November 6, 2012

In, and Out

I voted today.

What did you think I was talking about?  Dirty bugger!

Anywho, I stopped in to vote today, on our actual Election Day.  Call me feckless, if you will.  But I figured with all the early voting over the last week, that it would be a breeze with all the voting stations in place, with a full complement of volunteers staffing a full complement of voting booths.

And as usual, I was right.

No line at the door.

I walked in, signed in, was handed my ballot, sent right to a booth, the pen worked, I went over to feed my 4 pages of ballot into the scanner, and got my "I Voted" sticker.

It took maybe ten minutes all told.  Of course, I already knew how I was voting on all the amendments, so that made it pretty simple.  If I'd had to figure out what each of the twelve amendments actually said from the ballot, I might still be there.

This means that I've earned the right to bitch about the government for at least another year.

Doesn't that give you a warm feeling?

October 29, 2012

October 23, 2012

CNN Gets It Wrong

CNN was fact-checking the third presidential debate, a process I heartily endorse.

But only if you do it logically and honestly.  And on that score, CNN falls a bit short.

Take this one:

What CNN is refuting isn't what Obama actually said; helpfully, they've included the correct quote.  But whoever 'fact-checked' this one lacks basic reading comprehensions skills.

THE QUOTE:
"... you initially opposed a timetable in Afghanistan, now you're for it..."

What Romney actually did - again, from this same CNN article:
What Romney has disagreed with was the announcement of the withdrawal deadline...
What is a timetable?  A schedule of activity.  You can't have a timetable without deadlines, they are the point of a timetable.

So in fact, according to CNN's own fact checking, Obama's claim is clearly true.

The only way you can come to a different conclusion is if you completely mis-characterize Obama's statements.  Which, of course, is what happened here:
Obama accused Romney of initially being against a withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in 2014.
Again, this is a different statement than the quote they presented:
"... you initially opposed a timetable in Afghanistan, now you're for it..."
The rest of their fact checking in this article... um.... checks out.

October 8, 2012

From the Unfortunate Juxtaposition Department

I think these RSS feeds are random, but I'm not entirely sure.

Like this example, from today's  syndicated Daily Pulp feed on my Yahoo homepage:



Coincidence? 

October 7, 2012

Jack Welch's Jelly Brain

On Friday, Welch seemed to be claiming that Obama or someone in his administration had manipulated the results of the recent jobs report on his twitter feed:


Obama is from Chicago, and had just lost his first debate with Mitt Romney - or so I'm told.  I don't bother with such pointless charades.

Well, as you can imagine, this created a minor uproar, with media outlets, politicians, and even business associates questioning the merit of such an accusation.  First, the report was actually published before the debate.  Second, all the raw data is available, so it's not something that can really be manipulated.  Experts basically concluded that Welch was talking out of his ass.

So on Sunday, Welch sent out a new tweet:


Well, maybe he didn't comment on the White House, but he certainly commented on the jobs report, and only moments before his claims that he hadn't made any comments about the White House.



That link he posted leads to a story on AEIdeas, the public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute.  The article is titled "Economist: Unemployment drop ‘implausible … a statistical quirk’." 

Welch's claims are disingenuous, at best.

To accept Welch's comments, we have to find a plausible explanation for the first post; who are "these Chicago guys" that he's referring to, if it's not Obama, a former resident of Chicago?


Could he be referring to the band Chicago?  Did this jazz/rock fusion group fudge the numbers?

I know;

It's the Moon Furies.  Their website even says that they are "Chicago Guys."

Wait, he said they lost a debate.  So maybe it's...


...the Chicago Blackhawks!  Perhaps by "debate," he really meant "game.

But they weren't mentioned in the "interesting view" of the jobs report.

No, there's only one explanation of Welch's comment that makes any sense; he was, in fact, referring to President Obama, who has often been lambasted by conservatives for doing things "The Chicago Way," a reference to the violence and corruption of the government in the gangster era as depicted in The Untouchables.  Obama is from Chicago, and had just lost a debate, and certainly benefits from a positive jobs report.  This is the only context that fits.

Jack Welch is lying to us.  And he's doing a pathetically poor job of it.  It's almost as pathetic as believing he could get away with claiming that the POTUS influenced the numbers without offering one shred of supporting evidence.



If Jack Welch really believes that he can  simply wave away his comment by stating it wasn't about the White House,
he must be keeping his brains in this jar >


October 6, 2012

Liar/Liar

"I really mean what I'm saying now."     "I was completely wrong about that."
Mitt "Etch-a-Sketch Memory" Romney is now saying that he was "completely wrong" when he said that if he becomes president of the United States, his "job is not to worry about" 47% of the population of the country.  In case you've forgotten the details of the comments he made earlier this year at a fundraiser, let's refresh your memory:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them."

"...my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center..."
Of course, he initially defended his statements.
"This is a message I'm carrying day and day out and will carry over the coming months," Romney said on Fox News. "This is a decision about the course of America, where we're going to head. We've seen the president's policies play out over the last four years."
And he tried to explain that he just didn't make his point clearly enough:
"At a fundraiser you have people say, 'Governor how are you going to win this?' And so I respond 'Well, the president has his group, I have my group. I want to keep my team strong and motivated and I want to get those people in the middle.' That's something which fund-raising people who are parting with their monies are very interested in."
His campaign suggested that the comments were taken out of context.  That is, until Mother Jones posted the entire video.

“Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right. In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.”
When he thought he was basically "off the record,"  he told a group of his supporters that he he was only concerned with people like themselves, and the handful of people on the fence.  In the glaring spotlight of public scrutiny, he says that he was wrong to say that, of course he's going to try to be the best president for everyone.

We have no reason to believe that he wasn't being honest then to that audience of his supporters. We have no reason to believe him now when he claims that he didn't really mean it.

Either he was lying then, to gain support from those supporters, or he's lying now, hoping that he doesn't lose more support.

But make no mistake, either way, he's not being honest with us.

October 4, 2012

Putting Mitt in Perspective: PBS


For fiscal year 2012, PBS received $442 million dollars from the federal government.  That's an "m" in there. $442 million for the entire year.

That constitutes .012% of the entire Federal budget.  That's POINT zero one two percent, or less than 1/8 of 1%.


"But it's $400 million dollars" you say.  OK. Let's put that in perspective.

We're spending $300 million dollars PER DAY on the war in Afghanistan.  Obama is trying to remove our troops from Afghanistan in a safe and responsible manner.  Mitt says we shouldn't pull our troops out of Afghanistan just because it's expensive.

It seems to me that Mitt is saying we have to take Sesame Street away from inner city kids because we need to kill people on the other side of the planet.

September 15, 2012

Lyin' Ryan Sticks to the Broken Script.


What do you do when you have no legitimate issues to put forth with your campaign?  You lie.

And what do you do when your lies have been thoroughly debunked?  If you're Paul Ryan, you repeat the lie.  At least, that's what he was doing in Tampa yesterday.
“Here’s the dirty little secret about Medicare they don’t want you to know,” he said. “The  biggest threat to Medicare is Obamacare.”
--Tampa Bay Times, September 16, 2012
Of course, the truth about the Affordable Care Act is that it extends Medicare funding by eight years. 
It’s worth noting that there’s one area these cuts don’t touch: Medicare benefits. The  Affordable Care Act rolls back payment rates for hospitals and insurers. It does not,  however, change the basket of benefits that patients have access to.
-- The Washington Post, August 14, 2012
That's not entirely accurate: it also adds new benefits to to seniors currently enrolled in the program.  That's right; thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare costs less, provides more benefits, and the funding lasts longer. Which is exactly the opposite of what Paul Ryan is claiming.

You see, back in 2003, the Medicare Modernization Act was passed, which underwrote the costs of many prescription drugs for seniors, and paid to put a number of seniors into private insurance plans, the theory being that by enrolling seniors in various private health plans, competition and market forces would lower the costs of care.  But costs for seniors in the private health plans rose, costing taxpayers an average of 117% compared to standard Medicare costs. 

The Affordable Care Act eliminates these over-payments to bring them in line with the rest of Medicare coverage costs by re-negotiating reimbursement rates to the insurance companies.  It also negotiated savings from health care providers, further lowering costs.  So there aren't any cuts in coverage, only cuts in costs; what you and I would actually call "savings" instead of "cuts."

The real "dirty secret" that the Romney campaign doesn't want you to know is that Paul Ryan  proposed to make exactly the same cuts in expenses.
...deciding who is cutting Medicare by $700 billion just requires looking at who is cutting Medicare by $700 billion. And at the moment, that’s both Obama and the Republican  budget.
-- The Washington Post, August 14, 2012
Well, not the only dirty secret.  They also don't want you to realize this:
What Romney/Ryan are saying is that they then take the money saved from their cuts to Medicare and put it toward deficit reduction while Obama takes that money and spends it on health care for poor people... But Romney/Ryan also add a trillion dollars to the defense budget. And they have trillions of dollars in tax cuts they haven’t explained how they’re going to pay for. So those decisions make future cuts to Medicare more likely.
-- The Washington Post, August 14, 2012
But this might be the most important thing Ryan has said so far:
"We're not going to spend the next four years blaming everything on everybody else. We're going to take responsibility," Ryan said.
--Tampa Bay Times, September 16, 2012
I have a great idea for you, Paul; why wait for the election?  Why don't you take responsibility for what Republicans have done to this country now?  Admit to three years of obstructing our economic recovery, own up to the damage done by the Bush administration and its record expansion of the national debt, accept that our current financial straits are the direct result of all the deregulation that the GOP has fostered over the last thirty years.

Why wait to take responsibility?  If you're truly proud of what Republicans have accomplished, start bragging - truthfully - about what you and your party have really been doing.

Race and the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Perhaps you've heard about the comments elementary school principal Verenice Gutierrez made during an interview with the Portland Tribune:
“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” says Gutierrez, principal at Harvey Scott K-8 School, a diverse school of 500 students in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood.  “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”
While I can't find a quote where she flat-out states that a PB&J is racist, the article frames it as "example of a subtle form of racism in language..."

Quoting the article again:
"...the premise is that if educators can understand their own “white privilege,” then they can change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance."
The implication we're getting is that by including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on school menus, schools are subtly pushing a diet that reinforces some kind of white privilege. Or at least, as some news sources are interpreting it; "Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwiches are Racist."

