Contributors

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Then What?

Brian Beutler reveals a very interesting conundrum for right wing extremists in his latest piece over at Salon.com. When Healthcare.gov actually starts working, GOP will have to choose between politics or their constituents' health. With the bugs being ironed out at healthcare.gov, Beutler points out what the future holds.

A working site that can service nearly a million people a day destroys that excuse. Some conservative groups have been craven and reckless enough to actively discourage people from enrolling in Affordable Care Act coverage. Elected Republicans have generally used their influence more subtly, by drawing attention to the hassles and supposed dangers of using Healthcare.gov. Manipulation vs. direct appeal. They’ve also maligned an administrative solution President Obama devised that will allow carriers in some states to reissue canceled policies.

But the real fix for 70 percent (or so) of people whose policies have been canceled is to get new, subsidized coverage through exchanges, or to enroll in Medicaid. Once Healthcare.gov is working at high capacity, they’ll owe people with canceled coverage more than just the play-acting they’ve offered for the past month. Democrats will be helping these people find such coverage. Will Republicans?

No, they won't. And that's why I say we should take Reince Preibus's advice: Stamp the ACA right to our foreheads and run proudly on it in 2014. That's exactly what I would do if I was up for reelection next year.

More Regulation, Less Gun Deaths

Boston Children's Hospital and JAMA Internal Medicine recently conducted a study that shows that there is an association between more regulations and less gun deaths in states in terms of mortality rate per 100,000 people. Here is their map with fatalities over a four year period.



















Take a look at the states that have the weakest legislative strength and then compare to the mortality rates. This is for overall as well as for suicides and homicides individually. See a pattern? Policymic.com offers an excellent summary of the study if you don't want to wade through all the data from the link above.

Of course, further studies are needed to clarify the cause and effect relationship between these two variables but there is a connection which is not what the Gun Cult would have us believe.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Minnesota Wins!

If you want a good barometer on how what sort of government policies work the best, compare the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. That's what this recent piece in the New York Times did and the results speak for themselves. In 2010, voters in each state chose a specific path to improve their economic conditions. Minnesotans chose Democrats to run their state and Wisconsin chose Republicans. Minnesota's unemployment rate was at 6.7 percent and Wisconsin's was at 7.1 percent.

As the article notes, a month after Mr. Walker’s inauguration in January 2011, he catapulted himself to the front ranks of national conservative leaders with attacks on the collective bargaining rights of Civil Service unions and sharp reductions in taxes and spending. Once Mr. Dayton teamed up with a Democratic Legislature in 2012, Minnesota adopted some of the most progressive policies in the country.Minnesota raised taxes by $2.1 billion, the largest increase in recent state history. Democrats introduced the fourth highest income tax bracket in the country and targeted the top 1 percent of earners to pay 62 percent of the new taxes, according to the Department of Revenue.

The result?

Today, Minnesota is essentially at full employment at 4.8 percent while Wisconsin's unemployment rate stands at 6.5 percent. Wisconsin lags behind Minnesota in job creation and economic growth. Wisconsin ranks 34th for job growth. According to Forbes’s annual list of best states for business, Wisconsin continues to rank in the bottom half. Along with California, Minnesota is the fifth fastest growing state economy, with private-sector job growth exceeding pre-recession levels. Forbes rates Minnesota as the eighth best state for business.

So, why is it working in Minnesota?

Higher taxes and economic growth in Minnesota have attracted a surprisingly broad coalition. Businesses complain about taxes, but many cheered Mr. Dayton’s investments in the Mayo Clinic, the new Vikings stadium, the Mall of America and 3M headquarters. The lion’s share of Minnesota’s new tax revenue was sunk into human capital. While the state’s Constitution required that half of the new revenue balance the budget in 2013, Mr. Dayton invested 71 percent of the remaining funds in K-12 schools and higher education as well as a pair of firsts: all-day kindergarten and wider access to early childhood education. Minnesota was one of the few states that raised education spending under the cloud of the Great Recession.

Why is not working in Wisconsin?

Mr. Walker’s strategy limited Wisconsin’s ability to invest in infrastructure that would have catalyzed private-sector expansion, and he cut state funding of K-12 schools by more than 15 percent. Per student, this was the seventh sharpest decline in the country.

I'm pretty optimistic about the state in which I grew up, however. The numbers speak for themselves and, if the Democrats put up a good candidate, Walker will be gone and left to pursue his dreams of 2016.

Perfect After Yesterday


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful For Social Media

What am I thankful for today? Social media. Why?

Remember back about 20 years ago when cigarettes were generally accepted? Many of my friends smoked and, while people knew it was bad for them, they still did it without much of a social stigma.

But now there is a pretty big stigma and people that smoke are generally thought of as white trash and really pretty dumb. Sure, there were laws passed on cigarettes and higher taxes but the pushing out of normality regarding cigarettes was generally a cultural shift. Everyone goes outside, even in their own homes, to smoke. People that smoked were generally older and some of them died. Younger people either quite or didn't pick up the habit. In short, we grew out of it. And that's exactly what's going to happen in the next twenty years with guns.

In fact, with social media like Facebook and Twitter, it's going to happen much sooner. We are going to grow out of Gun Cult thinking and into a more rational approach to the (very much limited) 2nd amendment. The recent revelations about Adam Lanza show that we don't have a choice. The annual culling of our citizens is going to stop and it will be because of the new media.

Thanks, new media!

Good Words

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”. (Pope Francis, EVANGELII GAUDIUM, November 2013)

Perfect for Thanksgiving Day. Not so perfect if you are conservative. Cue the ad hom and other assorted logical fallacies.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So That's What Happened To James O'Keefe

I haven't heard much lately from James O'Keefe these days except the begging for money to continue his "truth seeking" and here's why. Boy, conservatives really pick some winners with which to hitch their wagons! The rape barn story has been out for awhile but this is the first I've heard of it. Seems like a similar MO to the CNN dildo boat story.

I'm looking forward to his next big expose!


That Old Time Corporate Religion

The lead plaintiff before the court is Hobby Lobby, a chain of more than 500 arts and crafts stores with more than 13,000 employees. The owners are conservative Christians who object to some forms of birth control and contend that the mandate thus abridges their religious rights in violation of both the Constitution and federal law.
Their argument is basically that corporations are people and have religious rights. The entire argument is specious: can the corporation go to church? Take communion? Be baptized? Get married? Have souls? Go to heaven?

The idea that a corporation is a person is sheer nonsense. Corporations are legal fictions that exist only on paper. People are born, not incorporated in Delaware. If you're a believer, you believe that God created you. Corporations are completely secular creations of government, granted their existence by an act of Congress. Corporations aren't even in the Constitution. They certainly aren't in the Bible.

Unlike people, corporations can be bought and sold, which means that Hobby Lobby's "deeply held religious beliefs" could go completely out the window if the owners decided to sell the business or died in a car accident. The sheer ridiculousness of corporate religion becomes apparent when you consider publicly held corporations like Exxon or GM.

