Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Obama Can't Even Do That Right

We Need a New Word

The English language needs a new word. A word that describes an incident that is tragic and terrible, yet is completely predictable and preventable, the inevitable outcome of carelessness, stupidity, hubris and pride.

This word would be used to describe what happened in Idaho when a 29-year-old mother visited a Wal-Mart in Idaho. Her two-year-old pulled her handgun out of her purse and shot her dead.

We need this new word to replace the phrase "tragic accident" that everyone uses in these cases, to wit:
"It appears to be a pretty tragic accident," [sheriff's spokesman Stu] Miller said.

The victim's father-in-law, Terry Rutledge, told The Associated Press that Veronica Rutledge "was a beautiful, young, loving mother."

"She was not the least bit irresponsible," Terry Rutledge said. "She was taken much too soon."
What sheer nonsense. Of course she was irresponsible. She recklessly left a loaded handgun within the reach of a two-year-old, thinking a zipper would stop a child. She might as well have given the kid a burning kerosene lamp to play with, or a pit viper.

The grieving father-in-law is a victim of the foolish guns-everywhere-all-the-time mindset that results in the pointless deaths and shootings of thousands of Americans every year. To these people it's inconceivable that a two-year-old child would be able to master the intricacies of a zipper and a trigger.

But why does a woman wrangling four children at a Wal-Mart in Idaho think she needs to pack a pistol in her purse? Are there gangs of white supremacists roving the countryside? Do grizzly bears hang out in the Wal-Mart parking lot? It's not like she was going to make a drug deal in Leroy Brown's south side of Chicago.

What imminent threat was she defending herself from in Idaho? Practically speaking, if a mugger did sneak up on her in front of the Wal-Mart, did she seriously think that she could fish the gun out of a zipped compartment of a purse -- while holding a two-year-old, herding three other kiddies and being distracted by their incessant babble -- fast enough to deter him?

A tragedy is an avalanche inundating a sleeping hamlet. A tsunami wiping out an entire island. An earthquake devastating a city. Getting shot by a toddler isn't a tragedy, it's idiocy. If the kid had shot another shopper instead of the mother, by all rights she should have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. There's a sort of rough justice that she -- instead of her child or a completely innocent bystander -- died.

Every year hundreds of Americans get shot by a two-year-old, or a five-year-old with his birthday .22, or a nine-year-old with an Uzi, or a dropped pistol in the men's room, or by a gun jostled in purse, or a gun falling out of a waistband.

These aren't tragic accidents: they are the entirely foreseeable and preventable consequences of people who are not competent to carry or use firearms succumbing to paranoia and fear promulgated by the gun industry. These people have been brainwashed into thinking that their lives are in imminent danger unless they have the ability to shoot anyone they don't like the looks of.

It's terribly sad that this young mother died. It's even sadder is that hundreds more men and women and children will be shot next year in almost exactly the same way, and no one is going to do a damned thing about it.

And that's a real tragedy.

Big Things President Obama Did in 2014

Despite having to deal with the adolescents in Congress, the president accomplished some big things in 2014. Among them...

  • Sweeping changes to immigration enforcement
  • Actual progress on climate change 
  • Remaking the federal courts for a generation 
  • Beginning to transform U.S. relationships with Iran and Cuba 
  • Greater protections for federal contractors

Hmm...must be why his approval ratings are on the rise...actually doing something and solving problems as opposed to stomping your feet and foaming at the mouth about wacky, ideological nonsense seems to be a better path.

Will the new Congress (controlled entirely by the GOP) follow suit?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014


My liberal friends like to complain an awful lot about the "raping of the land" and how government is ineffective in protecting it. Yet this recent piece from CSM states otherwise.

Since 2012, more than half a million square miles of land have come under protection. Now more than 15 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas around the globe are under protection, toward a United Nations target of 17 percent by 2020, according to a recent report by the UN Environment Program. 

I'd say that's pretty impressive. Why are they complaining so much?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014

White People Aren't That Crazy Anymore

I've always loved Chris Rock. I think he is every bit a comedic genius as Jerry Seinfeld or Bob Hope. The intelligence in his wit is a big reason why I think this and a recent interview in New York magazine illustrates this quite clearly.

“Here’s the thing,” Rock said. “When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.” 

“To say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president,” he continued. “That’s not black progress — that’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.”

“You know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children,” Rock said. “There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.”

“We treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through,” Rock said. “Like flared legs and lava lamps – ‘Oh, that crazy thing we did.’ We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down.”

Yep. Pretty much.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pop Quiz: Who Kills More Cops?

Boy, people sure do have short memories.

Remember this past June, when man and a woman entered a Las Vegas pizza joint and gunned down two cops having lunch? The shooters then went into a Walmart, killed another person and then committed suicide.

Remember this past September, when Eric Frein, a white, right-wing, anti-government survivalist, killed one Pennsylvania state trooper and wounded another?

Remember when an anti-tax whack job crashed a plane into an IRS building in his own mini-9/11 and killed a government employee a few years ago?

In 2010 Time reported on the rise of right-wing militias, some of whose members have plotted killings against entire police departments, notably in Michigan, Minnesota and Alaska. In most of these case the plotters were acquitted on the conspiracy charges, apparently because when white guys plan cop killings it's free speech, but when blacks and Muslims do it, it's terrorism.

The Anti-Defamation League has been tracking who's been shooting cops, and it turns out that right-wing nut jobs -- white supremacists and anti-government extremists -- have committed 90% of the ideologically motivated cop killings from 2009-2013.

But when people say that Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing hate machine incite this kind of violence against the police and the government, they look shocked, I tell you shocked, that anyone could possibly think what they've said might have incited anyone to violence, even when they mention "Second Amendment solutions" in the same sentence.

In the conservative mindset, whenever a black man, or a Muslim, or some other member of a minority does something awful, it's automatically a grand conspiracy, and all other members of that minority must be involved and must be responsible.