Perhaps it's because most people use WHITE bread.
Sound ridiculous?  It does sound unlikely.  But to simply claim that it's ridiculous isn't the same as debunking the statement.

Let's look at the history of the sandwich, to see if it really is tied to some kind of privilege.

And of course, we have to start with peanuts.

The Origin of Peanut Butter: Part 1
 
Peanuts are native to the Americas; the Aztecs ground them into a paste for use in many dishes.  This mealy paste probably wasn't very spreadable, but it was certainly made of peanuts. 

The Aztecs were not considered white, as far as I've been able to determine.  Neither were they Latino, although some people often confuse all denizens of Central and South America as being Latin or Hispanic, instead of Native American.


I haven't been able to determine if Aztecs reserved peanuts in any form for the noble class.

The Origin of Peanut Butter: Part 2

And it's still edible.
In 1884, Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, was issued a U.S. Patent for a process of milling roasted peanuts between heated surfaces until they entered "a fluid or semi-fluid state."  The resultant product was described as having "a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment."

Peanut butter as we know it in the USA is usually credited to Dr. John Kellogg.  Yes, the man who put corn flakes on our table also put peanut butter on our tables.  In the 1890s, he developed it as an alternative protein source to meat. In St. Louis, Dr. Ambrose Straub prescribed it to patients who had no teeth.  It was introduced to the world at large in 1904, when C.H. Sumner promoted it at his booth at the St. Louis Universal Exposition as a health food.  Heinz (yes, the ketchup company) advertised its health benefits in magazines.

G.W. Carver, Man of Science
 But it took a black man to put peanut butter into large-scale production.  George Washington Carver was trying to help black farmers improve their land; their primary crop of cotton removed minerals from the ground which rendered it fallow.  By rotating crops of peanuts through their fields, the soil would be renewed for productive yields.  The farmers were reluctant to change their habits, so Carver worked out 105 practical uses for peanuts, including peanut butter.

Once he demonstrated the usefulness of the legume, farmers were willing to take a chance on a crop that had not been in demand before then.

The Origin of the PB&J Sandwich

Prior to Dr. Carver's work, peanut butter was indeed considered a delicacy.  The creation of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is credited to Julia Davis Chandler in 1901.  Variations were served almost exclusively at fashionable tea rooms.

But two things contributed to the downfall of the sandwich as a rare treat: the drop in the price of peanuts thanks to increased production (see above) and the invention of - wait for it - sliced bread.
"Sliced bread meant that children could make sandwiches for themselves without slicing the bread with a potentially dangerous knife.  As a consequence of low cost, high nutrition, and ease of assembling, peanut butter sandwiches become one of the top children's meals during the Depression."
-- Peanuts: the Illustrious History of the Goober Pea
Conclusion

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have become ubiquitous in school cafeterias not because they reinforce any level of white privilege; they are wide spread because they are cheap to make, and packed full of nutrients.  Further, the popularity of peanut butter and other peanut products have supported generations of black farmers, who were convinced to plant the crop by a black man, George Washington Carver.

While we can find no evidence that Ms. Gutierrez actually considers that PB&J sandwiches advance some kind of racist agenda - intended or otherwise - we can safely conclude that such claims have no substance.

September 8, 2012

Well SOMEBODY Has to Keep Track

And luckily, it's not me.

I don't have to list out all of the lies that Mitt Romney has told so far in this campaign because The Slacktivist has already done it for me:
I suppose the other approach for Romney defenders who cannot bear to face the fact of those 533 facts will be to angrily pore over all of Benen’s lists, reading each one with a lawyerly eye.

Have at it. Please. Cherry-pick. Spin. Split hairs. Hand-wave away whichever lies you wish as mere misdemeanors and not full-fledged felonies against honesty.

But how many of those charges do you think you can get dismissed? 10 percent? 20 percent? Maybe, if you’re that sort of person and you work really hard at it — if you’re willing to get even more pedantic and semantic and technical than even you are usually comfortable with — maybe you could half convince yourself that 50 percent of those lies somehow shouldn’t really count against Romney.

That still leaves more than 260 lies.
And here are the links to the 30 columns outlining all 533 lies, as outlined by Stephen Benen:
 I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX.

September 7, 2012

Mitt Romney; Candidate of Empty Words

It's no wonder the Republican Party has to argue with an empty chair; pressed for details, Mitt Romney's saying a lot of nothing.

He won't show us any more than two years of his tax returns; his own father originated the practice of sharing tax returns with the American people, saying that candidates who won't share their returns are hiding something.

He has criticized President Obama's handling of ending the war in Afghanistan.  Asked what he'd do different, all he can really offer is "the same thing - only I'd do it better."

And now, his plan to re-invent our tax plan is similarly lacking in substance. He'll lower taxes, but increase revenues by closing loopholes.  Which ones?  He can't say.  Can he give an example?  No, but they'll off-set the cuts in taxes.  How?  He can't say.

Even Fox "News" is getting tired of the evasive responses:


The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook



Part 2:


September 1, 2012

The Sad Truth about Creationism

The Controversy

You've probably seen Bill Nye's YouTube video where he pleads with parents to stop preventing their children from learning about evolution.
"I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, that's completely inconsistent with the world we observe, that's fine.  But don't make your kids do it.  Because we need them.  We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.  We need engineers that can build stuff and solve problems."
-- Bill Nye
What is the Theory of Evolution?