The purpose of corporate entities is to allow individuals to evade personal legal and financial responsibility for the actions of the corporation, on the theory that they can take financial risks that will benefit the economy at large while protecting their families' future. For example, corporations can declare bankruptcy and that fact will not appear on the personal credit reports of the corporate officers who made the decisions that caused the bankruptcy.

The provisions of the ACA apply to the corporation, not to the owners of Hobby Lobby. Those provisions may violate the religious beliefs of the owners, but they are not the corporation: it is an entity independent of them, which they can sell and divest themselves of any responsibility. If Hobby Lobby is claiming  that the corporation is just an extension of themselves, then their business is not a corporation, but rather a partnership. In other words, they have willfully made incorrect corporate filings.

So, if the owners of Hobby Lobby want the legal and financial shield against personal liability that incorporation provides, they need to accept all the secular responsibilities that running a legal entity created by government entails. Otherwise, they should acknowledge that they're just a partnership and accept full personal responsibility for all legal and financial liabilities of the company.

Corporations should not even have the legal standing to make the argument about the free exercise of religion. The Supreme Court should rule that if Hobby Lobby doesn't want to pay for birth control coverage, it should reorganize as a partnership and file another lawsuit.

Stopping there would just kick the can down the road, though. The Supreme Court should also decide that companies -- partnerships or corporations -- can't pick and choose what laws they obey based on the prejudices of their owners. Today, Hobby Lobby doesn't want to pay for birth control coverage. Tomorrow, a Jew or Hindu won't want to cover drugs that contain stearic acid (made from pig or cow fat), or Jehovah's Witness won't want to cover blood transfusions, or a Christian Scientist won't want to cover any medical care.

If Hobby Lobby prevails in the Supreme Court, what's next? Will they come back and argue that they have the right to fire employees who use birth control, because they don't want their money (the wages they pay employees) to be used to violate their religious beliefs? Will they then claim that they can only hire Christians, because they don't want their money to pay for synagogues and mosques?

We already settled these questions of employment law decades ago. The argument over the birth control mandate is just another variation on the same theme of hiring blacks and Jews, with the ultimate goal of overturning those laws and going back to the bad old days when employers could force employees to do anything they wanted.

The Zimmerman Arsenal

Seminole County deputies have found quite the gun collection in George Zimmerman's home: five guns and more than 100 rounds of ammunition. The guns included the high-capacity, high-tech 12-gauge shotgun that he used to threaten his girlfriend, according to her statement. The also found a semi-automatic assault rifle and three handguns.

I wonder what he was preparing for?

Voices In My Head

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Crystal Clear

The release of the report on Adam Lanza inexplicably finds that there is no answer to the question of why he committed mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The media has jumped on board with this line of thought, scratching their heads like the fucking apes they are in wonder at just where things went wrong when it is so completely obvious.

Adam Lanza is a textbook example of what happens when the adolescent power fantasy perpetuated by the Gun Cult and conservatives in general goes very, very dark.

We start with his mother, a "live free or die type" who sought no mental health help for her son. She brought him up in an environment that encouraged anti-government and anti-social behavior, allowing him to stay locked in his room with black garbage bags on the windows and communicated to him only via email. She allowed him access to guns despite the fact that he wrote a book in 5th grade about children being slaughtered and a son shooting his mother in the head. In fact, she was planning on buying him a gun for Christmas last year! Add in the obsession with violent video games and the fact that he was bullied and one can see the perfect cocktail for spree shooting mixed all too well.

There may not have been a criminal motive in the strictest of terms found in this case but it's very clear why it happened. Nancy Lanza was a horrible parent who bought into the myths of the Gun Cult and modern day conservatism. Guns are our God given right and mental health problems should just be ignored and repressed as all that business is just a bunch of liberal, touchy feely nonsense. Young men should be allowed to stomp down the hallway, lock themselves in their room and be rebellious towards all authority!!

It completely astounds me just how fucking stupid Nancy Lanza was in all of this. How many more parents are there like her out there? What kind of a parent doesn't notice the red flag of her son keeping a ledger on all the mass shootings in America? And worshiping Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold? Well, as long as her 2nd amendment rights were protected and our country was saved from the gun grabbers. At least she understood what "infringed" meant!


We Are A Nation Of Laws




Hey, waitamintue! I though he was ramming laws down our throats like Stalin and Hitler! Who the fuck is this guy?!?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Conservative Who Wants to Raise the Minimum Wage

The former publisher of The American Conservative, Ron Unz, is leading an effort to increase the minimum wage in California to $10 in 2015 and then to $12 in 2016. From an article in The New York Times:
Using what he sees as conservative principles to advocate a policy long championed by the left, Mr. Unz argues that significantly raising the minimum wage would help curb government spending on social services, strengthen the economy and make more jobs attractive to American-born workers.

“There are so many very low-wage workers, and we pay for huge social welfare programs for them,” he said in an interview. “This would save something on the order of tens of billions of dollars. Doesn’t it make more sense for employers to pay their workers than the government?”
Stories about employees of companies like McDonalds and Walmart needing foodstamps, Medicaid and food shelf donations to survive have become commonplace.

Unz isn't some namby-pamby RINO. He led the effort to banish bilingual education in California and ran to the right of Gov. Pete Wilson during his challenge for the gubernatorial nomination in 1994.

If your business model requires that you pay your employees so little that they either starve or go on foodstamps, then your company is on the government dole.

Other companies manage to pay the people who do the actual work a living wage. They're still profitable. They just have a slightly smaller margin than the heirs to the Walton family fortune feel is their God-given due.

Yep


Don't Isolate It

MinnPost had a great piece recently on the achievement gap which pointed out the obvious problem in tackling it-don't isolate it.

Before I am accused of opposition to solving the achievement gap or opposing all forms of educational reform, let me say that I am only pointing out that to solve the achievement gap we need to admit that it is part of a larger struggle against racism that dramatically impacts our educational systems, our employment picture, our health care system, and our public safety institutions.

The latter is particularly true. Black people are more likely to be convicted of a crime and our prisons have an insanely high rate of blacks residing in them.

If we are going to tackle this problem efficiently, we can't just look at the achievement gap as an education problem. It's a societal problem which means the path to a solution is how we handle the interlocking complexities of prejudice and racism.

Government Investment Pays Off

Cracking open my Sunday newspaper yesterday, the front page brought me this story about the benefits of government investment. The city government basically paid people to live in Osakis and guess what happened? The town is thriving. Government investment works and our economy would be in much better shape if we took the model of these small town in Minnesota and employed it on a larger scale.

Oh, wait. We can't. Hitler and Stalin...I forgot!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Deal

The United States has negotiated a treaty with Iran regarding its nuclear program. These are elements of the deal reached Sunday between Iran on one side and Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany on the other, according to a fact sheet issued by the White House. The initial agreement will be valid for six months.

URANIUM ENRICHMENT.  Iran is allowed to continue enriching uranium to a level of 5 per cent, but will stop enriching at higher levels. Uranium enriched to higher levels will be diluted in order to prevent its use in nuclear weapons. Stocks of lower-enriched uranium will be immediately converted into material that makes it more difficult to turn into weapons material. Enrichment plants will not be expanded, and no new plants will be built.

