Monday, March 31, 2014

No Such Thing As Obamacare

There is no such thing as ObamaCare. You can't sign up for ObamaCare. You're signing up for an Anthem (ph) policy or an Aetna policy, or a WellPoint policy. It is private insurance. And private insurance companies have been doing closed networks for years.

Senator Angus King, I-Maine, on the lying about the Affordable Care Act.

Latest Climate Chane Report From IPCC

The IPCC has just published its latest report on climate change. It details the impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability associated with climate change. An example of this would be the risk associated with food insecurity due to more intense droughts, floods, and heat waves in a warmer world, especially for poorer countries.

What strikes me as ironic about the food shortage issue is this is the exact same outcome seen by conservatives as a result of our federal government's mishandling of our economy. I got to hear about it all weekend at a recent family gathering from my brother in law who is basically inconsolable. "Our children's futures are being mortgaged away" he cried many times yet the very real danger presented by climate change bounced off the bubble. "Liberal propaganda...liberal plot to control us..." were words I heard any time the subject came up.

It's not just climate change, though. They have no concern whatsoever about the abuse of power of corporations, our dilapidated infrastructure, the inability of parents to think globally in terms of our education system or our health care know, the ACTUAL problems we have as opposed to the phantom menaces they make up (actually it's only one menace...the federal government).

So, why do conservatives worry about things that aren't likely to happen and go completely limp when it comes to things that likely will happen?

So Much For The Obamacare Horror Stories

Koch Group Abandons Obamacare 'Horror' Stories After Fact-Check Backlash.

Perhaps they have finally learned their lesson:)

Food Stamp Myths

There are a lot of myths about food stamps and this site is an excellent source for correcting the misinformation. Here are a few basic facts.

76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.

These are real people, folks, with real problems. Lumping them all into one category as lazy, good for nothings is ridiculous.

Two-thirds of all SNAP payment errors are a result of caseworker error. Nearly one-fifth are underpayments, which occur when eligible participants receive less in benefits than they are eligible to receive.

The idea that there is something special about the "fraud" that goes on with SNAP is completely ridiculous. The errors aren't overpayments but underpayments.

Here is one of my favorite myths followed by reality.

Work Requirements 

Myth: SNAP doesn’t do enough to encourage participants to get a job, and the program needs stronger work requirements. 

Reality: SNAP already has strict time-limits for unemployed workers. Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) may only receive 3 months of SNAP benefits during any 3 year period, unless they are working in a qualifying job training program. The SNAP benefit formula is structured to provide a strong work incentive – for every additional dollar a SNAP participant earns, their benefits decline by about 24 to 36 cents, not a full dollar, so participants have a strong incentive to find work, work longer hours, or seek better-paying employment.

We have enough problems with helping out those in need. Adding fake problems makes it worse. The next time you here some mouth foaming about food stamps, check out this site for reality.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ah, Karma...

As I remind people all the time, irresponsible...

Putin Calls Obama

Vladamir Putin called the president on Friday to discuss diplomatic solutions to the situation in Ukraine. He also has stated that Russian troops would not move into eastern Ukraine. Neither one of these occurrences should be viewed as the end of the crisis but they do represent a shift away from warmer temperatures.

It's interesting to note that phone calls about diplomacy and assurances over troop movements are being made after the "ineffective" sanctions are now in place. Does this also mean that Putin has lost his macho luster with the GOP? After all, what kind of a leader tells another country that they won't be invading? A wimpy pussy, right?

Obama's Catholic Roots

There are still around 17 percent of American voters who think that Barack Obama is a Muslim. The fact is, though, that his roots are very deeply Christian.

By the time of that session in the spring of 1987, Mr. Obama — himself not Catholic — was already well known in Chicago’s black Catholic circles. He had arrived two years earlier to fill an organizing position paid for by a church grant, and had spent his first months here surrounded by Catholic pastors and congregations. In this often overlooked period of the president’s life, he had a desk in a South Side parish and became steeped in the social justice wing of the church, which played a powerful role in his political formation.

The concept of social justice comes directly from the teachings of Jesus Christ and has been carried forward with a great deal of success by the Catholic Church. This is what drove the president to community service and his actions illustrate this quite clearly. His recent meeting with the Pope was a meeting of like minded individuals who understand that service to the poor is service to Jesus Christ. As the article notes, they are kindred spirits who strongly believe in social justice and inclusion.

There isn't any mystery to the president's agenda. He wants to help people out who are less fortunate. It's just that simple.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is Fracking Safe Or Not?

A Nation of Takers

Nicholas Kristof is completely accurate in identifying the group of people who continually spoon off of the government. They are:

1. People who get subsidies for their private planes
2. People who get subsidies for their yachts
3. People who run hedge funds and and private equity groups
4. Banks
5. American Corporations.

Combined, these folks account for around $200 billion dollars a year of taxpayer money. And it's OK to cut SNAP money by $8 billion dollars? Really?

I hear quite a bit of mouth foaming over food stamps and nothing but crickets when it comes to the above list of welfare queens.

Stamp the ACA Right On Your Forehead

If Democrats want to retain control of the Senate this year, they need to stand proudly behind the Affordable Care Act. They can cite all of the people that are now covered that weren't covered before. They can hold up the basic fact that if you have a pre-existing condition you can't be dropped by your insurance company. They can illustrate how you won't go bankrupt if you have an illness. They can discuss how children and young adults up to age 26 are covered under the parents policies.

And they can reveal that the Republicans have nothing but spite, anger and fear to offer instead of the ACA.

Take the example of Mark Udall who is running for re-election in Colorado.

He'd vote for it again. Damn right!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gunning Down Obamacare

If there was any doubt left about the maturity level of the GOP...

Good Words

With respect to Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia’s our No. 1 geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that, you know, America’s got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors—not out of strength but out of weakness.

---President Barack Obama, March 25, 2014

Indeed. And say buh-bye to the G-8 (now G-7)

Putin Envy

Conversion of A Clinton Hater

David Brock used to be a mouthfoamer but now he has seen the error of his ways.

On Tuesday, he was the featured speaker at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas, where he delivered a speech about his political conversion and his efforts to “blow the whistle” on what he sees as the right-wing’s “obsession” with the Clintons. “At its root, I realized, Clinton-hating had nothing to do with what the Clintons did and did not do,” Brock said. “It had everything to do with fear of the kind of change they represented on one hand — and on the other, a newly brutal form of partisan politics.”

Sound familiar?

I wonder if years from now we will have converts from the folks who currently have Obama Mental Meltdown Syndrome. I hope so and I'm glad to see that there are people like Brock who are going to get out in front of the Hillary mouthfoam that's going to boil to full froth if she decides to run.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Generation Wars

These days people of every generation are vilifying other generations. Generation X is a bunch of ne'er-do-wells who were still living with mom at age 35, Millenials are coddled brats with helicoptering mothers, and Baby Boomers are self-involved ex-hippies who are going to destroy the entire economy by sucking Social Security dry.

Atlantic's The Wire has the definitive guide to the generations. Well, as definitive as you can get.

