Thursday, July 31, 2014

Red State Deadbeats

It's well established that red states receive more than their share of government money, mostly because they have lower taxes and depend on the federal government to make up for it. Red states are also poorer, in large part because they don't invest in their citizens' futures. Red states also have higher divorce rates, due to the higher divorce rates among conservative protestants. Red states also have higher teen pregnancy rates, because they make it harder to get contraception and abortion.

Now it turns out that red states have significantly higher numbers of deadbeats. A study by the Urban Institute found that states in the South have a much higher proportion of residents with debt in collection than the Upper Midwest and Northeast. Data from the TransUnion credit bureau were examined.

In states like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Nevada (which was really hammered by the financial meltdown) more than 40% of the population has debt in collection. States like Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Hawaii, South Dakota have 19-25% of the population with debt in collection, while states like New York, Oregon, New Jersey, Iowa, Washington, California, Utah, Wisconsin, etc., have debt in the 26-35% range.

Why is this? A lot of it has to do with history: red states have historically been more rural, more poverty-stricken, less well-educated. But that's because of the taxing and spending policies they've chosen. Even though states like Texas claim to have an economy that's going like gangbusters, it doesn't trickle down to the average person, who's swimming in unpaid debt. These states also have more laissez-faire lending and business practices, which allows their citizens to get into financial trouble more readily.

But it makes you wonder: how much of it is general societal attitudes? Who's more likely to worry about debt? A wishy-washy liberal who wants everyone to like him, or a self-centered red-neck who doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks?

I guess that's why the conservatives need all those guns: they've got to keep the bill collectors at bay.

Stop Being Mad All The Time

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Captain America Statistics Song

Pissing Off The Young People

It looks some young voters in North Carolina are pretty pissed off at the state's new voter ID laws.

Joining a challenge to a state law alongside the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department, lawyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.”

I wonder how many more groups conservatives can piss off:)

More importantly, the article illustrates how deeply flawed voter ID laws are. Quite literally, the infringe people's right to vote.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Taxes and Infrastructure

Go Minnesota!

Props out to my home state for being much further along in energy efficiency and renewables than other states.

Today, Minnesota gets more of its power from wind than all but four other states, and the amount of coal burned at power plants has dropped by more than a third from its 2003 peak. And while electricity consumption per person has been slowly falling nationwide for the last five years, Minnesota’s decline is steeper than the average.

The Obama administration’s proposal would reduce power plants’ carbon pollution 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Minnesota set similar nonbinding goals for its entire economy seven years ago: a 15 percent reduction by 2015, 25 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. (Minnesota measures carbon differently; by federal standards, its reductions would most likely be greater.)

And that's not all...

Utilities must produce 27.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. And they must wring enough waste out of their service areas — for instance, by helping customers insulate buildings or install efficient lighting — to reduce electricity sales every year by the equivalent of 1.5 percent of their revenues. 

Some economic sectors like housing and farming so far have failed to meet the carbon reduction targets. Not so the power industry. “The utilities are on track to meet both the renewable energy standard and those emission reduction targets,” said Frank L. Kohlasch, the environmental analysis manager at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Some utilities intend to beat the 2025 goal handily, he said.

Go Minnesota!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Changing An Idealogue's Mind

From a discussion on Quora...

Sure- you cannot change an ideologue's mind, they have to do that themselves. But, if you provide calm, reasonable evidence, their own mounting frustration demonstrates- even to themselves whether they admit it or not- that their argument- and thus their point of view- has no basis in reality. 

And, those who read along here and other places, also see the argument is looney. Sometimes, the lesson being taught is lost on the supposed recipient, but the audience learns very well.

Exactly why I allow open comments:)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Return To Sender

Ukraine and Gaza: A Brief Analysis

I've had several thoughts I've wanted to get out about the situations in Israel and Ukraine but I thought it prudent to wait a bit for events to unfold. AP News has two great pieces up which summarize the ongoing issues with Russia over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the Israeli operation in Gaza as of this morning.

My first reaction when I heard that the airline was shot down by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine was anger. We know what these guys are doing and they are bragging about it as Nikto noted the other day. Shouldn't we work with Ukraine to target these anti-aircraft missiles and take them out? Obviously, the answer is no and it's because we really need the buy in from Europe. This is a regional problem and the EU, in particular, Germany, haven't really shown much of an interest in escalation due to the Russian natural gas supply they need. This sentiment was recently echoed by Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble.

"Economic interests are not the top priority. The top priority is ensuring stability and peace," Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Classic double speak. The Germans are more interested in making sure they stay on the Russian energy teat and are hoping that somehow all of this just works itself out. Until they and other EU leaders change their mind and are willing to make sacrifices, we will be largely powerless to do anything. Honestly, they are being tremendously naive

Israel's efforts in Gaza are the exact opposite of naive. They recognize the problem and are moving to eliminate the threat with best possible speed. I make no bones about being fervently pro-Israel and completely support their mission to end the rocket launches by Hamas. No doubt I feel tremendous sadness over the loss of Palestinian children but the blame for that is largely on Hamas who purposefully place their base of operations near innocent civilians to score PR points with anti-Semitic press outlets.

At the very core of Hamas's ideology is the destruction of Israel. They are no different than Nazi Germany and if they are serious about helping their people, they will stop being violent and start advocating within the political process peacefully. That is the one area where Israel needs to be flexible. I've written about this previously but the only way I see out of this mess is a one state solution. There will never be a country of Palestine. Tareq Abbas is right

In the long run, Israel is going to come out much better as a result of this conflict. Vladamir Putin, however, will not. The EU may be dragging their feat but the writing is already on the wall. This was Putin's massive failure and miscalculation and the Russian economy is going to pay dearly for it.

Good Question

Here is a great question from Quora...

If the United States is in crisis, as the Republicans tell us, why can't they come together with the president and support policies that will help? Why can't they work with the president to fix it?

The best answer so far...

It is the crisis that Republicans are creating. I'm not trying to be cute and flip the question back at you. This is my sincere, objective judgement of the state of the nation. I'm more than willing to concede a point to anyone, but all is hear from Republicans is arrogance, contempt, dishonest tactics and a political agenda based on insulting everyone that disagrees....disagrees with a profoundly ignorant set of petulant obsessions.

One thing he forgot was the shrill cry from conservatives that it's actually the Democrats that are all these things but I supposed that could be put under the category of dishonest tactics.

There was also this brilliant comment on this answer.

The far-right lurch that the Republican party took with the Tea Party faction is troublesome. Germany experienced a similar faction in 1920 and there are several parallels in attitudes and policies shared by both. Rationalizing that they are different in different times does not remotely diminish the destructive right-wing actions. A party not working in concert with the leaders of a nation are harming the nation with its bullying and lack of cooperation, plain and simple. Anyone, even with a diminished ability to think, sees no leadership in an approach that has nothing constructive to add, only blocking tactics.

