Friday, December 24, 2010

A Holiday Message from Mark Twain

Man is really the most interesting jackass there is. It’s his idea, ya see, that the deity sits up nights to admire him. He’s the creator’s pet!

Now, ya may wonder why.

Well, because of his intellect!

Man is the reasoning animal! … Such is the claim … though I do think that’s open to dispute.

Well, I’ve been studying this reasoning animal for years now and I find the results humiliating!

For example: I experimented with a cat and a dog, taught ‘em to be friends and I put ‘em in a cage. I introduced a rabbit. In an hour, they were friends. Then I added a fox, a goose, a squirrel, some doves … a kangaroo … and finally I added a monkey. They lived together in peace!

Next, I caught an Irish Catholic … and put him in a cage … and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Presbyterian … And then a Turk from Constantinople, a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas, a Buddhist from China and finally … a Salvation Army Colonel.

Why, when I come back, there wasn’t a specimen left alive … these reasoning animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a higher court! Because ... ya see ... man is also the religious animal. He’s the ONLY ONE that’s got the true religion!! Several of ‘em.

He loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight!

He’s made a grave yard of the globe in tryin’ his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven …

The other animals have no religion, you know. Gonna be left out. I wonder why? Seems questionable taste.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New census shows Texas will get 4 new seats in the US congress.

Fortunately, (or unfortunately) Texas doesn't lack a$$es for 'em.

"Two civil rights organizations are seeking a federal review of public school education in Texas, accusing state school administrators of violating federal civil rights laws after curriculum changes approved earlier this year by the Texas Board of Education.

The request to the U.S. Department of Education made by the Texas NAACP and Texas League of United Latin American Citizens on Monday contended that the curriculum changes passed in May "were made with the intention to discriminate" and would have a "stigmatizing impact" on African-American and Latino students.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

FoxNews - Hazardous To Your Intelligence

Voters Say Election Full of Misleading and False Information
Poll Also Finds Voters Were Misinformed on Key Issues

Following the first election since the Supreme Court has struck down limits on election-related advertising, a new poll finds that 9 in 10 voters said that in the 2010 election they encountered information they believed was misleading or false, with 56% saying this occurred frequently. Fifty-four percent said that it had been more frequent than usual, while just three percent said it was less frequent than usual, according to the poll conducted by, based at the University of Maryland, and Knowledge Networks.

Equally significant, the poll found strong evidence that voters were substantially misinformed on many of the key issues of the campaign. Such misinformation was correlated with how people voted and their exposure to various news

Voters' misinformation included beliefs at odds with the conclusions of government agencies, generally regarded as non-partisan, consisting of professional economists and scientists.

• Though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that the stimulus legislation has saved or created 2.0-5.2 million jobs, only 8% of voters thought most economists who had studied it concluded that the stimulus legislation had created or saved several million jobs. Most (68%) believed that economists estimate that it only created or saved a few jobs and 20% even believed that it resulted in job losses.
• Though the CBO concluded that the health reform law would reduce the budget deficit, 53% of voters thought most economists have concluded that health reform will increase the deficit.
• Though the Department of Commerce says that the US economy began to recover from recession in the third quarter of 2009 and has continued to grow since then, only 44% of voters thought the economy is starting to recover, while 55% thought the economy is still getting worse.
• Though the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that climate change is occurring, 45% of voters thought most scientists think climate change is not occurring (12%) or that scientists are evenly divided (33%).

Other key points of misinformation among voters were:

• 40% of voters believed incorrectly that the TARP legislation was initiated under Barack Obama, rather than George Bush
• 31% believed it was proven true that the US Chamber of Commerce spent large amounts of money it had raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates
• 54% believed that there were no tax cuts in the stimulus legislation
• 86% assumed their taxes had gone up (38%) or stayed the same (48%), while only 10% were aware that their taxes had gone down since 2009
• 53% thought that the bailout of GM and Chrysler occurred only under Obama, though it was initiated under Bush

Further along in the report:

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

In short, a steady diet of Fox News is hazardous to your intelligence.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Retinking One's Values

Over the weekend there was a Neo-Nazi rally in Phoenix in support of Arizon'a SB1070.