Because, honestly, all this stuff about generations is nonsense. Take, for example, the Greatest Generation. Ostensibly these are the people who suffered through the Depression, fought WWII and saved the world for democracy. But that generation is defined as ending in 1946. 1946! How could someone born after WWII ended have done spit to save to the world for democracy?

For that matter, how could anyone born after 1928 contributed in any material way to our victory over the Axis? My dad, born in 1933, was 12 when the war ended. He joined the army in the early 1950s but spent the Korean War in Germany. This Washington Post story does a better job of splitting up the generations, calling my father's cohort the Silent Generation.

It's the same with the Baby Boom: it's really at least two different cultural cohorts. Supposedly, it's characterized by the anti-war, free-love, acid-dropping turn-on-tune-in-drop-out, women's lib and civil rights movements of the 1960s. I was born in 1957, smack in the middle of the demographic bubble. But I was 12 when the 1960s ended. All that counter-culture stuff was completely alien to me.

The idea that the tens of millions of people born during the same 20-year period all have some kind of personality traits in common is even sillier than the idea that everyone born in the same month shares the same horoscope. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were both born in 1946, but that's about all they have in common.

What's salient about generations is not what year you're born, but what cultural events affected you when you were impressionable. But it's more complicated than that, because kids of different ages are impressed by different things.

Kids 5-12 will be influenced by things such as video games, the space program, cuddly animals, dinosaurs, fire trucks, and so on. Wars in far-off lands, sex, booze and drugs will never enter their minds -- if their parents are doing their jobs right. Kids 13-17 will be affected by the opposite sex, booze and drugs because those things concern them directly. Eighteen- to 25-year-olds are leaving home and entering the wider world, but are still quite impressionable, and are now being influenced by greater concerns like fighting in wars, earning a living, taxes, raising children of their own, politics and so on.

Your parents also affect your development: two children born in 1957, one to a 45-year-old WWII vet and the other to a 17-year-old single mother, are going to have completely different influences.

Even where you live can make a big difference: social trends starting in California or New York may take 10 or 15 years to reach Memphis or Topeka.

In my case the sexual revolution and drug culture of the 1960s completely passed me by, but the space program and moon landing on the 1960s captured the interest of a 5- to 12-year-old. My politically formative years were the 1970s and early 80s, the tail end of the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Oil Crisis, the Iranian hostage crisis, and Iran-Contra. According to this website, that puts me squarely in Generation X. I was born at the height of the Baby Boom, but culturally I'm a Gen-Xer.

The problem is is trying to define generations as lasting 20 years, apparently conforming to the active reproductive years of the human female. But people don't fall into neat little 20-year boxes. They're being born constantly.

If we're going to talk meaningfully about generations, we have to give up the idea of all parents belonging to one generation and the kids belonging to the next. Instead we have to talk about smaller cultural cohorts that may not be the same length. Thus, the turmoil of the 60s lasted about 10 or 12 years, but the relative stasis of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s endured for almost 30 years.

I would divvy up the cultural cohorts this way:

The Greatest Generation was between 1910 and 1928. They came of age during the Depression and fought in WWII. These folks are mostly gone now.

My father's generation lived through the Depression as children; they knew deprivation, but not the desperation that comes with being unable to provide for your children. They came of age during the post-War years, the Korean War, and the height of the Cold War, when in the 40's and 1950s Russia and the United States tested nuclear weapons every other week and people were building bomb shelters in their back yards.

The cultural cohort that corresponds to what we call the Baby Boom were children in the 1950s and teenagers in the 1960s, born from, say, 1942 to 1955. They were affected by the Vietnam war and the sexual revolution and all the other perils of that turbulent time.

My cultural cohort was born between 1952 and 1970, people who came of age in the relatively calm times of 70s and 80s. I'd call it the Computer Cohort. This includes Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the people who created the personal computer and made computers an integral part of everyday life during the 1980s. This generation were the shock troops in the fiscalization of our economy, where making money became more important than making things.

The next cohort came of age in the boom years of the late 80's and 1990s, when communism fell, America was unquestionably the king of the world, we could snap our fingers and the world would help us take down a dictator like Saddam Hussein and the Internet became widely accessible.

The next cohort comes of age in the 2000s and 2010s, their nights haunted by dreams of 9/11 and their days dogged by endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Internet becomes omnipresent and almost omniscient; this generation is the first to be electronically tethered to their peers all their lives.

We blame the children of each generation for their peculiar characteristics, but their parents and grandparents created the world that shaped them.

Baby Boomers are criticized for all getting old at the same time, putting a drain on the Social Security system and forcing their children and grandchildren to pay for their retirements. But they didn't ask to be born, and they had nothing to do with increases in Social Security payments, which are tied to inflation through automatic cost of living adjustments put in place by legislation Congress passed in the 1970s, when most Baby Boomers weren't old enough to be elected to Congress and many weren't even old enough to vote.

Generation X is criticized for living with their parents, but their elders tanked the economy, forcing them into that ignominy. And their parents let them stay in their basements. Millennials are castigated for constantly texting and playing video games, or their parents coming to to job interviews with them. But it's their parents and grandparents who built the Internet, created microelectronics, cellphones and wi-fi, and go to the job interviews with their kids.

In so many ways, it's the parents who are responsible for the way their kids turn out. Yet we always blame the kids for our mistakes.

If you look closely at the criticisms leveled at every generation, they're always the same: those people are selfish, self-involved jerks who don't give a rip about my problems. All of this boils down to the same old-man rant: kids these days just ain't got no respect.

And get off my lawn!

Find The Gun Cult A Fainting Couch!

Springfield, Illinois is now GROUND ZERO for the battle over gun rights after this absolute abomination was used in a classroom setting.

Oh no!! Someone fetch the smelling salts!!

GOP 2016 Presidential Nominee: Vladimir Putin

A colleague of mine in the social studies department finally decided he had had enough. He had to let loose his opinion on the situation in the Ukraine at a recent staff meeting. He's also the chairman of the department so we all sort of had to listen. He spoke of Obama's weakness and how since there was a Democrat in the White House, Putin was emboldened to do whatever he wanted. He posited that we should move NATO troops into Ukraine and send part of our navy to the Black Sea. It was a classic neocon screed that in many ways made me wax nostalgic for those good ol' days of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

More importantly, it made me realize that the perfect candidate for the GOP in 2016 is none other than Vladimir Putin himself. Think about it for a minute. He's strong, doesn't take any shit from anyone, and thinks with his guts! He has all the aristocratic airs that conservatives pretend they don't really like. He doesn't do all the pussy talking and diplomacy crap or rely on mealymouthed sanctions. He ACTS! Add in what President George W. Bush said about him...

He's not well informed. It's like arguing with an eighth grader with his facts wrong.

and he is so unbelievably perfect as the GOP presidential nom that I can already feel that tingle up my leg!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Do Young Conservatives See Themselves Like This?

World Meteorological Organization: Extreme Weather Due To Climate Change

A recent search for the annual report from the World Meteorological Organization brought me to Fox News of all places.

A rise in sea levels is leading to increasing damage from storm surges and coastal flooding, as demonstrated by Typhoon Haiyan, the agency's Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said. The typhoon in November killed at least 6,100 people and caused $13 billion in damage to the Philippines and Vietnam. Australia, meanwhile, had its hottest year on record. 

"Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change," Jarraud said. He also cited other costly weather disasters such as $22 billion damage from central European flooding in June, $10 billion in damage from Typhoon Fitow in China and Japan, and a $10 billion drought in much of China.

Perhaps the fact that Fox allowed this on their site is a sign of a shift in ideology. It actually makes sense when you think about it given that Fox is a huge supporter of the corporate world and firms are starting to lose money as a result of climate change.

How Free Markets And Government Spending Can Stabilize A Country

When someone mentions Rwanda, the first words that come to mind are violence and instability, not free markets and prosperity. This recent article in the Times shows just how far Rwanda has come and you can thank the power of capitalism for their recent success. One of my add-ons to the "teach a man to fish" saying is "teach a village to fish and they create a free market economy" and that is clearly what has happened in Rwanda.

Rwanda offers an alternative model, analysts say, a country where the economy has grown an average of nearly 8 percent over the last four years because of increased agricultural productivity, tourism and government spending on infrastructure and housing. Despite having a population of just around 12 million, the consulting firm A.T. Kearney last week named Rwanda the most attractive African market for retailers in its first ever African Retail Development Index. 

As the article notes, there are still challenges ahead for Rwanda but the simple fact that it has made it to this point illustrates that with the right balance of free market principles and government involvement stability can be achieved anywhere.

What is "McConnelling?"

Good grief is this funny....

Monday, March 24, 2014

Are The Republicans Celebrating Too Soon?

If you pay attention to politics, the 2014 elections (over seven months away and without nominees in many contests) has already been won by the Republicans. They've gained more seats in the House and taken back the Senate. Even statistical guru Nate Silver is on their side this time (his new site is pretty boss, btw).

But Tim Alberta says, "Whoa, there, son" and posits that the GOP is celebrating too soon. In looking at his main points, I don't see much progress. In short, he's right. And so is Doug Sosnik. The Republicans are channeling Groucho Marx.

At the national level, Republicans continue to be viewed as the congressional opposition party whose intransigence led to the government shutdown last October. These same interests actively worked to scuttle immigration reform this year. In this environment, it’s the likes of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and California Rep. Darrell Issa who define the Republican brand. The struggle for the party’s future is playing out in real time as we approach the crucial period leading up to the 2016 elections. Ironically, Republicans’ short-term tactics to pick up additional seats in the 2014 midterms—as well as the rightward pressures of the presidential primary process—will only reinforce the public’s perception of the Republican Party as unwelcoming and out of step with the majority of Americans.

Right. They only think in terms of short term gains and never long term victories. 2016 could be an absolute disaster for Republicans if they don't moderate now. They'll have 24 seats up in the Senate and it's a presidential year which means higher voter turnout on the Democratic side. If Hillary runs, she will likely win and possibly have both Houses back.

It will be interesting to see who they put up for candidates against the vulnerable Democrats. If they go moderate, it's a sign that they are thinking ahead to 2016. If not, they won't take back the Senate and will totally fuck themselves in two years.

Great Bumper Sticker

The Syrian Nightmare

A recent article in the Times shows just how bad the situation is in Syria.

The government bombards neighborhoods with explosive barrels, missiles, heavy artillery and, the United States says, chemical weapons, then it sends in its allies in Hezbollah and other militias to wage street warfare. It jails and tortures peaceful activists, and uses starvation as a weapon, blockading opposition areas where trapped children shrivel and die. 

The opposition is now functionally dominated by foreign-led jihadists who commit their own abuses in the name of their extremist ideology, just last week shooting a 7-year-old boy for what they claimed was apostasy. And some of those fighters, too, have targeted civilians and used siege tactics.

I can barely imagine how awful the situation is there for any average citizen that stayed behind. We were very smart not to get involved and I suppose it's just going to continue until so many people are dead that there isn't any country left.

This terrible thought led me to wonder what kind of a country will be left for Assad or someone else to govern. Who would want to rule such a place?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Heaven For The Gun Cult

I believe I have found the perfect place for the Gun Cult: Libya.

Libya, where hundreds of militias hold sway and the central government is virtually powerless, is awash in millions of weapons with no control over their trafficking. 

A central government that is powerless? Holy shit! Someone find me some Kleenex in which I can shoot my load!!! I'm sure now that the country is not a gun free zone violence will drop to nearly zero. Hey, maybe we can finally find out what happened at Benghazi!!

Are You Smarter Than An Atheist?

Take the quiz and find out!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ukraine Inks Deal With EU

The EU and the Ukraine signed an association agreement yesterday but it got little notice in the press. Odd, considering that this was the spark that lit the flame which started all the instability in the region. Perhaps the "liberal" media has become too obsessed with either the "Obama is weak" meme or wringing their hands over the "fact" that "Obama is weak"

Regardless, the focus should be on this agreement because it's exactly why Vladimir Putin has already lost. It is the first step of trade and economic integration with Europe that won't stop with Ukraine.

The EU also announced it will speed up similar association deals with Georgia and Moldova, it said in its statement: The European Union reconfirms its objective to further strengthen the political association and economic integration with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. We confirm our aim to sign the Association Agreements, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas, which we initiated in Vilnius last November, no later than June 2014.

As I have said many times in the past, the West's soft, economic power always wins in the long run. Sooner or later, Putin will have no choice but to fall in line like everyone else.

Food Stamps and Moral Hazards

Last week John Stewart tore into Fox News over their persecution of food stamp recipients. His basic point was that the $3 billion worth of food stamp fraud that Fox News was up in arms about is less than the $4 billion dollars in special gifts that oil companies receive from the federal government and Fox News called "peanuts."

Still, welfare fraud and foodstamp fraud are real. So let's look at some examples of this abuse.

The original welfare queen that Ronald Reagan made famous actually existed. Her name (at least one of her names) was Linda Taylor. She was not the typical black woman that everyone pictured when Reagan blew the racist dogwhistle. She was listed officially as white, though she could pass for pretty much any race with all the wigs and makeup she used. She also committed a huge number of other crimes including various frauds, kidnapings and possibly murder.

Welfare fraud was basically the only crime they could pin on her, in much the same way that Al Capone was finally jailed for tax evasion. So Taylor is not representative of welfare or food stamp recipients.

But she is typical of welfare and food stamp cheats. We have a few recent examples here in Minnesota.

Run-of-the-mill food stamp fraud consists of store owners letting recipients use food stamps to buy non-food items, or "entrepreneurs" buying food stamp cards for 50% of face value. Three people were arrested earlier this month in St. Paul for buying food with such cards and exporting it to Liberia.  Who would do such a weird thing?

Noni Snider, Walter Cooper, and Nyla Newbergh: they ran an export business. They were caught because their purchases of mass quantities of soda and noodles at Walmart and Sam's Club raised suspicions. Yes, these small businessmen -- otherwise referred to as job creators and makers by Republican -- are committing food stamp fraud. And based on their names and the suburbs where they live, my guess is that they are white and middle class (my search fu has sadly failed to uncover any perp photos).

