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?

That Loser Obama

For someone who just lost an election, President Obama looks an awful lot like a winner. That's largely due to his recent trip to Asia in which he secured deals with China on carbon emissions and trade. The latter is massive considering the reduction in trade tariffs that the new agreement outlines. And the agreement on carbon emissions is the first of its kind between the world's two biggest carbon polluters.

The president has set the tone for the last two years of his presidency. He is going to get things done-with or without Congress-and that's likely going to be a problem for the group of 12 year-olds that are desperate to see him fail. What they need to understand is that it's in their best interest (see: 2016) to be able to point to some achievements that they had a hand in. Failure to do so will not sit well when the voter turnout goes above 40 percent:)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why You Should Vote In Every Election

Oil Billionaire Says Keystone Irrelevant

As Congress tries to steamroll President Obama into building the Keystone XL pipeline, oil billionaire Harold Hamm says it's a waste of time.
“It’s not relevant at all in my opinion. And here we are making it relevant now? Forget it,” the billionaire CEO of Oklahoma-based Continental Resources told POLITICO in an interview Friday, just before the House passed a bill aimed at approving the pipeline.
The old Beatles song was right: Money can't buy you love. But it can buy you a Congress.
The price of gasoline is now less than $3.00 a gallon, the lowest price in four years. It's $2.69 a gallon in some places around the Twin Cities. At that price it is no longer be profitable to frack oil. From Forbes:
At $100 a barrel, the average oil company can generate net income on the order of $15 a barrel. But as prices fall, this margin evaporates quickly. A decline of $10 to $90 leaves a margin of only $5, that means profits plunge 66%. Thus, at current prices, the average oil company won’t be profitable at all, and the weaker ones, loaded up with debt, are the walking dead.
That means that $3.00 gasoline simply cannot last. If the price stays low for long, a lot of these oil companies, especially the independents, are going to go bankrupt. And when the fracking bubble bursts it's going to leave a huge, black, sticky mess in states like North Dakota, with nobody to pay for it, just like it did in Texas years ago.

Hamm's plan to remedy the problem of unprofitability?
Instead, he said, Washington should devote its efforts to lifting the 1970s-era U.S. ban on exporting crude oil — a cause that has gained momentum in Congress during the past year, even though Republicans have been divided. “They can lift that ban on exports and level the playing field and untie our hands,” Hamm said. “That’s the number one issue right there. If anybody’s got a doubt, that’s it.”
Republicans say the Keystone pipeline is necessary to increase national security by providing a domestic source of oil. Don't they get that Canada is a foreign country?
The whole argument for the Keystone XL pipeline is that it will increase our national security by providing us with a domestic source of oil. Republicans say this with a straight face, even though Canada is a foreign country! Remember how Ted Cruz just couldn't wait to disavow his Canadian birthright?

But at the same time oil magnates like Hamm want to be able to sell our domestic oil on the international market. What effect will that have? It will make the price of oil go up, because American drillers (and foreign companies like BP) will be able to spirit our oil away to China and Europe. Oil barons like Hamm just want to be able to sell the highest bidder. So much for national security, and any sense of loyalty to the United States.

The thing about fracking is that most of these fields were abandoned years ago as played out and unprofitable. When the price of oil went up, fracking allowed drillers to get the last dregs of that prohibitively expensive crude out of the ground.

But that also means most of these fields are running on empty. And when they start to run out again, which they will in just a few years, the fracking boom will bust. The price of oil will skyrocket again. But how likely do you think a Congress that was bought and paid for by Hamm and the Koch brothers will change the law back to keep American oil for Americans?

By coincidence, Hamm was in the news earlier this week. A judge awarded his ex-wife a billion dollars in a divorce settlement. That's less than 6% of his $18 billion fortune.
Harold Hamm has been directed to pay $322 million to his ex-wife by the end of the year, then minimum payments of $7 million each month starting in January. 
Sue Ann Hamm was awarded the couple's $4.6 million marital home in Nichols Hills, Oklahoma; an $800,000 home in Enid, Oklahoma; and a $17.4 million home in Carmel Valley, California.

Harold Hamm was awarded a $750,000 home in Branson, Missouri, along with a log cabin and 154 acres in Major County, Oklahoma, valued at about $300,000.
His divorce is going leave him nothing but a shack to live in!

The old Beatles song was right: Money can't buy you love. But it can buy you a Congress.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Best Worst President Ever

From SF Gate...