The Theory of Evolution is the basis of all our biological sciences; drugs work because we understand the biological processes that developed and continue to shape our internal chemistry.  New surgical procedures have been developed because we understand how our organs developed to work with each other, and we're even able to graft organs (or parts of organs) from other species because we understand how we're related to them.

Consider vaccines; every vaccine ever developed sprang from the application of the Theory of Evolution. And when some vaccines stopped working, scientists weren't stumped because Evolution predicted that viruses would adapt to the vaccines.  Similarly, bacteria have adapted to many of the original crop of anti-biotics, so new drugs are developed - and they work, because Evolution explains how the bacteria they fight have adapted.

That's because "theory" does not mean "we don't know so we made something up."  A scientific theory has to account for every variable of what it's trying to explain, it has to be proven through experimentation, AND we have to be able to make predictions with it. 

To follow this discussion, you need to understand the basic concepts of science:
  • Hypothesis: A hypothesis is an educated guess, based on observation. Usually, a hypothesis can be supported or refuted through experimentation or more observation. A hypothesis can be disproven, but not proven to be true. In other words, you may find the hypothesis to be untrue in many circumstances, but there may be circumstances you haven't tested yet.
  • Theory: A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. A theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it.
  • Law: A law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law. Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them. One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain 'why'.
One line of reasoning used by Creationists is that "evolution isn't true, because if it were, it would be a law."  But now that we have the definitions handy, we can see that theories and laws do different things.  Newton's Law of Gravity doesn't explain why the apple falls, it only says that it will.  Einstein's Theory of Gravity explains why the apple falls - and predicts how it will fall under other circumstances.

Contrary to what rabid fundamentalists keep claiming, Evolution has proven itself time and time again, and at no time has it been dis-proven. 

But what, actually, is the theory of evolution?  The most clear definition I've found is the one on About.com:
  • Biological evolution is defined as any genetic change in a population that is inherited over several generations. These changes may be small or large, noticeable or not so noticeable.  In order for an event to be considered an instance of evolution, changes have to occur on the genetic level of a population and be passed on from one generation to the next. It also includes the idea that all of life is connected and can be traced back to one common ancestor. This is called macroevolution.
In other words, all species today evolved from earlier species.  And it's actually quite easy to illustrate the fact of it.

All dogs were once wolves; in fact, every species of domestic dogs are descendents of the Gray Wolf.  We find the truth of this in their DNA. 

Each breed of dog breeds true; a mating of collies produces more collies, and not terriers, and not gray wolves.  That's proof of the change on a genetic level.

We even know the origins of many breeds of dogs, because mankind has developed them.  Same with most other livestock.  Even plants have been purposefully evolved through careful breeding.

Creationist will argue that these examples "aren't evolution."  But when we look at the definition, we see that evolution is "ANY change.." not just accidental or random change.  Evolution does not say that newer species cannot breed with older versions.  But eventually, the original species and the later evolved species will be so different that they won't be able to inter-breed.

The Truth about Creationism


So that's a bunch of stuff on Evolution, but the title of the post is about Creationism, and the sad truth about it.

First, let's have a working definition of the term:
  • creationism: a doctrine or theory holding that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by God out of nothing and usually in the way described in Genesis
CNN's Belief Blog reports that Creationists are rebutting Nye's plea for reason:
"At AiG and the Creation Museum, we teach children and adults the truth concerning who they are in the Creator’s eyes — and where they came from," Ham writes. "We tell people that they do have purpose and meaning in life and that they were created for a purpose. "No, we are not just evolved animals as Nye believes; we are all made in the image of God."
--Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis
This goes straight to the Creation story in Genesis, the first book of the old testament in the Christian Bible.
1:25  And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
1:26  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
-- Book of Genesis, King James Bible
Here's the sad truth; nothing in the biblical narrative disproves the theory of evolution.  In fact, it's a parable of creation that accurately describes the mechanics of evolution.

Read the entire passage, if you like. And notice the order of creation; first, the universe.  Then the earth. Then oceans.  Then dry land.  Then simple organisms - plants.  Then more complex organisms - animals.  And finally, after everything else, only does Man come on the scene.  And man evolves; at first, there was only Adam, a male.  And then there was Eve, a female, derived from the older original human, Adam.  And from that point on, every human being is derived from two genders, and has children both male and female.

This is exactly as predicted by the Theory of Evolution.

There is nothing in the biblical narrative that states that God did not use evolution to accomplish His creation.  Nowhere in the bible is the mechanism of creation described.  All it states is "God did it."  Perhaps God created evolution as a tool to aid in his creation.

Evolution is something we can see in action today, and God's creation, humankind, made in His image, has used evolution to create new species - exercising the dominion described in Genesis.

The sad truth is that the Theory of Evolution is not remotely inconsistent with Christian teachings.  You don't have exclude Evolution to follow the basic precepts of the faith.

Origin of Confusion


A common cause of misunderstanding is a fundamentalist claim that the Earth and the Universe is only a few thousand years old.  Science shows that the earth is about 4 billion years old, and that the universe is at least 12 billion years old.

