Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hey, English, you have something on your backside.

Based on the soft spot people have for the Amish, this may not be popular.

The Amish. Noble. Frozen in time. Mercurial. Fuzzy Beards. Got a lot of wood.

The Amish. I'd have fewer issues with them, if they weren't another under examined isolated group in this country that has a level of under reported abuse. Then you had an orthodox nutter break away sect that has been going around and attacking other Amish, shearing beards off (an act of humiliation and emasculation) and being...what you'd expect. And then you have people all over the country who hold the Amish in patronizing awe, like living like it's the early 19th century is an accomplishment, or the secret to some insight.

No. They're living by a set of rules their founders set up for them, and avoid changing where possible. And fine. Do that. To each his own. But, please, they aren't magic gnomes, or Brigadoon.

Most of the problems, as bad as they can be, are internal. Like Christian Science parents denying a child medicine, it's bad, but they aren't closing the clinic. It's when they think that the world needs to bow to their religious quirks, even when it puts other people at risk. Then we have to say, no.

And for some Amish (in this case, another quite orthodox subgroup) the fight is on putting pretty nontechnical orange safety triangles on the back of horse buggies. You will have seen these on the back of many slow moving vehicles that enter road ways. If you've driven at night you will likely have seen these as you come up on things, like construction vehicles being moved. So, if you will imagine, a very black horse drawn buggie is going down the side of a highway after dark...would you like to be sure you see it before you plow into it? I would.

But for some it is an affront. An affront to them, and an affront to God. Yes. God will keep them alive (This is a refrain from many Amish when safety rules and regulations are brought up.). Great.

And as was one person noted, the Amish do get a lot of passes and forbearance. And that is fine to me. They want out of society and social security, fine. They refuse to fight in wars, I can respect that. But they also want safety laws that affect us all to be written to fit their thinking. And as they violate the law in these cases they just out and refuse to pay fines, because...God.

So what is the problem with orange safety triangles:

  • It's orange and bright, which counters their black buggy motif.
  • It's a triangle, which is a religious symbol. (It's also an established safety standard.)

So EVERYTHING that makes it a safety tool is their problem...are you fucking kidding me? Yes, I know that the Amish are enamored of the idea God is protecting them, but what happens to me? Does God throw my car away from your buggy into a tree, cause he's all about you? Will God help me out to? I'm not on Team Amish, maybe God wants to smite me? What the fuck does God have to do with simple safety standards used nationally to keep people alive?

Now they want "a dialogue" to find an alternative that doesn't offend. How about you put battery powered lights on? No? How about cheap reflective symbols car drivers will recognize? Oh, that's right, that's horrible.

Now, some have used some reflective tape on the back of buggies, cause even in this group, they know they need something, or they might get killed, or be jailed. But that hasn't been enough, because we do set safety standards in cities, counties, states, and nations. We teach drivers to recognize them so that they can respond efficiently. What's more, less orthodox Amish just put the damn triangles on and got on with their lives. Because using a simple reflective triangle instead of lights and other higher tech safety tools IS the compromise.

I know I've seen online commenters on news stories coming to the Amish side. They say many things, including:

  • Religious freedom! No. You don't get the freedom to put other's lives at risk for your beliefs. This is basic road safety. You are in a slow moving dark black wooden box. You want to disengage with rules, but still want to use the roadways. That is not acceptable. Which is why most Amish accept it.
  • The triangles don't work. Then why didn't the Amish arrested make this argument? That would be a good debate to have. When I am driving at night I see them. So I would like to see this proven. Until this, it's an excuse to ignore basic road safety.

Another annoyance to me is that the ACLU has come in to help the Amish. I love the ACLU, and appreciate the stand, but this is basic highway safety. People that can't see shouldn't drive, and people in slow moving black vehicles should be barred from highways if they don't make the basic effort to make themselves visible. Where am I wrong?

Government spending in the time of the 44th president

If there has been one constant ridiculous refrain conservatives love it's Reagan was a nuke loving, tax cutting, immigrant kicking kind of guy. But that really has nothing to do with this post. Rather this post deals with the refrain from conservatives that Obama is a big time spender, and he has been an unprecedented  inflater of budgets. Is this based on facts? How much do conservatives rely on those?

Market Watch noted that the annual growth in spending under Obama has been at 1.4%. So yes. Spending is up under Obama. Under GW Bush (or as Mitt Romney calls him The Predecessor.) growth increased until it was at 8.1%. In his first term, Reagan beat this, reaching 8.7%. Call me crazy, but it looks like spending has been quite controlled, as no one in the last 30 years has had spending growth as low as Obama has had.

Of course some of this comes from Republican's shutting down much of the government trying to humiliate the president. But the president also has been interested in trying to control spending. As he has said many times, he has sought deficient neutrality on many projects. For persons like me, I would rather more spending was made on the nation's infrastructure. But to say he has been throwing our tax dollars around haphazardly is just bull shit. It's time for conservatives to acknowledge it.

If there is one fun aspect (and by fun, I mean sad) to seeing these facts be reported on, it's seeing conservative responses. These responses center on the fact that Obama is a communist, a druggie, a villain, and so is anyone that has anything good to say of him. You know, the cream of conservative thinking. It would be nice if these people are so concerned for the country, if they would join us in a real conversation.

Christians and Leviticus *UPDATED*

One of the most spun and flip floppy aspects of debates over morality and Christianity is the topic of Leviticus. And this spills over from personal talk, to actual expectations and demands for US Law, and civil rights.

Leviticus's function is:

Leviticus, called by Rabbinic writers "Law of the Priests" or "Law of the Sacrifices", contains nearly a complete collection of lawsconcerning the Levitical ministry. They are not codified in any logical order, but still we may discern certain groups of regulations touching the same subject. The Book of Exodus shows what God had done and was doing for His people; the Book of Leviticus prescribes what the people must do for God, and how they must render themselves worthy of His constant presence.

It is a contentious topic. You see, on the one hand if you ever listen to a strict Christian moralist want to denounce some modern aspect of society, or a minority group previously made criminal or demonized. It is a favorite, as it does give LAW, and is so ridiculous it gives "ammo" against all sorts of activities and people.

