This past Wednesday, Rep Louie Gohmert (R-Wingnuttia) accused Attorney General Eric Holder of a charge which, to my knowledge, has never been leveled at any cabinet level officer of the United States. He said that the Attorney General was “casting aspersions on my asparagus.” No, I didn’t mishear that, though my bad hearing might have led me to think he said something almost as disjointed. Listen for yourself Continue reading
Today is Armed Forces Day. It is a day to honor the men and women who serve in all the branches of the Armed Forces. From the Defense Department’s website:
President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.
On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.
The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.
So thank an active duty member of our military today. They’re serving to protect you.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the awesome people serving in our armed forces who help ensure our freedom, or anything else you think is important.
On April 23, 2013, Mohammed Sohel Rana assured factory owners and reporters that Rana Plaza, the Bangladesh building that bore his name, would stand “for a century.” It collapsed the next day and as of this morning, they’ve pulled 1,034 bodies from the rubble. Those people did not have to die. According to the Worker Rights Consortium, the cost to upgrade all of Bangladesh’s garment factories would be about $3 billion. This figures assumes all the major factories would need safety equipment installed and other related expenses. If you spread that cost out over five years (as in, you loan them the money, which is how it would normally be done), that comes out to about $600 million per year. There are roughly 7 billion garments exported from that country each year, so if you add ten cents, one thin dime, to the cost of each garment, you more than cover that renovation cost. Just ten cents more for that piece of clothing you’re wearing could have saved over a thousand lives. (Others say the per garment price increase could be as high as twenty-five cents.) Is human life worth so little to us that we won’t pay a dime more for an article of clothing? Where are the pro-life people on this issue? They should be demanding better safety for garment workers worldwide right along with the rest of us.
[Edited for date error.]
This is our daily open thread. Feel talk to about whatever you wish.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Let’s just admit it right up front before we continue. I am adamantly, totally, unequivocally 100% against the use of capital punishment. If I were the victim of a horrible murder, no matter how gruesome, nor matter how sickening, no matter how inhuman my murder may be (and let’s not get any ideas out there, okay?), I do NOT want my government to execute my killer in my name. I’d want that bastard to spend the rest of his natural life in prison (especially if he were young at the time he killed me) rather than face execution. And if you’re the type who says, “I don’t want my tax dollars to be spent on keeping this kind of scum alive,” then you should be thanking me, because I will personally be saving you a fortune from the great beyond. You see, when someone is sentenced to death, they’re automatically eligible for appeals. Appeals which we tax payers pay for, often from both sides – we pay for the prosecution (the State) to request the defendant stayed sentenced to death, and we pay for the defendant’s counsel to fight against that. If you sentence the guy to life without parole, he doesn’t get a lifetime of appeals that keep him alive ten or fifteen years after he should have been dead. And how much longer is he likely to live in prison after that? This way, you’ve still paid for those first fifteen years in prison, but without having to pay for all those appeals that only delayed the inevitable. And you’re highly unlikely to spend as much money keeping him alive after that than you did for those futile appeals. So you still save money in the long run. And if the guy happens to be a monster like Jeffrey Dahmer, the other prisoners will make sure he gets the kind of punishment the bloodthirsty would like. Money spent on appeals for guys like that is definitely money wasted. Not that I want to see anybody get killed, even in prison. But there are some for whom I would never weep.
There are some who say that the death penalty is a deterrent, but I say it really isn’t. For one thing, take your average person like me, who has no wish to spend any length of time inside a prison cell for anything, let alone murder. The fact that I could go to jail for even a little while for killing someone is more than enough to stop me from actually going through with it one evening rush hour on the highway. I certainly don’t need the threat of having my own life cruelly taken away thrown into the mix. I think that’s true of most people. But there are those who find some kind of justification for killing someone, and it’s hard to believe they don’t know it’s illegal to do so. I mean, are you one of those who thinks it’s unnecessary to read someone their Miranda rights since “everyone knows” they have the right to remain silent from watching TV? Then you should also believe that “everyone knows” you could get the death penalty for killing someone (if you do it in a state that has the death penalty, or do it in connection to the federal government.) But does that stop them? No. Take the state of Texas. (I mean it. Please. Take it.) It’s no secret that they have the death penalty in Texas. It’s no secret either that they use it, a lot. Of all the executions in the United States, about a third of them are in the state of Texas alone. So you’d think that the threat of being executed for killing someone, coupled with the higher probability that they’ll actually do it to you, would stop people in Texas from killing each other. And yet it doesn’t. So apart from being an excessively unnecessary deterrent against most people, the threat of being put to death for killing another person is not a deterrent to the rest of them.
So why do it? Revenge? Really? You want your tax money used to satisfy his need for revenge? What kind of enlightened society is that? In what way is it civilized? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) famously said, “Capital punishment is society’s way of demonstrating the sanctity of human life.” In other words. “We feel that Life is so sacred that we will kill you to make the point that killing is wrong.” Seriously, that is twisted.
On Thursday, Maryland Gov Martin O’Malley signed into law legislation that would abolish the death penalty in his state. The next day, supporters of killing people to prove that killing people is wrong announced they would launch a petition drive for a ballot initiative on capital punishment to be decided by the people. I can only hope the people of Maryland have the sense not to overturn the new law. Capital punishment does nothing to protect Society. It only brings out the worst in Humanity.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you wish.
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is tonight, April 27, 2013, with most coverage beginning at 9 PM ET on the cable news channels. C-SPAN cooverage begins several hours earlier. As a preview, here are last year’s performances by President Barack Obama, followed by host Jimmy Kimmel. Note how the president’s joke about hockey moms versus pit bulls goes over.
Jimmy Kimmel’s bit begins with my favorite feature from, his show, “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship.” He says a joke about Boston that wouldn’t be attempted this year. Enjoy his performance, including his opportunity to tell off a teacher who once told him he wouldn’t amount to anything. “I’m about to high-five the President of the United States.”
This year, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner host will be Conan O’Brien. I know I’ll be watching. Will you?
This is our daily open thread. Talk about anything you want.
The important thing to remember is that nobody gets hurt, so watch the whole thing.
The National Rifle Association (or NAMBLA) likes to claim that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The kindest thing I can say about that is that it is demonstrably untrue. But since I don’t feel like being kind where the gun nuts are concerned I’ll call it what it is – a flat out bullshit lie. Patricia Maisch didn’t have a gun, but she didn’t need one to stop the Tucson, AZ, shooter (why glamorize him by using his name?) from killing more people. The two men who tackled the gunman didn’t have guns, either, nor did they need them. The fourth one, Joseph Zamudio, did have a gun and he almost used it – on one of the two guys holding the gunman down! Fortunately, he hesitated and realized he was mistaken, then rushed over to hold down the gunman’s legs. Being “a good guy with a gun” was completely irrelevant in this case, as his gun had nothing to do with the restraint or capture of the gunman.
You can speculate all you want about why the gun nuts think having a gun makes everyone safer. It doesn’t. To say that the solution to the problem of too much gun violence (besides admitting there is one) is to have more guns is like saying the solution to the problem of too many car accidents is to have more cars. Wrong! Just as the solution to having too many car accidents is fewer cars and more better-trained car owners, so it is with guns – fewer guns and more better-trained gun owners. Besides, why do these people insist that guns are the ONLY answer to the problem? If someone had come up behind the Tucson gunman and hit him upside the head with a two-by-four, would the gun nuts think he did it wrong?
I agree that the world is a dangerous place but, unlike conservatives, I believe it can be made better if we stop dividing ourselves by how we’re different from each other, and reach out to each other through what we have in common. And that is that we are all human beings on this planet. Please remember that.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about guns, gun nuts, nuts in general (I like almonds in my chocolate) or anything else you want. Just don’t shoot anybody.
Who is Kermit Gosnell? Short answer: He’s a monster. Kermit B. Gosnell, M.D., ran the Women’s Medical Society in East Philadelphia for nearly four decades. He is on trial for, among other charges, murdering eight people, seven of whom were infants killed shortly after being born and one woman who died after having an abortion. Witnesses in the trial have claimed that he really killed many more (possibly as many as 100) infants by severing their spinal columns after their births. According to the grand jury report (WARNING: Contains graphic pictures), Gosnell “overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.”
…Gosnell spent almost four decades running [the Women's Medical Society], giving back – so it appeared – to the community in which he continued to live and work. But the truth was something very different, and evident to anyone who stepped inside. The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.
