Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Reflection

Of all of the holidays we celebrate in this country, I find Easter to be the most disconcerting. I think the main reason for this is the lead up, particularly Good Friday. Far too many Christians seem obsessed with the brutal death of Jesus. They seem a little too much like modern day snuff film devotees and that disturbs me.

I find His death to be completely disgusting and horrible. I don't need to relive it over and over again. Nor do I feel the need to be reminded of His resurrection. I've accepted his death into my heart and believe that he died for our sins. Anything after that strikes me as repetitive and insecure. I guess I'd much rather focus on the amazing way He lived His life and how we can expand His message of peace around the world. I suppose that makes me a lousy Christian in the eyes of many but I don't care.

Being a believer doesn't carry with it the requirement that other people approve of your faith.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


A wonderful message to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. We are doing His works and greater than these!


Friday, March 29, 2013

A Tax Increase Conservatives Should Love

I've been following Joe Nocera's Gun Report (and the Hammer Report) at The New York Times. Regardless of your take on guns, it's often funny in a morbid and depressing way.

One of the common factors among the incidents I noticed was the involvement of alcohol. It seems that an awful lot of shootings, including domestic violence, accidental child shootings, and gang shootings, involve drunken spouses fighting, drunken parents playing with guns and drunken or high gangbangers evening scores.

Turns out that it's not a coincidence. In an interview with Mark Kleiman on the Washington Post's website, some interesting statistics stand out:
Kleiman: Half the people in prison were drinking when they did whatever they did…Of the class of people who go to prison, a lot of them are drunk a lot of the time. So that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have done it if they had not been drunk. It’s just that being drunk and committing burglary are both parts of their lifestyle. Still, alcohol shortens time horizons, and people with shorter time horizons are more criminally active because they’re less scared of the punishment. Most people who drive drunk are sensible enough to know when they’re sober that they shouldn’t be driving drunk. It’s only when they’re drunk that they forget they’re not supposed to drive drunk.
Maybe the NRA should change their motto to "Guns don't kill people, drunks kill people." Oh, wait, that ship has already sailed: the NRA endorses carrying concealed weapons in bars.

Kleiman's recommendation?
Taxation is just about the perfect way to control alcohol use. It’s not complete, because you need controls for the real problem drinkers. But if we tripled the alcohol tax it would reduce homicide by 6 percent. And you’re not putting anybody in jail. But instead we spend our time talking about doing marijuana testing for welfare recipients.
All this murder and mayhem caused by drunks costs American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year in workplace productivity losses, law enforcement, prisons, traffic deaths, health care and so on.

In addition to directly reducing the damage to the economy by reducing public drunkenness, tripling the alcohol tax would also raise $17 billion in revenue, helping to recoup law enforcement and health care costs caused by drunks and the beer companies that feed their habits.

Everyone agrees that the people who cause problems should pay for them. So conservatives, especially the most conservative Southern Baptists, Mormons and Methodists, should love an alcohol tax increase.

Oh Really?


How Far We Have Come...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Environmental Case for Factory Farms

Environmentalists generally hate giant factory farms. These massive livestock operations cause all kinds of environmental and health problems. Gigantic chicken, hog and dairy farms are notorious for catastrophic manure spills that kill millions of fish, pollute water with high levels of nitrates that cause spontaneous abortions, cause Salmonella, E. Coli, and cryptosporidium contamination, emit hydrogen sulfide that can cause brain damage in those exposed and even kill them, contribute to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that degrades fishing and shrimping, and so on.

But there are large dairy operations that environmentalists could grow to love. The New York Times has an article about one of the largest dairy farms in the country. Fair Oaks Farms, which has 30,000 dairy cows, uses the methane from cow manure to generate the electricity that powers their entire operation, as well as fueling the tractor-trailers that take the milk to processors in three states. That saves two million gallons of diesel fuel alone per year.

Minnesota Public Radio has a story about the Crave Brothers cheese farm, which uses an anaerobic digester to process manure and waste whey to create methane that's burned to generate all the electricity for the farm's operations, as well as 300 additional households. The remaining waste is used as fertilizer and bedding for the cows.

In these operations potentially toxic manure is neutralized and turned into fuel and fertilizer in a sustainable and carbon-neutral fashion. Instead of taking methane and crude oil from deep within the earth that will be burned once, constantly increasing the amount of dioxide in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming, these farms use the natural carbon cycle to power their operations. Sunlight makes their crops grow, which takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; the cows eat the crops and produce manure; methane is extracted from the manure; the methane is burned and put back into the air as carbon dioxide; and the cycle is complete. The farms' operations can be carbon neutral.

There's a certain minimum size required for such an operation, from both an economic and efficiency standpoint. The larger the operation, the more steps in production you can colocate on the farm (growing feed, producing milk and meat, and more industrial process like cheese making or slaughtering), the more efficient the carbon cycle will be. This form of electrical cogeneration is a perfect way for factory farms to redeem themselves and become heroes of the environmental movement instead of the archvillains.

However, factory farms are guilty of other sins: they use antibiotics simply to increase weight gain, and they confine animals in inhumane, crowded and dirty conditions, rather than allowing them to wander aimlessly through idyllic grassy fields. There's no excuse for indiscriminate antibiotic use: the practice is quickly creating superbugs that are immune to our entire arsenal of antibiotics. Instead, farms should keep animal pens clean, which has been shown to be just as effective in increasing weight in poultry and is essential to proper dairy operations in any case.

The problem with aimless wandering is that manure will be dropped over large areas, making it less efficient to collect it for methane generation. The animals are part of a giant food- and electricity-generating machine, sort of like the people in The Matrix.

We should avoid unnecessary cruelty to animals, and maybe we can find a way to efficiently generate electricity from free-range cows. But if we can't, and the choice is between confined cows and a 10-foot rise in sea level in the next 40 years, the choice should be obvious. If environmentalists want to stop indiscriminate fracking, expanded use of coal and nuclear, they have to be open to all forms of carbon-neutral energy generation.

Even if it makes Bessie sad.

Missing Kubrick

I miss Stanley Kubrick. He was, hands down, my favorite filmmaker and I wish he had lived longer or, at the very least, made more films during his time with us. But he made what he made and his body of work is still several levels above everyone else's filmography, in my humble opinion.

Of course, this recent piece over at the Atlantic is more than a little salt in the wound of missing Kubrick.

However, it's Kubrick's interest in jazz-loving Nazis that represents his most fascinating unrealized war film. The book that Kubrick was handed, and one he considered adapting soon after wrapping Full Metal Jacket, was Swing Under the Nazis, published in 1985 and written by Mike Zwerin, a trombonist from Queens who had performed with Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy before turning to journalism. The officer in that Strangelovian snapshot was Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, a fanatic for "hot swing" and other variations of jazz outlawed as "jungle music" by his superiors. Schulz-Koehn published an illegal underground newsletter, euphemistically referred to as "travel letters," which flaunted his unique ability to jaunt across Western Europe and report back on the jazz scenes in cities conquered by the Fatherland. Kubrick's title for the project was derived from the pen name Schulz-Koehn published under: Dr. Jazz.

Kubrick and World War II? That would have been mega! Considering what he did with Vietnam and World War I (in Full Metal Jacket and Paths of Glory, respectively), the mind can only wonder in awe. Throw jazz into the mix and I'm really lamenting today at a Kubrick-less world..

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bursting the Health Care Bubble

The cost of American health care has been back in the news since Steven Brill's Time article "Why Medical Bills are Killing Us" was published. The Washington Post has a feature that shows the problem in 21 charts.