This is exactly how totalitarian governments are born. And they always start with accusing the other side of being totalitarian:)

Nuclear Plant Shut Down by Hot Weather

The knock against solar and wind is that you can't depend on them when you need them: the sun doesn't shine at night, and solar cells are less efficient when it's cloudy. And the wind doesn't always blow. That's why conservatives always tout nuclear power as the always-reliable panacea that will always be there.

We've seen time and again that this is false, with the accidents in Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Nuclear plants are frequently shut down for maintenance, sometimes for months, a problem which will only get worse over time. And nuclear plants will have to shut down when they run out of storage space for their waste.

Now we have news that Scandinavian nuclear plants are being forced to shut down because of rising ocean temperatures:
OSLO (Reuters) - Sweden's top nuclear power generators have been forced to cut output because of exceptionally warm weather in Scandinavia, and their output could be reduced for over a week, their operators said on Wednesday.

Oskarshamn, part of Germany's E.ON and Forsmark, operated by Swedish utility Vattenfall have both cut output because warm sea water temperatures are limiting their ability to cool down.

"For each degree above 23 decrees Celsius in the cooling water, each unit has to decrease power by 3 percent," Forsmark said in a market message. "It is uncertain how long this will last, but according to meteorologists, the warm weather will last for at least 11 more days."

So, just when they need these nuclear power plants the most, they have to shut down. Not all that reliable. The same thing is true for coal plants, which use hundreds of billions of water annually for cooling.

As ocean temperatures rise due to global warming this problem will only recur, necessitating design changes to get cooling water from greater distances and depths.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Are "Toothless" Sanctions Working Against Russia?

Russia's central bank raised interest rates for the third time this year to combat the eight percent inflation rate Russia is suffering. Russia's stock market has fallen more than seven percent this year.

Will this cost Putin popular support in Russia? There are already some signs that not all Russians support Putin's actions, with the front-page apology for the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 that was printed in Novaya Gazeta. Of course, it is the same paper for which four reporters have been assassinated since 2001 for their coverage of Russia's bloody and ruthless war in Chechnya and their criticism of Putin.

The main problem is that Europe is dependent on Russia for oil and gas, and they're afraid to impose the hardest-hitting sanctions against Russia. France and England are now bickering over who's being soft on Russian, with Cameron criticizing France for selling warships to Russia and Hollande accusing England of being a haven for Russian oligarchs.

How To Deal With Right Wing Blog Commenters

From a recent question on Quora, regarding engagement with intolerant conservatives...

My typical tact is NOT to "communicate" with them. Ignore them. Leave them be. You're wasting your breath. (Or, at least that's how I feel.) 

Let narrow minded fools remain that way until they're ready to pay attention, and still don't allow one's self to be goaded into an argument with such fools under false pretenses. 

Some people only look for evidence to support their already established conclusions and will talk you and themselves in useless circles (usually a tact absorbed by watching or listening to too many conservative media outlets). 

You can't "fix" or communicate with someone who refuses to listen or pay attention and respond in a meaningful manner other than repeat the same (parrot) rhetoric without driving yourself nuts and eventually realizing it's pointless and hopeless. 

The same as is said about bullies in school: Ignore them. Eventually they'll go away, fall in line (need attention, parrot normatively), or get caught in their own trap (talk themselves in circles until blue in the face and suffocate themselves in parroted, self-loving, auto-erotic asphyxiation). But, if you feed the beast, it will remain and torment you until your dying day (including one's own need to argue with and "fix" or communicate in hopeless parroted rhetoric). AND, the longer you stay in this zone, the more you become like them...

Sounds like someone has been in my comments section:)

How To Respond To Open Carry Activists

"Gun rights activists do not have a history of institutionalized discrimination."

Exactly right. But they do like to play make believe and that victim card, don't they?

Friday, July 25, 2014

How the Average Person Sees an Open-Carry Gun Nut

Chad Pickering shot a 17-year old girl for telling him to stop trespassing. He had ridden his lawn mower through her yard while wearing a .45 caliber pistol in a holster.

Last Monday night he hid outside her house and when she came out onto the deck he shot her three times, hitting her in the chest, thigh and ankle.

Pickering confessed to the murder attempt after police found the pistol hidden in air vent in his house. He told police the "bitch" came to his door and threatened him, so he hid behind a pine tree outside her house and "I waited and I waited and I waited."

The girl survived and is out of the hospital, but it may be months before she can walk again.

Who was this guy?
Pickering filed for bankruptcy last year in Wisconsin, listing $45,000 in liabilities, much of it unpaid medical debt. In 2011, Pickering pleaded guilty in Wisconsin to two counts of driving under the influence.

On his Facebook page, Pickering listed his job as a correctional officer at Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Center. A call and e-mails to that center’s director, Bill Frey, were not returned Thursday. But Frey told the Valley News Live that Pickering was a part-time correctional officer from May 20 to June 9.

On Facebook in July, Pickering shared a message from a group called “Cold Dead Hands” that blasted gun control. Pickering urged voters to “ditch the retards that are taking this country down the drain.”
I guess Obamacare came a year too late for Chad Pickering. I wonder if this shooting would have even happened if Pickering's life hadn't been such a hell because of medical problems?

In any case, it's clear that Pickering carried a gun openly to intimidate people. And when that failed to shut them up, he took it a step further: he couldn't stand to be humiliated in front of his kids by a stupid teenage bitch who was unimpressed by the size of his weapon. He showed her!

It makes the average person wonder how many of these open-carry gun nuts are just like this guy, human time-bombs waiting to go off.

The fact is, it's people like Pickering who are taking the NRA down the drain. Too many of their most irate and vocal members are cast in the same mold: excitable and unstable people who should not have deadly weapons.

Why do respectable gun owners let these fruit cakes control the gun debate?

Diversity According To Fox News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Good Words

From a recent question on Quora (why are there so many shootings in the United States?)

Across the democratic developed world the vast majority of guns are hunting or sport firearms. Switzerland, often cited by gun advocates, is an anomaly since it's had a long history of required military service and the requirement a trained adult properly maintain and store their issued firearm - improper handling being an offense. Switzerland is an anomaly. 

American ownership is radically skewed towards the ownership of guns with an intent to use them against other people. The whole (inane in the light of facts) 2nd Amendment argument - blurred by the NRA to the point it's authors wouldn't be able to recognize (nor stomach) it. A lack of confidence in its democratic institutions, and in its people's respect for them, led American (white property-owning) men to entrench their right to bear arms against their democratically constituted elected authorities - which since has been stretched into blanket coverage of the right to arm themselves against their next-door neighbor.

Institutionalized paranoia.

Exactly right.

His conclusion is even better.