The anti-choice people want this story to get more attention than it already has in the mainstream media (as of about a week ago there’s been virtually none), but their versions of what happened isn’t exactly accurate. One such activist in particular, Jill Stanek (WARNING: Contains graphic pictures from the grand jury report), asks “Why would people who believe in legalized abortion want to shed negative light on bad things that happen during legalized abortions?” This is, of course, a very disingenuous question to ask because these were not “legalized abortions,” they were murder. And what went on in Gosnell’s “clinic” had nothing to do with health and everything to do with profits. If anything, it’s less an indictment against legal Abortion and more an indictment against Capitalism.
Republican-controlled legislatures have been working very hard to make it as hard as possible for a woman to exercise her right to have an abortion because they think this will eliminate abortions in their states. But they’re wrong. They will not succeed in stopping all abortions from happening in their states, only safe abortions. Those of us who are pro-choice must make people understand that if these states go through with these laws (most of which ought to get struck down as direct violations of Roe v. Wade), it will lead to more clinics like Gosnell’s. Women who can afford it will travel to another state where they can get an abortion. Poor women will have to risk either mutilating themselves or dying in a clinic like the Women’s Medical Society. And that can hardly be called a “pro-life stance.”
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about Kermit Gosnell, Abortion, Capitalism, or anything else you choose.
If there’s one phrase that makes me cringe when I hear it from Republicans it’s “smaller government.” It’s been so overused and so misused that I really have no idea what they mean by it. To what does “the size of government” refer? Is it how much money the government spends? Under the George W. Bush Administration, our government spent more than it ever had before, yet I never heard Republicans complaining about deficits or the debt. Is it how many federal agencies there are? Under the Bush Administration, that also grew with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. I’ve never been a fan of the term “homeland security.” Maybe because it’s too close to “Motherland” or “Fatherland,” terms we don’t feel comfortable using in this country. Is it how many employees the federal government has on its payroll? Well, with the federalization of all airport security screeners and the expansion of our military and mercenary forces, that also increased under the Bush Administration. So where were the Republicans to complain about the “size of government” growing under the last Republican president? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if George W. Bush really were the last Republican president? But I digress.
People argue over who is responsible for the federal spending, and because Washington budget politics are a scam that’s almost impossible for the average American to decipher and detect, there’s little point in trying to assign blame. You hear Members of Congress talking about “cuts” in federal spending. But did you know that when they refer to a “cut,” what they’re really referring to is a decrease in the amount of money by which they previously planned to increase spending? In other words, Program A has a budget of $100 billion. The budget passed the previous year calls for increasing this year’s spending on Program A to $104 billion. But after fighting about how much the government is spending, they agree to rein in this spending and change that to only $103 billion. They’re still increasing spending by $3 billion, or 3% in this case, but as far as Washington lawmakers are concerned, this counts as “cutting” spending by $1 billion. They’re still going to spend more than they did before, but since they’re not going to spend as much as they intended to spend, they pat themselves on the back and claim they reduced federal spending. That’s something both parties do when it suits their argument. The thing is they know this is disingenuous, so both parties lie about “cuts” in federal spending. But I digress.
Where Republicans prove they don’t mind expanding government is by their intrusion into the personal lives of females. Despite the continued, if somewhat eroded, affirmation of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, Republican legislatures across the nation continue to pass laws intended to eliminate the possibility of any abortion taking place within their borders. And even though Mississippi thinks it will have banned all abortions within its borders, the only thing they’ll have banned is safe abortion. Abortions have been going on since long before the safe methods used today were developed, and if abortion is outlawed again, it will continue to happen. It just won’t be safe. But perhaps even more insidious than the outright banning of abortion is the deliberate misrepresentation of facts mandated by law to scare women into not pursuing an abortion. In Kansas, doctors must now tell women that the risk of breast cancer is increased by having an abortion. It simply is not true. It’s bad enough Republicans lie about so many things (have I mentioned I once wrote a song parody about just that?), but now they want other people to lie to advance their warped and baseless belief system. Not to mention unconstitutional. No matter how much they hate it, it is settled law that a woman has the right to have an abortion in the first trimester of her pregnancy without any interference from the the government. Yet they continue to defy it, knowing that they’ll lose in the end. It’s almost pathological. Not just the lying, but the pointless pursuit of an unachievable goal. But I digress.
Kansas Republicans aren’t the only ones who think the government needs to get more involved with our personal lives. In North Carolina, Republicans want couples seeking divorce to wait twice as long, two years, before they can get their divorce finalized. And they have to attend classes and counseling sessions intended to save the marriage, no matter how futile the effort. This followed their attempt to override the First Amendment and introduce a bill “intended to allow county officials to open their meetings with a prayer to Jesus.” The bill was so broadly written that it even declared that states had the right to establish an official religion. Article VI of the Constitution clearly states
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
so you’d think people taking an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States would read it once in a while. But I digress.
No matter what Republicans say tot he contrary, they do not believe in “smaller government” of any kind, at any level. They want to deny women their reproductive freedom rights, and they want you to become a Christian, no matter what your religious beliefs, or beliefs about Religion, are. They want to deny people the right to marry the one person they love. And it somehow all ends up being a discussion on bestiality. But I digress.
This is our daily open thread. I apologize for its lateness, but I digress. Feel free to discuss anything you want. I’m not a Republican.
To hear some people on the Right tell it, the United Nations is going to be sending troops with light blue helmets door to door to confiscate your guns. But is that even remotely true? Well, I did start this post with “To hear some people on the Right tell it…” so that should be a clue. The answer is a simple “No,” but if you want something more complicated than that, then “No, and can I have some of what you’re on?” The United Nations is not about to do anything of the sort. In fact, it would be just as accurate to say that the Wicked Witch of the West is sending her flying monkeys to everyone’s house to confiscate the guns of law-abiding citizens and to fling poo at them. Let me be as clear as I can be: The United Nations is NOT going to take your guns, nor are they going to fling poo at you. Period. Anyone who tells you differently is either deliberately lying or sadly misinformed. Speaking of deliberately lying or sadly misinformed, Fox News Channel is helping to spread the fear that the U.N. is coming for your guns. And they are joined by, who else, the National Rifle Association (which, contrary to what any of their leadership says, actually lobbies on behalf of gun manufacturers, not gun owners.) But more on that later.
Back in July of last year, the United Nations met to discuss the international arms trade and how they could help keep guns from getting into the hands of bad people (like, you know, terrorists.) Contrary to early reports from the right, flinging poo was not on the agenda for these meetings. From that meeting emerged the Arms Trade Treaty, “to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.” And it makes sense. If you want to stop guns from getting into the hands of bad governments and international terrorists, you need the cooperation of everybody involved, otherwise the bad guys could just go to the country that didn’t sign the treaty and get their guns from them. This negotiation would have started sooner if not for the Bush Administration, which opposed the treaty on the illogical and unsubstantiated claim that “national controls are better.” Fortunately, the Obama Administration reversed that position. So the U.N. did meet but were unable to come up with an agreement. So they agreed to meet again this past week to conclude the work done in July. It’s important that the United States be a part of any such treaty because we are, by far, the largest exporter of arms in the world.
Much of the opposition to the treaty (and it didn’t all come from the U.S.) was over the issue of national sovereignty. There are some countries that have constitutions guaranteeing their citizens certain rights. (Quick quiz: Name one such country.) The fear was that an international treaty would override those rights. Well, I can’t speak with any authority on what other countries’ constitutions say, but I can promise you that no international treaty can ever supersede the United States Constitution. If it did, it would be struck down by our own Supreme Court (and then be forced to gay marry a treaty from another country.) But, to make sure that wasn’t an issue, our own State Department issued, what they call, “red lines.” According to the dictionary, red lines are “lines that are colored red” (well, that was no help), but they are also what you could call “deal breakers.” To allay the fears (real or imagined) that this treaty would empower the U.N. to send their famed “blueberries” to your door, the United States State Department issued these key red lines:
KEY U.S. REDLINES
The Second Amendment to the Constitution must be upheld. There will be no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution. There will be no dilution or diminishing of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms, which must remain matters of domestic law.
The U.S. will oppose provisions inconsistent with existing U.S. law or that would unduly interfere with our ability to import, export, or transfer arms in support of our national security and foreign policy interests.
The international arms trade is a legitimate commercial activity, and otherwise lawful commercial trade in arms must not be unduly hindered.
There will be no requirement for reporting on or marking and tracing of ammunition or explosives.
There will be no lowering of current international standards.
Existing nonproliferation and export control regimes must not be undermined.