“Obama is the worst thing to ever happen to this country,” declares the wealthy, rakish, silver-haired Newport Beach white guy to his small group of perfectly tanned 50-something females sitting just a few feet away from us at a stunning restaurant patio overlooking the sun-kissed California coastline, just off of Highway 1, as he sipped his pinot and adjusted his wraparound Ray Bans, flush from the economy’s spectacular recovery that has benefitted his exact demographic most of all, stroking his purebred dog and taking various selfies with their $500 phones, oblivious to the furious swirls of irony and hypocrisy fluttering just above their heads. 

I laughed out loud. Couldn’t help it; I had just overheard Mr. Newport Beach say something about how Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster (despite how, of course, it’s not), and if America were to somehow actually develop a health care system similar to, say, Canada’s, that would be the end of America for certain; we’d never recover from such a devastating blow. Or something. And then came the “worst thing to ever happen” quip, and I couldn’t hold back.

Sometimes I think they just like to hear themselves bitch...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Off On a Comet

Jules Verne published Off on a Comet in 1877. Its plot is rather silly, but really no sillier than Interstellar and Gravity. Now one of our surrogate droids is going to fulfill Verne's dream of landing on one of those ominous heavenly objects.

This is a really cool photo from the Rosetta probe that's about to send a lander to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko:

More photos are here.

It's really ironic that we can pull off something as complicated putting a man on the moon almost 50 years ago, and this year landing a space probe on a comet 300 million miles away, yet we cannot manage to keep our roads in good repair, or ensure that all Americans have a roof over their heads and access to decent health care.

That's not a knock against the space program: this country -- this planet -- is rich enough to explore space and take care of all our citizens, if only those self-styled masters of the universe who just spent $6 billion dollars buying the last election weren't such selfish wienies.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Americans: 8, Ebola: 0

Remember, before the election, when Ebola was going to kill us all? The nurse in Maine who wanted to ride her bicycle was endangering everyone with her brazen selfishness? The doctor in New York rode the subway and presented a deadly menace to all mankind?

It turns out that, in a country with decent medical care, and in hospitals with competent staff, Ebola isn't so deadly after all. All eight Americans infected with Ebola and treated in the United States have survived.

The nurse in Maine never had Ebola, and, disgusted with the treatment she received, is leaving the state. The doctor in New York is playing his banjo and riding his exercise bike, and will be released shortly.

Ebola is bad. But the CDC has been accurately describing the level of risk. As the president and every other expert in the field has been saying, the real risk is that the disease will continue to grow out of control in Africa, potentially evolving into something that will be more easily transmitted.

That means we need to stop the outbreak in Africa as soon as possible. And that means sending qualified doctors and nurses to Africa to help stem the tide.

If we make everyone who participates in the fight against Ebola feel like a pariah and take away their civil rights, no one will go there. That risks prolonging the outbreak long enough to allow the virus to mutate into something that is as terrible as we're afraid of.

We've been lucky. One of these times an American infected with Ebola will die. But the fight against this disease is like the fight against Islamic terrorists. We don't give up when the terrorists kill a few Americans. Why should we give up and hide because someone got sick with Ebola?

Monday, November 10, 2014

The President Will Move On Immigration

In a recent CBS interview, the president vowed to move on immigration if Congress does not act. The Republicans may have won the most recent election but they are really in a corner on this one. If they act, they will piss off all the Tea Party types. If they don't act, say buh-bye to the White House for the next 8 years.

Worse, if they decide to impeach the president because he "poisoned the well," well....then they might lose all the gains they won last Tuesday.

Movie Critique: Interstellar

Mark and I went to see Interstellar this past Sunday. It's been compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a notion perpetuated by director Christopher Nolan himself.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: I saw 2001 when I was ten years old. I knew 2001 inside and out. 2001 was my favorite movie. Interstellar is no 2001.

First, Interstellar is too damn loud. I'm not the only one to make this complaint. A thick percentage of the movie's dialog is completely drowned out by a subsonic rumble that rattles your ribcage. If the director doesn't care whether you can hear what the actors are saying, why have them say anything? In 2001, there were long stretches where no words were spoken. There were long stretches of actual silence and musical interludes that substituted for soundlessness of space.

Nolan included some of that too; he obviously intended the film to be firmly grounded in realistic science: it starts out like a documentary, with geezers talking about the bad old days (these are actually flashforwards). It is filled with talk of slingshotting past Mars to get to Saturn, relativity, gravitational time dilation, the twin paradox (with a daddy twist), and it was peopled by physicists and astronauts.  But, like the recent film Gravity, Nolan just could not stop himself from filling the movie with unscientific and incoherent nonsense, without getting any artistic return for the sacrifice.

