Contributors

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Amen


Friday, August 30, 2013

Which Car is Outselling The Rest?

That would be the Tesla.

In the first half of 2013, Tesla captured 0.6 percent of the total light-duty vehicle market in the state—more than Buick, Fiat, Land Rover, Lincoln, or Mitsubishi. And looking only at June, the latest month for which figures are available, Tesla also topped Cadillac, Chrysler, and Porsche. That’s especially impressive when you consider that those brands are selling multiple different cars, whereas the Model S is the only Tesla vehicle in production.

I was told there was no market for this sort of vehicle. Huh.

The Arrogance of Ignorance

There they go again. Todd Rokita, an Indiana Republican, recently said that humans can't possibly change the climate of the entire planet:
“I think it’s arrogant that we think as people that we can somehow change the climate of the whole earth when science is telling us that there’s a cycle to all this,” he said. “And that cycle was occurring before the industrial revolution and I suspect will occur way into the future.”
This is like saying that something the size of ant couldn't possibly tear down a house. Ants are just too small! Termites, however, can easily destroy houses.

It is not arrogant to think that humans can change the climate. It is the height of ignorance to think that we can do anything we damn well please without affecting the future of our of grandchildren.

The fact is, humans have been changing local climates for thousands of years. When you chop or burn down trees and convert forests to croplands, you change the climate.

You can see this for yourself: just take a bike ride down a trail in Minnesota on a hot day. When you're pedaling along a trail shaded by trees the air is cool and damp. When you leave the shade and enter a grassy area -- or a wheat field -- the air is dry and the temperature jumps several degrees. This is because forests cool the earth, and help to retain water locally instead of sending it all back into the air. Trees may even make it rain.

The effect is even greater when you replace trees with cities. This produces an effect called the "urban heat island." Areas denuded of foliage and covered with concrete and asphalt retain heat and and don't retain water, changing the local climate. Climate change deniers are well aware of this: they count on it to attempt to discredit historical climate data (which scientists have accounted for in their calculations).

Farmers in Brazil and Indonesia have been burning and chopping down the great rain forests for decades, turning lush, damp forests into dry fields. Haitians scavenging for wood to burn have chopped down all the trees on their side of the island. The American West has been hit hard by wildfires, and thousands of square miles have been burned in the last few years. This has changed the local climates, making them drier.

If you change enough local climates through deforestation and urbanization, pretty soon the continental and global climates change.

There are seven billion people on earth. Yes, there have been natural climate cycles in the past. But there have never been seven billion people before. The land area of the earth is 149 million square kilometers, or 58 million square miles. That gives us a population density of 121 people per square mile across the entire planet. By comparison, Macau has 73,000 people per square mile, India has 954, China has 365, Nicaragua has 120, the United States has 84, Alaska has 1.2. This means that, if we put our minds to it, we could easily chop or burn down all the forests in the world even with tools as primitive as stone axes. Which would drastically alter the global climate. And if you consider what would happen if we detonated all our nuclear weapons at once, it's clear that humanity has more than enough power to change the climate of the planet.

Over the past 200 years we have been digging up oil, gas and coal which were formed by the remains of forests and plants over millions and billions of years. Not only are we burning the forests of today and putting their carbon into the atmosphere, but by burning fossil fuels we are putting the carbon of millions of years of forest and plant growth into the atmosphere, all in the blink of an eye on the geological scale. It's like burning all the forests that ever existed all at once.

That is something that has never happened on earth before, so any talk of science's "natural cycles" goes completely out the window.

To think that that the activities of seven billion people can't change the climate is both arrogant and ignorant. So the question is: are we going to be termites, gnawing at the foundations of the world's climate until it comes crashing down upon us? Or are we going to be good shepherds of this earth?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Real Head Scratcher

Fox News had a story on air recently in which they wondered why the beaches in our country are eroding. As Media Matters notes, that's a real head scratcher!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Forfeit These Services!

Samuel Warde has a nice variation on the anti-socialist pledge up over at Liberals Unite. Here are a few of my favorites...

Want to visit another country? Don’t bother unless you know a way around the border stop which is patrolled by the government and don’t forget you no longer can get a passport any more.

You need to worry about clean air or water once the commie EPA is shut down.

You no longer have to be bothered with paved roads, highways, interstate freeways or public bridges.

It's almost as if they don't understand how the real world works from the comfort of the basement of their parents home.

Coming Clean

I was quite heartened to see that the CIA has now admitted that it played a significant role in the coup in Iran in 1953. This event, more than any other, was the spark that lit the flame of hatred for the United States in Iran. Backing the Shah, who murdered his own citizens regularly and often on a mere whim, was a giant mistake.

Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq was the democratically elected leader and we had him overthrown simply because he nationalized Iran's oil. So what? It was their fucking country to do with whatever they desired. Iran wasn't a problem before the CIA, BP and MI-6 fucked everything up.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fuck You

I actually had some sympathy for George Zimmerman throughout his whole ordeal and thought of him simply as a wannabe moron who should have never gotten out of the car. Most of my disgust over the shooting of Trayvon Martin lied not with him but with his mouth foaming supporters in the gun community who finally got to thump their chests and shout, "Hoo-RA!" as they turned Zimmerman into the victim standing his ground.

Yet after the recent revelation that Mr. Zimmerman visited Kal Tec, the gun manufacturer that made the gun he used to kill Martin, he can fuck right off. Any concern I have for his safety and future life as a result of the verdict is gone. He could have simply led a quiet life and tired to stay out of the spotlight. Yet if he is going to now be a gun celebrity and preen, he bears full responsibility for anything that happens to him.

Fuck you, douchebag.

The End Game

With the United States on the verge of bombing Syria after it has been discovered that the Assad government used chemical weapons against the rebels, I have to wonder...what is the end game in Syria?

No doubt the use of such weapons is thoroughly disgusting on just about every level but it shouldn't be news that President Assad is a despicable man. Equally as awful are the rebels who like to videotape people's hearts being cut out and eaten by resistance soldiers. These are the people we want to help out?