The ATT negotiations must have consensus decision making to allow us to protect U.S. equities.
There will be no mandate for an international body to enforce an ATT.
So you’d think that would satisfy those “gun enthusiasts” (a/k/a “gun nuts”) who fear the U.N. is going to be coming for your guns. But, sadly, no. You see, removing the controversy by explicitly stating that the United States will not be party to any treaty that takes away your Second Amendment rights is too inconvenient for a network that wants you to live in fear. And that’s why the folks at Fox News Channel conveniently ignored that statement and pretended it didn’t exist. Instead, they reported the opposition to the treaty as if its rationale was based in facts. They reported the lies that the treaty could be interpreted as giving the U.N. the right to come to your home and take your guns as if they were old, settled issues (which is a common tactic of theirs.) That the industry that stands to lose a lot of money is opposed to the treaty should come as no surprise, nor should the fact that you’re not hearing their chief lobbyists, the NRA, explain it that way. Instead we get the lies. But we also get surprises.
For example, the National Rifle Association and Fox News Channel are vehemently (dare I say “violently”?) opposed to the Arms Trade Treaty. You know who else is, to the point of possibly thwarting the whole effort? Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Yes, you read that right. Fox News is on the same side as Iran, North Korea, and Syria. And they say we’re the ones who are un-American. And that we fling poo.
This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss the Arms Trade Treaty, Fox News, the NRA, poo-flinging, or anything else you wish to discuss.
Do you know how many aircraft carriers the United States has? Would it surprise you to know the answer is ten? Would it surprise you even more to know that under U.S. law, the military is required to maintain eleven aircraft carriers (and their associated vessels)? That’s right, eleven. And just to put that in some kind of perspective, no other country has more than one aircraft carrier. We’ll get our eleventh one, a new class of carrier, in about four more years.
From an article published by Raw Story,
“After 100 years, the carrier is rapidly approaching the end of its useful strategic life,” wrote Captain Henry Hendrix in a report published this month by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think-tank with close ties to President Barack Obama’s administration.
Changes in naval warfare mean that carriers “may not be able to move close enough to targets to operate effectively or survive in an era of satellite imagery and long-range precision strike missiles,” Hendrix wrote.
With huge cuts in defense spending inevitable (either because of the sequestration or because everyone on the planet will be dead), the cost of these humongous vessels is under greater scrutiny.
The new carrier carries a prohibitive price tag of $13.6 billion, double the cost of the last aircraft carrier. And that does not count the $4.7 billion spent on research and development for the new class of carriers.
It costs about $6.5 million a day to operate a single carrier strike group, which includes five other warships, an attack submarine, an air wing of 80 fighters and helicopters, and a crew of 6,700.
But not everyone agrees that we should get rid of the carriers.
Pete Daly, a retired vice admiral who once commanded the USS Nimitz carrier strike group, defended the ships as a vital element of US military might.
To hit deeply buried targets, fighter jets flying off a carrier were more effective than Tomahawk missiles, and knocking out a super carrier is “very, very hard,” said Daly, now head of the US Naval Institute.
This is a conversation Americans need to have. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us know absolutely nothing about the US Navy, or the difference between a ship and a boat, or why the Seven Seas need eleven aircraft carriers to patrol them. One thing is for sure: We can’t afford to keep paying the enormous costs of running these things. A new way of thinking is needed. Luckily for me I’m exactly the wrong kind of person for the job. I can’t even swim.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss our over-bloated military or anything else that comes to mind.
As happens to everyone at one time or another (or several others, for some people), this hasn’t been a good week for me. I wasn’t feeling great last weekend, and as I headed into work this past Monday morning, I could tell I was only getting worse. I left work early on Monday in the hopes of getting some rest and staving off this cold, but, alas, not only did I awake Tuesday morning to several inches of snow on the last full day of Winter (thank you very much, Mr. Very Old Man Winter), but my cold had worsened and I needed to stay home for the day. So I did. I couldn’t have gotten much work done that day because I was sneezing or coughing violently approximately every other minute. I’m a serial sneezer. I don’t usually just sneeze once, I sneeze many times in a row. In fact, it’s very rare that I only sneeze once, and not that often that I only sneeze twice. For me, sneezing twice just means the next one has been delayed by up to three minutes. No, for me, a “lighter-than-usual” sneezing fit is only three sneezes. Typical is more like seven or eight sneezes, sometimes even going more than ten in a row. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, you know that sneezing fits can sometimes lead to physical injury, such as throwing your back out or possibly even fracturing a rib. On the other hand, there is the belief out there that if you try to suppress a sneeze, you could rupture a blood vessel in your head or neck, which could lead to death. Hmm, which would I rather suffer? A broken rib or back, or death? Let me get back to you on that one.
The next day I felt better in the sense that I wasn’t sneezing or coughing every other minute, but I felt worse in the sense that I could not think straight and sometimes found myself “blanking out.” After getting showered and dressed anyway in order to make a go of it, I drove down to the local deli to get my mother’s newspaper and decided that it would be safer for all concerned if I got myself back home and stayed in bed. So I did. After seeing Jane off to work, I went back to bed and slept for several hours. I woke up around 1:30 in the afternoon, watched a little “NCIS” (great show, BTW), then went back to bed for another four hours of sleep. I was up for a few hours after Jane got home, but then I turned in early again and slept some more. (I had to, as I could not stay home one more day without falling seriously behind in my work.) In all, I probably slept about 17 hours that day. And it did help. But then I had to return to work the next two days.
I’m still feeling some of the remnants of that cold, so I’m going to go back to bed and try to sleep as much as I can today, for I will probably have to go into the office tomorrow to catch up on some things that have to be done before Monday. So, please, enjoy your day without me. I’ll feel much better after I get some more sleep. Ah, sleep. To sleep perchance to dream. Maybe even dream of winning the Powerball Lottery drawing tonight, with an estimated jackpot of $320,000,000. By my rough calculations, when you take the cash value payoff – which is the cash value of the annuity they would buy to pay you the $320 million over a 25-year period – you get, after taxes, roughly 25% of the total jackpot prize. Roughly. Still, $80,000,000 would be nice to have. I’ve dreamed of winning the Lottery just so I could give an answer I’ve always wanted to hear someone tell reporters when they ask on what will they spend their winnings: “Hookers and blow.”
This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss being sick, sleeping, prostitutes and cocaine, or anything else you want. I’m going back to sleep.
In an interview with StarTalk Radio host Chuck Nice, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained why photons (the particles that carry light) exist outside of time. “…As you increase your speed, time ticks more slowly for you than it does for anyone who is watching you,” he said on StarTalk Radio. “This is the relativity of time. This is well known. We have measured this. It is not just your clock that is clicking slower, your metabolism is unfolding more slowly, your brain synapses are firing more slowly, everything about you is slowing down.”
“Photons, which is the carrier of light, exists at the speed of light. It doesn’t accelerate from zero to speed of light in 3.4 seconds. It exists at the speed of light, and because of it exists at the speed of light, any watch that it is carrying never ticks, which means if you are the photon… you will slam into whatever you are destined to hit, as far as you are concerned, instantaneously.”
He went on to explain that they know neutrinos travel slower than the speed of light because they change states between two different kinds of neutrinos, which would only be possible if neutrinos experienced the passage of time. Just thought I’d blow your mind for a change.
This is our Daily Open Thread. Feel free to discuss Relativity, photons, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or anything else you want to discuss. The Zoo is timeless, like a photon.
“Spring Forward, Fall Back.” It seems we learned that one before we learned the Lord’s Prayer. (Some of you may have learned that one faster than the rest of us.) But why do we do it? Wasn’t Daylight Savings Time something Ben Franklin thought up? Wasn’t it supposed to be for the benefit of the farmers, so they would have more daylight to harvest their crops and work their fields? Don’t they have alarm clocks now? Can’t they just let the rest of us sleep?
The answers are: To save energy. Yes. Yes. I’m sure they do. No.
Not going along with it may defeat the point, to save energy. You see, the theory goes that if daylight lasts a little longer, there will be less demand for turning on lights. It is assumed that during the extended hour of darkness the next morning, you’ll have fewer lights turned on.
But, contrary to right wing conspiracy theories that I have no doubt exist, it is not a plot to take away the freedom of the states. It’s not mandatory.
Not everybody goes along with the plan. Arizona sticks with Mountain Standard Time, which turns out to be the same as Pacific Daylight Time. (The Navajo Nation, however, goes along with the summertime switch.) Hawaii and U.S. possessions such as American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are also staying on standard time.
