Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Vikings and the Metrodome

I’ve stayed away from the NFL this year because of the limited time I have for playing with my blog, but this one I can’t pass up.

The Minnesota Vikings came into this season with high expectations and a 63,000 seat stadium to play in. They’ve been lobbying for a new stadium since, by NFL standards, 63,000, is pretty small.

Now, approaching the 14th game of the season, the Vikings are a dismal 5-8, out of the play-off picture, without Brett Favre their starting quarterback and desperately trying to get the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium ready for a game against the Bears Monday night. Last week’s Sunday game against the Giants got delayed to Monday night as well and moved to Detroit thanks to a blizzard and the collapse of the roof of the Metrodome. The 21-3 loss to the Giants just added insult to injury.

This has all the earmarks of a total fiasco. Let’s start with the 63,000 ticket holders from last week that probably didn’t drive down to Detroit. The rumor was they gave out tickets for free and only 47,000 or so people took them up on it. I mean, why would people in Detroit flock to a Vikings-Giants game?

Now the problem is that TCF Bank stadium only holds 50,000 people. If they don’t figure out a way to provide extra seating, 13,000 folks are going to have a problem. Even if they manage that, imagine trying to figure out how to distribute the tickets. Then there is the little problem of the 17 inches of snow covering the winterized college stadium and the fact that college stadiums don’t sell beer so there are no kegs at the refreshment stands. Yeah, THAT’S going to go over big. And that’s not to mention the expected 0 degree temperatures for the game Monday night.

I mean, you have to laugh at this one. I was at the Giants-Cowboys game when the lights went out and that was a bit of a trip. I was trying to imagine 82,000, half of them drunk, trying to negotiate leaving the stadium in the pitch dark. Luckily it didn’t come to that.

Yeah, things can even go wrong for the NFL.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Noah’s Ark in Kentucky?

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis (AiG) appears to have worked out a deal with the state of Kentucky to build a full scale model of the mythical Noah’s Ark as the main attraction in a Bible themed park in Northern Kentucky. The state’s aid in this will be in the form of incentives rather than direct funding so it’s sort of on the border of legality. AiG also built the Creation Museum, also in Northern Kentucky. As a matter of fact the two will be within easy driving distance of each other.

Needless to say this is a really dumb idea. You want to know why the U.S. lags behind other countries in education? Well here’s one of the reasons. We let morons like Ken Ham build cathedrals to mythology that disregard real science and then waltz young children through them to have their brains thoroughly washed.

The Creation Museum attracts about 250,000 visitors a year and AiG is hoping the new Noah’s Ark park will attract some 1.6 million visitors a year. The governor of Kentucky is hoping the project will bring much needed jobs into the area.

Hey, it’s a free country. If you want to build monuments to stupidity that’s your right. I just don’t think the state should chip in with tax payer dollars especially when we’re talking about a religious themed project.

Perhaps Kentucky is looking to gain ground on Kansas and Oklahoma in the race for dumbest state?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

We're just average! We're just average!

The 2009 OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) just came out and we’re definitely doing something wrong. The U.S. has dropped to 14th in reading (out of 34), 17th in science and a dismal 25th in mathematics. I suggest we all start studying Chinese as China is starting to converge on Finland and Korea who have been the consistent leaders in education.

This is important because it is driving our ability to compete in the world market. We’re wallowing in complacency and thereby loosing the “first-mover” advantage we’ve enjoyed since the end of World War II. It’s not that we’ve gotten worse, it’s that we haven’t improved as much as everyone else.

Some quotes from the full report.

“…the United States did not measure the performance of states individually on PISA. However, it is possible to compare the performance of public schools among groups of states. Such a comparison suggests that in reading, public schools in the northeast of the United States would perform at 510 PISA score points – 17 score points above the OECD average (comparable with the performance of the Netherlands) but still well below the high-performing education systems examined in this volume – followed by the midwest with 500 score points (comparable with the performance of Poland), the west with 486 score points (comparable with the performance of Italy) and the south with 483 score points (comparable with the performance of Greece).”

There’s the South, at the bottom of the list again. Yet these right wing morons are always ready to tell everyone else how they should live and act. Explain to me again why we didn’t just let them secede?

“…a comparison of countries’ actual spending per student, from the age of 6 up to 15, on average, puts the United States at an even greater advantage, since only Luxembourg spends more than the United States on school education per student.”

