitch about him for the phantom things he's done but not the main thing that he has neglected to do. Recall that the DOJ prosecuted over one thousand cases in the S & L scandal in the early 1990s.

Stigliz notes a Wall Street Journal piece which also uncovered discrimination on the basis of income regarding the foreclosure process. On average, it took banks two years and two months to foreclose on mortgages over one million dollars, six months longer than on those under one hundred thousand dollars. Banks were bending over backwards to accommodate bigger debtors and their team of lawyers that were the best money could buy. The little guy had none of this, of course, and worse, considering just how much the law had been eroded.

We've come to a point in our society where the government does more to protect the interests of corporations and less to protect the rights of individuals. People in Congress are being paid large quantities of money to look the other way and allow the private sector, especially the financial sector, massive leeway in their business. We don't need a "bigger" government. What we need are elected officials who can quickly recognize factors such as externalities and market power in the private sector and intervene quickly to prevent another crisis such as the one we had in 2008. A good place to start is the financial sector and we have, at least, taken steps down that path with the Dodd-Frank bill.

The people who are elected to Congress have to understand that they are performing a public service. They aren't the extended legal staff of the various corporations in the United States.

Who Are The Five?

Politico has a story up about how Vice President Joe Biden is saying that there are five senators who now want to change their vote on Manchin-Toomey. He didn't name who they were and I have to admit some skepticism about this but he is right that approval ratings have dropped for the 45 senators who voted against this bill.

There must be something to the story because look who is nervous. Then again, they are always nervous so it could be nothing.

Or could it?:)

(Man, it's fun to fuck with paranoids!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

No War At All

Spend some time talking to Christian conservatives and they'll tell you the same thing all the time. They are oppressed and their rights are being infringed. They want to pray in school, damnit! And the gubmint won't let them. The only problem with this protestation is that it bears no semblance to reality.

"We've gone from virtual silence about religion in the curriculum and virtually no student religious expression in many schools," says Charles Haynes, a scholar at the First Amendment Center and head of the Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington, D.C., "to today, when social studies and other standards are fairly generous to religion, and students are expressing their faiths in many different ways in many public schools, if not most."

Yep. I see it all the time in my district and my children's school district. Kids take time out of their day to pray wherever and whenever they need to do so. Staff and administration make accommodations. And it's not just individual faith expressions that are more commonplace.

Schools are increasingly including Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, and, in some cases, the Bible in their curricula because of concern over Americans' religious illiteracy. (A 2007 study found that only 10 percent of American teens could name the five major religions.)

History of Religion is common class that students can take for a history credit. A few of my colleagues have taught it over the years and it has always seen high registration.

The important thing to remember there is that while schools can't foster religious beliefs, still must allow students to religiously express themselves as they see fit. In short, there is no "War on Christians." It has endlessly amused me that those who bemoan the victim card play it so much, creating a reality that simply does not exist.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


The best weapon to stop them Moose-lems? A radiation death beam.

The FBI has arrested two local men for allegedly plotting to use a radiation emitting device to silently kill their targets.According to the United States Department of Justice, 49-year-old Glendon Scott Crawford of Galway and 54-year-old Eric Feight of Hudson have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

The arrests come after a 14-month long undercover investigation that was prompted when authorities received information back in April 2012 that Crawford had approached local Jewish organizations seeking out individuals who could help him build a machine that could be used against anyone he perceived as enemies of Israel. 

 The Department of Justice says Crawford, a General Electric maintenance worker, and Feight were looking to build a "mobile, remotely operated, radiation emitting device capable of killing targeted individuals silently with lethal doses of X-ray radiation." Investigators say this type of technology could have been used against people without them knowing that they had absorbed lethal doses of radiation until days later when the harmful effects from the exposure surfaced. 

The clever fiendishness of their evil plot was brilliant! If it wasn't for those damn PC, multi-culti killjoys, we would all be safer now!

Well, That's Nice

Apparently, the gun community has a difficult time keeping track of the their guns. The nation’s gun dealers lost 190,342 firearms last year, including pistols, silencers and machine guns, contributing to the flow of illegal weapons that put guns in the hands of felons, gang members and drug dealer. The fives states that are the worst offenders are Texas, Georgia, Florida, California, and North Carolina. Not surprising, really.

So, let's see if I have this correct. The gun community doesn't want any new guns laws because they are worried their rights will be infringed yet, at the same time, they are completely inept at keeping track of the weapons in their care. Responsible gun owners, my ass.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013


S&P Upgrades U.S. Credit Outlook to ‘Stable’

Now S&P projects U.S. general government deficit plus non-deficit borrowing requirements to dip to about 6% of gross domestic product in 2013, down from 7% in 2012, and to less than 4% in 2015. The ratings firm also sees net general government debt as a share of GDP staying “broadly stable” for the next few years at about 84%, allowing policymakers “some additional time to take steps to address pent-up age-related spending pressures.