Most European countries don’t switch to summer time until the last weekend in March. That means the usual time difference will be out of sync for three weeks. For example, when it’s noon in New York, it’ll be 4 p.m. in London. But starting March 31, the five-hour difference between the two cities’ clocks will be back in force.
Some countries in the Southern Hemisphere move their clocks back an hour at this time of year. In Brazil, for example, the switch from daylight saving time to standard time took place in mid-February.
It’s also a good idea to try to get to get back to your normal sleep routine (at the new hour) as soon as you can. Losing sleep for even a few days in a row can weaken your immune system, and you’ll be more susceptible to colds and viruses.
BTW, the time change takes effect this Sunday morning, 2 AM EST. At that moment, it changes to 3 AM EDT. Set your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed Saturday Night.
It’s also a good time of year to change the batteries in your smoke detectors.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Daylight Savings Time, Benjamin Franklin, farmers, or anything you else you want to discuss. I’m going back to sleep.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the heated exchange between Fox “News” Channel host Sean Hannity and Rep. Keith Ellison (D, MN-5) on Tuesday night last. Hannity’s inner bully was on display that night, from his arrogant way of asking the congressman to repeat what he said (in an attempt to intimidate him into not repeating it), to his condescending tone of voice, and then to his talking over his guest in an effort to silence him. In case you missed it, here’s as full a clip of the segment as I can find. What’s important to note is the context in which the interview took place. You’ve probably heard all about the things Ellison said to him, but what you probably didn’t hear is why Ellison decided to say the things he did. Hannity opened the segment with a mash-up of President Obama giving the same speech in two different locations, while playing “O Fortuna” in the background. (“O Fortuna” is that scary, ominous-sounding, mood-setting music that’s very popular in movies and commercials.) Several times, he said the president was fear-mongering and even called him “President Panic” more than once. Watch it for yourself and see if you don’t agree that Ellison was right to be bothered by how he was introduced.
For at least the next three nights, Hannity invited various black conservatives on to make fun of Ellison. What was lost on Hannity and his guests was that what Ellison said about Hannity was true: Hannity is a liar. He spoke to former Congressman J.C. Watts the night after (sorry, I haven’t found a clip of the whole segment yet). The night after that, Hannity invited two people on his program to talk, primarily, and almost exclusively, about famed racist and anti-Semite Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. It was the same guilt-by-association argument often used to smear Obama during the 2008 campaign. First they set it up by bringing up a past association between Ellison and Farrakhan (since then denounced by Ellison), and then spent the rest of the segment talking about what a horrible person Louis Farrakhan is. (And he is a horrible person.)
But Hannity couldn’t let it go there. The next night he invited two more people to continue the character assassination of Congressman Ellison.
Sean Hannity is not only a bully, he’s a bullshitter. Media Matters found ten examples of outright lies Hannity told his audience, and NewsHound’s Ellen found more to add to the list. And maybe I missed something, but when I listened to the clips, I did not hear Hannity refute a single thing Ellison said. Instead, he employed the tactic of attacking the person, not what he said. Hannity lied when he said he wanted to talk about the sequester because in the times when Hannity did try to speak, he wanted to ask Ellison about things other people said. All-in-all, I believe the fact that Hannity had to spend the rest of the week attacking Ellison’s character shows how rattled and insecure he was by what the Congressman said. He could have simply ignored it and moved on, but he instead chose to do what bullies often do – bad-mouth his foe after he’s gone. And speaking of Hannity…
In the words of John Cleese:
Oozing with vanity.
Plump as a manatee.
Fox Noise insanity.
You’re a profanity,
And, just for fun, here John Cleese joins Keith Olbermann to discuss, among other things, Bill O’Reilly and Sen John McCain’s Freudian Slip of addressing a campaign crowd as “my fellow prisoners.”
ADDENDUM: It occurs to me that there may be some confusion regarding Hannity’s “I’m a registered Conservative” comeback to Ellison. Like Hannity, I live in New York State (don’t worry, I’ve never run into him), and here in New York we have a Conservative Party and a Liberal Party. Many times, the Conservative Party will nominate the same person the Republicans do, and the Liberal Party will nominate the same person the Democrats do. We also have a Working Families Party that nominates liberals and progressives, and I usually vote for the Democrat on that line if they’ve nominated the same person. Otherwise I’ll usually vote for the Democrat. I’m trying to get people elected to Congress on other parties besides the two major ones. Anyway, to prove he voted, Hannity once tweeted a picture of his ballot. Then he found out doing so was against the law. There’s a story about it here.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Sean Hannity and bullying in general, Rep Keith Ellison and courage in general, or any other thing you wish. Just don’t hurt me.
I’m worried about my country. I’m worried because our open and free society has been manipulated by extremists bent on exploiting the worst in us in order to achieve their own very undemocratic, very anti-freedom, and very mentally unstable goals. The First Amendment protection of Free Speech is great and this wouldn’t be America without it, but just because you’re allowed to say something, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to treat what you say as valid, nor does it mean you have any right to demand that people do. And there has been a perversion of our Free Speech rights such that to question anyone’s right to say insane, even traitorous things, brings wrath that is, for reasons that escape me, treated as valid complaints. We have a Right Wing movement in this country so extreme that to call them “Conservative” is to misunderstood what true Conservatism is about. Barry Goldwater, in his acceptance speech as the 1964 Republican presidential nominee, said that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” A nice, patriotic sentiment, as patriotic pablum goes, but if we accept it as valid, must we also accept that extremism in the denial of liberty is no virtue? Yet this is exactly where today’s so-called “Conservative” movement has gone.
If you believe in reproductive freedom rights, then this is an area where you and the RW extremists shouldn’t even be in the same library, let alone on the same page of the same book. In 2011, “legislators in 24 states, many elected in the 2010 Republican tide, passed a record 92 laws restricting abortions“, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Some Republican extremists even want to ban contraception, an issue that was decided by the Supreme Court long before Roe v. Wade. If you believe that what you and your lover do as consenting adults in the privacy of your own bedroom/hotel room is your business and none of the government’s, how could you ever support a movement that would vigorously fight to regulate that activity? Is this extremism in the defense of liberty or in the denial of it? Should we really be treating what the proponents of these anti-abortion, anti-contraception laws say as valid?
Another issue sure to invoke Right Wing extremism is that of gun control. Now, I have some serious disagreements with Gun Rights advocates that the purpose of the Second Amendment was to serve as a check against a potentially tyrannical government. I agree that allowing citizens access to their own guns for purposes of community defense and security would have the side effect of helping to keep such a government in check, but I wholeheartedly disagree that this was its primary purpose. But try telling that to the RW extremists who believe that not only was this its primary purpose, but that it was its only purpose. You never hear some of these people mention militias or the “security of a free state,” but they can sure quote the second half of the Second Amendment. And lately, their rhetoric has become so extreme that they are claiming that President Obama is raising a private black army to massacre white Americans. Well, it’s not exactly what they’re saying, but it is one of the many false premises they’re using to denounce what the evil Obama “might” be doing. You know, “If he really is raising a black army to massacre white Americans, that would be a bad thing.”-kind of thing. Or, “If he really does go door-to-door to try to take away people’s guns [something which, in fact, he has NEVER proposed], then he can expect to meet a lot of resistance.” Except none of those things are happening. Not even close. They are grossly twisting and distorting a line out of a 2008 campaign speech. It’s true that Obama said, “We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” But as with many of the more extravagant claims quotes from the RW, this quote is taken out of context. According to FactCheck.org, Obama “was talking specifically about expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps and the USA Freedom Corps, which is the volunteer initiative launched by the Bush administration after the attacks of 9/11, and about increasing the number of trained Foreign Service officers who populate U.S. embassies overseas.” (Go to the link to see the full quote in context.) Now if people want to say these things, that’s all well and good. They’re as wrong as one can possibly be, but they do have a Constitutional right to say these nonsensical things. But what they don’t have is a right to expect us to treat them seriously and respectfully and to act upon those unfounded fears as if they have validity. They don’t.
As the late, great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, from my own state of New York, once famously told a rival, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” The problem we face today is that facts don’t matter in our political discourse. (Even a lack of facts, such as that there is no evidence something happened, doesn’t even stop our elected officials from making outrageous claims that they did happen.) The RW does feel entitled to their own facts because they believe having an opinion is equivalent to having a valid opinion. They feel that not only do you have to respect the fact that they have an opinion (I do), but that you must respect that opinion (I don’t.) Is it any wonder, really, why our country is so divided politically?