Simply having loaded guns lying about leads to 2 of every 3 gun-related deaths in the United States. Those are the unintentional homicides. Over 20,000 such deaths in 2013 alone. With a majority of gun homicides ruled not premeditated the rate attributable to ease of access alone is realistically higher. 

But it isn't a gun but the thought behind ownership that makes U.S. ownership so disproportionately destructive. The hunting rifle my grand-dad shouldered as he trudged through the backwoods of the Canadian hinterland nearly a century ago was carried with a vastly different intent than an assault rifle with 40 round magazine in the same rear window as a '2nd Amendment' decal which seldom leaves the suburbs. 

There is, in other words, a face-palm obvious statistical correlation between a gun being at hand and gun tragedy - but the violent intent behind possessing weapons of war primes the violence pump predisposing the entire culture to a greater likelihood of violence. A fact born out by 'cold. hard ...' fact.

So, can we change?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Glenn Beck Continues To Walk The Walk

Something I didn't think I would EVER say...Glenn Beck continues to impress me. He has personally taking it upon himself to help the children that are illegally crossing our border. Throwing aside his anger, hate, and fear peddling, Beck is now doing exactly what conservatives should be doing if they want to be relevant in any future elections. And he is acting like a Christian. I hope that more conservatives take his lead. Ted Cruz is doing it.

Because if they continue to do stuff like this for the next few months, I think they might just take back the Senate.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Good Words

From a discussion on Quora about racism...

Lack of forthright censure is the equivalent of tacit approval.

And that would be why the people that howl about race baiting being a more prevalent problem than racism in this country end up being accused of being racist.

Because they ARE.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Don't Be So Smug: Or, We've Had Our Own Flight 17...

It's now clear that Russia provided the SA-11 antiaircraft missiles that Ukrainian rebels used to shoot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and that Russian troops trained the rebels in the use of the weapons.

Immediately after the missile attack Ukrainian rebels bragged on social media about shooting down a plane. In this now-deleted post Igor Strelkov ("Igor the Gunman") said, "We warned you -- don't fly in 'our skies,'" and "Peaceful people were not injured." Yeah, right.

Rebels were also recorded talking on radios about shooting the plane down.

After the Russians realized their horrible mistake, they took down their gloating posts and brought the weapons back across the border into Russia. The separatists have also been covering up their mistake, taking the bodies of the wounded and and the flight and data recorders, apparently on orders from Moscow. They have been denying access to the crash site to rescue workers. It also appears that the crash site was looted by thieves who stole the victims' credit cards and personal belongings.

So what should happen now? There's actually a precedent for this: several countries have shot down civilian aircraft by mistake. Including the United States.

In 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655. The Vincennes was engaged with Iranian gunboats when a radar operator mistook the Airbus A300B2-203 for an F-14A Tomcat fighter jet.  This was during the Iran-Iraq war, and there was a lot of tension in the area: the Iraqis had recently killed 37 Americans aboard the USS Stark (by mistake), and another American frigate had been struck by an Iranian mine.

The Vincennes issued radio challenges to the airliner, but since it was a civilian jet flying on its normal flight path, the pilots had no idea the Vincennes was trying to contact them: they just kept flying. Receiving no response, the Vincennes fired two surface-to-air missiles; one struck the airliner. Everyone aboard was killed.

The United States never admitted fault, but issued a statement of regret and paid $61.8 million in reparations. It was a standard non-apology apology.

Russia can (probably rightly) blame it all on incompetent separatists, but they created the conditions that caused this travesty, so Russia needs to dip into its vast oil profits and pay reparations to the victims. They must also remove their troops from the border, take back all the weapons they've provided the rebels and stop egging on the crazies in eastern Ukraine.

But John McCain has been his usual idiotic war-mongering self, calling the United States "cowardly" for not sending more weapons in the area. Suppose we had sent one of our missile batteries to the Ukrainian government and they were the ones who shot down Flight 17. If we send weapons into Ukraine it will only make the situation worse, creating opportunities for similar accidents that the Russians will proclaim as atrocities against them and theirs, which they'll use as ammunition against us. (We are just so lucky that McCain lost the 2008 election. We would have started 23 more wars by now.)

We should be ratcheting down the violence, not arming everyone to the teeth. If we learned anything from the cold war, it's that arms races only assure mutual destruction. If we want to hurt the Russians where it really hurts, we should treat them like the international pariah and menace to navigation they have become.

If Putin doesn't pull back his troops and stop supporting the terrorists who shot down Flight 17, Russia should be labeled a state sponsor of international terrorism, Russian assets in the United States, Europe and Asia should be seized and we should hit firms that cut oil deals with Russian oligarchs with gigantic fines.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Minimum Wage Increases Don't Hurt Job Growth

Data from the Department of Labor shows that states that increased the minimum wage have experienced job growth:
In a report on Friday, the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on January 1 have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not. The data run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, would cost 500,000 jobs.
Nine states had minimum wage increases tied to inflation (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington), while four more states (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island) passed legislation for the increases.

Do I think that these increases alone caused greater job growth? No. But they didn't lose jobs as conservative ideology dictates. Why?

Probably because the minimum wage is way too low. It has fallen so far behind inflation, even though inflation hasn't been a real factor for decades, that wages on the low end are a real bargain in the United States.

It's also clear that giving poor people more money has a positive effect on the economy, because those workers spend every penny they get. If you give one million minimum-wage workers a thousand bucks each, that's one billion dollars that are plowed right back into the local economy: they spend it all, on the basic requirements of life. Food, shelter, clothing: that's what minimum-wage spend their money on.

These days, if you give a billionaire an extra billion dollars it doesn't improve the local economy whatsoever. He'll buy some T-bills, try to stage a hostile takeover or merger, or buy some high-yield bonds in Spain or Greece (yep, they're not dead yet). He'll do a joint venture with some Chinese company, or cut a deal with a Russian oil tycoon. He might spend a few million on an fancy apartment in New York, a villa in Majorca, or a yacht in Miami. If he's a sports fan, he might buy a basketball team, and make another billionaire a little bit richer.

What he's not going to do is build a factory in the United States that makes real products, because he doesn't want to pay people salaries that they can live on in the United States. But this is a false choice. Germany has showed that you can pay a decent wage, have unions on corporate boards, have a health care system that covers everyone, while being flooded with immigrants, and still have one of best export economies in the world.

Yes, increasing the minimum wage to some ridiculously high number would cause jobs to be lost. It's also true that rich states can support a higher minimum wage than poor states. But no one is proposing to jack up the minimum wage to 20 bucks across the country. The $10.10 that President Obama has proposed is still far below a living wage: any company that can't pay it has a business model that depends on passing on their labor costs to the federal government in the form of Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and the earned income tax credit.