In fact, most food stamp fraud is committed or enabled by small business owners, typically store owners: see here in Washington, here in Baltimore,  here in Buffalo, here is Texas (and that's just the last couple of weeks -- it seems like store owners commit food stamp fraud more frequently than gun owners shoot themselves).

The real problem here isn't the poor people committing the fraud, it's richer people ripping off poorer people by giving them only 50 cents on the dollar for their food stamp cards and tempting them with things food stamps aren't supposed to buy.

Now my dad would chime in here and say, "See, food stamps are bad because they encourage waste and fraud. We shouldn't have these programs." Yes, it appears that since small businessmen are so easily tempted into committing fraud we should stop helping poor people.

Food stamps and welfare, the right would say, create a moral hazard by encouraging fraud. But the exact same thing can be said about any number of Defense Department programs, which have cost the American taxpayers hundreds of billions -- if not trillions -- of dollars in waste and fraud, especially during times of war. Remember the planeloads of cash flown into Iraq that just disappeared? That alone was $6.6 billion -- more than twice the food stamp fraud that Fox News abhors, most of it going to corrupt American contractors rather than buying off Iraqi terrorists.  Or the infamous Joint Strike Fighter program, seven years late and $163 billion over budget. Or the $2.7 billion dollars wasted on an Army intelligence program that just doesn't work. Or Reagan's Star Wars program. Or any of hundreds of other weapons and software programs that cost billions but never saw the light of day, all billed to the Defense Department not by lazy welfare recipients, but by highly paid CEOs working for Fortune 500 defense contractors.

In this way the Defense Department creates a moral hazard, by tempting wealthy industrialists into conning the government into weapons programs that will never work. Avoiding war profiteers was one of the main reasons the founding fathers opposed a standing army. The Iraq War was fought in large part because the defense industry -- represented by Don Rumsfeld, Newt Gingrich and Richard Perle on the Defense Policy Board -- wanted the war. The DoD moral hazard is far worse than the food stamp moral hazard, because American troops are inevitably killed and maimed when we start foolhardy wars. And because there is so much more money at stake.

The Chisholms: Typical Welfare Fraudsters
But back to welfare and food stamp fraud. Just the other day Colin and Andrea Chisholm, a Minnesota couple living in Deephaven (a high-priced suburb), were charged. They have an oceanside home and an 83-foot yacht in Florida, $3 million in banks there, an expensive house in Deephaven, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in banks in Minnesota. Because they're rich, they're not in custody: they probably winter in Florida, and by now have taken up residence in the Caymans to avoid prosecution. Their fraud was discovered by Medica when they claimed public assistance for massages at The Marsh, one the most expensive health clubs in the Twin Cities.

This time, however, I have a photo of these welfare cheats. They're upstanding white folks who dress in suits and drive expensive cars. The right's narrative about all welfare fraud being committed by despicable, lazy, poor black people just isn't adding up.

The fact is, rich people like the Chisholms are in a far better position to commit fraud of any sort. They own property and claim residency in multiple states, making it easy to commit all kinds of frauds, including voter fraud by using absentee ballots (that's how real voter fraud occurs -- no one in their right mind would try impersonating someone else; too easy to get caught). They have the money and the wherewithal to get the necessary documents to commit the fraud. And they can skip the country when the law catches on.

The worst poor people can do is sell their food stamp cards at half face value to some rich white woman at the homeless shelter or an exploitative store owner to buy a bottle of Ripple

And most importantly, the wealthy have the motivation: the envy and the greed that seems to drive so many of them to squeeze every penny out of the system by any means possible. According to the right, poor people just don't have the intelligence, gumption, energy or drive to commit real fraud. You need to think like an entrepreneurial small businessman to rip off the government.

Could it be that conservatives always think everyone else is gaming the system and committing fraud because they are?

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Smoking Gun From The Big Bang

I'm feeling extra science-y today so I simply must point out the recent news about the Big Bang Theory. 

Reaching back across 13.8 billion years to the first sliver of cosmic time with telescopes at the South Pole, a team of astronomers led by John M. Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics detected ripples in the fabric of space-time — so-called gravitational waves — the signature of a universe being wrenched violently apart when it was roughly a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old. They are the long-sought smoking-gun evidence of inflation, proof, Dr. Kovac and his colleagues say, that Dr. Guth was correct.

Congratulations to Dr. Guth for achieving his life's work!

Time for Israel to Put Up or Shut Up

Re: One State Solution.

I cannot imagine a one-state solution ever happening in Israel. It would mean doom for the Jewish state.

Think about it. All their laws would have to be changed to give all Jews, Muslims and Christians (6-10% of Palestinian Arabs are Christians) equal rights. No more special treatment for Orthodox rabbis and haredim (who seem to already be losing their special status).

Politically it would be suicide. Even with the current boundaries with a two-state solution demographics indicate that Arab Israelis will outnumber non-Arab Israelis in a few decades. With a single state that happens the day the two countries are unified. Bibi Netanyahu would be bounced out of office within two weeks when all the Arab members of the Knesset call for a non-confidence vote.

But Israel has to do one or the other. The status quo of oppressing all Palestinians in the Occupied Territories because some small number of them are terrorists is indefensible. Israelis will counter with arguments that there is a great animosity against them by all Palestinians, but they cannot use that as an excuse because they cause that animosity by denying Palestinians basic human and economic rights, by sealing up the Palestinians in economically isolated ghettos. This invites comparisons to certain mid-20th century dictators, but it's considered bad form to name names.

The situation in Israel and Palestine is now analogous to South Africa and its homelands during apartheid. Like apartheid, this occupation cannot stand forever.

There is a third option, and that's the one I fear Israel will exercise: ethnic cleansing. They did it in 1940s, killing or driving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into exile in a Palestinian diaspora. They have been slowly swallowing chunks of Palestine since 1967, building giant walls splitting up villages and stealing land from farmers, many of whom now live on the opposite side of an impenetrable barrier from their olive groves.

So the Palestinians should call Israel's bluff: either finalize a two-state solution, or absorb Palestine into a greater Israel and give all Muslims and Christians in Israel and the occupied territories the same rights that Israelis enjoy. That's the kind of religious pluralism that Americans have, despite Republicans blather.

Israel has to put up or shut up. Are they a real democracy, or a religious dictatorship who destroys anyone who won't bend a knee to their god?

The situation is that much more ironic because the Palestinians' plight so closely mirrors that of the Jews, both in the Biblical past and the 20th century.

What We Know About Climate Change

A recent report from American Association for the Advancement of Science, spearheaded by Nobel Prize Winner Mario J Molina, clearly illustrates the threat posed by climate change. It targets a more general audience of Americans who need to understand that the danger posed is very real and could affect their children and grandchildren unless action is taken now.

This is a good report to share with people who don't want to be drowned in the science of climate change. For that, you can always visit this site. This new report is more of a summation of where we are at and what can be done.  I'm hoping this can be the beginning of a greater awareness about climate change and a move away from the caveman-ish "let's wait until we are on fire before we do something" mentality.

We Have Your Dog!

 This is from a few weeks ago but I had to put it up. Apparently, the Taliban are holding of our dogs. Egads!!

Are we sure it's one of ours?:)

Eat As Many Cheeseburgers As You Want?