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss whatever you wish.
Yesterday, and be thankful to Whomever or Whatever you believe in that we can start with that word, a large asteroid given the ever so endearing name 2012 DA14 (don’t you want to adopt one?) passed within about 17,000 miles of the Earth. We have satellites orbiting at about 22,237 miles (approximately 35,787 km) above mean sea level. [Thank you, Arthur C. Clarke, for figuring that out for us.] This asteroid passed (yes, past tense!) closer to us than that. It didn’t hit anything as it passed by, but that is really just a matter of luck, no matter how you believe the Universe works. You may be thinking, “So what? It missed us, right? What’s the problem?” Think of it this way: It missed us by fifteen minutes. As famed Science Guy Bill Nye explains, that’s not the one you should be worried about. For every one of these large asteroids that they’ve been able to find, it is estimated there are 99 that that haven’t been found yet.
But just as much a matter of luck was the meteorite that came crashing down in Chelyabinsk, Russia that same day. [BTW, that link you just passed has some fascinating information in it, including an explanation of the difference between a meteor and an asteroid. Check it out.] Due to some kind of fad or obsession among the Russian people (official motto, “Screw you, Life, we’re still here!”), there are a lot of people driving around with dashboard cameras. It has something to do with insurance claims, or maybe encounters with the police, or maybe even to catch a meteorite flashing across the sky in front of you.
And, because it crashed into Russia, there were the inevitable comparisons to the Tunguska Event. And that’s where I start to get worried. Because they’re talking about a once-in-a-hundred-years event that hasn’t happened in more than one hundred years!
Good night, now. Go to sleep.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss asteroids, meteorites, conspiracy theories, or any other topic you wish.
As usually happens when a re-elected president begins a second term (and this is the first time since Jefferson-Madison-Monroe that we’ve had three consecutive two-term presidents) many of the people who served during the first term leave and new people get picked to replace them. Many of these replacements need to get confirmed by the US Senate, and it was during one of these recent Senate confirmation hearings that the subject of our nation’s use of unmanned drones was discussed, specifically their use against American citizens. It’s a very controversial subject. [NOTE: In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. I have never taken a law class nor attended a law school (though I used to fix copiers in one.) But none of those things should matter because, well, you'll see where I'm going with this.]
The nominee in question, John Brennan, appointed to replace Leon Panetta as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (or NAMBLA), was being asked about a report by NBC’s Michael Isikoff regarding a Department of Justice White Paper that laid out the legal reasoning behind why it was felt the president had the legal and constitutional authority to order the assassination of a US citizen in another part of the world. Not just any citizen. The person in question had to be “a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force of al-Qa’ida.” According to a footnote, “An associated force of al-Qa’ida includes a group that would qualify as a co-belligerent under the laws of war.” And by “senior operational leader” they mean “an al-Qa’ida leader actively engaged in planning operations to kill Americans.” You’ve been hearing a lot about this White Paper in the news lately, and that’s primarily because John Brennan was involved in the crafting of that policy. What you haven’t heard very much about is that none of this is really news. It turns out Attorney General Eric Holder pretty much laid out the same rationale in a speech given at Northwestern University back on March 5, 2012. But what is even less widely reported is the Attorney General’s stretching of the truth in making that case.
In his speech, AG Holder said
Let me be clear: an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.
He then goes on to discuss what constitutes “imminent threat” and whether a capture is “feasible.” I’m not particularly impressed with his justifications for their definitions, and I’m not the only one, but my main problem goes even deeper. All of this discussion is based on one overarching concept with which I fundamentally disagree: That this is a “war.”
A lot of the discussions frame the conflict with al-Qa’ida (I’ll use the same spelling consistently in this post even though I have used other spellings in other posts) as a “war” and the justifications of how we use lethal force against Americans all speak of what we’re allowed to do in a “wartime situation.” This is very dangerous thinking because once you decide that you are engaged in a “war,” the door opens to do all kinds of things you would not ordinarily be allowed to do if you were not at “war.” In the same sense that if the only thing you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, if you decide you are engaged in a war, everyone can look like an enemy soldier.
After long and careful thought, it is my very considered opinion that we should never have responded to the attacks of September 11, 2001, as if they were Acts of War, even though the perpetrators of those attacks considered them as such. I feel it was wrong of Congress to pass the Authorization for Use of Military Force, especially one so minimally but broadly stated. Under that AUMF, a president would have the authority to go after practically anyone because the decision on who to go after would be made solely by the president (as opposed to Congress or the Courts.). It says
the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
Anwar al-Awlaki, the American killed under the program discussed earlier, was not part of al-Qa’ida on September 11, nor did the al-Qa’ida in Yemen (or the Arabian Peninsula) exist at the time of the attacks. How they can be considered “co-belligerents” or even persons who aided the terrorist attacks confuses me. (This AUMF, BTW, was used as a justification for authority to invade Iraq even though they had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks, but let’s not even go there. The Congress foolishly left the determination of who we would attack to the president, and this authority was severely abused in the case of Iraq.) And yet the alleged authority to carry out these drone attacks against persons in Yemen supposedly stems from the AUMF. How can it? We have already strayed way too far in our excuses for why we are allowed to do what we’re doing, and it’s all because we have decided “we are a nation at war.” And we shouldn’t be.
Tragic and horrific though the 9/11 attacks may have been (and believe me, living about an hour and a half north of New York City, and knowing someone who lost relatives and friends in the attacks, and having personally witnessed the smoke rising from the rubble of the fallen Twin Towers, I know the horror of that day), they were still crimes, not Acts of War. And our nation’s response to them should have been appropriate to crimes. And you don’t send the full force of your military after people who broke the law. (After all, we are not a military police state.) Even in his speech, the Attorney General admitted that “we are not in a conventional war.” Do we have the right to defend ourselves against those who wish to do us harm? To a certain extent, yes, but that does not mean we can decide that we can send in our military to any country in the world and conduct war operations there. As much as some people would like to think it, we do not have the moral or legal authority to do whatever we want anywhere in world. I do not feel that terrorists should be treated like a nation state’s army. I believe that terrorists are criminals, guilty of committing, or planning to commit, horrible crimes, but they are not soldiers, and no matter how many guns they carry, they are not an army, and we shouldn’t wrap all our justifications for how we deal with them in the framework of a war. Because then there’s almost no end to what we feel justified in doing.
Usama bin Laden is dead. The hijackers who took over the planes that long ago day are dead. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the plots, is in custody. Why are we still “at war”? It cannot be because there are still terrorists in the world. There will always be terrorists and it’s impossible to kill or capture them all. The very fact that we keep sending unmanned drones in to kill alleged terrorists almost guarantees that more frustrated people will decide to join a terrorist organization near them in retaliation. Violence begets more violence. Something that never ceases to amaze me is the willingness of our citizens to use such deadly force and tactics, despite the fact that so many of these same people profess to be Christians. Didn’t Jesus say that if someone should slap our cheek we should offer him the other? How can so many people call themselves Christians and yet defy one of the main tenets of their religion?
There will always be people wanting to do harm to our nation and its citizens. We can’t just decide to call them all “terrorists” and convince ourselves the AUMF applies. The use of terrorism has always been a problem, and with advances in technology the danger has always increased over time. You’re never going to be able to kill everyone who wishes to conduct acts of terrorism, so when do we stop sending our military all over the world to kill them? When does it all end?
This is our daily open thread. The opinions expressed in this post reflect those of the author and not necessarily those of other members of The Zoo. Feel free to discuss this topic or any other.
Well, it’s that time of year again – the time when reporters from all over the country congregate in a small Pennsylvania town to ask a local rodent to play weatherman. They grab the little fella from its man-made “burrow”, make him stare at where his shadow would be, and decide whether or not he sees it. If he does, then there’s supposed to be six more weeks of Winter (which is about how many more weeks Winter would last anyway), and if he doesn’t see his shadow, Spring is supposed to come early. Of course, I always wonder two things: Does it count if he can see his shadow because of the TV lights set up all over the place (in which case, why bother because he’ll always see his shadow in those lights)? And if not, why do they need to bring Phil into this at all? Can’t they just look at the ground and see if they can see their own shadows? There’s something about this whole Groundhog Day thing that I guess I’m not getting.
Oh, and the “Big Game” is this weekend. (The NFL gets very touchy about calling it by their trademarked name, especially if you’re trying to sell something, which we’re not, but why take chances?) If you’re not into professional American-style football (also known to some as Hand Egg), perhaps you’d prefer to switch over to Animal Planet to watch the annual Puppy Bowl. Here’s a sneak peek. Their half-time show features cute kittens.