No Such Thing

Friday, July 18, 2014

We Are A Christian Nation

I'm most happy this morning to link this piece from Politico in which we see a return to compassionate conservatism. I've always held out quiet hope that people like Glenn Beck and Hugh Hewitt would come around and it looks like they have.

In an op-ed for POLITICO Magazine on Thursday, Hewitt argued that now isn’t the time to discuss the border fence he has long advocated. 

“Right now the country ought to act to end the humanitarian crisis of tens of thousands of what are, in effect, orphans and strangers in our land. The very young among them should find ‘forever families’ right here, right now. They should become Americans,” Hewitt wrote. 

Exactly what Jesus would do!

On his Tuesday evening broadcast on his cable channel TheBlaze, Beck directly addressed the parents of child immigrants, tears in his eyes as a scrolling marquee translated his monologue into Spanish, begging them to keep their children at home for their own safety. 

“Please would you consider doing the hard thing as well would you resist the temptation to flee or break up your family, please don’t hand your child off to a smuggler in the middle of the night,” Beck said. “I can’t sleep at night thinking about your son or daughter and so I and about 150 volunteers and multiple semi-trucks are going down to our border and we will see your child … and we will care for them.” 

Care for them...that's right. That's what we do in this country.

Because we are a Christian nation:)

Centuries of Denial

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More Good Words

From a Quora question...

Look, when you adhere to this Real American Patriot mantra that sets up a straw man of "liberals" as: stupid, ignorant, anti-American, ominous, elitist, and generally a threat to the country and the very fabric of our nation....why wouldn't you call for "the Liberal president's" impeachment over your preception of his so-called failures? According to the article he is described as "abusive" and Americans are described as being like a battered wife that's "had enough." That sounds like a totally reasonable analogy - yeah, Domestic Violence scenario is exactly what liberal Obama represents. So apt! Why wouldn't you want to eliminate your sworn enemy, a direct threat to your nation?? 

If you drone on and on and convince yourself that your side represents Real America and you are on the side of righteousness and all things good and you constantly talk about having to "take your country back" this is absolutely the natural progression. 

Ideology is formed through a process of repetition of formalized language and ideation. 

You can find evidence of this assertion in my comments section.

Exiting Stage Right?

After years of Tea Party tomfoolery in Kansas, the chickens are coming home to roost. In 2012 Governor Sam Brownback cut taxes on the wealthy by 25% and eliminated all taxes for business profits reported on individual tax returns.

All this was supposed make the Kansas economy boom, but the state was one of only five in the country to lose employment this year, and employment has been below the national average for Brownback's entire term. Net growth in business registrations is down.

This year the state took in $335 million less in taxes than expected, and is now hacking away at its schools and colleges. Moody's cut the state's debt rating. In short, Brownback has been a disaster for Kansas.

It's so bad that hundreds of responsible Kansas Republicans have endorsed Brownback's Democratic opponent, Paul Davis.

In one poll, Davis is leading Brownback by six points statewide. A quarter of registered Republicans are turning to the Democrat, and independents favor Davis by 19 points.

This is how hyper-conservative shills for the oligarchs like Brownback will eventually lose, even in states like Kansas. They are being driven so far right by the cash dangled in front of them by the Koch brothers (they're headquartered in Wichita), that real Republicans and independents will eventually become disgusted and abandon them.

Their denial of science, their insistence on long-discredited trickle-down economic policies that benefit only the wealthy, their inherent racism -- expressed most vehemently these days in their screaming tirades against children fleeing social and economic chaos, and their insatiable desire to force their religious beliefs on everyone else are all alienating the young, the middle class, women and even many libertarians.

It's only a matter of time. The only question is how much damage they'll do to the economy, our physical and educational infrastructure, and the climate before they finally exit stage right.

Good Words

From a recent Quora question...

There are many arguably valid interpretations of the Constitution, and there are lengthy treatises available on the history, compromises, and application of each of the Amendments throughout the course of American history.

Somewhere, one of my old commenters, that went by the handle "Not My Name," is picking up the pieces of his exploded head.

In later comment from the same author...

I don't believe that there is a "right" or "wrong" interpretation (well, if you said that the 2nd Amendment gives you the right to keep elephants, that would be "wrong"). Keep in mind that even the Founders disagreed on what ultimately was placed in our Constitution -- the entire document is nothing but compromises that took many different viewpoints on government and rights and created what we now see as the Constitution.

Gee, that sounds pretty familiar...:)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It's Time...

Every year thousands of kids get the wrong dose of medicine in the United States. Some of them are made sicker, some of them don't get better or stay sick longer, and some of them die. Why?

The United States uses an arcane and outdated measurement system. The English system is used for some things, but the metric system for other things. Science and medicine use the metric system, the United States military uses the metric system, most manufactured products use the metric system, including cars, bicycles, computers, etc., but plumbing and carpentry supplies are still manufactured to English specifications. This means that Americans have to own two sets of tools, and are constantly wondering which set they need. Our speed limits and maps all still use English.

The same problem exists in medicine. The dosages for liquid medications are sometimes prescribed in milliliters, but most frequently in teaspoons or tablespoons. Pharmacists can mix up teaspoons and tablespoons because the abbreviations are so similar (tsp. and tbsp.) and physician's scribbles are often difficult to decipher. Even if it's written correctly, anyone who's ever done any baking knows how easy it is to mix up teaspoons and tablespoons, which can result in dangerously wrong dosages.

To make things worse, parents often use a regular teaspoon that you eat cereal with instead of an actual measuring teaspoon. They just eyeball half a teaspoon instead of finding an actual half-teaspoon measuring spoon. Because children have such low body mass, and some medicines are so powerful, an overdose can have serious consequences, resulting in injury and even death.

To fix this many professional associations are recommending all liquid medicines be administered in milliliters (mL). Whenever you get a prescription for liquid medicines you would get a small measurement cup with markings in mL. A study recently found that parents dosing in mL made far fewer mistakes.

Dealing with multiple measurement systems causes errors. The Mars Climate Orbiter was lost because one subcontractor provided data in pound force seconds instead of newton seconds. In the United States patient weights are recorded on scales that read in pounds, but dosages for medications are typically calculated in milliliters per kilogram of body weight, which means doctors have to convert your body weight into metric and then convert the calculated dose back into English.

None of this makes any sense. Nearly every product you buy in the store is marked in both English and metric, since manufacturers want to be able to export without having to repackage goods for different markets.

Even more idiotically, there are multiple English systems in common usage. Ships and aircraft still use "nautical miles," which are 800 feet longer than "statute miles." There are U.S. gallons and imperial gallons. There are regular feet and "survey feet." And then there's the profusion of different units: chains, rods, acres, fathoms, yards, fluid ounces, dry ounces, pints, quarts, cups, gallons, BTUs, blah, blah, blah.