I suppose I understand the concept of a surgical strike the sends a message but it won't accomplish anything. The civil war there will continue and it's going to be a giant cluster fuck just as it is in Egypt with various groups vying violently for power. In the final analysis, there is very little we can to stabilize Syria let alone the region.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Retraction

The other day I posted this photo thinking that it was a real Michele Bachmann quote. It was actually from a Bachmann parody page so it isn't something she actually said. My mistake.

Speaking of photo mistakes, I'm still waiting for an admission of error from Kevin Baker and his merry band of American Taliban members on this photo.

I won't hold my breath.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ripped Off!

So, this was discovered recently...

Scandal: 'Double Stuf' Oreos Don't Actually Contain Double the Stuff

After weighing 10 Double Stuf cookies both with and without their chocolate wafers, the class plugged the numbers into mathematical equations and came up with the horrifying truth: Double Stuf Oreos were only 1.86 times larger than regular Oreos.

Say it ain't so!

But kudos to an excellent instructional method:)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

That's How We Roll...

Good Words

Republicans do have a debate problem. Debates often expose their candidates as outside the mainstream on issues like climate change and evolution and contraception and immigration and rape and safety net programs. The reason for that is that many Republican candidates are outside the mainstream on issues like climate change and evolution and contraception and immigration and rape and safety net programs. 

It looks like Republicans are trying to hide something. But the debates are not the party’s problem. The party is the party’s problem.

The above was taken from a Bill Schneider piece at Reuters and I couldn't agree with it more. The whole Reince Priebus meltdown over the Hillary Clinton movies and documentaries really illustrates just how worried the GOP is about their future prospects for president. After talking with many of my conservative friends, they don't seem too really care about the White House anyway.

Yet the message is clear: moderate or lose. And I actually think that's true even for the House in 2014. You have to have an alternate plan to what you are bitching about. A 12 year old boy temper tantrum is not a plan.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The One With The Happy Ending

It started off as an all too familiar event. A young white male with a history of mental health problems gets into a school and threatens to shoot it up. Convicted felon Michael Brandon Hill (who somehow managed to get a gun...how?) skirted past security at Discovery Learning Academy in Decateur, Georgia and held two staff hostage.

But one of the staff, school bookeeper Antoinette Tuff, talked him down and he surrendered to police. The story of how she did this is detailed in the above link. More importantly, however, is that she did this without a gun of her own in a gun free zone. This incident really drives home the point of how this is all about mental health and not guns. What happens to young white men that they get to this point? Why is it always the same profile, save a few outliers?

This is at the heart of the school shooting issue. We need to figure out the profile for these guys just like we would a serial killer or habitual thief. More intelligence means better crime prevention and (thank God) leaving the very unhelpful gun ass hats out of the equation.

We Are All Stars



Could this be the answer to the meaning of life and death?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wow


Another Cult Member Exits Stage Left!

Clint Murphy has left The Cult, ladies and gentlemen. And it took a bout with testicular cancer to spur him into reflection. Of course, this comes after Newt Gingrich, who last week said that Republicans had "zero" ideas for a replacement to the Affordable Care Act.

“I will bet you, for most of you, you go home in the next two weeks when your members of Congress are home, and you look them in the eye and you say, ‘What is your positive replacement for Obamacare?’ They will have zero answer,” Gingrich told the Boston crowd, said a report from CNN. Gingrich said the party has a “very deep problem” with a culture that promotes negativity. “We are caught up right now in a culture, and you see it every single day, where as long as we are negative and as long as we are vicious and as long as we can tear down our opponent, we don’t have to learn anything. And so we don’t,” Gingrich said, according to video of the event from MSNBC.

Gee, Newt, I've been saying that for...oh...I don't know how many years now...

Mr. Murphy had much more to say. His Facebook post on Obamacare last week, addressed to his Republican friends, was something of a surprise:

“When you say you’re against it, you’re saying that you don’t want people like me to have health insurance.” Murphy would like to call himself a Republican, but has been too dismayed by his party’s cavalier attitude toward the health care debate. “We have people treating government like a Broadway play, like it’s some sort of entertainment,” he said. So call Murphy an independent.

Obamacare isn’t perfect, the former political spear-carrier said. “But to even improve it, to make something work, you’ve got to participate in the process. [Republicans] are not even participating in the process.”

They do a fine job of entertaining all too willing masses and a downright crappy job of participating in the process. Kind of like...oh, I don't know...a lazy adolescent who has problems with this parents?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Breaking News: Rafael ("Ted") Cruz Releases Birth Certificate

Remember all the hoo hah about President Obama's birth certificate, and that he couldn't be president because some nuts on the right insisted he was born in Kenya, even though every single iota of physical evidence, from birth certificates issued by the state of Hawaii to birth notices in the newspaper indicated that Obama was an American born in America?

Now Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and Tea Party darling, has been forced to release his birth certificate. And the document not only proves that he was born in a foreign country, but also that his father was from Cuba (and, incidentally, he fought alongside Fidel Castro in the revolution)! Incredibly, Cruz also continues to hold dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. Where do his real loyalties lie? Is he secretly beholden to the queen of England?
Cruz's mother happens to be American, but that meant nothing to the millions of birthers out there who insisted that Obama couldn't be an American even if his mother was. As it turns out, Cruz is even less American than the president.

The other piece of important information that we learned from this birth certificate is that Cruz's real name is Rafael. So, all you birthers out there, listen up: you have derisively called Obama "Barry" for years. It is now your duty to harangue Cruz with your every breath, calling him "Rafi" and "Rafaelito" at every opportunity.

On a serious note, this does not disqualify Cruz from being president. But it's patently ridiculous that nitwits like Orly Taitz have kept the birth certificate brouhaha alive for years. The craziest thing about her is that she was -- I kid you not -- born in the Soviet Republic of Moldavia!

Which gives her absolutely zero standing for questioning just how "real" an American the president or Cruz or any other US citizen is.

Compromise: the Dirty Word

Mark's post about conservative attitudes contained the following:

"Compromise is the filthiest word in their language..."