Now the trouble is many Christians will tell you that Christians can and should disregard Leviticus. They see the declarations in the New Testament (SPOILERS) by Jesus end the need to maintain the old laws, which make"themselves worthy of His constant presence," at an end. So, by this argument, Leviticus is irrelevant and only points made in the New Testament should carry weight. But, as I said, Leviticus is still delivered by people in arguments as standing divine law. And the people making these arguments are not just casual bible readers, they are quite often pastors, priest, and vicars. So, presumably, authorities. Sorry, "authorities."

So maybe when Jesus made the new covenant, he meant to free people from the old laws Or as many also say, it is meant to be the final and ultimate sacrifice, ending the need for future animal sacrifice. Apparently there is some confusion on what the bible says, means, and wants. That's so odd, that never happens.

But let's look at the laws: (Okay, not all of them because it drones on and stops being ridiculous quick.) Some of this is from the Skeptic's Annotated Bible.

  • What animals are unclean.
  • Martial infidelity. DEATH PENALTY.
  • How to sacrifice animals.
  • How to buy slaves.
  • A setting for the financial value of human beings. (A woman's value gap here is even greater than in the modern work force. Progress!)
  • How and with who cattle can graze. CATTLE SEGREGATION.
  • We are dirty. Sex is dirty. Dirty! Dirty! Dirty!
  • How to purify yourself.
  • No, really the cleanliness obsession. It's like reading something from the mind of Monk (from the TV show Monk). You're dirty. Someone saw you, now they're dirty to. Oops, missed a spot, we have to start over again. High tech clean rooms are less paranoid.
  • Sleeping with your mother-in-law. DEATH PENALTY, by being burned to death.
  • No hair cutting.
  • Being a psychic. DEATH PENALTY ...That is a bit much.
  • Women menstruating are unclean. Stay away from them, make them separate themselves from the community.
  • Sleeping with a female slave. SCOURGING...of the slave women. The guy is lucky it's just a slave.
  • Baby girls are doubly unclean compared to baby boys.
  • Sex with a women during her period. EXILE. In fact men are not to even look at menstruating women.
  • The disabled are barred from approaching the alter. God only has time for the beautiful people.
  • Having sex with an animal. DEATH PENALTY ALL AROUND. Even the animal abused.
  • No multiblend fabric wearing.
  • Disrespecting your parents. DEATH PENALTY.
  • Don't mix crops in a field.
  • Blasphemy. DEATH PENALTY.
  • Oh, yeah. And apparently gay people are bad, or something. (Though oddly it focuses on what the dudes do. But I guess if they thought too much on what women were up to they'd have to restart the whole purifying cycle.)

And also consider some of the facts of Leviticus, which should apparently be accepted without question:

  • Bats are birds.
  • Stoning people to death is acceptable.
  • Insects have 4 legs.
  • Burning people to death is acceptable.
  • You can keep slaves

We could also bring in Judaism, which Leviticus was produced for all those centuries ago. But in the United States any part of Leviticus still of interest to Jews, is a matter of personal action, and constrained by American law (if someone actually wanted to stone someone else). Now their may be some people or rabbi that quote it to denounce gay people, but they are such a minor and unremarkable group that they are lost amongst the horde of Catholic and Evangelical nutters. It's like the Jewish creationists.

As I like to say, I don't care what you believe. I care if you want to impose it on me and others. I care if you want to deny people rights, or criminalize activities or persons that have no real harmful affect.

Let's face it anyone who references Leviticus to justify an idea, law, or course of action, is going to be an asshole.


These are just a few of the people at pulpits, in legislatures, and in governor's mansions, deciding law and policy, many fondly quoting Leviticus.

We may now be creeped out.



I think Larisa nicely explains how confusing all these ancient religious laws are.

Trumped by Trump

So, Donald Trump is back as a major player in news stories and the 2012 elections...

I guess the current season of The Apprentice ended last week, he must have free month or so.

And better Mitt Romney is pathetically treating him as a serious person, or informed person, or a person who's value isn't cheap and fleeting.

Oh, have such shit sense when it comes to judging character, or understanding humanity.

But he brought him back to national relevance.

And he's loving it, jumping right back into the birtherism, the same way he jumps into an iffy real estate deal.

Now, he wants to pretend it's no big deal. He's just a guy with an opinion?

Trump will join Romney and former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for a campaign fund-raiser in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening. Romney's campaign also is raffling a chance to have dinner with the celebrity business magnate for supporters who donate $3 to the campaign. 
Yeah. that's more than just some guy you know. He's a backer. He's a surrogate. He's a fund raiser. He's a reference for why he should be president. So, please.

And Team Obama has fired back, with good reason.

This is all loss for Romney. He already has the Birther support. He already is the arrogant rich guy candidate. And he has plenty of money so far, and can get more without Trump. It makes no sense.

But all over conservatives are trying to deflect (Though some liberals are concerned this is an obfuscation of all the other shady activities Romney is currently involved in.). This morning on Twitter David Frum has been going full tilt trying to get people to be disgusted and focused on a dumb gaff of Obama, in regards to Poland, and seeing it has being just the same as Romney trolling to get a good Trumping. Come on.

Trump is a trifle. He's a joke. But Romney's embrace of him speaks all the more of who he is and how he work. It says nothing positive.

The plus side of the new Justice League book.

Yeah, I have been wanting to look at the new DC Universe...

...right. No idea what that is? That's the reworked and restarted comic book line of DC know, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash (yeah, I don't use Green Lantern in this spot, and I don't even really like Barry Allen).

That drive away all the non comic readers then? 

Good, back to not explaining things.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Diss-trict of Columbia. Funny, eh? Not really.

The District of Columbia, is stuck in a crap position. It's actually a territory, and being the capitol, it gets treated like an ever present pawn and a whipping boy. It has a representative, but no vote. And many decisions on its budget and laws are get in Congress, and you can imagine how nice that is for a city.

Along the way, it's been slapped around by the Catholic Church when adoptive services weren't going to be run the way the Church liked (but the Church is run by dicks and assholes). But Congress, particularly Republicans really love abusing DC. Guess if you aren't a real boy, your a puppet.