We should just dump all that crap. Most everyone in the United States is already familiar with the metric system anyway: we buy cars with 2-liter engines, 9-millimeter pistols, and two-liter bottles of soda.

The metric system is so much easier to use. If you pick up a 16-millimeter wrench and it's just a little too big for the bolt you're tightening, the 15-millimeter wrench is the obvious choice. But if the 5/8" wrench is too big, do you pick up the 3/4", the 1/2", or the 9/16"?

If you want to increase a recipe by a quarter and you need 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and you can still remember how to multiply fractions from middle school, bully for you! But you wind up with 5/4 x 3/2 = 15/8 of a cup. What a pain to measure. You can convert to decimal to avoid fractions, but how do you measure 1.875 cups? With metric, 300 grams of sugar is easily converted: 300 x 1.25 = 375 grams. Things like flour are better measured by weight instead of volume anyway, because of settling. Adding linear measurements is just as much fun: how long is 12 3/4" plus 3 1/8" plus 2 5/16"? Wouldn't you rather add 12.75, 3.13 and 2.31?

"But what about football?" someone in the crowd yells. "We can't change yards to meters and ruin our glorious tradition! You can't have a first down at the 45.72 meter line!"

Amazingly, soccer has solved this problem: the field (or pitch, as the Brits are wont to say) is still measured in yards. For example, the centre circle is 10 yards from the centre spot and the rules provide a metric equivalent (9.15 meters). So, even if you drive 20 kilometers to a football game, you can still sit in your reserved seats on the 50-yard-line.

Sports like basketball and volleyball have updated some of the measurements. Internationally the basketball court is 28 x15 meters, but the rim is still 10 feet (3.05 m). The volleyball court is 10 m on a side (29' 6"), but the net is still 7' 11 5/8". That's 2.43 meters, in case you're wondering.

Because fractions are used in English measurements, it can be confusing to notate and interpret measurements on computers (like, for example, 7' 11 5/8"), making it easy for errors and misunderstandings to creep in. Plus, I've never had a calculator that adds fractions, but they all add metric just fine.

We should just bite the 9-mm bullet and switch to metric.

Who Knows More About The Constitution?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Rats That Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda

Have you ever come home to find your dog with his head hung low, looking guilty, only to find that he chewed up your slippers? Or heard about a cat that adopted a baby squirrel? Or a dog that saved a kitten in a ravine and nursed it? Or the rabbit that pined away after her sister died?

Many people dismiss outright the idea that animals can have emotions at all, much less display altruism: it's a dog-eat-dog world, after all. Animals are slaves to instinct, and attempts to anthropomorphize their behavior is misguided. These folks admit that animals can feel fear and rage, but more complex emotions, such guilt, jealousy, envy, love and regret are beyond their ken.

But evidence is building that animals do in fact have emotions, very similar to humans. A study conducted at the University of Minnesota has tested this. The experiment was structured to determine whether rats could feel regret:
“What we found is that when a rat makes a mistake of its own agency, then the rat is able to recognize that mistake, and it thinks about the thing it should have done,” said A. David Redish, a neuroscience professor at the University of Minnesota.
Researchers thought that rats looked like they were feeling regret during another experiment, so they constructed a study to test it. They discovered that not only do rats look like they have regrets, the rats are actually thinking about what they should have done.

The experiment involved making rats decide whether to wait for their favorite food, or eschew the wait for instant gratification.  The researchers measured brain activity in the rat that indicated memory of the preferred food.

Of course, it has to be this way. In order to learn, animals have to be able to make mental associations like this.

When a pet bounces up and down excitedly to see you come home, or sulks after getting yelled at, it's clear the animal is experiencing genuine emotions that are no different from human ones. You don't see that kind of behavior in insects or lower animals, though even lizards and turtles can recognize individual humans and prefer their company: it might not be love, but what can you expect from a cold-blooded animal?

It's a fair question to ask whether these are "real" emotions, or just brain chemistry associated with the learning process. Mammalian brains release endorphins that result in pleasure, and adrenalin is involved with the fear response. Oxytocin (the "love" hormone) is present in mammals and works the same way as it does in humans.

But it's also a fair question to ask whether that same mechanistic biology that operates in human really makes us substantially different from other mammals. Psychopaths lack basic human emotions such as empathy, regret and remorse. They're often described as animals who have no souls.

Our legal system concurs with this judgment: people who express no remorse for their crimes are often given longer sentences, or even sentenced to death for their lack of empathy.

Which makes you wonder: is the cat who saved a little boy from a dog attack more human than Ted Bundy?

No Thanks, Gun Humpers

Not only that but I think I speak for many Americans when I say that these idiots are the last fucking people I want "defending my rights." I'd rather have them defend against early onset diabetes and seriously consider salads.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Saturday, July 12, 2014

ACA Update

We've seen a flurry of news regarding the Affordable Care Act recently with the most hilarious being that 74% of Republicans of newly insured Republicans like their plan. We also have the graphic below from Gallup.

So, the uninsured rate is now the lowest it's ever been since Gallup started polling six years ago.

Of course, it can't all be good news. House Speaker John Boehner recently stated that the impetus behind suing President Obama is his delaying of the employer mandate in the ACA. The ACA...hmm...that would be the law that House Republicans have tried to repeal how many times now?

Also worthy of note...zombie lies about the ACA that still aren't true

No one will sign up
People won't pay the premiums
Young people haven't signed up
Death panels
It will ruin our economy
We will all be thrown into a boiling pit of sewage

Seems to me like that bubble is contracting just a wee bit more than they would like:)

Zombie Lies!

Bill Maher has done it again. Check out the video below, specifically the last new rule which starts about two minutes in...

How much longer will people believe the Zombie lies?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Do What They Say, Not What They Do...

The standard line from conservatives is that government should meet its obligations and live within its means. Take, for example, this section of the web page for Minnesota state senator Sean Nienow (emphasis added):
Fiscal responsibility with the tax payers money is a high priority for Senator Nienow. The same common sense money management used by families and businesses is also necessary with the state budget. Senator Nienow is committed to being thoughtful, prudent and disciplined with your tax dollars to ensure the state meets its obligations, provides appropriate help to those in need, and fosters a vibrant economic climate for Minnesota business.
This self-proclaimed "fiscally conservative Republican" has just filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He owes the government almost a million bucks for a small business loan he took out in 2009 that he started to default on within 18 months. He has been screwing over his business associates now for years.

While yapping Republican dog whistles on his web page, Nienow hypocritically took my tax dollars in the form of an SBA loan, blew it on some imprudent scheme and is now skipping out on his obligations.

Now we can understand why Republicans are so bad at running government: they use the same wishful thinking, trickle-down, self-dealing, weaselly financial management in government that they use in their personal lives.

What was Nienow's business? A "free online summer camp referral service." What the hell was the SBA thinking when they gave him a loan for over half a million bucks? Oh, wait. The loan was issued in January, 2009, just as George W. Bush was leaving office. Now I get it... The rats were cleaning out the cookie jar.