The charts compare the prices insurance companies pay for office visits, hospital stays, procedures and drugs in the United States to prices paid in nations with comparable health outcomes (most have longer life expectancies than the United States). For example, an angiogram costs $35 in Canada, and between $173 and $2,430 in the United States. A routine office visit is $10 in Argentina ($30 in Canada) and $68 to $176 in the United States.

Those numbers are astonishing, but if you compare the lowest price in the US to the second highest price, the United States sometimes comes in lower. For example, the costs of C-sections, hip replacements and knee replacements, the lowest cost in the US is less than the cost in Australia. The cost of an MRI in the US varies between $522 and $2871. Which means the lowest price Americans pay for MRIs is actually less than South Africa ($1072), Switzerland ($928) and New Zealand ($554).

The reason that there's just a single price for all those other countries is that prices are set centrally. In a big country like the United States it's harder to set a single price for medical care. The health care markets in elderly Florida and child-oriented Utah are much different. And that's why Medicare reimbursements can vary widely from state to state. And they can vary even within the same state.

So we should expect some regional price variability in the United States. But there's no way in hell that MRIs should cost some Americans five times more than other Americans. The problem is much deeper and more endemic than price gouging: it's the basic model of employer-provided health insurance.

For example, I recently had surgery. We have a large deductible policy, so we get all the bills. One from the hospital was asking for $9,000. However, the insurance company rejected that and would pay only $4,000, which the hospital immediately accepted. Now, one wonders why the hospital bothers to bill for $9,000 when they know full well it's going to get less than half that.

But the real point is that the insurance company dictates the price to the hospital. Instead of a faceless bureaucrat in Washington setting the price for  my surgery, a faceless bureaucrat at my insurance company sets the price. If either faceless bureaucrat decides they won't pay for the procedure I need, I'm out of luck.

And don't think that you can just go somewhere else to get what you need: most people get health care through their employer, which means they have no choice in the matter. But if I pay for my own healthcare — and I do — I can't just switch to another one that will cover the procedure. Because insurance companies can deny coverage to applicants who have pre-existing conditions. That is, until 2014 when Obamacare fully phases in.

But that brings us back to that huge price range. Why are prices so wildly divergent in the United States? How can one American company provide an MRI for less than a fifth of the cost of another company? Is the expensive MRI provider simply gouging insurance companies that are bad at negotiating, or is there collusion between the insurer and the provider?

In the United States general inflation has been nearly non-existent for decades. That's due to globalization, a flat labor market and companies like Walmart whose business models depend on driving down prices. Yet health care costs, dictated by large insurance companies, have been rising at an annual average of 10% or more for most of that same period (though the rate of growth has declined recently -- perhaps in part because of the passage of Obamacare).

The only justification for the existence of health insurance companies is that they're supposed to keep down health care costs. But these apparently worthless middlemen have utterly failed to do that, and have been consistently failing for two decades.

The fact is, health insurance companies have had no motivation to keep costs down. Their only motivation is to keep profits up. If costs go up, and they can pass those costs on to consumers by increasing premiums, that's what they'll do. And that's what's been happening. And increasingly insurance companies are buying health care providers. Which means they've have absolutely no motivation to reduce costs to their customers.

Until now. Because Obamacare has placed limits on premium increases.

There's been a lot of fearmongering that Obamacare will drive many companies to stop providing health care coverage for their employees. That might actually be a good thing: if we buy our own insurance, it will make insurance companies responsible to the people who actually receive medical care, rather than the CEOs of the companies that employ them.

Right now all the people involved with setting prices on American health care are wealthy insurance company execs, wealthy employers, wealthy hospital directors and wealthy doctors. They're all scratching each other's backs without any concept of how expensive all this medical care is for regular people. But the reality in other countries — and even in the US — shows that costs could easily be halved. Corporations deduct the cost of health insurance from their taxes, which means that we the people are actually paying for outrageously high medical system. Patients, the real customers, have no say. The market forces that are supposed to keep costs in check simply do not function in health care.

The world economy has been the victim of one economic bubble after another: the dot com bubble in the Nineties and the real estate bubble in the 2000s. But the biggest danger facing the United States economy is the health care bubble, not only because it will drive up the cost of Medicare, but because it makes American businesses less competitive globally. The health care sector been eating a bigger and bigger chunk of the US economy, and will soon swallow up 20%.

That has prompted more and more companies to get on the health care bandwagon, and become involved in the elderly and disability sectors of health care in particular (the "growth" sectors). If you've every watched cable TV during the day you know what I'm talking about. The SCOOTER Store, which sells power wheelchairs, floods cable TV with hundreds of millions of dollars of ads every year. These ads promise that they'll get the government to pay for your powered wheelchair, or they'll pay for it themselves. Yeah, right.

According to an article on the CBS website, the Senate Special Committee on Aging has been investigating this. Apparently the SCOOTER Store has been "bulldozing" doctors into writing powered wheelchair prescriptions for patients. I've seen how this works first-hand.

When one of my sisters had a stroke at age 49, she lost the ability to speak, to walk, and the use of the right side of her body. She had to use a (regular) wheelchair to get around, which was difficult with only her left hand. Two of my other sisters, having seen the SCOOTER Store's ads, were outraged that the government wouldn't buy a powerchair for my sister.

Instead, my sister's doctors prescribed physical therapy. And it worked. Now my sister gets around with a cane, rarely uses the regular wheelchair and can even walk short distances unassisted. If my sister had been given the powerchair right off the bat she'd never have walked again.

According to CBS, the SCOOTER Store agreed to return almost $20 million to Medicare for chairs that should never have been bought. But the even greater crime is the terrible medical outcomes for people who got powerchairs when physical therapy was in order. Being unable to walk drastically lowers your quality of life, increases the risk of complications like blood clots and lowers your lifespan because of the inability to get proper exercise.

The real problem here is not that the government helps people, but that corporations use the  misfortunes that befall Americans to make themselves rich at the expense of the American taxpayers and to the detriment of the health of the very patients they're supposed to be serving.

A Change, Regardless

The last few days have seen quite a bit of hand wringing, mouth foaming, frustration and outright anger at the fact that Congress left for spring recess without passing a gun bill. This impotence is compounded by the fact that the bill will not include an assault weapons ban and now likely not an ammunition clip limit. Gun control advocates are fit to be tied and Michael Bloomberg has taken to the airwaves with all of his cash in an attempt to stunt the NRA. I find it amusing that Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, is so nervous about this that he had lowered himself to go on Meet The Press last Sunday.

Even Roger Simon over at Politico has blown at least three bowels in his recent piece.

I should point out that, unlike Dracula, LaPierre neither kills people nor drinks their blood. It is just my personal belief that the NRA’s gun mania has led to the slaughter of thousands of innocent men, women and children in this country.

Strong words, indeed and clearly accurate. But what good will they do? None whatsoever.

Yet, I find myself strangely optimistic these days. The way I see it is these things take time. Politico has another piece up about how Washington waited too long. Yes, that would have been really smart. Cobble together a new law and rush it through in the hopes that there will be no problems with it down the line in order to capitalize on sentiment. No thanks. I'm glad they didn't. I'd rather they spent some time on passing a law that can have a more profound effect. An assault weapons ban would not do that.