But when a right-wing conservative does exactly the same thing, it's because he's a kook, an aberration, or mentally ill. And then they start to rationalize it: you can't really hold that person responsible, they say, because of the terrible injustices that the Kenyan socialist communist dictatorship of the Obama administration has forced them to rebel against. They're just patriots watering the tree of freedom with the blood of their oppressors.

There's no excuse for the killing of two cops in New York by a black man. There's no excuse for the killing of two cops in Las Vegas by a white man and woman. There's no excuse for the killing of Eric Garner by cops in New York.

These acts were committed by the people who did the killing. Not the demonstrators. Not Fox News.

In 2012 Wade Michael Page killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. He had mistaken them for Muslims because they wore turbans. Giuliani, Limbaugh and Fox News have been on a tirade against Muslims for years.

By Fox News logic, if black protestors are responsible for the deaths of the cops in New York, then Fox News and their conservative anti-Muslim ranters are responsible for the deaths of the Sikhs in Wisconsin.

GDP Revised Upward

Third Quarter GDP was revised upward to 5%, making this the strongest growth our economy has seen in 11 years.

“There is a positive feedback loop going on at the moment,” Mike Jakeman, global analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said in a note. “Job creation is running at the strongest rate for 15 years. More people in work means more income, which means more private spending, which means more business investment, which means more hiring.”

Early estimates are lower, however, for the fourth quarter with numbers in the 2.5-3.0% range. Of course, none of this indicates the destruction of the economy by Obama that I was promised by conservatives.

As I always say (and they always deliver:)), I'm sure they can find something wrong...somewhere...there just has to be something...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Obama Fulfills Michele Bachmann's Campaign Promise

Remember when, briefly, Michele Bachmann was a frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president back in 2011? She reached that lofty height by promising 
Under President Bachmann you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.
She and all the Republican whiners bitterly complained that the high price of gas was all Obama's fault.

Well, now gas is less than $2 in parts of the country.

But, strangely, I don't hear Bachmann and all the other Republicans singing Obama's praises for bringing gas prices down. Despite the demonic machinations of the EPA, the banning of fracking in New York, Obama's stalling on the Keystone XL pipeline, and six years of Kenyan socialist communist diktats, somehow, miraculously, gas is less than two bucks a gallon.

The price for crude is now less than the break-even point for many of the fracking wells across the country. But producers can't stop pumping, because they'll lose their leases if they do. That means many of them will start losing their shirts and going bankrupt. But the more they pump, the more they lose.

Drill, baby, drill!

Of course, the president has little or no control over the price of gas. It has to do with lower demand in China, a slow European economy, higher fuel efficiency standards in the United States, a generational shift away from cars in US driving habits, greedy American oil billionaires buying the governor of North Dakota, and Saudi Arabia having large reserves that still cost almost nothing to tap.

Low gas prices won't last long. They'll go up again, when this glut has been burned through, but if this fling with two-dollar gas lasts very long a lot of Americans will have bought cars that are too big. And then they'll start whining again when gas hits $4 a gallon.

On the plus side, low gas prices are putting the hurt on Putin. Several months ago Republicans were swooning over his manly actions in Ukraine. On Fox News Rudy Giuliani said, "He's what you call a real leader." Why? Because he invaded Ukraine and killed innocent Ukrainians. His terrorist shock troops shot down a Malaysian airliner, killing 298 people. Yeah, that's a real leader.

What does it say that so many Republicans had an unseemly mancrush over the Russian dictator who has run his country's economy into the toilet by invading foreign countries and basing his economic development policy solely on oil and gas drilling?

Now the ruble is worth half what it was, and Russia's central bank has jacked interest rates up to Carter-era levels. The Russian economy is in free fall. Bankruptcies are endemic. And the poor oligarchs can't afford to buy $100 million flats in London anymore!

But at least Putin doesn't wear mom jeans.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The "Power" of the Private Sector

The complete capitulation by theater owners and Sony to North Korea has left me somewhat puzzled. I thought that the private sector shit gold and any sort of government involvement inhibits from being all of the glory that they are entitled to be.

Yet here we have the president and the federal government once again riding to the rescue of sniveling buffoons just as we saw in 2008 when they collapsed the world economy. The first step will likely be some sort of counter cyber attack (which sounds really cool, btw) followed by some extra military exercises in the area. Yet I have to say that I'm very weary of North Korea and would like to see the president take a stronger stance with that stain of a country. They are a relic of a bygone time and, like Cuba, need to be brought into the 21st century and it's likely that it's going to have to be the hard way.

Obviously, this is a job for the federal government because it's quite clear that the private sector isn't up to it. I wonder what Ayn Rand's reaction would be...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sony And The Caving

I still can't believe that Sony caved to...who?....cyber terrorists? Seriously, what kind of a message does this send? It's not just Sony, of course. It's also theater chains around the country who have decided to pull the film from viewing because they are worried about terrorist attacks. Where, exactly? Iowa?

I'm actually pretty disappointed in our nation today. I guess anyone on the internet who makes a threat about something is going to make us all shit our pants.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The President Does It Again

I guess Barack Obama is not going to go gently into that good night for the last two years of his 2nd term. Once again, a giant FUCK YOU to the old white men who continue to blather about communism (see: right wing bloggers).

What really cracks me up about conservatives' reaction to this is that they are calling it a loss. Of course, they don't really think this because they know that within a decade Cubans are going to be fiddling on social media as America's soft economic power exerts its hegemonic will on one of the few remaining nations that hasn't really joined the 21st century global marketplace. They will become "Americanized" to one degree or another just like the rest of the planet. Conservatives know this will end up being (gasp!) yet another success for the man their inferiority complexes simply won't allow a win so they're pissed off about it and waxing "ideological nonsense."

I look forward to what the next two years will bring. Let's remember that Barack Obama was a community organizer so his faith in improving lives comes from his heart and soul, not his ego.

And now his community is our entire country...indeed, the world...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Clinton versus...Bush?