When you find that your values are shared by Neo-Nazis ... wouldn't that be a clue that maybe you should start to rethink your values?

or catch the video on Huffington Post after the click ...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ten Centuries in Five Minutes

We like to think that borders are sable things ... things that we can count on. Perhaps they're a little more fluid than we imagine.

Or catch the video on YouTube after the click ...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jon Stewart's Comments Concluding "The Rally to Restore Sanity"

I can't control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith. Or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country's 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous-flaming-ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rich Sanchez is an insult -- not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put forth the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish between terrorists and Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything we eventually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. Yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you slim and taller -- but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass like a pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is -- on the brink of catastrophe -- torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here or on cable TV. Americans don't live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don't live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. Most Americans live their lives that our just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often it’s something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things get done every day that are only made possible by the little, reasonable compromises.

(With footage of lanes of slow-moving traffic playing on screens behind him, Stewart went on to build a metaphor based on the traffic merger at the Lincoln Tunnel between New York and New Jersey.)

These cars -- that’s a school teacher who thinks taxes are too high…there’s a mom with two kids who can’t think about anything else...another car, the lady’s in the NRA. She loves Oprah…An investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah…a Latino carpenter…a fundamentalist vacuum salesman…a Mormon Jay Z fan…But this is us. Everyone of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear -- often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile-long, 30-foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river…And they do it. Concession by concession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go -- oh my god, is that an NRA sticker on your car, an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s OK. You go and then I’ll go…"Sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute. But that individual is rare and he is scorned, and he is not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. You’re presence was what I wanted. Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mosque in Manhattan

Anyone who knows me knows I have no particular love for Islam. It ranks right up there with Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity and any other organized magical thinking you can list as far as I'm concerned. However, I do have a fondness for facts.

From Huffington Post:

"The 'Ground Zero mosque' is a genuine proposal," Brooker notes, "but it's slightly less provocative than its critics' nickname makes it sound. For one thing, it's not at Ground Zero. Also, it isn't a mosque."

Brooker goes on to note, correctly, that the project is a "cultural centre" with a "basketball court," whose purpose is to "improve interfaith relations."

And, to repeat, it's not at Ground Zero!

Perhaps spatial reality functions differently on the other side of the Atlantic, but here in London, something that is "two minutes' walk and round a corner" from something else isn't actually "in" the same place at all. I once had a poo in a pub about two minutes' walk from Buckingham Palace. I was not subsequently arrested and charged with crapping directly onto the Queen's pillow. That's how "distance" works in Britain. It's also how distance works in America, of course, but some people are currently pretending it doesn't, for daft political ends.

Read the rest from Charlie Brooker at Huffington Post after the click.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Numberplay: Rare Coincidences Are Very Common!


“Wow!” “Amazing!” “Unbelievable!” “What are the chances of that?” Most, if not all of you, have uttered words like this at some time in your life. The paradoxical title of today’s Numberplay, then, is true: rare coincidences are really common.

Why should this be? After all, rare should be rare, shouldn’t it? People who are prone to magical thinking seize on such commonly experienced rare coincidences and ascribe cosmic significance to them, invoking Divine Providence or Pre-arranged Destiny or Synchronicity or some other favored pseudoscientific explanation. But if these coincidences are so common as to happen to everyone, then how significant can they be? It’s like that pearl of wisdom that I first heard from a treasured friend, The Talking Moose, on an old Mac computer over 20 years ago: “Remember that you are a unique individual — just like everyone else.”

Read the rest in the New York Times after the click.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This can't end well

The USA has five percent of the world population:

... and two percent of the global oil reserves.

On a per capita basis, the people of the USA use 66.3 barrels of oil each annually versus and average of about 10.6 for everyone else on the planet. In gallons, that's 2,784.6 gallons per person versus 445.2. (Based on 42 gallons per barrel.)

The question is, how long can this be sustained until it becomes a point of serious contention?

... and for those folks who imagine we can somehow "Drill, Baby, Drill" our way out of this ... perhaps you can show me how the numbers work in your plan.

