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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You Betcha - Sarah Palin's Endorsement May Have Hurt Senate Candidate's Campaign

Huffington Post is reporting that Sarah Palin's endorsement of Republican candidate Kelly Ayotte in the race for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire may have adversely affected the conservative contender's campaign.

A new survey from Public Policy Polling finds that Ayotte has experienced diminished support from moderate voters since the ex-Alaska Governor issued a statement of support for her candidacy.

An excerpt of analysis from PPP:

The Palin endorsement may well be playing a role in this. 51% of voters in the state say they're less likely to back a Palin endorsed candidate to only 26% who say that support would make them more inclined to vote for someone. Among moderates that widens to 65% who say a Palin endorsement would turn them off to 14% who it would make more supportive.
The polling organization notes that 47 percent of New Hampshire voters identify as moderates -- comprising the largest voting bloc in the state:

[Democratic candidate Paul] Hodes' lead with them has expanded from just 8 points at 47-39 in April to now 21 points at 51-30. Ayotte's favorability with them has gone from +5 at 32/27 to -19 at 27/46.

Picture of the Day

Monday, July 26, 2010

Idiot of The Day - Tennessee Lieutenant Gov. Ron Ramsey - Perhaps Islam's Not a Religion

Today brings us a new candidate for Idiot of the Day.  His problem is how to deal with those damn Muslims.  Much like New York City, Tennessee is working its way through an odious, Al Qaeda-helping controversy over whether Muslims should be allowed to build a community center there.  But he is not a bigot - nooooooo.
"Now, you know, I'm all about freedom of religion. I value the First Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on," he said. "But you cross the line when they try to start bringing Sharia Law here to the state of Tennessee — to the United States. We live under our Constitution and they live under our Constitution."
So darn, what do you do about that pesky "freedom of religion" in the Constitution??  Well Ron has an answer for that too.
"My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion," he said in an email. "It's time for American Muslims who love this country to publicly renounce violent jihadism and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their faith community."
Wow.  So presto-chango, it is not a religion but a damn political party.  So stomp them out, because, you, know, Christians have always been the beacon of charity and good will - at least one can assume that is what Ron thinks.  I also assume that Ron must be opposed to war on religious grounds - no wait, I am wrong - but just ignore that..

Perhaps Ron didn't pay attention in History classes and missed that whole thing called the Spanish Inquisition.  You know facts are so darned inconvenient.  Come on, Christians have always been perfect saints, right?

I also haven't heard of Ron objecting to any Conservative Christian te-partiers who wave a flag or have the Thomas Jefferson quote on them.  "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."  That is a pretty radical statement, no?

Conservatives (this guy, Palin, etc.) keep calling on American Muslims to renounce "jihadists" who spew American hating rhetoric and to kick those people out of their community. They usually do this with an implied "Or else!" Sort of saying "if you guys don't do this, we're gonna go ahead and group you in with them."

At the same time, the NAACP and other groups call on the Tea Party to renounce the racists who spew bigoted rhetoric at their rallies and ask that they kick them out of their community. Implying if they don't do this, then they're gonna go ahead and paint them all with the "racist" brush.

Conservatives view the first situation as being perfectly reasonable. They view the second situation as some sort of personal attack and quickly mobilize to deliver swift, severe and uncalled for revenge.

Ron Ramsey wins as Idiot of the Day!

The Train Wreck That Is Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)

The Huffington Post is reporting that House Tea Party Caucus leader Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) (Read more about how bat-shit crazy she is Here - Here - Here and Here) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) agree: If Republicans win back control the House in November, they'll embark on an agenda of issuing subpoenas, repealing legislation, and holding hearings to investigate the Obama administration.

Boehner said Wednesday that if he became Speaker of the House he would immediately repeal health care reform as it "not only ruined the best health care system in the world, it'll bankrupt the country." And last week, minutes after the Wall Street reform bill passed, Boehner said, "it ought to be repealed."

"I think all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another and expose all the nonsense that has gone on," Bachmann said Thursday at the GOP Youth Convention in Washington.

Sounds really productive.  What a great thing to campaign on.  Was she the ugly kid who got left out of the sand-box?
All these two idiots want to do is make threats - they are absent of productive ideas.

Threats not jobs. Threats of no help for the uninsured coupled with more threats to take away hard earned gains in healthcare and financial controls.

Threats to make all Americans servants to Big Banks, oil companies, credit card companies, Big Pharma and Big Ag.

Hopefully one day the American people will recognize just what the Republicans are really all about. They gave us two wars, but blame Obama for not ending them. They gave us a world-wide financial crisis, but complain that Obama hasn't fixed it. They gave us astronomical budget deficits, but accuse Obama of not cutting deficits.

All they do is whine.

You want a snapshot of what happens if Bachmann and Boehner have there way - more tax breaks to the rich, refusing to extend unemployment compensation, repealing Wall Street Reform so that the rich will not be inconvenienced, and eliminating the first real chance that million of Americans have had at obtaining health insurance. Let's beat down the poor and eliminate the middle class all in the name of some phony concept of capitalism.

Supply Side Economics - Republican Snake Oil And The Biggest Scam In US History

What if I told you that you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight?  Or, that I could make you a millionaire and you didn't even have to work?  Or that I had some amazing property in South Florida I could sell you for cheap?

Too good to be true??  Surely that is what you would think - that I was trying to sell you snake oil  - that I was a charlatan (don't you love that word) - that I shouldn't be trusted. 

Martin Wolf has a fascinating article in the Financial Times about supply side economics and how we have all been sold a bag of goods.

Wikipedia defines Supply-side economics as a school of macroeconomic thought that argues that economic growth can be most effectively created by lowering barriers for people to produce (supply) goods and services, such as adjusting income tax and capital gains tax rates, and by allowing greater flexibility by reducing regulation. Consumers will then benefit from a greater supply of goods and services at lower prices  (supply -side economics is often conflated with the politically rhetorical term "trickle-down economics".)  Our gift from Ronald Regan.

From his article, Martin Wolf argues:
Supply-side economics liberated conservatives from any need to insist on fiscal rectitude and balanced budgets. Supply-side economics said that one could cut taxes and balance budgets, because incentive effects would generate new activity and so higher revenue. 
The political genius of this idea is evident. Supply-side economics transformed Republicans from a minority party into a majority party. It allowed them to promise lower taxes, lower deficits and, in effect, unchanged spending. Why should people not like this combination? Who does not like a free lunch?

Who wouldn't want lower taxes, lower deficits and a higher standard of living?  The true genius of this was that it transformed Republicans from a balanced-budget party to a tax-cutting party. This innovative stance proved highly politically effective, consistently putting the Democrats at a political disadvantage - Republicans were for low taxes and Democrats for higher taxes.

Somewhere in that rhetoric we lost sight of what really matters - higher productive and a better standard of living.  What is worse, and where this really becomes a scam - is that the theory that cuts would pay for themselves is just wrong and borders on a lie.  As Martin Wolf points out:
True, the theory that cuts would pay for themselves has proved altogether wrong. That this might well be the case was evident: cutting tax rates from, say, 30 per cent to zero would unambiguously reduce revenue to zero. This is not to argue there were no incentive effects. But they were not large enough to offset the fiscal impact of the cuts (see, on this, Wikipedia and a nice chart from Paul Krugman).

The chart Martin refers to is the real federal revenue, in 2005 dollars, from 1970 to 1990. Paul Krugman  plotted the log, because it’s easier to look at trends:

Krugman then points out that:
First, the Carter years, contrary to legend, were not a period of economic stagnation and falling revenue because high tax rates were strangling the economy; there was a nasty recession starting in 1979, largely thanks to an oil shock, but overall growth was respectable and revenue growth reasonably high.