Among the assets that Senator Nienow wants to be exempted from bankruptcy proceedings are his home, four guns, a broken boat and a Nintendo Gamecube system (!).

Minnesota had been having serious budget troubles under Republican governor Tim Pawlenty for eight years. But since a Democrat was elected governor and both houses of the legislature went Democratic in 2012, Minnesota's state budget has been turned around. Democrats passed a tax relief bill earlier this year, undoing some of the tax increases that were no longer needed (Democrats shrank the government!). The unemployment rate has dropped significantly, to one of the lowest in the nation. In some sectors of the Minnesota economy (IT) there is essentially zero unemployment.

Republicans have been aching for years to turn Minnesota into a cold Alabama by hacking the state government to bits, cutting income taxes and services to the bone while maxing out sales taxes and fees that hurt low-income folks.

But Minnesotans have turned many of these ideologues and charlatans out of office. There's still at least one more to go. Sadly, I doubt Senator Nienow will do the right thing and resign. He seems to need that $31K salary and $100 per-diem he gets for working in the legislature.

Is it unseemly to take such glee in Nienow's personal calamity? Yes. But his fellow Republicans take every chance they can to attack immigrants, teachers, and minimum-wage workers who have been suffering for years with lousy working condition, stagnant wages and a sleep-walking economy. Why should we exhibit compassion for these compassionless people who exult in the misery of the poorest among us? The only way they seem to be able to empathize with the less fortunate is to have misfortune befall them.

Nienow isn't up for reelection until 2016. Here's hoping his constituents have good memories.

The President Lets It Rip

I've waited a long time to see the Barack Obama we saw yesterday in Austin, Texas, and holy crap did he deliver. Take a look...

Quite possibly the most accurate summation of the intransigence he faces from the Republicans in Congress.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gun Safety

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

How A TSM Commenter Fairs Outside of the Bubble

From a gun question on Quora...

You're selectively integrating information and stimuli that reinforces this bizarre victim mentality that fosters a paranoia void of context and logic. Simply put, you're searching for and finding the information that allows you to continue doing what you want to do. 

Similar to a child, you want what you want, in this case a gun or many guns, and you will unconsciously seek out biased information, or incomplete information, to reinforce this desire. In fact, your immediate, conditioned response will be to do exactly that as you formulate a response to this comment. You're not even reading this, your mind is instantly attaching to the information you've inundated yourself with, information that screams at you, while these words I write are but a whisper. Before I spoke, your conditioned response was guaranteed. 

But, the path to enlightenment, however shrouded in the darkness of the controlled mind, is not lost. You can remove the fears and biases that keep you hidden. You can overcome the conditioned response. You can grow and metamorphasize and unfurl. But first you must understand that you know nothing. First you must admit that you know nothing. Only then can your journey begin.

A gun humper admitting they know nothing? With their level of insecurity? I wouldn't hold your breath.

Time for ol' Matt to head back into the bubble where he want be shouted at with all that negativity and truth and stuff...

Compassionate Conservatism

The current situation at our borders that involves unaccompanied children crossing our border has its roots in two US laws passed under George W. Bush. The first is the Homeland Security Act of 2002 which transferred the power to care for these individuals from INS to ORR (the Office of  in the Department of Health and Human Services). So, it became an issue of public health as opposed to immigration.

The second law was the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 which was passed to combat human trafficking. The New York Times has a great piece on this legislation that honestly makes conservative criticism and calls to boot children out look, at best, silly and worst, inhumane. I would imagine that very few conservatives realized that these laws were passed under Republican administrations and were passed with good reason.

Many of these children are in great distress and if we are to be the beacon of liberty and freedom in the world, we must help them. This was indeed the compassionate conservatism of George W Bush seen also in his direct aid to Africa which honestly shifted disease and lifespan on that continent to considerably high degree.

Perhaps it is this compassion that has the conservatives of today apoplectic. They shriek about how "it's the law" and that illegals should deported immediately but the law as it stands today says something much different than their howls and imperial declarations. Perhaps the next time they open their mouths and accuse someone of only following the law when it suits them, they should stop and go look in the mirror.

More importantly, they should recognize that the problem of immigration is the deepest shade of gray of pretty much all of the issues we face today. Their simplistic and xenophobic solution needs to be ejected from the capsule (along with the adolescent insecurity of wanting the other side to always lose) and replaced with reality based initiatives that actually solve the problem. Of course, that's being kind in even saying that they have a solution because it's all still just empty criticism.

I wonder if we will ever see a return to compassionate conservatism.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Autism and the False Equivalence of Science Denial

In recent years autism has been on the rise. There have been a lot of explanations: overdiagnosis, vaccines, the age of the father, the age of the mother, pesticides, etc., etc.

More and more, it's looking like pesticides are the problem
The study by the University of California, Davis, MIND Institute found mothers exposed to organophosphates had a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism. And the risk was strongest when exposures occurred during the second and third trimesters of pregnancies, the research showed. 
It makes a lot of sense. Many pesticides are neurotoxins, just like chemical warfare agents. Certain pesticides (neonicotinoids) have been banned in Europe because of their contribution to the colony collapse disorder that has been devastating bee populations across the world. The nerve toxins make it difficult for bees to find their way back to the hive, which makes the other problems the hives face that much worse.

It's clear that autism is linked to something in the environment. The rate of autism in Somalia is low, but Somali immigrants to the United States have an even higher rate of autism than white Americans. Some have tried to blame it on vaccines, which started in the 1990s when a British researcher published a fraudulent article linking vaccines to autism. At that time it made a certain amount of sense, because thimerosal was used as a preservative (it contains mercury, a known neurotoxin).

It's not just the young that who are affected by pesticides. There are strong links between pesticides and Parkinson's disease: people exposed to pesticides have a 70% higher incidence of the disease.

When conservatives get slammed for being anti-science with their stands on climate change and evolution, the false-equivalencers insist that liberals are just as anti-science with their opposition to vaccines, pesticides, herbicides and genetically-modified (GMO) crops.

But the charge doesn't stand up. Even the most virulent and well-known anti-vaccine celebrity, Jenny McCarthy, insists (at least most of the time) that she's not against vaccines: she's against bad vaccines. When vaccines contained thimerosal there was very good reason to demand they be changed: it's toxic, especially for developing brains. That's why vaccines for children no longer contain mercury.

(For the record, everyone should be vaccinated. It's essential for "herd immunity," and the risk of death or other dire consequences from actually contracting these diseases is much higher than getting vaccinated.)

Pesticides and herbicides, on the other hand, are powerful poisons, extremely toxic and often lethal to humans in even relatively small doses. This is a scientific fact, not some liberal talking point. Although plant, insect and human biology are vastly different, many of the same underlying processes are identical -- all life shares the same basic DNA, cells utilize many of the same basic proteins.