ARAK REACTOR.  Construction will stop at the Arak reactor, which is of concern because it would produce plutonium as a side product. Work on making fuel for the reactor will stop Iran will not build a reprocessing facility, so that no plutonium can be separated from the reactor's spent fuel and can thus not be used for a nuclear warhead.

INSPECTIONS.  Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency will get access to additional sites in order to monitor implementation of the agreement. Iran will grant daily access to its uranium-enrichment sites.

SANCTIONS.  The six powers will not impose new sanctions. Embargoes will be suspended for the sectors of precious metals, car production, petrochemical exports. The group of six will also allow purchases of Iranian oil at low levels. Tuition fees by Iranian students abroad will be unfrozen. The six nations will improve Iran's access to imports of food and medicines.

Based on these terms, it's pretty clear how desperate the Iranians were to rejoin the world economy. From a financial standpoint, they are really in a bad way and had no choice. As I have said many times, the most powerful weapons the world has are democracies and free markets. There's just too much money to be made.

Obviously, this would have not happened if Iran had not just elected a new leader,President Hassan Rouhani. And, while this isn't cause to run out and declare warming trend between our two countries, it is an important first step towards normalization. Kudos to John Kerry and his team for getting the job done on this one!

Math Doesn't Lie

The main goal of the Affordable Care Act was to reduce the growth of health care costs and guess what? It's doing just that.

Take a look at the chart below.





















According to the report, the overall inflation rate for medical goods and services is at historic lows. The link above also has some very interesting information about readmission rates.

The conclusion?

The majority of experts now believe Obamacare is at least partly responsible for the slowdown. They think it is encouraging permanent, structural changes in medical care—the kind that will generate more and more savings over time. The slowdown's effects are largely invisible. They take the form of premium and tax increases that people will never have to pay. But the effects seem very real—and, if so, they constitute a bona fide policy success, the kind that even many experts once doubted was possible. It may not show up in the polls. But it will show up in people's wallets. 

And this would be exactly why Democrats should take Reince Priebus's advice and stamp Obamacare right to their forehead. 

Good Words

But this word of the Lord came to me: 'You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. (1 Chronicles 22:8)

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matt. 5:38-39)

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Matt. 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-28)

Put your sword back in its place...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matt. 26:52) 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt. 5:9)

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the other churches. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

No Doubt!

What Is The Second Amendment Coming To When North Dakota Nazi Guy Can’t Even Terrorize His Neighbors With Guns?

I, for one, am outraged. What part of infringed don't they understand?!!?

Growing Up

Dennis Prager's recent piece over at RealClearPolitics.com is a perfect example of the total lack of reflection by conservatives. Filled with the usual straw men, ad hominem and misleading vividness fallacies, Prager is stumped!

Virtually every institution outside the home has been captured by people with left-wing values: specifically the media (television and movies) and the schools (first the universities and now high schools). In the 1960s and 1970s, American parents were blindsided. Their children came home from college with values that thoroughly opposed those of their parents.

And then they come home, often after only year at college, a different person, values-wise, from the one the naive parent so proudly said goodbye. 

Naive, yes, but not in the way he thinks. I wonder if Mr. Prager and the conservative parents he has elected himself champion of every consider that they might be...oh, I don't know....WRONG?!? Nah, that can't be it. All that fancy book learning at schools is all lies and liberal deceit! How dare they actually veer off script and speak the truth backed up facts.

Maybe something should be done about those teachers...hmm...I'm sure we can look to history for some ideas:)

45 Times

Take a look at the image below.























For those of you who understand math, it's pretty obvious just how bad GOP obstruction has been under President Obama. 45 filibusters? Really? What a bunch of babies...

That's why Democrats don't really care about the hysteria over the so called nuclear option. The American people can clearly see where the problem lies. Besides, it's not like the Republicans are going to win the White House or the Senate with far right candidates who are going to nominate psychos. If a Republican ever does win the White House again, it will be a moderate and the Democrats, as this chart shows us, will act as they always do...like adults.

Friday, November 22, 2013

No Camelot Without Avalon

I was six years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. My only personal memories of it are being disappointed that Saturday morning cartoons were preempted, and the interminable dismal gray funeral procession broadcast on black-and-white TV.

My appreciation for Kennedy grew when I learned that he was the one who launched the Apollo program to put men on the moon: I was extremely interested in the space program as a child. It was ironic that the man Kennedy beat in the 1960 election, Richard Nixon, was the president who spoke to the Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon, and the president whose signature is on the plaque on the lunar module's descent stage, which now stands on the Sea of Tranquility, and should still be there in a million years.

It's hard not to compare the legacies of those two men: Kennedy was cut down in his prime after averting nuclear apocalypse, a president who aimed for the stars, transformed civil rights from a legal issue to a moral one, and implored us to ask what we can do for our country. Nixon won election in 1968 by promising to extract us from the war in Vietnam, but instead escalated it. He committed crimes and coverups in a reelection campaign he was already winning handily, disgracing himself and wounding the country all over again, almost as badly as Oswald did in 1963.

I have never been one to idolize political leaders, or sports figures, or scientists, or writers, or religious figures. I owe that to Richard Nixon, who resigned when I was 16. The Watergate scandal showed unambiguously that the president of the United States was just an ordinary man: as mean-spirited, bigoted, selfish and profane as any stevedore. Yet even Nixon accomplished some great things -- the EPA, d├ętente with the USSR, and normalizing relations with China.

And so I've never been able to idolize Kennedy. In the years since his death we've found out that he was a womanizer, had terrible physical ailments, and relied on a battery of drugs to get through pain, disease and depression. He weathered political scandals, such as the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, that motivated his political enemies to distribute a "Wanted for Treason" poster in Dallas just before the assassination. Some even say the moonshot was just a political ploy, a sop for LBJ's Texas.

Yet there's no doubt that the image of the Kennedy family in the White House had a profound effect on the American psyche: after centuries of geezers we had a handsome young president with a pretty wife and cute kids. The country seemed new and fresh and full of hope again. We were a vigorous young nation fighting a world full of crusty, fat old commies. And then it was all smashed in a horrible way, and the country's heart broke.

It was only after Kennedy's death that the "Camelot" comparison was drawn. In an interview for Life magazine, Jackie Kennedy said, “There will be great presidents again, but there will never be another Camelot.”

That article solidified the nostalgic notion in the public mind that the Kennedy administration was a special, magical time. But the very idea that there are great kings and great presidents is the source of many of our problems.

Because there is no magic. There are no great men. There are only flawed men who accomplish great things. And only with the help of countless others. When we idolize and fawn over those who inspire us -- politicians, rock stars, actors -- it gives them delusions of grandeur, allowing them to excuse their pecadilloes and setting them up for an even greater fall.

If Kennedy had not been borne to Avalon he wouldn't be viewed with the same reverence he is today. His problems would have eventually caught up with him, and the most important accomplishment of his administration -- the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- might not have even passed without Johnson using the hammer of the assassination to convince enough Southern Democrats to vote for it.

If you think that sounds cynical and hopeless, you miss the point. The marvelous thing about humanity is that we can still accomplish great things, despite our flaws.