Nolan gets almost every bit of science and technology wrong: from agronomy, to astronomy, to remote sensing, to orbital mechanics, to physics, to physiology, and on and on.
Why, in a movie that that rails against mendacity and mediocrity, does the director settle for mendacity and mediocrity in his story-telling?
The premise of the film is that the world is suffering from sort of blight that is killing all the crops. Dust constantly sifts down from the sky, and there are huge dust storms, yet we never see where the dust is coming from, everywhere the characters go there are endless fields of bright green corn. Wheat no longer grows, and all the okra (seriously, okra?) has now died off as well. The only crop left is corn. And that's on the way out too.

The hero, "Coop" Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey), is a former astronaut who is now a farmer. Because food is so scarce everyone has to be a farmer, even though crops are automatically harvested by gigantic robot combines. The world has abandoned its future, choosing to eke out an existence of pale, dusty subsistence.

Coop eventually finds his way to a secret NASA installation, where he and his daughter meet the people who have a plan to save the world. I knew this movie was in real trouble when the door from the conference room opened directly into the silo where they were going to launch a 1960s vintage Saturn V rocket.

What is the secret plan to save the world from corn blight? There are two. Plan A: go to another galaxy through a monolith, er, wormhole, that mysteriously pops up around Saturn, and then find another planet where we'll move six billion people. Plan B: same as Plan A except instead of bringing six billion people, bring thousands of fertilized embryos and just one woman (Anne Hathaway) to bear them all.

Now, as a former astronaut Coop would have known in an instant that Plan A is a total crock. You cannot save more than a few hundred or few thousand people through conventional space travel to escape corn blight. Plan B is also a total crock, because -- although they stupidly brought the frozen embryos along -- they didn't bring enough women, or fetal creches, or even supplies to house and clothe and feed a colony raised from embryos.

Nolan is playing us for fools because he's playing his hero as a fool. And it's not just technical errors, it's emotional manipulation as well.

NASA typically takes months and years to train for missions, but Coop — who hasn't flown in decades — goes directly from his farm to pilot a spacecraft to Saturn. Why the rush? Because the director wanted to force an angry and emotional tiff between Coop and his daughter, forcing an abrupt separation. In reality, he would train for months, and there would have been oodles of time for reconciliation with the girl. But the spindly directorial manipulations of his characters' emotions demanded this.

After the launch into space Nolan makes a huge deal of spinning up the spacecraft to generate artificial gravity: the trip from Earth to Saturn will take two years. But then the crew goes into hibernation.Yes, they're just going to sleep for two whole years. Which means that spinning up the spacecraft is a complete waste: lying motionless has exactly the same deleterious effects on human physiology that weightlessness does.

So why do they need to spin the craft at all? To force a gimmicky — and loud — action scene later on, of course. And besides, the Discovery in 2001 was spinning! And had hibernation. And had a computer that said snappy things. So of course Interstellar had to have all that too.

Once they pass through the wormhole any pretense of scientific accuracy is thrown out the airlock. While it took them years to get to Saturn, on the other side they zip around from planet to planet in hours.

The people who wrote this movie do not seem to understand a damned thing about how scientists study other planets. Five centuries ago Galileo saw mountains on the moon. Ninety years ago we knew the basic compositions of the atmospheres of Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, etc. We mapped the surface of Venus with radar from earth fifty years ago. Right now, today, we can analyze the compositions of the atmospheres of stars and even planets light years away.

Yet the only way Nolan's scientists can think to get this same data about potential new homes for mankind was to land on these planets. Even more incredibly and stultifyingly stupid, Coop and friends risk fetching a data recorder (why doesn't it just transmit the data via radio like our probes on Mars?) that is on a planet deep enough in the black hole's gravity well that it suffers a time dilation factor of 1:63,785. Once there, they are surprised to find that the mountains in the distance are actually huge waves of water (fortunately the data recorder had landed in a knee-deep puddle). Disaster ensues, of course, and they waste 20-odd relativistic years of earth time for a few hours of futile idiocy.

And, somehow, magically, they have enough fuel to get out of that huge gravity well and resume the normal passage of time.

Why didn't they just look at the planet from millions of miles away to determine that it was covered with water and uninhabitable? Like we can? Didn't they think to bring telescopes and spectrometers?

