Sunday, May 31, 2015

Socially Liberal But Fiscally Conservative

I've always hated it when people say, "Well, I'm socially liberal but fiscally conservative."

Really? How exactly are you fiscally conservative? Invariably the answer is that they think the government spends too much money. When pressed for details on where they would implement spending cuts and what that would mean to people and the economy, they get flustered.

This happens because they don't really know what the fuck they are talking about. They heard a bunch of people say the line and this is their (lazy) way of trying to sound relevant in a political conversation. There's no real problem on the first part. Most people are socially liberal these days. Check out this recent poll on abortion. Other than the 89 people running for the GOP nomination, who wants to be socially conservative?

But the fiscally conservative part is giant crock of shit. No one really is fiscally conservative...even conservatives!! They may talk a good game about cutting the budget but even your most hard core base member won't cut defense, medicare, or social security...AKA where most of our money is being spent. What they will cut is taxes to make it seem like the government will just have to make do with less money. The result of this is an increase in deficit and debt which is sort of like putting out fire with gasoline.

Here's a great piece Greta Chrstina about how crap this line is and how people that say it, really don't understand it.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Paging John Connor

Tad Simons recent piece in the Strib should give more than a few people pause. Why aren't more of us thinking about the dangers of artificial intelligence? Our minds quickly turn to seemingly more immediate concerns at first glance, no?

Sit and think about it for a minute. Gates, Hawking and Musk are all correct. We need to be thinking about it now.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Another Reason Nuclear Power Is Risky...

The headline in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune read:

Fired power plant worker arrested with explosives, ammunition

Contract employee at a nuclear power plant faces 4 terroristic threat counts.

It's sensational and misleading, to be sure: the worker wasn't targeting the nuclear power plant. He was targeting the local union rep:
Johnson told police he was upset with paying $3,500 a year for the union’s representation and that there would be trouble at the union’s meeting. He also denied that he planned to shoot anyone or threatened anyone.
But it does point out another serious problem with nuclear power.

Remember the Germanwings pilot a couple of months back who committed suicide by crashing his plane into a mountain? Suppose he had aimed his plane at a skyscraper in Düsseldorf instead of a mountain in France. It could have been Germany's 9/11, killing thousands instead of just (!) 150 passengers and crew.

Last fall a despondent FAA contractor set fire to the FAA radar facility in Aurora, Illinois, in a failed suicide attempt. The fire ground the air traffic control system to a halt (the contractor is expected to plead guilty).

Now, suppose the angry contract worker at the Monticello nuclear plant had completely lost it, but instead of  focusing his ire on the union, he decided to end it all by blowing up the nuclear containment at the plant, or the dry casks where the spent fuel is stored. They say the containment and those casks are strong enough to take a direct hit from an airplane. But how about a shaped charge planted by a deranged technician who has access to the guts of the plant?

This is the problem with nuclear power, and any technology that concentrates a huge amount of energy in a single location. How can we be sure that there are sufficient safeguards at our nuclear facilities to prevent a single disgruntled or suicidal employee from wreaking major havoc? We know right now that our aircraft are vulnerable to lone wolf attacks from the inside. By putting impenetrable doors on the cockpit to stop terrorists, we made it easier for suicidal pilots to kill hundreds.

Obviously it's not just planes and nuclear power plants that are vulnerable to insider attacks: are the nuclear and conventional explosives on Air Force bombers safe from suicidal pilots who might commandeer the aircraft and fire on an American city? Could our hydroelectric dams be blown up by nut jobs from the inside? The Johnstown flood killed 2,200 people when the dam broke after several days of rain. How many of our cities are sitting below large reservoirs?

Lots of people are worried about terrorists attacking our critical infrastructure, blowing up refineries, oil depots, chemical plants, etc., but very little has been done to mitigate these risks. Partly that's because the United States has had relatively few terrorist attacks in the last decade, and we've put it on the back burner. But we've had a slew of psycho suicidal whack jobs who have shot up movie theaters, malls, schools and so on.

By focusing on terrorist threats, are we missing a much greater danger from suicidal insiders? How sure are we that our nuclear power plants are safe from angry, unstable, underpaid contractor workers who are trusted to monitor the safety of the facility?

To quote the comics, Who watches the watchmen?

Zombie Scandals

With Hillary Clinton now firmly in the running for president in 2016, it's inevitable that all the old ghosts of the 1990s are going to come out of the woodwork looking to reclaim their 15. Like Bill Maher's Zombie Lies, these Zombie Scandals will never die...especially when you consider that conservatives love TMZ as much as they love Fox News.

Joe Conason has a great piece up over at Politico about this and I urge all of you to read it. His prediction is the same as mine.

I feel confident predicting that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the committee chair, will find nothing to substantiate the fantasies marketed by his staff to the Times, which set the stage for Blumenthal’s subpoena and deposition in a political show trial that will unfold sometime in the coming weeks. Sid passed along information that he thought might be useful to his friend, the secretary of state—someone he has known for nearly 30 years and with whom he worked closely in the Clinton administration.


The Ever Filling and Never Empty Clown Car

Two more candidates have thrown their hats into the GOP clown car-Rick Santorum and George Pataki. I have to say that at this point...who isn't running for president on the GOP ticket in 2016? Clearly, several of the candidates (declared or about to declare) have no hope of winning and are hoping to increase their brand in the cottage industry of conservative punditdom.

Of course, the problem still exists regarding the debates. You can't have 15-20 candidates on stage vying for talking time, can you? It appears that the RNC and the networks have come up with a solution.

Fox has come up with a fair and balanced formula for picking the 10. Five national polls will be averaged, and the top 10 finishers will be allowed to debate. Fox News Executive Vice President Michael Clemente told POLITICO’s Dylan Byers: “If there is an apparent tie for 10th place, we will examine the more granular data to determine who is ahead. If it’s an absolute tie, we will add a podium.”

Ooo...sounds all official and stuff....granular data...whatever. And hilarious that they are relying on those "unreliable" polls I hear so much about...:)

Consider this scenario for a moment. The poll averages come out and coming in at #11 is Carly Fiorina. Who gets to be the lucky one to tell the only woman in the race that she's out? And how will that look to the general voting public?

Maybe CNN has a better idea.

The CNN folks, on the other hand, have gotten crafty and decided to have two groupings of debates, one for the “smart” candidates and one for the “slow” candidates. That’s my interpretation anyway. The official CNN criteria are just this side of gibberish. 

“The first 10 candidates — ranked from highest to lowest in polling order from an average of all qualifying polls released between July 16 and September 10 who satisfy the criteria requirements … will be invited to participate in ‘Segment B’ of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate,” says the network. “Candidates who satisfy the criteria and achieve an average of at least 1 percent in three national polls, but are not ranked in the top 10 of polling order will be invited to participate in ‘Segment A’ of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate.” 

Wait...what? There's an A Team and a B Team now? Wow...that's going to be fun:)

And remember all that hoo hah about getting conservative moderators only? So as not to reveal too much the sheer insanity that is the GOP today?


Fantastic Words

I've been posting in a conversation about the minimum wage over at Real Clear Politics. Check out this gem from a fellow posting under the title "Actual Moderate Conservative."

Minimum wage laws address imbalances in bargaining power due to an oversupply of labour at lower level positions. While capitalism is by far the superior economic system, that imbalance is a natural outcome of capitalism, like it or not. Many things are a natural outcome of capitalism, and yet reasonable people (excluding hard libertarians, of course) will agree that our social compact dictates that we maintain laws to prevent some of them - monopolies, child labour, unsafe work conditions, etc. It is for this reason that America, and every other western nation, has always had a mixed economy of mostly capitalism, with some limitations (such as those above) mixed in to facilitate capitalism. 