(Statistics based on Wolfram database queries.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why Ethnic Studies is Good For All Americans, Including White Folks

Some opponents of ethnic studies say that it teaches our children to resent government and America's history. Nothing could be further from the truth. That's like saying you inherently trust a sleazy used car salesman more than a reputable dealer. Who are you going to want to do business with? The guy who tells you that the clearly imperfect and slightly dented car has never been in an accident and runs like new? Or the guy who says, "Yeah, there have been a few bumps here and there but the mechanic tuned her up and she's got a lot of miles still to go."

By the same token, President Obama isn't weakening America when he acknowledges our less-than-perfect past -- he is being honest and modeling for the world a new kind of diplomacy where the motivation isn't the size of your missile silo but the desire to be part of the world community and global economy rather than left by the side of the road. Our President knows that, in an increasingly complex world in which American might alone can no longer govern, we will have more influence through being liked than being feared.

... read the rest of Sally Kohn's piece on HuffPo.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Click here, go there ...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill has a cost ...

... but how do we put that cost into perspective?

The oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been compared to the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989 which dumped 10.8 million gallons of oil into an enclosed area. Though it makes an easy sound bite, I don't think it's a good comparison on several levals.

Prince William Sound is an area enclosed by islands and about 15,000 square miles in area. The Gulf of Mexico comprises an area of roughly 615,000 square miles or more than 40 times larger and flushed by the Gulf Stream providing a global scale.

In trying to find a better comparison it occurred to me that the oil from torpedoed tankers in the gulf of Mexico during the Second World War might provide some insight.

During the period from December 7, 1941 to May 8, 1945 (VE Day), 1,244 days, I found the following:

Ships torpedoed in The Gulf of Mexico - total of 46, of which 27 were oil tankers.

Based on the average oil tanker of the period having a capacity of 16,613 long tons (2,240 pounds per long ton) and a gallon of oil weighing about 7 pounds ---

That means during that 1,244 day period roughly 143,536,320 gallons of crude oil were dumped into the Gulf or about 115,383 gallons per day, to wash up on Gulf shore beaches. (More if you consider the fuel load on the other merchant ships sunk during that period... but not that much more.)

The current oil spill has, according to the news, has an output of about 5,000 barrels per day. Multiply that times 55 gallons per barrel and you get 225k gallons per day versus the 115.3k brought by all out, unrestricted submarine warfare.

Is it bad? It's probably worst that you think.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Guns v. Butter 2010

See if you can identify the bleeding heart liberal who said this:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

Noam Chomsky? Michael Moore? Bernie Sanders?

Nope, it was that unrepentant lefty, five-star general Dwight Eisenhower, in 1953, just a few months after taking office -- a time when the economy was booming and unemployment was 2.7 percent.

Read more about our priorities and how they work against us on Huffington Post after the click ...

A Point of Information

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
South Park Death Threats
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

or catch the video on Comedy Central after the click ...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Improbability Pump

Imagine for a moment that a large proportion of Americans -- let's say half -- rejected the "germ theory" of infectious disease. Maladies like swine flu, malaria and AIDS aren't caused by micro-organisms, they claim, but by the displeasure of gods, whom they propitiate by praying, consulting shamans and sacrificing goats. Now, you'd surely find this a national disgrace, for those people would be utterly, unequivocally wrong. Although it's called germ theory, the idea that infections are spread by small creatures is also a fact, supported by mountains of evidence. You don't get malaria unless you carry a specific protozoan parasite. We know how it causes the disease, and we see that when you kill it with drugs, the disease goes away. How, we'd ask, could people ignore all this evidence in favor of baseless superstition?

But that's fiction, right? Well, not entirely, for it applies precisely to another "theory" that is also a fact: the theory of evolution.

Read the rest by Jerry A. Coyne in The Nation after the click ...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Religious persecution

Controversial atheist billboard severely damaged

Local St. Augustine news reporters received word from Northeast Florida Coalition of Reason who told Historic City News that one of their controversial billboards on US-1 that displays an atheist message has suffered major damage from apparent vandalism.