Here's the thing about the age of the universe; it's not in the Bible.

The Bible says absolutely nothing about the age of the universe, or how old the earth is. 

It's not in there.

Around the time that Darwin was comparing finches from different islands of the Galapagos, a minister decided to determine the age of the universe by examining the Bible.  He made the assumption that all the begats in Genesis made a reliable measurement of the number of generations from Adam and Eve until, well, until a date that he believed they stopped counting. 

There is no way to verify when the begats actually started, or that every generation was actually included, or when they actually stopped.  Ask any modern genealogist how far back they can trace ancestry; most family histories go no further than a couple hundred years, a few trace back to the 12th century, and no credible genealogist has faith in anything going back farther than that.  And we're to believe that sheep farmers in the desert on the run from every major civilization did better?

If you believe that, you're likely to believe anything.  So call me about this bridge I can sell you.

Conclusion


Does creationism belong in a science class alongside of evolution?  Of course not.  It's not a theory derived from science, it's an article of religious conviction.  It doesn't contribute anything to the study of science.  It's not even an "alternative theory," because it isn't a theory.  It wasn't assembled through the scientific process that a theory goes through, and it doesn't function in the manner of a scientific theory; that is, you can't design experiments using it, and you can't make predictions with it.

I wouldn't go as far as Nye to say "don't teach your children the story of creation."  I say to Christian parents "teach Creationism as the parable it is, and teach that there is a difference between parable and science, and that the two are not exclusive, but neither do they serve the same purpose."

And then teach them about the Theory of Evolution.

August 29, 2012

Dictionary Fun with Rob Moore.

Yes, it's time for another round of Dictionary Fun!  Today, we'll be checking out the vocabulary skills of Rob Moore.

Rob Moore is the CFO for Murray Energy, a company that operates coal mines in West Virginia.  He's also a fucking thug colossal prick and a miserable excuse for a human being an uncaring company stooge a cold-hearted business man, as we'll see.


Mr. Moore came to our attention after a friend posted this photo on Facebook:


Hard to believe, isn't it?  But some research lead us to recorded talk radio show on West Virginia's WWVA 1170 AM. If you don't have the 20 minutes to listen to the program, The Raw Story gives us a thorough good recap of the story.
A group of coal miners in Ohio feel they would have been fired if they did not attend an Aug. 14 event with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and contribute to his campaign — and to make matters worse, they lost of day of pay for their trouble.

“Yes, we were in fact told that the Romney event was mandatory and would be without pay, that the hours spent there would need to be made up my non-salaried employees outside of regular working hours, with the only other option being to take a pay cut for the equivalent time,” the employees told Blomquist. “Yes, letters have gone around with lists of names of employees who have not attended or donated to political events.”
What did the company have to say about it?
Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that the charges were untrue.

“There were no workers that were forced to attend the event,” Moore said. “We had managers that communicated to our work force that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend the event..."
Hmmm. Attendance was mandatory.  But the employees weren't forced.  But if it was mandatory, doesn't that mean that they had to go?  Isn't that what "mandatory" means?

Let's see what Merriam-Webster has to say about the word "mandatory:"
MANDATORY (adjective)  1: required by a law or rule : obligatory <the mandatory retirement age>
So, yes, if attendance was mandatory, they were indeed expected to go.  That was the, um, mandate they were given.

Moore did have more to say about the attendance:
"... but no one was forced to attend the event. We had a pre-registration list. And employees were asked to put their names on a pre-registration list because they could not get into the event unless they were pre-registered and had a name tag to enter the premises.”
Then why did you just say it was mandatory?  If there is confusion, Mr. Moore, it was created by Murray Energy, who told employees they had to attend, not the employees who are pissed that they were told they had to attend a political rally for someone whose record for labor is pretty dismal.

But to add insult to injury:
“Our management people wanted to attend the event..."
We have cause to suspect that the fact that their boss told them they'd better be there had something to do with it, but heck, we'll play the game that they were all willing volunteers who not coerced in any way by the owner of the company who has donated over $900,000 to the Republican Party over the last year or so.

So what's the problem with all the manager going to the rally?  Because there were no managers on site, the mine had to be closed for a day.  Or more precisely, because management closed the mine to attend a political rally, every miner working for them lost that day's wages.

The radio host asked them why the workers had to be punished for their management team's decision to close for the day:
I’m not saying pay then to attend the event, I’m saying, ‘Hey look, we have to close down the mine, if you want to attend this event, that’s fine, but you’re still going to get a day’s pay for the work that you would have done,’” Blomquist pointed out. “Why not do that?”

“As a private employer, it was our decision and we made the decision not to pay the people,” the Murray chief financial officer said.
A responsible company would have ensured that operations continued.  A company that gave a shit about its employees would have declared "it's great that everyone wants to meet Mr. Romney, but we're a business first, and there are people depending on their paycheck to pay their bills, to put food on the table, so we need to have enough managers on site to continue operations."

A truly benevolent company would have paid the employees for the day's wages; after all, there is no good reason for them NOT to be working other than the fact that the managers and administration of Murray Energy are selfish pricks who don't give a shit about their workers decided not to show up to work so they could do something else.

