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 (more…)
May 18, 2013
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.
May 11, 2013
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.]
May 4, 2013
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, (more…)
April 27, 2013
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 (more…)
April 13, 2013
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 (more…)
April 6, 2013
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 (more…)
March 30, 2013
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 (more…)
March 23, 2013
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 (more…)
March 16, 2013
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 (more…)
March 8, 2013
“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.
March 2, 2013
February 23, 2013
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 (more…)
February 16, 2013
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.
February 9, 2013
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 (more…)
February 2, 2013
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.
January 26, 2013
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.
January 19, 2013
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.
January 12, 2013
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 (more…)
January 5, 2013
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 (more…)
December 29, 2012
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 (more…)
December 22, 2012
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.
December 16, 2012
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 (more…)
December 12, 2012
Without unions there would be no middle class. I want you to remember that as we discuss just what is “right to work” legislation. Don’t let the name fool you. It does NOT mean that you have a right to any particular job, or that you can sue your employer just for being fired (whether you deserved it or not). What it really refers to is your right to work at a place without being forced to join a union. Before going into more detail about the concept, here’s a brief (less than 2 minutes) video on the history of unions. For a timeline of major events in union history, see here.
The year 1947 saw one of the most significant changes to union and labor law. Prior to that year, (more…)
December 8, 2012
It’s Saturday morning, and as much as I would love to sleep in, I have to go to work today. I’m not going to complain about that; I can certainly use the extra money. But I’d still rather be sleeping in my warm bed. And if I were a piglet, I could put on my mini-life preserver thingy and float in a bucket of warm water.
Maybe I can write an extra post later this weekend. I really need to go to bed right now.