Most even-handed people that i know fully acknowledge that minimum wage laws are necessary as part of that package of laws that establish limits on the natural outcomes of capitalism and maintain social order. If that is the case, then it is not a matter of having a minimum wage or not. It is, rather, what that level should be. To do that, one must establish what one is trying to accomplish with it - in other words, go back to first principles. 

Most of the posts here are simply arguing about issues like the impact of minimum wages as if there was no data on the subject. There is plenty, and there are plenty of real-world examples in the US AND (I cannot emphasize this enough) around the world. While the data is mixed, it seems clear from the evidence that minimum wage increases - at least at the levels that have actually been done, rather than silly $1,000/hour thought experiments - are washed out in the economy, as there are too many moving parts in any modern economy. 

So you have something that has virtually no macro impact but affects the real lives of hundreds of thousands of people. My suggestion is that people should be talking not about what the impact is, so much as they should be thinking about what the purpose of minimum wage laws are, and whether the current levels are accomplishing that goal.

I wish there were more conservatives out there like this person!

He Don't Wanna!

Check this out.

Man Who Would Rather Go Blind Than Get Obamacare Now Going Blind

Anyway, Lang is now stuck in a position where, suddenly having come around on this whole insurance thing with the impending loss of his eyesight, it’s too late for him to sign up under what his wife calls “The Not Fair Health Care Act.” Furthermore, his income has dropped now that he’s out of work, making him ineligible for a federal insurance subsidy. (What about Medicaid, you ask? Well, South Carolina was one of 17 states that opted out of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.)

This is my favorite part.

Lang has set up a GoFundMe page, and people are donating—

Ah long as the feddle gubmint and that secret Muslim Obama don't give out the charity.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Great Words

From a question on Quora...

It sounds likely, though I hope Mooney remembered to point out that such a reaction applies to anyone at any point on the political spectrum, not just Republicans. As a bit of anecdotal support--I used to be registered as a Republican. It was the intransigence, the belligerence, and--as badly as I hate to say it--the racism present in some members of the Republican Party when President Obama was elected that drive me away. 

I am now registered as "Unaffiliated" ... but when a friend of mine started making the argument (during the campaign, and before I changed my registration) that there were racist elements in the Republican Party, it felt like a gut-punch.

I wish there were more conservatives like this guy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Republican Brain Part Four: Denying Minds

The next section in Chris Mooney's book, The Republican Brain, is called "Denying Minds." Recall my last post on this subject in which we examined the Marquis de Condorcet and his failing to recognize that having more factual information available doesn't always mean that reason will win. More avenues of data does not equal greater acceptance. Clear refutations of false claims does not mean they will be discredited and prevented from hanging around like zombie lies (e.g. supply side economics, tax cuts increase revenue etc). Why?

To understand exactly how the human brain denies facts, Mooney turns to the example of the Seekers. The Seekers were a UFO cult that were studied by a social psychologist named Leon Festinger in the 1950s. They believed that on a specific date, a UFO was going to come rescue them and take them away. When that day came and they weren't taken away, Festinger took great pains to note how all members of the group were able to change their story, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, so their belief system continued unabated. He dubbed what they experienced cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. An individual who experiences inconsistency (dissonance) tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and is motivated to try to reduce this dissonance—as well as actively avoid situations and information likely to increase it.

This is exactly what happens to conservatives when they are confronted with information that is psychologically uncomfortable. They avoid situations and information that makes this sense of discomfort continue. Like the Seekers, they goalpost shift when their now completely refuted claims meet their demise. All too often, the goalpost shift takes the form of a personal attack against the person who refuted their claim. This makes complete sense because they feel themselves feel like they are under attack.

Worse, they table turn and, in typical adolescent fashion, they accuse liberals of having cognitive dissonance and goal post shifting. I've always seen this as simple and rudimentary reaction-a dodge to avoid responsibility. On certain issues, liberals do experience cognitive dissonance on certain issues (corporations, nuclear power, GMOS etc) but not to the degree that right wing bloggers and commenters claim they do. Conservatives have such a large collection of prior beliefs and commitments that cognitive dissonance is much more acute with them. So, when facts disrupt their lives, they seek to achieve consistency as a protection mechanism. This is what Festinger discovered that the Seekers did when their prophecy failed to come true.

Mooney notes that similar things happen with smokers who rationalize their habit. "It keeps me thin" or "I'll quit when my looks don't matter so much." I think this type of denial occurs every day within the Gun Cult. "Accidents won't happen to me. I'm responsible. So are all my gun buddies." "We aren't responsible for other people's stupidity." And so on...

Mooney notes...

Neuroscientists now know that the vast majority of the brain's actions occur subconsciously and automatically. We are only aware of a very small fraction of what the brain is up to-some estimates suggest about 2 percent. In other words, not only do we feel before we think-but most of the time, we don't even reach the second step. And even when we get there, our emotions are often guiding our reasoning.

That's why I've always been amused by conservatives who caterwaul about "feeling" liberals and "rational, thinking" consservatives." Once again, they head off at the pass, table turn, and redirect any attention away from what is really going on with emotional reaction driven by cognitive dissonance. In essence, we are talking about motivated reasoning. People tend to believe information that fits within their psychological make up (nature AND nurture...physiology and environment and there is scientific evidence that proves that they do this.

So why do people behave like this? Why do conservatives do it more often? Mooney notes that what is really going on here is a response by our primitive brain (subcortex, the limbic regions) that ends up overwhelming our more evolved, rational brain. These are the areas that deal with emotional and automatic responses whose purpose has been to keep us safe from danger for so many millenia. The newer parts of the brain (prefrontal cortex) that controls abstract reasoning never really kicks into gear because of the rapid response of the primitive brain. Frustratingly, these newer parts of the brain are responsible for mankind's greatest innovations yet they rarely "drive the show," as Mooney puts it. Perhaps it's simply a matter of convenience or we have become too lazy but we don't stop to really think things out.

System 1, the older system, governs our rapid fire emotions; System 2 refers to our slower moving, thoughtful, and conscious processing of information. It's operations, however, aren't necessarily free of emotion or bias. Quite the contrary: System 1 can drive System 2. Before you are even aware you are reasoning, your emotions may have set you on a course of thinking that is highly skewed, especially on a topic you care a great deal about.

So, the spreading activation occurs after the emotional response and reason is often overwhelmed. Again, the example of the Gun Cult applies here. Their primitive brain is driving the show and they are not taking the time to think rationally about the fallout from their ideology. They worry about piles of dead bodies in a gun free zone and completely fail to recognize the mounting piles of dead bodies every year with out of date gun laws...completely irrational and highly rooted in just such a spreading activation.

Here's another example of how this plays out.

Consider a conservative Christian who has just heard about a new scientific discovery-a new hominid finding, say, confirming our evolutionary origins-that deeply challenges something he or she believes ("human beings were created by God;" "the book of Genesis is literally true"). What happens next, explains Stony Brook University political scientific Charles Taber, is a subconscious negative (or "affective") response to the threatening new information-and that response, in turn, guides the type of memories and associations that are called into the conscious mind based on a network of emotionally laden associations and concepts. "They retrieve thoughts that are consistent with their previous beliefs" says Taber, "and that will lead them to construct or build an argument and challenge what they are hearing."

We see this on a daily basis with the president's policies. Every time he succeeds at something, the motivated reasoning wheels start to click into place for conservatives. Suddenly, an improving economy becomes the fucking apocalypse with their primitive brain driving the whole thing.

What this means is that conservative aren't reasoning, they are rationalizing. They aren't being scientists, they are being lawyers. They are winning the case within themselves by giving in to confirmation bias, offering greater weight to information (Fox News, right wing blogs etc) that bolsters our beliefs. They also give in to disconfirmation bias by hungrily trying to debunk any other information that interferes with their belief system.