Since we know pesticides and herbicides are toxic, the only question is what level of exposure is safe for humans? And that depends on many things: fetuses are extremely sensitive to environmental insults; even the tiniest dose of a hormone or chemical at the wrong point in development can screw up brain development, causing autism or a host of other birth defects. Different people have different genetics, live in different places, eat different things. For example, it could be that the Somali genetic makeup is much more susceptible to neurotoxins, or they eat a diet which has higher levels of pesticides.

Similarly, much of the opposition to GMO crops is that the genetic modification makes the plants immune to pesticides like Roundup, which allows farmers to more of these toxins, which means that people will get more of them in their food. Furthermore, these modified genes are spreading to weeds, which then pick up Roundup resistance. Half of all US farms now have glyphosate-resistant weeds. Other engineered genetic traits could be spread to other plants; it's debatable whether we have spent enough time and conducted enough research to ensure that these are completely harmless.

These are real problems that real scientists acknowledge; opposing GMO crops because of these problems is not unscientific: it might ignore the economic realities of farming, putting the well-being of children ahead of the profits of multinational corporations like ConAgra and Cargill, but it doesn't deny basic science.

So, when a conservative insists that climate change is hoax, and evolution is the work of the devil, it is nothing like liberals who prefer organic food. Liberals who oppose herbicides don't think they come from the pit of hell, they think that the EPA's maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) of glyphosate in food and drinking water is far too high, especially for developing fetuses.

Why don't liberals trust the EPA's numbers on these toxins? For pretty much the same reason that conservatives don't like the regulations the EPA places on the companies that make these poisons. Government agencies don't set these numbers in a vacuum. They are pressured by politicians, lobbyists, manufacturers and farmers to make contaminant levels as high as possible. Many of these numbers were set during Republican administrations, when political interference in regulatory agencies was inherent to the "get the government off my back" ideology.

But even absent political interference, setting these values is very tricky. Since they can't experiment on living human beings, they can't really know what safe levels are. Using animal studies and other research, the EPA tries to pick levels that should be harmless for most people. But they know full well that some individuals will become one of those unfortunate statistics that is harmed by these poisons, either because their individual genetic makeup is particularly vulnerable to the toxins, or because the toxins will be concentrated in some individuals due to diet, habit or accident.

Is it unreasonable for someone to want to avoid having their children or spouse become one of those unfortunate statistics?

Again, With The Adolescent Behavior

Man, you really have to love conservatives these days.

"The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal," a roller named Ryan told Vocativ. "I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me." 

Weigel spoke to a seller of coal rolling customization equipment who described why some drivers see spewing smoke as a political protest. 

"I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all," the salesperson said. "If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you."

As I have been saying, 12 year old boys...

Monday, July 07, 2014

Hypocritical To The Core

Good Words

From one of my recent Quora questions...

I'm sure they would tell you that there is nothing in the Constitution that says they have to grow up. It's their right to be as childish as they want for as long as they want. We just need to learn to live with it.

No shit.

Republican: "My Party Is Full of Racists"

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Republicans Should Close For Repairs

I missed this interview with Bob Dole but recently discovered it on Quora. It's a year later and he's still 100 percent right.

The Original Immigrants

Saturday, July 05, 2014

The Hypocrisy of Hobby Lobby

In what has to be a textbook definition of hypocrisy, Hobby Lobby invests money in the very companies they take exception to for religious reasons.

Hobby Lobby's founders have made it clear that any abortion and certain contraceptives are unacceptable in their eyes, yet the company's 401(k) plan has millions of dollars invested in funds that own the companies that make birth control methods including Plan B, the so-called "morning after" drug. Like many companies, Hobby Lobby offers its employees a 401(k) plan. 

Over 13,000 past and present employees have taken advantage of that plan, according to the latest documents filed with the Department of Labor. Employees have the option to put their retirement dollars -- and the money that Hobby Lobby contributes on their behalf -- into over a dozen different mutual funds. 

At least eight of those funds have been invested in companies that produce contraceptives such as Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA), Bayer (BAYRY), and Pfizer (PFE), according to a CNNMoney analysis. Teva makes Plan B. At least one fund also held Forest Laboratories, which makes a drug that is used to induce abortions.

Clearly, their reluctance to pay for women's birth control was not motivated by religious objections. It was motivated by financial objections.

They were simply being cheap.

Billionaire Once Again Warns The One Percent

Nick Hanauer has done it again. His recent open memo to his fellow zillionaires is exceptional. Here are a few great pulls...

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent. 

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution. 

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

Of course, it's not just his fellow zillionaires that need to wake up. It's the 30 percent or so of voters who still buy into supply side economics. These are the people who believe that our nation is divided into two parts: the haves and the soon to haves. It's also no coincidence that these same people would like to see a return to the Antebellum South and its aristocratic framework. That's why the are fighting so hard to maintain the status quo. As Hanauer notes, however, it never works.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when. 

When, indeed. I challenge anyone to find an historical example that refutes Hanauer.

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.

This is where the whole issue of hubris comes into play. Conservatives just don't want to admit that liberal policies will make wealthy people wealthier. They ignore how a minimum wage hike will give people more money to spend in the economy which will, in turn, lead to more hiring and more wealthy for the wealthy. It's as if the word "demand" has been excised from their brain stems.

I wanted to try to change the conversation with ideas—by advancing what my co-author, Eric Liu, and I call “middle-out” economics. It’s the long-overdue rebuttal to the trickle-down economics worldview that has become economic orthodoxy across party lines—and has so screwed the American middle class and our economy generally. 

Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another. Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around. 

Exactly right and props to him for coining middle out economics. It's exactly the kind of focus we need on demand.

So, Hanauer asserts that we need to dramatically raise the minimum wage.

The standard response in the minimum-wage debate, made by Republicans and their business backers and plenty of Democrats as well, is that raising the minimum wage costs jobs. Businesses will have to lay off workers. This argument reflects the orthodox economics that most people had in college. If you took Econ 101, then you literally were taught that if wages go up, employment must go down. The law of supply and demand and all that. That’s why you’ve got John Boehner and other Republicans in Congress insisting that if you price employment higher, you get less of it. Really?

Because here’s an odd thing. During the past three decades, compensation for CEOs grew 127 times faster than it did for workers. Since 1950, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased 1,000 percent, and that is not a typo. CEOs used to earn 30 times the median wage; now they rake in 500 times. Yet no company I know of has eliminated its senior managers, or outsourced them to China or automated their jobs. Instead, we now have more CEOs and senior executives than ever before. So, too, for financial services workers and technology workers. These folks earn multiples of the median wage, yet we somehow have more and more of them. 

Fucking. Brilliant.