UPDATE: Phil supposedly did not see his shadow today, which means Spring will come early. Then again, with the climate changing more and more, Spring comes whenever it feels like coming.
This is hour daily open thread. Sorry about it being late. Feel free to talk about Groundhog Day, Hand Egg, adorable puppies and kittens, or anything else.
We Americans have an amazing ability, bordering on out-and-out hypocrisy, to turn a blind eye toward unpleasant subjects. Nowhere does this talent demonstrate itself more than in the area of how our food is produced. They say that Politics is like sausage-making – you don’t want to see how either one is done. But it’s not just sausages, it’s also the bacon, pork chops & ham, the eggs, wings & thighs, or the milk, butter and cheese. Animal cruelty in the farm business has been a well-documented scourge on our food supply, but thanks to legislation sponsored by ALEC (the very pro-business, conservative American Legislative Exchange Council; ALEC describes themselves as “non-partisan,” but that doesn’t mean they’re non-ideological), documented cases of animal abuse on farms will be a thing of the past. Because it will be illegal to document such abuse.
According to a report published by GlobalPossibilities.org and Alternet.org, three state legislatures are considering bills to consider any attempt “to investigate animal cruelty, food safety or environmental violations on the corporate-controlled farms that produce the bulk of our meat, eggs and dairy products” as an “act of terrorism.” Now known as “Ag Gag” laws, they were passed in the early 90s in Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota before the term was coined. In the past two years they were joined by Iowa, Missouri, and Utah, and now Nebraska, New Hampshire and Wyoming taking up the issue. (There is hope. Similar legislation failed to pass in seven states: Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.
Ag-Gag laws passed 20 years ago were focused more on deterring people from destroying property, or from either stealing animals or setting them free. Today’s ALEC-inspired bills take direct aim at anyone who tries to expose horrific acts of animal cruelty, dangerous animal-handling practices that might lead to food safety issues, or blatant disregard for environmental laws designed to protect waterways from animal waste runoff. In the past, most of those exposes have resulted from undercover investigations of exactly the type Big Ag wants to make illegal.
One bill would make it a crime to fail to report documented animal abuse within 24 hours, despite the fact that multiple abuses, needed to document a pattern of abuse, can take weeks to collect. Another bill would make it a crime to get a job with the “intent to disrupt the normal operations,” and would require animal abuse reports to be filed within 12 hours. The third is designed to prevent activists from exposing animal cruelty at corporate-owned farms, and was introduced by a State Representative planning to build horse slaughterhouses in several states.
From the article (the petitions are only for people who live in those states):
It was public outrage that killed proposed bills in seven states last year. Here are the three latest bills to be introduced, and links to petitions telling lawmakers in New Hampshire, Wyoming and Nebraska to reject the proposed laws:
New Hampshire: HB110
Primary sponsor: Bob Haefner (R) ; Co-sponsors: Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff (D), Rep. Tara Sad (D), Senator Sharon Carson (R), and Bob Odell (R)
This is a 7-line bill written to look as if its main concern is the protection of animals. However the bill would require whistleblowers to report animal abuse and turn over videotapes, photographs and documents within 24 hours or face prosecution – a clear attempt to intimidate and deter people from conducting undercover investigations. Lawmakers know that in order for anyone to prove a pattern of abuse in factory farms, they must document repeated instances of cruelty. A video or photograph of only one instance will be dismissed as a one-time anomaly, which will get the agribusiness company off the hook.
If you live in New Hampshire, sign the petition to stop New Hampshire’s Ag-Gag bill.
Co-sponsors: Rep. Sue Wallis (R), Sen. Ogden Driskill (R)
Introduced within weeks after nine workers at a Wyoming factory farm were charged with abuse. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sue Wallis, is planning to build horse slaughterhouses in Wyoming and other states. If this bill had been law in 2012, it would have prevented activists from exposing horrific acts of cruelty at Wheatland, WY-based Wyoming Premium Farms, a supplier to Tyson Foods.
If you live in Wyoming, sign the petition to stop Wyoming’s Ag-Gag bill.
Nebraska: LB 204
Introduced by Sen. Tyson Larson (R), Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh (R), and Sen. Ken Schilz (R)
The bill would make it a Class IV felony for any person to obtain employment at an animal facility with the broadly defined “intent to disrupt the normal operations,” It would require animal abuse reports to be filed within 12 hours. Co-sponsor Sen. Launtenbaugh has advocated in the past for horse slaughtering.
If you live in Nebraska, sign the petition to stop Nebraska’s Ag-Gag bill.
This is our daily open thread. Talk about ALEC, animal cruelty, Ag Gag bills or any other topic you choose. And don’t forget to sign the petitions.
Republicans met this week in Williamsburg, VA, to discuss how they could improve their image as a party. They recognize that they are not very popular with women and minorities and they decided that this would be one of the discussion topics at the retreat. Unfortunately for them, their utter cluelessness led them to schedule a discussion of the subject in the Burwell Plantation Room. Yes, that’s right. The “Discussion on Successful Communication with Minorities and Women” took place in a room named for a wealthy Virginia family that owned many slaves. The irony wasn’t lost on everyone. A Congressman interviewed about it said that though the panel discussion would include three white men, it would also include several women. Sadly, he could only identify them as “a woman from CNN” and “Sean Duffy’s wife.” Is it any wonder the Republicans’ approval rating is only 27%?
Then there’s the debt ceiling. Setting aside the issue of whether or not a debt ceiling violates the 14th Amendment, for years the Republicans have been trying to forcefully tie spending cuts to increases in the debt ceiling. No spending cuts, no debt ceiling increase. This is ludicrous because future spending has nothing to do with past debts, and there are plenty of unpaid bills that can be directly linked to GOP policies and laws. For example, the Republicans passed a Medicare prescription drug bill that not only prohibited the government from negotiating with drug companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients (like the Department of Veterans Affairs can), it also did not raise any taxes to pay for the new debt this bill brought. Add to that both the War in Afghanistan (which I refuse to describe as a “War on Terror” because that’s like having a “War on Fear”) and the War of Revenge in Iraq (which had nothing whatsoever to do with the people who committed horrific crimes on our soil on 9/11/01), wars that were kept off budget until President Obama put them in the budget (which is why right-wingers often like to falsely say that Obama increased the deficit) and you’ve got a huge mountain of IOUs. Some like to say the GOP spent like drunken sailors, but even sailors have credit limits on their credit cards, and the GOP happily increased the debt ceiling to cover their unfinanced spending without raising a peep about the effects on the nation’s credit rating. Their last standoff over the debt ceiling resulted in you and I paying billions of dollars more in interest on our existing debt. And just about everybody expected the Republicans to announce that they were drawing a line in the sand (again), putting their foot down (again), and refusing to raise the debt ceiling (again). So it was a bit of a surprise when GOP Leader Eric Cantor announced in a press release that next week, “We will authorize a three month temporary debt limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget.” I had always thought that this was a matter of some kind of principle (ill-defined and unspecified though it may be) with the GOP, but apparently they think nobody is paying much attention to what they’ve done in the past compared to what they’re doing today. I am.
For some reason, the GOP acts as though the American people want the GOP running the country, even though they know this isn’t true. They’ve even admitted that the only reason they currently control the House of Representatives is because of gerrymandered districts. Nationwide in 2012, the Democrats got more than a million votes more than Republicans. And despite this attempt at cheating (when, since 1980, has the GOP done anything honestly?), the GOP lost seats in both chambers of Congress. If the American people really wanted the country to be run by Republicans, wouldn’t both the White House and Congress be in GOP hands come Monday? So why do they continue to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite its constitutionality and popularity? Why do they continue to restrict women’s reproductive rights even further? Why did they hold a meeting to discuss how they can reach out to minorities in a room named for a slave-owning family? Maybe it’s time the Republican Party face the facts. They have no idea what they’re doing and they’re just no good at governing.
An amusing side note, on Wednesday night, the GOP had blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer give an inspirational speech. Mr. Weihenmayer did something amazing despite being blind, and that was to climb to the top of Mt Everest a decade ago. (Well, they told him it was Mt Everest.) I did not recall hearing about the story when it happened, but I do remember this classic blooper from a news program where he was about to be interviewed.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss clueless Republicans, pointless debt ceiling fights, or blind and/or gay mountain climbers.