I had been contemplating that idea recently. The word "compromise" has two main definitions:
1) settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions
and
2) a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial (a compromise of principles)
I would hypothesize that moderates and liberals believe that the primary meaning is 1) and conservatives believe that the only meaning is 2).

I would further hypothesize that this reflects your underlying worldview. Liberals and moderates believe that through compromise that everyone can win. Conservatives seem to think that life is a zero-sum game and that they can win only if their enemies lose: there's no such thing as a reasonable accommodation, and anything less than total victory is betrayal of everything that is good and holy.

This way of thinking is flawed. Compromise is an essential part of life.

Without compromise it would be impossible for any business to be conducted: companies would be eternally at war with their employees, customers and suppliers. Marriage would be a living hell: husbands and wives would be constantly bickering about sex, money, TV, what's for dinner, etc. No children would ever reach adulthood: parents would strangle them out of frustration because they refuse to obey their every command. Disagreements among neighbors would quickly degenerate into armed mayhem and murder. Organized religion could not exist: no parishioner accepts verbatim everything that their priest or minister says. (Some would say this describes life in red states to a T.)

So why should the basic business of running our nation be conducted any different than running a company or enjoying a harmonious family life?

The underlying premise of this country is that we're all in this together. If we all work together we can make this a better place. But it seems that conservatives reject that very concept and want to divide the country up into factions that are constantly at odds.

The problem, as we've seen with conservatives constantly bickering among themselves over who's more conservative than who, is that no one will ever be ideologically pure enough. Conservative groups demanding purity will splinter into tinier and tinier factions, and will fight amongst themselves as much as they fight Democrats. Tea Party "primarying" of the more reasonable get-'er-done Republicans is direct evidence of this disintegration.

The more conservatives bicker, delay, sabotage and run out the clock until the 2014 election, the less likely swing voters are to cast ballots for the obstructionists and nut jobs. And given how narrowly the Republicans have gerrymandered themselves into control of the House of Representatives, that could spell oblivion for the Republican Party.

Hometown Epiphanies

I just got back from a visit to the town where I grew up in Wisconsin. My mom still lives there and has since we moved there from Missouri in 1973. Forty years...wow...where did the time go?

I spent most of the weekend with my hometown buddies and, as is usually the case, had a political discussion with my childhood chum named Paul. I love Paul like a brother and have known him since we were both kids but he is, without a doubt, the poster child for the Tea Party. He is loud, quick tempered, weighs 300 pounds, has a pathological distrust and hatred of the federal government, and lives with his mother.

I mention the last bit because someone somewhere needs to commission a study on conservatives regarding the following hypothesis: the political emotion of your modern day conservative is fueled by unresolved issues from adolescence stemming from a fundamental breakdown in their relationship with one or both parents. This, in turn, leads to massively irrational behavior that quite frankly helps to exacerbate the problems we have in this country largely by the blunt force of inaction but also by them being...well...assholes.

I've been talking about this for awhile but as I sat and listened to Paul's mouth foaming about the federal government "worming its way into every aspect of our lives" and our country falling apart (any day now), several ideas coalesced for me. I started to think about all the people I know who are conservative and, as I have stated previously, all behave, in many ways, like they are 12-14 years old. This is especially true when they talk about politics. It's one long adolescent temper tantrum and stomp down the hallway because "they don't wanna!" Since I now have a teenager in the house, it's all very familiar.

But I knew all this before so quickly moving on from that, I realized how many of the conservatives I know (as well as many that I don't know personally) clearly have very serious mommy and daddy issues. I started to count how many still lived at home with the parents and went over the list with my wife in the car on the way back to Minnesota. She laughed as the number got higher and higher. It didn't matter what age they were...far too many did.

Science tells me, however, that this is merely anecdotal, hence the reason why a study needs to be undertaken. Unlike my colleagues on the right, I'm not going to fall prey to the logical fallacies of hasty generalizations or misleading vividness. At this point, it is merely an observation. Consider how the ensuing study and results would be fascinating. They could ask for volunteers from the comments section of The Smallest Minority (I wonder how many of them live at home with their parents) or my own comments section:)

So, the mommy and daddy stuff lead me to the idea that your modern day conservative is very insecure about themselves and their lives. They are probably pissed off about their perceived lack of control in their lives (I say perceived because no one is forcing them to live at home with their parents) and the federal government is the perfect whipping boy with which they can spew all their unresolved life issues upon. Suddenly, everything is the government's fault, not their own. Ironically, they scream about victim culture when they themselves behave in the same way. Further, they have not come to terms with the fact that they are not in control of everything that happens to them and, like your average adolescent, don't take too kindly to being told that there are rules that we have to follow in society if it's going to be a decent place to live.

People like Paul also bring new meaning to the word stubborn. Compromise is the filthiest word in their language and when they don't wanna, they really don't wanna! In fact, Paul told me that he, along with the rest of his fellow Tea Partiers in Wisconsin, don't care if they ever win the White House again. They more or less have a lock on the House and will do everything they can to keep it that way. This jibes with what I have asserted previously. They don't care about winning elections as long as they remain pure.

In many ways, the whole conversation with him made me quite sad because a very key assertion of mine was finally confirmed. Conservatives are so afraid of irrelevance that they are now hysterical. We went down the list of all of the problems we have in this country and his answer to every one was basically do nothing. Clearly, he was frightened of any sort of success by Democrats and other liberal types as massive demonization went on throughout the entire conversation. Doing anything meant the apocalypse.

What a way to view the world...


Happy Monday!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Proved Wrong-Again!


Hmm...perhaps I generalize too much about the South. Stories like this give me a tremendous amount of hope. And, for the second time this week, Colbert made me laugh my ass off!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Future Is Getting Closer...

A company in New Zealand is getting closer to making a real-life jetpack. The future is almost here!

The Martin Jetpack isn't really a jetpack. It's basically a one-passenger hovercraft. It has no tail rotor, which makes it much safer than helicopters, which often crash when the tail rotor strikes trees and power lines.