Jeb Bush Forming PAC to Explore Presidential Bid 

Well, this is going to cause some mouthfoaming...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holy Crap!

I simply can't believe how many people hang out on Quora. I get between 150-200 hits a day on here...sometimes more if Nikto posts because he has a bigger following than I do. Being retired, he has more time to construct articles with nifty graphics!!

Yet, check out this question I posted about Ayn Rand on Quora. Nearly 60,000 people have viewed it with 73 answers. My answer alone has been viewed over 1200 times. Wow!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Tide Continues To Turn

From recent New York Times article...

At the global climate change negotiations now wrapping up in Peru, American negotiators are being met with something wildly unfamiliar: cheers, applause, thanks and praise. It is an incongruous moment, arriving at a time when so many aspects of American foreign policy are under fire. But the enthusiastic reception on climate issues comes a month after a historic announcement by the United States and China, the world’s two largest polluters, that they would jointly commit to cut their emissions. Many international negotiators say the deal is the catalyst that could lead to a new global climate change accord that would, for the first time, commit every nation in the world to cutting its own planet-warming emissions.

The tide continues to turn...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Humor

Thursday, December 11, 2014

You Are Not A Scientist

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Behind Every Woman...

Monday, December 08, 2014

Good News

Time for some good news on Monday and I think it's time we realize that Africa is not just about Ebola!

I've always said that if you teach a village to fish, you create an economy. Well, how about dairy farming?

As part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the USAID Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development project seeks to improve nutrition and boost incomes, through training and investments in commodities like dairy, meat, and live animals. The project targets both men and women, with specific interventions to integrate women entrepreneurs into the broader livestock value chain. For example, the project developed a specific female entrepreneur training package designed to enhance the business capacity of women. Moreover, to better facilitate the participation of women in the offered technical trainings, the project provides innovative daycare services for the children of women participants.

That would the "evil" federal government, folks:)

Burkina-Faso poor farmers are outsmarting climate change.

Lenhardt said information about the ever-improving sustainable techniques, which include using ditches to collect water, had been disseminated by farmers' groups and national organisations to great effect.


And Somalia is now at a pivotal point in its history, according to a recent UN report.
Speaking to reporters as he touched down in the city, Mr. Ban acknowledged that after two decades of internecine conflict and humanitarian crises, Somalia was finally waking from a “long nightmare,” reaching a “pivotal moment” as militant group Al-Shabaab appeared to be on the wane and political progress had finally seemed to take root as the country’s institutions were steadily strengthened.

Pretty darn cool!!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Obama Still Destroying Economy

Job Gains Put US on Pace for Best Growth Since '99

"These were boom-like numbers," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "They indicate that the U.S. economy is on very solid ground." Friday's report also raised hopes that Americans' pay might finally be starting to increase after barely budging since the Great Recession began seven years ago. The average hourly wage rose 9 cents to $24.66, the biggest gain in 17 months.

I'm sure conservatives can find some sort of bad news in here...there has to be something!

Friday, December 05, 2014

It's Art

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Putin Caves

So much for for the "all-powerful" Putin whose thunder makes the earth quake.

President Vladimir V. Putin said Monday that he would scrap Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline, a grandiose project that was once intended to establish the country’s dominance in southeastern Europe but instead fell victim to Russia’s increasingly toxic relationship with the West. It was a rare diplomatic defeat for Mr. Putin, who said Russia would redirect the pipeline to Turkey. He painted the failure to build the pipeline as a loss for Europe and blamed Brussels for its intransigence.

And so much for the always weak Barack Obama...

The decision also seemed to be a rare victory for the European Union and the Obama administration, which have appeared largely impotent this year as Mr. Putin annexed Crimea and stirred rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

As I have stated previously, the long run will not be kind to Vladimir Putin. This is the first of many examples.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Pondering Ferguson and Cliven Bundy

I'm having trouble today figuring something out. Why is it that the government force used by Darren Wilson against Michael Brown was justified and yet the government force against Cliven Bundy is not justified? The former has seen howls of support from conservatives and the latter shrieks of government intrusion. Both men broke the law yet one is dead and the other is still getting a pass.

So, I'm wondering how conservatives would react if the black people of Ferguson took up arms against the police as the "freedom" fighters at Clive Bundy's ranch are doing right now.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Good Words

From a question on Quora regarding why Republicans hate the president so much...

My list is based directly on the comments I've heard the most from dozens and dozens of republicans over the last eight years; Not just the garbage that Faux News and their pinheads broadcast, or what I read online, but stuff that I hear fall directly out of the mouths of republicans, face-to-face :

1) He's black, with an "Un-American"-sounding name. ("Black" usually isn't the word they use, either, and they HATE being reminded that they're bigots.)

2) He's not just black - He's a smart, successful - "Uppity" - black man who doesn't beg their permission before he does stuff. They resent this.

3) He's beaten them. Twice. Modern republicans value winning an election more than they value the toil and sweat and sacrifice that comes after winning an election, and Obama "took that away from them" too, that big MEANIE.

4) Republicans feel entitled to rule America, forever, and all of this "Obama" stuff goes against what they expect and demand. They resent this.

5) Obama's cleaned up most of the carnage they caused for eight years. They don't feel a shred of shame or guilt for the damage they did to the country and the world, and they resent being identified with the carnage in the first place.

6) Obama's victories and accomplishments remind republicans that they still have to live in the real world, where they don't always get their way. They resent this.

7) He doesn't conform to the stereotype of a black male being dangerous, violent, dumb, sexually irresponsible and prone to substance abuse and criminal activity.  His simple existence reminds so many republicans that, again and again, they're just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.

8) He steadfastly refuses to be a bloodthirsty muslim who mass murders white christians. He only kills muslims. And just never mind that he's mass-murdered more muslims than Bush ever DREAMED of. He's still somehow managed to hide the "undeniable fact" that he's ONE OF THEM, even though he GOT THEIR LEADER.

9) He gives "their" money away to people they don't like, and just never goddamn mind that they're almost all, to a one, better off than they were when Bush left office. He just CAN'T be given credit for any of that, he just CAN'T.