Speaking of which, has anyone considered that Newtown may have changed our culture, in terms of gun violence, so much so that this type of event may never happen again regardless of what new laws come out of Congress? Perhaps I'm being naive but I think we may have turned a corner, as we did with 9/11, and, in the final analysis, it's going to come down to local communities watching out for each other.

For example, I have a friend named Jane whose oldest son, Mike, shares many of the same traits with Adam Lanza. He has some serious mental health issues, plays violent video games for hours on end, and has access to multiple guns. He came after his dad once with a knife. His parents are divorced and he has been violently angry about it since it happened. After Newtown, I was speaking with Jane about Mike. The shooting at Sandy Hook shook them to the core and and they have gotten rid of all their guns save for two hunting rifles which are now under new lock and key up north at their cabin. Mike is no longer allowed access to any guns at any time. They have also become more energized about his mental health issues and everyone seems to be doing better.

They aren't the only ones who have changed a result of Newtown. The gal that cuts my hair (what little of it there is:)) has a brother named Bill who has a large collection of guns. He takes dozens of pills and drinks constantly. He's made threats against her and their parents. After Newtown, they went to the local police and got restraining orders against him. He used to be a firefighter in town and still has friends in law enforcement. They now visit him on a regular basis to see how he is doing and are trying their best to get him into a mental health/drug rehab program. Newtown made everyone in Bill's life more engaged.

These two stories are small, I know, but I think they are indicative of a sea change. I disagree that people have already forgotten and moved on. They cynics can go fuck themselves. Substantial, cultural shifts occur locally at first and so they seem to take too long and then suddenly it just happens. Look where we were four years ago with gay marriage. Look where we are now. Look where we were 20 years ago with cigarettes. Look where we are now. Look where we were 30 years ago with drunk driving. Look where we are now. The same thing will happen with guns, with or without new laws.

Even before Newtown, violence was dropping. It's going to continue to drop. Less people own guns and, in the future, even less will. People like Wayne LaPierre and other gun rights supporters aren't really as relevant anymore as their opponents make them out to be. They are built up into these gigantic ogres but they are only human after all. And, since they only have a single thought in their head, they will be quite unable to adapt to any cultural shifts that come down the pike regarding guns. It's happening right now and they can't even see it which is why they are reacting the way they are.

So, even with the inaction on the refinement of gun laws, today finds me hoping for the best. I realize that I may sound flip in my optimism with people dying every day from gun violence, some of which could certainly be prevented with new laws, but the responsibility for that isn't on me. Nor is it on all the people out there who want universal background checks on all gun purchases or other changes to our nation's gun laws. We all know full well who is responsible and so will history.

It's time to start thinking fourth dimensionally and take comfort in the fact that this is just a mere moment in time. Change is coming, regardless of what is happening right now. The horrible events of Newtown have changed our culture. We just don't fully realize it yet.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The GOP Autopsy

I saw this headline and just about busted one.

Republican Party ‘autopsy’ report says voters find it ‘scary’ and ‘narrow minded’ 

No, they weren't describing some of the people that post in my comments section. They were, in fact, describing how the American people perceive the Republican Party today, according to this report done by the GOP itself.

In addition to "scary" and "narrow minded," they also view the GOP as being the party of "stuffy old men." Hmph...I wonder where they got that idea?

Fantasy Feedback Loop

Michael Tomasky's recent piece is quite brilliant as it exposes the three big lies that we hear all the time from the Right. Before we get to the lies, though, he links a piece which torpedoes, once and for all, the notion that government budgets and family budgets are comparable.

But over a lifetime, the individual is supposed to be working to pay down debts and build wealth, so he or she can afford to stop working in old age. Thrift and saving (and a downward trajectory for debt balances) are virtuous traits in people, because of our life cycles. 

But the government does not have a life cycle; it plans to exist indefinitely. So it makes much more sense to compare the government to a corporation, which also plans for indefinite existence and therefore may have debt as a permanent part of its capital structure. There is not necessarily an expectation that a firm will decrease its debt load over time, and if a company keeps growing, its debt load may keep getting larger without being a sign of financial distress.

Right. I'd further add the point that the nature of each debt is different as well as I have said in the past. 

Now about those lies...they are: we have to balance the budget, public investment is bad, and jobs will result from accomplishing the first and adhering to the warning of the second. As Tomasky notes, each of these assertions is the dead opposite of reality.

Here is a report from the Congressional Research Service that details how short and middle term deficits are completely sustainable while also noting that our deficit has fallen from 10 percent of GDP to 7 percent of GDP since 2009. We are headed towards 4 percent of GDP. Truly, not a problem. There's also some great information in this report regarding the alarm bells on inflation.

The austerity programs we see in Europe aren't working so the idea that public investment is bad is simply wrong. If you want an idea of what steep reductions in government spending do, take a look at Great Britain.

These reductions in government spending are actually worse for jobs as well. I've shown what happens to the economy and how that actually decreases revenue and makes it harder to balance budgets. So, they really have it back asswards on this one.

So, now we are at the point when we have to ask why. Why do they think this way?

Different reasons. I think someone like Ryan must actually believe all this. He is such an ideologue that I assume he wakes up at night after having reread John Galt’s sermon in a cold sweat thinking about debt and inflation and interest rates (the CRS report also explains why these dystopian fears are canards, too). I think a lot of the Tea Party people just hate government and think poor people are irresponsible, and they came here to chop away and haven’t given it much more thought than that; it just seems intuitively right to them that when you’re in the hole, you cut spending. Then I think there are other Republicans who know better but play along anyway because it’s all the rage in their circles, and because if they don’t play along they’ll be primaried, and possibly beaten, by someone who does believe it.

So, it's largely about emotions. As Tomasky notes

Looking back over that last paragraph, I see that what I have described is a rather mad situation—kind of a fantasy feedback loop where the critical mass of people sustain a fiction and the few who know it to be fiction put their position at risk in saying so. And this is how our country is being governed.

Sad and pathetic.

Yes, They Are!!

Fox News VERY Upset That The Economy Is Recovering

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Tale of Two Tapes

Two videos have shaped the political landscape in the last four years: the ACORN "sting" video and the Mitt Romney 47% video. Both have back been in the news in the last couple of weeks, and the difference between them is instructive.

The ACORN "sting" video was made by James O'Keefe, and posted on in 2009. It purported to show how ACORN employees helped a pimp evade taxes. The video essentially destroyed ACORN. In reality, the video was heavily edited, a complete lie and fabrication. The people at ACORN only pretended to go along with O'Keefe, and immediately reported the incident to the authorities. California authorities cut a deal with O'Keefe and the woman who accompanied him to get at the man who ordered the sting, apparently Andrew Breitbart, but Breitbart died, escaping prosecution. The video is back in the news because O'Keefe finally paid $100,000 for his loss in the civil suit filed by the ACORN employee that O'Keefe slandered. O'Keefe went on to commit a number of other video hatchet jobs on Shirley Sherrod, Mary Landrieu and others.

The Mitt Romney 47% video was back in the news because the identity of the man who recorded it was revealed: Scott Prouty, the bartender at the ritzy fund-raising meeting where Mitt Romney uttered those fateful words about the 47%. Unlike O'Keefe's video, Prouty's involved no trickery or lies. Romney really said all that stuff. The interesting thing is that Prouty didn't think the important part was the 47% part:
Prouty felt Romney's attitude was telling, and didn't like that he made a crack about speeding up his service soon after arriving at the fateful dinner party on May 17, 2012. However, what offended Prouty was Romney's description of touring a factory in China where workers are packed into dormitories surrounded by barbed wire (to keep out all the people desperate to work there, the bosses told Romney). "He just walked though this horrendous place and thought, 'Hey, this is pretty good,'" said Prouty.
The differences in the motivations between O'Keefe and Prouty are telling. O'Keefe was ticked that ACORN registered voters in minority areas, helping increase Democratic turnout in the 2008 election. Prouty was angered at how Romney treated the help like dirt, especially compared to Bill Clinton, who actually acknowledged their existence.