The jetpack sounds like a giant weed whip. It's made of carbon fiber and uses a two-liter two-stroke gasoline engine. It has payload capacity of 100 kg, range of 19 miles, maximum speed of 40 knots and a running time of half an hour. It should be able to reach altitudes of more than mile.

Originally targeted at the leisure market, they're trying to sell it for other applications such as firefighting and military reconnaissance (that is, to organizations that have enough money to pay for it). The design incorporates features that make it safer to fly than other VTOL craft like helicopters. It will hover in place if the pilot provides no input. It has a roll cage and a quick-deploying parachute, which you can see in the video of one of their remote-controlled test flights. Even with the parachute, if you lose power at altitudes too low for proper deployment you'll be in for serious hurt.



Martin's goal is to make a recreational jetpack available for about $100K. But if all you're interested in is getting off the ground, there are other options available at a much lower price. Several companies offer jetpacks that are connected by a hose to a jet ski for less than $10K (hardware modification of your jet ski is required):


It ain't rocket science, but it looks like a lot of fun!

The first iteration of the Martin Jetpack is unlikely to be practical for anything other than recreation: unmanned drones will be better for aerial reconnaissance. Air search and rescue in rugged areas that can't afford a full-fledged helicopter and pilot would seem an obvious fit, but range and flight time are extremely limited. It doesn't have enough payload capacity for a pilot, a passenger and equipment. But it could get a paramedic to an injured person on a mountain faster than anything else.

Immediate practicality is beside the point. The Wright brother's first plane was made from bicycle parts and only flew for a few seconds. In just 60 years the X-15 was flying on the edge of space. The engineers at Martin are making this sort of technology cheaper, safer and more accessible to non-pilots.

As long as we keep dreaming and pushing, anything might become possible.

Giving Me Hope


















The Times has an amazing piece about John Lewis up this week that everyone should read. It's very refreshing to see how far we have come since he walked across Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. It also gave me a great deal of hope to see that Eric Cantor took the walk across the bridge with Congressmen Lewis this year with his college age son in tow.

These are the kinds of stories we need in this day and age.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Wow, Really?


So Cool!

This story is so fucking cool!

In 2012, the owner finally revealed the site's location after swearing Raines to secrecy. Raines then did his own dive and discovered a primeval Cypress swamp in pristine condition. The forest had become an artificial reef, attracting fish, crustaceans, sea anemones and other underwater life burrowing between the roots of dislodged stumps.

The forest contains trees so well-preserved that when they are cut, they still smell like fresh Cypress sap, Raines said. Imagine what we are going to learn in the coming years of what life was like in this part of the world 50,000 years ago!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Using Democracy to Subvert It

The greatest strength of democracy is also its greatest weakness: leaders derive their power from the will of the people. But if the majority of the people don't believe in democracy, they will elect people who believe likewise, and the institutions of democracy will be used to destroy it.

We can see this playing out in Egypt today. The country is going through violent convulsions now because the two main contestants -- the military and the Muslim Brotherhood -- don't believe in democracy. Though elected democratically, Morsi declared himself above the courts and pushed through a lop-sided constitution. In Egypt the military and the Muslim Brotherhood believe they deserve to rule and will do anything to gain power, and damn the rest of the country, democracy and the rule of law.

Sadly, the same dynamic is playing out here in the United States in states controlled by the Republican Party. In response to a lawsuit over their 2011 redistricting plan Republicans responded:
DOJ's accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party's electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats. . . . The redistricting decisions of which DOJ complains were motivated by partisan rather than racial considerations, and the plaintiffs and DOJ have zero evidence to prove the contrary.
In other words, they think it's fine to subvert democracy as long as the motivation is partisan political gain and not racism. But the main reason Republicans are so desperate to make these changes is to solidify their political position ahead of the upcoming demographic shift: the number of white voters in these states is in decline, and without this sort of trickery Republicans will be out of power because they'll soon be in the racial minority.

And it's just not true that the Department of Justice has "zero evidence" that the motivations behind the passage of these laws is racist. Republicans have screwed up and publicly admitted that they don't want blacks to vote because they won't vote Republican:
“I’m going to be real honest with you, the Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats,” Ken Emanuelson said.
Republicans are treading on thin ice. In many states, such as Ohio, they have gerrymandered large Congressional and legislative majorities by packing all Democrats (and often blacks and Hispanics) into a few overwhelmingly Democratic districts and given themselves small majorities in the rest of the state.

When the voters in the middle grow tired of this naked power grab even a small shift among swing voters could result in Republican being completely locked out of power. Natural growth and migration patterns could result in Texas becoming Democratic in the next four to eight years, just in time for the next redistricting after the 2020 census.

This may already be happening in some states: after Republicans gained control of both houses in Minnesota in 2010 they circumvented the normal legislative process and pushed controversial voter ID and anti-gay marriage constitutional amendments. This caused a severe backlash and Democrats swept to large majorities in the House and Senate in 2012. A few months later gay marriage was made law.

With their complete contempt for fairness, democracy, compromise and cooperation all these Republican machinations may ultimately backfire on them. And then they'll be the ones demanding protections for minorities.

Just Imagine

Imagine for a just a moment that the president took a vacation to a foreign land with a Hollywood type. Add in high unemployment and a taxpayer cost of 3.5 million dollars. What would the Right say?

Well, they said nothing when Ronald Reagan did it.



Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

So they probably would say nothing now if Barack Obama did it, right?

Take note of how admirably the media portrayed Reagan as well.

York Channels Moi

Byron York has a piece up that could have well been written by me. When a Fox News contributor and author of the The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy writes something like this...

Behind the scenes — in whispered asides, not for public consumption — some Republicans are now worried that keeping the House is not such a done deal after all. They look back to two elections, 1998 and 2006, in which Republicans seriously underperformed expectations, and they wonder if 2014 might be a little like those two unhappy years.

...it's time to for the Right to start shitting themselves. Why?