10) He's from Chicago. Whatever THAT means.

Dave echoes my answer on this question but does hit some different notes that fold in quite nicely:)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Real-Life Walter White

Breaking Bad, the A&E series that ended its acclaimed run last year (2008-2013), was a parable of desperation, pride and hubris.

Quiet desperation had long claimed Walter White, a brilliant chemist who was underemployed as a high-school chemistry teacher. To help pay for his handicapped son's medical bills he took on a demeaning second job at a carwash. But when Walter was diagnosed with terminal cancer, his desperation became suffocating. Dreading that he would die and leave his family with a mountain of debt, he turned his scientific skills to the production of the purest crystal methamphetamine.

After taking that fatal step, Walter quickly descended into a world of cheating, lying, stealing and killing. He could have escaped his ultimate fate time and again, but pride and hubris metastasized in his soul like a cancer.

Now a real-life Walter White — who also worked at a carwash — has been sentenced to almost five years in prison. Connie Rogers, of Eagan, MN, swindled the Paradise Car Wash out of more than $330,000. As controller and payroll manager, she wrote herself hundreds of extra checks over a five year period starting in 2007.

She eventually confessed to the crimes after being caught, explaining that she needed the money to pay for health insurance and medical bills.

If Obamacare had been in effect in Minnesota in 2007 would Connie Rogers have become a criminal?

In 2013 it was reported that one to two million Americans would be forced into bankruptcy every year by medical bills. The ACA has been in place for only a year now, and millions more Americans now have access to Medicaid or affordable health insurance. But the expansion of Medicare has been blocked by many states, so there are still millions more Connies and Walters out there.

Republicans in Congress are still threatening to gut Obamacare and turn back the clock so every American is just one lost job, one bad fall, or one minor heart attack away from total financial ruin.

Bad Parenting

Friday, November 28, 2014

Waiting For Apologies

I'm waiting for apologies from Kevin Baker, my three commenters and other right wing bloggers. More importantly, so is the president. Well, guys, what do you say? Mea Culpa?

In fact, I'm waiting for more than apologies. I'd like to see some gratitude towards the president for essentially saving this country from disaster. The reason why these assholes still have the ability to pay for their internet connection is largely due to his leadership. Perhaps that's why they are so pissed off. He's achieved something.

They haven't.

Minnesota Miracles

(As an addendum to Mark's post.)

Ever since the 1970s there has been talk of the Minnesota Miracle, when Wendy Anderson appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Then there was the Miracle on Ice, when the American hockey team, mostly from Minnesota, beat the Russians in the 1980 Olympics. Then the was the lesser Minnesota Miracle in 2011, when a Democratic governor and Democratic legislature (helped by some Republicans who were later tossed out by their party) turned gaping deficits left by an irresponsible Republican governor and legislature into surpluses.

Minnesota, where more money is spent on infrastructure, schools and healthcare, is doing better than states like Mississippi and Alabama, where taxes are low, schools are suing the state, income inequality is high, large segments of the population are obese and suffering from untreated diabetes, and the slave economy never really went away.

According to conservatives Minnesota's success should be impossible. Minnesota has no significant natural resources except water, land and people. It is in the middle of nowhere. It has cold winters and hot summers. It has no geographical advantages like New York's or LA's seaports. It has no oil wells like North Dakota and Texas. It has relatively high taxes. Yet it has low unemployment and an economy that has performed well for decades.

Except for a few lapses under Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty, who kept citing Alabama as an example to follow in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, Minnesota has consistently paid for its schools, raised taxes when it needed to, and lowered them when it was responsible to do so.

Yet it has consistently outperformed states that have all the advantages — principally low taxes and lax regulations — that conservatives insist are necessary for business to succeed.

Of course, high taxes and government spending don't automatically generate success. It's responsible and accountable government investing in the right things, spending enough to educate their citizens for well-paying jobs and protecting their health and welfare.

Perhaps the real key can be found in the reasons people move to certain states.

People come to Minnesota to work, raise their kids and send them to good schools. They go to southern states to retire and die.

Evil Liberals Spur Third Fastest Revenue Growth In The Country

As I have stated previously...

Part of the reason is that Minnesota has structured state tax collections to take advantage of progressive taxes, which levy higher tax rates the wealthier a person becomes, Hamline University economics professor Stacie Bosley said. “There is a heavier reliance on the income tax [in Minnesota],” she said. “If you see the most gains in the highest income groups, a progressive tax system gets more revenue.”

Wait...huh? I thought taxes were JOB KILLERS. There goes that fucking theory...again!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Local Prosecutors' Inherent Conflict of Interest

The takeaway from the grand jury decision in Ferguson is not the guilt or innocence of the cop who shot Michael Brown. It's that local officials cannot be trusted to oversee the prosecution of the actions of their local police departments.

By most accounts Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis Country prosecutor who "presented" the Brown case to the grand jury, sounded more like a defense attorney trying to exonerate the cop who shot Brown.

McCulloch was especially unqualified to bring the case: he has a personal history that should have immediately caused him to recuse himself in the case. Among the reasons -- and there were many -- his father was killed by a black suspect while on a police call.

Local district attorneys and prosecutors have an inherent conflict of interest when it comes to investigating their own police departments.
And it's not just McCulloch. Some demanded McCulloch appoint a special prosecutor, but that wouldn't cut it. Local district attorneys and prosecutors have an inherent conflict of interest when it comes to investigating their own police departments. They have to work with cops every day. They depend on them for apprehending suspects, gathering evidence, testifying in court, and sometimes for protection from vengeful criminals. A prosecutor who pisses off the police department is dead meat, figuratively and sometimes literally.

The cops are an important part of the local power hierarchy, and they get a lot of privileges and get cut a lot of slack.

For example, you may recall how Scott Walker blamed public sector unions for all Wisconsin's woes a few years ago. He emasculated teacher and other unions by eliminating collective bargaining. But police unions were exempted.