All over the country conservatives are face palming...what does a feller have to do to get a failed economy so they can justify their Obamaphobia?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Oh, Really?

'Conservative Republican' at IRS defends treatment of Tea Party. 

John Shafer, who described himself as "a conservative Republican," told congressional investigators he flagged the first application for tax-exempt status from a Tea Party-aligned group that he and a lower-level agent came across in February 2010 because it was a new, high-profile issue.

Take That, Gun Grabbers!!

I didn't realize how terribly insecure the gun community was until today.

Gun owners target family event

Turning a family event into an excuse to make up for a perceived penis deficiency is beyond poor taste. This would be why the setback last April with Manchin-Toomey barely phased me. They always end up (ahem) shooting themselves in the foot.

Great. Fucking. Video.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More Parents Like This, Please

Bill and Tricia Lemmers ought to be given the Congressional Medal of Honor. Why? Because they just prevented another mass shooting.

Their son, Blaec, recently confessed to police that he was planning an Aurora style shooting after purchasing an AR-15 from Wal Mart. His parents, keenly aware that their son had been in and out of mental institutions but unable to prevent him from buying a gun, reported him to the police. They picked up Blaec and he confessed as to the reason why he bought the weapon.

We need more parents like Bill and Tricia to see the warning signs and note that their sons fit the profile of these types of spree shooters. It's been painfully obvious since Newtown that the gun community is going to be of no help whatsoever with this problem (and, by extension, the federal government) so it's up to individuals like the Lemmers.

Let's bring mental illness out of the shadows and address this issue head on. Many people in communities around the country know people like Blaec and should not make the same mistakes that were made with Adam Lanza. If you know someone that has been in and out of mental institutions and has just bought a firearm, call the police immediately.

Can't Get Enough

I've the video below a couple of times now and I still can't get enough of it. In so many ways, this sums up the Right and how completely hypocritical they are. I think it's the Obamaphobia!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Oh, Really?

If conservatives across the country haven't started shitting themselves, they should now.

Over the next several years, Battleground Texas will focus on expanding the electorate by registering more voters – and, as importantly, mobilizing those Texans who are already registered but who have not been engaged in the democratic process. And we’ll use the data-driven, people-focused approach that has helped win grassroots campaigns around the country.

By data driven, they mean the same approach the Obama campaign used led by Jim Messina. That worked pretty well, didn't it?

My message to conservatives is simple: moderate. Or you are going to cease to exist as a political party.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Here is the full statement of Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist billionaire, given on June 5th of this year before the Subcommittee on Economic Policy (Senate Committee on Banking, House, and Urban Affairs).

For 30 years, Americans on the right and left have accepted a particular explanation for the origins of prosperity in capitalist economies. It is- that rich business people like me are “Job Creators” - That if taxes go up- on us or our companies, we will create fewer jobs. And that the lower our taxes are, the more jobs we will create and the more general prosperity we’ll have. Many of you in this room are certain that these claims are true. But sometimes the ideas that we know to be true are dead wrong. 

For thousands of years people were certain, positive, that earth was at the center of the universe. It’s not, and anyone who doesn’t know that would have a very hard time doing astronomy. My argument today is this: In the same way that it’s a fact that the sun, not earth is the center of the solar system, it’s also a fact that the middle class, not rich business people like me are the center of America’s economy. I’ll argue here that prosperity in capitalist economies never trickles down from the top. Prosperity is built from the middle out. As an entrepreneur and investor, I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all would have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated. That’s why I am so sure that rich business people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. 

What does lead to more employment is a “circle of life” like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. That's why the real job creators in America are middle-class consumers. The more money they have, and the more they can buy, the more people like me have to hire to meet demand. So when businesspeople like me take credit for creating jobs, it’s a little like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around. Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a capitalists course of last resort, something we do if and only if increasing customer demand requires it. Further, that the goal of every business- profit-, is largely a measure of our relative ability to not create jobs compared to our competitors. In this sense, calling ourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous. 

That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When you have a tax system in which most of the exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer. Since 1980 the share of income for the richest 1% of Americans has tripled while our effective tax rates have by approximately 50%. If it were true that lower tax rates and more wealth for the wealthy would lead to more job creation, then today we would be drowning in jobs. If it was true that more profit for corporations or lower tax rates for corporations lead to more job creation, -then it could not also be true that both corporate profits and unemployment are at 50 year highs. There can never be enough super rich Americans like me to power a great economy. I earn 1000 times the median wage, but I do not buy1000 times as much stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. Like everyone else, we go out to eat with friends and family only occasionally. I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or cars or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the vast majority of American families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages. This is why the fast increasing inequality in our society is killing our economy. 