GOP strategists look at the president’s job approval rating on the economy and see an opportunity. A recent Quinnipiac poll, for example, found that 54 percent of those surveyed do not approve of Obama’s handling of the economy. Yet when the pollsters asked who respondents trusted to do a better job with economic issues — Obama or Republicans in Congress — respondents chose Obama, 45 percent to 39 percent. Lots of other polls have shown similar results. Voters don’t approve of the way Obama is handling the economy. Yet they prefer him over Republicans.

Even with lower ratings these days, the American people like the Republicans even less. That's because their party is made up of far right paranoids who have no plan to improve the country and would rather behave like juveniles. One need only read the comments section of this blog to see exactly what I am talking about.

So what should the Right do?

What that should tell the GOP is that Republican candidates don’t need to tell voters what a bad job the president is doing. They already know that, and besides, Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2014. What GOP candidates need to do is convince voters that they would do a better job than Democrats.

And if they don't?

If they don’t — if Republicans stick to being an opposition party on the attack rather than the alternative party offering an agenda — then Obama’s much-discussed dream of retaking the House in 2014 might come true, despite all the odds. And that would be a nightmare for Republicans.

What I like about this scenario is that it is a win-win for Democrats. If the Republicans continue with their adolescent behavior, they lose more seats in the House, if not the chamber itself all together. You can pretty much kiss any hopes of retaking the Senate either. If they actually change and compromise on issues like immigration and the budget, then our country is better off for it. They will likely win more elections but it will be because they came to their senses.

I'm hoping it's the latter. We have very serious problems in this country and really no time for temper tantrums from little boys.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Makes Perfect Sense To Me

After this story, I'm pretty embarrassed by the state in which I was born.

Perry Beam, who was among the spectators and has called attention to the act, told the Associated Press that "everybody screamed" and "just went wild” over the rodeo show. "It was at that point I began to feel a sense of fear. It was that level of enthusiasm," said Beam, a Higginsville resident.

Ah, the dark heart of American populism. My buddy Reverend Jim remarked this was "just as bad as when the bloody Bushitler posters went up." Really? I don't recall clowns play hitting the big lips of W as they did with the Obama mask at this rodeo.

Of course, it all makes perfect sense considering that now that it's town hall season (see: old white people yellin' and all afeared of blackie!) the birth certificate had to come up again.

Farenthold’s declaration came after a woman, who cannot be seen on the video, presents a folder to Farenthold that she says contains proof that Obama’s birth certificate was faked. “I’ll take a look at it,” Farenthold said. “I’ll tell you on the whole birth certificate issue … I think unfortunately the horse is already out of the barn on this.The original Congress when his eligibility came up should have looked into this and it didn’t. I’m not sure how we fix it.” The unidentified woman continued to press, saying “do we allow a president, if he has committed a felony, do we allow him to go unpunished?” 

I wonder if any of these creeps are going to question the fact that Ted Cruz was born in Canada. Nah, he's got an R next to his name so he's alright!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Movie Review: Elysium

Elysium is the latest science fiction action picture from director Neill Blomkamp, the South African director who made his mark in 2009 with District 9. 

The year is 2154, and everyone on earth lives in abject poverty in slums ridden with disease. The wealthiest people live on Elysium, a utopian space habitat that's reminiscent of Larry Niven's Ringworld. The people on Elysium can live forever: medicine has advanced to such a degree that even the worst injury or disease can be cured by a few minutes in a machine that can rebuild broken bones and repair ripped flesh, or rewrite the DNA in your very bones.

Elysium follows Max (played by Matt Damon), a Spanish/English-speaking former car thief who lives in LA working in a factory that manufactures the droids that police the human populace. Max's childhood friend, Frey (played by Alice Braga), goes off to become a nurse but by chance she meets Max again after he mouths off to the wrong droid. When Max is fatally exposed to radiation at work, his only hope is to get medical attention on Elysium.

Jodie Foster plays Delacourt, the French-speaking defense minister of Elysium. She is ruthless, ordering the sleeper agent Kruger (played quite malevolently by Sharlto Copley) to shoot down shuttles carrying sick children illegally into Elysium for medical care. If you think of earth as Mexico (the slum scenes were shot there), space as the Rio Grande and Elysium as the United States you get the picture.

In order to have the strength to fight his way to Elysium Max agrees to have a powered exoskeleton screwed into his spine and skull, and electronics implanted in his brain. In addition to the grit, there's plenty of action in Elysium: spaceships, guns, katana-skewerings, robot dismemberment, hand-to-hand combat, explosions and crashes.

While District 9 was a not-so-subtle comment on the apartheid era in South Africa, Elysium is an equally unsubtle statement on illegal immigration, the wealthiest 1% and the absence of health care for the poorest among us. This is nothing new for the movies: since the very beginning, film has been a medium that caters to the masses, protesting the injustices of inequality that pervade society. From It's a Wonderful Life to Star Wars the triumph of the little guy over entrenched wealth and power has been an ever-present theme.

In the world of Elysium the denial of health care to the masses seems especially heartless because the cure is so cheap and so easy. But we have much the same issue here today: procedures such as knee and hip implants in the United States cost 10 times more than in Belgium, which means many Americans are denied medical care because medical device manufacturers and health care providers artificially jack up prices.

Movies with messages can still be effective as art and entertainment as long as the preaching doesn't hit you over the head. Elysium avoids that trap. If Elysium lacks something, it was a sufficiently tight connection between Max and Frey's daughter, Matilda. Damon's performance doesn't convince me -- all the groundwork was laid, but it lacked emotional impact.

As usual, I have quibbles with technical aspects of the film. The computerized McGuffin is bogus: everyone can instantly recognize what the thing can do -- you'd think the bad guys would name their files something other than "Program to Take Over the World." Also, it's too easy for the illegals to enter Elysium: they can simply fly in because the inside of the ring is open to space. Niven's Ringworld was large enough, spun fast enough and had high enough walls to keep the atmosphere in (it was 180 million miles across). Elysium is just too small -- it would have to be completely sealed to keep the air in and cosmic rays out, but that would make it too hard for illegals to fly in and get a quick cure, removing a major plot point.