The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not and now that this study is out, I'm waiting for the health nuts of the world to blow a massive bowel.

The new research, published on Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, did not find that people who ate higher levels of saturated fat had more heart disease than those who ate less. Nor did it find less disease in those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including monounsaturated fat like olive oil or polyunsaturated fat like corn oil. “My take on this would be that it’s not saturated fat that we should worry about” in our diets, said Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury, the lead author of the new study and a cardiovascular epidemiologist in the department of public health and primary care at Cambridge University.

It's never been one particular ingredient but several of them combined with each person's unique genetic code. Honestly, it's this code that really dictates what sort of illnesses and longevity we will have.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

One State Solution

I'm very impressed with this recent piece in the Times regarding the gradual loss of a two state solution in Israel. Tareq Abbas is right. The time is now for a one state solution and for civil rights/political power to be given to the Palestinian people. If Israel is truly a democracy, they should allow it. I think they will find that much of their problems with extremist violence will go away if the Palestinian people have a voice.

The Hairy and Macho Conservatives

There are days when I truly adore the sarcasm of Roger Simon. 

Action! Strength! Might! Muscle! That is what we need. 

Obama should stop going around in that silly windbreaker with the presidential seal on the front. Instead, the front of his jacket should have a mushroom cloud and the words: “You mess with the bull and you get the horns.” But he won’t do that. He worries about things like a thermonuclear exchange and how it would end all mankind. 


America....fuck yeah!!

In looking at the collection of comments from conservatives seen in this piece, I must again point out their emotional age.

12. Years. Old.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Channeling Frank Underwood

I haven't seen the Netflix show "House of Cards" but Dean Obeidallah is right. It's time for the Democrats to channel their inner Frank Underwood (minus the murdering, of course). Republicans are ruthless and aren't taking any prisoners this year. They loathe the president and want to fucking bury him for his last two years in office. Cue Machiavelli...

Democrats need to understand this fundamental fact and rise to the occasion. As Obeidallah notes, they need to get voters to turnout by pushing ballot initiatives like the minimum wage and legalizing pot. Of course, the far right base might help them by picking more Todd Akins. And it certainly helps the Democrats' chances with statements like this from GOP chairman, Reince Priebus.

We’re in for a tsunami-type election in’s going to be a very big win!

Oh, really?

The True Size of Africa

Dedicate to Geography nerds everywhere...

The Gun Free Zone Myth

I was at a conference at my daughter's junior high and began chatting with a few of her teachers, some of whom I know personally and consider friends. We ended up back in one of the group offices and I caught sight of a postcard on a desk belonging to an English teacher at the school, Mr. Nelson. It was displayed so that only he could see it which I thought kind of odd since there really is no privacy in staff offices. One of the teachers recognized that I noticed it and rolled her eyes.

"Scary, huh? Can you believe people think like this?"

Of course I could given my experience with gun blog commenters. The caption read "Gun Free Zone" and the photo was the one below.

My first thought was why he would want to look at this all day? What kind of a major fucknut is that loopy about guns that they need to stare at this? And why would he position it so only he could see it? Perhaps not to offend anyone but it also seemed sort of secretive which lends to my theory that the Gun Cult are really a bunch of cowards.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this but I know I don't like the idea of someone with this mentality teaching in my daughter's school district. The staff says Mr. Nelson is a good guy and I've met him once and he seemed alright, I suppose,but quiet. Recall as well that the idea that Hitler banned guns and that's why the Holocaust happened is total bullshit.

Fear, paranoia, hate, anger, shit your pants, rinse, repeat...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Downton Abbey Economy

Looks like Lawrence Summers is saying the same things I have been saying about inequality. He's even echoing the realization that the Right opines for aristocracy as he correctly notes in the title of the piece. His conclusion is excellent.

It is ironic that those who profess the most enthusiasm for market forces are least enthusiastic about curbing tax benefits for the wealthy. Sooner or later inequality will have to be addressed. Much better that it be done by letting free markets operate and then working to improve the result. Policies that aim instead to thwart market forces rarely work, and usually fall victim to the law of unintended consequences.


How Often Have European Borders Changed?


Succeed By Helping People

Adam Grant from the Atlantic has a great piece up about how people succeed professionally by helping others in the workplace. While the short term benefits seem slim (especially if you are a woman), the long term benefits become apparent very quickly in the form of higher sales and revenue. Why?

When I wrote the book, I attributed the long-term success of givers to two major forces: relationships and motivation. From a relationship perspective, givers build deeper and broader connections. When a salesperson truly cares about you, trust forms, and you’re more likely to buy, come back for repeat business, and refer new customers. From a motivation perspective, helping others enriches the meaning and purpose of our own lives, showing us that our contributions matter and energizing us to work harder, longer, and smarter. When medical students focus on helping others, they’re able to weather the slings and arrows of long hours and devastating health outcomes: they know their colleagues and patients are depending on them.

Even more important than this is the fact that people that help out more are reflective and learn. Taking on more duties and picking up the slack for other workers translates into a larger skill set and the perception of being indispensable.

Perhaps all of this means that nice guys actually do finish first!

Monday, March 17, 2014

What Is the Point of Relationships?

10 great answers.

My favorite?

7. Embrace attraction to others. It’s there. Communicate, be clear (with everyone, including yourself), and enjoy your fabulous human existence.

I've never understood antisocial behavior. I'd rather be hanging out with people than doing just about anything else.

Crimean Precedents: George W. Bush, Georgia and the South's Secession

Yesterday Crimea held a vote to secede from Ukraine. It was approved by more than 95%, though most non-Russians boycotted the referendum. The Republican response was to blame President Obama for being weak:
“Our administration is creating an air of permissiveness,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Fox News Sunday. “We do need to show long-term resolve. The comment that Secretary Kerry made is not helpful and again it shows a wishy washiness.”
But many of the Republicans who are criticizing the president are Southern conservatives from states  that have endlessly advocated secession from the United States in the last few years, particularly Texas. They are from states that actually did secede from the Union 154 years ago, starting a bloody civil war pitting slave-holding states against the more industrial north. Surely they must believe the people of Crimea have the right of self-determination, including secession from Ukraine.

To this day, Southern Republicans display the Confederate flag, proudly honoring ancestors who defected from the United States to perpetuate slavery. Slavery apologists like Andrew Napolitano still complain bitterly about the "illegal" acts Lincoln committed to hold the nation together. They still talk about states' rights and nullifying federal law with state legislation.

What happened in Crimea yesterday is nearly identical to what happened in the American South in 1860. A majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine, against the wishes the majority of the country, and ignoring the rights of a minority population (Tatars, Ukrainians and others) who have historically fared quite poorly under direct Russian rule in the past. Ethnic Russian Crimeans have decided to ally themselves with a tyrant who denies basic human rights to significant segments of the population (gays, Muslims and all political opponents).

It was the same in the Antebellum South. A majority of whites voted to secede from the Union in order to continue denying basic human rights to millions of slaves -- people who were bought and sold and whipped like cattle, who had no right to vote, but who were nonetheless included in population counts to give the South more power in the House of Representatives.