If we actually needed perfection and great men, then our situation would be truly hopeless.

Thoughts On JFK


John Fitzgerald Kennedy was my favorite president. That doesn't mean he was the best president (that honor falls to Abraham Lincoln) but he appealed to me more than all the others. He appealed to many people and that's likely why he was killed fifty years ago today.

The concept of the New Frontier still resonates today. We are a nation that moves forward and categorically refuses to be sedimentary. That's what President Kennedy represented when he took office in 1961. He made mistakes during his 1,000 days but his vision led to improvements in civil rights, stronger economic growth and landed a man on the moon. Any notion of foreign policy naivete was wiped away during thirteen days in October of 1962. In so many ways, he exhibited the core of the word leader.

I realize that a lot of this is rooted in romanticism. Yet our country changed 50 years ago today and it took a darker path. Had President Kennedy lived, our history would have been brighter. It's just that simple. Vietnam would have been completely different. We may have even not been involved at all which means millions would be alive today. The turbulence of the 1960s would have played out much differently with a more capable leader like JFK. Lyndon Johnson was the worst president this nation has ever seen (largely because of Vietnam) and Richard Nixon was mentally unbalanced as well as a criminal. Eight years of JFK would not have been perfect, obviously, but far brighter than the black veil cast over our country from the end of 1963 to 1970.

It doesn't really matter who killed President Kennedy although the answer is quite obvious. He represented a clear threat to those who had much to gain from war and unrest (the mob, the military-industrial complex, Texas elites) and he had to be taken out. The simple facts of that day in Dallas a half a century ago illustrate that there was more than one shooter in Dealey Plaza. From a pure ballistics and evidence point of view, this is apparent to anyone familiar with violent crime scenes but, again, it doesn't really matter. We lost a chunk of history that could have been remembered as our golden years, shining brightly like Camelot of old.

Through all the din of today's anniversary, let's not forget our dying king...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Yep


Harry Goes Nuclear!

Well, ol' Harry went and done did it. With the exception of Supreme Court nominees, executive and judicial nominees need a simple majority in the Senate to be confirmed. Considering the adolescent behavior of Republicans, I'd say Harry actually waited longer than I thought he would. If the Democrats were ever in the minority (and they won't be as long as the GOP runs farther and farther right), I'd say the same thing. In fact, I think the Democrats will be better off for this as they actually want to govern as opposed to taking their ball and going home. Elections have consequences and acting like a baby and throwing a tantrum because you don't like the president, desperately want him to fail, and feel that he doesn't deserve the job doesn't mean you get to grind the government down to non function.

Your petty games in this area (and soon others) are now over.

No More Politico Feed

On the right side of the site you will notice that I have taken down the Politico Feed and replaced it with RealClear Politics for the time being. Politico has become more and more tabloid-y lately and thus more loathsome. I don't really care about the Cheney family feud, for example. They also seem to be the leaders in OCH (ObamaCare Hyperventilating) so BUH BYE!

Want To See Where Our Tax Dollars Go?

Check this fantastic site with amazing graphics. You can go to full screen and then examine each slide for details. Granted, the information is a few years old in terms of dollar amounts but how the money is spent and where is generally the same.

So, my question for you folks who proselytize on spending...where would make the cuts?

New Form of Life Discovered on Space Probe!

When probes are sent into space they are carefully sterilized in "clean rooms" to avoid contaminating other planets. Scientists have discovered a new form of bacteria in two different clean rooms, one at NASA's Kennedy Space Center and one at the European Space Agency's launch site in South America.

The weird thing is that this bug has only been found in clean rooms: it was the only thing left alive after the chambers were swabbed with alcohol and hydrogen peroxide and heated to temperatures high enough to kill any living thing. The bacteria is called Tersicoccus Phoenicis, from tersi, the Latin word for clean and Phoenix, the name of the first space probe the bug was found on. It's so different from other organisms that it's a new genus, not just a new species.

The PROTECT experiment conducted on the International Space Station found that other bacterial spores mounted on the outside of the station for a year and half survived exposure to vacuum, temperature extremes and UV and cosmic radiation. Previous claims of streptococcus mitis found by the Apollo 12 astronauts on the Surveyor 3 probe after three years on the moon are in doubt because the camera the bacteria were found on was stored in a nonsterile bag.

This news comes at the same time as the results of a 25-year-long experiment involving bacterial evolution. After 50,000 generations, Dr. Richard Lenski of Michigan State University found that the E. coli never stopped evolving. His hypothesis was that they would hit some peak level of fitness and never advance. But that hasn't happened: over the years they have increased their reproductive efficiency. The original population doubled in population in an hour. After 50,000 generations they double in 40 minutes. The scientists calculate that in a million years they would reduce that time to 20 minutes (because of the limited environment they're unlikely to evolve in any spectacular fashion).

This means that it is quite possible that we will one day find life on Mars, because -- despite our best efforts -- it arrived on one of our probes. But it also means that bacteria could survive the rigors of space, and be transmitted to other worlds without human intervention. Material thrown into space by large meteor strikes could land on other planets, and the bacteria could potentially survive, and just keep on evolving to prosper in their new environment.

This also means that life could have originally come to earth from another planet, or even another solar system. This theory, known as panspermia, has been the basis of many science fiction stories, from The Body Snatchers, to The Andromeda Strain, to Star Trek: The Next Generation to Prometheus.

We don't know exactly how life got started. But once it gets going, it is incredibly stubborn, always evolving and always surviving no matter what the universe throws at it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Good Words

The most common fallacy of journalism, and one of the most common fallacies of the human brain in general, is the assumption that whatever is happening at the moment will continue to happen forever. That has been the implicit assumption of the hyperventilating coverage of the miserable Obamacare rollout. (Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine Online).

A great companion piece to the Begala post from ealier today and one which has inspired a new tag-"Hyperventilating Media."

Of course, this is more than just a fallacy of journalism as Chait aptly notes. It is indeed a fallacy of the human brain that plays perfectly into the adolescent taunting of the Right. Fallacy is their bedrock after all so Democrats need to remember this and simply be patient. Long term, nearly all of the items on the Democratic wish list will end up as the law of the land as reality will dictate necessity.

And it will be with the help of Republicans!

Who's the Boss?

Last week a study published by Gallup found that 35% of Americans preferred a male boss, 23% preferred a female boss, and 41% had no preference. Articles -- and the authors of the study itself -- have been touting this as "more Americans would rather work for a male boss."

Which is inaccurate: more Americans have no preference. The study found that 51% of men had no preference (vs. 29% male boss), and 40% of women preferred a male boss (vs. 32% no preference). Democrats were evenly split male 33%/female 33%/no preference 34%, while Republicans are split male 40%/female 16%/no preference 42% (reinforcing the Republican War on Women motif). Finally, people who currently have a female boss were almost twice as likely to prefer a female boss (32%) than someone who has a male boss (17%).

I'm one of the majority of men who have no preference. I worked in software for many years, and only had one female boss, and she was more of a lateral supervisor, the programmer among us who "manned up" and took responsibility for herding the cats (most technical people are more interested in doing the actual work than moving up the corporate chain -- you get paid enough not to need promotions to make enough money). In software, however, you have a lot groups working together on larger projects. Many of the bosses of the other groups I worked with were women. So, though I didn't have many women bosses, I worked with enough to have no preference.