The 47% video wasn't the nail in the coffin for Romney. It hurt, but the last straw was high Democratic voter turnout. In the end, O'Keefe's and other Republicans' attempts to suppress Democratic turnout failed miserably. People like Karl Rove were so confident that the fix was in that they refused to believe the results when Fox News called Ohio for Obama in 2012.

Republicans have a long history of dirty tricks. Watergate was only one of Nixon's many dirty tricks. Nixon's thugs even coined a new term, "ratfucking," for their tactics.

Republicans even use dirty tricks on each other: Bush used them against John McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary when his pollsters asked voters, "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew that he fathered an illegitimate black child?" That episode provided the impetus for McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform: the only reason McCain was a "maverick" on campaign reform was because he was screwed over by Republican dirty tricks and wanted revenge.

And the dirty tricks keep on coming. The Daily Caller website pulled a Breitbart when it released a video that featured prostitutes saying that New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez paid them for sex. The prostitutes were paid to lie, and apparently The Daily Caller instigated the charade, though there's not yet a smoking gun linking the site to the lawyer who arranged the video, but apparently a mystery man named "Carlos" is involved.

The best example of a Republican dirty trick was in 2004, when CBS newsman Dan Rather was taken in by fake documents about Bush going AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard. It was a perfect ploy, because the falsified documents actually told the truth, but since they were fake and Rather was so easily duped by them, it discredited the entire story, defused the issue of Bush's military service during the Vietnam war, and destroyed Rather's career.

It turns out that Rather was right in the end. Bush really did weasel out of his commitment to serve in the Texas Air National Guard, which his father wangled to keep W. out of Nam. Whether it was because W. was so strung out on coke he couldn't land a plane anymore, or because he went off to play politics we'll never know. The funny thing is, Bush himself doesn't know either.

A Failed State

Rebels have seized control of the Central African Republic and President François Bozizé has fled the country. They met little resistance as the country is one of the most impoverished in Africa.

Once again, a strong man who promised democratic elections has seen power slip away. This cycle has been repeated so many times since the great colonial push at the turn of the last century that it's pretty much routine at this point. As has been the case in the past, the people will end up suffering as the rebels will plunder and loot what little wealth there is in the CAR.

My question is this: what can the Global North do, if anything, to prevent things like this happening? Investment? Their heavy dependence on foreign aid has actually made things worse. We could also simply shrug and say, "Oh well. It's their country. If they fuck it up, so be it."

It seems to me, though, that in 2013 we can come up with a different paradigm and it starts with building a sustainable, free market economy there. France should be heavily involved as they are primarily responsible for leaving a power vacuum upon their exit. The country certainly has plenty of food crops on which it could build an agricultural market. The diamond trade could also be more heavily regulated as 30-50 percent of the country's diamonds leave under illegal circumstances. Improvements in their economy will lead to more democratic policies. Prosperity tends to do that.

Being a landlocked country presents a challenge, of course, but I think that the Central African Republic should be used as an example of moving forward in the Global South. With yesterday's events, I've now seen this film far too many times and it's clear we need to do something different.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


The recent cover story of the Christian Science Monitor is simply magnificent and speaks very deeply to great power of community in times of crisis. The local church as an extension of supportive faith is vital to healing and Newtown United Methodist is an excellent and most illustrative example of how well this can work.

I was very moved by this piece and took a great deal of comfort in how much love there is in Newtown in the face of unspeakable horror.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Logical Fallacies

I came across this site the other day after one of my ex-students (who reads this blog and Kevin's blog) pointed it out to me. She told me that the posters there and here can be characterized by this photo and the caption below it.


Sadly, that's what it feels like at times.

The GOP's Real Agenda?

Tim Dickinson: "After watching voters punish the GOP in the 2012 elections, Republican elites have been talking a brave game about reforms that would make the party less repulsive to Latinos, women and gay-friendly millennials..." 

"Don't be fooled. On the ground, a very different reality is unfolding: In the Republican-led Congress, GOP-dominated statehouses and even before the nation's highest court, the reactionary impulses of the Republican Party appear unbowed. Across the nation, the GOP's severely conservative agenda - which seeks to impose job-killing austerity, to roll back voting and reproductive rights, to deprive the working poor of health care, and to destroy agencies that protect the environment from industry and consumers from predatory banks - is moving forward under full steam."

I hope he's right because that means we'll take back the House in 2014.

Friday, March 22, 2013

What Do They Do?

Someone asked me in comments a while back just what exactly right to work laws do to a state's economy? Well, here's a pretty good summation. Here's the one that jumped out at me.

2) Under right-to-work laws, workers reap fewer gains from economic growth. Supporters of right-to-work laws often argue that they’ll help attract more businesses to a state. Opponents retort that weakening unions will lead to an erosion of wages. (A large Economic Policy Institute study from 2011 found that, after controlling for a host of factors, right-to-work states have lower wages on average than pro-union states.) 

Both arguments might be correct. One careful study conducted by Hofstra’s Lonnie Stevans in 2007 found that right-to-work laws do help boost the number of businesses in a state — but the gains mostly went to owners, while average wages went down. ”Although right-to-work states may be more attractive to business,” Stevans concludes, “this does not necessarily translate into enhanced economic verve in the right-to-work state if there is little ‘trickle-down’ from business owners to the non-unionized workers.” 

So business owners gain, and workers lose. One possible retort is that these states could simply set up new safety-net programs to compensate workers who are hurt. But that leads to another question: Without strong unions in place, who will push for these policies?

So, more business comes to the state but the gains go right to the owners. Paging Joseph Stiglitz!

What continues to amaze me is how the Right, supposedly "classic liberals" influenced by Adam Smith, vociferously fight for more wealthy for the modern day version of the aristocracy. Somewhere Klemens von Metternich is applauding....

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Most Irresponsible People I Have Ever Seen

When I arrived at school today, the office staff was buzzing. There was a shooting at a school in New Prague, a city 45 miles south of the Twin Cities. Everyone began checking and refreshing their smart phones. The next bit of news we got was that there were hospital staging areas being set up. The principal sent out an email saying that it wouldn't be long before the students started getting texts from their parents making sure they were OK. Our instructions were to tell them that our school was safe and to focus on getting their work done. It was a tense few minutes.

Thankfully, it turned out to be a prank call by a 12 year old and no one was hurt. Yet, this incident is what educators and their support staff now have to deal with every day. People that don't work in a school simply have no idea what runs through your head when something like this happens or even if it is just your standard lock down drill. The simple fact that we have to do it is a really disgusting statement on our culture. Adding to the nausea is that our country is effectively being held hostage by the most irresponsible people I have ever seen: the gun lobby and their supporters. Their view of the American people is FUBAR.

I say this because these are the same people who claim that because human beings are, by nature, corrupt, we should never trust them with the responsibility to govern. They whine like little babies about liberals and how the left's embrace of Jean Jacques Rousseau's social contract is naive and ultimately destructive. Yet, when it comes to guns, suddenly (as if out of someone's ass) people are very responsible and it's, "Fuck you, don't take my gun, Hitler!!"