Since December, the GOP worked to cut off all funding to abortion services. This includes money from local taxes. D.C. CANNOT take and spend it's own money as it wants. That is the "state" of life in D.C.

How would you like to live with that absence of freedom?

It must suck, to be blunt.

And as they continue to mettle, the GOP pushes this further, now trying to pass law banning abortion in the district after 20 weeks. To be clear, Congress is looking to set law for the city of D.C. THEY DO THIS SHIT ALL THE TIME! And when Delegate Eleanor Norton, D.C.'s only representation, wanted to speak, she was denied. Why listen to a woman from the district, or it's elected representative, right?

Why aren't they a state yet? Or given some recognition and access to the rights as citizens of the country they are currently being denied?

Some have said that it is The Capitol. So Congress has a vested interest. But of you look at the issues that D.C. citizenry have dealt with over the decades, and the general Congressional disinteret, you know that reasoning is bull shit.

Just saying.

Standing on Obamacare.

For some working on health care reform was a folly. People, like Barney Frank have said it shouldn't have been attempted. And others want to flee it and deny it ad nauseum. It is a reaction we see too often on the "Left." Backing away from desired policy advances only strengthens the Rights expectations and arguments.

Now, is it flawed, "Obamacare", and I'll just call it that, but it does offer many important advances in services and access. Much more is needed, but to give this up will be to put many people in dire straits. It is important. And, it looks like some GOP Congresspersons are beginning to see and admit it...some what.

TPM (w/ video):
As the landmark Supreme Court decision looms next month, Republicans have been privately considering a plan to reinstate some popular provisions of "Obamacare" if it's struck down. 
Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a tea party darling, told ThinkProgress that he supports preserving three popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act — the same three that his party’s leaders are reportedly considering. 
“You’ve got to replace it with something,” West said. “If people want to keep their kid on insurance at 26, fine. We’ve got to make sure no American gets turned back for pre-existing conditions, that’s fine. Keep the doughnut hole closed, that’s fine. But what I just talked to you about — maybe 20, 25 pages of legislation.” 

 Even half-sensible Tea Party favorites know the reality, our health care system is flawed, and Obamacare's key ideas are important ways to right some of these issues. And as much as they want to junk aspects, like a mandate, they are important to make most all the positives functional.

So as, people like West go and spout off and try to placate the concerned voters in their districts, they want to sell the idea of all the candy of health care reform, and denounce the veggies. We need it all together, to try to bring together a bad metaphor.

And the bosses in the GOP know this.
The revelation sent conservative advocates — who have demanded nothing less than total repeal — into a tizzy, which forced House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to reaffirm his commitment to “repealing Obamacare in its entirety,” declaring that “[a]nything short of that is unacceptable." 
They can't actually keep any of it, not if they want to keep their zealots happy. But of course this is the one of many things, benefiting Ameicans, that the GOP and their pressure groups want to dismantle, and not for the interests of everyone.

Because let's remember, once they get rid of Obamacare, what are they going to do?

Nothing. They can't agree on an alternative, nor a way to accomplish the key results it has given us already and as it further unfurls for America.

Now, let's recall some of these Obamacare benefits:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thrusters a go at NASA

Despite a dismissive look from many for NASA these days, NASA is continuing to work on.

Today, they have been testing out the new J-2X rockets.

Testing of the next-generation J-2X rocket engine continues to set standards. Last fall, the engine attained 100 percent power in just its fourth test and became the fastest U.S. rocket engine to achieve a full-flight duration test, hitting that 500-second mark in its eighth test. On, May 25, NASA recorded another first during a 40-second test of the engine on the A-2 Test Stand at John C. Stennis Space Center. For the first time, test conductors fired the J-2X in both the secondary and primary modes of operation, 20 seconds in each. Previous tests were run in one mode only; combining the two allowed operators to collect critical data on engine performance.  

The data will be used in continued development of the engine, which is being built to help carry humans deeper into space than ever before. ...
NASA still is working hard. It may not be the priority we'd like, for the time being. But it still has it's function. And like all of us, it still has it's dreamers and innovators.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

It's Lego Development

Ragnell (at @Ragnell on Twitter) linked to a funny image that's been making the rounds.

The great comedy Arrested Development, in Lego.

Bluth Company, Legoland Development Project

And, no...I am not building various settings out of LEGO in my loft amateurishly...I'm not.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mitt Romney: Job Creator

Truly, it is rare that you see a candidate who so well and so often inadvertently reflects his true self and his true interests.

Thanks Mitt.

Sexism and Misogyny should never be political.

It's true. I have never wanted to see the issues with these issues as such, but what we have found is that some parties are more entrenched in old views and attitudes then others. That is not to say Democrats are immune, we have our own "old boys" that deserve the same slap up side the head for being assholes.

Now, as I have said in other posts, I am a fan of all sorts of comedy. Light fare to darker macabre humor. Self deprecating jokes to those that are pointed and aimed at certain people. But it is a matter of degrees. And we each decide how far is far enough with jokes. We rationalize the lines we stop at (just like with religion). For instance I feel you don't punch down, hitting or mocking those without power.

Also I don't generally care for jokes that dehumanize another person. I think most people feel this way. And you actually can one up that when you do this to someone you have a social or political argument with. You see chasing this humor means you don't have to actually address real issues. And it allows you to rob them of their humanity. The dialogue just stops. You don't win, you don't show the value of your position, you just humiliate.

How empty is that?

So, obviously, when Hustler, the Hustler of porn magazines, decided to go for some photoshop humiliation of a rather annoying and wrongheaded conservative pundit, S. E. Cupp, liberals came out to support her and denounce the pornographic treatment. Good. Her treatment is something that is insulting, and it's worth calling out as such.

S.E. Cupp, as I said, is not someone whose politics I care for. Her arguments for her ideology, candidates, or social norms in many cases hold no water for me. But that is my beef with her. I want to see persons like her argued and debated on that stuff. Photoshopping a crappy picture of her that degrades and hurts her does NOTHING to prove or show her the flaws in her positions. It just provokes. It is cheap.

This country has many problems in how we communicate and work through our social/political/economic issues. This doesn't improve things, it advances nothing (except sell some magazines), and only can coarsen the dialogue. We all deserve better.