The billboard is located 5.7 miles north of SR-16 and visible to southbound traffic on the west side of US-1. The sign reads, “Don’t Believe in God? You Are Not Alone”.

The message immediately raised controversy in St. Johns County when it first appeared on March 29th. Now those behind that message believe vandalism may have been involved.

Read the rest of this example of religious persecution after the click

Monday, April 12, 2010

The dangers of magical thinking

Vaccine-autism claims, "Frankenfood" bans, the herbal cure craze: All point to the public's growing fear (and, often, outright denial) of science and reason, says Michael Specter. He warns the trend spells disaster for human progress.

or catch the video on YouTube after the click ...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Just a thought ...

"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."
-- Anne Lamott

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Old Mission

Daughter visiting so we're spending time as tourists, doing some sight seeing.

Mission St. Xavier del Bac - 1783

The scaffolding is finally gone and the mission looks like the mission again!

Father Kino

Looking up to Heaven

Inside looking out.

On Religion

Or catch the video on YouTube after the click ...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

4th Avenue Street Fair, Tucson, AZ

Twice a year - in December and in March - the merchant association on 4th Avenue in Tucson holds a street fair. For three days, literally thousands (maybe 10s of thousands) of people descend on 4th Avenue, not far from the University of Arizona campus, to patronize more than a mile of vendors there.

The Fourth Avenue Street Fair - more than a mile of craftsmen.

The Ukulele Player - singer of 1920's rag time tunes.

Pigs Fly

Roof Line with Awnings

My take on the Street Fair? It's more like a Renaissance Fair than any Renaissance Fair I've ever been to ... and far more authentic!

Mark Twain ... with tongue firmly in cheek

"In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles.

"Therefore ... in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period the Lower Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long... seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long... There is something fascinating about science.

"One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

Friday, March 19, 2010

On Sunday, Will GOP be on Wrong Side of History ... Again?

Mark Green on Huffington Post

Republicans warn Democrats about the political downside if Obama-Pelosi win Sunday's vote on Health Care. Actually, it's the GOP that's in a lose-lose -- either the Democrats earn due credit for change or the public will blame the GOP for opposing major social breakthroughs as it so often has.

It's happening again, and for much the same reasons. At the brink of a major social advance, the GOP is standing at the doorway of history shouting STOP! Let the free market status quo continue to screw things up, is in effect the message. Whatever the short-term headlines and polls -- and probably a third of America will buy whatever anti-government rhetoric if offered -- there's a long-term cost to a party that's been so consistently on the wrong side of reform and reality.

Apparently there's a reason the GOP constantly has to refer back 150 years as "the party of Lincoln" given its track record since.

... read the rest on Huffington Post after the click.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This too shall pass

or catch the video here after the click, of course!

Friday, March 05, 2010

The New Commandments

Christopher Hitchens

The Ten Commandments were set in stone, but it may be time for a re-chisel. With all due humility, the author takes on the job, pruning the ethically dubious, challenging the impossible, and rectifying some serious omissions.

Find out about the new commandments in Vanity Fair after the click

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why liberals cannot win arguments with conservatives

Not an easy read. It'll take a few minutes but it illustrates the differences in thought process between liberal mind sets and conservative mind sets.

Read the article on Huffington Post after the click.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Tea Party isn't a movement ... it's a cult.

"In a recent poll almost ninety percent of Tea Baggers said that they thought taxes had either gone up or stayed the same under Obama. Only two percent thought they went down. But the reality is taxes have gone down for ninety five percent of working families taxes went down.

"Think about that. Only two percent of the people in a "movement" about taxes named after a tax revolt have the slightest idea what's going on ... with taxes."

Or watch the video on Crooks and Liars after the click.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Modern Mythology

This post is a re-do of a previous post but in a more digest-able format. If you'd like to use this presentation, you can link to it here. I'll add to the presentation over time as I find or develop charts and graphs that highlight some of the myths we hear about economics and economic theory.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stimulus Response

Some time this year, we taxpayers will again receive another 'Economic Stimulus' payment.