So when good arguments threaten core belief systems. something very different happens as opposed to the reaction to the statement "2+2=5." The primitive brain doesn't come into play because there is no emotional response. We logically conclude error. We don't suffer from Francis Bacon's "idols of the mind." We are indeed capable of "cold" reasoning but all too often, this doesn't happen.

Mooney notes how this develops over one's lifetime. We are driven personally in how our brains were made (nature) and how we were brought up. We are driven beyond our own identity to hang out with people who think the same way we do. For conservatives, this is very deeply true. The beliefs that come out of this are physical, mind you, and not some floating entity next to their bodies. When they are attacked, it's no different than a physical assault. This is a very key point that everyone must understand when debating conservatives these days. It's no different than if someone invaded their home and threatened them.

And it explains so much. Now we can begin to understand why they take the positions they do. They favor loose gun regulation because they want to protect themselves. They favor tough immigration laws because they want to protect themselves. They want less government because they want to protect themselves. Consider every position they hold and ask this question...are they simply trying to protect themselves? Is that why they are being so irrational? The answer is yes. Now, I truly understand the motivation behind all the personal attacks I've experienced over the years. I am fucking up their shit and they view me (and all other liberals, really) as an invader threatening their way of life.

More importantly, we can understand, through scientific evidence, why this occurs more often with conservatives than with liberals. At the end of the chapter, Mooney notes Drew Westen's of Emory University's study on strong political personalities and their reaction to information that directly challenges their views. Westen presented respondents with an example of Bush flip flopping on something and Kerry flip flopping on something. Conservatives bent overbackwards to excuse the former and filet the later. Liberals did the reverse. Yet, Westen noted that Democrats were more likely to see hypocrisy in their own candidate and Republicans were less likely to see it in their candidate. The authors conclusion?

A small but significant tendency to reason more biased conclusions regarding Bush than Democrats did towards Kerry.

And while all of this was happening, respondents were having their brains scanned. None of them were using parts of the brain associated with cold and logical thinking. All of them were using the regions associated with emotional processing and psychological defense. As Mooney notes,

These people weren't solving math problems. They were committing the emotional equivalent of beating their chests.

A Complete Failure To Grasp The Obvious

Whenever I see articles in the paper about education, I am invariably driven even further to the brink of insanity. This recent piece in the Strib on suspensions in the Minneapolis School District may send me even further. Why?

District officials could not explain the dramatic increase but say they remain committed to reducing suspensions and point to a reduction in suspensions from previous years.

Suspension numbers typically increase, even dramatically, during the spring. Educators are also studying the reason suspensions go up in the spring.

Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME? They really don't know!!??

Good grief...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Adolescents, Wordsmiths and The Right Wing Blogsphere

The New York Times has an interesting piece in today's paper about the "four words that imperil" the Affordable Care Act...interesting in that it fails to address the real problem with King V Burwell. It seems some parties concerned are most befuddled at how a simple phrase could lead to a Supreme Court Case that could ultimately lead to the removal of health care subsidies for all those states which do not have their own exchange. Well, when you understand these assholes...

and the fact that they live  most of their lives in the comments sections of blogs vainly attempting to wordsmith and fallacy their way into a "win," you grasp the origin of the problem. The drafting error of the ACA that led to the use of the words "the state" was the sweetest crack cocaine for the conservative base which is filled with adolescent losers that one frequently sees trolling various online forums. After all, nothing sends these children into a tantrum like the words "the state." 

Shit...every right wing blogger from here to Timbuktu sprung a boner at the thought of being able to finally "get" Obama and those liberals in the ULTIMATE FLAME WAR. The lead attorney and all the plaintiffs in this case are classic examples of the mouthfoaming conservative who endlessly try to find some way to wordsmith and bamboozle their opponents into defeat. Of course, it can never actually be about the law itself because they have fucking lost on that every single time. It has to be some sort of hyper obsessive focus on a word that will ultimately spell "doom" for those evil statists.
Then, they can merrily dance their happy dance with one another, issuing imperial declarations at how we've all been told many times how right they have been all along, revealing the inner authoritarian they pretend doesn't exist. 

I suppose this is finally their day in the sun and they should get to enjoy one last chance at denying success to their mortal enemies. Consider what joy their lives will be filled with should SCOTUS rule in their favor. The adolescent glee in the air will be almost palpable....

Monday, May 25, 2015

Always Remember...

A few months back in my US History class (sophomores), I was showing the film Saving Private Ryan. In the middle of the first sequence, which depicts Omaha Beach, I saw one of my students turn to another student, shake her head, and put her hands over her eyes. I was standing near both of them and noticed she was crying. Knowing that I was in an "enduring understanding" moment, I kneeled down next to her and whispered,

"Do you understand the sacrifice they made?"

She nodded.

"You honor them and all the others that have died in service to this nation by never forgetting" I added.

She won't.

So should we all.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Christian Scientist

Republicans are constantly telling us how little they know about science. Conservatives like Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, and Mitch McConnell are constantly prefacing their remarks about scientific issues such as climate change with, "I'm not a scientist, but..." and then they proceed to issue an opinion contrary to established scientific facts.

Now that the pope is preparing to release an encyclical on climate change, Republicans aren't at all happy. Republican Catholics like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal are claiming the pope's acceptance of settled science is a "political opinion," and has no religious authority on this issue.

But the fact is, climate change isn't just an "opinion." It's not just some abstract measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere, ocean temperatures, decreasing arctic sea ice and the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet. We can see it happening in our daily lives, with massive floods, killing droughts, and destructive storms.

Furthermore, when people inflict death and destruction on each other it is by definition a moral issue, whether intentional or accidental:
“Obviously, when it comes to science, the pope is not infallible. Galileo proved that,” said Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and Washington-based analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, though he noted that Francis did earn a master’s degree in chemistry before entering the seminary. “When it comes to, however, the question of the impact of climate change on humanity, this is a moral issue. We’re talking about death and destruction on an apocalyptic scale.”
Mankind is on the verge of making irrevocable environmental changes to the planet that will raise sea levels, kill off large segments of sea life, displace billions of people from their homes near the sea, and cause massive famine and disease over large segments of the planet. That's a profound religious and moral issue. We're causing this destruction incidentally, as a byproduct of our quest for ever-growing economies and industry, and the convenience of driving to work in our separate cars. But that doesn't make the destruction any less immoral.

After years of drought, Oklahoma and Texas are right now getting hammered by tornadoes and record floods. These are not solely due to climate change, but climate change is definitely making them worse. Instead of getting three inches of rain in 24 hours, they're getting six or seven inches of rain in a single day. Why? Climate change increases the air temperature. Warmer air holds more moisture. Which means when it rains, it rains a lot more.

But Republicans like Bobby Jindal refuse to acknowledge the reality of basic scientific facts like the evolution of species -- which the Catholic Church accepts. Jindal insists that government should accept the pope's admonitions against abortion, birth control, premarital sex and other issues. Yet Jindal thinks the government should ignore the pope on climate change, because it's "just politics." Might this have anything to do with the fact that Louisiana and the Republican Party get hundreds of billions of dollars from the petroleum industry?

Unlike Jindal and the rest of the Republican rabble, Pope Francis has had scientific training, like many Jesuits. He worked as a chemist and has a master's degree in chemistry.

So when the pope says that climate change is a threat, he has a hell of lot more scientific, moral and religious authority than all of those Republican climate change deniers put together.

Thinking OF Another Group

As well as conservative Christians...:)

Like A Dry Cleaner!