They could have done either of those things, and everyone would have been happy, and there'd be no reason for me and the rest of the blogosphere to rip Mr. Moore a new one.

But sadly, that's not what Murray Energy did:
“We’re talking about an event that was in the best interest of anyone that’s related to the coal industry,” Moore added. “I do not believe that missing an eight-hour day, when you put it into perspective, when you think about how critical — critical this next election is, and how critical it is that we get someone in this office that supports coal — to give up eight hours for a career, I just don’t believe that there is anything negative about that.”
Well, Mr. Moore, that's because you are a steaming turd of a person.

While I certainly can see that if you don't want to run your mine with all the proper safety protocols to keep your workers safe, and if you're an owner whose income puts you in the top 2% tax bracket, attending Mr. Romney's rally makes perfect sense.  But if you're one of the workers who's going to wind up paying a big tax increase so the owner can pay an even lower tax rate than his employees, if you're a worker whose safety depends on the regulations that Mr. Romney has promised to repeal, if you're an hourly employee whose wages have been lowered because of Republican policies over the last few years, the last thing you want to do is lose a day's pay to support the candidate who is doing everything in his power to reduce you to living in poverty.

And if you think I'm being too hard on Murray Energy, consider this; the last time they made the news was 2009.  That's when a mine they owned in Utah collapsed and killed six miners and 3 rescue workers.  This was after receiving 325 citations in five years for exactly the kind of safety violations that resulted in the collapse.  That's an average of one citation every week.   Once a week for five years.

Charles Dickens wrote of greed-driven men like Moore, and his sleazy boss Robert Murray, nearly 170 years ago:

"I wear the chain I forged in life,'' replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?''

Scrooge trembled more and more.

"Or would you know,'' pursued the Ghost, ``the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You  have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!''

The Ghost... set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,'' cried the phantom, "Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!''

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,'' faultered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!'' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!''

It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.
But I'm expecting too much of someone who doesn't even know what the word "mandatory" means.  These money-grubbing turds don't even own a dictionary, it's unlikely that they are bright enough to see how the parable of A Christmas Carol might apply to them.

August 28, 2012

George Washington on Government

A people who ignore their history are doomed to repeat it; we're already repeating parts of it, and not for the first time.  But all that means is that the words of our founding fathers are still relevant, if not merely "relevant again."

George Washington boast of our nation's liberalism in his letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, 1790:
If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

He also spoke of the importance of working together in his Farewell Address, 1796:
The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth...
We haven't had any unity of government in the last two congresses; when the GOP got control of the House, the Republican leadership announced to its constituents that the party would no longer be working towards unity of purpose, but focusing solely on preventing the incumbent president from being re-elected.

To that end, the Republican Party has been flat-out demonizing the Democratic Party, and any who support it.  And Washington warned us of this, too:
...you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union... you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it... discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country... The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
In Washington's times, factionalism was divided along regional origin; citizens tended to identify themselves by their state affiliation rather than Americans.  But the basic problem is still with us, even if we call ourselves "Democrats" and "Republicans" or "Liberals" or "Conservatives."  Washington was very clear that true patriots are Americans first, above and beyond any other affiliation.

He was also insistent that we must work together, and that facts must be considered over insinuations:
These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.
And in particular, we can't emphasize enough how dangerous he considered political parties:
One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other(s). You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.


All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community...

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Doesn't this ring familiar in the light of Citizens' United and the Koch Brothers? A small and well-financed group manages to subvert existing laws to flood the airwaves with patently false information, drowning out the truth in the cacophony of blaring commercials.

This election is a damning testament to the accuracy of George Washington's warning.

George Washingon on Political Parties

From George Washington's Farewell Address, 1796

On political parties:
"Let me... warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party...

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But... in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume."
While it is true that both of the major parties are playing fast and loos with the truth, the fact is that the Republican Party isn't merely exaggerating, or mis-stating, facts.  It's making stuff up out of whole cloth.  And lying isn't something any of us should support.

But whatever your opinions on the matter, they do not matter if you do not vote.  Be sure to cast your vote this election day.

August 24, 2012

Don't Jump On The GOP Bandwagon

...especially while we're trying to pull its wheels off.

People, when we embrace the methods of our enemy to win the goal, winning becomes pointless.  If the Democrats have to lie like Republicans to win the election, they've already lost everything that matters.

Lookin' good, but time to wash her mouth out with soap
While it will be a cold day in hell before I vote for Romney, he himself has always supported an exception for rape to any of the medieval anti-abortion laws his party has endorsed.  And he still does. Deborah Wasserman Schultz is indeed lying to voters when she insists otherwise. 

Does that mean that the GOP won't try to keep women barefoot and pregnant if we're stupid enough to elect him?  Of course not.  But we don't need to lie about Romney's stance on the matter.

Instead, we should be dissecting some of his ACTUAL stupid stances; like how he argued against the ACA's mandate that all health insurance plans offer birth control to women at no cost by claiming it violated the First Amendment

"I don't need facts while I carry this!"
And while Romney indeed made a joke about no one asking for his birth certificate during is visit to his home town, it's not the same thing as Sherrif Joe "I'm A Fucking Idiot" Arpaio insisting that the State of Hawaii was wrong when it verified the authenticity of a birth certificate issued by the Stage of Hawaii.  