My wife, who worked in integrated circuit design and manufacture, started out as an engineer and moved into management after several years. She never had a female boss, but she was one of the very few in the companies she worked for. My wife's most salient observation about corporate management is how utterly dishonest the men at the top are (they were all men). Only "team players" (those who lie, cheat and tell management what they want to hear) get ahead.

Now, I'm always skeptical about surveys, but this survey has been showing slowly evolving results for 50 years so I have no real reason to distrust it. Starting in the early '90s "no preference" took over from "male boss:"



The question is why anyone would prefer one gender over another. I can think of several: 
  • People who think women shouldn't be in the workplace at all, and should be at home tending the children.
  • People who generally perceive women as incompetent or emotionally unfit for the job (a conservative woman friend once insisted that a woman cannot be president).
  • People who think women aren't "tough enough."
  • People who think that a man/woman should be boss in order to give the right impression to outsiders.
  • People who want to be told what to do may feel more comfortable with a more dictatorial management style, which is socially more acceptable for men to adopt ("bossy" women always get put down).
  • People who have had a personality conflict with a female/male boss in the past.
  • People who believe that a female/male boss won't be fair with them or won't understand them. 
  • People who believe they can more easily manipulate a man or woman to get what they want.
  • People who feel they would be in some kind of competition with a boss of a certain gender.
  • People who are afraid of a romantic or sexual situation developing with a boss of a certain gender.
  • People who believe that women should have greater responsibility in business, and want a female boss to promote equality.
  • People with jobs that specifically cater to or consist of one gender or another and believe that a man/woman would not be able to properly perform. For example, the manager of a women's wear department, or the boss of an all-male construction crew.
Some of these are reasonable concerns, some are downright sexist, and some are social engineering. But some sexist reasons were true at one time: before women had engineering degrees they would make terrible engineering managers. Even the social engineering is becoming necessary: women are becoming the primary breadwinners in many families, and their children (and husbands!) need them to become bosses to make more money.

But times change. Women are getting college degrees at a faster clip than men, and women are coming back from job losses after the last recession faster than men.

It's also true that different jobs need different kinds of bosses because you have different kinds of employees and different work environments. In technical fields you have a lot of hard-working, self-motivated, highly-educated people. In minimum-wage retail jobs you have a lot of discouraged, uneducated or unmotivated employees. In high-pressure sales departments you have a bunch of hard-driving cut-throat salesmen. In construction you have a lot of rambunctious, often hard-drinking and physical rowdies.

So it may be the case that, at this point in time, women are better suited to be bosses in some industries than others. Women often have better social skills than men, and may better as bosses who need good facilitation and listening skills. Men are often more monomaniacal than women, and may be better bosses in professions that require extremely focused management styles. In occupations where an intimidating physical presence is helpful, burly male bosses have an advantage. We shouldn't have workplaces like that, but reality is sometimes uncooperative.

The question has always been whether sex-based tendencies are are simply a matter of upbringing and social indoctrination, or a genetic and physical difference between the sexes. But it's obvious now that both men and women can have any of the skills and personality traits required of a boss: the only question is how people to react to them.

In the end, what matters is whether you can do the job: every person should be judged on their own merits, not other people's prejudices.

Mailbag!

I've had a few emails lately that need sharing First up is Jeff from Pennsylvania...

Hey Mark, more science pieces, please! The United States is on the cutting edge of scientific research in the world and I think you should showcase some of the latest inventions.

You are absolutely right, Jeff. I will endeavor to do so.

Marie from Utah...

How about some more posts about women's issues? You used to write about more of them back when you blog first started.

Did I? I guess it's hard for me to write on some of those subjects because I'm not a woman but I do see the need to touch on those topics more often. Most of my friends are women and they do say that I am all dude with the heart and soul of a woman!

Owen from Minnesota (hey, that's my hometown!),

My biggest complaint about your site is that you talk too much about politics. I have your blog on my RSS and I don't even bother if it's a political post. A big part of the reason for that are the comments. You should really moderate them and lay down some rules. The people that post here all the time are personally very insulting to you. That would not be allowed on a respectable site.

Well, this isn't a respectable site so if you have a problem with it, don't read it. As I have said many times, their comments serve a purpose, the core of which is a fantastic illustration of what conservatives are all about these days. By letting them say whatever they want, it's much easier to win elections:) Speaking of my commenters...

Suzie from Oregon...

Hey Mark, do you really use people's real names and states? Not My Name has a point about privacy. Don't use my real name if you post this. Just call me Suzie from Oregon.

I think you answered your own question, Suzie. And half the time I can't really tell what someone's name is from their email so I make one up and add the state based on my site tracking stats.

That's all for Mailbag this time, folks. Drop me a line in the form to the right of this post if you want to have your voice heard in a way other than comments.

Dudes, Paul Says Take A Chill Pill

Paul Begala's recent piece on the Affordable Care Act woes is very sound advice. He also takes a certain group of people to the mat who are very deserving.

Yet despite the bed-wetting from Beltway Chicken Littles, the President's problems are eminently fixable. The Affordable Care Act isn't collapsing. The Obama presidency isn't imploding. And the ninnies making those sweeping and stupid predictions will one day look like the Washington pundit who boldly declared of the Clinton presidency, "This week we can talk about 'Is the presidency over?' " He asked that question 11 days after Bill Clinton's inaugural. His first inaugural. Clinton's presidency was not over for another 2,911 days.

And look where President Clinton is now...hallowed in the ranks with Reagan, Lincoln and Roosevelt.

So, take a chill pill, folks and feel free to "stamp Obamacare to your forehead" as Reince Priebus suggests. In the long run, it's going to work out quite well. The party that tried to fix health care and ran into some snags will be viewed more favorably than the party that had nothing and against everything.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

CBS and Benghazi

I've gotten more than a few emails wondering what I thought about the CBS News-Benghazi hullabaloo so I guess I better comment about it. My reluctance stems from a now core belief not to feed the insanity inside the right wing bubble. Give them a shining example of how lying about Benghazi is rampant and they will...continue to lie about Benghazi. Why? Because they are adolescents.

Besides, I think Bill Maher did a much better job of summing it all up than I ever could.

“He told a story about Benghazi and the night the s—- went down that was very damning to Obama. And of course, Fox News and the National Review and all the right-wing outlets said, ‘Hey! You gotta watch this!’” Maher said. Maher read a tweet from the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg that said the segment “corroborates” with Fox News’s reporting. “It sure does, ‘cause it turned out to be total bulls—-!” Maher said Maher then asked why there haven’t been retractions from the conservative media who promoted the interview, after it turned out to be a false account.

It will never cease to amaze me how people get sucked into this crap purely based on their emotions and pathological hatred of the president and anyone to the left of the 1 yard line on the right side of the field.