Second, the revenue track under Reagan looks a lot like the track under Bush: a drop in revenues, then a resumption of growth, but no return to the previous trend.
This is exactly what you would expect to see if supply-side economics were just plain wrong: revenues are permanently reduced relative to what they would otherwise have been.
Krugman is not alone in his position.  Some contemporary economists do not consider supply-side economics a tenable economic theory, with Alan Blinder calling it an "ill-fated" and perhaps "silly" school on the pages of a 2006 textbook. Greg Mankiw, former chairman of President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, offered similarly sharp criticism of the school in the early editions of his introductory economics textbook. In a 1992 article for the Harvard International Review, James Tobin wrote, "[The] idea that tax cuts would actually increase revenues turned out to deserve the ridicule…" While few modern economists claim that tax cuts will completely pay for themselves, some empirical and theoretical research suggests that tax cuts do help to pay for themselves through increased economic growth, though the end result, even conservative economists contend, will be a significant reduction in revenues. The Reagan administration was the first to implement supply-side policies and call them that. Some maintain that they failed to deliver the promised benefits.

“ The extreme promises of supply-side economics did not materialize. President Reagan argued that because of the effect depicted in the Laffer curve, the government could maintain expenditures, cut tax rates, and balance the budget. This was not the case. Government revenues fell sharply from levels that would have been realized without the tax cuts.
- Karl Case & Ray Fair, Principles of Economics (2007), p. 695.[21]
Snake Oil. 

From the article:  Indeed, Greg Mankiw, no less, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush, has responded to the view that broad-based tax cuts would pay for themselves, as follows: “I did not find such a claim credible, based on the available evidence. I never have, and I still don’t.” Indeed, he has referred to those who believe this as “charlatans and cranks”. Those are his words, not mine, though I agree. They apply, in force, to contemporary Republicans, alas,

The paradox of all of this is raised by Martin Wolf as:
So, when Republicans assail the deficits under President Obama, are they to be taken seriously? Yes and no. Yes, they are politically interested in blaming Mr Obama for deficits, since all is viewed fair in love and partisan politics. And yes, they are, indeed, rhetorically opposed to deficits created by extra spending (although that did not prevent them from enacting the unfunded prescription drug benefit, under President Bush). But no, it is not deficits themselves that worry Republicans, but rather how they are caused: deficits caused by tax cuts are fine; but spending increases brought in by Democrats are diabolical, unless on the military.

Are we better off under the Bush supply-side tax cuts or not?  That is the paramount question, because if the answer is not, then we have been sold snake oil.

As Business Week pointed out in a 2004 article:
Ronald Reagan struck a nerve during his 1980 Presidential campaign against Jimmy Carter when he asked Americans: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" The economy had gone through a recession earlier that year, so the answer for many was a resounding no.
So where are we today?  According to Business Week:
But at the same time, the data show an apparent contradiction: that despite the wage gains of the past four years, family incomes have nonetheless declined after inflation. Why? Because employment is down and so are hours worked, outweighing the pay gains. Even the affluent haven't been spared. To compensate, Americans have refinanced mortgages, piling on the debt and lowering their average net worth. Soaring medical costs, which employers have been shifting onto workers, have further depleted the family purse. Those at the bottom of the ladder have fared the worst: Poverty climbed steadily throughout the Bush years.

Add it all up, and the average U.S. household is somewhat worse off today than in 2000 -- several years of pain followed by not enough gain to make up the difference. "Americans barely held their own in the past four years, with bottom-half families clearly losing ground and some top-half ones maybe a little better off, mostly from the tax cuts," says Inc. Chief Economist Mark M. Zandi.
It sounds great to say let's lower taxes.  But you have to ask what are you willing to give up in exchange.  Should the elderly loose medicare?  Should the poor be thrown on the streets?  Should the Wars In Iraq and Afghanistan be ended (the question no one seems to ask)?

So next time you hear a Republican say he wants to lower taxes, ask what are you willing to give up.  Also ask if it will really make all of us better off.  The answer seems to be a resounding no.

The CarbLovers Diet Review

If you are like me you love carbs, but I am never sure if they love me.  Generally I try to eat a healthy and balance diet but have wondered if carbs are as bad for you as many diets seem to imply.

So along comes "The CarbLovers Diet" - which sets out to prove that carbohydrates are not the enemy when it comes to losing weight. In fact, eating the right types of carbohydrates is exactly what you should do when trying to drop pounds, since they can help curb your cravings, preserve lean muscle tissue (which can keep your metabolism from dropping) and control your blood sugar levels (so your body stores fewer excess calories as unwanted body fat.)

What you can have: bananas, oatmeal, potatoes, beans, peas, fruit, broccoli, cucumbers, cold-water fish, pork tenderloin, Brie and apple slices, Greek yogurt, peanuts, steak, macaroni and cheese, penne pasta and Hershey's Kisses.
Sounds great, right!!
The premise hinges on resistant starches. According to research, different types of starches digest at different speeds. Resistant starches, found in the kind of foods recommended in this diet (including raw potatoes and firm raw bananas), pass through the body without being digested, similar to fiber. According to the book, the average person eats roughly 4.8 grams of resistant starches daily. The CarbLovers Diet increases that amount to 10 to 15 grams through various carb-based recipes.

The diet really has only five ground rules: 1) Eat at least one resistant starch-rich food (they call these foods CarbStars) at every meal, 2) CarbStars should make up about 25 percent of every meal (with the rest of your calories coming from lean meats, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables), 3) be smart with your portion sizes, 4) never deprive yourself (meaning you can indulge but in moderation), and 5) build a power pantry (which means stocking your home with plenty of CarbStar foods).

Sounds like an interesting read.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

U.S. Military Strike On Iran Likely, Ex-CIA Chief Says

Huffington Post has an article today about the possibility of a US military strike on Iran - it is a topic I have previously written about as well.  You don't think it possible?

Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced a measure that would green-light an Israeli bombing campaign against Iran.

H. RES. 1553

" Expressing support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel."

A former CIA director says military action against Iran now seems more likely because no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program.

Instead of obsessing about celebrities ( we need to focus on this.
Michael Hayden, a CIA chief under President George W. Bush, says that during his tenure a strike was "way down the list" of options. But he tells CNN's "State of the Union" that such action now "seems inexorable."

He predicts Iran will build its program to the point where it's just below having an actual weapon. Hayden says that would be as destabilizing to the region as the real thing.

U.S. officials have said military action remains an option if sanctions fail to deter Iran.

Some people have maintained that this was always the end game in the Middle East as it explains the long term presence in Iraq and Afganistan ... a geopolitical strategy to "surround" Iran.  They say just look at the map ... it helps explain a lot of decisions.

God’s Lunatics: Lost Souls, False Prophets, Martyred Saints, Murderous Cults, Demonic Nuns, and Other Victims of Man’s Eternal Search for the Divine

If you read SusPack you know that I am fascinated by religion. I have so many questions and there are so many issues which we are asked to accept on "faith." And I just can't grasp the concept of a vengeful "God" - it makes absolutely no sense that someone all powerful and all knowing would intentionally inflict pain. You also know that I have serious issues with many organized religious institutions, particularly the Catholic Church (A highly theatrical Holy Hoax) - because of excesses I see in those institutions, the corruption, the wasteful spending and the sexual perversions.

I believe most religions are cults that prey on human's fear of the unknown. I am an atheist. I don't believe in god in any traditional sense at all. The "god" of the bible and Koran, etc. are pure myth in my opinion. I believe in mankind. I believe in science. I know that none of us have the answers to the unknown. I am awestruck by "mother nature" and the wonders of the universe - how it was all created, who knows? It doesn't really matter. I believe being good makes a better humanity. I believe treating people with kindness and caring for others in need is the way to live life.

So I was intrigued by a book review today at the Daily Beast - God’s Lunatics: Lost Souls, False Prophets, Martyred Saints, Murderous Cults, Demonic Nuns, and Other Victims of Man’s Eternal Search for the Divine by Michael Largo.

Michael Largo, noted author of half a dozen books on death, has made it his mission to document and collect stories of religious fanatics, freaks, believers of all sorts.   Largo speaks of saints and sinners, of aliens and apostles. He regales the reader with tales of religion gone awry.