Great, we spend more but we accomplish less. Does this sound familiar? This is the same problem that we have with health care.

“With respect to spending on instruction, the United States spends a far lower proportion than the average OECD country on the salaries of high-school teachers.”

“At the same time, high school teachers in the United States teach far more hours…”

Please note the two quotes above Governor Christie. It’s always a good idea to check the facts before arriving at a “solution” to a problem. Teachers are not the problem. If anything we should consider paying them more and working them less not the other way around.

Here's the bottom line, as much as the right wing nutcases would like to believe it is, this country isn't perfect. We have some fundamental problems which need to be addressed because these problems are leading to endemic weaknesses that are slowly but surely eroding our economic prosperity.

We need tax reform; we need educational reform; we need to address the runaway income and wealth disparity that has developed in this country; we need to get the budget deficit under control and we need health care reform. The recent Health Care Reform bill was a step in the right direction but it falls way short of where we need to be. We need more doctors, more hospitals and even broader health insurance coverage. We do not need to repeal the Health Care Reform bill, we need to build upon it.

What we don't need are more tax incentives for the multi-millionaires club or to squander time and resources preventing gay marriage.

Parents Insulted by Book

A couple in New Hampshire have taken their son out of the local high school because he was assigned to read a book which referred to Jesus as a “wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist.”

The book was assigned in the student’s personal finance class and is “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenrich. The book is an account of Ehrenrich’s attempt to survive while working minimum wage jobs in Florida, Minnesota and Maine.

The couple protested to the principal and the school board but both took the position that despite some “questionable” positions, the book had value in describing the difficulties of making ends meet with a limited income.

The quote isn’t meant as an insult to Jesus. It’s part of the following description related to a Christian Church service.

"It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth."

This is a criticism of Christianity implying that it has abandoned the actual teachings of Jesus. The fact is that Jesus was a man that modern Christians in the U.S. probably wouldn’t dream of inviting over for Sunday dinner.

There are two questions here. The first is the appropriateness of the couple’s reaction and the second is how accurate is the description?

As to their reaction over their son encountering sentiments they may not agree with, or may even find offensive, they need to get over it. These opinions exists and will be expressed. Their son is old enough to accept that simple fact. No one is forcing him to accept that Ehrenrich’s opinions or descriptions are the unvarnished truth. He is free to disagree and he is free to express that disagreement. Banning the book isn’t the answer.

What about the accuracy of the description? Merriam-Webster defines vagrant as “one who has no established residence and wanders idly from place to place without lawful or visible means of support.”

Well, Jesus did wander from place to place but one could argue, even if one doesn’t buy the Son of God bit, that it wasn’t idle. As an itinerant preacher he certainly had a purpose. As for a means of support, one can infer that he lived on the donations of his followers in the same way that modern priests and pastors live on those donations. Therefore I have to conclude that calling him a vagrant is inaccurate.

As for “wine-guzzling,” I have to assume this is derived from the last supper. Wine would have been pretty standard with meals in Palestine at that time and I see no evidence Jesus “ guzzled” it nor even that he ever drank it. I have to conclude that this is inaccurate as well.

That brings us to “precocious socialist.” Certainly some of Jesus’ opinions appear to lean toward the socialist, but I think this is a bit of a stretch. The fact of the matter is that one can find Jesus quotes which, if interpreted properly, could be claimed to support almost any political position from the far right to the far left.

In order to address the question “was Jesus a socialist,” one has to agree upon what a “socialist” is. Technically, socialism decrees that the government should control the means of production, the means of generating wealth, and distribute that wealth in an even handed manner. Socialism doesn’t say everyone should share equally in the wealth, the manager can get more than the mail room clerk, but that the disparity should be kept within reason and everyone should get some minimum share.

Capitalism on the hand, is a wide open free for all with no guarantees for anybody.

People, read that right wing conservatives, also use “socialism” to describe any government decreed action which moves wealth from the richer segment of the population to the poorer. By this definition welfare, Medicare, minimum wage laws, housing subsidies, food stamps and even Social Security are “socialist.”

Certainly Jesus didn’t believe in the government controlling all means of production. He probably would have been flabbergasted at the idea. Nor do I think he believed in the government redistribution of wealth. This was sort of what the Romans were doing by taxing the provinces in order to feed and entertain the plebe underclass in Rome.