And that should be where the story goes. We all agree, conservatives and liberals, that this was wrong and we will all learn and change...

That's not what happen.

Instead conservatives decided it was a good time to flip out and start cursing out the liberals who were agreeing with them and criticizing the sort of treatment Cupp got. Not surprising, like the story of the scorpion you could see it coming.

NC Fantasy Camps of Terror

Pastor Worley from North Carolina managed to nicely represent the constipated view and understanding of so many religiously faithful in regards to the LGBT community.

On the one hand he doesn't want to force convert them to not be gay. Nor does he want to stone them all to death (Is there any other stoning policy?). No, he just wants to round them up, put them in a small isolated area behind electric fences. Oh, don't worry he also wants to feed them while they die off inside. Christ's love! LynnSanity (at Illiter8 on Twitter) pointed me to the Human Rights Campaign page on this (w/ video).

And it's been learned that in past decades he actually longingly looked back on the days when they would just out and murder gay people, so I guess he's actually moderated. Death camps all around. Add to this one pastor saying this garbage, the fact that he has been defended by his parishioners.

The idea is dumb. It is also kind of half-ass. I mean, it isn't well thought out, but it feels like he's put some thought into how to make it "fair."

But it is plain weak. If you want someone to pull this plan together and make it really work, you go to someone with a real imagination and genuine creativity. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

If you want to see the issues with Mormonism. *UPDATED*

As I said in an earlier post, I don't think generic attacks on Romney for ostensibly being different are a thing I deeply dislike. It is the same, to me, as attacking Obama for being black, having the name Barack, or having a father from another country. Trying to alienate a person is not a good thing, particularly when they have actual aspects worth derision. And Romney does, from policy to personal actions.

However, that is not to say his religion, and his part in it is out of bounds (As Mormonism operates, he is a bishop of the church). Religion is NEVER out of bounds. It's just magic underpants are the same thing as a Sikh turban or a Jewish kippah. You can mock them, but why? It is all ridiculous. Other aspects of every religion are more worthy of our concern.

There are a number of sites that detail the experiences of current and former Mormons. Feel free to learn about these issues. One is, Recovery from Mormonism.

But to listen to a discussion about life inside the church, Reasonable Doubts podcast did a couple of good episodes talking to former Mormons.

Episode 99: Formons
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints remains largely mysterious to those of us on the outside. With the help of three former Mormons, we explore the history, rituals and beliefs of the LDS including proxy baptisms for the dead, racial issues, mission trips, and a theology more uncomfortable than any “magical underwear.”

RD Extra: The Ties That Bind - Sophie's Story
Former Mormon, skeptic blogger, writer and sexual rights activist Sophie Hirschfeld discusses her past in the Church of Latter Day Saints, an abusive marriage and how she got out of both.

And if you would like a more humorous view of the LDS, you have Mr. Deity.

This is a fun web series. And be sure to check out other episodes, and see all the other faiths get tweaked as well, along with the Deity himself.


Apologizes. I forgot to add a link to Part 2 of Sophie's Story, which was done as an online exclusive episode of WPRR's Reality Check show.

The Ties That Bind: Sophie's Story Part 2

In this online exclusive episode skeptic blogger and sexual rights activist Sophie Hirschfeld continues her story of leaving the Mormon church, an abusive marriage and how she became a professional dominatrix and an activist for sex workers rights.
To note, they do get into her sexual experience and work. But it is interesting to hear how unaware and uneducated she was, even after marrying, about sex. It speaks to how girls, women, and sexuality get treated. In part it is what we find in Mormon community, but in a larger sense it is what we find in the conservative Christian world view. Leave women blissfully ignorant of what will be asked and demanded of them once they are passed from father to husband.


And on 6/2/12 I fixed a typo at the start. And added the point Romney is a bishop of the LDS Church.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Booker, Bain, Obama

Heh. You know, I was going to partially focus this post on Corey Booker...but you problably have, or should be keyed into enough to politics to hear about that business. Let's leave it at this. He was wrong. It puts him in a bad light to my eyes.

But fuck it, that was Sunday. We are crawling towards the election and their are more serious issues, like why he was wrong to initially give Bain and Romney a pass.

So let's get to that.

Let's talk about BAIN.

We need to focus in on Bain, at least until people in this country understand just what it has done, and what, in turn Romney has done. Romney has made Bain a centerpiece of his campaign, he wants to try and take any good numbers that can be taken from it and take credit for them, while it noting those heavy costs to businesses and the workforce. He wants it to be a symbol of how he's the Great Rich Businessman here to fix the world we simpletons have broken. So let's understand him, so we can tell him just why he's not needed, and he can move onto the next door, put his foot in the door, and try selling his bullshit there.

Let's acknowledge the positive numbers he likes to wave around as the cable news folks jump up on his knees yapping. They can look like nice numbers. Trouble is groups like FactCheck.Org aren't so impressed. Seems his job creator mantle is in question. Even old compatriots from Bain balk at being thought of as job creators.
“The primary goal of private equity is to create wealth for your investors.”
Nothing wrong with that. Profit isn't evil. Trouble is how you gain that wealth. Do you do any harm?

Seems even some Republicans don't buy the claims either, like all the other candidates he shared debate space with. Think Progress cobbled together 10 of the better critiques on Romney and Bain:
1. “The idea that you’ve got private equity companies that come in and take companies apart so they can make profits and have people lose their jobs, that’s not what the Republican Party’s about.” — Rick Perry [New York Times, 1/12/12] 

2. “The Bain model is to go in at a very low price, borrow an immense amount of money, pay Bain an immense amount of money and leave. I’ll let you decide if that’s really good capitalism. I think that’s exploitation.” — Newt Gingrich [New York Times, 1/17/12]  
9. “If you’re a victim of Bain Capital’s downsizing, it’s the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina and tell you he feels your pain, because he caused it.” — Rick Perry [New York Times, 1/8/12] 
10. “They’re vultures that sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass. They leave with that and they leave the skeleton” — Rick Perry [National Journal, 1/10/12] 
Obviously no fan of Gingrich or Perry, but nothing like seeing how disgusted they were with Romney and Bain's business.