Hitchin' Your Wagon To Georgie's Star

Well, it looks like George Zimmerman has been arrested again and charged with aggravated felony assault. He lost his temper at his girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, and pointed a shotgun at her. This comes as no surprise to those of us who live outside of the bubble of douche and will likely not move anyone who lives inside of it. Heck, she probably deserved it! Let's please make sure that Georgie gets to carry as many guns as he wants because he clearly is being responsible with them!!

I do hope, though, that at least a few folks might reflect and realize that hitchin' their wagon to his star wasn't the best idea. In fact, the whole incident demonstrates that all one really has to do with these sorts of incidents, issues and debates is be patient. Eventually, the "win" of the moment will be revealed for the paper fortress that it is.

Body Organs and the Free Market

Monday, November 18, 2013

Obama's Poll Numbers

Most of the major polling places show the president dropping in the polls to the low 40s. Understandable, considering that he is responsible for the fumbled roll out of the Affordable Care Act web site and registration. So why does Rasmussen, a conservative polling operation, show him dropping only a few points and staying in the mid 40s?

My thought is that Americans aren't as upset with the president as the political media is making it out to be. We haven't heard any stories about the people finding better policies, only stories that are negative. Of course, that is what is popular right now:)

Couple Making Out At Bus Stop Like It's Fucking Paris



Missing Guns

One of the main reasons why there is so much gun violence in this country is that people are simply irresponsible with guns. The gun community can't seem to get their head around this fact. This recent piece illustrates just how bad it is.

In October GOP congresswoman Renee Ellmers reported that her gun had gone missing from her Kansas home. Ellmers, who left her AR-15 leaning against a locker in her unlocked garage, is an avid gun rights supporter. She claims that gun owners, like herself, are totally responsible and don’t need the government interfering in their business. As it turns out, however, Ellmers, like too many other gun owners, isn’t as responsible as she claims. Hopefully, her missing gun will not be used to murder someone. But even if it does, surely we can’t blame her? She’s a “responsible” gun owner, after all. 

After Missouri House staffer, Dave Evans, left his loaded gun in the men’s restroom of the State Capital Building on September 23, 2013, the incident drew a brief flurry of national media attention. It also drew the typical right-wing responses about all the “responsible gun owners” in the world. Except, you know, when they leave the gun in the bathroom…

The whole article is filled with incidents like this. My personal favorite is the one about the criminal who scolded the "responsible" gun owner. The saddest ones were stories like this.

Let's set aside the paranoia and pathological hatred of the federal government and leave the religion about the 2nd amendment behind forever. The current laws regarding firearms are not working because people are simply not responsible enough to live up to them.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Deeply Rooted In Nonviolence

I'm not much of a Wikipedia guy but their entry on Christian pacifism is excellent. We sadly forget how our Savior was deeply rooted in nonviolence...

Only One Verse

The Bible only has one verse that directly comments on the value of a fetus. Here it is.

And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no [further] injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any [further] injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:22-25)

So, a fetus is essentially worth a fine determined by a judge. Note that if the woman dies, then it is "life for a life" so there is a definite distinction the life of an adult and the life of child, or in this case, a fetus. The historical context of this makes perfect sense as children were generally thought of as "less than" during this time period. It really wasn't until the Industrial Revolution that cultural attitudes shifted to the concept of the "Precious Child."

This would be an excellent example of how a teaching in the Bible no longer applies to today. Many believe that a fetus is life and I would agree once the child reaches a certain stage of development (the heart is formed and the brain divides into five vesicles). I have no issue with abortion up until this point but after that, I do. The federal ban on third term abortions should extended to the second term. This is where the pro choice crowd should compromise.

Where the pro life crowd should compromise is on freeing up money for sex education and pummeling women in their 20s (the ones most likely to get an abortion) with information and incentives to not have an unwanted pregnancy. The goal should be to reduce the demand for abortion, not attack the supply except in the case of 2nd term abortions. An outright ban on all abortions would create numerous problems such as a criminal enterprise, higher costs for social programs and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of unwanted children...which we have far too many of already.

Getting around the conundrum of people behaving irresponsibly is tough. This is the bane of the gun community as every day they look like assholes because far too many Americans can't be trusted with guns. Clearly, they can't be trusted with sex either. So, how do we change that?

Obviously, I don't have all the answers.

Right For That Generation

Last Thursday I met an old friend round the pub to catch up. I hadn't seen him in far too many years and have known him since I was six years old. It was fun to spend an evening with someone who lived nearly all of your life in a parallel fashion. The common experiences of living in the same neighborhood and going to the same schools for K-12 really warmed my heart and made me feel very connected to my wonderful memories of my childhood.

We talked about a great many subjects, politics, sex and religion among them. When he was younger, he was pretty hardcore Democrat but has since become more Republican and conservative. I guess that's what a few years at Bethel College will do for you! But he's still got a ton of common sense as he spent much of the night laying into the far right, the Tea Party, and, yes, even Christian conservatives. He would likely be labeled a RINO by today's incarnation of the Right and banished for lack of purity.

The statement that really drove this point home and one that completely blew me away came from our discussion about the Bible. I gave him my usual line about the Bible being wrong about some things to which he replied, "Mark, the Bible isn't wrong. It's just that some of it was right for that generation."

Wow.

And no shit.

He cited the rules on pork, for example, as being simple common sense because they didn't have a way to keep it fresh. Those rules applied for that time. The same was true, he felt, for homosexuality and I've talked about this previously. Back at the time the Bible was written, sex was much different than it is now. People were far cruder and roman orgies were rampant. Young boys were abused and people had much less control over themselves sexually than we do today. In short, there were no Neils and Steves who have been life partners for 20 years and have adopted children from Central America.

There are many universal truths in the Bible that span generation to generation. Loving thy neighbor, the Ten Commandments, serving the poor, helping the sick, not judging others, and being as peaceful and loving a person as you can be. Then there are the beliefs that were only true for that time...the ceremonial laws about food, appearance, and dress...the subjugation of women...sexual mores...attitudes about slavery...anyone with a brain realizes that those things applied to that time but not ours.

Of course, these days I think that those without a brain should just go right on thinking that those laws still apply to today. I used to think they should just let go of those beliefs but I realize now that I am older and wiser that people like that need those the threat of hellfire to keep them from raping a young boy on crystal meth in a hotel room. Their loss of control translates into a clear and present danger to our culture and are quite clearly beyond all help.

After all, we are a culture that helps the disabled, right?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How Gay!

Warped Kubrick

I don't know what to think about this story that I recently discovered in my "To Post, Misc" file. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is one long metaphor for the slaughter of Native Americans? Or it's a confession that Kubrick helped fake the moon landing? Completely silly and completely fascinating at the same time! Here is the first 12 minutes...

Dear Mr. Watterson

In this day and age, every article of clothing is prominently emblazoned with the manufacturer's logo, successful comic books and novels are optioned for Hollywood movies, and fictional characters are turned into action figures, plush dolls, Halloween costumes, etc. Isn't it suspicious that Ewoks look like highly-merchandisable teddy bears? Religious holidays like Christmas and Easter have turned into orgies of consumption. Everything in our culture is commercialized and monetized to the maximum extent possible, until its currency is so debased that it becomes a cliche.