Saturday, May 23, 2015


The fine folks at my favorite news publication, The Christian Science Monitor, have put up a bias free (as per the usual) piece on the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership agreement. Take some time to go over it and review the facts. Here's something that jumped out straight away for all the NAFTA whiners out there.

In reviewing the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, CRS found that "NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters."

This is one of those great myths from the left that really needs to go away. Meanwhile, even the progressive press is starting to cave...

Turncoat Democrats, It’s Time to Support Obama on Trade

The answer emerges from the top TPP hit on Google, an op-ed posted Tuesday by a lobbyist for U.S. domestic manufacturers. The lobbyist, who has read recent TPP drafts as part of his Democratic lobbying work, is outraged that Obama negotiators “dismiss individuals like me who believe that, first and foremost, a trade agreement should promote the interests of domestic producers and their employees.” 

This candid statement puts the anti-TPP campaign squarely in historical context. Powerful domestic interests have opposed free trade from before the U.S. Constitution was ratified and continued to oppose trade deals like Bill Clinton’s NAFTA negotiations in the 1990s. The beneficiaries of free trade—from the jobless who might get jobs, to the low-income consumers who benefit from cheaper products, to the high-poverty regions of the developing world that would benefit from exporting to U.S. consumers—just don’t have the same public relations resources. But although the social media campaign is an anti-TPP rout, its substantive arguments are profoundly at odds with progressive traditions.

Kinda puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

The Media (ahem) Covers White Crime

Great piece up on Vox about the "liberal" media covers crime when white people are involved.

With the Waco incident, we got just the news — not the racial pathology. Those who are using what happened in Waco to start conversations about stereotypes and media biases against black people aren't complaining about the tenor of this weekend's media coverage. They're saying something a little different: that by being pretty reasonable and sticking to the facts, this coverage highlights the absurdity of the language and analysis that have been deployed in other instances, when the accused criminals are black.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Racism Over in Murca

Hey kids, check out what happened when President Obama joined Twitter!

I wonder what political party he belongs to...:)

Check out all the other tweets as well. Hmm...I thought racism over in Murica. Obama must have been a race baitin'!!

Not Your Decision

Is Maggie Gyllenhall Too Old?

Maggie Gyllenhaal, who's 37, was recently told that she's too old to play the love interest of a 55-year-old actor:
“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she says during an interview for an upcoming issue of TheWrap Magazine. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”
Amy Poehler did a segment on this phenomenon with Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette (who are respectively 45, 54, and 47). One of the things it bemoans is the fact the Sally Field plays Tom Hanks' girlfriend in one movie and then plays his mother in another movie a few years later.

People complain about how terribly sexist Hollywood is, but this is not limited to the movie industry. It's par for the course for wealthy CEOs, politicians and media figures to divorce their first, second and third wives and trade in for a trophy wife every few years. Look at Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, etc.

But to their credit, Hollywood did make a movie about this problem called The First Wives Club.

This practice of discarding older women is not limited to the wealthy. In general, men marry younger women in subsequent marriages. In 38% of second marriages men marry a woman who is at least six years younger -- which makes no demographic sense because women have longer life spans than men.

Some will argue that this has to do with men wanting to have children with their second wives, but seriously, how many men want to screw around with kids in their 50s and 60s, especially if they've already gone through the ordeal?

Incidentally, the stats on remarriage show some interesting details which don't put conservative states in a very good light:
And it's not just second marriages -- third and fourth marriages are becoming more common too. Fully one in ten white newlyweds are on their third-plus marriage, according to Pew's calculations. Bloomberg's visual data team sliced the Census numbers last year and found that Arkansas is the state with the highest share of thrice-married residents: 7.5 percent of the 15+ population is on at least their third marriage. Arkansas is followed by Oklahoma, Idaho, Tennessee and Alabama. 
Why are men this way? Are they simply emotionally immature and can only handle women half their age? Do they consider their wives to be status symbols, like an expensive car, and so they have to have the newest and hottest model?  Are they insecure and afraid of impending death, and marry younger to make themselves feel younger? Are they faithless scum who value fleeting appearances more than love and loyalty? Is it some kind of creepy pseudo-pedophilia? Are these men so good-looking that they can only find mates of comparable attractiveness to themselves in younger women? Looking at Trump, Limbaugh and Gingrich the answer is obviously no.

The thing is, everyone assumes the only reason younger women marry flabby, old, fat and ugly men is for their money. Everyone assumes that the marriage will end in divorce and a lot of messy court proceedings, custody battles and an endless flood of lawyers' fees. Yet, knowing this, Trump and Limbaugh and Gingrich still robbed the cradle. What fools these men be.

Which brings up the most important question of all: will Han Solo still be married to Princess Leia in the new Star Wars movie? Or will Han and Leia split, and will the producers pair Harrison Ford with a wife young enough to be his daughter; say, someone like Ford's real wife, Callista Flockhart?

Nah. Callista Flockhart is 50. Way too old for the movies.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nebraska Legislature Votes to Abolish Death Penalty

Nebraska's unicameral legislature voted to abolish the death penalty 32-15. That's more than enough to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' threatened veto. 

Nebraska is a conservative state that has had the death penalty for forty years. But after several botched executions over the past few years in Nebraska and other states, conservatives have been questioning its legitimacy and efficacy.

And it's about time. Conservatives constantly talk about government overreach, incompetence and abuse of power. What greater abuse of power can there possibly be than the state taking the life of innocent person?

We know that cops and prosecutors frequently lie, elicit perjury from informants and withhold exculpatory evidence. We know eye witnesses are frequently mistaken. We know forensic examiners frequently use bogus science, make mistakes, cut corners or just make stuff up.

As of June, 2014, 316 wrongfully convicted people have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 18 sentenced to death. Research shows that 4% of people on death row are wrongly convicted. How many innocent people were executed?
"We cannot estimate that number directly but we believe it is comparatively low," authors wrote. "If the rate were the same as our estimate for false death sentences, the number of innocents executed in the United States in the past 35 years would be more than 50. We do not believe this has happened."
They "don't believe." Isn't any number greater than zero completely unacceptable in a democracy governed by the rule of law?

Gov. Ricketts said that Nebraska is getting new drugs and that execution by lethal injection should resume. But why should that matter? We used to execute people by hanging, the gas chamber and the electric chair. We used to watch people burn and jerk in the chair, choke and gasp in the gas chamber, and twitch and twist in the wind at the end of the hangman's noose.

We don't execute people that way anymore because it's disgusting and shows exactly how petty and evil killing people really is. We're supposed to be better than the murderers.

So why are we now so bent out of shape because a couple of murderers executed by lethal injection moaned and wheezed for 20 minutes before they kicked off? Death penalty supporters like Ricketts are ashamed of what the death penalty really is. They want to cover up its disgusting nature, to make it seem serene and painless. So they want to sedate their victims to cover up the barbarity of executing people.

Conservatives should be on the forefront of opposition to the death penalty. Our government should not be in the position of making irrevocable errors in the administration of justice. Giving victims "closure" is not a Constitutional right; revenge provides neither closure nor happiness; vengeance is not justice.

To paraphrase Blackstone, isn't it better to let 7,482 murderers rot in jail for the rest of their lives than to execute 50 innocent men?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

FTC Takes Down Scammers, Who Then Go Unpunished

The FTC has sued four phony cancer charities for fraud. The Tennessee- and Arizona-based charities are run by James T. Reynolds, who hired family members and then spent nearly all donations on themselves.
In soliciting donations, the charities said they spent 100 percent of proceeds on services like hospice care, transporting patients to and from chemotherapy sessions and buying pain medication for children. “These were lies,” the complaint said, noting that the charities spent less than 3 percent of donations on cancer patients.