Republicans are up in arms about the terrible message of weakness the president is sending by "doing nothing" about Russia's takeover of Crimea. But this is just a replay of what happened in 2008, when George Bush was president and Russia took Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia in a brief war that coincided with the Summer Olympics. Russia sent tanks into Georgia and attacked the city of Gori. More than 70 people died, most of them civilians.

In contrast, the Crimean secession has been completely bloodless (so far).

Some believe the Georgia conflict as directly leading to the Crimean secession. But Republicans -- except for John McCain, who seems to live only to demand we bomb one country after the next, including Syria, Egypt, Libya, Georgia, Crimea and on and on -- at that time had no interest in invading yet another country right in the middle of a presidential campaign and a severe recession, with a military that was exhausted from fighting a ginned-up war in Iraq and an endless guerilla war in Afghanistan, the country where the Soviet Union's back was broken in the 1980's.

Thus it was George Bush who set the precedent that the United States will do nothing when former Russian republics splinter in ethnic conflicts. The situation in Crimea is far more orderly and peaceful than what happened in Georgia under Bush's watch, and if it ends here the United States has no interest whatsoever in starting an armed conflict.

According to Republicans, states like Texas and Bob Corker's Tennessee have the right to secede from the Union whenever they want to, and the president and Congress can't say boo about it. But they also think that the citizens of Crimea don't have the right to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, the country they had already been part of just 60 years ago. Republicans have called Obama's economic sanctions inadequate, and if that's true, then they must believe the situation calls for American military action against the Russia in Crimea.

This is tantamount to claiming that when the South seceded from the Union, the North should have invited Mexico to help the Union regain control of the rebels.

Of course Republicans don't really believe this. They don't really believe that Southern states have the right to secede from the Union. They don't believe we should intervene military in Crimea. They know it would be politically fooldhardy and suicidal. But that doesn't stop them from throwing verbal hand grenades and red meat to racists in their ranks to whip them up and get them to turn out at election time.

These are the depths to which the Republican Party has sunk. Their entire political strategy is to foam at the mouth about anything the president does, even when his Republican predecessors have set reasonable precedents that guide Obama's actions. They don't care about a coherent foreign or domestic policy. Everything is about the game of politics; nothing matters except winning the next election, showdowns on the Senate floor, incessant votes on the ACA that will never go anywhere, even if the strategy involves torching the Constitution, the Union, and the economy.

The Republican strategy now consists of goading the president into taking some kind of military action in Crimea in order to avoid appearing weak, in the hopes that the situation will blow up in his face and give them the 2014 midterms. And if he does nothing, then they will call him weak and spineless and bitch about his mom jeans, and hope that gives them the 2014 midterms.

They don't seem to care how broken and divided they leave the country, as long as they wind up sitting atop the pile of smoking rubble in the end.

Republics of Russia Itching to Secede?
But back to Russia: Republicans are saying Putin has "won," but this victory may be short-lived. The Crimea vote sets a precedent that many autonomous republics in the Russian Federation would like to emulate. Dagestan and Chechnya have ethnic Muslim populations who want to escape from Putin's oppression.

There are 21 autonomous republics in Russia.  If Crimea can simply hold a vote and leave Ukraine, why not Chechnya? Why not Tatarstan? Why not Khakassia? Why not Chuvashia, or Karelia, or Udmurtia?

In the end, this may incite the separatists in Russia to further action. Instead of heralding a Greater Russia, Putin may well be initiating a complete breakup of the Russian Federation, wracked by terrorism and civil war.

Where in the World is Flight 370?

Like many on this planet, I am completely mystified as to what exactly happened to Malaysian Flight #370. People love mysteries and this one is incredibly puzzling. The last communication was at 1:19am on March 8th with the message, "All right, good night." Shortly after this, the plane's transponder was switched off and it vanished. Some radar pings are pointing to possible directions it went but so far investigators have turned up nothing.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the timing of events reveals meticulous planning. If this was a deliberate act, what's the end game? It seems too secretive to be a terrorist attack and no one has come forward to claim responsibility. At this point it seems likely that one or both of the pilots were involved in the plane's disappearance.

So what exactly to Flight #370? Every day that passes seems to add more fuel to wild speculation. As always, the alien theory is my favorite but the Stargate one shows real creativity!

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Birthday Reflection

Today I turn 47 years old and I have to say that, despite how much I gripe on here, I am pretty fucking happy. I have two beautiful children and a wife who makes me feel like a teenager with puppy love. I have a ton of friends who amaze me every day and live in a city that offers all that I require and more.

In terms of politics, sex and religion (the three main focal points of this site), everything seems to be heading in the right direction. I can't say that I'm fully satisfied with how we are tackling the political issues of the day but there has been marked progress and you can see it happening incrementally. Our economy is improving, we are still militarily strong, immigration will be reformed in the next few years, education is improving, climate change will be addressed, gay marriage and pot will be legal across all of the country, and the gun debate will finally be put to rest.  Thanks to people like Pope Francis and moderate leaders of other faiths, we actually seem to be evolving spiritually and leaving antiquated notions of religion behind. So, too, are we loosening up about sex and realizing that being more relaxed and open about it is much more healthy.

If I could pick one area that we should really focus on, it would be mental health. We need to remove the stigma that is associated with caring for our brains and emotional well being. Improving the mental health of our citizens would solve most of our problems. Despite the constant drone of bad news and my occasional bitching, we really are doing quite well. Simply compare our standard of living today to 20 years ago. Or 50. Or 200.

Awesome, right?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Interesting Historical Photos

I was completely blown away by this list of historical photos. I think my favorite is the one below.

Look to the left between the two trees. It's right before the iconic photo was taken.

Tax Breaks=15 jobs

Here's a great example of the gift of jobs that tax breaks bring.

15 jobs. Wow. That'll sure make a dent in Detroit's problems!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mocking Poor People? Enter Jon Stewart!

Stewart does a great job here showing how the logical fallacy of misleading vividness is the foundation for most arguments from the Right. He also reminds us who the real recipients are of welfare in this country:)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Good Words (from Rand Paul!)

I think Republicans will not win again in my lifetime … unless they become a new GOP, a new Republican Party. And it has to be a transformation. Not a little tweaking at the edges.

(Senator Rand Paul, Kentucky, on the chances of Republicans winning the White House in future elections). 

Perhaps now that a conservative is saying it this bluntly, people will start to listen.

The Biopolar Republican

Greg Walden, the Republican Representative from Oregon's 2nd district and the man in charge of keeping the GOP in charge of the house, is a great example of just how bipolar the Republican Party is these days. On Tuesday morning, before the special election in Florida's 13th district, he said, "Whether we win it or lose it, the special elections aren’t too predictive for either side going forward.

"If there’s any advantage of a special election,” Walden added, “it’s that you can test messages, and you can test strategies, and you can test sort of your theories on voter turnout and I.D. So, I mean, that’s kind of the takeaway . . . from a special, far more than is it indicative of what’s going to happen 239 days from now."

After David Jolly won, however, he had this to say.

"David proved that Pinellas County voters are tired of the devastating policies of this administration. Tonight, one of Nancy Pelosi’s most prized candidates was ultimately brought down because of her unwavering support for Obamacare, and that should be a loud warning for other Democrats running coast to coast."