What he did believe in was individual charity and not amassing a fortune to the detriment of everyone else so he certainly wasn’t a rock ribbed Republican Capitalist. At the time he could only appeal to individual conscience. All of the Jesus quotes I have ever seen which people claim illustrate his socialist leaning are appeals for individuals to do the right thing.

The question is if someone had suggested the concept of the government FORCING the rich to contribute to the welfare of the poor would he have embraced that idea?

It’s difficult to say. If the government forces you to do what’s right than what would be the criteria for dividing the sheep and the goats? Certainly Jesus was concerned with the welfare of the poor, but the only way he knew of addressing that concern was to appeal to individual generosity.

So I’d have to say that labeling him a “precocious socialist” is probably inaccurate too. That makes Ehrenrich 0 for 3 in my opinion.

Arsenic Based Life?

Maybe, and maybe not.

On December 2, 2010, NASA released a scientific paper claiming that a strain of bacteria named GFAJ-1 had been developed that substituted arsenic in its DNA for phosphorus.

This would be a very big deal. Every life form we knew about previously was dependent upon phosphorus to build its DNA. If life could exist substituting arsenic, and perhaps other elements, then we would have to greatly expand our concepts on what it takes for life to develop and the probability that life exists elsewhere in the universe would take a huge leap toward the likely end of the spectrum.

Then scientists around the country started to review and criticize the paper.

The consensus of opinion at the moment seems to be that the researchers that published the paper in the journal Science hadn’t made their case. And that was one of the milder ways of putting it. Some of the reactions were considerably more scathing than that, calling the experiments flawed or even downright sloppy.

This is how science works.

You do the research, you publish the results and then you wait for the reviews. The negative reactions here do not mean the results of the paper are wrong. They don’t even mean the experiments were flawed or sloppy. This is all a matter of opinion. The authors are sticking by their guns and have offered to make samples of GFAJ-1 available to other researchers.

Critics say that a few straightforward tests can determine if the bacteria have arsenic based DNA or not. If that’s true, one has to wonder why the research team didn’t use those tests.

At any rate, the matter will be resolved by additional testing and research. NASA isn’t planning to petition local school boards to include “Arsenic Based Life” as a biology topic. I don’t hear any calls to “teach the controversy” because that is not how science works.

This is what makes sense. This is the process used to separate good science from bad science. This is the process that Creationists try to sidestep when they try to get so-called Creation Science or Intelligent Design into high schools classrooms while claiming it’s “what’s fair.”

No, it’s not “what’s fair.” It’s asking for a privilege not extended to anyone else. It’s asking to be declared valid science without having to do the research, publish the results and address the criticism of peer reviewers that are knowledgeable experts in the subject matter.

Why do they avoid following the established process? Because what they call science is total crap without a leg to stand on that’s why. It’s wishful thinking without a shred of evidence to support it.

If Christianity can champion total nonsense like Creationism and support it with lies and dishonesty, then I have to conclude that all of Christianity is nonsense supported by lies and dishonesty.

Like the American Atheists billboard says, “You KNOW it’s a Myth.”

The Tax Cut Compromise

You have got to be kidding me!

Whatever happened to the idea of fiscal responsibility? Obama gave in to the Republicans big time in order to get the unemployment extensions that every economist in the country said were going to get the best return on investment. In the meantime, all of the continuing tax cuts for the wealthy demanded by the Republicans are going to provide the worst return on investment.

The Democrats try to do what’s best for the country; the Republicans are only interested in what’s best for Republicans.

I don’t buy the Republican bullshit that the marginal tax rate for the wealthiest citizens is going to negatively impact small businesses because I happen to understand how economics and the tax structure work. It’s the old if the facts aren’t on your side, make up some phony ones and pitch them loud and often to the morons that make up the American electorate.

Even more ridiculous is the reduction in the Social Security payroll tax applied to everyone for 2011. That’s going to cost something like $120 billion in federal revenue.

Here’s the bottom line. We’re not going to be able to dig ourselves out of the current financial hole we’re in by any conceivable economic growth scheme. It’s not going to happen. In other words you can’t get there through tax cuts. The Laffer Curve and Supply Side Economics are total nonsense. What’s required are tax increases and spending cuts with an ultimate objective of reducing the wealth and income disparity that has developed in this country.