Oh, and if you're close enough to be affected by time dilation of the gravity well of a black hole, you're close enough to be killed instantly by the radiation caused by ripping apart of all the gas and dust in the accretion disc as it's sucked into said black hole. And -- without knowing the mass of the black hole, I can't really say this for sure -- I suspect that to get that kind of time dilation you would have to be inside the event horizon of the black hole, or so close that you would never have enough fuel to attain escape velocity.

Anyway, after that debacle they just zip on over to another planet shrouded with clouds made of solid ice that they can just flit by (what keeps the clouds up, I have no idea), to find a homicidal Matt Damon, who lied about the planet he landed on: it has no surface, it's just a bunch of ice clouds. Coop and friends had just looked at "the data" Damon sent back and decided it was their best bet, without seeing any pictures of the planet of the surface of the planet. These people are idiots.

The basic premise of the film, that humanity was in danger of dying out because of corn blight and could be saved by emigrating to another galaxy, is completely flawed. If all the wheat, corn and (ahem) okra died off, humanity would be at no risk of extinction. Would there be disease, famine, war? Yes. Mass die-offs of populations over vast regions? Yes. But we would survive as a species. The population would stabilize at some much smaller, more sustainable value, perhaps in the hundreds of millions.

Even climate change doomsayers don't say that climate change in and of itself will destroy the planet: it will drastically reduce populations of humans and certain species, but the planet, some remnant of humanity and life itself will still be here: the world will simply be much less amenable to an advanced technological society that requires cheap and abundant foodstuffs. The end of the world scenario only occurs if conflicts over land and food escalate into global thermonuclear war.

And, as shown in the end of Interstellar, it is not necessary to go to another galaxy to save the human race: we only need to reach the moon and other planets to establish a permanent human presence beyond the earth. And we can do it with the technology we have right now, without any fancy theory deduced by examing gigabytes of raw data dictated out loud by a computer falling into a black hole and then retransmitted by hand via Morse code through the hands of a watch. Say what?! You read that right. This is completely stupid, and it is the crux of the film.

I wanted to like Interstellar. The core of it is the relationship between a father and a daughter, and the mysteries of space-time and relativity. That is a story worth exploring. It's just so frustrating how incompetently and arrogantly Nolan and his brother treated their subject. If they had spent just 10 more minutes spit-balling the backstory, they could have made a 2001-quality epic that wasn't filled with idiotic nonsense.

First off, Nolan picked the wrong crisis to hang his movie on. Corn blight would never necessitate going into space, much less through a wormhole to another galaxy. That doesn't mean you can't make this movie, you just have to change things so that it makes sense.

For example, if that wormhole had appeared near earth instead of Saturn — incidentally trashing Coop's career as an astronaut, making it his personal nemesis — it would raise all kinds of havoc here, destroying our satellites, ruining our electrical grid, disrupting the climate, killing our crops and causing violent tectonic activity due to the tidal forces.

Social and political conditions would quickly deteriorate to those depicted in Nolan's movie. The difference being that the presence of a wormhole right next to earth really does threaten the very existence of humanity and the planet itself. Haring off to Saturn will never solve the corn blight problem: studying the wormhole that's about to swallow earth is the only option.

It makes for better special effects too: the wormhole could have been a baleful Eye of Mordor that hung in the sky. It could cause as many dust storms and earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes as any movie maven could want. Positioning the wormhole near earth also eliminates all this pointless travel from point A to point B that plagued Interstellar and made it a ridiculously long three hours.

And then there's the irony: the wormhole that threatens to destroy humanity is the key to saving humanity if we learn its secrets. All the trademark Nolan mind-bending time-warping weirdness that is the artistic crescendo of the film would bear directly on the characters and their salvation, rather than some weird side effect of trying to escape corn blight. And what's really dumb is that at the end of the actual film, the corn blight problem is solved without ever going to another galaxy through the wormhole! All that running around was for nothing!

Did the Nolans consider this scenario and reject it as too abstruse? Do they seriously think corn blight resonates more deeply with the average movie viewer than the earth getting swallowed by a black hole?
Is corn blight some subtle jab at Monsanto and the monoculture that agribusiness is forcing on the American farmer?
The movie's obvious political theme, vilifying those who would just give up on exploration and let humanity sink into mediocrity and oblivion, could be just as effectively be played out in a world that had been ravaged by the tidal effects of a wormhole as a world savaged by corn blight.