He tells the story of John Frum, a navy vet who washed ashore on an island in the South Pacific. The natives, who had little contact with the outside world, immediately hailed Frum as the messiah. Frum taught them that Uncle Sam and Santa Claus were revered gods and got them to believe that passing candy bars to each other was religious ritual. Frum died by falling (some say he was pushed) into an active volcano. His followers believe he’ll be resurrected in the year 2015.

Then there's the Patron Saint of Ice Skaters. The flying nuns (yes, there were many). There's heretic hunter Conrad of Marburg. There's Paschal T. Randolph, a nineteenth-century barber-turned-sex magician who allegedly coined the term "soul mate."

And then there’s the charismatic Pentecostal preacher known as Sister Aimee. In the early 1900s, her tent revivals often had standing-room-only crowds of thirty thousand. She built America’s first megachurch with a sanctuary could seat more than five thousand and reportedly had packed services three times a day, seven days a week. As if that wasn’t enough, she also created her own denomination, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

She is perhaps most widely known for allegedly being abducted near Venice Beach in the spring of 1926. Most people assumed she had drowned, others thought she was kidnapped, and some believed she had orchestrated the perfect disappearing act. About a month after she disappeared, Sister Aimee miraculously emerged from a Mexican desert claiming she had been kidnapped and brutally tortured. But not many people believed her. Indeed, a male colleague who was reportedly romantically involved with Sister Aimee coincidentally also vanished around the same time, and the two were seen at a number of hotels during her disappearance.

It’s stories like these—hundreds of them—that fill the pages of Largo’s encyclopedic new work. To compile it, he kept an almost monastic writing regime, often researching for 18 hours at a stretch, and working on just four hours of sleep a night. God’s Lunatics sources more than 300 books, which Largo is still clearing out of his lakefront house. “I was getting kind of crazy at the end of the book.” “With all the different gods, it got hard to sleep. The blessing is I have insomnia.”

But Largo sees his new book on religion as a natural extension of his previous work. “Death and religion are good bedfellows,” he says.

A self-described “recovering Catholic,” (he vividly remembers the corporeal punishment he received from the nuns growing up), he doesn’t argue for or against God in his book. Instead, he opts for religious tolerance. “I try to present this as a consumer’s guide to religion,” he says.

God’s Lunatics is written in handy encyclopedic form. The first entry is “Abracadabra,” which at one time was an ancient code used by Egyptian priests, and ends with “Zoroastrianism.” In between, paired with rare photos from the Library of Congress, are hundreds of what he refers to as short stories on the banal and the bizarre. Everything from how to tastefully slit the neck of a kosher chicken to biblical masturbators. A section on divine hair reveals why Amish men don’t have mustaches and Orthodox Jews grow side locks. There’s even information on how to start your own cult. “A surefire way to get followers to your cult is to talk about the apocalypse,” he explains nonchalantly.

Sounds intriguing!!  Death, the apocalypse and biblical masturbators - what more could you ask?

For some of my other posts on religion:

SUSPACK: Shocking - Priest Stole $1.3 Million - Also Gay.

There is something seriously messed up with the Catholic Church and with male Priests. When will somebody try and resolve all of the issues with Priests and the Catholic Church is the bigger question.) Kevin Gray, a priest at Sacred ...
SUSPACK: Rome's scrambling to undo damage from changes to church ...

Father Charles Curran, a professor at the Catholic University of America, was removed from his post and barred from teaching theology as a result of questioning church teachings on contraception, divorce, and homosexuality. ...
Discrimination on Admissions "is at odds with our values as a ...

Father James Rafferty, and the school principal, Cynthia Duggan, Rafferty told (the parent) that her relationship "was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church." Now an article at raises many of ...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

John Beohner To Fellow “Family Values” Republicans: Stop Partying With Hot Looking Female Lobbyists

Gun Toting Liberal has a great article talking about the new GOP Frat House.  From the article:

House Congressional Minority Leader Chews Out Fellow G.O.P.’ers On Capitol Hill For Acting Loose And Getting Drunk With Sexy Hotties With A Cause…

Okay, the BIG mistake made here by Congressman Joe Boehner was to assume his fellow “family values” Republicans are all straight and susceptible to hot ladies with an agenda just because they assure the constituents who’ve voted them into office they are “happily married” family men. Easy mistake on Mr. Boehner’s part — G.O.P. voters make the same one during every election.

Apparently, Congressman Boehner was a bit miffed by the actions of a handful of his Representatives and ready to put his foot down after Congressman Lee Terry (R) of Nebraska was caught by a reporter giggling under the heavy influence of alcohol with a sexy female lobbyist (Washington Post) — the icing on the proverbial “cake”. Mr. Boehner was ticked enough to spout off about it. Not that it takes much for the Congressional Minority Leader to spout off, of course.

Oh, and by the way — while we’re at it, isn’t that sort of a sexist “cheap shot” by the “Esteemed Gentleman From Ohio”? Arguably, YEP. Don’t be surprised when the feminists start pounding on this guy and of course, he’ll deserve the shots when they’re fired.

Other bloggers weigh in: Jezebel o-pines on the “sexist” aspect to the story (already?); Suspak‘s Sean Thibodeau compares this Republican practice to the movie “Animal House; Crooks and Liars‘ Nicole Belle says this strikes her as “… typical that Boehner is fearful of these wicked women “prowling” around the halls of Congress, waiting to lead some poor man astray.“…

South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Alvin Greene - Crazy? Different? or Republican Plant?

By now you have heard of enigmatic South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Alvin Greene.  He is just one of many interesting (Sharron Angle, etc.) people running for United States Senator (one of the most exclusive and prestigious organizations in the World) this year.

At a minimum it makes you (regardless of whether you are Republican/Democrat/Independent) ask yourself - Is this the best and the brightest that we have in the US?

In the latest Alvin Greene news Alvin responded Thursday to an Associated Press report on the former airman's lackluster Air Force record, which showed that he was repeatedly passed over for promotion due to a general sentiment that he had difficulty completing his duties.  And what did Alvin blame?
"Those folks are ridiculous and yes and they only promote the terrorists and the communists and I haven't gotten a promotion since I graduated from college and that's just what I'm saying," Greene told the South Carolina Post and Courier.
Really???  Only terrorist and communist?? 

He did at least have one example.  Greene maintained, the military chose to give preference to "terrorists" such as Nidal Malik Hasan, the army psychiatrist who is accused of murdering 13 people in a shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009.  (I recall Hasan's issues had more to do with mental illness and political extremism than being a terrorist.")

"They dismissed my potential," Greene told the Post and Courier of his superiors, who, in Greene's military files, criticized the now-Senate candidate for flaws as mild as being "[un]able to adapt to any changes to daily routine," and as severe as potentially positing "a threat to others" due to his "consistent inability to follow instructions or maintain basic job knowledge." He was given the latter review after accidentally posting sensitive information on a military Internet server.

I am sorry but the excuse of "only promote the terrorists and the communists" is lame!  The fact that, as he says, "I haven't gotten a promotion since I graduated from college", is far more telling.  Unless there is some HUGE conspiracy against Alvin Greene, why has he never been promoted for anything? 

I was willing to give Mr. Greene the benefit of the doubt before this lame excuse.  But if he truly believes what he says, I just don't believe he should be a US Senator.  Terrorist and Communist??  Come on!!!

Many in South Carolina are saying that Mr. Greene is nothing more than a plant by the Republicans and/or Jim DeMint.  Even if that is true, are you telling me that the Democrats couldn't find a candidate more compelling than Alvin??  Really??

Crime and Punishment in America - Lock Them Up And Forget They Exist.

This story is not about how I feel badly for criminals or how I feel that people are unjustly treated or incarcerated.  Instead, this is about the bigger issue of a system which is broken or at a minimum which seems to cost us way too much money.  Make no mistake about it, the criminal justice system and our penal system are very very expensive.

Prison is expensive—$50,000 per inmate per year in California.  It makes you wonder if the cost of imprisoning criminals may in many instances  far exceeds the benefits, in terms of crimes averted.

But it is not just about cost.  It is about the waste in terms of human resources which we impose upon our selves for the "justice" system. 