Wow. That's quite a switch. Which should we believe? As Dana Milbank noted, he was right the first time.  And, as I predicted on Tuesday, things are playing out as expected.

The Democrats need to stop wringing their hands and recognize reality. They need to get voters to to turn out. If they do that, they will hold the Senate. They don't have much of a chance of flipping the House so the best they can do is try not to lose too many seats. Of course, as I type this, everything could change if the GOP puts up more candidates like Paul Broun. I've learned to never underestimate just how full on moonbat the Right gets in elections these days.

But it's really all about turnout. If the president's election machine (Organizing For America) can get people to the polls, the Democrats will be in good shape this fall and have no reason to panic right now. 

Good Words

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Between Two Ferns Lies Regret

Much ado has been made about President Obama's recent appearance on "Between Two Ferns" a Funny or Die interview show hosted by Zack Galifianakis. Critics have said it was undignified and beneath the president. Yet the one who comes off as a real douchebag is Zack Galifianakis, not Barack Obama. I get the whole concept of the show is supposed to be a roast type atmosphere but you can be critical of the president (as Jon Stewart has been when he has interviewed him) without demeaning the office. And that's just what Galifianakis did.

I like Zack Galifianakis and will always continue to see his films as he is a very funny guy. But this was a real career blemish that's going to stick with him for a while. Here is the full piece.

Good Words

On Monday, state Rep. Pat Garofalo apologized for a controversial Twitter comment, saying, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” We often do not see our own racism. We think our thoughts are just facts. We believe that our thoughts and comments are innocent, harmless and just an explanation away from being nonjudgmental or nonprejudiced. 

As long as we continue to hold negative beliefs about a group of people, as a whole, we will continue to be racist, spread untruths, deny opportunities, exclude. If you agreed, smiled or nodded at Garofalo’s tweet, I challenge you to question your beliefs. The trouble with racism is that the racist is often blind to the truth. 

(Letter of the Day, March 12, 2014, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

An excellent summation of the intransigence of the anti-race baiters.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

FL-13 Special Election

The special election being held today in Florida's 13th Congressional District is being touted as a "bellwether" for the 2014 mid term elections and a referendum on the ACA. Haven't we seen this movie before?

Here is what I predict will happen. If Alex Sink wins, there will be a little bluster and chest thumping from Democrats about how this means the public has embraced the ACA and the GOP should finally just shut up about it. They will also say that this means the 2014 elections aren't a slam dunk for the Republicans. This will all be quickly forgotten as the president won this district in 2008 and 2012 and Sink is expected to win.

If David Jolly wins, the right wing blogsphere will explode with howls of "I told you sos" and high pitched and overly excited voices about how this spells doom for the president in the fall. The left wing media will hand wring themselves to death and pray every night to their Rachel Maddow doll that somehow, some way, things won't be so bad this November and the president will save the day.

All of this prognostication (on both sides) when there aren't even candidates officially set yet in nearly all of the elections. Wow!

Another ACA "Horror Story" Shown To Be A Lie

Dexter cancer patient who called health care 'unaffordable' will save more than $1K.

I wonder how more of these are going to unravel in the next few months. I still contend that some vulnerable Democrats may want to rethink their strategy on running away from the ACA. Stamp it to your foreheads, dudes!!

Democrats and Republicans Are The Same?

U.S. Senate Democrats pulling all-nighter on climate change


Words of Wisdom

I've discovered recently that arguing politics with someone who is unhappy with themselves and their life is not a good idea. It doesn't matter where they lie on the political spectrum. If they are angry, they blame the government for their problems rather than looking inward.

Usually these folks have a lot of spare time on their hands (for one reason or another) and so is born the Cottage Industry of hating the president...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Will We Like The New Doctor?

Jesus Will Return With The AR-15 Assault Rifle

Family Research Council's Executive Vice President Jerry Boykin said at a recent event that when Jesus comes back, he will most assuredly be packing!

The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 is says when he comes back, he’s coming back as what? A warrior. A might warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe … I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies ’cause he’s coming back as a warrior carrying a sword. And I believe now – I’ve checked this out – I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.

You can add Mr. Boykin to the list of those who don't understand the concept of hyperbole.

Of course, he went on...

Now I want you to think about this: where did the Second Amendment come from? … From the Founding Fathers, it’s in the Constitution. Well, yeah, I know that. But where did the whole concept come from? It came from Jesus when he said to his disciples ‘now, if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’ I know, everybody says that was a metaphor. IT WAS NOT A METAPHOR! He was saying in building my kingdom, you’re going to have to fight at times. 

You won’t build my kingdom with a sword, but you’re going to have to defend yourself. And that was the beginning of the Second Amendment, that’s where the whole thing came from. I can’t prove that historically, and David [Barton] will counsel me when this is over, but I know that’s where it came from. And the sword today is an AR-15, so if you don’t have one, go get one. You’re supposed to have one. It’s biblical.


The Long Game in Ukraine

Critics of the president's policy towards Russia are failing to recognize (see: willfully ignorant) that Putin has already lost the war. The March 16th vote may bring a secession of Crimea to Russia but the Ukraine will end up firmly in the European camp and stay that way.

“Yanukovych freed Ukraine and Putin is uniting it,” said Iegor Soboliev, a 37-year-old ethnic Russian who heads a government commission to vet officials of the former regime. “Ukraine is functioning not through its government but through the self-organization of its people and their sense of human decency.”

I realize the cottage industry of Obama haters are adolescent in going for the quick one but they might want to consider how foolish they are going to look in a few months. It never ceases to amaze me how they don't get the term "The Long Game."

Sunday, March 09, 2014

CPAC 2014 Comment

I've had more than a few emails requesting comments about this year's CPAC convention. If they had said something new there, I might have a post in me but it's just the same old shit. The photo below sums it all up quite nicely.

Old white men...guns...fear...shit your pants...freedom...rinse...repeat...

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Kevin Baker Hits The Big Time

It's been a few weeks since I poked my head in at Kevin Baker's site. I think it's only fair that I check in once in awhile as I know for a fact that he reads my site every day. The first post I saw was this one. It seems that Kevin has finally arrived. Check out the video below.

You know you've hit the Big Time when Colbert makes you look like an absolute fool. I am curious as to what Kevin would have done differently in terms of the Ukraine issue. It sure is awfully easy to be a critic...

Of course, the insecurity is still at an all time high with this post. Kevin, dear, why are you so unsure of yourself? You do realize that I have teenagers in my life who do virtually the same thing when they show me long and antagonistic text conversations to feel better about themselves and their side of the argument. What are you afraid of?

So Much For Freedom of Speech

Louisiana, MoveOn group tangle over political billboard

Guns Don't Kill People...

...Goodwill does! 

What is James Madison's Worst Nightmare?

Rich Yeselson's piece on Republican obstructionism is a must read. The chief author of the Constitution would indeed be disgusted.

Gene Sperling A Go Go

Two noteworthy lines from former NEC director Gene Sperling at his recent Monitor breakfast.

On the ACA.

"I find it unusual that the president goes out of his way ... to have a smoother transition to new policies with less disruption for small businesses and Republicans are complaining."