We have a serious problem in America. Too many of our fellow countrymen believe things that are just plain demonstrably untrue. I’m not referring to religious beliefs, which presents its own set of misguided believers (did you know that over the past thirty years, Gallup polls have consistently shown that around 45% of Americans believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?), I’m talking simple facts. It sure surprised me to learn that about one in five Americans believes the Sun revolves around the Earth. I always thought that one was a “no-brainer” and I guess for those one in five, it’s true – they have no brain.
That’s not to say that intelligent people can’t believe something highly unlikely or, in the opinion of some people, highly implausible. A National Geographic poll from last year found that about 80 million Americans (about 36%) believe UFOs exist. Scientists will tell us this is highly implausible. They are certain no intelligent, sufficiently advanced life exists elsewhere in our own solar system, so any extra-terrestrial life forms must come from another star system. But because of the vast distances between stars (our nearest neighbor is roughly 25 trillion miles away), it would require faster-than-light travel to get here, and that, they claim, is scientifically impossible. FTR, I am not of this belief. I believe that vast distances can be traveled, but we just haven’t figured out a practical way to do it yet. And while I am not one of those who believes aliens crashed landed in Roswell, NM, over 65 years ago and our government covered it up, I do believe we are not alone in the universe and that it is entirely possible that we have been visited before by extra-terrestrial life. When I was a kid, my mother and sister came home from shopping saying there were three green lights in the sky that seemed to follow them home. Of course, many people perceive lights in the sky to be following them, especially when those lights are far away. I looked outside and could see them myself. To this day, I have no idea what they were, but since there were three of them, and not one, and they were much bigger than a small dot, I knew they couldn’t be the object most commonly mistaken for a flying saucer.
The good news is that while roughly 36% of Americans believe that UFOs exist, only about a fourth of that number (8%) identify themselves as Tea Party people. This is way down from April 2010 when 24% proudly called themselves Tea Party people. The things they believe make no sense at all, and what’s worse is that they’ll desperately hang onto those false beliefs no matter what we try to tell them. One of their heroes is a charlatan named David Barton. Barton is a self-professed “historian” who looks for ways to distort the historical record in an attempt to convince people that the United States of America is not a secular nation but a Christian one, not simply because three-quarters of our citizens self-identify with some form of Christianity, but because the Founding Fathers were Christians, not Deists, who wanted everybody to practice Christianity. (Which version is never made clear.) His most recent book, “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson,” was so full of errors that the publisher withdrew the book from publication. (Barton apparently bought back all his books from there original publisher, Thomas Nelson, and then tried to pass them off as coming from Barton’s own publishing company, Wallbuilders.) Barton claims that “much of the disputed material within his book could easily be clarified if not for the editing performed by publisher Thomas Nelson. Much of the removed material, Barton argued, contained supporting information for those facts which have been questioned.” Did that deter Barton or his followers? No. One of his most ardent supporters, one who quoted him all the time and gave him a forum to spew his lies, is Glenn Beck. Beck has decided that his publishing company, Mercury Ink, will publish Barton’s book. Barton said the new edition “will not include any substantive changes, but I will rephrase some things to remove any potential confusion.” I’m pretty sure the only confusion that exists is in your own mind, David, where you believe yourself to be a legitimate historian. It doesn’t help your case that Newt Gingrich, a known distorter of facts and reality, thinks highly of your work as an historian. I also wouldn’t be proud to have Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate, introduce you with comments like, “I almost wish that there would be something like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced, forced—at gunpoint, no less—to listen to every David Barton message.” Gee, I should be forced to listen to David Barton at gunpoint? And this from an ordained minister?
David Barton is just one glaring example, but there are others. Sadly, some of them walk the Halls of Congress in between writing and voting on laws that govern the entire nation. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), when asked in an interview with GQ magazine, “How old do you think the Earth is?” ducked the question and gave a lame answer which simply proved he had no idea and couldn’t be bothered to find out:
I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
Rep. Paul Broun, speaking at the 2012 Sportsman’s Banquet, which was held in a church, told the crowd, “God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the big bang theory; all of that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” The article goes on to say, “Broun, a Republican from Oconee County, is a medical doctor and running unopposed in District 10 on the November ballot. He serves on the Congressional science and technology, and homeland security committees.” A medical doctor who thinks that stuff he was taught about embryology was a lie serves on a Science committee.
Worse still is the right wing denial of climate change, which is unquestionably real and caused by human activity, something about 97% of climatologists who took part in an online surveyed confirmed. Let me try to explain this as best I can. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning a hell of a lot more coal and oil than they did before. When the coal and oil stays in the ground, the carbon within it stays in the ground with it. When you burn it, the carbon dioxide goes up into the atmosphere and eventually comes down into the Earth’s oceans. Carbon dioxide holds heat very well (which is why it’s called a greenhouse gas), and this means the Earth’s oceans are warmer. When storms form out over the ocean, they get energy from warm waters, so as they pass over warmer waters, the storms tends to pick up in intensity. This is what produces those intense summer and winter storms we’ve been seeing in recent years. It’s not that climate change is causing the storms (which is one way right wing climate change deniers distort the facts), it’s that climate change is making the storms we get stronger. Climate change is one reason why Hurricane Sandy was so devastating. But having climate change deniers sit on Congressional committees that deal with Science is a recipe for a nation ill prepared to deal with the effects of climate change, which include rising sea levels that threaten everybody who lives on the coasts. It’s almost as if these people equate having an opinion with having a valid opinion. Science, and reality, don’t work that way.
So what can we do? I don’t know. The challenge we face is that telling people the truth doesn’t seem to work, especially when it comes to political matters (which ought to be based on facts and science). Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (whose great paper “What Makes People Vote Republican?” I highly recommend) said in a recent interview
Political views aren’t like views about factual matters. If you believe that it’s faster to drive to the airport than take mass transit, and I give you evidence that mass transit is faster, there’s a good chance that I’ll change your mind, because your goal is actually to get to the airport more quickly. With political and moral questions, our goal isn’t “the truth.” That’s why it’s always vital to bear in mind the importance of group membership when trying to understand political differences. Political beliefs act as badges of membership, badges that say who we are and give us a sense of meaning and purpose. They’re badges that we display to show our moral character. So simply refuting someone’s views about global warming or needle-exchange programs or abortion or anything else will have little effect, because people aren’t going to betray their team because you show them evidence that they’re wrong.
The only solution I see is to not vote for Republicans until they start accepting that Reality is not what you decide it is, but what it actually is, no matter how much it contradicts what you would like it to be.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Reality, climate change, Republican refusal to accept facts, or any other you choose. Just don’t lie to me.
In response to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s efforts to reintroduce a ban on assault weapons similar to the one she got passed in 1994, during the Clinton administration, the Right Wing has, as it often does, presented false arguments against the ban. [Fair warning: I am going to link to and quote from Breitbart.com and other RW sites. Have your barf bags handy.] Speaking on “Meet the Republican Hack Pretending To Be the Press“, Sen. Feinstein said
that she would introduce an assault weapons ban on the first day of the next Congress. “It’s a first-day bill I’m going to introduce in the Senate and the same bill will be introduced in the House, a bill to ban assault weapons,” Feinstein said. “It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession–not retroactively but prospectively–and it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets.”
For a gun supporter’s understanding of the 1994 AWB, see here. Please note that there is a word missing from that quote above: “rifles.” This is significant, but more on that later.
Now, if you think a new ban on assault weapons has no chance if becoming law, think again. Sen. Joe “Dead Aim” Manchin, who got an “A” rating from the NRA, backs it. That’s right, the man who ran this ad in his bid to get elected to the US Senate
“I want to call all our friends at the NRA and sit down,” Manchin said. “They have to be at the table. This is a time for all of us to sit down and move in a responsible manner. I think they will.”
Manchin said it was crucial to involve the NRA in the conversation. “You have to have everybody at the table, not just the people you think will support this. I’m a lifetime [NRA] member and I’m willing to sit down and ask all of my colleagues to sit down.”
Manchin has voted in support of many pro-gun laws, earning the NRA’s endorsement for his recent reelection.
“Seeing the massacre of so many innocent children has changed everything,” he said. “Everything has to be on the table.”
The proposed ban also has the support of President Obama. You’d think with the prospects of such a ban becoming law again being good that the Right Wing would just take a hint and STFU, and you would be wrong.