“Some charities use donations to send children with cancer to Disney World,” said Mark Hammond, secretary of state for South Carolina, whose office joined the investigation of the groups in 2012. “In this case, the Children’s Cancer Fund of America used donations to send themselves to Disney World.”

The other charities connected to Mr. Reynolds and named in the suit were Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society. According to government officials, the four groups spent the vast majority of the donations they received on fund-raising for more donations, reserving a portion for showering the groups’ workers and their friends with large salaries, bonuses and lavish expenses.
The response from the son of the scammer?
“Charities — including some of the world’s best-known and reputable organizations — are increasingly facing the scrutiny of government regulators,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, as our operations expanded — all with the goal of serving more patients — the threat of litigation from our government increased as well.”
Yes, this crook is repeating the old Republican mantra about too much government regulation! Every time a conservative whines about government regulation these are the kinds of criminals they're working so hard to protect.

What did the scams do?
The charities hired telemarketers to collect $20 donations from people across the country, telling consumers that they provided financial aid and other support to cancer patients, including pain medication, transportation to chemotherapy visits and hospice care.

But little money made it to cancer patients, as the groups "operated as personal fiefdoms characterized by rampant nepotism, flagrant conflicts of interest, and excessive insider compensation" with none of the controls used by bona fide charities, the FTC said Tuesday. 
What will happen to these crooks?
The settlement agreement imposed hefty judgments based on the amount of money donated to the charities between 2008 and 2012. But because of Perkins' "inability to pay," her $30 million judgment would be suspended entirely. The $65.5 million judgment against Reynolds II would be suspended after he pays $75,000.

Effler, former president of Cancer Support Services, faced a $41 million judgment that would be forgiven after paying $60,000.
Nothing. Nothing! No jail time. No whopping big fines. No confiscation of their ill-gotten gains. A couple of them will have to pay back less than a tenth of one percent of the money they stole from millions of charitable Americans. And it's incredible. How could they spend almost $200 million and have nothing of value left over? No expensive houses or cars that could be sold off? No diamond necklaces? No money sitting in bank accounts in the Caymans?

What's crazy is that government prosecutors send people away for decades for selling dime bags of dope, yet people who steal literally millions of dollars from millions of Americans just get to walk away scot-free, the only punishment being the termination of their scam and a ban against fundraising. (Which will be essentially be impossible to enforce.)

How can Americans of good will protect themselves from scammers like this?
The FTC recommends that when considering a donation, look for a long-standing charity with a good reputation and avoid any group that uses high-pressure tactics or is reluctant to provide detailed documentation on how the money is spent.
The problem is, these crooks do everything they can to make themselves appear to be something they're not. Most of these scammers pick a name that's almost identical to a legitimate charity, or they just lie. When you ask questions how the money is spent, they'll just lie. If you ask for detailed documentation how can you possibly tell whether it's legitimate? How can you tell whether the numbers on their website are lies? Simple: you can't.

The FTC won't say this because of the howls of agony from the charitable community this simple truth would raise, but regular citizens have absolutely no way to tell whether a charity is legitimate.

So don't even try. When some "charity" calls you for money, hang up. Don't even bother to talk to them. Don't try to be polite. Even if they say they're from a charity you know and trust. They're almost certainly lying, or trying to steal your credit card number or your personal information or case your house. It's just not worth the risk.

The only way we can protect ourselves is to never respond to charities soliciting by telephone, email or direct mail. Only give money to charities you know, and only do so directly, on your own initiative. Never give your credit card or any personal information to an unsolicited caller. If enough people do this eventually the scammers will give up and move to greener pastures.

Furthermore, you should closely examine the legitimate charities that you support to make sure that you actually approve of what they're doing. For example, Susan G. Komen  for the Cure spends more on fundraising and administration than they do on breast cancer research. They spend 40% of their money on "public health education," which consists mostly of people wearing pink t-shirts at public events. Is this really the most efficient use of your donation?

Telemarketing and Internet scams are really hurting legitimate charities. As long as well-meaning suckers fork over their cash and credit cards, they'll keep doing it.

The only way we can stop them is to quit answering their phone calls and emails.

Los Angeles Joins the $15 An Hour Club

Los Angeles has now joined a chorus of other cities in raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. I can hear the shit squirting out already from all the bowels blown on the right. There are several myths about what raising the minimum wage can do to economies. Let's dispense with all of them right now because it's pretty easy.

The minimum wage has never even come close to market equilibrium so anyone that caterwauls about how it ruins businesses has absolutely zero evidence to back this up. The minimum wage has been so low for so many years that all discussions about the effects of raising it are theoretical, really. With a variety of cities across the nation from different regions of the country, the next few years will show us exactly what happens when you raise the minimum wage to a livable level (see: more people have more money, they buy shit, businesses hire more people, economic growth).

Further, if you look closely at each of these laws, small businesses are exempt from many of them. So, the whole sob fest about Mom and Pop's store on Main Street going out of business because of liberals is a giant pile of shit. In reality, Mom and Pop's store on Main Street is going out of business because of the large corporations (supported largely by the same people who are blowing bowels about the minimum wage) moving into a town.

It will be interested to note how the minimum wage naysayers engage in motivated reasoning as the facts come in...:)

Tea Party Logic

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Burning CO2

Audi is experimenting with "e-diesel" made from a combination of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and water. Very cool! I've never had the desire to own an Audi but if this makes it to market, I may just have to pick one up.

Here Come the Geoengineering Hucksters

Why do business people always fall for hucksters? Think of all the wealthy investors who were suckered by guys like Bernie Madoff. Were the suckers he took for a very expensive ride greedy, or were they just wishful thinkers?

Now Joe Nocera has fallen for the "geoengineering" scam that the fossil fuel industry is pushing to avoid having to do something real about climate change (or climate disruption, as some now want to call it).

Geoengineering is a gimmick that treats the symptoms of climate change (increased temperatures) instead of addressing the cause (too much CO2).

Nocera likes to call geoengineering "chemo for the planet." He thinks that because we're so greedy and short-sighted, trying to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use by switching to clean sources will never work. So instead of solving the real problem, we should just take a pill and put a Star Wars band aid on it.

This is like morbidly obese people refusing to cut back on the amount of food they eat, and instead they take some magical supplement that the hucksters say will "burn the fat right off."

Just like the morbidly obese, Nocera has fallen for the magical supplement:
A second [method] is called solar radiation management, which uses techniques like shooting sulfate particles into the stratosphere in order to reflect or divert solar radiation back into space. This very effect was illustrated after the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. Spewing 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide in the air, the volcano caused global temperatures to fall, temporarily, by about 0.5 degrees Celsius, according to Wagner and Weitzman.
Yes, according to this brilliant business journalist, the answer to carbon dioxide pollution is sulfate pollution!

But it's worse than that. Has Nocera been sleeping blissfully ignorant for the last 50 years? You see, Joe, for decades we had this problem called acid rain. The sulfur in the smoke from coal-fired power plants came back down to earth in the form of sulfuric acid. As you might recall had you taken chemistry, sulfuric acid is bad.

Acid rain kills fish. It prevents fish eggs from hatching. It kills shellfish and coral in the ocean. It kills trees and plants. It toxifies soil, making it unsuitable for farming. Acid rain eats away metal bridges, stone buildings, gravestones, concrete highways, and so on. Sulfur particles in the air cause health problems in humans, including bronchitis and asthma.

In short, acid rain causes lots of death and destruction and costs lots of money.

Because if we shoot sulfur particles into the stratosphere they will come raining back down. To make matters worse, we have to constantly shoot sulfur particles into the air, for as long as the concentration of CO2 is elevated. Which will be centuries, especially if we drill and burn oil until it's all gone. If we stop injecting crap into the atmosphere, the planet will start heating up drastically.