That’s reality, and the sooner we recognize it the sooner we can start to get the economy back on a stable footing. If you insist on calling this Socialism, be my guest. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s what’s needed for the economy to really recover.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Proposition 8 in the 9th Circuit

The 9th Circuit Court is in the process of considering the Constitutionality of Proposition 8 which eliminated gay marriage rights in California after the California Supreme Court had granted them.

There are actually two parts to the argument. The first is whether Proposition 8 advocates even have the legal right to appeal the lower court decision which declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional since both Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown refused to.

There are a fairly wide range of possible decisions here.

The court could declare that the Proposition 8 advocates don’t have standing and the lower court ruling would therefore stand. I don’t expect this to happen.

The court could simply decide that it is constitutional for the electorate to take away a right granted to a segment of the population by the courts by amending the state constitution via a simple majority vote. I don’t really expect this to happen either.

The court could decide that any and all restrictions on gay marriage in states within its jurisdiction are unconstitutional. This would potentially legalize gay marriage in nine states pending possible Supreme Court review. This would be a bombshell that would almost certainly be overturned by the current conservative Supreme Court so I don’t expect this to happen either.

What I expect is a very narrow ruling to the effect that you cannot so easily deny a right from a very specific segment of the population once it has been granted by the court. This would restore gay marriage, at least temporarily, in California but not affect the other states in the 9th Circuit jurisdiction. This would also have some chance of not being overturned since I guarantee you that this case is headed to the Supreme Court no matter what the decision in the 9th Circuit.

Even if the ruling gets by the Supreme Court, you can be sure that gay marriage opponents will be looking for other ways to end its legality in California.

I think gays should have the right to marry if they want to regardless of how bizarre that might sound to some people. I don’t understand why this isn’t a big “don’t care” to everyone except religious wackos and we can safely ignore them.

Here’s hoping the 9th Circuit does the right thing.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Latinos, DREAM and Obama

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, an innovation close to the hearts of Latino leaders, appears to be on its last legs.

DREAM establishes a set of criteria for illegal aliens brought to this country as minors by their parents to obtain first temporary and then permanent residency. The criteria include no criminal record, at least a high school diploma, not ever being under an order of deportation, being brought here before the age of 16 and being here at least 5 years.

Permanent legal status would be granted after eithercompleting two years of college (one hopes it has to be an accredited college in order to avoid “colleges” springing up in the rear of bodegas) or at least two years of military service with an honorable discharge. Needless to say, the defense department supports this bill.

I don’t have a big problem with the bill either other than I didn’t see anything about being proficient in English. It gives young men and women, brought here by their parents, a way to obtain legal status in possibly the only country they’ve ever known as home.
Of course it’s more than a little controversial.

The Latino leadership is miffed at President O because he hasn’t pushed passage of either comprehensive immigration reform or even this plan B substitute. Actually they’re more than miffed, they feel betrayed.

As a result people like Representative Luis Guitierrez from Chicago are threatening to ditch the legislative route and take to the streets in an attempt to duplicate the success of the Black Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

I think that could be a major mistake if they don’t think this one through carefully.

There is a difference between the Black Civil Rights movement and immigration reform. Actually, there are several differences.

The single most important one is the difference between American Citizens simply asking for what they are entitled to under the law and people here illegally, even if through no fault of their own, who have no right to what they are asking for. Or at least no legal right to what they are asking for.

A second difference is that there is no emerging young, leftist baby boomer generation ready to take up the cause and provide an initial wave of white majority support.

A third difference is that the Civil Rights demonstrations in the south triggered violent, racist responses. You couldn’t watch blacks being blasted with fire hoses for simply asking for what they were entitled to as American Citizens without going WTF? It’s unlikely that Hispanic demonstrations will get that kind of response. Far more likely they will just end up being an annoyance, an inconvenience or ignored.

Finally, and a bit racist, is I never had to “hit one if you’re not black” like I have to “hit one to continue in English.” I grind my teeth every time I have to do that or have to wait through a repeat of the message in Spanish and I’m a lot more tolerant than most people.

If Guitierrez is going to try and drum up support, I say go for it, but if his efforts end up annoying the rest of us, this could really backfire.