The irony here is that gun right supporters are fully embracing Rousseau's concept of the general will, whether they want to admit it or not. Recall that Rousseau posited that the general will of the people was to embrace their natural state of liberty and freedom. Any sort of collective action would always be good and further the rights of the individual. In the case of gun rights, it's the second amendment. People will always be responsible and act in their best interests because the general will dictates that liberty must preserved.

Even though today's incident resulted in no injuries nor fatalities, it illustrates just how irresponsible people can be. Most people can't be trusted with a phone let alone a gun. What does that say about the gun lobby and supporters who place so much faith in the American people who continually shit all over them every day with thousands of gun deaths every year? Interestingly, I think that gun supporters were onto something when they suggest we adopt a system that is similar to Israel's gun laws. No one is prohibited from owning a gun but if you want to own one, you have to prove that you can be responsible with one. In fact, I'd go as far to say that would include any gun, automatic or semi-automatic. Go through all the necessary training, mental tests and background checks...all of which will be checked on a regular basis...and you are free to build yourself an arsenal if you so desire.

In short, don't ban the guns (the supply), ban some of the people (the demand). They are not, by nature, responsible nor are they good.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Liberal Media?

Rockin' The Shizzle

The American manufacturing sector has taken a few hits over the last couple of decades but they are still a powerhouse, according to James Fallows. And the future looks even brighter. The advent of 3D printing, primarily originating from the United States, is going to drastically change manufacturing in the world.

“A revolution is coming to the creation of things, comparable to the Internet’s effect on the creation and dissemination of ideas,” one industrial design expert told Fallows.

Further, with wages in China rising and workers getting pickier about their jobs, American manufacturing is experiencing reshoring. It's also important to note that the American manufacturing sector is still the largest in the world despite all the doom and gloom we see on parade in the media.

Add in the energy boom that is going to happen in the next decade and I think America is going to be even more impressive than we are right now!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


And that's the end of the mouth foaming over Benghazi...

The Short-Sighted Opposition to Renewable Energy

These days the future of solar and wind power is in doubt in the United States, because fracking has increased the supply of natural gas and oil. But other countries are not so short-sighted. From a story on NPR:
Abu Dhabi, the most oil-rich of the United Arab Emirates, is now home to the world's single-largest concentrated solar power plant.
Why would a country floating in oil use solar power? From Bloomberg:
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are developing renewables to meet the growing energy demands of burgeoning populations and economies. Adding clean-power generators may help oil-rich nations in the region to conserve more of their crude and gas for export, reducing their use of the fuels to generate power that’s sold at subsidized prices. [Emphasis added.]
Similarly, the main reason Iran is enriching uranium is to develop nuclear power so they can export oil for dollars instead of burning it to generate domestic electricity. However, I suspect they're jealous of North Korea, Israel, Pakistan, India, South Africa and China, and many in their government may feel they need nuclear weapons to counter the existential threat that George Bush made in his "axis of evil" speech: they don't want to become the next Iraq and may be trying to emulate North Korea.

The United States may soon become a net fossil fuel exporter, but conservative forces in the United States are doing everything they can to sabotage alternative energy sources. For example, Bill Koch (one half of the infamous Koch brothers) has spent more than $1.5 million fighting the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts.

Cape Wind is a proposed wind farm off Cape Cod that was recently approved. It will produce up to 454 megawatts of electricity. That would offset the burning of as much as 100 million gallons of oil, or an equivalent amount of natural gas. Oil and gas that we could export to other countries if we didn't use so much of it ourselves. If you take into consideration the pollution and carbon footprint, it's a no-brainer.

Once the wind turbines are installed, the main costs are maintenance for the machinery and power lines. As long as the wind blows, and it blows nearly all the time off the Atlantic, they'll generate power. It's not free energy, but it's as close to free as you can get.

Contrast that with the oil fields that the Koch brothers have been drilling. Ten and 20 years ago those fields were given up as dry and worthless. But the technology of fracking has changed that, and now they're getting oil literally by squeezing it out of stones. But that's only going to last so long. The oil and gas in the shale is the last dribs and drabs of large deposits that we long ago depleted.

North Dakota is now experiencing an oil boom, and is suffering a great deal of social dislocation as entire towns are overrun by temporary workers moving in to cash in. Towns like Williston have doubled in population. Problems include prostitution, rape and even murder -- Sherry Arnold, a high school teacher, was kidnapped while jogging along a highway. She was murdered by two men looking for work in the oilfields.

The social mess in North Dakota is temporary: in a few years the fields will be completely fracked and the oil companies will pull out, and the oil workers will leave. But the environmental mess will be around forever: toxic spills on the surface and contamination of the aquifer are inevitable, because it's impossible to properly seal every well, as we saw from BP's huge oil spill in the Gulf. Places like Williston may well become filthy, polluted ghost towns where no one wants to live, unfit for raising cattle or growing wheat. That same fate has befallen hundreds of mining and oil towns in the west over the last century.

As off Cape Cod, the wind blows all the time on the plains of North Dakota. It's a prime location for generating wind power. Turbines erected there would continue to produce electricity long after the Koch brothers pull their equipment out of the state and all the temporary workers move on to the next boom town. But the people who would maintain the pollution-free wind turbines would have jobs forever. Which is the better industry socially, economically, and environmentally for North Dakota — and the country — long term?

So when the Koch brothers spend their millions fighting the Cape Cod wind farm, and millions more trying to elect opponents of the wind energy tax credit like Mitt Romney and Scott Brown, we know it's not because they care about the well-being of the people in North Dakota and Massachusetts. It's because they're trying to use the levers of government to prevent a new generation of technology from taking hold, eliminating the competition for their products and jacking up the price of oil and natural gas.

This isn't about government picking winners and losers: government has always invested in the future by promoting next-generation industries and new technologies. That included special treatment for the railroads, special treatment of oil companies with royalty-free leases, special treatment for the automobile and oil industries through the construction of the interstate highway system, special treatment for aeronautics and electronics companies with the space program, and even the development of fracking technology, which the federal government spent billions of dollars on at a time when companies like Standard Oil thought it was too expensive to be practical.

Instead of fighting wind and solar power, the Koch brothers should get in on the ground floor and fund their own research so that they can continue to rake in the dough once they've sucked all those oil and gas wells dry. Because once the oil's gone, it's gone for good. But instead the Koch brothers are poor stewards of their company and their nation's natural resources.

The guys in Abu Dhabi understand this. Why don't the Koch brothers?


Here's an interesting piece from a few weeks ago about the Occupy Movement. While they may appear to have fallen off the map (at least according to the bigger media outlets), stories like this pop up all the time.

“Many participants had a personal connection to the economic crisis that helped spur the Occupy movement,” said Ruth Milkman, sociology professor and co-author of the study, in a release. “You had people graduating from high school and college, only to find that the economy wasn’t working for them.” Professor Milkman, and two other professors, Stephanie Luce, and Penny Lewis, interviewed 729 protesters during last year's May Day events, and conducted longer interviews with 25 people "who were core activists in the movement."

I see this movement perhaps morphing into a student loan/student debt advocacy group. I also give them credit for not making specific demands and staying true to their vision. My only beef remains with the physical occupation meme but it appears that their web site may be changing that.

Defending Tradition or Cashing In?

In this Lenten season Sarah Palin has announced that she's writing a book about the war on Christmas. The cynic in me knows that this is just her attempt to cash in the phony war on Christmas now that her career in politics and phony TV journalism has gone down the tubes. Even so, the idea of the war on Christmas does resonate with a certain segment of the population.