Why? Because Walker needs the police on his side. When a governor or DA or mayor pisses off  their own police force the cops start pulling stupid crap, like the ones who accused the mayor of Minneapolis of using gang signs (#pointergate).

That's why local and state government should be out of the picture when deciding whether to prosecute police misconduct. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office should automatically have jurisdiction whenever cops shoot civilians or are accused of other crimes.

It shouldn't be Internal Affairs, or the DA from the next county over, or the state's attorney general. It should be the FBI. Now, the FBI ain't perfect. But they don't have an inherent conflict of interest like all the local power brokers do.

Federal jurisdiction of police misconduct protects everyone involved: DAs and mayors would avoid bad blood with their cops. Cops would know they're not being hounded over some local political vendetta. And the public would know that the local DA isn't whitewashing the crimes of their pals on the police force.

In many of these cases the feds eventually get involved anyway. In the Rodney King case there were huge riots in LA after the jury acquitted or deadlocked on the excessive force charges. But two of the four cops later went to prison for violating King's civil rights.

Might as well eliminate the middle man.

Immigration Complaints

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Benghazi Grave?

To go along with the post from earlier today...

The Double Standard in Action

Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times has been writing a series of columns called "When Whites Don't Get It." The reaction of many white readers has been anger at being made to feel guilty about how poorly society in general -- and the police in particular -- treat African-Americans.

I am white and I am middle-aged, and I don't feel one iota of guilt over the plight of blacks in America. I feel anger at how unjustly African Americans are treated by the police, at how they are constantly hassled by "broken windows policing," how they are selectively stopped for trivial traffic violations in order to collect more fees for the Ferguson police department, how their voting rights are systematically denied, and how black men and boys are shot by police over and over again.

But apparently, most whites don't feel this same sense of outrage. They feel put out by being forced to listen to what they consider endless whining by an ethnic group that has suffered for centuries from systemic and systematic slavery, discrimination, harassment and intimidation right now to this very day.

Kristof's articles make me feel anger at a corrupt and stacked system. If you feel guilt, your subconscious is telling you something.

There have been numerous demonstrations across the country over the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson not to prosecute the officer who shot Michael Brown. The vast majority of protests have been peaceful, but there have been some fires and other violent incidents caused by masked troublemakers.

One incident at a protest in Minneapolis stood out, though, as an emblem of the totally thoughtless and self-centered attitude of over-privileged whites. It also demonstrates the endemic double standard the police employ for blacks and whites.

A white man in a car plowed through a group of protesters, running over a woman in a slow-motion hit and run. (She escaped with minor injuries.)

The driver intentionally pulled around another car in order to ram through the crowd. He couldn't be bothered to turn around and find another route. And, oh yeah, he's not a racist: most of the people in the crowd were white.

This is emblematic of the attitudes of far too many Americans: I don't give a damn about anyone else. I don't care if the system is stacked against them. If they get in my way I'll just run them down.

And what happened to the driver? Did Minneapolis cops arrest him for vehicular assault, fleeing the site of an accident, or reckless endangerment?

Nope. Police "questioned" him and let him go, but are "investigating" the incident, which was caught on at least two separate videos.

But if he was black you can be damn sure the cops would have had him with his arms spread-eagle on the hood of his car for the cameras, searched his car for drugs and thrown him in jail.

Still Nothing on Benghazi

The seventh Congressional committee to look into Benghazi has returned their verdict. The final report, from Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, concludes there was no intelligence failure prior to the attack, no stand-down order to CIA operatives trying to go assist at the besieged consular building and found conflicting intelligence in the wake of the attack about the motive and cause, which were reflected in early public comments by the administration.

Bowels are being blown in epic proportions all across right wing land as facts (once again) are bouncing off the cult bubble. Perhaps the re-appointment of Trey Gowdy to really, really try to find something…anything…on Benghazi will yield results.

That liar Obama has to be up to something…he just has to!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Ferguson Verdict

After hearing the verdict and summary explanation of the Grand Jury in the case against Darren Wilson, I think they made the right call. Other than the Grand Jury, no one had access to all of the available evidence and testimony so there isn't any doubt that they had the clearest picture as to what happened in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Of course, I still have to wonder…did he really have to shoot him that many times? Why couldn't he have just hauled out the taser?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, the bigger problem remains. The criminal justice system is blatantly racist against black people. Communities like Ferguson exist all over the country where white police and civic leaders represent large black populations in a disproportional way. This needs to change yesterday.

Or there will be many more Fergusons.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Net Neutrality and the Comcast Monopoly

A couple weeks ago the president finally entered the net neutrality debate, giving the issue additional visibility. He said that the FCC should categorize the Internet as a public telecommunications utility and not some abstract "information service" as it is now.

Then corporate shills like Ted Cruz started saying dumb things like "Net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet."

Without net neutrality, Comcast would be free to slow the Fox News website to a crawl while running MSNBC at top speed.
The fact is, net neutrality is what everyone, liberal or conservative, expects the Internet to be. Net neutrality would prevent broadband companies like Comcast from charging for Internet "fast lanes." Without it, Comcast could, for example, slow the Fox News website to a crawl while letting the MSNBC website (which Comcast owns as part of NBCUniversal) run at full speed.

More and more people are getting their news from the Internet, rather than broadcast television or the radio. The FCC regulates radio and television stations as common carriers because they serve the public interest. As society comes to rely on the Internet as a common carrier it should be treated as one. Do you want the execs who run MSNBC to decide what news you should be able to read?

But it's more than just access to websites. With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype, and so on, it's clear that the Internet has supplanted the telephone as the primary communications channel for large segments of the population.

Government is giving Comcast preferential treatment over other ISPs.
And then there's the issue of equal treatment under the law. When the FCC made its regulations about the Internet back in the 1990s, there was no such thing as consumer broadband. Internet traffic was transmitted over standard telephone lines. That paradigm has been turned on its head: now Comcast is the one providing actual telephone service over broadband. Comcast has therefore become a telephone company and should be regulated as one. But government is giving cable companies like Comcast preferential treatment over ISPs that started out as telephone companies.