Excuse me while I laugh at myself. What I just wrote sounds like the old “whatever you do, don’t push ‘em or you’ll get those extremists re-elected” advice from the old civil rights days. Unfortunately, given the realities of the situation, it might actually be sound advice.

I’m not saying be patient or be quiet. I’m saying direct your activities toward building sympathy and support then the political process becomes your ally. That’s what the black leadership did in the 1960s but I’m not sure that’s what the Latino leadership is thinking in 2010.

Monday, November 29, 2010


WikiLeaks has released approximately 250,000 diplomatic cables from the past 3 years. The cables are fascinating reading but one has to wonder what, other than proving you can do it, is the point?

The release has initiated a criminal investigation by the Justice Department into exactly how the whistle blowing website managed to obtain the documents.

So what do I think about all this? It’s hard to see what the benefit is to anyone. It’s not preventing someone from being falsely prosecuted, it’s not releasing anyone unjustly imprisoned and it’s not exposing unjust wars nor nefarious plots. If anything, it’s jeopardizing a number of peace initiatives.

Did you really think that all diplomatic negotiations were open to public scrutiny? You can be sure that the most critical, and the most potentially productive, are being done under a shroud of secrecy.

So what has WikiLeaks accomplished? Absolutely nothing of value. I’m all for freedom of the press but the press has to be responsible as well. If they did anything illegal to obtain this stuff, I say throw the book at them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Barbara Bush says "Stay in Alaska"

It's hard to believe that I haven't posted anything on my poor neglected blog in almost three weeks. This one snapped me out of my lethargy.

It seems that Dame Barbara isn't impressed with the erstwhile darling of the Tea Party Sarah Palin. Apparently, in a CNN interview, she expressed the opinion that Palin should stay in Alaska.

Too bad she didn't convince little Georgie to stay in Texas.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Election Night 2010

Well, as expected, the Democrats got taken behind the barn for a good old fashion whooping. I’m not going to say they didn’t deserve it, because they probably did.

However, if you look behind the headlines, you will find both disturbing news and rays of hope.

The disturbing news is that three judges in Iowa, among the seven that voted unanimously to legalize gay marriage, were defeated in their re-election bids. The sole reason for this removal appears to be that vote. The anti-gay marriage forces campaigned hard against them and this was the first time that sitting judges were removed by popular vote.

I never could understand the concept of having judges being elected. This sort of runs counter to the concept of an independent judiciary that can protect the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority. Still, several states do it. I know New York does.

The removal of the judges is by far the most disturbing aspect of last night’s election. Not only does it jeopardize the independence of the judiciary, it clearly demonstrates that the country still isn’t ready for gay marriage.

Ok, now for the good news. The three biggest morons ever nominated for the U.S. Senate, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Sharron Angle in Nevada and Joe Miller in Alaska, all appear to have been rejected by the electorate. The only race still up in the air a bit is Alaska where “Write-in” is ahead. This of course is Lisa Murkowski, who is also a moron, but not nearly as big a moron as Miller.

I think we can all take enormous satisfaction in the fact that Angle and, especially O’Donnell, will not be headed for Washington. Here’s hoping they’re headed for obscurity instead.

So now what? Hopefully the Republicans will focus on the economy and financial issues while ignoring, or at most playing lip service to, social issues and the Democrats will meet them half-way. The most important issue over the next two years will be to get some fiscal responsibility in place.

The Democrats didn’t really understand that, perhaps the Republicans do. Personally I doubt it. I’m betting the Republicans do nothing for the next two years other than work at making Obama look bad and blaming the Democrats for everything.

Let’s hope the American Electorate isn’t stupid enough to buy it although I’m pretty sure it is stupid enough.

In the meantime the lame ducks have to wrestle with the fate of the Bush tax cuts. This should be entertaining.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thoughts before the 2010 Elections

Well, the Democrats are about to get clobbered. Why? It’s the economy stupid.

The Democrats made two fundamental mistakes. First they did not attack first and foremost the issue bothering the country the most and second they did not EXPLAIN to the electorate what
they were thinking and trying to accomplish.

They neither listened nor communicated.

So now the fickle electorate is about to return the Republicans to power. Or at least to half power.

We have some serious economic and fiscal problems that need to be addressed and my fear is that a partisan and fractured government will be unable to do anything constructive.

My second fear is no matter what the government does, the results are not going to meet the electorate's expectations because those expectations are unrealistic . The days of economic boom may very well be over and we may need to rethink our definition of an economic recovery.