Q. What is an 'Economic Stimulus' payment?
A. It is money that the federal government will send to taxpayers.

Q. Where will the government get this money?
A. From taxpayers.

Q. So the government is giving me back my own money?
A. Only a smidgen of it.

Q. What is the purpose of this payment?
A. To purchase high-definition TV sets, thus stimulating the economy.

Q. But isn't that stimulating the economy of China?
A. Shut up.

How to spend your stimulus check wisely:

  • If you spend it at Wal-Mart, the money will go to China or Sri Lanka.
  • If you spend it on gasoline, your money will go to the Arabs.
  • If you purchase a computer, it will go to India, Taiwan or China.
  • If you purchase fruit and vegetables, it will go to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.
  • If you buy an efficient car, it will go to Japan or Korea.
  • If you purchase useless stuff, it will go to Taiwan.
  • If you pay off your credit cards or buy stock, it will go to managers' bonuses and they will hide it offshore.

Instead, keep the money in America by patronizing American businesses that still operate in the U.S.:
  • Buying stuff at yard sales, or
  • Going to ball games, or
  • Spending it on prostitutes, or
  • Beer, or
  • Tattoos.
SO: Go to a ball game with a tattooed prostitute that you pick up at a yard sale, and drink beer all day.

(No need to thank me, I'm just glad to be of help.)

(Thanks, MH, for passing this one along to me.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Misdirected Anger of the Tea Party

or The Myth of Conservative Republican Fiscal Responsibility

There are all kinds of things that I hear on the political front that, frankly, I get tired of hearing. When I get tired enough of a mantra, I get the itch to start looking up things that will either substantiate or refute the rhetoric.

One of the things that has troubled me has been the assertion that Conservative Republicans are "fiscally responsible" while Liberal Democrats only want to "tax and spend". Its a mantra that's repeated often but, rarely is any proof offered in the discussion. I thought I'd look up the numbers. Numbers are great. They have sources that we can all refer to so that we're all singing from the same sheet, so to speak.

It struck me that the mounting National Debt (as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product) might be a good measure of overall fiscal responsibility. If we're being responsible, then logically the National Debt %GDP should be decreasing during a given administration. On the other hand, if we're being irresponsible that number should be on the rise ... that is to say, as it goes down, we're living more within our means. If it is increasing, we are borrowing and mortgaging the future of the country and of future generations. So, who has done their part to see that we're at least trying to live within our means and who has been on a spending spree?

Conventional wisdom would have it that Republican administrations, being fiscally responsible, would be the administrations that reduced our collective indebtedness while Democrats, who we all KNOW only want to "tax and spend" would be the ones who are increasing our overall debt.

The surprise is that the numbers don't support that proposition.

The graph below outlines which administrations lowered the national Debt as a percentage of GDP and which increased it relative to the previous administration. The Blue columns represent Democrat (sic) administrations between the end of World War Two (1945) and 2009. The Red columns represent Republican administrations.

The pattern becomes clear when you draw a picture of it! Every single Democrat (sic) administration since the Second World War has managed to decrease the National Debt as a percent of GDP while every Republican administration since Nixon's second term (1973-1977) has managed to raise our level of indebtedness - not just by a little - in most cases by a lot - while at the same time telling us they know how to manage money! Sort of like pissing on your head and telling you that its only raining out!

Now, the Tea Party is angry ... and they have every cause to be angry. We're in deep du-du and there's no easy way out. They're angry about the state of our indebtedness. They're angry that they have to pay taxes (though the ones who seem most angry seem to be the ones who pay the least). They're angry at Democrats because they've been told, ever since Reagan, that Democrats "tax and spend" ... and they're gullible enough to believe it without checking the numbers. They're angry with government because they've been told, ever since Reagan, that "government isn't the solution. Government is the problem!" And they've believed it ... without bothering to check the facts.

If they looked at the facts ... where the national financial problems originated ... they would be taring and feathering Republicans instead of inviting them to their rallys. If anyone is responsible for the current debt situation (touted by Republicans as something on the order of $100,000 per household, at this point) its Republicans! Their ideas about "free enterprise" ... which, as a result of their ideas of deregulation is really a free-for-all bordering on piracy have almost sunk our banking industry and have driven the nation into a deep recession.