When most of the money in the economy ends up in just a few hands, it strangles consumption and creates a death spiral of falling demand. Significant privileges have come to capitalists like me for being perceived as “job creators” at the center of the economic universe, and the language and metaphors we use to defend the fairness of the current social and economic arrangements is telling. For instance, it is a small step from “job creator” to “The Creator”. When someone like me calls himself a job creator, it sounds like we are describing how the economy works. What we are actually doing is making a claim on status, power and privileges. The extraordinary differential between the 15-20% tax rate on capital gains, dividends, and carried interest for capitalists, and the 39% top marginal rate on work for ordinary Americans is just one of those privileges. We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. 

Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Rather, jobs are a consequence of an eco-systemic feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers, and when they thrive, businesses grow and hire, and owners profit- in a virtuous cycle of increasing returns that benefits everyone. I’d like to finish with a quick story. About 500 years ago, Copernicus and his pal Galileo came along and proved that the earth wasn’t the center of the solar system. A great achievement, but it didn’t go to well for them with the political leaders of the time. Remember that Galileo invented the telescope, so one could see, with ones own eyes, the fact that he was right. You may recall however, that the leaders of the time didn’t much care, because if earth wasn’t the center of the universe, then earth was diminished-and if earth was diminished, so were they. And that fact- their status and power- was the only fact they really cared about. 

So they told Galileo to stick his telescope where the sun didn’t shine –and put him in jail for the rest of his life. And by so doing, put themselves on the wrong side of history forever. 500 years later, we are arguing about what or whom is at the center of the economic universe. A few rich guys like me, or the American Middle class. But as sure as the sun is the center of our solar system, the middle class is the center of our economy. If we care about building a fast growing economy that provides opportunity for every American, then me must enact policies that build it from the middle out, not the top down. Tax the wealthy and corporations-as we once did in this country- and invest that money in the middle class-as we once did in this country. Those polices won’t just be great for the middle class, they’ll be great for the poor, for businesses large and small, and the rich. 

Since when did investing in our country's infrastructure becoming communism?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Nothing Is The Matter With Kansas After All

A Win for Science in Kansas 

So. apparently. the Kansas State Board of Education voted to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a new science curriculum that treats evolution and climate change as fact and promotes hands-on learning. The board passed the new standards in an 8-2 vote, and encountered significantly less opposition to evolution and climate change principles than in the past.

Recall that the state voted to weaken evolution teaching in 1999 and 2005, although it adopted an evolution-friendly science curriculum in 2007. What does this mean?


Good Point

Friday, June 14, 2013

Attacking Syria May be the Right Thing to Do, but There Will Be Consequences...

It's amazing what short memories people have. John McCain is calling Obama's failure to act on Syria "disgraceful." But a decade ago, John McCain and George Bush had their way: they invaded Iraq based on false claims of "yellowcake" and a pack of lies told us by an Iranian spy (Ahmad Chalabi) and an informant named "Curveball" (who the Germans knew was lying).

Now Iraq is an Iranian ally and China is getting all the Iraqi oil we "liberated" from Saddam.

Osama bin Laden ran planes into buildings on 9/11 because we had left American troops in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War. The Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon because they were angry about the innocents Americans had killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly all the recent terrorist attacks (Fort Hood, Times Square, etc.) have been in retribution for the wars. And we can't forget the almost 10,000 American troops who have died, and the hundreds of thousands who have been maimed and scarred for life.

Attacking Syria will mean killing Hezbollah fighters who are coming from Lebanon to help Assad. Americans will be directly responsible for the deaths of Hezbollah fighters. Thus far Hezbollah has left Americans pretty much alone unless we've stationed troops there. Remember Saint Ronald's biggest foreign policy disaster was his response to the bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Almost 300 American and French troops were killed by Hezbollah. Reagan talked tough, but eventually turned tail and pulled them all out. The attack was apparently motivated by the deaths of innocent by-standers by an American missile.  Sound familiar?

If we attack Syria in any significant fashion, we will kill hundreds if not thousands of innocent Syrians, as well as Hezbollah fighters and, potentially, Iranian and Russian advisers. The survivors will be angry and will want revenge. It may take 10 years, as it did for bin Laden and the Tsarnaevs, but we know for certain that some number of these angry young men will attempt to take revenge on America for these deaths. And we know for certain that some of them will succeed.

We are, at the same time McCain is demanding we invade Syria, deciding that the illusion of safety is more important than our privacy: we think it's okay for NSA to watch every single thing we do. Yet McCain is proposing an action that will inevitably endanger a whole new generation of Americans by making a whole new generation of Middle Easterners in yet another country hate us.