I guess we shall see what we shall see.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Time Travelers and Fatties

The two latest Internet flaps are related to a 1928 Charlie Chaplin film and a bloggers comments about overweight people.

Let’s start with the Charlie Chaplin film. Irish filmmaker George Clark posted a clip on the Internet showing the 1928 premiere of Chaplin’s film “The Circus.” In it one can see a woman walking down the street and holding to her ear which Clark says looks like a mobile phone.

A mobile phone in 1928? Obviously the only explanation is a Time Traveler has been discovered.

Well, not really. I can think of any number of explanations more plausible than a, rather careless, Time Traveler was accidently caught on film. Here’s someone who clearly took great pains to dress in the style of 1928 to hide her identify as a Time Traveler, but has no problem walking openly down the street talking on an electronic device that won’t be invented for decades.

It doesn’t concern me that there weren’t any cell towers in 1928 since clearly she’s speaking to the time ship in orbit around the earth. Why is the time ship in orbit? Because time travel is only possible in the near vacuum of outer space.

But a simple slash with Occam’s razor says that far more likely is the lady is using a simple ear trumpet or even holding a bit of ice to relieve her toothache on her way to the dentist.

The other recent flap is due to an article by Marie Claire writer Maura Kelly called ‘Should “Fatties” Get a Room?’ The article is about whether people feel uncomfortable watching overweight people make out on television. This pressing philosophical question was brought to light as the result of the CBS show “Mike and Molly” which features two hefty folks that are romantically involved.

Apparently Ms. Kelly finds very fat people “aesthetically displeasing” and would be “grossed out” if she had to “watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other.”

Believe it or not she was foolish enough to admit this in print and then, predictably, she was subjected to an avalanche of criticism. At that point she backpedaled rapidly and issued an apology.

Well, since Maura opened Pandora's box, I have to be honest and To be honest and say that I find morbidly obese people “aesthetically displeasing” as well. I also find them a real pain in the ass in some situations such as when they’re in the seat next to me on an airplane.

I was in Chicago waiting to board a plane for Newark. I had gotten lucky that day and had a first class upgrade. There was an extremely overweight lady waiting to board the same flight. I heard her explain to the flight attendant that she was flying first class because she couldn’t fit safely into a tourist seat. She then requested a seat belt extender because the first class belt, even at maximum length, didn’t fit around her. No, she didn’t end up in the seat next to me, but you should have seen the look on the face of the guy she did end up next to.

I was coming out of the Giants game a week or two ago when I saw an extremely overweight couple coming down the exit ramp. He had to top 400 pounds and she had to be over 300 pounds. All I could think of was imagine having them sitting next to you game, after game, after game.

Two things I find distasteful are people who are “morbidly fat” and people who are “morbidly ignorant” such as Creationists. Now, I will admit that in a few cases the condition is beyond the person’s control, but in the majority of cases it’s not, and the fact they’re too freaking lazy to do anything about it is simply not cool.

If this makes me an insensitive jerk then so be it.

Hey, working out five times a week and limiting what you eat is no fun, but a lot a people do it. I’m 6’ 1” and I work at staying in the 200 pound to 205 pound weight class and even that they tell me is overweight.

Is it easy? No. Is it fun? No, not really, but just because it’s not easy and not fun doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. If not for yourself then for those of us who end up sitting next to you on five hour flights.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Paul is now a memory

Paul, the octopus that entertained the world during the World Cup by correctly picking match winners, has passed away in his tank at the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen Germany. Paul was 2 ½ years old and will be sorely missed.

The aquarium plans a small burial site and monument to its most famous resident.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Let’s Party like it’s 1955

Let’s try something shall we. Let’s take the 1955 tax tables, update them for inflation, and compare the taxes paid for various taxable incomes between the inflation adjusted 1955 tax tables and the 2010 tax tables. In other words, compare what you would be paying in taxes under the 1955 tax structure to what you would be paying under the 2010 tax structure.

I chose 1955 because that seems to be the year that Conservatives would like to roll us back to.

For comparison I arbitrarily chose six taxable income levels, $25,000, $50,000, $100,000, $250,000, $1,000,000 and $10,000,000. The comparisons are shown in the chart.