Blomkamp still has it in for his native South Africa: Kruger and his bloodthirsty thugs are Afrikaners, even sporting a South African flag on their spacecraft if you missed Kruger's accent. His namesake, Paul Kruger, was the face of the Boer Resistance against the British during the Second Boer War, and the Krugerrand was named after him.

Putin's Russia: a Social Conservative's Paradise

Russia has become the new paradise for conservative social issues.

Repression of gays is government policy. Gay marriage is not only illegal: you can go to jail for telling children it's wrong to beat up gay men.

Most abortion is illegal after 12 weeks, and banned after 22 even in cases of rape. There's a two- to seven-day waiting period and women can't even get their tubes tied unless they're 35 or already have two children (articles 56 and 57 of the 2011 Russian health law).

Putin recently signed a law making it a crime to "offend religious sensibilities," punishable by one to three years in prison. Two women from Pussy Riot are still in prison for singing a critical song about Putin in a church.

Do American conservatives really want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with countries like Russia, Uganda and Saudi Arabia?

Republicans keep telling us that we have to defend our freedoms or we'll become like Russia. Yet they're trying to turn us into carbon copies of Russia and Saudi Arabia by letting religious zealots dictate our social and medical policies.

Yes. Yes They Are


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hit the Road!

I'm sure that when Scott Phillips took the job at Prattville East Memorial Christian Academy as athletic director he thought there might be some leeway on which church he decided to attend.

Nope.

The school’s headmaster, Scott Easley, said that it was expected that Phillips attend East Memorial Baptist Church, the church affiliated with the school, even though there was no written agreement that Phillips was to do so.

So much for the freedom to worship freely. And it's not like he was an atheist or anything.

It was only when Phillips took on the additional role of being the school’s athletic director in June 2012 that the church requirement was placed on him. Phillips and his family had been attending Church of the Highlands, which is where he and his family (wife and two children) were “growing spiritually”.

Phillips attending both churches for a year, but felt dishonest about doing so. “We would go to the 9 a.m. service at East Memorial, then head over to Montgomery for the 11 a.m. service at Church of the Highlands,” he said. “It was just not working at all.”

I sense the devil at work here! Everyone knows that there is only one way to worship Jesus and any other way is pure evil!!

It's simply amazing to me that in this day and age, we still have people that think they can tell their employees how they have to worship and where. But this would be the American Taliban at work, folks!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Very Cool


Friday, August 09, 2013

Not The One...EVER!

One concept I truly loathe in our culture is the idea of soul mates. Somewhere out there is "The One" who will complete your perfectly and will be your life long best friend as well as husband/wife. Truly, a pile of garbage and that's why I wholeheartedly agree with this piece recently forwarded to me by a friend.

For those of you who might not dig the overly religious tones, try to look past all that and simply focus on what she's saying. Her husband is not her soul mate and there really is no such animal. My wife is certainly not my soul mate. She's my lover, a great mom, a good friend, and we work well together as leaders of our family. But I've only known her for 17 years. I've been best friends with John Waxey for nearly twice that time. He's more of a soul mate to me than she is because he has known me since the seventh grade.

I don't know why we feel the need as a culture to place the care of our heart and soul into one person. What a load of crap. Life is a chorus, not a duet. There are many people along the way who are integral to how we develop and love. Why some people choose to limit themselves in such a way with this soul mate/the one garbage makes no sense to me whatsoever.


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Time to Break the Cycle in Yemen

The United States has closed several embassies across the world in the last week, ostensibly because of a credible threat picked up by the NSA in "chatter."

The mass closures seem to be a smokescreen for the real threat, which appears to be in Yemen. We've had an extremely active program of drone strikes against al-Qaida in Yemen, but the terrorist network there has only gotten stronger. Why?

Gregory Johnsen, a Fulbright scholar and expert on Yemen has some insights:
I think this is one of the really frustrating things for the United States. It's because, as you point out, [the United States has] been carrying out several air and drone strikes. They have killed people like Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric there in Yemen. They killed AQAP's number two.

And yet what we have seen over the past three-and-a-half years is that AQAP has gone from a group of about 200 to 300 people on Christmas Day 2009 to, according to the U.S. State Department, more than a few thousand fighters today.
Yes, despite intense attacks against al-Qaida in Yemen, the problem has only gotten worse. How can that be?
Well, I think one of the things that explains it is that the U.S. -- not all of these strikes that the U.S. carries out are successful. So there are some mistaken strikes. There are strikes that kill civilians. There are strikes that kill women and children.

And when you kill people in Yemen, these are people who have families. They have clans. And they have tribes. And what we're seeing is that the United States might target a particular individual because they see him as a member of al-Qaida. But what's happening on the ground is that he's being defended as a tribesman.

So you have people flowing into al-Qaida, not necessarily because they share the same ideology of al-Qaida, but just so that they can get revenge for their tribesman who has been killed in a drone or airstrike.
That is, the people in Yemen are mad at the United States because we're callously killing innocent bystanders. Many of the people attacking us in Yemen are driven by exactly the same motivations as Americans who want to stamp out al-Qaida in retribution for 9/11. Both sides feel they are completely justified in their actions because they can point to numerous instances of innocent people being killed.

This is the same trap that Arabs and Israelis have been caught in for the last 50-plus years. As long as we react to violent attacks with more violent attacks, we'll never break the cycle of violence.

The only "lesson" our drone strikes appear to teaching al-Qaida in Yemen is how to goad us into more attacks that produce collateral damage (our euphemism for the deaths of innocent people). Our actions only seem to be helping al-Qaida recruit more members. We're making the same mistakes we made in Iraq at the beginning of that war.

Yemen has a lot of problems. According to Johnsen its new president is weak. There's a separate rebellion in the north. There's a push for secession in the south. The economy is collapsing. People are having a hard time getting basic food and water. And then we throw our war on al-Qaida into the mix.

Our current strategy in Yemen is backfiring. It's is a recipe for a cycle of never-ending bloodshed. And that pretty much describes our involvement in all the countries in the Middle East. We've got to find some common cause with the people of Yemen and stop the arbitrary killings, or we're going to be fighting this nonsense forever.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Even More Fucking Awesome!