If we make war on Syria, we will make more terrorists. In five or 10 years, those terrorists will eventually try blow up the Pentagon or open fire on crowds of children at Disneyworld with AK-47s they can buy without background checks at gun shows in the United States. (Which they can buy with using a cell phone or the Internet.) Dozens if not hundreds or thousands of Americans will die because of an invasion of Syria. At that point millions of oblivious Americans will wail, "Why do they hate us so much?" just like they did after 9/11.

Well, this is why: when Americans kill people, their friends and relatives want revenge. Obliviously, Americans think that those people should be thanking us for freeing them from tyrants. But they don't see Assad as a tyrant: many Syrians are tied to his regime by inescapable political, family and religious ties. They perceive his acts of cruelty against Syrian rebels as necessary to protect their safety (sound familiar?).

Helping the Syrian rebels might be the right thing to do. But directly attacking Syria with American planes, ships and troops will have consequences: not only will American troops die, but eventually terrorists seeking revenge will kill innocent Americans here at home. And will the people who take power after Assad is gone be any better than he is? Is the current prime minister of Iraq any better than Saddam? Based on the number of Iraqis still getting blown up in the streets every day, it would seem not.

So, I wonder: why is the risk of American deaths from waging war on Syria so much more preferable to the risk of American deaths by having the NSA butt out of our personal lives?

Direct Military Aid to Syrian Rebels

I don't know if this is a good idea at all. I realize the president is feeling pressure from all points across the political spectrum to do something but do we really know who these guys are? There are various reports that claim that they Syrian rebels have been infiltrated by Al Qaeda. We've done this dance before in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and early 1980s and that didn't turn out so well.

And speaking of Russia, the fact that they are now sending missiles to aid the Assad government is perhaps more troubling. So, now Putin is arming the Syrian government and we are arming the rebels. Does anyone else think this situation is likely going to massively blow up at any moment.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

And....Back to Rape...

GOP congressman: Rate of pregnancies from rape is ‘very low’

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), whose measure banning abortions after 20 weeks was being considered in the House Judiciary Committee, argued against a Democratic amendment to make exceptions for rape and incest by suggesting that pregnancy from rape is rare. “Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” Franks said.

Rape is like catnip to these guys....they just can't stop talking about it!

The Way out of Poverty!

Did you hear the one about Stephen Fincher, the Tennessee Republican congressman who quoted the Bible to justify cutting poor people off food stamps? From The Tennessean:
During the Agriculture Committee hearing last month, Democrats protested the food stamp cut, citing biblical verses about the need to care for the poor.

Fincher responded, “The Bible says a lot of things.” He added, “So we have to be careful how we pick and choose verses out of the Bible.”

In supporting the food stamp cut, the Tennessee member emphasized verses such as “Matthew” 26:11, in which Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” He also pointed to “2 Thessalonians” 3:10, which says “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
That's bad enough, but that isn't the worst:
Fincher has received $3.48 million in federal farm subsidies since 1999, according to the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that annually obtains figures from the Agriculture Department. In 2012, he received $70,574.

He ranks first among current members of Congress in receipt of such money, according to the group.
Fincher said in 2010 that farm subsidies don’t go into his pocket because he uses them to pay off agricultural loans.
(The FEC has also found Fincher in violation of federal campaign regulations for accepting a $250,000 loan from his father's bank without disclosing it on his filings.)

So, giving food stamps to hungry Americans is bad, but giving farm subsidies to a rich congressman to pay off a big bank is just fine.

Fincher has discovered the way to end poverty! Poor people should just take out big loans from banks and then get the federal government to pay it back.

But wait -- didn't that just happen five or six years ago to millions of Americans who took out home loans from big banks, only to lose everything when the economy tanked?

The federal government bailed out the banks -- and Fincher -- but the vast majority of Americans got the shaft. Now many of those people who lost their jobs and their homes are on food stamps, and Fincher wants to starve them out as well.

Did They Miss It?

Interesting piece from Martin Sandbu about the Occupy Movement. To a certain extent, I agree with him. They had a chance to become the left's equivalent of the Tea Party but the very structure of the organization lent itself to not quite get there. With the "no leader" pledge, they pretty much set themselves up to be irrelevant in the current socio-political framework.

Yet, they did leave behind the "Legacy of the Percent" meme which ended up defining Mitt Romney (the 47 percent). I think Sandbu and many people who chuckle at the "death" of the Occupy Movement aren't reflecting on just how much awareness they raised about inequality in this country. It's part of our political vernacular and has about as much chance of going away as the words "bloated and ineffective" being used in juxtaposition with "government."

And they remained true to their vision and did not sell out to corporate interests unlike the Tea Party. I certainly thought they would so I was clearly wrong on that one. My chief frustration with them still remains their insistence that physical protesting in the age of social media is still relevant. It isn't. If they want to truly "occupy," something, it should be the next version of Twitter or Instagram. That would get people's attention.