Now, it is true that assault weapons are not used in all that many murders, but the point isn’t to prevent any guns deaths at all from these weapons, but simply to reduce the number of people killed when one of them is used. The rationale for the ban on extended magazine clips, and other multiple round devices, is so that once a nutjob starts shooting up a place, he won’t be able to fire as many rounds before needing to reload, which would give survivors of the incident an opportunity to subdue the gunman. That’s all. If the shooter only has ten rounds in the clip, he would have to either pull another gun out right away or risk being overcome. If he can shoot 15, or 30, or 100 rounds before reloading, it’s likely more people will die before he needs to either reload or leave.
Enter the Right Wing Noise Machine. After posting a column on Breitbart.com (get those barf bags handy), Awr Hawkins made the absurd argument that “A rifle ban is as illogical as it is unconstitutional.” His rationale? “According to the FBI annual crime statistics, the number of murders committed annually with hammers and clubs far outnumbers the number of murders committed with a rifle.” Many other RW sites based posts on this article including Alex Jones, Fox News Nation, Daily Paul, and Free Republic. You may want to go get a second bag if you plan on reading any of the comments.
Since we’re dealing with right wing arguments, it’s natural (if you have an IQ in the three-digit range) to ask, “Is it true? Are more people really killed by hammers and clubs than by guns?” The answer is, technically, yes. It’s true, but it’s not truthful. FBI statistics for the years 2005-2009, 2010, and 2011, do show that fewer people are murdered by rifle than by a combination of various kinds of blunt instruments. But Sen. Feinstein never said the word “rifle” in that quote. She said “assault weapons.” And there are certain kinds of hand guns that would qualify as “assault weapons.” And if you look at the statistics on murders with hand guns (no specific type mentioned), you’ll see that there are more than ten times as many murders committed with hand guns as with blunt objects.
So the whole “rifle” argument is a false one from the beginning. But there’s another reason it’s a bad argument. Generally speaking, people don’t go around with hammers and blunt objects and kill four or more people at one time. Murders committed with these weapons are usually crimes of passion, where one person completely loses it and beats another person to death with whatever is handy, be it a hammer, a club, a baseball bat or, quite possibly, a rock. Nobody is proposing a ban on rocks (or hammers, clubs, or bats) because there is no fear that someone will go on a mass killing spree with a blunt object and kill 20 school children.
As for the claim that most gun murders are committed with stolen weapons, a Frontline report showed that to be false. Many illegally purchased guns are done through straw man purchases (where one person buys a gun for someone who may not be allowed to buy one for himself), corrupt licensed gun dealers, and street purchases, all of which are illegal. Of course, if the gun were never made, it couldn’t be sold illegally.
This is our daily open thread. Feell free to discuss guns, bullets, ammo, or even non-gun-related things.
I happen to be a fan of FactCheck.org. They are a non-partisan site dedicated to checking facts in political discussions and reporting the results no matter who it helps or hurts. For example, many of us on the Left have pointed out that the reason Social Security should be off the table during debt ceiling and budget talks is because it is not contributing a penny to the federal deficit. FactCheck looked into that and you know what? It turns out that is not entirely true. And with the problem getting a little worse each year (the payroll tax “holiday” isn’t helping the long term prospects of Social Security, even if it is putting about twenty bucks or so a week in your pocket today), it was wrong of Sen Dick Durbin (D-IL) to repeat the claim last month. So while I may not like what I hear from them sometimes, being the good Liberal that I am, I let facts change my mind. So I no longer say Social Security is not contributing to the deficit or debt, because right now it is.
One of the things FactCheck does (and does well) is check the facts in all those viral e-mails you get, usually accusing President Obama of doing something unprecedented, or illegal, or, I don’t know, black. There usually isn’t a lot of truth in those e-mails. Yes, Barack Obama is the President of the United States, but that’s usually where the truth ends in those e-mails. In their year-end summary, FactCheck.org reviewed many of the viral e-mails of the past year that didn’t pass, shall we say, the smell test.
Whether it’s the truth about how much of our national debt can be blamed solely on Obama (both sides have been wrong on this one), did Obama give stimulus money to Chinese contractors to build bridges in the U.S. (no, he didn’t), does Mitt Romney’s son Tagg (he’s the tall, thin, dark-haired one) own voting machines in Ohio (no, he doesn’t), or did the IRS pay billions in tax refunds to workers who are in the U.S. illegally (okay, that one turned out to be true), Fact Check.org digs in and uncovers the truth.
For those interested in the truth (which makes being right easier), I recommend FactCheck.org. If you know of any fact-checking sites with as much or more reliability, I’d like to hear what they are. Because, being the good Liberal that I am, I like Facts. You should, too. Life can be so much easier to deal with when viewed through the prism of Truth, as opposed to that of Ideology.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss FactCheck.org, some other fact-checking websites, or any other subject you wish. It’s a free country. And that’s a fact. At least I hope it still is.
In the aftermath of one of the most horrific mass shootings in our nation’s long history of mass shootings (see partial list of recent mass shootings here), David Keene, President of the National Rifle Association (NRA) the began an announcement to the press “for the purposes of beginning our discussion of the topic that’s been on the mind of American parents across this country, and that is, what do we do about the tragedies of the sort that struck in Newtown, Connecticut — to avoid such events in the future?” He then introduced Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who proceeded to lie.
Wayne said, “Out of respect for the families and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment.” Except if that were true, he would not have been making those comments, because the facts are not yet known and won’t be for some time. But after promising on Tuesday that the NRA would have a “meaningful contribution,” their solution to prevent more mass shootings in schools was – yes, you guessed it – more guns in schools. Really, Wayne? Do you honestly think that if we put armed security guards in every school, that fewer children would die from guns? Maybe you really do believe that, because among many stupid things you said was this gem, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is the mind set we must face if we are to do anything about the prevalence of guns in our society. A mind set that believes that the only thing wrong with the guns in our society is that there just aren’t enough of them, not that there are too many in the hands of people who have no business holding one let alone owning it. A mind set that thinks guns provide a level of safety their absence can’t match, despite the clear evidence that guns provide a level of danger their presence can’t eliminate. A mind set that believes you have every right in the world to kill someone for no other reason than that you believe, some how, some way, that he posed some kind of danger, possibly imaginary, to you or someone in your care.
They will try to make this about anything but guns. They will try to make it about mental health. They will try to make this about public health. They will try to make this about school safety. They will try to make this about ANYTHING but guns. But there is one, and only one, thing that all mass shootings have had in common – guns. People have committed mass murder without using guns, but those incidents are few and far between, and they certainly aren’t happening at the rate of about one per month, as is true with mass killings using guns. But until we talk about the issue, we won;t come to any meaningful solutions. And since the discussion will revolve around the Second Amendment, the very first question we should ask and answer is a simple one: What year is it right now? Because it isn’t 1791, and we don’t rely on out militias for law enforcement, only law assistance. And since militias were the clearly obvious reason for allowing people to own guns, shouldn’t we discuss them, too? The “right to keep and bear arms” is not without context, and a discussion on how to reduce the number of mass shootings in our society must address that context.
This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss guns or any other topic you wish.
On the morning of December 14, 2012, it was Newtown, Connecticut.
Before that it was Clackamas Town Center, Oregon.
Before that it was Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Before that it was Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Before that it was Aurora, Colorado.
Before that it was Seattle, Washington.
Before that it was Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Before that it was Oakland, California.
Before that it was Seal Beach, California.
Before that it was Carson City, Nevada.
Before that it was Tucson, Arizona.
Before that it was Manchester, Connecticut.
Before that it was Fort Hood, Texas.
Before that it was Binghamton, New York.
Before that it was Carthage, North Carolina.
Before that it was Northern Illinois University, Illinois.
Before that it was Kirkwood, Missouri.
Before that it was Omaha, Nebraska.
Before that it was Virginia Tech, Virginia.
Before that it was Salt Lake City, Utah.
Before that it was Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Before that it was Seattle, Washington.
Before that it was Red Lake, Minnesota.
Before that it was Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Before that it was Meridian, Minnesota.
Before that it was Fort Worth, Texas.
Before that it was Atlanta, Georgia.
And before that, on the morning of April 20, 1999, it was Littleton, Colorado.
These are all places where someone, or several someones, took a gun, or several guns, and began shooting people at some location, or several locations. Does this list strike you as being rather long? These are just ones since Columbine. There were others in between and before that. Many people died in those mass shootings. Too many. And too many were children. Far, far too many. And yet, we can’t seem to have that talk about all these mass shootings and the prevalence of guns in our society.
How many people have to die in mass shootings before we are allowed to talk Continue reading