This makes Nocera's solution no solution at all, because it depends on us actively spending money to prevent something bad happening. Which is the basis of Nocera's entire argument for why we can't make ourselves stop burning fossil fuels in the first place.

Now, acid rain is one of the big success stories on the environment over the last 50 years. We have mostly eliminated the problem by making coal-fired power plants clean up their act. Now Nocera wants to intentionally put this crap in the air?

And the problem isn't just sulfuric acid falling from the skies. As we pump more CO2 into the atmosphere, some of it enters the ocean and forms carbonic acid. This makes the ocean more acidic, as described on an excellent episode of NOVA (sponsored in part by the Koch brothers!). Ocean acidification prevents sea creatures from incorporating carbonate into their shells. This is already killing coral and oysters. Worse, it's killing the tiny shelled pteropods and krill that form the basis of the ocean's entire ecosystem. All higher forms of oceanic life ultimately depend on those creatures for food.

And then there's the sheer hypocrisy of the entire climate denial camp. A big part of their argument is that human beings are simply too small to have any effect on global climate. But, they argue, if climate change were happening, all we'd have to do is inject sulfate into the atmosphere to change climate globally! Huh?!

Then there's international politics. What if Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Japan don't think that causing acid rain worldwide and killing off the oceans is such a good idea? Do the countries fouling the air with CO2 have the right to trash the environment of other countries with even more pollution? Would those countries be within their rights to bomb atmospheric sulfate injectors in countries like the United States, Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia? Are we willing to go to war with all of Western Civilization in order to keep profits rolling in for the most despotic regimes on the planet?

Nocera also hypes another "solution:" carbon capture. This, he says, "sucks up carbon from the air." The only problem is what to do with it once you've sucked it. The brilliant plan? Pump it into the ground! The oil and gas industry are already causing earthquakes across the country by pumping fracking waste into the ground. Now Nocera wants to compound the problem by pumping the crap we just burned back into the ground, but somewhere else.

Joe, you may not know it, but there already exists a technology that sucks up carbon from the air. They're called "trees." But humans have been steadily cutting down and burning trees for centuries to make way for cities and farms and oil fields, and often just for heat. Deforestation is a sizable part of the CO2 problem.

Fact is, fossil fuels are constantly declining in efficiency. We have to expend a lot more energy to extract fossil fuels from the ground as we resort to more esoteric techniques like hydraulic fracturing. Gone are the days where you just drilled a hole and oil came squirting out in a gusher. We have to expend energy to ship the crude around the world. We have to expend energy to refine the crude. We have to expend energy to ship the refined fuel to the destination. We have to expend energy to clean up the emissions. And now Nocera wants us to expend energy to sequester the pollution in the ground, blithely assuming that nothing bad will ever happen if we pump billions of tons of crap into the ground where it will potentially pollute aquifers (creating carbonic acid) and cause earthquakes.

Solar and wind power are already cheaper than fossil fuels in some parts of the world. The downside is that they're not as convenient. If we maximize use of renewables where it makes economic sense, wider adoption will drive down the price even further. That will spur future technological developments, eventually allowing us to power transportation with renewables.

We don't need to stop all fossil fuel use immediately. We just need to reduce our emissions so that we don't exceed the earth's capacity to absorb it.

The IMF estimates that the world spends $5 trillion to subsidize fossil fuel use. Shouldn't the businesses that are costing us all that money bear the financial responsibility for it?

Even worse, why can't a business journalist understand that?

Literally Dying Off

There have been plenty of posts and comments on this blog by both Nikto and me about how the GOP base is literally dying off. Daniel McGraw over at Politico has finally put some numbers to it and the prognosis isn't good.

By combining presidential election exit polls with mortality rates per age group from the U.S. Census Bureau, I calculated that, of the 61 million who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, about 2.75 million will be dead by the 2016 election. President Barack Obama’s voters, of course, will have died too—about 2.3 million of the 66 million who voted for the president won’t make it to 2016 either. That leaves a big gap in between, a difference of roughly 453,000 in favor of the Democrats. 

How did he do this?

Here is the methodology, using one age group as an example: According to exit polls, 5,488,091 voters aged 60 to 64 years old supported Romney in 2012. The mortality rate for that age group is 1,047.3 deaths per 100,000, which means that 57,475 of those voters died by the end of 2013. Multiply that number by four, and you get 229,900 Romney voters aged 60-to-64 who will be deceased by Election Day 2016. Doing the same calculation across the range of demographic slices pulled from exit polls and census numbers allows one to calculate the total voter deaths. It’s a rough calculation, to be sure, and there are perhaps ways to move the numbers a few thousand this way or that, but by and large, this methodology at least establishes the rough scale of the problem for the Republicans—a problem measured in the mid-hundreds of thousands of lost voters by November 2016. To the best of my knowledge, no one has calculated or published better voter death data before.

The math is pretty straight forward and so is the message.

“The [GOP] does rely too much on older and white voters, and especially in rural areas, deaths from this group can be significant,” Frey says. “But millennials (born 1981 to 1997) now are larger in numbers than baby boomers ([born] 1946 to 1964), and how they vote will make the big difference. And the data says that if Republicans focus on economic issues and stay away from social ones like gay marriage, they can make serious inroads with millennials.”

So far, the current crop of GOP candidates doesn't appear willing to do that. Look at what happens.

But what if Republicans aren’t able to win over a larger share of the youth vote? In 2012, there were about 13 million in the 15-to-17 year-old demo who will be eligible to vote in 2016. The previous few presidential election cycles indicate that about 45 percent of these youngsters will actually vote, meaning that there will about 6 million new voters total. Exit polling indicates that age bracket has split about 65-35 in favor of the Dems in the past two elections. If that split holds true in 2016, Democrats will have picked up a two million vote advantage among first-time voters. These numbers combined with the voter death data puts Republicans at an almost 2.5 million voter disadvantage going into 2016.  


Even Ted Cruz Is Saying It

So, now that Ted Cruz has said it, will those last, little stragglers final admit that Saddam didn't have WMDs? Or will cognitive dissonance continue to rule the day?

Monday, May 18, 2015

The United States Of America: 2015

When you foam at the mouth about infringement, so much so that you allow people like this to own guns, this is exactly what you get.

And YOU are responsible.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

No One Wants Remmington

It looks like no one wants to buy Remington Outdoor. Gee, I wonder why. Could it be that they are the company that made the weapon used by Adam Lanza to slaughter innocent children at Sandy Hook?

What's also interesting to note from the article is this:

The tide has turned against Cerberus and the gun industry, at least for now. Gun sales began slowing last year. Remington reported a nearly 28 percent drop in sales from 2013, to $939.3 million. And it swung to a $68.2 million loss from a $57.7 million profit. (The company also cited a recall of millions of triggers for its Remington Model 700, which has been reported to fire without the trigger’s being pulled, as weighing on its results.) 

A chief rival, Smith & Wesson, said that its sales for the 12 months ended Jan. 31 fell about 15 percent, to $541.6 million. Over all, the number of background checks processed by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a rough indicator of interest in gun sales, declined slightly in 2014, to just under 21 million.

Wait...what? The Gun Cult has assured me many, many times that guns sales are always high, because guns are awesome and stuff, forever and ever, AMEN!!! It could possibly be that there is a glut in the amount of guns out there, can it?

Sales of firearms surged in 2013 in the face of fears of tougher ownership laws. The worst of those fears have since subsided, but that stockpiling has led to a glut of guns in the United States.

My oh my!

Perhaps the solution to permanently turning off America from guns is twofold. First, have so many around that no one really gives a shit anymore. After all, it's human nature that when something is easily available, no one gives a shit about it. The cassette tape analogy still applies here. You can't even give those fucking things away.