According to the Economist one American adult in 100 festers behind bars (with the rate rising to one in nine for young black men). Its imprisoned population, at 2.3m, exceeds that of 15 of its states. No other rich country is nearly as punitive as the Land of the Free. The rate of incarceration is a fifth of America’s level in Britain, a ninth in Germany and a twelfth in Japan.

Those numbers are astounding to me.  Are we just more criminal in America?  I don't believe that (in fact, the English are slightly more criminal than Americans, though less murderous).  The economist then points out that:

Lawmakers who wish to sound tough must propose laws tougher than the ones that the last chap who wanted to sound tough proposed. When the crime rate falls, tough sentences are hailed as the cause, even when demography or other factors may matter more; when the rate rises tough sentences are demanded to solve the problem. As a result, America’s incarceration rate has quadrupled since 1970.

It seems odd that a country that rejoices in limiting the power of the state should give so many draconian powers to its government, yet for the past 40 years American lawmakers have generally regarded selling to voters the idea of locking up fewer people as political suicide.

It does not have to be this way. In the Netherlands, where the use of non-custodial sentences has grown, the prison population and the crime rate have both been falling. Britain’s new government is proposing to replace jail for lesser offenders with community work. Some parts of America are bucking the national trend. New York cut its incarceration rate by 15% between 1997 and 2007, while reducing violent crime by 40%.

An era of budgetary constraint, however, is as good a time as any to try. Sooner or later American voters will realise that their incarceration policies are unjust and inefficient; politicians who point that out to them now may, in the end, get some credit.

Grantham: Everything You Need to Know About Global Warming in 5 Minutes

Global Warming.  Why is there still such a debate about the possibility of its existence?  Money!!!!  Pure and simple. 

There is a great article at The Big Picture which summaries perfectly Global Warming.

Jeremy Grantham, who has long had investments in Timber and Natural Resources, puts a surprising smackdown on the Global Warming denialist crowd.

Everything You Need to Know About Global Warming in 5 Minutes

1) The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, after at least several hundred thousand years of remaining within a constant range, started to rise with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. It has increased by almost 40% and is rising each year. This is certain and straightforward.

2) One of the properties of CO2 is that it creates a greenhouse effect and, all other things being equal, an increase in its concentration in the atmosphere causes the Earth’s temperature to rise. This is just physics. (The amount of other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as methane, has also risen steeply since industrialization, which has added to the impact of higher CO2 levels.)

3) Several other factors, like changes in solar output, have major influences on climate over millennia, but these effects have been observed and measured. They alone cannot explain the rise in the global temperature over the past 50 years.

4) The uncertainties arise when it comes to the interaction between greenhouse gases and other factors in the complicated climate system. It is impossible to be sure exactly how quickly or how much the temperature will rise. But, the past can be measured. The temperature has indeed steadily risen over the past century while greenhouse gas levels have increased. But the forecasts still range very widely for what will happen in the future, ranging from a small but still potentially harmful rise of 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit to a potentially disastrous level of +6 to +10 degrees Fahrenheit within this century. A warmer atmosphere melts glaciers and ice sheets, and causes global sea levels to rise. A warmer atmosphere also contains more energy and holds more water, changing the global occurrences of storms, floods, and other extreme weather events.

5) Skeptics argue that this wide range of uncertainty about future temperature changes lowers the need to act: “Why spend money when you’re not certain?” But since the penalties can rise at an accelerating rate at the tail, a wider range implies a greater risk (and a greater expected value of the costs.) This is logically and mathematically rigorous and yet is still argued.

6) Pascal asks the question: What is the expected value of a very small chance of an infinite loss? And, he answers, “Infinite.” In this example, what is the cost of lowering CO2 output and having the long-term effect of increasing CO2 turn out to be nominal? The cost appears to be equal to foregoing, once in your life, six months’ to one year’s global growth – 2% to 4% or less. The benefits, even with no warming, include: energy independence from the Middle East; more jobs, since wind and solar power and increased efficiency are more labor-intensive than another coal-fired power plant; less pollution of streams and air; and an early leadership role for the U.S. in industries that will inevitably become important. Conversely, what are the costs of not acting on prevention when the results turn out to be serious: costs that may dwarf those for prevention; and probable political destabilization from droughts, famine, mass migrations, and even war. And, to Pascal’s real point, what might be the cost at the very extreme end of the distribution: Definitely life changing, possibly life threatening.

7) The biggest cost of all from global warming is likely to be the accumulated loss of biodiversity. This features nowhere in economic cost-benefit analysis because, not surprisingly, it is hard to put a price on that which is priceless.

8) A special word on the right-leaning think tanks: As libertarians, they abhor the need for government spending or even governmental leadership, which in their opinion is best left to private enterprise. In general, this may be an excellent idea. But global warming is a classic tragedy of the commons – seeking your own individual advantage, for once, does not lead to the common good, and the problem desperately needs government leadership and regulation. Sensing this, these think tanks have allowed their drive for desirable policy to trump science. Not a good idea.

9) Also, I should make a brief note to my own group – die hard contrarians. Dear fellow contrarians, I know the majority is usually wrong in the behavioral jungle of the stock market. And Heaven knows I have seen the soft scientists who lead finance theory attempt to bully their way to a uniform acceptance of the bankrupt theory of rational expectations and market efficiency. But climate warming involves hard science. The two most prestigious bastions of hard science are the National Academy in the U.S. and the Royal Society in the U.K., to which Isaac Newton and the rest of that huge 18th century cohort of brilliant scientists belonged. The presidents of both societies wrote a note recently, emphasizing the seriousness of the climate problem and that it was man-made. (See the attachment to last quarter’s Letter.) Both societies have also made full reports on behalf of their membership stating the same. Do we believe the whole elite of science is in a conspiracy? At some point in the development of a scientific truth, contrarians risk becoming flat earthers.

10) Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for … what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs, and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? Most hard scientists hate themselves or their colleagues for being in the news. Being a climate scientist spokesman has already become a hindrance to an academic career, including tenure. I have a much simpler but plausible “conspiracy theory”: that fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results.

11) Why are we arguing the issue? Challenging vested interests as powerful as the oil and coal lobbies was never going to be easy. Scientists are not naturally aggressive defenders of arguments. In short, they are conservatives by training: never, ever risk overstating your ideas. The skeptics are far, far more determined and expert propagandists to boot. They are also well funded. That smoking caused cancer was obfuscated deliberately and effectively for 20 years at a cost of hundreds of thousands of extra deaths.

We know that for certain now, yet those who caused this fatal delay have never been held accountable. The profits of the oil and coal industry make tobacco’s resources look like a rounding error. In some notable cases, the obfuscators of global warming actually use the same “experts” as the tobacco industry did! The obfuscators’ simple and direct motivation – making money in the near term, which anyone can relate to – combined with their resources and, as it turns out, propaganda talents, have meant that we are arguing the science long after it has been nailed down. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”

12) Almost no one wants to change. The long-established status quo is very comfortable, and we are used to its deficiencies. But for this problem we must change. This is never easy.

13) Almost everyone wants to hear good news. They want to believe that dangerous global warming is a hoax. They, therefore, desperately want to believe the skeptics. This is a problem for all of us.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Suspicious Packaging - Billionaires Fund Karl Rove's 'Grassroots Group'

Salon says that American Crossroads, Karl Rove’s new self-described “grassroots” organization, has actually received 97 percent of its $4.7 million from just four billionaires. Three of those men come from Texas, and two made their money in oil and gas. Rove better shake these men down some more though, if he wants to meet his stated goals: American Crossroads has pledged to raise $50 million to beat the Democrats in November.

And despite the group's description of itself as "grassroots," Salon's review of its IRS filings show that four billionaires have contributed 97 percent of the $4.7 million it has raised to date. 

That is not a "grassroots" organization - that is a rich man's slush fund!!