A Republican Case for Climate Action?

Yeah, you got that right.

There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.

No longer any credible scientific debate...hey, don't be so sure about that! Everything is credible in the bubble!

Now about those market based solutions...

Acid rain diminishes each year, thanks to a pioneering, market-based emissions-trading system adopted under the first President Bush in 1990. And despite critics’ warnings, our economy has continued to grow.

No, it hasn't! Liars!! Liars!!! Our economy has collapsed and has been constantly failing!!! Pollution is not an externality!!!!

As administrators of the E.P.A under Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush, we held fast to common-sense conservative principles — protecting the health of the American people, working with the best technology available and trusting in the innovation of American business and in the market to find the best solutions for the least cost.

Bunch a fuckin' RINOS!!

The bubble is continuing its collapse...

So Fucking Awesome....


Monday, August 05, 2013

Abandoned!

It looks like the Tea Party is foaming at the mouth again.

But as many tea party stars seek re-election next year and Rubio considers a 2016 presidential run, conservative activists are finding themselves at a crossroads. Many of their standard-bearers have embraced more moderate positions on bedrock issues such as immigration and health care, broadening their appeal in swing states but dampening grass-roots passion. "They keep sticking their finger in the eyes of the guys who got them elected," said Ralph King, a co-founder of the Cleveland Tea Party Patriots. "A lot of people are feeling betrayed."

Liars!! Liars!!!

They are not pure of Constitution any longer. Apparently, there are quite a number of Americans who are not pure either.

The tea party also fell out of favor with many people. At its height after the 2010 elections, a CBS News poll found that 31 percent of those surveyed considered themselves tea party supporters. A May survey found just 24 percent identified with the movement.

This dwindling support was seen at a recent protest at Marco Rubio's Florida office where a half-dozen tea party protesters gathered under a tree in front of Rubio's Miami office, seeking shade as they denounced his support for an immigration overhaul. But the protest soon turned into more of a support group, with the four men and two women grousing to each other about how Rubio had turned into a "back-stabber," a "liar" and a "flip-flopper." Juan Fiol, a real estate broker who organized the protest, kept looking at his phone, waiting for calls from fellow tea party supporters that never came.

"It was supposed to be a big event," he said as he waved a large "Don't Tread on Me" flag.

I seem to recall some giggling over the small number of anti gun protests around the country over the last few months. I'm nearly certain there aren't as any smiles with the news of this.

Or of what this means for 2014.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

So-Called "Life" in China

The New York Times has a story by one of its correspondents in China. It gives a personal account of what life is like in a country that regularly poisons its children with toxic additives in baby formula and fills the very air itself with poisons that take years off the lives of anyone who breathes it.

Essentially, China is like the US was before the creation of the FDA in 1906 during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt and the creation of the EPA during the Richard Nixon administration. It's important to note that it was Republicans who created these institutions because today's Republicans are doing everything they can to destroy them.

Before those agencies were created companies were able to put anything they damn well pleased into food and medicine, and they could dump any kind of poison into the air and water. The quality of the food and air was pretty much what we see in China today.

The problem with China is rampant corruption due to the tight links between government and industry. That same problem is happening in the United States with such tight links between elected officials and the PACs of giant corporations and billionaires. The very industries that the government regulates have been writing their own regulations.

Government and business should not be so closely aligned. As we've seen in this country a century ago and in China today, when business and government cozy up it inevitably leads to corruption and an inferior quality of life for the vast majority of citizens.

Republicans who keep telling us that government regulation is making us uncompetitive with China are blind to the misery and death that the Chinese suffer from due to that vaunted "competitive advantage."

Not An Outlier?

When I first heard about "libtard" hating Mark Kessler, the police chief of Gilberton, PA, I laughed and thought he was just an Alex Jones type who was far over the top and not really indicative of the gun rights community.

But the turnout of support for him after his 30 day suspension coupled with a serious look at his video rants have made me realize that he is not an outlier. In fact, this is the same shit we see on gun blogs all over the inter-webs (and, sadly, here in comments): adolescent behavior rooted in a deep paranoia and massive insecurity.

Honestly, these people need psychological help. They could start with an examination of their problems with authority which likely stem from troubled relationships with their parents.


American Medical Tourists Now Going to Europe

We've all heard about "medical tourism" in the past, where people go to third-world countries like India and Thailand to get cheap organ transplants and hip implants. But you gotta wonder how safe it is.

Well, it turns out that Americans go to Europe to be medical tourists as well. The New York Times has a story about Michael Shopenn, an American man who got a hip transplant at a private hospital in Belgium for a grand total of $13,660:
That price included not only a hip joint, made by Warsaw-based Zimmer Holdings, but also all doctors’ fees, operating room charges, crutches, medicine, a hospital room for five days, a week in rehab and a round-trip ticket from America.
The irony of this story is that the hip implant was made in that same town (Warsaw, Indiana) where Shopenn lives. To get the surgery done at home, with a special deal on the implant made possible by some friends who work in the medical implant business, would have cost $88,000. That special deal on the implant? $13,000 -- almost the cost of the entire procedure in Belgium.

The medical-industrial complex is gouging American consumers. We have inferior health outcomes compared to similar countries, yet pay two to 10 times as much as patients in other first-world countries pay for most procedures.

And this kind of medical ripoff is what the Republicans in the House have now voted 40 times to perpetuate.

Conservatives constantly berate American union workers for pricing themselves out of jobs by demanding decent working conditions and living wages. Why aren't they going after multimillionaire insurance and medical device company CEOs who are sabotaging the entire US economy by making American business uncompetitive with the rest of the world with the overhead of drastically overpriced medical care?

Good Point

Dustin Hoffman makes a good point in the video below about how women are still unfortunately perceived in our culture.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

My Experience with the Jury System

About six years ago I had my one and only contact with the jury system. At that time I wrote the piece below, but never posted it. I came across it today while cleaning up my email. I think it shows the challenges that minorities face in the American legal system. Maybe it's different these days, but somehow, I doubt it.