2001, despite being almost 50 years old, is still solid technically. It still looks pretty damn good, even though all its special effects were optical and practical, rather than computer generated. It depicts fantastic and impossible events in a way that allows even the most critical viewer to suspend disbelief. You can see why 2001 would inspire a film maker like Nolan.

The knock against 2001 is that its characters are emotionless automata — the computer HAL shows as much emotion as anyone else. But that was Kubrick's intent: the cool, controlled, emotionless astronaut with the Right Stuff was an archetype of the 1960s. You can see why a film maker like Nolan would want to have a crack at a film that puts people and their emotions on an equal footing with the big ideas.

Thus, Interstellar tries to personalize the forces of the universe to tell a story about the love between a father and a daughter, the sacrifices that a father will make to save his family and the transcendance of the human spirit. And that's a noble goal. But you can tell that story without getting everything else wrong.

And it's not just the technical errors. When everything about that sacrifice is a crock and the father is a gullible fool deceived by lies that any comic book reader would see through instantly, you have to wonder whether the director is dishonest, lazy, incompetent, or simply has nothing but contempt for the intelligence of his audience.

When your movie is all about clever scientists and can-do engineers and pilots who are cracking the mysteries of the universe with science, and then you get all the science and technology wrong, and your inspiration is clearly 2001, it's clear you have failed in your attempt at an homage and produced an embarrassingly shoddy imitation.

One more time: Interstellar ain't no 2001.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

A Liberal Landslide

Here's an interesting piece from my local paper on how the Democrats won on the issues but lost with candidates. Some choice cuts.

-Voters approved every initiative to raise the minimum wage (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota). Voters in San Francisco and Oakland approved initiatives to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018. The good citizens of Oakland and Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved more generous paid sick leave. 

-Both Colorado and North Dakota voters rejected measures that would have given the fertilized egg personhood under their criminal codes. 

-Washington state voters approved background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private transactions. 

The minimum wage hikes in those deep red states speaks volumes. Perhaps if Democrats grew a spine and stood up for each other, especially the president, they would win more midterm elections.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Good Words

Regarding the election being a referendum on President Obama...

This election was a weird referendum on Obama. His core supporters voted by not voting. We saw a decline in youth voter turnout. There could be a couple of explanations for this: 

-They could be unhappy with the job Obama is doing 

-They could be apathetic, believing that they have better things to do than vote 

-They may have seen that there was a Republican takeover of the Senate projected and said "why bother?" 

For those that didn't turn out to vote, they found themselves not supporting Obama for the policies that he hasn't dealt with. We haven't seen any major work on climate change, we haven't seen any major work on immigration, we haven't seen any major work on student loans. If you're a voter who is unhappy with lack of progress on those fronts, why would you take time out of your day to go out an support someone who doesn't seem to be fighting for your issues?

This pretty much sums up the liberal sentiment towards the president. That's why I think he should go all in on immigration and tell Congress to fuck off. He should do as much as he can within the limits of his executive power. After doing that, he should take a look at all the major issues of the day (jobs, economy, climate change) and push for the solutions that actually address these problems. Because the GOP's only response will be "We stand for...NOT OBAMA."

Friday, November 07, 2014

Voter Turnout

US News has an interesting graphic up that shows just how bad voter turnout was in the election last Tuesday. Barely 40 percent in Arkansas and Louisiana. Wow. Under 40 percent in Illinois and Florida. Completely pathetic. Basically the only people that turned out to vote were old, white people. No wonder the GOP won so handily.

Republicans have been proclaiming that United States voters have rejected the president's policies. Which ones? The economy is better, unemployment is down to 5.8 percent, the deficit has shrunk, and more Americans have health care. What am I missing?

The only answers I have gotten are a bunch of ideological nonsense.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Big GOP Win

The Republicans had their day in the sun yesterday winning (for right now) a 52 seat majority to 45 for the Dems. Alaska looks like it will go GOP and Virginia looks like it will stay blue. Louisiana will have a run off in December which Landrieu will likely lose. The GOP also gained 13 in the House. So that makes it 54-46. Republican governors (save Pennsylvania) stayed in office and won big as well.

What does it all mean? Well, a large part of it is voter turnout. People just stayed home or didn't know there was an election. The rest was pure anger, hate and fear of President Obama. The GOP ran on nothing but that and won.

It's going to be interesting to see if the GOP actually works with the president or acts like adolescents. I predict the former because if they want to have any chance of staying in power in 2016, they are going to have to work with him.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Election Eve

Twas the night before the midterms and all seems lost for the Democrats...