How about an Occupy App? :)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Snowden Shows NSA Can't be Trusted with Our Secrets

Looks like I was wrong about the NSA phone records scandal -- it is all Bush's fault. The massive surveillance programs that Edward Snowden revealed to the world all started under Bush.

Some people are angry about these domestic spying programs: Rand Paul is starting a class action suit (aren't conservatives against frivolous lawsuits?). Apparently Snowden is a big Ron Paul supporter; he appears to have donated $500 to Paul's 2012 campaign. And the ACLU has been beating the NSA drum for years.

But a lot of people don't care, especially on the right. They seem to be just fine with the NSA watching every phone call you make and every single thing you do on the Internet. Which is weird considering how bent out of shape they are over the IRS profiling conservative political groups filing for tax-exempt status (apparently something that a conservative Republican IRS employee started). But people like Marc Thiessen insist that there's no danger from  the NSA because "Big Brother is not watching you."

The thing is, Little Brother is watching you. A lovestruck FBI agent messing with this kind of data took down David Petraeus. There have been numerous stories of state employees rummaging through drivers license records looking at hot women.

The people calling Edward Snowden a traitor and a criminal are missing the larger point. By revealing the secret of this massive surveillance program, Snowden -- a low-level computer system administrator -- proved without a doubt that the "safeguards" against exposure of sensitive data are completely inadequate. And if we can't keep this kind of data safe, should we even be collecting it?

Had Snowden really been the villain his detractors say he is, he could have used his access to look at the phone records and Internet activity for Republican senators, conservative pundits and, say, the offices of right-wing political organizations applying for non-profit status -- data that could help determine whether those groups are really "social welfare groups" or just political operatives trying to evade taxes. Or he could have gotten their credit card and bank account numbers and passwords. Or sold that information to the FSB or Chinese intelligence or the Russian mob.

Even if you put aside worries of rogue government employees blackmailing you or selling your data, there's always the problem of theft, mistakes and incompetence. How many times over the past few years have we heard stories about hackers breaking into websites to steal credit card numbers? How many times have sysadmins screwed up and left a firewall open, or put a file full of critical data on an open website, or lost a laptop with the names and Social Security numbers of thousands of people?

Finally, this incident also shows how flawed the idea is of having massively overpaid corporate contractors handle critical government work. Snowden worked for a private company called Booz Allen Hamilton that gets billions of dollars in contracts from the government every year. Snowden has worked for both the CIA and Booz Allen, recently pulling down $200,000 a year as a computer systems administrator. Snowden doesn't have a college degree; he didn't even graduate from high school. Yet he was paid two to four times the regular salary for such a position. Apparently money does not buy loyalty.

However, there's good news: if you're a sysadmin there's a job opening at Booz Allen that pays really well!

Monday, June 10, 2013


Flying under the radar of nearly everyone was the recent SCOTUS ruling on Arlington vs. FCC. The essential question of the case was this: if the law is ambiguous, who gets to interpret it? My local paper details why this ruling was nothing short of stunning.

The divisions within the court defied the usual ideological predictions. In a powerful opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s majority ruled that even when an agency is deciding on the scope of its own authority, it has the power to interpret ambiguities in the law. Scalia was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas.

Are you FUCKING kidding me? Clarence Fucking Thomas is saying that a government agency has the power to interpret ambiguities in the law? How can this be?

For almost three decades, the court has ruled that when Congress gives a federal agency the power to issue regulations, that agency is usually authorized to interpret ambiguities in the original legislation. For example, does the word “source” in the Clean Air Act mean each smokestack in a plant or the entire plant? The court has ruled that the agency is entitled to interpret such ambiguities as long as its interpretation is reasonable. The idea is that by giving rulemaking authority to agencies, Congress implicitly delegated interpretive power to them as well. The court also has noted that, compared with the courts, the agencies are politically accountable and have technical expertise.

Scalia contended that Roberts was quite wrong to say that courts could identify a separate category of cases — those involving the scope of an agency’s authority. The question is always whether the agency is acting within the bounds set by Congress. “There is no principled basis for carving out some arbitrary subset of cases,” Scalia wrote. Forcing lower courts to draw ad hoc lines would make the law unpredictable and produce chaos. Scalia also insisted that the danger of agency overreaching is to be avoided, not by an arbitrary carve-out, but by requiring agencies to respect congressional limits on their authority.

So, the government agencies must be watched by Congress, not the courts. This means that the Congress has to start doing its fucking job and actually govern which makes me very, very happy.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Friday, June 07, 2013

The Question They Can't Answer

Simple question, via are there no libertarian countries?

My answer has always been this: the same reason why socialist fantasies never work in reality is the same reason why libertarian fantasies never work in reality...people. They really suck. If the state planned everything, they'd have too much power and corrupt people would be naturally drawn to it. If the state planned nothing and let the free market just sort everything out, the corrupt people would get away with everything they wanted.