Yeah, why are they complaining?

On the differences between serving in the Clinton administration and the Obama administration.

"In the Clinton administration, what was often most difficult was having [to deal with] a unified and strong opposition.... This time around, you learn the challenges of having a divided opposition…."

The latter might seem like it would be easier but if you think about it, it's really not.

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Long-Term Solution to the Russia Problem

There are all kinds of people critiquing the president's response to Russia's annexation of the Crimea. Republicans are blustering about it, but what do they expect Obama to do? Target Russians ships in the Black Sea port with cruise missiles? Send Americans troops into Simferopol and take the parliament building? Drop nuclear bombs on Moscow?

As I mentioned previously, in the short term economic sanctions are the only way to make Russia pay.  However, some people believe that Putin is actually losing: the situation in Ukraine is a sign of his weakness, not his strength. In Ukraine Putin is only succeeding in uniting ethnic Russian and Ukrainians against a dictator, and that may be inspiring Russians in Russia to defy Putin's tyranny.

But if they're wrong, and Russia keeps pulling this sort of crap, what about the long term? How do we prevent Russia — and countries like Iran — from throwing their weight around?

Russia is inherently unstable. Its people are unhappy. In the conversion to capitalism the vast majority of Russians have been left out in the cold. They don't live in a democracy. Their elections are rigged, even though Putin would probably still win if they were fair because Russians love strong men and long for stability, and they think he can provide that. Putin throws people in jail for criticizing his government. He lords over an oligarchy of corrupt officials who use their control over state assets to make themselves and their buddies wealthy.

But Russia has power today for one reason alone: oil and gas. It's like the Middle East. If the Middle East had no oil, they'd be an insignificant backwater that no one cares about, instead of the center of a never-ending conflict that keeps drawing us in.

The New York Times advocates using exports of American natural gas to undermine Russia's economic stranglehold over Europe. We need to go much further than that.

Since oil and gas are fungible commodities that can be bought and sold the world over, our dependence on fossil fuels enables the bad actors of the world. Countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Iraq have power over us because they have oil.

If we want to undercut their influence, we need to reduce the importance of fossil fuels. Not simply by producing more oil and gas ourselves — because no matter how much we produce, we'll never be able to fuel the entire world. The best we can do is knock the price down a bit. And those bad actors will simply crank up production to make up for the loss. The price of oil will go down more. China and India will buy up the cheaper oil, build more infrastructure, make their people a little richer, start buying a lot more oil, and then the price goes up again. Then Russia starts using fracking technology and suddenly they have a lot more oil and gas to sell.

No, we need to develop other sources of renewable energy. Not just electricity production from solar and wind, but other alternatives such as fuel production plants that produce methane from bacteria or liquid fuels from algae. Energy production systems that we can build and license to other countries that will free them from dependence on the Middle East and Russia. These efforts have long been undermined by energy companies in the United States; that should stop right now.

As long as we have a fossil-fuel based economy, the oil barons of the world will have outsized influence over the rest of is. Oil is currently the ultimate power, and ultimate power corrupts ultimately.

Good (?) Words

“We fear for the safety of our families. It’s why neighborhood streets that were once filled with bicycles and skateboards and laughter in the air, now sit empty and silent … [For] the things we care about most, we feel profound loss. We’re sad, not because we fear something is going wrong, but because we know something already has gone wrong. That’s why more Americans are buying firearms and ammunition.

The greatest freedom is to have the ability to have all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want.”

(Wayne LaPierre, at the CPAC Conference, March 6, 2014)

My oh my…Appeal to Fear much?

I don't get it. I thought violence was going down. So why is the Gun Cult still afraid? And why are they lying? Neighborhood streets are not empty and silent and are, in fact, filled with bicycles and skateboards and laughter in the air. What a bunch of hysterical old ladies!

Responsible Gun Owner

Man Shoots Himself In The Head While Demonstrating Gun Safety.

Hmph. I wonder if he was one of those responsible gun owners who want to patrol our nation's schools.

Not around my fucking kids. Ever.

Getting the Other Guys to Fight Each Other

The wealthy are in a high dudgeon today. They don't feel like they get enough respect. They claim their detractors are inciting envy, waging class warfare and hating people for their hard work and success.

But this is simply false. It's not envy. It's anger against injustice. Anger that the same guys who almost drove this country into a depression are making out like bandits. Anger that bonehead CEOs get paid millions of dollars each year, screw up, get fired, get a golden parachute, and then go work for some other company and repeat the process.

They're angry that every time companies have problems, the answer is always to lay off some employees, cut the salaries of the rest and make the survivors work harder, longer and for less money. Then they gloat to the board about how much they increased productivity! And then the board — composed of other CEOs just like them — gives them more stock incentives and pay raises for doing such a bang-up job.

People don't dislike the Koch brothers because they're rich, but because they spend billions of dollars pretending that climate change isn't real, buying off regulators so they can fill the air and water with pollution and toxic chemicals, trying to buy national elections and even trying to stage coups in little towns across America.

But when you listen to conservative commentators and news outlets, you hear a constant din of sneering hatred for the poor. Check out the selection of clips in this Daily Show segment to see what I mean. And that's just Fox News. Talk radio is far worse.

Then there are the usurious payday lenders that are waging all-out war on the poor, charging 200% interest. In some states (Missouri, Oklahoma) they use the court system to harass borrowers, and even get them arrested. And you thought the bad old days of indentured servitude were over.

An article in the New York Times by a former hedge fund manager paints a stark picture of the mindset of the 1%.
IN my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.
It is self-evident that wealthy are the ones possessed by envy and greed. Like that hedge fund manager, their obsession with class and status motivates them and drives their every decision: where they work, what they do, what clothes they wear, what cars they buy, what houses they own, who their friends are.

There are exceptions, of course. Bill Gates doesn't seem to be driven by those base drives. Nor does Warren Buffett. Not every rich person is an envious scumbag. The ones who started real businesses and actually built something themselves are frequently more humble and down-to-earth. It's the hedge fund managers, investment bankers, traders and hired-gun CEOs who never really accomplished anything real on their own who seem to be most driven by envy and greed.

But you couldn't tell that by listening to Fox News and talk radio.

Why the constant drumbeat against the poor in the conservative media, by people who claim to be Christian? Why do fictitious nickel-and-dime food stamp fraud stories get such prominent play, while stories about corporate malfeasance involving billions of dollars are only barely mentioned in the financial segments on TV?

The reason conservative media outlets are doing this is because they're afraid of a revolution in the ranks. The people they count on for votes are much more like the poor people that they sneer at than the millionaire Fox News hosts doing the sneering.

They paint the poor as living luxurious lives — recycling completely unsubstantiated rumors about people using food stamps to buy sea food and lottery tickets and going to casinos — to generate anger and envy in their viewers. And "the poor," by implication in the conservative media, are always black and Hispanic.

Because if the message that the 1% are undeserving, greedy, envious douche bags whose special treatment should end starts to gain traction with Southern white Americans — many of whom are themselves poor and on food stamps and various forms of public assistance — the Republican party is toast.

That's why the full-court press against the poor. The best way to to keep two guys from ganging up on you is to get them to fight each other.