Palin is trying to sell the book as a statement of her religious beliefs:
According to the publisher, the book will advocate "reserving Jesus Christ in Christmas – whether in public displays, school concerts (or) pageants. Palin also "will share personal memories and traditions from her own Christmases and illustrate the reasons why the celebration of Jesus Christ's nativity is the centerpiece of her faith."
The irony is that most of the manifestations of the Christmas season have absolutely nothing to do with Christ. Christmas trees, wreaths, holly, yule logs, egg nog, mistletoe and all the rest are all pagan European traditions. Many of the traditions associated with the Nativity itself are of pagan origin. Even the day — December 25th — is certainly not the date of Christ's birth, but that of the pagan Roman holiday Saturnalia, the celebration of the winter solstice that took place in the temple to the pagan Roman god Saturn.'

December 25th is also the birthday of Sol Invictus, the Roman sun god and patron of soldiers. There has long been disagreement about whether Christians took that day over, or whether they arrived at December 25th by adding nine months to the vernal equinox, when the Annunciation (the knocking-up of Mary) was celebrated.

Many Christian holidays have pagan antecedents and are steeped in pagan traditions. When I was a kid my mother was a Jehovah's Witness (she has since gotten better, thank you), so I got an earful of this. The Witnesses don't celebrate Christmas because it's a pagan holiday, or even birthdays; they believe that Christ commanded them only to celebrate his death and resurrection. That is, Easter.

But even Easter is littered with pagan traditions. The word "Easter" itself derives from Eostre, a pagan Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess. Hence the eggs and bunny rabbits. In most European languages Easter is based on the word for passover: Pascua (Spanish), Пасха (Russian, Paskha), Pâques (French), and so on.

But our pagan past is everpresent in our daily lives. Literally. In the English and Germanic traditions the days of the week are named for pagan gods. Sunday: the sun god's day (in Rome, Sol Invictus), Monday: the moon god's day, Tuesday: Tiw's or Tyr's day (Tyr was the one-handed Norse god of combat), Wednesday: Woden's day (Odin, the primary Norse god), Thursday: Thor's day (the Norse god of thunder — it's Donnerstag or thunder day in German), Friday: Freya's day (the norse god of beauty, love and sex), Saturday: Saturn's day (the Roman god).

The Graeco-Roman tradition is to name days after the planets, but since those planets are named for gods it's really the same as the Germanic. The interesting thing is that in most European languages there is a deviation from the pagan naming scheme: in the Latin languages Sunday is some form of "the Lord's day": dimanche in French, domingo in Spanish, from the Latin dominus. In German Wednesday is Mittwoch, or mid-week. In Norwegian (and other Scandinavian languages) Saturday is lørdag, or "washing day." But in English we honor the pagan gods to this day.

In Russian the days are numbered, which I'm sure Palin would say was a commie plot against religion. Monday, понедельник (ponedelnik), is the first day of the week; Tuesday,  вторник (vtornik), is the second; Wednesday, среда (sreda), as in German is the middle day; Thursday, четверг (chetverg), is the fourth; Friday, пятница (pyatnitsa), is the fifth. And then it gets interesting: Saturday, суббота (subbota), is literally the Sabbath. Sunday, воскресенье (voskresenye), is literally the Resurrection.

So, even Stalin the atheist used Christian names for Saturday and Sunday, while conservative American Christians like Sarah Palin doggedly insist on propitiating pagan deities every single day of the week. These same conservatives attend church on the day reserved for Sol Invictus, the Roman god of the Unconquered Sun, instead of the true Sabbath, which occurs on Saturday.

In their defense, these conservatives are simply ignorant of the facts, and are carrying on ancient traditions whose origins can only be known by hoary old historians or by divining the linguistic roots of day names. Or by searching Wikipedia.

And that's the "why" of the war on Christmas. Conservatives are mired in tradition, even when that tradition runs completely counter to their professed beliefs. Ostensibly Fox News and Sarah Palin are defending tradition when they natter on about the war on Christmas. But it's really about a far older tradition, one that stretches back to the first pharaoh of Egypt and beyond: making money.

Confirmed Kills Are Cool

‘Trained Marine sniper’ threatened to assassinate California Democrat over gun laws

“I have 39 confirmed kills in afganistan [sic],” Basham wrote in his email to Yee. “Don’t make me get to 40.”

What a special guy!

Monday, March 18, 2013


Gun Ranting: Good Fun, or Treason?

If you hoard weapons for the express purpose of overturning the elected administration, then you are many things. A patriot isn't one of them. Blind adherence to a single amendment does not make you a champion of the Constitution itself. Violent intent towards the duly-elected government does not make you a friend to the nation. There is in fact an accurate word for this species of plotting: treason.

Damn right.

The whole piece is fucking brilliant and his last line goes for me as well.

You truly intend to take up arms against a sea of imagined troubles? You're in for a world of pain.


It will never cease to amaze me how easily the NRA fools people into thinking they are a defender of Second Amendment rights. They're a defender, alright, of the gun manufacturing business. The clip below sums up it all up quite nicely.

Stunning that people think it's about freedom. It's not.

Gun Safety?

Here is a piece from the Atlantic that illustrates just how FUBAR even trying to define the issue of gun safety can be. It all started with this:

The phrase "gun safety" is now frequently used to refer to measures that go beyond the prevention of unintentional injury. This includes efforts to reduce gun ownership by persons not prepared to assure safe use of guns and policies aimed to reduce firearms homicides and suicides. Please refer to the wikipedia article on Gun Politics for further discussion of this broader concept of gun safety.' ...

(stomp, stomp, stomp)


Fuck you, Dad! I can have whatever soda I want to have!!! You're not the boss of me!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dedicated to Juris!

A Friendly Reminder

From a Quinnipiac University survey.

92% of respondents support expanding background checks to all gun sales. In households with guns, support was 91%.

I think GOP lawmakers better think long and hard about how they will vote on the background checks bill. They were quite tone deaf in the last election and that really didn't work out very well for them, did it?

A conservative case for an assault weapons ban

Here is an op-ed from right after the Newtown shooting that I neglected to note. It's from Larry Allen Burns, the conservative judge who sentenced Jared Loughner to prison for his shooting spreed in Tuscon in 2011.

So what's the alternative? Bring back the assault weapons ban, and bring it back with some teeth this time. Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don't let people who already have them keep them. Don't let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don't care whether it's called gun control or a gun ban. I'm for it.

Are we sure he's not a liberal plant?

I say all of this as a gun owner. I say it as a conservative who was appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president. I say it as someone who prefers Fox News to MSNBC, and National Review Online to the Daily Kos. I say it as someone who thinks the Supreme Court got it right in District of Columbia vs. Heller, when it held that the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to possess guns for self-defense. (That's why I have mine.) I say it as someone who, generally speaking, is not a big fan of the regulatory state. I even say it as someone whose feelings about the NRA mirror the left's feelings about Planned Parenthood: It has a useful advocacy function in our deliberative democracy, and much of what it does should not be controversial at all.

Wow. I really am being short sighted in looking at conservatives and guns. And this line actually made me laugh out loud.

There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.

No shit.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery

Little did Madison realize that one day in the future weapons-manufacturing corporations, newly defined as "persons" by a Supreme Court some have called dysfunctional, would use his slave patrol militia amendment to protect their "right" to manufacture and sell assault weapons used to murder schoolchildren.