Here's a guide to American Crossroads' four donors:

•Trevor Rees-Jones, president of Dallas-based Chief Oil and Gas, gave a $1 million donation to American Crossroads just as the group was starting in April. That's small money for Rees-Jones, who, Forbes estimated in 2009, amassed a $1.5 billion fortune investing in gas prospects around America. He has also been a big donor to John McCain and the Texas Republican Party, Politico reported.
• Bradley Wayne Hughes, chairman of Public Storage Inc, is American Crossroads' biggest donor, contributing $1.55 million to date. Hughes founded Public Storage in 1972 and the company has grown into a self-storage behemouth with over 2,000 locations. Worth $3.9 billion, he lives in Lexington, KY, where he actively raises thoroughbred horses at Spendthrift Farm. (Hughes' son, B. Wayne Hughes Jr., is on the board of former Senator Norm Coleman's new conservative group, the American Action Network.)
• A company called Southwest Louisiana Land LLC donated $1 million to American Crossroads in June. It turns out Southwest, which doesn't have much of a public footprint, is owned by Dallas billionaire investor Harold Simmons -- no stranger to conservative causes. Since the 1980s, he has ponied up for everthing from Oliver North's defense fund, to Newt Gingrich's PAC, to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, to the American Issues Project, a group that ran ads attempting to tie Obama to Bill Ayers in 2008 (Simmons was the sole funder of the Ayers effort, giving nearly $3 million.) Simmons is worth $4.5 billion.
• TRT Holdings, owned by Dallas' Robert Rowling, gave American Crossroads $1 million. Rowling, whose firm owns Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym, got started at his father's successful company, Tana Oil & Gas. He's now worth $4.4 billion. In 2004 Rowling gave $1 million to Progress for America, an outside group backing President Bush's reelection.

Who Is Breitbart? Smear Monger - Charlatan - Character Ass ain - Blowhard - Media Whore

You can't escape Andrew J. Breitbart these days.  Who is he??

According to Wikipedia Andrew J. Breitbart (born February 1, 1969) is an American publisher, commentator for the Washington Times, author, an occasional guest commentator on various news programs. He may be best-known for serving as an editor for the Drudge Report website. He currently runs his own news aggregation site,, and five other websites:, Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism, and Big Peace.

Breitbart's work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, National Review Online and the Weekly Standard Online, among others. He writes a weekly column for The Washington Times, which also appears at Real Clear Politics. Breitbart also co-wrote the book Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon with Mark Ebner, a book that is highly critical of U.S. celebrity culture.

Seems Breitbart should read his book again as he has become the ultimate fame whore. 

His most current claim to inglorious infamy is his involvement with Shirley Sherrod.  On July 19, 2010, after the NAACP had criticized the Tea Party movement for alleged racism days earlier, Breitbart posted two videos which he said showed the NAACP condoning racism despite publicly opposing it. The videos showed brief excerpts of a speech by Shirley Sherrod, an official with the United States Department of Agriculture, at a NAACP fundraising dinner in March 2009, in which, Breitbart later said, "she expresses a discriminatory attitude towards white people [and] the audience responds with applause". During the ensuing controversy, Sherrod was forced to resign.

In order to further his own agendas (his own personal fame and wealth as well as promoting a conservative agenda) he took someone he didn't know and decided to destroy her life.  The NAACP posted the complete video of the speech the next day (as did Breitbart), revealing that the speaker was in fact making an argument against racial discrimination, and said that the editing of the video was deliberately deceptive and that it had been "snookered" by Breitbart and Fox News into believing that it showed a racist comment.

Breitbart deliberately edited the tape to make it appear completely differently than it was in reality.  Talk about suspicious packaging!!  Sherrod said. "He was willing to destroy me to get to what he thought -- to try to destroy the NAACP.

ABC News' Nightline program called Breitbart a "provocateur, a rabble-rouser, and a master manipulator". CNN called the episode a "smear campaign" and news anchor Keith Olbermann called Breitbart "scum" and a "pornographer of propaganda".

Anderson Cooper on CNN said it best - Breitbart belives he is right and so he believes he can say anything or do anything as long as it promotes his ideas.   According to despite his being unmasked as a fraud, Mr. Breitbart remains dismissive to questions about his ruse to besmirch the NAACP and the Obama Administration.

Hey Breitbart read a definition of Megalomania: a pathological egotist - a conceited and self-centered person.  Megalomania is commonly understood as a mental behavior characterized by an excessive desire for power and glory and by illusory feelings of omnipotence.  Adolf Hitler is generally considered to have been a megalomaniac.

In the hours immediately following Senator Ted Kennedy's death, Breitbart called Kennedy a “villain,” a “duplicitous bastard,” a “prick” and "a special pile of human excrement."

I find that revolting.  The man just died.  The ONLY reason to make such statements is to profit off of his death.  To grab attention for yourself.

According to
Breitbatty also is well known for his delusional rants, forgetting to take his medication, drunken emails and tweets at 3 a.m. in the morning, sponsoring James O’Keefe, fake pimp extraordinaire who took down ACORN with his pimp in distress act, and just being a drunk. He also pals around with racists like American Renaissance Founder Jared Taylor and Marc “I like to drunkenly karate chop black women on the head”Epstein.

Break Open The Piggy Bank - Half of Americans Have Less Than $2,000 Banked for Their Golden Years

"One out of three working Americans does not have retirement savings beyond Social Security, and about 35% of those over 65 rely almost totally on Social Security alone," Dallas Salisbury, president of the Alliance for Investor Education and the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) , explained to AlterNet. "Of the remaining two-thirds of working Americans that have some retirement savings, 27 percent report less than $1,000, 16 percent between $1,000 and $9,999, 11 percent between $10,000 and $24,999, 12 percent between $25,000-$49,999, and 36 percent $50,000 or more." Perhaps the most shocking number is that half of Americans have $2,000 or less saved for retirement.

Crunch the numbers and you end up with a retirement myth, rather than a money-maker. We face a colder economic reality: Not only are there no astronomical retirement returns coming down the financial pike, but what nuts and nest-eggs families have set aside for their futures have been mostly sucked dry.

Déjà vu - GM to Buy AmeriCredit

GM – 61% owned by We the People - is buying AmeriCredit for $3.5 billion in order to give un-creditworthy customers a chance to end up in hock to them. It's part of their plan to expand their market by 'qualifying' buyers who haven't the resources to buy a car. Sound familiar? GM once owned GMAC which owned DiTech which was a giant in the sub-prime mortgage business. GMAC – through it's subsidiary Ally Financial – is into Uncle Sam for over $50 billion. How much do you think we'll lose on this new deal?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

National Socialist - Nazi - Who Is White (White Enough)?

A self-described "National Socialist", Harry Hughes, tells Rick Sanchez which groups and ethnicities he feels should live in the U.S.  View the video.  He says he is not a Nazi ... but?

First, according to Wikipedia a "Nazi" is the self-identification term, used by exponents of the ideology past and present known as National Socialism and adherents describe themselves as National Socialists.  So????

Well Harry is a supporter of the 25 POINTS OF AMERICAN NATIONAL SOCIALISM.  What is that?

Among the 25 Points are these gems:
  • We demand the union of all Whites into a greater America on the basis of the right of national self-determination.
  • Only members of the nation may be citizens of the state. Only those of pure White blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. Non-citizens may live in America only as guests and must be subject to laws for aliens. Accordingly, no Jew or homosexual may be a member of the nation.
  • All non-White immigration must be prevented. We demand that all non-Whites currently residing in America be required to leave the nation forthwith and return to their land of origin: peacefully or by force.
It is unclear, and Harry had no idea (or at least he didn't express them) of how you decide who is "white".  Does he mean just Western European?  What about Spain?  Are people from Spain "white" enough?  Or is it just German?  And why are Jews and Homosexuals not "white"?

The Nazis believed in the supremacy of an Aryan master race and claimed that Germans represent the most pure Aryan nation.  I assume that is what Harry means too. 