But finance can be difficult. And what Romney and Bain did can get obfuscated in jargon. If you want a nice explanation of what Bain is doing, Andrew Sullivan had a reader explain it well.

... You take the Cash Cow, paying, say, 30% in taxes, and use various strategies to drive the tax rate to near-zero without killing the cash flow. Then you pocket the 30%, and the investors pay lower capital gains and "carried interest" tax rates on those extracted "tax savings." 
For roughly half of the companies receiving this "operation" will die because of the high debt and other obligations brought on by the Tax Arbitrage strategy. But you, the equity capital firm, get your investment out early. Half of the companies will prosper under this treatment (though not for existing employees who are outsourced or downsized), and you flip those to new owners for huge profits, taxed at capital gains rates. 
This is NOT "Capitalism." This is manipulation of the tax code for profit for some, at the expense of others. Millions of Americans work for years for Cash Cow companies. Slow growth is not a sin; it is a reality in many businesses, and a good Cash Cow can provide employment and community stability to generations of workers and their families.

So businesses were reconfigured, so as to offer big payout to investors while destroying or crippling many of the businesses. This is not good business, for those that Bain comes to. It can be doom. Which is what has been seen is the to the point Obama ad.

And President Obama nicely further explained why ads like this are needed. From AMERICAblog:

“The reason why this is relevant to the campaign is that my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. 
He's not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He's saying, I'm a business guy, and I know how to fix it, and this is his business. And when you're president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits.  
Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.  
Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off, and how are we paying for their retraining.  
And so if your main argument for how to grow the economy is "I knew how to make a lot of money for investors then you're missing what this job is about." It doesn't mean you weren't good at private equity. But that's not what my job is as president. 
My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. ...

And that is what Bain shows us. To put it politely, the lessons and skills that Romney brings out of Bain are distinctly ill-suited to lead a nation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Randomly Scientific

Irin Carmon (at @irincarmon on Twitter) and Yahel Carmon (at @yahelc on Twitter) both pointed to this image that reminds us of the importance and sad state of science in this country today.

First, to get it out of the way, the EPA and bank regulators intrude? ...You mean those meanies who try to keep your neighborhoods from going Mr. Yuk on you, and the people trying to insure your money doesn't go bye-bye? (Sorry, thought I'd should dump it down for conservatives so angry at a safer physical and financial environment.)

But the main point, "...this is not a scientific survey. It's a random survey." ...Sigh. Do you know how many members of Congress are college graduates? Still, with the people and organizations they rely on for their opinion, no doubt proper scientific processes may well be an inconvenience to be avoided. And I can't help feeling that in his next breath he probably denounced science in and of itself.

But that is a problem right now, and has been for awhile, with conservatives. They have worked with various groups to blur scientific discourse, they have chastised scientist for supporting results that don't fit their needs, and attacked science teaching, and education in general. All of this is troubling.

Their have been many bills coming to state legislatures that range from poorly written half-thought attacks on science facts, branches of science, and science education, and then their are more precise ALEC and Discovery Institute style bills. Academic Freedom is a popular buzz word now (replacing Creation, Creation Science, Creationism, Intelligent Design, Teach the Controversy). Where the earlier ideas pressed a particular beliefs, now the idea is everyone can be right, and deserves credit for having an alternate opinion. (Yes, this is ironic from people who once denounced the idea of every kid in a competition getting a reward.) What's more it wants to protect teachers that want to bring religion and flat earth thinking into science class. It sounds nice, it is a preexisting term, and makes of joke of American education.

But education and science are not real concerns. A proper voting base that understands the world the way the party does seems more important. Major funders having scientific government studies and results that allow them to do as they want are more important. This is unhealthy for science and the country.

We need people in office that have, at least, a respect for science, knowledge, and intellectual pursuits. 

We need an electorate that respect these things to.


WARNING: Reading this post may cause you to learn 3 Latin words.

Honestly, the whole Birtherism argument has seldom, even from nutters, made sense.

The only way it works is if the person is question has no ties to the United States: If they are not born here, If they do not have a parent that is a citizen. You see there are three ways to look at citizenship: naturalization, jus soli, and jus sanguinis.

  • Naturalization means that you have no right to citizenship and go through a process to obtain citizenship.
  • Jus soli (Right of the Soil) means that you are born in a given place and are a citizen.
  • Jus sanguinis (Right of Blood) means you have at least one parent that is a citizen.

Under US law, being jus soli or jus sanguinis are acknowledged as acceptable forms of citizenship for running for president. If the president was naturalized (or undocumented), it would be a problem.

So we get to the president's mother. From all I've seen, most of the birthers do not question her nationality, or her legitimacy as a parent (There is a nutty of nuts subset of birthers who believe the president was born in the Soviet Union, or a Soviet allied country to operatives one of hundreds of the crappy old Cold War novels in dime bins for more.). So they focused in on Kenya (Mysterious Kenya. Magical Kenya. Foreign Kenya. Booga! Booga! Booga!) and become myopic. Nothing else matters.
"If his dad is from there, maybe he is to. Prove us wrong! ...That birth announcement doesn't count! Show us government proof of his birth! ...Not good enough!!! ..."
If they are being at all rational, they are really focused on something extralegal, "He is in some way foreign, and that is wrong. He is wrong." It bares no connection to the real world. He has some aspect they can cling on to and hate. If Romney was the Democratic nominee, the story would be about Mormonism, or his family Mexican ties (We'll get to that in a minute.).

So there is the problem. If you accept his mom as an American the rest is bullshit. Why would it matter where he was born then? Why would it matter to people to go to such trouble to hide his birth then? It makes no sense, unless you are irrationally obsessed, or plain ignorant.

Hell, it does make the secret Soviet Plan people look a little more clear thinking. At least their bullshit is consistent on why Obama shouldn't be president. It's batshit crazy, but consistent in that. The only way they can regain a sense of consistency is to come out and just say, "He has foreign ties, and where bigoted xenophobes."
But this persists, defying common sense and logic. Why all conversations with a birther on a cable show doesn't start on jus sanguinis, and stop there until the birther explains it away is beyond me. There only choice is to ignore the point, or try to go full nutter on us. Either way they show themselves as fools or madmen. But maybe I'm wrong and they will see their error and desist (Trying optimism out. Seeing if it fits.).