Then they say that they know how to create jobs. So, I looked at the numbers ... because it seemed to me that when people are unemployed cutting their taxes dose nothing to put food on their tables. I looked at the Jobs Created numbers to see who, historically, might have a better idea of how to create jobs ... because the only way out of this mess is for us to earn our way out ... and the only way to earn our way out is if people - real, everyday people - have jobs.

Again, the Blue columns represent Democrat (sic) administrations while the Red columns represent Republican administrations. You spend a little time studying the chart and figuring out who might have a better idea about creating jobs, how to do it and what it takes! I won't even bother to give you a hint.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Problem of evil and religion's double standard

Daniel C. Dennett in The Washington Post

"One of the striking differences between modern, "organized" religion and tribal or folk religions--religions without seminaries and theologians and official books--is that in tribal religions they have no double standard! They thank their gods for the good stuff that happens and blame them for the bad. The idea that God is a worthy recipient of our gratitude for the blessings of life but should not be held accountable for the disasters is a transparently disingenuous innovation of the theologians. And of course it doesn't work all that well. The Problem of Evil, capital letters and all, is the central enigma confronting theists. There is no solution. Isn't that obvious? All the holy texts and interpretations that contrive ways of getting around the problem read like the fine print in a fraudulent contract--and for the same reason: they are desperate attempts to conceal the implications of the double standard they have invented."

Read more in The Washington Post after the click ...

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Fault Is Not a Sin

It's idiotic to blame anything other than geology for the Haitian earthquake.

On Nov. 1, 1755—the feast of All Saint's Day—a terrifying combination of earthquake and tsunami shattered the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon. Numerous major churches were destroyed and many devout worshippers along with them. This cataclysmic event was a spur to two great enterprises: the European Enlightenment and the development of seismology. Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were only some of those who reasoned that no thinkable deity could have desired or ordained the obliteration of Catholic Lisbon, while other thinkers—Immanuel Kant among them—began to inquire into the possible natural causes of such events.

Today, we can clearly identify the "fault" that runs under the Atlantic Ocean and still puts Portugal and other countries at risk, and it took only a few more generations before there was a workable theory of continental drift. We live on a cooling planet with a volcanic interior that is insecurely coated with a thin crust of grinding tectonic plates. Earthquakes and tsunamis are to be expected and can even to some degree be anticipated. It's idiotic to ask whose fault it is. The Earth's thin shell was quaking and cracking millions of years before human sinners evolved, and it will still be wrenched and convulsed long after we are gone. These geological dislocations have no human-behavioral cause. The believers should relax; no educated person is going to ask their numerous gods "why" such disasters occur. A fault is not the same as a sin.

More on Slate after the click.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Experts Concerned About Backward Jesus Fishes

Experts on Christianity have become increasingly alarmed about reversed car Jesus fishes, an accidental plague threatening the very ideals the fish represent. Thousands of Americans choose to put the famous fishes on their cars to express their Christian beliefs, but many fail to attach them in the proper, left-facing manner.

“This common mistake is a hazard to us all,” said Rev. Billy Graham, a world-renowned preacher. “Thousands are inadvertently displaying a symbol of Satanism on their cars.”

The backward, right-pointing fishes are thought to encourage evil among the owners of the plaques and those who view them in traffic. Perhaps the most frightening point is that most of those with backward fishes don't even realize they are Satanists, nor that they are infecting the country with anti-Christian symbolism.

... read it all after the click.

(spacial thinks to MM for passing this one along)

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

While the C-5 was turning over its engines, a female crewman gave the G.I.s on board the usual information regarding seat belts, emergency exits, etc.

Finally, she said, 'Now sit back and enjoy your trip while your captain, Judith Campbell, and crew take you safely to Afghanistan '

An old MSgt. sitting in the eighth row thought to himself, 'Did I hear her right? Is the captain a woman'

When the attendant came by he said 'Did I understand you right? Is the captain a woman?'

'Yes,'! said the attendant, 'In fact, this entire crew is female.'