But like most bigots, Harry and his kind just suffer from an inferiority complex.
Phillip Wayne Powell writes that "in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, a powerful surge of German patriotism was stimulated by the disdain of Italians for German cultural inferiority and barbarism, which lead to a counter-attempt, by German humanists, to laud German qualities." M.W. Fodor wrote in The Nation in 1936, "No race has suffered so much from an inferiority complex as has the German. National Socialism was a kind of Coué method of converting the inferiority complex, at least temporarily, into a feeling of superiority".
So why does Harry want only "whites" in America? 
In establishing Nazi German racial superiority, Adolf Hitler defined “the Nation” as the highest creation of a race, and that that great nations were the creations of homogeneous populations of great races working together. These nations developed cultures that naturally grew from races with “natural good health, and aggressive, intelligent, courageous traits”. Whereas the weakest nations were those of “impure” or “mongrel races”, because they were disunited. Hitler claimed that lowest races were the parasitic Untermenschen (subhumans), principally the Jews, who were living lebensunwertes Leben (“life-unworthy life”) owing to racial inferiority, and their wandering, nationless invasions of greater nations, such as Germany — thus, either permitting or encouraging national plurality is an obvious mistake.
So we should all be identical - white.  But not just white.  You have to be a desirable "white."  Homosexuals are clearly not - see the second bullet-point above.  But Nazis didn't stop there.
In Germany, the master-race populace was realised by purifying the Deutsche Volk via (see: eugenics; the culmination was involuntary euthanasia of disabled people, and the compulsory sterilization of the mentally retarded. The ideologic justification was Adolf Hitler’s consideration of Sparta(11th c.–195 BC) as the original Völkisch state; he praised their dispassionate destruction of congenitally-deformed infants in maintaining racial purity:[124][125] "Sparta must be regarded as the first Völkisch State. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent, and, in truth, a thousand times more humane, than the wretched insanity of our day, which preserves the most pathological subject."
Did you see the movie "Meet The Spartans"?   Remember the scene where they picked the perfect baby?  Seems Harry thought that was a great idea and not just a joke.

Harry would be a joke if he and the people that promte such hatred were not so dangerous.  I wonder if Harry would have passed the test in Sparta?

RUN! Foorresstt! RUN! - Sharron Angle Runs From Reporters At Her Own Press Conference

Forrest Gump is a charming story of a  man with a low IQ who has accomplished great things in his life.  He is also present during significant historic events - in each case, far exceeding what anyone imagined he could do. "Forrest Gump" is the story of a man who rose above his challenges, and who proved that determination, courage, and love are more important than ability.

Sharron Angle (you know her - the one CHOSEN by God to be Senator of Nevada - a/k/a insane, delusional, bat-shit crazy) is a less than charming story of a women with a questionable IQ who seeks to accomplish great things in her life far exceeding what she, in a sane world, should achieve.  In her case it is a story of a women who proves that making outrageous claims and being a hateful bigot are far greater than her abilities.

Today, Sharron highlights the art of suspicious packaging - just look at the packaging, don't ask questions about what is inside.

Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle proved to be camera shy once again when she declined to take questions from reporters at a media-friendly event organized by her campaign on Wednesday.

The Republican hopeful's camp described the Reno, Nev. gathering as a "press conference" held to publicize Angle's signing of a pledge to repeal the "death tax" -- better known as the estate tax -- if she were to be elected to the Senate.

When local reporters attempted to ask Angle questions, the GOP hopeful all but ignored their presence. At the end of the event she bolted quickly.

As she left the press conference a local television reporter called after her: "Sharron, will you answer some questions really quickly." Angle did not turn around and a member of her staff responded, "We're running behind, I'm sorry."

In a previous interview Angle outlined her press strategy.

"The whole point of an interview is to use it like they say, 'earned media,' to earn something with it," Angle recently told CBN's David Brody. "And I'm not going to earn anything from people who are there to badger me and use my words to batter me with."

Egg - Face - The Sad Story of Shirley Sherrod

A White House official says President Barack Obama supports the Agriculture Department's decision to reconsider the ouster of a black employee for her remarks about race.

The official says Obama hasn't spoken with the employee, Shirley Sherrod, about the controversy. But the president is being kept informed of the developments in her case. The White House official was not authorized to talk publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Obama administration formally apologized on Wednesday to Shirley Sherrod, the USDA official abruptly fired earlier this week for comments taken out of context by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.

After a knee-jerk reaction to an obscure right wing blogsite's mischaracterization of Ms. Sherrod's comments, the White House is now trying to get the egg off its face. The only one that comes out looking good from all this is Ms. Sherrod. Not Obama, not the MSM which treated it as a serious story, nor Mr. Breitbart who started the whole thing with enthusiastic misrepresentation. You'd have thought he was auditioning for Fox or something.

Best Nude Beaches In The World

As a follow up to yesterday, Huffington Post brings us the best nude beaches in the world. 

Who needs a bathing suit when you've got a birthday suit? All ages, all sizes, come bare your beautiful beach bod in these top tan-line free zones. All you need to bring to get in is absolutely nothing at all.

Saline Beach - St. Barth  

Tucked away underneath St. Barth's rocky hillside, feel free to forget everything at St. Barth's most secluded beach. Including your clothes. One member recalled his favorite all-time memory of St. Barth as "enjoying a Cuban cigar and a glass of french rose wine on Saline beach in the late afternoon - wearing nothing but a hat."

Es Cavallet Beach - Ibiza, Spain
In America, we have the right to remain silent. The saucy Spanish, however, have the right to remain nude. According to this PDF, penalization for nudity violates constitutional rights. We're happy about that because this rear view above makes us giggle. Es Cavallet (pictured) is one of Ibiza's gay-friendly nude beaches.

Black's Beach - San Diego, California

UC San Diego's mascot may be King Triton, but over by Black's Beach, its the bear. Join the Black Beach Bares, a group of local nudie sport enthusiasts, for a friendly round of stripped snorkeling, birthday suit boogie boarding or jiggly jogging.

Plage de Tahiti - St. Tropez, France

No cameras allowed around this jet set crowd. Skip the ragmag subscription and catch a peak of your favorite celebrities' itties and bitties for free at this nude beach for the rich and the famous.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Take A Train.

Huffington Post has a great idea.  In our hectic day to day life, vacation is a time to relax. In fact, sometimes the best part is getting there. Skip the plane, take the train, and check out our list of the top railway trips ever. Enjoy the ride.

The Glacier Express - Switzerland

This seven-hour trek connecting the Swiss mountain resorts of St. Moritz and Zermatt carries you along the Rhine river through 91 tunnels, across 291 bridges and over the Oberalp pass at its highest altitude of 6670 feet. The journey's signature structure, the Landwasser viaduct (pictured), is one of the most photographed bridges in Europe due to its enormous yet delicate beauty.

The Flam Railway - Norway
Built in 1909, the Flam railway is a true engineering feat. As one of the steepest train lines in the world, you will marvel at gushing rivers cutting deep, narrow ravines through the land, waterfalls cascading down majestic, snowy mountains and charming, wooden farmhouses that date back to the 1600's. Idyllic beauty is only one facet of the Norwegian countryside, however. As the train approaches Blomheller, travelers witness awe inspiring evidence of nature's fury as tracks and trails of past avalanches pepper the countryside.

The Pride of Africa - Africa
Established in 1989 and billed as "the most luxurious train in the world", the Pride of Africa travels through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. The authentic and charming Victorian detail in the coaches dates back to the 1920's, but don't be fooled because each suite is completely modern and features nothing but the finest amenities. From the wild game reserves of Mpumalanga and the desert of Namibia, to the ripe cane fields of KwaZulu-Natal, there is no better way than the Pride of Africa to bear witness to Africa's timeless splendor.
The Alaska Railroad - Alaska
If you've ever watched Iceroad Truckers on the Discovery Channel then you understand why we think the Alaska Railroad is the best way to see the Frontier state. Just kidding. But with many of Alaska's top destinations inaccessible by car, the Alaska railroad is really the only way to get the most out of your trip. In just seven days, you'll visit Denali National Park, ride a dog sled, float amongst icebergs on the Placer River, walk across Spencer glacier and so much more. Best of all, you'll get a chance to sleep under the stars in the comfort of your own bed with the train's glass top roof. How cool is that?