I'm still not changing my prediction. It's going to end up 51 R 49 D. Further, I also predict that the GOP will caterwaul about how this means the country is moving right, hates Obama, and liberals/progressives are over.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. If the GOP does indeed prevail, as I believe they will, it will simply be due to low voter turnout. Nikto put up a nice piece yesterday about why people should vote in every election. I've often wondered if compulsory voting would make things better. Part of me thinks it would make things worse.

Go vote tomorrow!!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Why You Should Vote in This -- and Every -- Election

There have been several articles, like this one, that say Republicans win more seats in off election years because Democrats are disappointed, unmotivated and disengaged with politics.

Why? Conservatives seem to be driven by fear, and every election year the Republican fear machine cranks into high gear. Remember how Obama was gonna get all your guns? And how the economy was going to be destroyed by the meager stimulus that was passed? And how the deficit was going to cause runaway inflation and all our 401Ks would be destroyed, and the stock market would be trashed because all confidence would be lost. And that Obamacare would be terrible and would we all die?

As always, the Republican predictions of gloom and doom were cow puckey. But they did get lots of conservatives to vote in 2010, which elected a lot of Republicans to state legislatures, which allowed them to gerrymander congressional districts to give them control of the House in 2012, even though Democrats received more than a million more votes than Republicans in House races.

Republicans use scare tactics because conservatives respond to fear and negative emotions such as closet racism and homophobia, anger and hatred. Moderates and liberals respond more to positive emotions, so when things are blah, and everything looks like crap (mostly because Republicans have stymied any sort of progress since they took back the House in 2010), Democrats tend to be unmotivated.

Well, that should end immediately. Because things really aren't all that crappy, considering the twin disasters of the Iraq war and the 2008 recession that Bush left us with. However, if the current crop of Republicans gets any more power, the slowly positive trend of the last six years will be reversed. Because that's how Republicans like it: they intentionally make everything bleak because that's how they keep their power.

The way to change that is to vote. In every election. In particular, in every Congressional election, such as this year's House and Senate races. But it's also important to vote in every other election, especially state legislatures. But also including the boring ones in odd-numbered years for municipal races like city council, county commissioner, and even school board. And don't forget primaries -- primaries pick who will run for the office, and since so few people vote in them one primary vote is worth five to 10 times as much as a general election vote.

Why should you vote in these elections? Because you put the people that you like in positions of power that affect things in your everyday life -- like the quality of the schools, the upkeep of roads and bike trails, noise ordinances, but more importantly who appoints the police chief, who makes the election laws and who runs county clerk's office (where many of the inroads in gay marriage took place).

With all the problems we've seen in recent months in places like Ferguson, MO, it's clear that these "boring" local elections are especially important for people who want to see people of all ethnicities treated fairly by the cops. And the large crop of Republican-sponsored voter suppression laws masquerading as "protecting the integrity of the system" means that your right to vote is in danger as long as Republicans retain control of state legislatures.

These local political offices are where the majority of politicians get their start. School boards are frequently the launching pad for state legislatures and city councils. These offices put candidates in front of the public, giving them name recognition, and attracting the attention of the most active voters in their districts. Those contacts give them the juice to run for higher office.

Running for local offices shows candidates the ropes and teaches them important governing skills. They get used to speaking in public. They learn how politics works. They learn how to talk to people who disagree with them without being disagreeable. They learn to work with others toward a common goal, and to work out mutually beneficial solutions.

Most politicians don't start out famous like Al Franken or Jessie Ventura or Ronald Reagan. They run for school board, then the city council, then the state legislature, then maybe secretary of state or state auditor, then maybe governor or representative or senator. All the while these people meet others of like mind, who they can count on when they want to run for another office.

Without this kind of background, only celebrities, the wealthy, and the notorious have the kind of name recognition -- and money -- required to win an election. And these celebrity candidates often don't govern very well, because they haven't learned the collaborative skills needed for effective governance.

That's why you need to vote in every election. You need to give the kind of people you want to be running things the support they need to be successful in the long run.

So don't get discouraged by Republican carping and deceit: go out and vote.

In 2012, conservative billionaires spent billions. Karl Rove was convinced they had bought the election, lock, stock and barrel. But they flopped because the people went out and voted in large numbers, proving that every vote counts.

If the people go out and vote again this Tuesday, the Republican takeover of the Senate will be a bust, just like Mitt Romney's 2012 "landslide."

Come on, do it. Vote this Tuesday. Don't you want to see Karl Rove go apoplectic again?