Once upon a time, AT&T had a monopoly over most telephone service in the United States. Their subsidiary, Western Electric, manufactured almost all the telephone equipment in the country. "Ma Bell" made you rent a telephone from them, charging much more than it was worth. They also charged you for every "extension" in your house. This vertically integrated monopoly was broken up into seven regional "Baby Bells" in 1984.

Comcast is in a similar position and exhibits similar behaviors. Like AT&T, it charges you more if you connect more computers to the Internet, or use a WiFi modem. While you can buy your own cable modems and set top boxes (similar to TiVo, but without the extra subscription fee), Comcast makes it extremely hard for customers to do so. By comparison, my ISP (the phone company) doesn't charge extra for having a WiFi modem or additional computers.

Cable TV rates have gone up four times faster than inflation.
But unlike AT&T, Comcast is mostly unregulated. That means they can raise their rates at any time, and they do. A lot. Since 1995 cable TV rates have gone up at four times the rate of inflation. Comcast likes to claim that they've been upgrading infrastructure and adding new channels, but I don't get Internet through them, I've had the same cable leading into my house for 30 years and I don't watch any of the hundreds of useless channels they keep tacking on. I'm getting nothing for that increased price.

When cable TV was regulated all channels but premium ones like HBO were unencrypted, making it easy to watch and record TV shows with your own equipment. But since deregulation, Comcast has stopped transmitting channels in "Clear QAM" (the digital equivalent of the old unencrypted analog NTSC signal), forcing customers to use Comcast equipment to watch and record TV.

And the "Just use satellite TV line" is bogus. There's just no comparison between cables and satellite and broadcast TV: satellites are hostage to the weather and they're totally one way. Broadcast TV is worse; its coverage is extremely spotty and now that it's fully digital a lousy signal doesn't mean you get a snowy picture, it means you get no picture at all.

The Time Warner acquisition would give Comcast a broadband cable monopoly over two-thirds of the country.
Comcast has a monopoly on broadband and cable TV service over huge sections of the country, yet they're trying to extend their domination of the US market with their acquisition of Time Warner cable, which would give Comcast two-thirds of the broadband cable market in the country. They try to justify the acquisition by claiming that they don't compete with Time Warner -- but the whole reason that they don't compete is that cable companies are granted local monopolies!

Comcast is quickly becoming a vertically integrated nation-wide monopoly, in much the same way that AT&T was: Comcast controls the production of movies, TV programs and news through Universal Studios and various television production companies. It distributes programming through its own television network (NBC). And it delivers that programming to households through the cables it owns, and is granted monopoly status by cities across the country (mostly through acquisitions over many years).

In the early years of cable, cities used to exercise a great deal of control over providers, but after cable deregulation and acquisition of all local cable companies by national behemoths like Comcast and Time Warner, the cable companies call all the shots.

Internet service is usually priced by throughput: for example, in our area Comcast charges $30/month for 6 Mbps, $40/month for 50 Mbps, and $78/month for 105 Mbps. Users pay a sliding price based on the data rate. Now, Comcast doesn't actually promise you'll get that data rate, and they threaten to cut you off you use too much data. Comcast is also trialing data usage plans that charge you more if you exceed certain limits.

Comcast wants to make you pay twice to stream from Netflix.
The point is, you pay to get data at the rate you paid for. But now Comcast also wants to charge Netflix and other companies (presumably HBO, now that it's launching its HBOGO service) to send you that data at the rate you already paid for. And the only reason Netflix made a deal with Comcast is that Comcast has a monopoly position over such a large part of the country.

To pay Comcast, Netflix and HBO will have to charge more for their services. But Comcast isn't my Internet provider. Why should I pay more for Netflix because Comcast is extorting Netflix? Netflix isn't paying my ISP anything extra.

And what about YouTube? If Google doesn't pay Comcast blood money to send YouTube videos produced by Internet users for the entertainment of other Internet users, will Comcast throttle YouTube into uselessness? And what about all the other services that are migrating to the Cloud, like backups, your photos, your music, etc. Will Comcast charge every company that sends any data to their customers? I mean, if they can charge Netflix, why can't they charge everyone a fee to get access to their customers?

Comcast is engaging in that practice that conservatives consider the most heinous of all sins when the government does it: double taxation. Comcast wants to make you pay twice for getting your data: once for receiving it, and once for Netflix to send it to you.

In recent years Time Warner has cut off channels in several markets across the country (Showtime in Kansas City, NBC, CBS and ABC in various cities around the country). Comcast owns NBC and its news channels, MSNBC and CNBC. When the merged Comcast/Time-Warner company enters negotiations with Disney, ESPN or Fox, will it do the same to those channels? Will it also cut off Fox news sites and ESPN video streams as a negotiating tactic? Without net neutrality, nothing could stop them except "negative feedback from the customers." But since Comcast has a monopoly, their customers have no real alternatives.

In essence, Comcast is demanding "protection" money from its competitors and everyone else on the Internet. They're telling Netflix (you'll have to imagine the in a Jersey gangster accent), "Dat's a nice movie youse got dere. It'd be a shame if dose packets got lost..."

Tom Coburn Pulls a WTF Moment

Weird...I used to respect this guy...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Good Words

From a question on Quora regarding the hatred of Barack Obama...

I think it is perhaps inaccurate to say they hate him. I think their real motive is fear. Of course, the fact that the only time conservatives have ever come unglued is when a black man was elected to office does little to bolster that claim. And by unglued, I am referring to their unprecedented decision to see him fail, rather than advance their own agenda.

The near total shutdown of the legislative process is utterly unprecedented. And the constant threat to shut down government is likewise. No modern democracy has shuttered its doors in the 34 years I have been a voter, yet we have done it many times. It is a complete repudiation of the concept of a civilized society and wholly unacceptable.