Gainor - Grayson Smackdown - Gainor wants to Punch Grayson And Take Food From The Mouths of Children.

Prominent conservative media critic Dan Gainor has offered $100 to the first member of Congress who punches "smary [sic] idiot" Alan Grayson (D-Fl.) in the nose, reports Media Matters.

Gainor is the vice president of the Media Research Center, a $6 million-a-year organization that has been praised by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Newt Gingrich, and he is often cited, interviewed and otherwise taken very seriously by Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander.

I would point out that what Dan Gainor said is a CRIME. Arrest him. Violence is not an answer. And yet the GOP says they aren't supporters of violence....I haven't heard Maddow suggest she would pay someone to punch any conservatives in the face.....people resort to violent threats when they have nothing else to offer.

The outburst was prompted by comments that Grayson made on the House floor last night regarding unemployment: namely, that Republican lawmakers are "taking food out of the mouths of children" and "trying to revive the America of desperate straits and cheap labor" by blocking the passage of legislation that would extend unemployment benefits. Gainor tweeted that Grayson is "a caricature of a Congressman," in addition to offering cash for a physical assault on him.

But Grayson is not one to back down from a media brawl. He told HuffPost: "I think he's overlooking something important: I punch back

I am LOVING Alan Grayson! This is exactly the sort of thing that the Democrats should have been doing all along. i.e., pointing out, in colorful, attention-getting language, the moral depravity of the GOP agenda. Robbing from the poor to give to the rich.

The fact that their economic model is entirely wrong is apparently overly complicated to sink in to the general public, despite creating the most catastrophic financial collapse since the great depression right before our very eyes, but the moral angle can get through because it doesn't require complex thought.

People, after all, are busy with their own lives. You need to be able to communicate an idea in bumper sticker-sized pieces, and "May God have mercy on your souls" fit the bill.

The New GOP Frat House!

Remember the movie Animal House?  (At a 1962 College, Dean Vernon Wormer is determined to expel the entire Delta Tau Chi Fraternity, but those troublemakers have other plans for him.)

During the credits, John Belushi's character becomes a US Senator. 

Well seems truth and fiction are not far apart.  Have you heard of the "Capital Hill Club"?  A short distance from the U.S. Capitol stands the Capitol Hill Club, a refined and elegant environment for your business, political, and social activities.  Actually it is called National Republican Club of Capitol Hill or should that be the Delta Tau Chi Fraternity house?

House Minority Leader John Boehner has told members of his caucus caught partying with lobbyists to “knock it off,” according to the New York Post. Who, particularly is he targeting? Maybe Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska, whom a Post reporter overheard asking a female lobbyist “Why did you get me so drunk?” at the Capital Hill Club, until he realized the reporter was nearby and changed the subject to her family.  Terry was given a 100 percent rating by the Christian Coalition for his pro-family voting record.  Wonder is the Christian Coalition approves of being "sooooo drunk"?

Or Missouri Rep. Sam Graves, who was recently photographed with a blond lobbyist at a restaurant in DC.

Lobbyist Glenn LeMunyon's DC row house (or Frat House??) has been a hot spot for lobbyists who want to meet House members, including California's Duncan Hunter, Pennsylvania's Bill Shuster and Terry.  LeMunyon uses the house as an office during the day, a fund-raising space Some nights, and a place for congressmen to mingle after-hours with lobbyists.

You can take the boy out of the Frat but you can't take the Frat out of the boys.

Inception - The Spinning Top - What Really Happened At The End Of The Movie? (Spoiler Alert)

Spoiler Alert!  If you haven't seen Inception and don't want to know about the ending, don't read this article until after you have seen the movie.

As I talked about in my earlier post, the movie Inception (Inception Art of the Dream), and particularly the ending, is meant to leave you thinking and questioning the nature of reality.

Is Cobb still dreaming and are his team and family (and maybe Saito) all projections?  Or is the job completed and is everyone back in reality and everything is happily ever after?  Will the spinning top keep spinning or was it about to fall over just before Nolan cut to black?  Part of the genius of the movie is that we will never know for sure (absent a sequel).  However, the top does start to wobble and it is never shown doing that in the dream world.  And, while the top wobbled, the kids were dressed the same (or very similarly) and in the same positions in the yard as when Cobb sees them in his dreams.  What does this mean?

After two viewings I can tell you that from the moment that Cobb and Saito (seem to) wake up from limbo, Nolan very purposefully shifts the film into an ambiguous state that leaves it somewhat open to the viewer’s perception and interpretation of that perception – two big themes of the movie, coincidentally enough.

From the moment Cobb and Saito wake, there is no more dialogue between the characters and few shots or images that would concretely explain or prove one interpretation.

We are left wondering will the top wobble and stop or keep spinning.  Most people have agreed that if the top begins to wobble, it will soon fall. But is this true? Remember, the top was invented by Cobb (actually Mol) as a way to ID reality.  So couldn't Cobb (or Mol) have set it up to where:
  • When Cobb gets to a dream that he desires for his future, the top in his dream falls, signaling to Cobb that's its OK to stay.
  • Maybe the "Inception" refers to Cobb (or Mol) planting the idea in his own mind, that its a logical preference to live in a dream. Even when he "knows" its only a dream. Remember it was Mol's top. Suppose she "Incepted" the idea into Cobb that the top in his dreams falls.
  • Why do we simply accept the idea that in a dream the top will always continue to spin?  Why couldn't we dream that the top stops spinning?  Was the idea that the top keeps spinning in a dream an "Inception" planted by Cobb or Mol?
There are a few pieces of “evidence” that we can certainly address:

  1. Was Saito truly powerful enough to make one phone call and end Cobb’s problems or was that just Cobb in limbo projecting his subconscious wish to go home? You can argue logistics all you want, but if it’s said that Saito is a powerful and wealthy man (he bought a whole airline on a whim), then there’s reason enough to infer that he could bend the legal system for Cobb. Rich powerful people bend laws all the time.
  2. Is there something unusual about the immigration agent? If he’s staring at Cobb, is it because his job is to look people over and scrutinize them? Would you want immigration letting people through without face-to-face scrutiny?  But remember in a dream, you start to draw the attention of the projections of the "dreamer."  Not much of an answer here.
  3. Did Cobb’s father (Michael Caine) arrange to meet him at the airport or is he there because he’s Cobb’s projection? There is a phone on the plane, so Cobb could have easily arranged for pickup. This was also an intricate plan they were hatching, so arranging for airport pickup would probably be on the to-do list.
  4. In early dream scenes Cobb is wearing a wedding band that doesn’t appear in the “real world” scenes or the end scenes in the airport – does that mean the ending is “reality?” Of all the "clues" discussed, details like that are certainly the best evidence that there is a real world and that Cobb does live in it at times – such as when he isn’t wearing a wedding band.
  5. At the end, Cobb’s kids seem to be the same age and are seemingly wearing the same clothes as they were in his memory of them – is it “proof” he’s still dreaming? At the end of the film Cobb’s kids are wearing similar outfits to the ones he remembers, but their shoes are different. As for their ages: if you check IMDB, there are actually two set of actors credited with playing Cobb’s kids. The daughter, Phillipa, is credited as being both 3 and 5 years old, while the son, James, is credited as being both 20 months and 3 years old. This suggests that while it might be subtle, there is a difference between the kids in Cobb’s memories and the kids Cobb comes home to. That would suggest the homecoming is in fact “reality.” But feel free to debate that.
Ultimately the important question is not “Is Cobb still dreaming?”  The point Nolan makes at the end is Cobb no longer cares if the top falls over or not and that the character of Cobb goes from being a guy who is obsessed with “knowing what’s real” to ultimately being a person who stops questioning and accepts what makes him truly happy as what’s real.

The only thing he knows for certain, the only thing that is real is his love for his kids. Dream or no dream, the love he has for his kids is a reality. And that was good enough for him, at that moment, he no longer cared if the top fell over or not. Cobb walks away from spinning top; hugs his kids; and, is finally happy.

Follow Up - Big Ag _We Need Protections Not Republican Stonewalling.