Take, for example, the Garfield comic strip: it was in a lot of papers, but there was really nothing to it. Yet they have sold millions of stuffed Garfields, and they even made a movie out of a lousy three-panel comic strip that was about about a cat that eats lasagna. Strips like Bloom County and Dilbert were higher quality and were frequently about something, but they also went the merchandising route, cashing in on plush Opuses and Dogberts. The Simpsons is a merchandising monolith.

In such a world it's hard to imagine someone who would turn down all that cold hard cash to maintain artistic integrity. Yet there is such a man. He and his creation are the topic of a documentary called Dear Mr. Watterson. The director was recently interviewed on NPR.

The comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, written and drawn by Bill Watterson, was a classic. It's about Calvin, a boy who thinks his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, is real. Calvin is constantly ambushed by Hobbes, and Calvin talks about this imaginary playmate as if he's a real tiger. His friends think he's nuts, but he has amazing adventures with dinosaurs and spaceships and film noir detectives, even though the world around him is disappointingly mundane.

People still love Calvin and Hobbes: it was smart, funny, philosophical, touching, poignant and sometimes mean and crude. It ran for 10 years, and when Watterson had said everything he wanted to say, he stopped writing the strip. That was almost 20 years ago. In a world where pointless comics like Mark Trail and Rex Morgan, M.D., soldier on for decades, penned by faceless corporate shills, Watterson voluntarily ended one of the best comic strips ever written.

Bill Watterson never sold out, even though the strip has the most obvious merchandising gimmick you can imagine. One of the titular characters is a stuffed animal. But you can't get an officially licensed Hobbes stuffed tiger.

It's not like Watterson is a pauper and needs to sell out: Calvin and Hobbes was tremendously successful during its run, and book-length collections of the strips are still doing a brisk business. The strip is syndicated in reruns and you can see it on the web. So Watterson has no financial need to sell out: he's got a steady income and has maintained the artistic integrity of his creation.

But that doesn't stop the vast majority of successful artists and writers from cashing in. Most, given the opportunity, decide to merchandise their creations even though they're already doing quite well.

Now, I'm not saying that selling out is always a bad thing. But most Americans seem to take it as an article of faith that more is better, as so eloquently stated in the immortal words of The Tick, spoken to his disciples in the Mystic Order of Arachnid Vigilance (from The Tick #9, "Road Trip", 1991):
Always ... always remember: Less is less. More is more. More is better, and twice as much is good too... Not enough is bad, and too much is never enough except when it's just about right.
This attitude, which almost caused the collapse of our entire economic system in 2008, was presaged in the pages of The Tick. To finance their organization the M.O.A.V. planned to "buy real estate for no-money down and sell it at huge profits!" The author was a seer!
  
The Tick is a satirical superhero comic created by Ben Edlund, who has "sold out" several times with licensed merchandise and animated and live-action television versions of The Tick. He's also done a lot of work in Hollywood (well, mostly Canada) on shows such as Firefly, Angel, Supernatural and Revolution.

So, yeah, he's a sellout. But if Edlund had never sold out I wouldn't have found the original black and white Tick comics. The shows he's worked on, and the specific episodes and characters he's created are self-aware, self-critical and self-deprecating. They never take themselves too seriously.

It warms my heart that Bill Watterson can keep the memory of Calvin and Hobbes pristine (at least until his money-grubbing heirs get their mitts on it). But I also like that Edlund went on to do a lot of new and entertaining work that was made possible by him selling out.

The most important thing is these men got to choose: they had control over their creations and could choose whether to license them. This is unlike many artists and writers who've been shafted by giant corporations, like Siegel and Shuster of Superman fame.

If there's anything that should be changed in our intellectual property laws it's the idea that the creator of a work of art can sign away the rights to their creations. It should be illegal, like selling your own children.

To decide whether something is a sell-out or not, you have to ask whether the merchandising is a betrayal of the original artistic concept. Star Wars action figures? Not a sellout. Superman Halloween costume? Not a sellout. Tick live-action TV series? A lousy failure, but not a sellout.

But the core of Calvin and Hobbes is that Calvin's antics and the living, breathing Hobbes are products of his vivid imagination. Calvin can take any mundane object and through the power of his mind transform it into a grand adventure.

A licensed Hobbes stuffed tiger that replaces a child's imagination with a product manufactured by people whose childhood dreams ended in a sweatshop making slave wages? Definitely a sellout.

State's Highest Paid Employee?


A Little Low?

12 Million Americans Believe Lizard People Run Our Country.

That number is actually lower than I expected!

Hilarious!

I don't know why but I've been on a real photo kick lately. It truly is a medium that has exploded thanks to social media. But it also has an eye to the past and that's why I completely adored this site. What a fantastic idea! Check it out!

Best. Photo. Ever.


Friday, November 15, 2013

He's Right

Michael Tomasky is absolutely right when the says that the Democrats need to to stop freaking out and take charge. They tend to get sucked in to the news cycle panic of the moment and forget about the the long term picture. In the final analysis, this is where we are at.

The current situation is serious. But I remember a lot of other times when it was supposedly curtains for Obama, too, because inside the Beltway, the more disciplined Republicans, who after all are in the luxurious position of just sitting back and firing away, have an easier time winning news cycles. But out beyond the Beltway, the party that shut down the government for three weeks and killed immigration reform and wants to decimate food stamps and can’t even pass its own spending bills doesn’t look very appealing to most people. The fate of Obamacare can be changed. The DNA of the GOP cannot.


How To Admit Fault

I challenge any conservative to show me a Republican that is this reflective and honest.

 

The Barack Obama they hate simply doesn't exist.

The Magic Bullet Was Ordinary After All

With the anniversary of the Kennedy assassination coming up, NOVA ran an episode called "Cold Case JFK" that may interest conspiracy theorists.

Using the slim evidence left over from the botched investigations in 1963 and experiments with a rifle identical to the one Lee Harvey Oswald bought mail order, ballistics experts Luke and Mike Haag and other forensics experts put together a pretty convincing case that Oswald fired all three shots: The first one missed. The second one hit Kennedy in the back, exited at the neck, passed through Governor John Connally, passed through his wrist and then lodged in his leg. The third bullet hit Kennedy in the back of the head, causing a small entry wound and a large explosion of brain and blood at the exit point in the forehead.




Carcano 6.5 mm cartridge



30.06 cartridge
Rear View of Magic Bullet
The bullet in question was a 6.5x52mm Carcano cartridge, similar to the one shown on the right. A 6.5 mm Carcano model 91/38 carbine was found in the Texas Schoolbook Depository with Oswald's handprint on it. The key thing about this bullet is the long, cylindrical shape of the slug (the part of the cartridge that's fired from the rifle). Most rifle bullets are like the 30.06 slug below on the the right: more conical than cylindrical.

The cylindrical shape of the Carcano slug means that it has more contact with the riflings inside the rifle barrel than a 30.06 slug does, which gives it more spin and therefore makes it fly truer through the air.

However, once it passes through something -- say, a head or ballistics gel -- it begins to "yaw" or tumble. The bullet had started to tumble when it struck Connally, and hit him sideways instead of straight on.