So, PLEASE, anytime you meet a birther, remind them of jus sanguinis, the right of blood. Then you can see what you are really dealing with, or, maybe, reveal to them how foolish the media instigators.

And thanks to Don Millard (at @OTOOLEFAN on Twitter) I finally got answer to why George Romney (Mitt Romney's pater) was able to run for president back in 1967-8. He was born in Mexico, as was his own father. What happen was, when George Romey's grandfather fled the US, he did not renounce his citizenship. And then his own father never renounced his, gotten via jus sanguinis. So when George came back to the US, he was acknowledged as an American citizen, who went on to run a car company, be a governor, and run for president. There were questions, there were concerns, and there were complaints. But he was deemed to be legitimately a full citizen. He just didn't get the nomination.

So, please, remember these points. Under right of blood, Obama is legit, just as people like George Romney were, and just as the US Constitution intends.

Now let's get back to real issues.

Is that a rock exploding in your pocket or are you...Oh.

You may have heard an interesting story last week of the lady who picked up some rocks on the beach, placed them in her pants pocket, and later found that they exploded...even if you didn't, that's the story, and it happen.

It does sound quite bizarre and funny, but the woman suffered burns when it happen, leading her to being placed in a hospital. What has been determined is that it is the result of the rock being coated in phosphorus.

... By Friday, California environmental health officials had an answer, or at least part of one: two of the rocks were covered in phosphorus, an element that’s known for igniting into a fierce white flame when it’s exposed to air. Near as they can tell, as long as the rocks were wet with seawater, the phosphorus didn’t ignite, but after they’d dried out in the woman’s pockets over the course of the day, the phosphorus reacted explosively. 
So...that can happen... Still, glad that was cleared up so as to prevent other wild stories of the exploding rocks of California...granted rocks can be caused to blow apart in other ways so it isn't the strangest of stories.

What isn't clear yet is where the phosphorus came from.

The most common way more reactive phosphorus is found is within the military, where it is used quite often in flares, though it has also been made use of as a deadly weapon. So there is so interest now about if some flares washed up on the beach, or if there is another, possibly natural, answer.

If this does come from old or more recent ordinance, it would be a wise thing to try and clean this stuff up to prevent further injuries.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

4 Comics Walk Into A Bar

Or, 4 comics walk into a Salon.

Salon has a new page called, I Read The News Today, oy vey!...I'm sure the name is the result of an improvisational committee meeting...But it fits well the onw...the dread the morning news often brings.

But what is it? It's short videos dreamt up by comic minds on events of the day, from today's look at the Bush endorsement to the earlier look at Bristol Palin's political parental analysis.

Currently, David Feldman, Merrill Markoe, Frank Coniff, and Judy Gold are offering up their barbed thoughts. And it is worth checking out.

Here is one:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mormonism critiques.

It is an odd state to be in. As a skeptic and atheist, I find Mormonism to be such a load of crazy bull. But I feel the same of all religion. It is all silly time.

So seeing people join in on criticism has a certain positive quality. It reminds of when issues with some Muslims and Islamic culture became more of an interest and concern in the mainstream, following 9/11. It is great to see an interest in harmful beliefs and practices, or just in the ideas and beliefs that fill the world.

Some it was actually about being unaware and wanting to really learn, but for many it was about the mob. It wasn't really about it's history and tales, or troubling traditions & certain religious leaders. It was about fearing others. It was about separating out the other. And in some cases make the other suffer.

Thankfully the sniping at Mormonism is not so hostile. But it is about ganging up. They're weird, they have different beliefs, different clothes, so you can't trust them. But the same can be said of so many groups, but Romney has helped get some added focus on "them" for now.

Again, like every faith, people should be more aware, and be willing to talk about oddities, and social issues of a faith. But as some have noted, some of the attacks aren't even relevant. Once Mormons openly engaged in polygamy. But they no longer do this. Whether they secretly promote it, or say it is still heavenly mandated, I don't know. But I see no proof they are. And yes they have break off sects doing it still, but they broke off. It is  a false and ignorant claim against them.

Worse it distracts from actual current and more wide spread social troubles in the Mormon community, and there are some severe ones that are worth getting out, like the treatment of women and many children. 

But this stuff isn't as fun as a funny polygamy joke, or a magic underwear quip.

Don't get me wrong. There are some funny joke in that. I love a good joke. But I get bummed at all the cheap and easy jokes. Particularly when they are more like everyone getting together to take turns picking on someone with a funny name.

But we are talking about Mitt Romney. And Mitt is an asshole. He has lived a pretty damned privileged life. He has never had to go without, but likes to pretend he get's it. But through his life, from his teen years to his business success, he has repeatedly shown a disconnect when it comes to the feelings or needs of others, particularly those that are an Other. The gay kid. The blind teacher. The family dog. The girls with his friends. The poor pensioners under the sway of Bane. They all seem foreign and alien to him. And all along the way as he mistreated people, he was forgiven, cheered, or just had people look the other way. It is creepy to think of him with power over a country (granted he is already rich, so he has plenty of power of government already). Even GW Bush didn't seem as disconnected as Romney does.

So Mitt has a huge satchel of bad karma built up, so it's hard to not enjoy jokes at his expense. But there are still cheap jokes. And hating him for being a Mormon seems so wrong and disingenuous. He wears "magic underpants". And this means what for the presidency? He believes differently about aspects of Jesus's will when compared to other Christians. And this will mean what for the economy?

Romney's surrounded himself with GW's Team Bad Idea. He, in a quest for power and glory, is willing to sell more and more out to the most Right Wing radical thinkers in this country. He shows no real moral center or principles.

He is the very creepy guy that Conservatism has decided to rally to's an election year.

People need to realize and have it explained just why he and the GOP will be taking the country backwards if they get further control. More over, it is important to show the benefit of getting more Democrats in to tilt the balance.

And if you want to discuss Mormonism issues, focus on actual issues in it.

What's the Tower of Babel?

Humanity is a funny little thing.

We have certain predilections. We like big things. We like bright lights. We like shiny red buttons. We like things that go boom.