There was a lot of interest in yesterday's story about the USDA and Antibiotic use in our foods and Republican efforts to stonewall any legitimate discussion of its dangers.

One commentator said:
This is no different then the mess BP got us all into because of cutting corners to save money. These greedy corporations always put profit over public safety. Super Market chains don't want to spend the extra money to buy drug free beef and poultry. They don't give a shit about the stupid consumers they profit off of.

Big Ag is a story which I have been following sometime and shows why we need a strong federal policy to protect the consumer - not Republican efforts to protect Big Ag.  Don't believe me?

Check out some of my earlier stories.  In a story about the safety of our Meat I discussed:

In the focus on E. coli and salmonella, meat contaminated by heavy metals, veterinary drugs and pesticides has been slipping through the bureaucratic cracks.
With all of the reports regarding E. coli and salmonella and now this, is it really save to buy or eat ground meat which you don't personally have ground by a butcher?
The routes by which veterinary drugs make it into human food trace a disturbing portrait of how large dairy farms operate. Sick dairy cows are given medications to help them recover, but if it appears an animal will die, it's often sold to a slaughterhouse as quickly as possible, in time to kill it before it dies. That way, "[the dairy farmer] can recoup some of his investment in the animal," according to the report.
In such cases, medications may be consumed along with the meat. Such drugs include Ivermectin (which can act as a neurotoxin in humans), Flunixin (which can damage kidneys), and penicillin (which can cause life-threatening allergic reactions in some people).
The meat from sick dairy cattle is low-grade, and is usually turned into burger and sold to the sorts of buyers who stretch their dollars furthest, like fast food chains and school lunch programs. But veterinary drugs are also finding their way into an upper echelon of meat: veal.
The milk produced by medicated dairy cows is barred from sale to human consumers -- a sensible rule, given the dangers suggested above. Unfortunately, no law prevents this "waste milk" from being fed to veal calves, the meat of which sometimes tests positive for these drugs. As with sick dairy cow meat that tests positive for antibiotics, no measures are taken to recall such veal or penalize the slaughterhouses that produce it. One slaughterhouse, according to the report, amassed 211 violations in 2008 and was still considered by FSIS as a place where contamination "is not reasonably likely to occur."

And in an earlier story about E. coli:

Stephanie Smith, 23, of Cold Spring became ill in 2007 after eating a patty produced by Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., a Wichita, Kans.-based unit of Minnetonka-based Cargill Inc. Her E. coli infection led to kidney failure. She went into seizures and was kept in a medically induced coma for three months.
Stephanie was 23.  Cargill is a massive Ag conglomerate.  Who is protecting Stephanie?  Certainly not Representative John Shimkus (R-IL 19).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

USDA Admits Link Between Antibiotic Use by Big Ag and Human Health - But Republicans Deny It.

I didn't start out today to attack Republicans.  And when I first saw this story I was more interested in the health consequences for all of us.  According to testimony at a hearing of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday, July 14, 2010, the USDA believes it is likely that U.S. use of antibiotics in animal agriculture does lead to some cases of resistance in humans and the animals.

Why is this important, because as Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Principle Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, made clear in his testimony, the overall weight of evidence supports the conclusion that using antibiotics for production purposes in livestock farming (as growth promoters and to prevent rather than treat illness) is not in the interest of protecting and promoting public health.

That is a major story and has a real impact on us.  A March 22, 2010, report from the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network reports that a superbug call C. difficile is multi-drug resistant and on the rise.

If it is not in our interest, shouldn't we stop it?

Now here is where the Republicans (who seem to care only about Big Business) come in.

Representative John Shimkus (R-IL 19) challenged Dr. Sharfstein about the soundness of the science upon which his findings rest. Mr. Shimkus, obviously unhappy with Dr. Sharfstein's testimony, badgered him to come up with a U.S. peer-reviewed study (which Dr. Sharfstein did -- a 2003 Institute of Medicine study) and then questioned the veracity of the findings. Dr. Sharfstein assured Mr. Shimkus that the Institute has a peer-review process in place and reminded him that "the Institute is considered our nation's leading scientific expert ... "

Dr. Ali Khan, Assistant Surgeon General and the Deputy Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), Center for Disease Control and Prevention, testified that there is unequivocal and compelling evidence that the use of antibiotics in farm animals leads to drug resistance that has an adverse impact on public health. He also faced questions from a visibly agitated Mr. Shimkus, who kept dismissing studies by the World Health Organization and others to request "real science," which, from his posturing, is evidently only that which supports Big Ag.

Mr. Shimkus played his role as Big Ag's Mouthpiece admirably. He questioned every statistic, slide, study, expert, institution, report or person cited that didn't agree with an antibiotic free-for-all in the farmyard. "So far there's nothing that links use in animals to a buildup of resistance in humans," he stated, recklessly ignoring all published science since 1968 and the testimony of the doctors his government has charged with protecting health, while making sure he gave Big Ag a clear, concise statement around which it can issue an indignant press release.

We don't need more hearings, we need action. H.R. 1549, Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, continues to languish in committee while a few elected officials spend the taxpayer's time and money to pretend the science they are calling for doesn't already exist in mountains.

If you (Representative John Shimkus) want to be a shill for Big Business you can be - I just hope you are exposed as the liar and hypocrite you are- but when it involves human health???  How can you look your children in the face and not worry your actions may kill or injure them?

BP Considers New Plan to Permanently Seal Well.

The New York Times is reporting that as scientists on Monday allayed concerns that BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico was damaged, the company said it was considering an alternative plan that could permanently seal the gusher sooner than had been anticipated.

With oil leaking once again from its containment-cap system, BP is looking into a new plan that it says would permanently stem the Gulf oil leak. This time it’s the “static kill,” a method in which heavy mud would be pumped into BP’s new containment cap, forcing the gas and oil back underground. If BP goes ahead with the procedure—it says it will consider it over the next several days—then the relief wells, which will not be completed until August, will only be needed to confirm that the “static kill” had worked. The procedure could be carried out with the same “top kill” equipment that failed in May.

Will this story ever end??

Alan Grayson To Republicans Blocking Unemployment: 'May God Have Mercy On Your Souls'

If you haven't yet heard of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), I am sure you will hear his name many times in the future.  He is a very colorful representative from the Great State of Florida.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said on the House floor Monday that Republicans are blocking a reauthorization of unemployment benefits in order to resurrect the America of the 1930s.

"There was no unemployment insurance back then," Grayson said, in one of the more colorful speeches on the issue. "There was no State benefits back then. There was no help for the people who had no jobs. All they could do, like my grandfather, in desperate straits, supporting a family of seven, was to go to the dump and desperately try to find something he could sell.

"That, my friends, is the America that the Republicans are trying to revive. The America of desperate straits, and for them cheap labor. The America where people have nothing, hope for nothing, and are desperate to live to the next day. That is what the Republicans are trying to resurrect by blocking unemployment insurance day after day, week after week, and now month after month."

See what I said, very colorful.  But does he have a point?  According to the Huffington Post more than 2.5 million people who've been out of work for longer than six months have stopped receiving federally-funded extended benefits since the end of May, when Congress failed to reauthorize the benefits. Republicans in the Senate, joined by Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, have filibustered the bill because they don't want its $33 billion cost added to the deficit (even though that is the usual way with federal extended benefits).
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) made an argument similar to Grayson's when he told HuffPost in June he thought the GOP was waging class warfare. "The Social Security Act of 1935 made these entitlements, Social Security and unemployment insurance and welfare," McDermott said. "The Republicans have been after all three of those programs ever since 1935. They got welfare a few years ago, because that's poor people. They could jump on them. But unemployment and Social Security is middle-class people -- they haven't been able to get them, but it isn't because they're not willing to try."
Those are very strong words.  While it seems unlikely that the Republicans actually want to punish the poor, it does seem that they are indifferent to their plight.  But Alan had some different words.
"And I will say this to the Republicans who have blocked this bill now for months and kept food out of the mouths of children," Grayson concluded. "I will say to them now, may God have mercy on your souls."