Second, and more importantly, make the companies that make guns very unappealing to own and, thus, drive down the value in the private capital market. This could hit them where they really hurt. If it costs too much to make guns and no one is making any money on them, well...:)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Take The Climate Change Quiz!

Think you know the odd effects of global climate change? Take our quiz.

Growing Economies Without Growing Emissions

The world economy grew last year without carbon emissions.

Still, evidence of cleaner economic growth is exciting for those who work on a challenge as immense and protracted as global climate change. The news is well timed, too: Nations are developing their climate plans ahead of international negotiations in Paris this December. Progress on emissions – however slight – shows world leaders that “this is a doable thing that the world can work on together,” says Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute, a climate research organization based in Washington. “This should give them confidence that they can meet their emissions targets and still grow their economies,” Ms. Morgan says.

This is most welcome news considering that naysayers on all sides said it wasn't possible. The people who continue to deny that man made climate change is real and that the renewable energy market isn't feasible look pretty silly right now. Equally as silly are those who think that we aren't doing enough. Stories like this:

Georgetown Goes All In on Renewable Energy

make them look even more silly. We can add Georgetown, Texas to Burlington, Vermont as cities that have gone 100 percent renewable.

By the mid part of this century, the manufactured debate about climate change will be moot.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Primary Source on Benghazi

The CIA is talking about Benghazi and it's very, very interesting. Given that Morrell is a primary source, his words should obviously be given a good deal of weight although I have no doubt that it will bounce directly off the right wing bubble.

We all know their faith will not be shaken:)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The GOP Clown Car

I've become very amused at imagining exactly how the Republican Party is going to handle primary debates with 15-20 candidates. How can they NOT look like the fucking clown car just dropped them off?

This recent piece from the Times presents a few of the conundrums.

But by trying to impose order through party-sanctioned debates and limiting the number of forums, the party may have begotten an equally messy problem: who to include on stage for a 90-minute debate from a field of nearly 20 potential candidates.

Right. Who are they are going to say isn't a "serious" candidate? What are the metrics? Polls?

It is not entirely clear who will be in charge of devising or enforcing the debate criteria — that is, if there are criteria. One member of the national committee panel charged with overseeing the debates said its members had discussed ceding the decision entirely to Fox News.

Wow. At least they are admitted something the rest of the country already knew.

The party has little appetite for a forum so thick with candidates that it allows for not much more than an extended “lightning round” of questions. One Republican involved in the process said a 90-minute forum with 10 candidates would offer each candidate only four to five minutes, after subtracting commercials and moderator time.

How on earth will they handle 20?

Of course, this piece doesn't even get into the issue of how it's going to look to the rest of the country gets to see a mob of conservatives who all want to be president falling all over themselves to show much they hate science, the gays, immigrants, and women. What a chorus that will be!

The ad pretty much writes itself:)

The (Still) Facts of the Electorate

It looks like I'm not the only one pointing out electoral vote reality regarding the election next year. Byers points out a few key points that folks seem to be missing.

Here's the problem with Silver's piece: It's 1,500 words long, and not one of those words is "economy."

Silver's article also didn't include the words "Ross Perot." While Perot took votes from both Bush and Clinton, he likely delivered additional anti-Bush voters to Clinton after he dropped out of the race. No, Perot didn't cost Bush the election, but he did shake up the popular vote.

It's odd that Silver is going against his own models. Look for him to instantly put that 247 on the board right when the general starts next year.

Neither Byers or Silver note that all of the states in the 247 base have gone Democrat in the last six elections. The only exception was New Hampshire in 2000 went for Bush but New Mexico went for Gore so it was more or less a wash. Add in that the Republicans are bound and determined to nominate a "real" conservative this time around and even Bernie Sanders might have a shot at getting to 270. Now if they decided to nominate a moderate like Jon Huntsman, things would obviously change.

So, the next time you are engaging someone who think Republicans have a chance at winning in 2016, have them explain to you how a Marco Rubio or a Scott Walker wins California, Illinois and New York.

Because that's 104 electoral votes right there.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Big Thank You!

I wanted to send out a big thank you to readers new and old for somehow managing to double our site traffic in the last couple of weeks. Wow! A big part of this has been my co-blogger Nikto's last few pieces which have been truly stellar but I also know, via emails, that some of you have been promoting it so thanks!! It's also been nice to see some new (and returning) commenters back. I know that we've picked up a few Quorans which is cool.

Many of the new hits are coming from different places around the US and seem to be returning to read so that makes us here at Markadelphia very happy indeed!

Declining American Religiosity and Politics

A Pew Survey indicates that the Christian share of the United States population fell from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014.

All major Christian denominations declined, some more than others, and in some states more than others. For example, the percentage of Minnesotans identifying themselves as Catholic declined from 28% to 22%, or a drop of one-fifth in the total number of Catholics.

Non-Christian religions increased their share of the population by 1.2%.

But the largest increase was in the number of unaffiliated -- people who belong to no religion, a group which increased by 6.7%. Interestingly, the increase in unaffiliated Americans increased in all age brackets, not just the young.

Being unaffiliated doesn't mean they don't believe in a god -- though the number of atheists and agnostics went up 3.1% -- it just means that they claim no membership in an organized religion.

The question is, why?

Religiosity declines in wealthy, modern societies. People turn to religion because they need moral and spiritual support; inequality, poverty and desperation drive religious belief. This survey backs that up: the number of black Protestants remained stable. In fact, in the United States the most religious people are black women, who as a group are probably the worst off in this country.

A cynic might say that this is the real reason conservatives don't want government to help people: they don't want to lose control over the general populace that religion gives them. The more miserable people are, the more they turn to religion for solace, and the more power they give the conservatives. Of course, some branches of Islam are far more conservative than the most conservative American religions, but American conservatives hate it because it's a competitor. Basically, for political reasons.

Another factor is the betrayal and hypocrisy among the clergy. For example, in Minnesota, like many states, the Catholic Church has been mired in scandal after scandal with pedophile priests, archbishops turning a blind eye, paying them off, not calling the cops and covering it all up. Across the country numerous evangelical preachers have been caught having affairs with women, engaging in homosexual trysts and doing drugs.

Another factor is social change. Young Americans are turned off by the generally intolerant and specifically anti-gay agenda of conservative religions. They think the churches' stances against birth control and sex education are foolish and counterproductive.

Related to this is politics. Some believe that the right-wing political stances that some churches espouse are turning off young people.
“Traditionally, we thought religion was the mover and politics were the consequence," Michael Hout, a sociologist and demographer at New York University, told the Religion News Service. The opposite appears the case today, he said, as some have left evangelical denominations and the Catholic faith because “they saw them align with a conservative political agenda and they don't want to be identified with that.” Last year, Mr. Hout cowrote the paper “Explaining Why More Americans Have No Religious Preference: Political Backlash and Generational Succession, 1987-2012,” which studied the trend.
Some might contest this, saying that conservative evangelicals have declined less than more moderate religious groups (the share of evangelicals declined by 0.9% and Catholics and mainline Protestants declined by 3.1% and 3.4% respectively). But since we can't see exactly who is moving where in these broad statistics, it's completely possible that conservative Catholics and Protestants are changing their religions to align with their politics, joining evangelical churches where their Republican buddies hang out.

For example, except for women's issues (the position of women in the clergy, abortion and birth control), the Catholic Church is quite moderate and reasoned. The Church opposes the death penalty, endorses gun control, favors social policies that help the poor, and stopping climate change. Other churches favor these stands, allowing birth control and limited abortion, and some even allow women and gay priests.

How many Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopalian Republicans and have abandoned their more moderate churches for conservative evangelical denominations that favor their own political stances?