Michael Lind, the writer of the piece, makes a few interesting points on this subject.

When you ask libertarians if they can point to a libertarian country, you are likely to get a baffled look, followed, in a few moments, by something like this reply: While there is no purely libertarian country, there are countries which have pursued policies of which libertarians would approve: Chile, with its experiment in privatized Social Security, for example, and Sweden, a big-government nation which, however, gives a role to vouchers in schooling. But this isn’t an adequate response. 

Libertarian theorists have the luxury of mixing and matching policies to create an imaginary utopia. A real country must function simultaneously in different realms—defense and the economy, law enforcement and some kind of system of support for the poor. Being able to point to one truly libertarian country would provide at least some evidence that libertarianism can work in the real world.

Yet they can't do it. It's been my experience that these same people are often "based in science and logic" and require "hard evidence" before they can justify something. Thus, it's quite odd that they continually perpetuate this myth that a libertarian society would be the best. Where is the proof?

While the liberal welfare-state left, with its Scandinavian role models, remains a vital force in world politics, the pro-communist left has been discredited by the failure of the Marxist-Leninist countries it held up as imperfect but genuine models. Libertarians have often proclaimed that the economic failure of Marxism-Leninism discredits not only all forms of socialism but also moderate social-democratic liberalism.

But think about this for a moment. If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world? Communism was tried and failed. Libertarianism has never even been tried on the scale of a modern nation-state, even a small one, anywhere in the world.

Exactly right and there's a reason for that perfectly summed up in one word: anarchy.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


Oh Really?

An Unwarranted (But Not Warrantless) Invasion of Privacy

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.
Based on the timing this appears to be in response to the Boston Marathon bombings, which took place on April 15th. At that time it wasn't clear whether the Tsarnaevs were acting alone. Given that, it's likely that all carriers are providing the NSA this data; the other court orders simply haven't been leaked yet.

While this total surveillance of everyone all the time is ethically and morally wrong, it isn't illegal, thanks to the Patriot Act that the Bush administration rammed through Congress. That wasn't good enough for George W. Bush, who broke the law and simply issued an executive order for the NSA to conduct domestic surveillance of Americans without warrants from FISA.

People like Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have long been warning against this kind of government surveillance, and they opposed the Bush administration when after 9/11 Republicans used the fear of terrorism to arrogate themselves unlimited surveillance powers.

Republicans are sure to pile on Obama with this. Which is totally ridiculous, because the NSA is acting completely within the laws that Republicans crammed down our throats. Republicans did this, in part, because men like Karl Rove had fooled themselves into thinking that they would have a permanent Republican majority and could never be dislodged from power again. Presidents, when they're Republicans, should have unlimited executive power, but when Democrats exercise that exact same latitude it's an abomination.

If Mitt Romney's NSA had been caught doing this Republicans would be falling over themselves telling us how absolutely necessary this was to protect ourselves from the likes of the Tsarnaev brothers and another Boston bombing. They would be saying, "better safe than sorry," and "you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette."

But even at their worst, the Democrats are still bloody amateurs at privacy invasion compared to the professional Republican lawbreakers who never bothered with FISA in the first place.

Truly Disgusting

In looking at all the recent criticism of President Obama, this travesty is noticeably absent and I'd like to know why. The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and, on his watch, sexual assaults have gone up by 30 percent. Why?

It's truly disgusting to me on a number of levels. The president claims to be a huge supporter of women's rights but he can hardly claim that after 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact. 26,000....are you fucking kidding me?!? I'd say that this is, hands down, his biggest mistake since he took office. Grade=F.

The media also pisses me off here because they have largely ignored this story and have focused instead on the "scandals" that will generate the most viewers (see: retired old people who have nothing better to do than foam at the mouth about Blackie McBlackerson). Conservatives are also full of crap on this one because they'd rather leave the sacred cow of the military alone not to mention the fact that they probably think this kind of assault is somehow legitimate or that the women were somehow asking for it.

It's one giant shit show from top to bottom with most Americans not really caring at all which, in the final analysis, is truly the most despicable part of all of this.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

"Misspoke" = "Accidentally Told the Truth"

A Dallas Tea Party activist has yet again made headlines by accidentally telling the truth. At a GOP event in May Ken Emanuelson said that "The Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-1 for Democrats."