'My God,' he said, 'I wish I had two double scotch and sodas. I don't know what to think with only women up there in the cockpit.'

'That's another thing, Sergeant,' said the crew member, 'We no longer call it the cockpit ... it's the box office.'

Quote of the day:

'Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.'

(With special thanks to mh for sending this one along.)

More: Why Republicans Can't Govern (Part III)

from The Washington Post

So, let's review a little history:

The day the Bush administration took over from President Bill Clinton in 2001, America enjoyed a $236 billion budget surplus -- with a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. When the Bush administration left office, it handed President Obama a $1.3 trillion deficit -- and projected shortfalls of $8 trillion for the next decade. During eight years in office, the Bush administration passed two major tax cuts skewed to the wealthiest Americans, enacted a costly Medicare prescription-drug benefit and waged two wars, without paying for any of it.

To put the breathtaking scope of this irresponsibility in perspective, the Bush administration's swing from surpluses to deficits added more debt in its eight years than all the previous administrations in the history of our republic combined. And its spending spree is the unwelcome gift that keeps on giving: Going forward, these unpaid-for policies will continue to add trillions to our deficit.

This fiscal irresponsibility -- and a laissez-faire attitude toward the excesses of the financial industry -- helped create the conditions for the deepest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. Economists across the political spectrum agreed that to deal with this crisis and avoid a second Great Depression, the government had to make significant investments to keep our economy going and shore up our financial system.

(emphasis added)

Read the full piece in The Washington Post after the click ...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti, a brief history

When I was living in upstate NY in the 70s, I owned a frame shop and gallery. One of my customers was a former USAID worker - her husband was a former Haitian consulate officer. They beat it out of Haiti a couple hours before Papa Doc's thugs, the Tonton Macoutes, arrived at their home in Haiti with submachine guns and burned it to the ground.

One of the few possessions she she was able to bring from Haiti was a pane of glass from one of the windows in their home that her husband had engraved with an original poem he'd written for her.

My friend, Eva, through her contacts in Haiti, brought paintings by Haitian folk artists into the US. We framed them, she showed them and, when they sold, she sent the profits back to Haiti. She grew and sold the most beautiful shallots in her garden in the hills of upstate New York, too - those profits went back to Haiti as well.

When the people Haiti prevailed in the only successful slave revolt in history, they were forced to pay reparations to France for their independence. The reparations were draconian and, eventually Haiti began to default on payments. A number of countries came to the rescue ... with high interest loans, high enough that for a time Haiti was making loan payments equal to fully 80% of the nations GDP.

And then there were François "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, Haiti's "Presidents for Life" who raped what was left of the nations treasures and killed it's people with impunity ... kept in power by their secret police, the Tonton Macoutes. But they were vigorously anti-communist, a factor that, in the time of Castro, allowed American foreign policy to turn a blind eye to the plight of the Haitian people.

From Wikipedia:
In December 1990, the former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide won the election by more than two thirds of the vote. His mandate began on 7 February 1991. In August 1991, Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government faced a non-confidence vote within the Haitian Chamber of Deputies and Senate. Eighty three voted against him, while only 11 members voted in support of Aristide's government. Following a coup d'etat in September 1991, President Aristide was flown into exile. In accordance with Article 149 of Haiti's Constitution of 1987, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Nerette was named Provisional President and elections were called for December 1991. These were blocked by the international community and the resulting chaos extended into 1994.

In 1994, Haitian General Raoul Cédras asked former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to help avoid a U.S. military invasion of Haiti. President Carter relayed this information to President Clinton, who asked Carter, in his role as founder of The Carter Center, to undertake a mission to Haiti with Senator Sam Nunn, D-GA, and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell. The team successfully negotiated the departure of Haiti's military leaders and the peaceful entry of U.S. forces under Operation Uphold Democracy, paving the way for the restoration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president. Aristide left the presidency in 1995.

In the over two centuries of Haiti's independence there has hardly been a day the country hasn't been subjected to the international or domestic plunder of its resources. The current crisis is only the latest and most visible disaster in their history.

For a more detailed history of Haiti between 1990 and the present, click here.