There are two things about this chart that should strike you. The first is that EVERYBODY would pay a hell of a lot less taxes under the 2010 tax structure than the 1955 tax structure. The idea that taxes have been going up is a myth. The problem is that INCOME has not gone up by much except for the very rich.

The second thing that should strike you is that the folks that have gotten the most benefit from the changes in tax policy of the past 55 years have been the ultra-rich and the people that have gotten the least benefit are the folks in the middle.

Now, let me make this perfectly clear, the richest people, the ones who are supposed to be paying the most taxes in a progressive tax structure, are paying a hell of a lot less taxes, relatively speaking, than they were in 1955. They’re still paying more absolute taxes than everyone else but their relative tax burden has been greatly reduced. For every $1 of taxes they would be paying under the 1955 tax structure, they're only paying $0.40 under the 2010 tax structure.

You think 1955 is a bad choice? OK, let’s go to 1981, the year just before the first Reagan tax cut and compare. Again, I will adjust the 1981 tax tables for inflation and this is what you get.

This is even worse. The folks at the poverty level are paying MORE of their income in taxes while the ultra-rich are paying about half of what they would have paid under the 1981 tax structure. If this doesn’t get you bent out of shape, you have serious issues.

Please don’t take my word for this. The historical tax tables and Inflation Calculators are available on the web and the arithmetic involved is modest . Anyone with Excel can easily verify my numbers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Constitution says what?

Apparently Tea Party darling Christine O'Donnell was unaware that the principle of the Separation of Church and State derived from the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

It boggles the mind that a candidate for the U.S. Senate nominated by a major political party in the 21st century doesn't know this.

Add to this the fact that their economic policies are based upon wishful thinking with a healthy helping of voodoo economics and you have to be really stupid, really ignorant, or just plain insane to vote Republican.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

So how are we doing?

If the truth must be told, not terribly well. In March of 2009 I made this statement about the health of the country “I think we’re in big trouble and it’s going to take some doing to turn things around, two, maybe three years or maybe even longer. The big question is how much patience will the traditionally impatient American public have?”

Well, as it turned out, it didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of that patience. In far less than two years I’m hearing the electorate is “ANGRY” and prepared to vote out the Democrats and sweep in the Republicans.

I guess I would like to ask two questions. The first is why are folks angry with an administration that did exactly what it said it was going to do, (1) implement Health Care Reform, (2) implement Financial Industry Reform and (3) end the war in Iraq? The second is why would you give control to a party whose solution to everything seems to be either “do nothing” or “give the rich folks more money and wait?”

Then there is the Tea Party.

Recently I’m hearing that their big beef is government is too intrusive. I interpret this to mean “they’re taking my money and giving it to someone else.”

Now I sympathize with that position. If you’re doing the work, then you should be getting the benefit. Charity is fine as long as it’s voluntary and not depriving you or your family of stuff. If you’re putting in the hours, then you should be able to buy not only what you need but what you want as well.

However, I keep warning people they need to be certain that they understand the problem before they figure out the solution. The problem is that far too much of the country’s wealth is being sucked up by a tiny percentage of the population and the primary factor at the root of that is our not terribly progressive income tax structure.

Stop worrying about the few pennies you’re contributing to housing subsidies and start worrying about the thousands of dollars that never even make it to your paycheck.

Let’s talk prosperity shall we. Between 1950 and 1980, the real income (in other words adjusted for inflation) that marked the top of the lowest income quintile rose by 99.5%, the 2nd quintile by 95.4%, the 3rd quintile by 107.9% and the 4th quintile by 109.9%. At the tippy top of the income scale, the minimum income to be in the top 5% rose by 103.4%.
In other words, everybody was doing pretty darn good.

To be honest though the 1970s were a bit of a dud and the real boom times were the 1950s and 1960s. Would you like to know the minimum and maximum tax rates back then? In 1959, the minimum tax rate was 20% and the maximum was 91%. In 1969, the minimum was 14% and the maximum was 70%. In 1979, the minimum was 0% (yes, that’s right, 0% if you were married filing jointly and made $3,400 or less, which translates to around $10,000 in 2008) and the maximum 70%.

Now let’s look at 1980 to 2008. The real income that marked the top of the lowest income quintile rose by 7.4% (no, that’s not a typo, I really meant 7.4%), the 2nd quintile by 13.2%, the 3rd quintile by 21.6% and the 4th quintile by 30.8%. At the tippy top of the income scale, the minimum income to be in the top 5% rose by 46.2%.