He has since said he misspoke, and sought to explain his comments with the following:
I expressed a personal opinion about what the Republican Party “wants.” That was a mistake. I hold no position of authority within the Republican Party and it wasn’t my place to opine on behalf of the desires of the Republican Party. 
What I meant, and should have said, is that it is not, in my personal opinion, in the interests of the Republican Party to spend its own time and energy working to generally increase the number of Democratic voters at the polls, and at this point in time, nine of every ten African American voters cast their votes for the Democratic Party.
Even in his clarification, he's still saying that he thinks it's in the Republican Party's best interests to minimize the number of African Americans (who in his mind are all Democrats) at the polls. Republican efforts at reducing minority turnout have been fierce, with the scrubbing of blacks from voter rolls in Florida in 2000, the firings of US attorneys for failing to toe the political line, the harassment of voter registration groups like the League of Women Voters, and the passage of Republican-backed voter ID laws across the country that overwhelmingly disenfranchise minority and elderly voters.

You know, it doesn't really matter if it's this guy's personal opinion, if his personal opinion coincides with the personal opinions of all the other guys in his party, and is reflected in the political strategy and legislative actions of their party.

He just screwed up and by saying it out loud.

Bee Stung

Last week I wrote about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, mainly whining that they rely on too many foreign words that are transliterated incorrectly. Well, the organizers of the Bee were stung again.

This time around a lot of other people have been complaining about the Bee spelling a word wrong. The winning word in the Bee was knaidel, a Yiddish word for a type of dumpling. The problem is, that's not the official transliteration of the word. It should be kneydl, according to YIVO, the Yiddish Scientific Institute.

The knaidel spelling came about because some guy decided he'd transliterate it according to "English pronunciation rules." The problem with this idea is that English has multiple ways of spelling the same sound, or phoneme.

That means it could have just as easily been transliterated as knaidle, knaidl, knadel, knadle, knaydel, knaydle, knaydl, kneydel, kneydl, kneidl, kneighdl, kneighdel, kneighdle. Or knödel, which is the spelling of the word in German, where the word comes from. Or קניידל, which is the actual Yiddish spelling in the Hebrew alphabet [1]. (Man, you cannot believe what a pain in the neck it was to copy and paste that single word!)

The Bee defends itself by saying their official dictionary spells it this way. But if Arvind Mahankali had spelled it correctly, with the official YIVO transliteration or the actual Yiddish spelling, would the Bee have ruled him wrong?

This brings up the most basic question about dictionaries, which linguists and lexicographers still debate: should dictionaries reflect how people use, pronounce and spell words, or should they dictate proper usage?

These two camps are the descriptivists and the prescriptivists. Who's right?

In my heart I want to be a prescriptivist: there's a right spelling, there's a right definition, there's a right pronunciation. But in my head I know that's nonsense: a century ago those things were completely different, and in another century they'll have changed again. And even today they're not the same in Boston, Atlanta, LA, London or Canberra. The reality is that dictionaries can only describe currently accepted usage in one place, which will only change as the demands on language change.

So the next time someone corrects your pronunciation or spelling of a word, just tell them, "Stuff it! I'm on the bleeding edge of linguistic evolution, old man!"


[1] Yiddish itself is an exercise in spelling weirdness. It is a dialect of German spoken by European Jews, but is written from right to left and spelled with the Hebrew alphabet. Its vocabulary is heavily influenced by Hebrew and and several eastern European languages.

The problem is that Hebrew typically doesn't bother to put vowels in their words (neither does Arabic), because they're basically unneeded. When they do feel the need (in children's books, for example), Hebrew writers put diacritical marks or "points" on the consonants to indicate the vowels. Hebrew only has five vowels.

But European languages have many more vowels: modern German has 17 vowels, while modern English has between 11 and 14 vowels depending on dialect (American, British and Australian speakers not only use different pronunciations for the same words, Australians have a wider palette of sounds to choose from).

That means Yiddish had to invent new ways of representing sounds that didn't exist in Hebrew.

It's About Time

A shout out today to Jim McDermott (D-WA) for finally asking why the tea party groups, who supposedly loathe government handouts, wanted to be subsidized in the first place.

“But as I listen to this discussion, I’d like to remind everyone what we are talking about here. None of your organizations were kept from organizing or silenced. We are talking about whether or not the American taxpayers would subsidize your work. We are talking about a tax break”.

Recall that the tea party groups in question were applying to become tax exempt 501(c)4 groups, also known as social welfare organizations. McDermott noted the purpose of such groups was to advance the common good and general welfare a community. Political organizations, on the other hand, are categorized under section 527 of the federal tax code.

“Each of your groups is highly political”, McDermott said. “From opposing the President’s healthcare reform, to abortion restrictions, to gay marriage, you’re all entrenched in some of the most controversial political issues in this country – and with your applications you are asking the American public to pay for that work. Many of you host and endorse candidates. The line between permitted political activity and non-permitted political activity can be very fine, and it’s important that tax payers know which side you fall on”.