Next, Hanauer turns to the size of government and, again, makes a brilliant point.

I’d ask my Republican friends to get real about reducing the size of government. Yes, yes and yes, you guys are all correct: The federal government is too big in some ways. But no way can you cut government substantially, not the way things are now. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush each had eight years to do it, and they failed miserably. 

Republicans and Democrats in Congress can’t shrink government with wishful thinking. The only way to slash government for real is to go back to basic economic principles: You have to reduce the demand for government. If people are getting $15 an hour or more, they don’t need food stamps. They don’t need rent assistance. They don’t need you and me to pay for their medical care. If the consumer middle class is back, buying and shopping, then it stands to reason you won’t need as large a welfare state. And at the same time, revenues from payroll and sales taxes would rise, reducing the deficit. 

This may seem hard to grasp for those individuals who have a pathological hatred of the federal government but we can make laws that actually reduce the size and influence of our national governing body.

Hanauer closes with an argument I have made many times.

Capitalism, when well managed, is the greatest social technology ever invented to create prosperity in human societies. But capitalism left unchecked tends toward concentration and collapse. It can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter. That is why investments in the middle class work. And tax breaks for rich people like us don’t. Balancing the power of workers and billionaires by raising the minimum wage isn’t bad for capitalism. It’s an indispensable tool smart capitalists use to make capitalism stable and sustainable.  

Amen. Let's get started!!

Details of the Latest Jobs Report

An even brighter spot in June's jobs report is that fewer Americans are giving up on the job search because they are discouraged by their prospects. Adam Belz notes the fine print.

The fine print of Thursday’s cheery U.S. jobs report revealed that the number of people who are not looking for a job because they don’t think they can find one has fallen by 351,000 in the past 12 months. 

Those who aren’t actively looking for a job don’t count as unemployed in government labor statistics. As the unemployment rate has fallen, a common concern has been that the number misrepresents the reality of the job market, because the ranks of discouraged workers rose as high as 1.3 million in 2010. That figure has fallen to 676,000.

Thursday’s numbers, which show the ranks of discouraged workers falling by 21,000 in June and declining steadily over the past year, indicate that retirement — not a weak job market — is increasingly the biggest reason people are leaving the workforce.

Very good news indeed!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Give Us Your Tired, Poor, and Hungry (unless they are brown women and children in which case...FUCK OFF!)

Happy Birthday, America. Sorry you still have to deal with people like this...

When the three busloads of immigrant mothers and children rolled into town for processing at a Border Patrol station this week, they were met by protesters carrying American flags and signs proclaiming “return to sender” as they screamed “go home” and chanted “U.S.A.” Fearing for the safety of the migrants and federal officers, immigration officials decided to reroute the buses to San Diego, an hour south.

After a Border Patrol official explained that more buses would probably arrive in Murrieta in the coming weeks as part of an attempt to relieve processing centers near the Texas border, one man took to the microphone and demanded to know: “Why do we have to put them on a bus to Murrieta? Why can’t we just transport them on a bus to Tijuana?” 

The crowd responded with thunderous applause.

I'm feeling pretty ashamed of some of my fellow Americans today. These are children who fleeing violence in Honduras and other Central American nations and this is what they get? Anger and hate?  What would Jesus Christ think of this? Christian nation my ass.

The one thing that gives me hope, though, is Steve Schmidt's prediction contained in the video below. It starts at the 4 minute mark.

Take note, Republicans. Keep up the hate and intolerance and you will end up like the California Republican party.

A regional party with zero fucking power.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

How We'll Adapt to Climate Change

For years many conservatives have been denying climate change even exists, and when they finally break down and admit it does, they say it'll cost too much to do anything about it and, as Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil (and Putin buddy) says, we'll find some way to adapt.

What form will adaptation take? Let's look at an example. The American Southwest has been hammered by drought for years, a condition that has been worsened by higher temperatures due to climate change. We're already beginning to see the fallout across the country:
[Minnesota-based] Dakota Premium Foods said Wednesday that it will temporarily cease production at its South St. Paul beef processing plant due to “extremely short cattle supply.”

The shutdown is effective immediately and will idle 300 workers. Dakota Premium said it does not know how long the plant will remain closed.
The U.S. beef processing industry has wrestled for the past two years with a shortage of cattle, due primarily to drought conditions in the Southwest. As drought burned out pasture lands, ranchers greatly cut back on their herds.

“We regret that the current limited cattle supplies, the smallest numbers since the early 1950s, [have] forced us to make this very difficult decision,” Dan Mehesan, president of Dakota parent ­American Foods Group’s fresh meat division, said in a statement.
A recent report on climate change (Risky Business) from businessmen and former Secretaries of the Treasury, both Republicans and Democrats, outlined many of the economic woes climate change will wreak.

It won't be long before cattle production will become impossible in many parts of the Southwest because the rivers are drying up (due to lack of snowpack in the Rockies) and the aquifers are running dry (due to excessive pumping to irrigate crops, water golf courses in Phoenix and Tucson and run the fountains in Las Vegas). A single beef animal requires 2,000-7,000 gallons of water a year (more the hotter it gets). Putting them in expensive air-conditioned barns won't help; hay shortages have plagued ranchers for years now.

How will we adapt? Ranchers will declare bankruptcy. The price of beef will go up. Meat packers will go out of business. Americans will eat fewer hamburgers. Some cattle ranching will move to areas that are currently productive farmland, but which will become more arid and become fit only for pastureland. The communities in the stricken areas will become ghost towns. Agricultural production and American exports will decline.

So, even if cattle production is eventually relocated elsewhere, the economic disruption and dislocation will figure in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and the human misery caused is incalculable.

But it's not just cattle ranching that will be affected. California's Central Valley has been stricken by the same drought. That's an even greater problem:
[California's] $45bn (£26bn) farming industry produces almost half the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the US, and to do that it uses 80 per cent of California’s water. Almonds alone account for 10 per cent of the state’s water use – not surprising, given that California produces 80 per cent of the world’s almonds.
And it isn't just California. The plains states are also suffering from a years-long drought. In other words, the United States is losing the most productive farmland in the world.

Adapting to climate change will mean millions of people will lose their jobs and millions of acres of land will become unproductive deserts. The people affected will have to look for work in other states, mainly the north, because the South and Southwest will become unbearably and dangerously hot in the summer.
The "adaptation" that wealthy oil executives and their conservative apologists speak so blithely about will leave millions Americans out of work, forced to abandon their homes for other states, falling into bankruptcy and poverty.

Wouldn't it make more sense for us to adapt by having Mr. Tillerson's company help pay for the damage that his company's product is causing?

And that's why we need a carbon tax and/or a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions. It's a far more efficient way for us to adapt than throwing every other sector of the economy out of whack and rendering our most productive farmlands infertile.