Then there are the bizarre polls by reliable sources than show many of them believe Obama is the Anti-Christ, a Muslim, a terrorist, and a Communist. These are delusional beliefs.

And it is hard to treat their tactics as sincere attempts to get their jobs done. To often they are caught saying things like asserting "the right size of federal government is small enough to drown in a bath tub." This sentiment is tantamount to anarchy. And it is difficult to believe it is in pursuit of a sincere belief in states' rights, as they engage in the same slash-and-burn tactics at the state level. They want to truly roll back the calendar to a time when government provide only police and military services (a time I doubt actually ever existed).

They espouse insane ideas like shuttering the IRS, the Environmental protection agency, and the Department of Education. They advocate banning abortion, banning the pill, and continuing to refuse to fund processing rape kits. Male you win, female you lose.

They deny incontrovertible facts such as climate change, the male-female pay disparity, evolution, and the separation of church and state.

And they have become dependent on juvenile dirty tricks in their policy stances. They conceived cap-and-trade, now they lead the charge against it. They conceived the personal mandate requiring people to buy health insurance. They then sued to claim it was unconstitutional. These are tactics I have not seen before in modern politics.

I think a major motivation is the changing demographics of the US population. They are incapable of embracing Latino and Black voters for reasons that are difficult to paint as anything other than racist. This means the end of their power is an inevitability as these groups are growing faster than the white population. And they are losing women, who are offended at their refusal to acknowledge rape is a problem or that women are shortchanged on payday. Alienating 50% of the population is suicide.

On top of that, gay rights and healthcare and immigration reform are buying Democrats voters. And not just for an election, perhaps for lifetime.

Unless their voter manipulation scams can control the outcome of increasingly large numbers of elections indefinitely, it will all come crashing down on them. And do not underestimate the importance of those tactics. All the senate seats they gained this cycle and both G.W. Bush runs were won by margins smaller than many projections of the number of suppressed voters. It is literally no longer clear we are a democracy. Meanwhile, in Michigan, democracy is already dead.

Finally, a large minority of their supporters, the Tea Party, have gone "all in" on extremism. Many reasonable Republicans feel wholly boxed in by this. And siding with the extremists actually buys more moderate Republicans a temporary reprieve.

Ultimately, Republicans know they have lost the future and are just trying to delay the inevitable. This knowledge has basically made them hysterical.

What is truly frightening about the possibility they do not hate Obama, is that if it is true, we should expect no reprieve when he leaves office.

Amen, brother

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Obama Acts On Immigration

Last night, President Obama announced his executive action on immigration and it was truly an historic moment. Honestly, I don't think this country has seen anything like it since the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Five million undocumented workers can finally come out of the shadows and not have to worry about being taken away from the children who are already American citizens.

The president has been beyond patient with the House of Representatives. The Senate passed a bill 18 months ago with 68 senators voting yes. The House refused to act, largely due to the representatives from the Confederacy...I mean, the Tea Party...behaving like 12 year-olds having a temper tantrum. Now, they will be forced to do something. The question is...what?

Basically, they are fucked and I think that's fantastic, given their xenophobic bullshit. If they impeach the president or shut the government down, voters will make them pay in 2016. If they pass the Rubio bill or some other bill that fixes immigration, they will look like they caved to the president (cue the boiling pit of sewage). Worse, they will give him what they have promised time and again to never do: SUCCESS.

People won't remember that it was Congress that ultimately fixed immigration. They will remember the strong leadership of the president acting when an impotent legislative branch failed to do so. My bet is they will throw a temper tantrum first, see that the president's poll numbers go up, and then cave.

It's going to be absolutely wonderful to watch:)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why You Might Not Want to Use Uber

You know those privacy policies that Internet services have? The ones where they say they can use your data however they like, but they promise they'll never do anything bad? But somehow spammers always get your email address and fill your inbox with all kinds of useless junk?

Uber, the Internet taxi company masquerading as a "ride sharing service" in an attempt to circumvent local laws and regularions, also has a policy:
The company’s privacy policy indicates it is saving some details of drivers’ trips, as well as customers’ email and home addresses and phone numbers, among other records. Most of that information helps Uber provide its on-demand car service. But the policy also vaguely says it might use information “for internal business purposes” — a catchall, of sorts, that might grant the company great legal latitude.

“The privacy policy has lots of contradictions in it. In some places they say, ‘We will only use your location data to deliver transportation to you’ — and in other places, they say, ‘Actually, we’ll use your location data to deliver ads and for other business purposes,’” said Alvaro Bedoya, the executive director of Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology.
Uber is not only watching everywhere you go, but they as a company are also engaging in prurient speculation about what you're doing.
Uber is not only watching everywhere you go, but they as a company are also engaging in prurient speculation about what you're doing. They even wrote a bragging blog post about "Rides of Glory," which is their term for people who use Uber for one-night stands. Astonishingly, this post has been up on Uber for two years and they still are not embarrassed enough to take it down.

But instead of just selling your email address to spammers, Uber appears willing to use that data against its customers: journalists who covered the company's unsavory activities, according to a recording made of one of Uber's execs:
Emil Michael, the company's senior vice president of business, said at a dinner in New York last week that the company should consider hiring a team of researchers to "dig up dirt on its critics in the media," according to a BuzzFeed report.

Michael said the company could spend a million dollars to hire four top "oppositional researchers" and four journalists to delve into the personal lives of journalists and their families. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was also present at the dinner -- along with VIPs from both the entertainment and media industries.
If they talk so blithely about doing this to reporters, I wonder how many lawmakers and high-profile businessman would trust Uber with the secrets of their comings and goings?

Even if Uber doesn't intentionally use your data against you, Uber is a big name and a big target for hackers: every transaction you conduct with Uber is stored on the Internet. It's one-stop shopping for the Russian gangs who've broken into Target, Home Depot and several banks: if Uber's programmers are as bumbling as Michael, its VP of business, the data on every Uber customer could already be in the hands of the bad guys.