Here's the video.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Pro-Life Thing to Do

Every time there's a natural disaster you get people asking questions like, "Why do people live in Twister-Prone Oklahoma?" It's kind of ironic because a lot of the people asking those questions live in places like California along the San Andreas Fault, or in the hills where mudslides and wildfires are an annual event. Or in Florida or Louisiana, which get hammered by hurricanes. Or in North Dakota, parts of which are constantly inundated by floods. Or in Wyoming, the state with the highest suicide rate. Or in Flint, or Detroit, or New Orleans, or St. Louis, the cities with the highest murder rates in the country.

The fact is, people become complacent about risks they face every day. They have to, otherwise they'd go crazy from fear. Thus, we obsess about the possibility of dying in a plane crash, a terrorist attack, or a crazed gunman, when the fact of the matter is we're much more likely to die in car accident, be shot by a husband, or even hit by lightning.

The question isn't why people live in places that are subject to natural disasters. The answer to that is easy: they have to. No, the real question is why people don't take even the simplest and logical precautions to protect themselves from those disasters.

Moore, Oklahoma, has been hit by four massive tornadoes in recent years: once in 1998, again in 2003 and twice now in 2013. Yet schools don't have underground basements or above-ground tornado shelters. The kids just huddle in the hallways, with only the bodies of their teachers to protect them. As a result seven children died at Plaza Towers elementary school.

Don't the people of Oklahoma care enough about their children to provide shelter for them? These people live in Tornado Alley, damn it. They know the risks better than anyone. But what did the Oklahoma legislature concern itself with in the year following the 2009 tornado in Moore? Forcing women to get invasive ultrasounds and suffer through a grotesque lecture before getting an abortion.

Why do lawmakers in Oklahoma care more about forcing women to gestate unwanted fetuses than protecting living, breathing, talking children whose parents love them dearly?

The sticking point, they always claim, is the money. "Where, oh where, could we possibly get the money to pay for tornado shelters for our children?"

The answer's pretty simple. In the single month of March, 2013, Oklahoma produced nearly 9 million barrels of oil. Production had been averaging around 7 million bbl a month, but it's been growing steadily. At today's price of around $93 a barrel, that's worth almost a billion dollars a month.

Oklahoma should immediately begin issuing "Tornado" bonds to finance construction of tornado shelters for schools. They should also change housing codes to require shelters for all new homes and apartments, improve construction standards to make houses withstand high winds better, and institute a program to provide low-interest loans to people who wish to build tornado shelters for existing homes (these can be had for a few thousand dollars).

To pay for those bonds they should increase their Gross Production Tax rate on natural gas and oil, which is currently 7% per barrel. In  comparison,  the tax rate on gas in Texas is 7.5%, 8% in Alabama, 8% in Kansas, 5% in North Dakota, 8% in California, etc.

Alaska has an incredibly complex tax structure, which appears to be 25 to 50% depending on the oil field, plus a surcharge when the price of oil is greater than $40/barrel, plus a conservation surcharge of 4%, plus an additional 1% if the oil spill fund contains less than $50 million.

What does Alaska use all that money for? They cut $2,000 checks to residents.

And who was the conservative Republican governor behind all that? Why, none other than Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican candidate for vice president. She increased taxes on oil companies when the state already had a large surplus. She also demanded an extra $1,200 check be cut to every Alaskan just two months before McCain selected her.

If Sarah Palin can get away with a massive program to redistribute wealth from oil companies -- and the rest of the country -- to Alaskans, I don't think the nation or the oil companies would begrudge Oklahomans a minor increase in oil taxes to protect the lives of their children safe from deadly natural disasters.

It's the pro-life thing to do.

Monday, June 03, 2013

And It Continues

Republicans just can't seem to stop talking about their views on women. They simply can't resist letting slip their true feelings on the place of women in our society.

“I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science,” Erickson explained. “But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology, when you look at the natural world, the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complementary role.” 

“We as people in a smart society have lost the ability to have complimentary relationships in nuclear families, and it is tearing us apart,” he continued, adding that “reality showed” it was harmful for women to be the primary source of income in a family. 

Fox News contributor Doug Schoen concluded the freak out by claiming all these so-called breadwinner moms “could undermine our social order.”

Wow. I guess they really don't want to hold on to the House in 2014. More amusing, though, is his doubling down.

Pro-science liberals seem to think basic nature and biology do not apply to Homo sapiens. Men can behave like women, women can behave like men, they can raise their kids, if they have them, in any way they see fit, and everything will turn out fine in the liberal fantasy world.

The only fantasy world being bandied about here is the one that Erickson thinks still exists. I'll never understand the perpetual "Golden Age" thinking trap in which the Right seems to be ensnared. They see any sort of change as a threat to a fantasy that never existed in in the first place.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Oh Really?

Saturday, June 01, 2013


Talk to most kids these days and they'll tell you that Facebook is wayyyy out. Why should they be on the same social network as their parents? Instagram and Twitter rock the shizzle.  I hear this around school all the time and it makes me feel even older than I already am...