The Haags' experiments in the NOVA program bear all this out.

The Carcano slug was also copper-jacketed, which means it would deform less than a naked lead slug. And the slug that was found on Connally's gurney was deformed -- the rear end was pinched in, just as you would expect if it hit Connally sideways, as shown in the third photo.

The third bullet hit Kennedy in the back of the head and caused a massive shockwave through the skull, causing the forehead to explode. The pattern of cracks in the skull is consistent with a rear entry wound, ruling out a shot from the Grassy Knoll. The backward jerking of Kennedy's body evident in the Zapruder film was due to a spasm that caused all Kennedy's muscles to contract, but since back muscles are stronger than abdominals, his head jerked back.

Other incidentals such as people hearing more than three shots are due to echoes and the supersonic speed of the Carcano slug.


From all this it seems that Oswald really was the lone gunman. Which means Arlen Specter and the Warren Commission actually got something right with the single-bullet theory.

Oswald, an avowed Marxist, apparently tried to assassinate Edwin Walker, a retired general who Oswald called a Fascist (Walker had tried to stop desegregation in Mississippi). So it's plausible that Oswald was a nut and was just moving on to higher things by assassinating Kennedy, with no orders from Cuba or Moscow or Vegas or the Teamsters. Oswald may also have had an accomplice in the Walker assassination attempt, which means... Well, you get the picture.

However, the fact that Oswald shot Kennedy single-handedly doesn't mean there was no conspiracy. Jack Ruby's shocking murder of Oswald on live TV is incomprehensible. Why would a strip club owner with mob connections sacrifice his own life to spare Jackie Kennedy the pain of testifying in the trial of the century?

Unfortunately, forensics and ballistics will never provide the answers for the machinations that led up to Ruby's silencing of Oswald.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hating Pope Frank

I've been laughing my socks right off of my feet as the Right reacts to Pope Francis and his vision that primarily involves Christians actually (gasp!) doing the work of Jesus. You know, feeding the poor...taking care of the sick and less fortunate...as opposed to judging others and being maniacally obsessed with sex. None have been more shocked than Sarah "I'm on a book tour so it's time for me to say dumb shit" Palin.



OMG, Sarah!! Jesus was, in fact, a liberal:)

Welfare Myths

I'm pretty sick and tired of all the myths being spread out there regarding people on welfare. Thankfully, this piece torpedoes nine of them quite well. Here are three that stand out.

Myth: “People on welfare are lazy and sit at home collecting it while the rest of us work to support them.” 

Fact: The welfare reform law that was signed by President Clinton in 1996 largely turned control over welfare benefits to the states, but the federal government provides some of the funding for state welfare programs through a program called Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF). TANF grants to states require that all welfare recipients must find work within two years of first receiving benefits. This includes single parents, who are required to work at least 30 hours per week. Two-parent families are required to work 35 to 50 hours per week. Failure to obtain work could result in loss of benefits. It is also worth noting that, thanks to the pay offerings of companies such as Walmart, many who work at low wage jobs qualify for public assistance, even though they work full-time.

Right. People that get assistance are already working. Their jobs simply don't pay enough. And bitch all you want about federal spending on food stamps but the states are the ones that largely control aid to the poor.

Myth: “There’s a woman in Chicago. She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards. … She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income alone is over $150,000″ – Ronald Reagan

Fact: Ah, the “welfare queen.” Ronny loved to tell his stories, and his welfare queen story is one of the most popular. The only problem is, the woman he talked about didn’t exist. There is some evidence that elements of this story may have been based on facts, but the descriptions of abuse by an actual woman were wildly exaggerated by Reagan.

The Right loves to make shit up (see: lie). This would be a great example.

Myth: “Most welfare recipients are minorities and illegal immigrants.” 

Fact: TANF benefits were paid out to roughly the same percentage of white and black recipients in 2010, according to the HHS report. In fact, the percentage of black families receiving welfare benefits has declined by almost 7 percent since 2000. Regarding illegal immigrants: those who are in the United States illegally are ineligible for benefits other than emergency Medicaid.

Many of those white folks are rural poor in deep red states. If they could only realize that the people they support are essentially lying to them with religion and are actively trying to fuck them, every state would basically be blue.

Welfare falsehoods really piss me off. Spread this post and the included links around and don't let the Right continue their lying.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Finally


Well, Joe McLean has gone and done it. The Daily Beast columnist has put up the perfect description of my three regular commenters (juris imprudent, Guard Duck, Not My Name). Now I think I understand how they are all united even though they have differing views on religion.

Apocalypticism.

They, along with the Tea Party and many other conservatives, think the End Times are nigh. And guess what? It's all the fault of the liberals.

There are so many great lines in this piece I don't know where to start. Let's see if I can limit myself to just three and then urge y'all to go and read the rest.

They believe America teeters on the brink of destruction, and hold as an article of faith that liberals, gays, Democrats, atheists and the United Nations are to blame. This “end-times” world-view is a foundational precept of the evangelical movement, from which many of the so-called Tea Party favorites spring.Of course, the Tea Party is not just composed of members of the Christian right. Many are genuine libertarians. Some nurse an unreconstructed Confederate grudge, while others harbor a thinly disguised racism. However, the real energy, the animating force for the movement comes from evangelicals, of whom Ted Cruz, Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin are the most strident. These are the modern-day ”apocalyptic prophets.”

See, you don't have to be a Christian to believe in the apocalypse. Kevin Baker isn't a Christian. Neither is juris. Yet there is something in their libertarianism that helps them along to end times thinking. McLean does a good job of explaining the history of end times thinking. But how does that fit in to today?

For these apocalyptic prophets, the issues aren’t even political anymore; they’re existential, with Obamacare serving as the avatar for all evil. In this construct, any compromise whatsoever leads to damnation, and therefore the righteous ends justify any means. Now if you are battling the forces of evil for the very survival of the nation, there can be no retreat, no compromise, and no deals. Like the Jewish zealots at Masada, it’s better to commit glorious suicide than make peace with the devil. There can be no truce with the Tea Party because its apocalyptic zealots can never take “yes” for an answer.

Compromise as damnation...yep. McLean also notes what I have been stating previously. The GOP establishment and business wing of the party is fighting back. The coming civil war in the Republican party is going to be bloody. But how will it all end? McLean says either the pragmatists win or the hardliners revolt and leave. Either way, a center right party emerges that will enjoy support.

Not surprisingly, these moderates have both liberal and conservative views. 64% support gay marriage, 63% support abortion in the first trimester, 52% support legalizing marijuana, and they support a strong social safety net by wide margins. But 81% support offshore drilling, 90% support the death penalty and 57% are against affirmative action. So a new moderate coalition might well attract significant support from the moderate middle, establishment Republicans, Independents and centrist Democrats too.

Whatever way you cut it, my three commenters, along with the Tea Party and the right wing blogsphere, aren't going to get what they want. Oh well. At least they'll have plenty to complain about. Hey, maybe we could help them set up their own community with all the rest of the doomsayers. They could walk around all day preaching apocalypse to each other and leave the rest of us sane people out of it.