From American foreign policy point of view, Haiti has only two small problems. 1.) The people are black and 2.) they don't have any oil. From that policy standpoint, if they could only overcome those two small problems, we'd be more than happy to be supportive in normal times. But, until then ....

My friend Eva and her husband passed away many years ago, but I will always remember them, the paintings .... and the shallots.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Allen Grayson (D-FL) sums it up nicely

(from the floor of the House - responding to Rudy Gu911iani's memory lapse stating that there were no terrorist attacks during the Bush administration.)

And I realized that I was witnessing the birth of a new form of political discourse from the right wing in this country: The Exception. The Exceptional Exception -- the exception that proves the rule or disproves the rule, as the case may be.

So in the future I'm expecting that we'll hear from the right wing the claim that no cities drowned under the Bush administration -- except for New Orleans. And that there were no wars that were started by mistake under the Bush administration -- except for the war in Iraq. And that the Bush administration added nothing to the federal debt -- except for a half-trillion dollars, which works out to $15,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. And that they respected all of our constitutional rights as Americans -- except when they didn't.

I think we'll hear Republicans claim that the Bush administration managed the economy quite well -- except when they brought it to the brink of national bankruptcy. In fact, they'll claim that the Bush-Cheney administration was a complete success, except for the fact that it was an abject failure -- an abject failure.

In fact, what we learned in Washington for eight years is that the reason why Republicans hate government so much is because they're so bad at it.

Guantanamo guard reunited with ex-inmates

Why would a former Guantanamo Bay prison guard track down two of his former captives - two British men - and agree to fly to London to meet them?

"You look different without a cap."

"You look different without the jump suits."

With those words, an extraordinary reunion gets under way.

... catch the video from BBC after the click.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Religious no longer a protected class

Q: Is there widespread media bias against Christianity? Against evangelicals such as Brit Hume and Sarah Palin? Against public figures who speak openly and directly about their faith? Against people who believe as you do?

... find the answer in The Washington Post after the click.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Bull and the Bull Fighter

The "war on terrorism" is a significant example of the effectiveness of asymmetrical strategies; the "David and Goliath Effect". Like toreadors, waving a cape at a raging bull in the bull ring, al-Qaeda fields a single operative with explosives in his underwear at the cost of a plane ticket and we spend a billion dollars installing scanning machines in airports all over the country.

Al-Qaeda abandons Afghanistan for the tribal regions of Pakistan leaving us to spend billions of dollars fighting the Taliban who's goals don't extend beyond the national boundaries of Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda's cost is next to nothing but the cost to us is immeasurable.

A large military presence in a foreign country only serves to inflame indigenous resentments. Our presence in Iraq and in Afghanistan is a recruiting tool that al-Qaeda could only imagine in their wildest dreams and, over the better part of the last decade, they've learned how to push the right buttons to keep things going.

They don't need to "win". They only need to keep us chasing our tails to achieve their goal of driving us to bankruptcy. For them to merely survive is the big win for them.

We cannot "win" as long as we continue trying to "fight terrorism" on their terms ... as long as we pursue al-Qaeda as if it were a military entity by putting our military force into the field we are playing to their strengths. Like the art of jujitsu, they are using our sheer weight against us. They count on our macho bravodo that dictates, once committed, we cannot back away. Like a bull in a bull ring, we cannot stop chasing the illusive capes.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Friday, January 01, 2010

I Love the Smell of Blasphemy in the Morning

Atheist Ireland Publishes 25 Blasphemous Quotes

From today, 1 January 2010, the new Irish blasphemy law becomes operational, and we begin our campaign to have it repealed. Blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine. The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.

This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic States led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.

We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.

Publication of 25 blasphemous quotes

In this context we now publish a list of 25 blasphemous quotes, which have previously been published by or uttered by or attributed to Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Mark Twain, Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, James Kirkup, Monty Python, Rev Ian Paisley, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Bjork, Amanda Donohoe, George Carlin, Paul Woodfull, Jerry Springer the Opera, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Pope Benedict XVI, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Ian O’Doherty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Dermot Ahern.

... get your dose of blasphemy after the click!