Yes, Romney is strangely attractive to birthers.  But it seems he has never questioned Obama's citizenship, even while courting the lunatic fringe.

It was a joke.  Romney was joking, or trying to. Nobody accused him of jumping on the birther bandwagon last time,   so lighten up.

The only way we can change the tone of these damaging excuses for elections is to actually change the tone of them; we must turn our backs on lies and deception; for every whopping fib they tell, we must counter with a truth.  We must dazzle them with honesty.

We can't afford to keep having our leadership win by the expedience of telling more lies - or more credible lies - than the opposition; we need leaders who win by being better, not more devious.

August 23, 2012

Lyin' Ryan Protests Himself

Paul Ryan just can't seem to avoid lying to the American people.  This time, he's chastising President Obama for the budget cuts that automatically kick in if Congress doesn't stop its inane bickering in order to pass a proper budget.

The Romney campaign is up at arms, and posted a press release detailing the dire consequences of the plan.
President Obama Signed Legislation That Could Lead To More Than $500 Billion In Defense Cuts In 2013.
-- mittromney.com, August 23. 2012
While the memo mentions that President Obama signed a bill that had passed both houses of Congress, the real cheek is Rep. Ryan blaming the President for doing so.
“President Obama’s reckless defense cuts that are hanging over our cloud, hanging over the horizon..."
-- CNN. 8/22/2012
President Obama's "reckless defense cuts" that were voted on and approved in both houses of Congress.  Since there's only one President, and there are a total of 547 members of Congress, doesn't that really make it Congress' reckless defense cuts?

But Mr. Ryan doesn't stop there. ThinkProgress has posted a video of Mr. Ryan speaking before a crowd.
"We opposed it then; we oppose it now."
-- ThinkProgress.org, 8/23/2012
Except that he didn't oppose it.  He voted for it

Paul Ryan is blaming Barack Obama for signing a bill that Ryan voted for.  Mr. Ryan is lying his ass off when he says he opposed it. You don't oppose things by voting for them, you oppose them by voting against them.  That's the entire point of being able to vote against things.

And he wasn't alone; 174 of his fellow Republicans also voted IN FAVOR OF the same bill that RYAN ALSO VOTED FOR.

Surely, one way to keep Mr. Obama from signing a bill into law would be to vote against it so that it never made it to his desk.  But Mr. Ryan did not vote against it, he voted for it, which means that he approved of the bill, because when you approve of something you vote for it, which is what Ryan did.

August 22, 2012

Do Republicans Revere Rapists?

A little while back, we listed out some of the problematic things that the Republican Party has actively promoted; things like increasing the national debt, limiting our civil rights, violating the Constitutional prohibition against establishing religion in our government, de-emphasizing the sciences in education, and obstructing effective governance.

Sure, the GOP claims to be against all those things, but in fact they've been actively working to make all these things happen.

But we only touched upon the contempt that the Republican Party expresses towards women.  But it's out in the lime light, now that Tod Akin has blurted out a shockingly ignorant opinion - and elicited support from the more extreme fringes of the GOP - there is little room for doubt that today's Grand Old Party is setting out to deny women any rights over their own reproductive system.

BTW, the "ignorant opinion" is not the belief that a woman should be forced to carry a baby that is the result of rape to term - although I do find that a loathsome opinion.

No, it's the defense of that loathsome opinion with an argument knitted out of whole cloth and bolstered by bald-faced deception. 

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
-- Fox2Now.com 08/19/012
Of course, there isn't a medical doctor worth his salt that would make such a ridiculous statement.  Millions of women wind up pregnant as the result of their rape.  There isn't a magic gate on her cervix; her body doesn't erect a barrier to sperm.

But please, don't take MY word for it:
Each year in the US, 10,000–15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest. An unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term. There is absolutely no veracity to the claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (ie, pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.  
-- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Akins then tried to clean it up.  He didn't mean to use the word "legitimate."
 "[I was] making the point that there were people who use false claims, like those that basically created Roe v. Wade."
-- ThinkProgress.org 8/21/12
So, he didn't mean that there's legitimate rape or to imply that sometimes rape is OK, he just meant that women usually lie about getting raped so they can get an abortion

And the sad part about it is that he really believes that that is not an offensive position; and worse, neither does a large number of Republicans in his home state.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Sharon Barnes, a woman AND a Republican AND a Missourian, came to Akin's defense, referring to the results of rape as "God's Blessing" of the violent act against one of his children.
“The congressman is totally, firmly, solidly pro-life,” Sharon Barnes, a member of the state Republican central committee, said, adding that Mr. Akin believed “that abortion is never an option.” ...she added that “at that point, if God has chosen to bless this person with a life, you don’t kill it.”

“That’s more what I believe he was trying to state,” she insisted. “He just phrased it badly.”
-- NY Times, 8/21/2012
No, Ms. Barnes, he didn't phrase it badly.  It's the belief that if you're the victim of a violent rape you should be forced to bear the rapist's child that's the issue.  Many of us believe that a woman should be able to choose what goes in and what comes out.  I understand that your religious views don't permit you to grasp this.  And really, that's fine.  As long as you don't try to force me to live according to your religious beliefs.