Mr. Hout is being naive when he says religion is the mover and politics are the consequence. Because politics has always been the mover. Organized religion is politics.

The first organized religions were state-sponsored, monarchies where the pharaoh or king was a self-declared god. Judaism started as a tribal religion with Moses as the king. Christianity was a fringe sect until Constantine made it the official state religion. Christianity formed the basis of the feudal system in Europe, whose kings ruled by divine right. The Church in the Middle Ages was essentially its own country and the pope a king. The Anglican Church was formed when Henry VIII couldn't get what he wanted from the pope. The Reformation was all about internal Church politics, money, land and power. Mohammed was a warlord who spent the last 10 years of his life fighting battle after battle. Communist China and the Soviet Union embraced atheism to strip political power from religious leaders; Marx knew how much political power religions held. Scientology was formed because L. Ron Hubbard didn't want to pay taxes, and he needed foot soldiers to create the illusion of a religion.

The purpose of religion is to control behavior by promising spiritual rewards if you obey their laws, and if you disobey, death and eternal torment -- at least according to the conservative religions.

The purpose of politics is also to control behavior, but by establishing laws.

This country was founded on the principle that politics and religion should be separate, to avoid repeating the innumerable wars in Europe and the abuses of power that resulted from the marriage of politics and religion. In the eyes of the Founders, religion should be a moral philosophy, not a prescription for running a country.

That separation of church and state was perhaps the most revolutionary idea the Founders had. And it was for that reason they wrote a Constitution that mentions god nowhere, and starts with:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

America: 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jeb Declares Himself Unfit to Be President

Despite sounding somewhat reasonable on a number of issues, Jeb Bush has now made it abundantly clear that he is not fit to be president:
After telling a group of fundraisers behind closed doors that former President George W. Bush was one of his advisers on the Middle East, the likely 2016 GOP hopeful followed that up telling Fox News' Megyn Kelly that he would have authorized the Iraq War — even knowing what we know now.
Yes, Jeb would repeat perhaps the biggest blunder in American foreign policy history: invading Iraq (a close second was Johnson's invasion of Vietnam, so I'm not being partisan here).

Why was invading Iraq so spectacularly stupid? Let us count the ways:
  • The war was based on two lies: that Saddam was developing WMDs and was involved in 9/11.
  • Bush was either duped into going to war by the Iranian spy Ahmed Chalabi and "Curveball," or else he knowingly repeated their lies.
  • The war drastically increased the strength of Iran's hand, toppling the Iraqi bulwark against Iran, and turning Iran's greatest enemy into Iran's puppet.
  • The war created thousands of Islamic terrorists when it became obvious the war was based on a lie.
  • The Iraq war turned the focus away from the war in Afghanistan, preventing a quick resolution and withdrawal there, and getting us mired in the longest war the American military has ever fought.
  • The Iraq war turned Muslim opinion against the United States when the torture at Abu Ghraib was revealed, creating more terrorists.
  • The wars inflamed Muslim opinion in the United States, leading to terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, etc.
  • The war created ISIS when Paul Bremer threw all the Sunnis in the Iraqi army to the wolves of Shia-led government.
  • The war wasted a trillion dollars of American taxpayer money, some of it in cash sent to Iraq by the planeload where it was doled out to Iraqi warlords and stolen by mercenaries.
  • The war was never put on the budget, creating the huge debt that Republicans are always complaining about.
  • The war killed 5,000 American military service members, killed thousands more "contractors," and injured and maimed 32,000 service members.
  • IEDs used in the war inflicted traumatic brain injuries and PTSD on hundreds of thousands of American vets.
  • Thousands of vets sustained injuries that will require medical treatment for the rest of the lives, which will cost the government hundreds of billions of dollars over the next several decades ($1.3 trillion for both Iraq and Afghanistan).
  • Extended deployments destroyed tens of thousands of marriages of American service members.
  • The war convinced North Korea that it had to build nuclear weapons to ensure their survival, which the DPRK first tested in 2006. Of course, since he was totally wrapped up with two other wars, Bush could do absolutely nothing to deal with North Korea.
  • The war convinced Iran that it too needed nukes.
  • The war led to instability in other countries around the Middle East, including Syria, Libya, Egypt, etc.
  • Oh, and the war killed hundreds of thousands totally innocent Iraqi civilians.
And what did we get out of the Iraq war?
  • We killed a toothless dictator who was too proud to admit that he was no longer a threat to anyone.
The after-the-invasion goal Bush cooked up after his lies about WMDs and 9/11 were exposed -- bringing democracy to Iraq -- hasn't worked out very well at all, considering how the ayatollahs in Iran now run Iraq.

It's clear that Bush's family issues and his inability to acknowledge obvious truths disqualify him from being president. He would make exactly the same mistakes W did, and would never admit it.

Of course, that disqualifies just about every other Republican candidate as well, save perhaps Rand Paul. But he has other fantasies that disqualify him.

Zimmerman Dodges a Bullet

George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin in 2012, was injured on Monday during a confrontation in Central Florida with a man who had previously accused him of making threats and stalking, according to local authorities.
The shooter claimed Zimmerman pulled a gun on him, so he took his best shot.
Mr. Apperson was questioned at the Lake Mary Police Station, where he was released without charges. After his release, he appeared with his attorney, Mark E. NeJame, who said his client holds a concealed-carry permit, perceived a threat and acted in self-defense.

The police in Lake Mary told reporters that Mr. Apperson called 911 and that Mr. Zimmerman was not the shooter.
This guy put a bullet hole in Zimmerman's car window, damaging Zimmerman's property, and injured Zimmerman when flying glass cut his face. Apperson endangered other drivers by firing a pistol on a public street. He freely admits he committed assault with a deadly weapon. Yet no charges were filed?

Of course, they couldn't file charges based on what Zimmerman got away with.

This incident just goes to show how idiotic the gun laws in Florida are. Why is no one held responsible for cowardly and irresponsible acts of gun play that endanger the public at large?

It must be hell being George Zimmerman. Since everyone knows that he's a child-murdering, speeding, road-raging, gun-toting, wife- and father-in-law beating hot-head, no prosecutor will ever be able to bring charges against anyone who shoots him.

Sadly, one day I expect that someone will justify killing a bearded Hispanic-looking man by saying, "I thought he was George Zimmerman!" And they'll get off.

I don't think things are going to end well for George Zimmerman. He gives the phrase "Dead Man Walking" a whole new meaning.

Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us

Welcome to the 21st century of the civil rights movement...

Monday, May 11, 2015

More Reasons to Get Vaccinated

There's a good article in the Daily Beast about vaccinations. It contains part of a public service announcement from 1986 written by children's book author Road Dahl:
Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old [in 1962]. As the illness took its usual course, I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.

“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.

“I feel all sleepy,” she said.

In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
Another article unveils a mystery that had been baffling scientists for years:
Back in the 1960s, the U.S. started vaccinating kids for measles. As expected, children stopped getting measles.

But something else happened.

Childhood deaths from all infectious diseases plummeted. Even deaths from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea were cut by half.
What caused this?
[Measles] erases immune protection to other diseases, [study coauthor Michael] Mina says.

So what does that mean? Well, say you get the chicken pox when you're 4 years old. Your immune system figures out how to fight it. So you don't get it again. But if you get measles when you're 5 years old, it could wipe out the memory of how to beat back the chicken pox. It's like the immune system has amnesia, Mina says.

"The immune system kind of comes back. The only problem is that it has forgotten what it once knew," he says.

So after an infection, a child's immune system has to almost start over, rebuilding its immune protection against diseases it has already seen before.
If the results of this study are verified, it will mean getting vaccinated for measles will protect you from a whole host of other diseases you already had.