Sure, we don't actually all like this crap, but it is how we as a species seem to continually hove.

Is it really that important that the new towers in New York be the tallest around? Fuck yeah!

How about crucifixes? We need them big right? If they aren't big enough, we might think they're trees, or telephone polls. Hell, no! That's a cross, an ancient tool for torture and execution. It's like how we used to build humorously large electric chairs, so death row inmates would look like Edith Ann.

But that's when executions were funny.

Anyway, giant comedy crucifixes...

Yes, someone had a vision from Gawd. And it is to build a giant, over 17 story tall, cross. Giant cross? Yeah, just the sort of thing I bet Jesus loves seeing.
"Oh, are you living by my message of loving and helping your fellow man? No? Just giving money to preachers? Building a multimillion dollar tourist trap based around the imagery of my grisely death...that's great."
Where do you think they would build a huge gaudy cross, where would that fit in too well? Mecca? Jersusalem? New York City? Hooterville?

No, Branson, Missouri. Only trouble will be all the people lining up outside assuming there will be a buffet inside it. ...As big as it will be, there may actually be a buffet in it...

And remember how this started. A guy had a vision in which God showed in a large phallic symbol, then he continued to obsess over larger and larger phallic symbols, now his son continues the vision...

And that is how our civilization advances...

Bad Journalism

In the world of journalism, and even the world of "journalism", there are lows that are a sight to be seen.

The Andrew Breitbart site is a place to see such epic lows that, really, you should stretch a bit before trying to read. But they are a great example of how to do journalism poorly and pompously. Sure, Drudge Report is horribly wrong at a rate that it should surprise you that major media sources use it as a source, but is a pageant of bad.

Look at their excitement recently that they have PROOF that Obama is not an American. [Cue dramatic sting]

Yep. Apparently the proof was in front of us the whole time.

You see, when he was promoting one of his books, which chronicled his alleged life, as an American, brilliantly creating a cover story no one could break, his literary agent, accidentally...published a booklet that exposed the shocking truth of his client's past...


Okay, a good test of skepticism here.

Why would this prove Obama's illegitimacy?

Is there any valid explanation for this booklet?

The answer is it doesn't, to the first, and yes to the latter.

This proves nothing. A booklet with information contradicted by EVERY other source, made casually by an underling for a book launching is not proof. It's an excuse for bad journalism. When you have one source, that contradicts others, you don't throw away the main sources, you determine why their is a difference. And by determine, you do not declare it is a conspiracy.

So, why was the booklet saying Obama was Kenyan? Was this determined? No. Maybe, someone delegated a basic job to an underling who didn't really care about this book launch anymore than the other dozen or so that were happening that week. And, maybe, they did half ass work for the event for a guy with a funny name talking about his ties to Kenya. Based on all the facts we actually know, how is this not deemed more likely than a deeply hidden secret shared and typed up in a publishing house? How is this not considered before conspiracy?

Because bad journalism isn't about sussing out the truth. It's about selling a claim. It is about not looking for the evidence, or acknowledging genuine and serious disputes over facts.

Breitbart's people excel at this sort of bad journalism. Once, they actually found a genuine scandal. But that followed after a long string of false scandals. Real or fake, they don't care. They are a tabloid, minus the self respect or dignity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Knowing more about history.

Here's a fun and short video introducing you to the truth about 5 misconceptions of history. From Open Culture:

Viking helmets had horns, Napoleon was quite short and Lady Godiva rode through Coventry naked. Most of us accept these tales as facts because they’ve been told for many generations. But C.G.P. Grey took a closer look and compiled this short video in which he debunks not only these historical misconceptions but also two myths surrounding the Roman “Vomitorium” and Columbus. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Getting to know The Stimulus.

A sad expectation in news coverage these days is it's dull acceptance that Obama's attempt to stimulate the economy were a failure.

Now facts disagree with that. But those angry conservative pundits and talking heads disagree, and far be it from any news reader to challenge such vim and vigor.

But so you can have some facts on hand in future for your own conversations, here are some useful charts. If this doesn't help, as your conversation buddy won't shut up and won't take their fingers from their ears...print the charts up, roll up the paper, and hit the freaking idiots with it.

From Electablog (thanks to LOLGOP, at @LOLGOP) (w/ charts and video):
The good news is: The people who still propagandize against the Stimulus are only doing so because their paycheck or their sanity depends upon it. 
The fact is: The Stimulus has had the singularly most impressive positive effect on the American economy of government intervention since World War II. Simply: It worked. 
The ONLY argument against the Stimulus is an argument for it. It was too small. Krugman said so in 2009. Seriously, the one argument the anyone has against the Stimulus was: Bush’s economy in late 2008 was much worse than we wanted to admit. 
At the time, it was difficult to say how bad the economy was. Was it Iraq bad? Afghanistan bad? Katrina bad? We were constantly testing new lows. Also there was a cautiousness about overestimating the damage for fear that it could spin completely out of control. 
People who say the Stimulus could have been larger or better spent forget that it passed by one vote—one vote as the President faced a Republican Party that refused to even offer a plan to save the economy. 
Yes. That was what the Stimulus was designed to do: SAVE THE ECONOMY. 
It was the winter of 2009. As we were high on electing a sane president, we were also in absolute FREE-FALL. Every month it got worse. Bush/Cheney’s stench of failure had metastasized into actual economic wildfire. 

Follow the link and look at the shift in in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), Employment, and Averages of Initial Claims (of unemployment).

Knowledge is power. But the depth of the bullshit filling the media pool is deep. Get those hip waders on now.

David Gregory does what David Gregory does.

As a surprise to no one that regularly watches David Gregory and/or Meet the Press, Gregory is going to be a keynote speaker for a conservative political group. The group NFIB, National Federation of Independent Business, which runs GOP friendly ads during the last election, and has been a leading attacker of health care reform and environmental regulation.

Add to this, the day before he is speaking, the group is having both Karl "MC" Rove and John "Red Martian" Boehner speaking.

Mixing and using his name with a political group and rubbing elbows with Rove?

Helping this group, effectively, raise money and improved legitimacy to as it preps to have an impact on the 2012 elections?


But this is his norm isn't it.?