No shit.

Great Idea!

A Smart Way to Control Guns: Force Owners to Buy Insurance for Them

Even better...

Forbes contributor John Wasik argues that the idea should be taken a step further, by making gun owners liable for any accidents or violent crimes committed with a weapon they own, even if they weren't directly involved. So if you don't keep your gun under lock and key, and somebody gets a hold of it and commits a crime, you'd be on the hook.

If you are a responsible gun owner, there should be no problems.

Guns and Women

Here is some research on guns and women done by Harvard.

Women in states with many guns have elevated rates of unintentional gun deaths, suicides and homicide, particularly firearm suicides and firearm homicides.

The United States has the most firearms and U.S. women have far more likely to be homicide victims than women in other developed countries.

Friday, March 15, 2013

More Like This

We need more guys like Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson. 

In his letter, Robinson says he takes exception to "the handful of public servants who have suggested that they would reject enforcement of any 'unconstitutional mandates' specifically related to the Second Amendment. 

"The rhetoric of the few ... has been interpreted by many who believe that a person in a position of authority might be able to determine the constitutionality of an issue." 


Monumentally Extraordinary

This recent cover story in the Christian Science Monitor on gun owners is absolutely fantastic. It's an extensive look at the inside of America's gun culture. People that own guns are not what they seem to be.

A 30-something suburban aerospace engineer with studs in both ears, a fashionable haircut, and business-casual attire, Brinley says his right to buy and shoot AR-15s should never be curtailed, as bills in Congress now propose. But,by the same token, he acknowledges there are fundamental problems with America's gun regulation system, citing holes in the background-check process and cross checks with mental-health records. That puts him at odds with the NRA's stated positions.

"OK, it's ridiculous to ban 10, 20, or 30-round magazines, but I'm not really sure who really needs a 100-round magazine," he says about a proposal to limit purchases of 10-round magazines.

Finally. This is a great example of what I mean when I say that Sandy Hook has changed this country. Further...

Yet other polls find vast common ground on gun control among those demographic divides. Last year, a poll by GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that 74 percent of NRA members supported more comprehensive background checks for gun purchasers – a reform that University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato says is the most likely to become law. 

After what happened in Newtown, Melvin Clark Jr., a National Guard veteran and gun instructor in Boston, finds himself slipping a bit into that divide. An NRA member, he still turns to the Constitution as his ultimate guide. "A lot of people make the argument that our Framers ... could not have imagined the advancements in firearms, and I agree. They were brilliant, but they could not see the future," says Mr. Clark. "But if you were to ask them if Americans should be armed as well as any British soldier, what might they say?"

Perhaps it's time I rethought my views on gun rights people:)

Both Irrational and Offensive

Here is a piece from the Good Reads section of the Christian Science Monitor.

The Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut brought a deluge of media attention to gun control. One useful perspective came from the Lexington’s Notebook column in The Economist magazine. Britain’s gun-related homicide rate is drastically lower than that of the United States not only because guns are harder to purchase, but because ammunition is scarce, the writer points out. In one recent incident in a crime-plagued British neighborhood, for example, “the gang had had to make its own bullets, which did not work well....”

In one recent year England and Wales experienced 39 fatalities from crimes involving firearms; the US had 12,000. In Britain, “The firearms-ownership rules are onerous, involving hours of paperwork. You must provide a referee who has to answer nosy questions about the applicant’s mental state, home life (including family or domestic tensions) and their attitude towards guns. In addition to criminal-record checks, the police talk to applicants’ family doctors and ask about any histories of alcohol or drug abuse or personality disorders.” 

Some US gun owners argue that they might need firearms to fight a tyrannical government. But “I don’t think America is remotely close to becoming a tyranny, and to suggest that it is is both irrational and a bit offensive to people who actually do live under tyrannical rule,” the writer responds.

Yes, it is irrational and very offensive. I'm reminded of the older, Hungarian gentlemen from my gym who chided Doctor Sean and Pastor Ed who gave them his piece of mind about communism.

Self Defense Shootings Are Rare

A recent piece in my local paper shows just how rare self defense shootings are these days in Minnesota.

Even though a record number of Minnesotans have permits to carry firearms, only a tiny number ever have pulled the trigger in self-defense. Five instances of justifiable use of a firearm by a permit holder have been reported to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) since 2003, although some recent self-defense shootings haven’t been counted.

And the other side of the story that gun rights folks don't like to talk about?

The annual BCA gun reports also show that permit holders have been convicted of 124 crimes using a firearm since 2003. Gun control advocates say the rarity of justifiable uses points to a need to more tightly restrict access to firearms. 

“I think it does undermine the argument that there’s a tremendous need for self-defense, to carry weapons,” said Jennifer Green, an associate professor and director of human rights litigation with the University of Minnesota Law School. “It shows that we may still have some problems as to who is carrying guns.”

Hmm...let me see if I can guess the response on this one...

Fuck you! Don't take my gun, Hitler!!

More Climate Change Facts

Here are more facts for the bubble boys and girls that read this blog. Is it ever possible for people on the right to accept that humans have caused climate change?

Another Domino Falls

After the election I thought that the GOP would shift its stand on immigration in order to garner more Latino votes. But instead of throwing nativists under the bus, Republicans are blowing off anti-gay evangelicals and Mormons. 

As the first Republican senator to endorse gay marriage, Rob Portman's announcement has added another prominent convert for equal marriage rights for all. It turns out Portman's son is gay.

There's an old saw: "A conservative is a liberal who's been mugged." These days, it should be: "A gay marriage proponent is a conservative whose child comes out." People like Portman are becoming legion, including Dick Cheney and Paul Singer, a wealthy Wall Street hedge fund manager whose gay son got married in Massachusetts.

This must be particularly galling for evangelical and Mormon opponents of gay marriage, because they basically handed George Bush the election in 2004, when court decisions allowing gay marriage brought opponents out in droves. In return Bush gave us the Iraq war debacle and the worst recession since the Depression.

Opposition of gay marriage is just another one of those "principled" moral stands that conservatives love to take, only to reverse themselves when it turns out to personally affect them and those they love. Like the recently reelected Tennessee Republican congressman Scott DesJarlais, who publicly opposes abortion, yet he urged both his wife and his mistress to have abortions. I guess we can add "a pro-choicer is a Republican congressman who knocks up his mistress" to the list of truisms.

Republicans should always have supported gay marriage, contraception coverage and abortion rights: they're the ones who keep saying that the government should stop messing with people's lives. What could be more private and personal than who you marry and whether you have children?


Bend man shot by wife's gun improving

A Bend woman was cited on assault and reckless endangering charges Thursday after a loaded .22-caliber Derringer pistol fell out of her pocket during a visit to McDonald’s and it fired, striking her husband in the abdomen police said. He remained hospitalized Friday, but had improved to fair condition.

And the answer is...MORE GUNS!!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Oh Really?

I have been saving a lot of posts about guns and a recent discussion in comments has led me to the decision to put them all up over the course of the next few days. It's going to be a deluge, folks, so get ready!

First up is this little statistic.

You know, Judy, the reality is -- and it's a terrible reality -- since Robert Kennedy died in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country's history, from the Revolutionary through the Civil War, World War I, World War II, in those 43 years. ... I mean, guns are a problem. And I think they still have to be confronted.

Is Shields correct?

Total Number of Americans killed in all of our wars: 1,171,177

Total Number of Americans killed by firearms since 1968: 1,384,171

My question is many more bodies from gun deaths do we need to have to achieve the significance that this image has garnered?