But the thing is, making the rest of us live by your religious beliefs is exactly what you're doing.

Huckabee's Right Hook
Conservative pundit and former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee also defends Mr. Akin and his view that women should be forced to carry the child of the man who brutally attacked them.
“Ethel Waters, for example, was the result of a forcible rape,” Huckabee said of the late American gospel singer. One-time presidential candidate Huckabee added: “I used to work for James Robison back in the 1970s, he leads a large Christian organization. He, himself, was the result of a forcible rape. And so I know it happens, and yet even from those horrible, horrible tragedies of rape, which are inexcusable and indefensible, life has come and sometimes, you know, those people are able to do extraordinary things.”
-- latimes.com 8/20/2012
So, that makes rape just fine with Mr. Huckabee.  It's not a gross violation of a woman's body, it's a channel to bring really neat people into the world.

This isn't an issue that just popped up; the entire Republican Party is rotten with people who simply assume that women's views simply don't enter into the equation, and has been for quite some time

Any resemblance to Hannibal Lector is coincidental, probably
Back in March, Chuck Winder of Idaho, the sponsor of that state's "double ultra-sound bill" (raped women must undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure in which their vagina is penetrated and they are forced to look at the image of the result of the violence perpetrated against them before they can have an abortion), simply assumes that women lie about it.
"I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that's part of the counseling that goes on.”
-- The Spokesman-Review, 03/09/12
Let's tally what these Republicans have said about rape so far:
  • Women can't ever get pregnant from rape, because we don't understand the human reproductive system.
  • And they are probably lying about getting raped to justify their abortion.
  • When your rapist impregnates you against your will, it's a blessing.
  • Even though you were raped, the child of the vicious thug who violated you might be a nice person.
  • You weren't raped, you lying slut.
Something to consider about every statement made so far; not one of them address the actual victim: the woman who was raped.  Not one of these Republican pols seems to care about the woman who was brutalized; they only care about the child of a violent criminal.  Even though Mr. Akin did call for us to "punish the rapist," he concluded with "...and not the baby."  But what about the mother, Mr. Akin?  Why must she suffer?

And they haven't dealt with the reality of the results of being raped.  "Save the baby" is all they've considered.

Chicago lawyer Shauna Prewitt bravely steps into the fray, and recounts her own experience of being raped in college:
"You see, nine months after my rape, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl. You could say she was conceived in rape; she was. But she is also so much more than her beginnings. I blissfully believed that after I finally had decided to give birth to and to raise my daughter, life would be all roses and endless days at the playground."
-- CNN 8/22/12
Perhaps you think that she is justifying everything the Radical Right has been saying;  she accepted the life as a blessing, and moved beyond the origin of the seed.

But Ms. Prewitt learned what these politicians haven't been addressing; that even if you accept that life begins at conception, the story of a pregnancy does not end with a birth; especially not for victims of rape.
"It would not be long before I would learn firsthand that in the vast majority of states -- 31 -- men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy."
-- CNN 8/22/12
So even if a woman decides to accept "the blessing" and carry the child to term, to try to convert a sadistic act of humiliation and degradation into something postive, these same thoughtless legislators have done absolutely nothing to end the cycle of pain and abuse perpetrated by rapists.  How is it that felons can have parental rights to offspring they forced onto their victims?  Can it be that these misguided right wingers hope that the woman will come together with her abuser and create a family unit? 

It's time to recall that one of Paul Ryan's failed bills was one he co-sponsored with Mr. Akin.

Two peas in a pod.
Representatives Ryan and Akin, in fact, have voted in lockstep on abortion matters since Akin joined Ryan in the House in 2001. Moreover, they teamed up on a controversial bill defining life as beginning at conception.
-- Christian Science Monitor, 8/21/12
I am forced to conclude that yes, it seems that the Republican Party, or at least a significant part of it, appears to favor the rights of rapists over the rights of their victims.


Remember, when you vote for a party, you vote for everyone it in it, and support its entire agenda.  Be very certain who and what you stand for when you vote in the next election.

August 20, 2012

GOP Takes Stupid to New Levels

It's bad enough that Representative Todd Akin (R, Missouri) was so poorly educated that he believed that women who are raped can't get pregnant because "everything shuts down" and his defense was "I misspoke" instead of a retraction, an apology, and withdrawal from the congressional race.  Anyone who sits on a committee overseeing Science ought to know some science.

Now we have a choice; we can believe Bryan Fischer, speaking for the American Family Association, when he insists that Akin was right.  Fischer holds degrees in Philosophy and Theology.

Or, we can believe the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), who call Akin's remarks "medically inaccurate, offensive, and dangerous."  ACOG is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women.

So here it is, theology versus science.

A doctor of bible studies:
When you have a real, genuine rape, a case of forcible rape, a case of assault rape, where a woman has been violated against her will, through the use of physical force, there’s a very delicate and complex mix of hormones that take place that are released in a woman’s body and if that gets interfered with it may make it impossible for her or difficult in that particular circumstance to conceive a child.
Doctors specializing in women's reproductive health:
There is absolutely no veracity to the claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (ie, pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.

Personally, I have to go with the ACOG and science, because it's based on, you know, reality.