I was recently called to jury duty in downtown Minneapolis at the Hennepin County District Court building. A panel of 24 prospective jurors, all of us white and middle-aged, was summoned to a courtroom. As we entered the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the defendant, an overweight young black man, rose.

The judge explained the charges (fifth-degree possession of meth) and began to ask the panel a number of questions: did we know the defendant, the lawyers, the witnesses in the case? Did we know people employed in law enforcement or the legal profession? Had we been victims of crime? Did we have experience with the justice system as defendants?

Two people were excused from service because they said they would give more credence to law enforcement personnel than other witnesses. A third was excused because he felt he had been incorrectly stopped in one of two DWI incidents.

The judge then asked us to return the next day, Thursday, reminding us not to talk about the case. We returned and were asked to wait in the hall outside the courtroom. After a few hours we were brought in and the attorneys began to ask the jurors questions in order, one by one. After 20 minutes and three jurors we finished for the day. The judge asked us to return the following Monday at 1:30.

Monday we returned to wait in the hallway for a few hours. We watched the lawyers, the defendant, police officers and other people enter and leave the courtroom. We didn't know what the delay was. Despite the admonitions of the judge, people began to talk about the case. People wondered if fifth-degree meth possession was a felony. They wondered why the defendant didn't just plead guilty to such a minor charge. They commented on the way the defendant dressed (in "pedal pushers"), and how he sauntered into the courtroom "like King Tut."

People complained about the delay, about missing work, about weekend plans (which hadn't been interfered with), about being forced into a third week of jury duty. They talked of other things: illnesses, books, church, family, the nastiness of politics, and whether the woman talking to a man in an office across the atrium was a parole officer. One man talked about hitchhiking in college and helping two girls reconnect the odometer cable they had disconnected to hide how far they had driven. Others talked about the drunken driving escapades of their youth, when kind-hearted cops just told them to get home safely. And about how that sort of thing doesn't happen any more.

At the end of the day the judge called us in. He apologized for the delay and asked us to return Tuesday at 9:30.

The next day we all knew what to expect: more waiting. I sat at the far end of the hall, next to the rumbling elevators. I couldn't hear the conversations taking place near the courtroom entrance.

After a couple of hours we were brought into the courtroom. The lawyers and defendant were absent -- they had made a deal. The judge again apologized for all the waiting and explained the delay: the defense had raised questions about the methodology used by the county to select jurors.

The judge had to take testimony from the Jury Office regarding how jurors are selected. Members of the jury pool for a specific case are selected at random from the jurors in the assembly room by a computer program, and then assigned juror numbers in random (non-alphabetic) order. Minorities, he was told, comprise 14% of the county's population. The juror selection system tries to achieve a 12.5% minority population. That's one person out of eight. We should have had three minority members on a 24-person panel. The defense wanted to know why we didn't.

The judge had to investigate where Hennepin County gets the names of the jurors. He said the Jury Office told him they came from voting records, drivers licenses and the Minnesota identification card system (for those who don't drive). From my one quarter of college statistics I compute that probability, based on the target 12.5% minority figure and 24 prospective jurors, at 4%.

In the end the judge ruled that the county's system was reasonable, and the trial would have to proceed with the jury pool on hand. And so the defendant decided to plead guilty. The judge explained other circumstances in the case (a felony warrant in another county and violation of parole) that figured into the defendant's decision.

The judge (who was Asian) thanked us and let us go.

We returned to the jury assembly room, where we were released from further service. As I left I scanned the potential jurors. I saw one black woman in the entire room of perhaps 100 people. Yet throughout my entire experience there I saw many people of color in the courthouse: judges, lawyers, guards, janitors, clerks, customers, passers-by on the street. There was no shortage of minorities in downtown Minneapolis.

Based on what the judge said, I don't think this particular defendant received unequal treatment. But I have to ask: how many defendants, faced with a jury packed with impatient, judgmental white faces, decide it's easier to just plead guilty? How many cases that go to trial have jurors who are mad about missing several days' pay? How many of these jurors vote out of spite to convict a defendant that they think should have just pleaded guilty to a silly misdemeanor drug charge instead of wasting everyone's time?

These aren't unfounded concerns. In his explanation the judge acknowledged the problem -- the term for it is "jury nullification."

My conclusion is that the jury selection system in Hennepin County,.though well-intentioned, isn't really working. To start off, the source for potential jurors isn't really very good: registered voters do not represent the general citizenry. Voters are overwhelmingly white and middle-aged or elderly. The drivers license and ID card rolls will similarly skew the jury pool, though not as much.

To be a juror you must be a US citizen, 18 or older, a resident of the county, physically able to serve, not on parole for a felony, and able to communicate in English. Potential jurors answer a questionnaire that asks about race, income, level of education, marital status, etc. All this is fine and good, but it's obviously not working.

The judge didn't go into how many people simply neglect to return the jury questionnaire. Perhaps minorities and younger people simply don't respond because they can't afford the time. You only get paid a $20 per diem and 27 cents a mile for travel. That just ain't gonna pay the bills.

If the population apparently underrepresented in the jury pool has legitimate reasons for not serving, something should be done to make it possible for them to participate.

It can't be stressed how important it is to have all kinds of people on juries, which is supposed to be comprised of your peers.

Throughout this experience the most astonishing thing to me was that five of the 24 prospective jurors had convictions on DWI charges. That is, more than 20% of these fine, upstanding white middle-aged citizens called to jury duty had broken the law and had driven drunk. Which in my book is far more serious than the fifth-degree meth possession the defendant pleaded guilty to. And it makes me wonder why the hell we're wasting all that jail space -- and money -- on people who've committed trivial drug crimes.

In a way this is strangely comforting. Apparently the only real difference between middle-aged white America and young black America is their choice of drug.

More "Bad" Economic News

US HOME PRICES RISE 12.2 PERCENT, BEST IN 6 YEARS

Home values are rising as more people are bidding on a scarce supply of houses for sale. Steady price increases, along with stable job gains and historically low mortgage rates, have in turn encouraged more Americans to buy homes.

Thursday, August 01, 2013