No. I doubt any of us are surprised.

George Lucas, "Pray I don't alter it any further."

Briefly saw this story, but didn't know if it was true, but Ragnell (at @Ragnell on twitter) reTumblred it.

George Lucas (of Radioland Murders fame) has been trying to build a massive studio complex on his massive tract of land in Marin County. But his neighbors, the Richie McRichersons, aren't having it. And they have stymied efforts to build up the site, bringing a lot of money to the company...and those pesky working class people. They finally won against Lucas, and the studio won't be built.

Instead Lucas has decided to do something else with the land, instead of trying to have it re-purposed as industrial, he wants to now use it for residential ends. So he is looking to have it made into low income housing, or housing for seniors on fixed income. Lovely. It is one part a middle finger at the prigs in the neighborhood, and a flaming good deed. The force is strong in this one.

Super Friends need a new name.

DC has decided to focus it's animated interest for the moment in an hour block on Saturday mornings. The results have been so so. But what has been fun has been some of the shorts done during commercial breaks.

Including a request for all the non-Trinity members of the Super Friends for a name change, as none of them get any love from the Big Three.

Also there's been the Super Best Friends Forever, starring Batgirl, Supergirl, and Wonder Girl, a young, energetic, and lovable trio.

These shorts are the high point of DC Animation right now. Telling.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Just in time to still be Mother's Day

Have a few minutes left of this day, Mother's Day...the Internet's clock is broken. Sure a commercial holiday of sorts, but you want to start that with a mom? ...Didn't think so.

Ragnell (at @Ragnell on twitter) points to a lovely image of motherhood, via DC Comics. The many different types of moms who have inhabited the comics over the years. Sad, that so many of them were wiped when DC rebooted their books. ...I'd put the image here, but...I'm scared on Tumblr.

DCWomenKickingAss (at @dcwomenkickingass on twitter) also looked at DC moms. The Trinity. And the mom's lost to comic continuity.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Avengers Nitpick!

The Avengers…sigh. I would be tempted to review this movie…no one else has done that online yet, right?
Rather I will try to focus on a few points, and try to move on with my life somehow. Oh, yeah…SPOILERS!!! I talk about what happens in the movie. Shocking.

First, The Whedon. Sometime I will have to elucidate on my opinions and thinking on him. But simply, I like his work…and find it annoying at times. Sorry, I don’t find it perfect, and, yes, I was thinking this before it was cool. He can create amazing and fun stories, and this is a good example of it. It is big and fun. Yeah! But also it has Whedon’s habit of at times putting words in character’s mouths that aren’t theirs. Whedon often thinks of a real funny quip in writing a script and then picks someone to give the line, regardless of if it’s really that logical for the character to say. Like, in Avengers, when Thor talks of Loki, after being told of his mass murder, replies, “He’s adopted.” That is funny! But it also isn’t something that sounds entirely wrong coming from Thor. It in fact feels contradictory. But Whedon and others thought it was funny, so it stayed. Whedon does this all the time. But still fun story. Great effects. Good character moments. So I do credit Whedon a lot. I just have issues in general.

Second, what was Loki’s plan? Not overall. That was to conquer the world, duh. What was the point of getting captured by SHIELD? To distract from the heist or the objective of his scientists? Why? He could have grabbed that guy in a less obvious way. Or he could have vanished with his team and left everyone to try suss out what he’s up to. Would they really have caught up quicker? It wasn’t to knock out the carrier, as Hawkeye got aboard and almost brought it down on his own. To set off the Hulk? Was that important? And couldn’t he have come aboard with Hawkeye, and used his illusions directly to set Banner off to become the Hulk? …The point is, after watching the movie, the gambit by Loki seemed pointless. Maybe it was hubris. Maybe it was just needed for the story, so as to allow as series of confrontations with our main villain and different heroes. Whatever the reason it feels incongruent.

Finally (THIRDLY), the Black Widow…uh. I like the character of the Black Widow. Fun character, grand history. A long time classic character of the Marvel Universe, she can be a great fit for an Avengers team. But Scarlett Johansson… It may be me (and probably is), but I have never been impressed with her film work. I feel bad saying it, but I just have never been whelmed by her work. Maybe I haven’t seen enough yet. Still putting her in the role of a cunning Russian spy is asking a lot. I found Smulder playing Maria Hill, Fury’s second, a more impressive and energized role (And as a comic fan I don’t like Hill’s character in the books.) (I have to agree with The Cinema Snob, would have been interesting to see Smulder play Black Widow). Now, when SJ was speaking in Russian she actually seemed more alive. But overall...she was just underwhelming. The little we got w/ Renner as Hawkeye was stronger. Plus, all of the Widow’s characterization in the movie felt either forced rushed, or crammed in. 

Also, seeing her in the last battle with the little pistol actually makes Hawkeye and his bow seem more dangerous. Why not just make her wrist weapons one of those new SHIELD cosmic cube/tesseract produced weapons, and have them be blasters? I mean, it's like seeing:
"Avengers, ready to charge that alien army! Hulk! Thor! Iron Man! Captain America! James Bond! ...uh, James? Yeah... We really appreciate all your spy work that helped us get here...but what why don't you just take a break...'kay?"
Comic Black Widow is always great in a brawl. But she doesn't take a the equivalent of a Walther PPK with her. Right? Next movie, she needs better treatment in the script.

...And I hear they are pushing for a Black Widow movie...Maybe SJ can prove me wrong...But a Widow movie, but no Hulk movie to take advantage to the amazing actor you have locked in? …Why? (By which I mean why no Hulk movie, not that there can’t be both movies. How are they jumping on one idea, but not the other?)

Again. The movie is great fun. It is a comic book movie. People take hits and get right back up (except for one case), massive property damage with little to no life loss, and suspect super science, are all abound. But, so what, it's a comic movie, a really good one. But it is flawed. Nolan's Batman is dark, noirish, and largely down to earth (eyeing you flying batmobile in trailer), and Avengers is big bright and larger than life. Both are different and both are good.

Be sure to go an enjoy Avengers, if it's your cup of tea. For me, having this, The Hobbit and a Batman movie this year is just grand.

Now I'll just wait for people to line up to kick me in the balls.