Ryan's lies

Here is a link to get the facts straight about Paul Ryan's budget. I feel its important for folks who comment on this to read this. 

Too Controversial?

Nick Hanauer has come up again in some various conversation I have had and I remembered that I wanted to put his TED talk (repressed for a while because it was deemed "too controversial") up here for all to see. Since when is income inequality controversial?

It's also nice to see the complete destruction, soundly and succinctly backed up with evidence, of the Right's vision of how the economy works. I guess the rich aren't job creators after all.

This Would Be Why

Here is a great reason why we need to have universal background checks.

She was denied a permit to purchase a weapon by her hometown police department in Eden Valley, south of St. Cloud, because background checks turned up a history of violating restraining orders. She went on an Internet site and arranged for the private purchase of a 9-millimeter handgun and ammunition. 

The sale required no background check. 

On Feb. 12, 2012, she went to the home of an ex-boyfriend, Bret Struck, in Brooklyn Center, whom she had stalked for eight years. She killed him, firing every round that came with the gun, and is now in prison for 40 years.

The law did what is was supposed to do but it wasn't enough. Who sold her this gun? More importantly, the answer from the gun rights folks is, "Oh, well. Better that than an American Hitler taking over in my fevered, paranoid fantasies." Remember Jon Stewart?

Their paranoid fear of a possible dystopic future prevents us from addressing our actual dystopic present.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No Outboard Motor!

We certainly shouldn't take lightly the threat from North Korea of late but I can't help but chuckle at this photo.

This is Kim Jong Un inspecting an army unit in their preparations for the Pleistocene? I love how all those guys are pushing the boat.

And I think this photo should replace this one as what results from communism.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Still Going on about Legitimate Rape

In an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Phil Gingrey, a Republican member of the House, repudiated himself on two fronts: women's reproduction and magazine size limits.

Gingrey made national headlines when he tried to justify what Todd Akin said about "legitimate" rape a couple of months ago. At that time Gingrey agreed with Akin that there's some kind of magical defense against conception after rape. Now Gingrey, who's co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus, says:
“Whereas Todd said the panic would cause a body to shut down and prevent ovulation, more recent data suggests just the opposite is probably true,” the physician-congressman said. Adrenaline is more likely to spur ovulation, he said.

“So you learn,” Gingrey said.
Unfortunately, Gingrey didn't learn much. Even now he's still talking about "legitimate" rape:
Rape is rape. If it’s rape, it’s legitimate. I certainly regret very much weighing in on that issue, which was something that was already pretty much roundly condemned and criticized. I felt so badly about it, because my profession is treating women.  
There is no context in which the adjective "legitimate" should ever be applied to the word "rape." Legitimate means "conforming to the law or rules." Since rape is illegal and immoral it can never be legitimate.  There can be legitimate claims of rape (as opposed to consensual sex that was later falsely claimed to be rape), but rape itself can never be legitimate.

Apparently, however, in the conservative mindset, just as there is justifiable murder there is justifiable — legitimate — rape. The phrase "legitimate rape" — ever-present in their minds? — just trips off their tongues.

Gingrey feels badly not because of what he said, but because saying it could hurt his chances of winning Saxby Chambliss's Senate seat next year. This is obvious from his other self-repudiation: endorsing the idea of listening to someone discuss magazine size limits.

In the uproar after Newtown Gingrey fell victim to common sense and said that he would be "willing to listen to the possibility” of imposing limits on magazine clips that now hold as many as 100 rounds. Now he says:
"I have come to the conclusion that [limiting clip capacity] clearly would be a mistake — that it would not solve the problem,” he said.
I agree that it would not solve the problem. It would merely reduce the carnage. Instead of shooting 58 people, Aurora shooter James Holmes might have only shot 29. Instead of killing 12 people he might have killed only six.

We accept partial solutions in other areas. All the intrusions of airport security checks, limiting shampoo bottle sizes, making us take off our shoes, and so on, will not completely solve the problem of terrorist attacks. We are spending literally hundreds of billions of dollars annually and inconveniencing millions of people on a daily basis to prevent an attack that killed one-tenth the number of people killed each year by guns. If terrorists were so intent on attacking us they'd simply adopt other tactics, such as attacks on railroads, road-side bombs and, yes, mass shootings with assault weapons loaded with 100-round magazines that the terrorists bought at gun shows without background checks.

All of us are forced to surrender our personal privacy every time we board a plane to reduce the likelihood of terrorist attacks that occur once every few years, yet gun owners can't be bothered to switch magazines more frequently while target shooting to help reduce the carnage of mass shootings at schools and malls that happen almost monthly?

The juxtaposition of these two issues illustrates how weird the conservative thought process is. The whole issue of "legitimate rape" came up because "pro-life" conservatives want to outlaw abortion in all contexts — even rape. Yet they want to keep weapons of mass murder in the hands of madmen who use those weapons to mow down those same innocent children who were saved from abortion.

Got Any Stories?

In the last 15 years, the juvenile detention rate has fallen 41 percent. A staggering drop, to be sure, but why? A recent article in my favorite news magazine sheds light on this welcome shift.

  • A shift in thinking about the best ways to handle young people who break the law. 
  • A sustained period of decreasing juvenile crime. 
  • Fiscal pressures on state governments that have many people – including conservatives who, in the past, espoused tough-on-crime policies – clamoring for less-expensive alternatives to mass incarceration.

I'd say the reason for the second bullet point is the spread of smart phones and video games. And the third reason seems perfectly understandable given the belt tightening that has gone on at the state level. But the first one is the reason that intrigues me the most. Why? Because any time there is a shift in thinking on an issue, the situation invariably improves.

In my local community, I've seen this shift in action. A few years ago, we had some trouble with Somali youths. The police engaged the community rather than cracking skulls and created some programs geared towards their culture. They also created some community events specifically for younger immigrants to get excited about how much it is to live in America. These involved athletic events and, yes, a video game swap. The result? No more Somali youth problem.

I'd bet there are stories like this around the country. Got any?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Head in the sand

2012 was the warmest year on record, and out of 33,700 scientist, only 34 say humans are not the cause of global warming. It appears to me that all hands should be on deck, yet what are we really doing about it? The constant bitching in Washington DC about the budget and other foolish things have put our most pressing issue to the back-pages. I also think most citizens don't want to face reality. What a racket.

Gun Myth #10

Myth #10: We don't need more gun laws—we just need to enforce the ones we have.

Fact-check: Weak laws and loopholes backed by the gun lobby make it easier to get guns illegally.

Around 40% of all legal gun sales involve private sellers and don't require background checks. 40% of prison inmates who used guns in their crimes got them this way.

• An investigation found 62% of online gun sellers were willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn't pass a background check.

20% of licensed California gun dealers agreed to sell handguns to researchers posing as illegal "straw" buyers.

• The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has not had a permanent director for 6 years, due to an NRA-backed requirement that the Senate approve nominees.

This last myth is the most damning of all. It illustrates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how completely full of shit they are when they say they want to "enforce existing laws." To put it simply, they don't and they're lying.

In looking back at all these myths, one has to wonder where they get the ass to behave in this fashion. With the number of households owning guns shrinking by the year, you would think they would be a little more humble and a lot more helpful. Doing the usual stomp down the hallway followed by the door slam and 'Fuck you, dad, I can do whatever I want" adolescent tantrum stands in direct opposition to solutions.