If you use a local taxi service the nerds in Uber's data center aren't going to giggle about your late night trips.
Local mom and pop taxi services will get you a lot more privacy. Most them have no Internet presence and their customers are therefore immune to hackers. They don't keep your financial data or a record of your comings and goings online, like Uber does in order to charge you and "improve your service." If you pay your cabbie in cash, they don't even have your credit card number. The driver might record your trip in a handwritten logbook, but it's probably never going to be entered into a computer system. If you use a local taxi service the nerds in Uber's data center aren't going to giggle about your late night trips.

Uber was in the news earlier this year when its staffers scheduled thousands of rides with competitors Gett and Lyft, then canceled the fake rides and screwed the Lyft drivers out of the fares.

And there are other reasons not to use Uber. Since the company takes a 20-25% cut out of every ride, money that previously would have stayed in your local economy is going off to California. Uber is constantly angering its drivers by unilaterally lowering fares. Uber may be a $17 billion dollar company, but its drivers are making less than minimum wage.

Add to this the flouting of local laws and regulations in hundreds of cities and towns that local companies have to abide by, and it's clear that Uber has in a few short years become as arrogant and corrupt as any mobbed-up cab company in the country.

Come to think of it, it's not surprising that a company that has the gall to name itself Uber is so morally and ethically reprehensible.

The only thing ├╝ber about Uber is their ego.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rand Paul on Bill Maher

If I were Hillary Clinton, I'd be very careful about Rand Paul. A message like this resonates with younger voters and makes it NOT a done deal for her.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Good Words

And they happen to be mine...

There are a number of reasons why they hate President Obama.

1. Conservatives are very tribal. Anyone that doesn't adhere strictly to their ideology is vilified (progressives, liberals, Democrats, RINOs). 

2. He's been more successful than George W. Bush and other conservative leaders. Anyone that demonstrates greater skill or intelligence than a conservative is immediately tarred and feathered, especially if said person's words or actions prove conservative ideology wrong. Today's conservative is very adolescent, suffering from insecurity and a massive inferiority complex similar to "short man's syndrome." Like a child rebelling against their parents, they behave irrationally and that's where a lot of the hate comes from. 

3. He's black. The conservative base in the South is still racist, bigoted, prejudiced, and believes in stereotypes about blacks. He also has a "Moose-lem" sounding name so that makes the bigots from other parts of the country hate him too.

4. He beat them twice. Echoing the adolescent thing again from #2, conservatives hate to lose. Like adolescent bullies, they retreat further into hate rather than reflecting on why they have those feelings in the first place (again, some sort of inadequacy probably going back to issues with their parents when they were younger). 

5. He's young. Not talked about too much but given that the average age of the conservative base is 68, they are likely pissed that some young whipper snapper is running the country.

6. Problems with authority. Conservatives don't like anyone telling them what to do. They know what is best for themselves on every issue, even the ones where they lack knowledge (again, back to the adolescent thing again). They especially don't like Democrats telling them what to do because they don't think any liberal deserves the White House. This sentiment comes from the Antebellum South where only certain people should be in positions of authority. Conservatives are very aristocratic. 

7. He represents change. Conservatives today see the world changing and they won't have any of it. This again has to do with the average age. Old people get scared when they age and become more irrational when things don't look the same. In some ways, they revert to childhood and pine for "the good ol' days." President Obama represents moving forward, not looking back, on nearly every issue so it's terribly frightening for them.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Will North Dakota Oil Cause Electricity and Food Shortages?

Conservatives love to hate renewable energy like wind and solar because it's "unreliable." The sun don't shine at night, and when the wind ain't blowin' you ain't gettin' no 'lectricity.

But they love coal because there's so much of it, liberals hate it, and it's sooo reliable. Except when it isn't: Minnesota may not have the coal it needs to generate enough electricity this winter.

North Dakota oil trains are causing shortages of coal, grain and fertilizer.
Turns out that, because of the fracking boom, trains are unable to deliver coal from western states to power plants in Minnesota:
[Power companies] blame persistent delivery problems at BNSF Railway, the major hauler of western coal burned in the Midwest. The railroad has struggled for a year to deliver traditional commodities like coal, fertilizer and grain while hauling increasing amounts of North Dakota crude oil.
These oil trains also cause days-long delays for Amtrak service, as well as interrupting commuter rail service in the Twin Cities and Chicago.  Frack sand shipments have caused similar delays in Wisconsin.

Last winter oil trains hammered the profitability of food companies due to delayed grain shipments:
General Mills, the Minnesota-based maker of Cheerios, told investors in March that it had lost 62 days of production — as much as 4 percent of its output — in the quarter that ended in February because of winter logistics problems, including rail-car congestion. In its earnings report this month, Cargill, another Minnesota-based food giant, reported a drop in net earnings that it attributed in part to “higher costs related to rail-car shortages.”
North Dakota oil is disrupting the electrical grid, rail travel, food production, and all phases of agriculture. The oil trains are also dangerous, having exploded several times in the last few years, killing 47 people. Yet the rail and oil companies are fighting proposed safety rules tooth and nail:
Railcars makers have said they don't have enough steel on hand or skilled labor such as welders to tackle rebuilding and retooling the entire hazardous-liquids tanker fleet any faster, said Jack Gerard, president of the energy-industry group. Oil producers and refiners have come to rely on moving crude by rail, he said Tuesday, the final day for comment on the proposed regulations.

Requiring new cars too quickly could stifle the North American energy boom, he said. "Overreacting creates more challenges than safety." 
North Dakota frackers waste $1.2 billion a year flaring off natural gas.
Even worse, fracking operations in North Dakota don't have natural gas pipelines for their methane, and are simply flaring off excess methane from their wells, wasting more than a billion dollars a year!

If the shale oil bubble continues and the price of oil stays low, North Dakota crude won't be profitable. Now would be the perfect time to step back and fix the industry's many problems and alleviate the oversupply that's undermining their profitability.

Why are these oil men in such a hurry to lose their shirts and waste irreplaceable natural resources?