The 2000s were a complete dud. Real income actually went down for all of the groups. For the lowest income quintile income went down by 7.4% (no, that’s not a typo, I really meant 7.4% again), the 2nd quintile by 3.4%, the 3rd quintile by 2.2% and the 4th quintile by 0.9%. Even the tippy top of the income scale felt the blahs slightly, the minimum income to be in the top 5% went down by 0.1%. Notice however that the higher up you are, the less the negative impact.

And you wonder why the electorate is upset?

As for the income tax rate, the lowest rate is 10%, and the highest 35%.

Ok, that’s a lot of numbers, so what does it all mean? Our national psyche was established in the 1950 – 1970 boom times. Strong economy, military superpower and squanderer of the world’s resources. We were the biggest, the baddest, the best and, na├»ve suckers that we are, figured even better was yet to come.

There was a bit of a hiccup in the late 1970s but hey, that was all Jimmy Carter’s fault. Ronald Reagan and the Conservative resurgence of the 1980s saved the day.

Or at least that’s the story you will hear from lots of places.

The actual numbers however tell a different story. Simply looking at the graphs says that things started to flatten out in the 1980s. So how come no one noticed? Well, they did, they were just shouted down or were in the process of insuring that the right people didn’t get too badly inconvenienced.

The Republican Administrations of the 1980s (often cheered on and supported by Democrats who owed their campaign treasuries to the same special interests) (1) adjusted the tax rates to reduce taxes and drastically reduce the marginal tax rate and (2) cut interest rates making easy credit available.

This is the Conservative Supply Side “trickle down” philosophy. Cut everyone’s taxes, but especially the taxes for the rich, so there is investment in the economy, make credit easily available so companies can expand and insure the riff-raff are standing by, with the cash from their tax cuts ,to buy the results of that investment and expansion. Prosperity will eventually “trickle down” from the rich (who got the direct cash through the big tax cuts) to the poorest citizens. Even government revenues increase thanks to the magic of the Laffer Curve.

Basically, this is total horseshit.

What actually happens is (1) the rich take the extra cash (thank you very much) and do with it whatever they want which may include investing in more rapidly expanding economies such as China, Brazil and India, (2) the middle and working classes get tired of waiting for the “trickle down” prosperity and discover that credit works almost as well as income.

From 1978 to 2008, the Outstanding Consumer Credit, adjusted for inflation, rose from $867 billion dollars to $2.5 trillion. Yes, that’s trillion with a “T.” An increase of 192%. Of course the Federal Government did even worse. The National Debt, also adjusted for inflation, rose by 294%.

We are clearly living beyond our means. Let me say that slowly, W-E- - -A-R-E- - -L-I-V-I-N-G- - -B-E-Y-O-N-D- - -O-U-R- - -M-E-A-N-S.

Here’s the bottom line, the country can no longer live like it’s 1968. It is time to face the new realities of the world. We need to do more with less and we need to start digging out from the financial hole we’ve dug ourselves into.

I don’t know how we’re going to do this but someone better figure it out or we’re all pretty much screwed. More of the Supply Side nonsense that got us into this mess I don’t think is going to cut it. When Slick Willy RAISED taxes, things worked out quite well. Not only were the 1990s more prosperous than the 1980s, we got a balanced budget too.

Unfortunately Dubyah gave us more Reaganomics and I don’t know WTF Obama is doing. Do these people even recognize the looming catastrophe we’re facing? I don’t hear ANYONE, in either party, that sounds like he does. Of course the Tea Party has no idea what’s going on and probably couldn’t do the simple arithmetic necessary to work it out.

I have this really bad feeling.

Monday, October 04, 2010

What’s in my Wallet?

Here is a silly narcissistic exercise walking through the various plastic and paper in my wallet. I’m not doing this for any particular reason, just to see how it works out. There are two primary compartments. The first is an outside compartment and relatively easily accessible and the second sort of buried out of sight.

In the outside compartment we have.

Citibank Mastercard – This is the day to day charge card that I use. Actually this is my wife’s charge card. I started using it when I got pissed off at my Visa charge card folks and because she gets points for everything charged. We are what is known as “deadbeats” in the charge card industry. We pay off our cards every month, so we never have any interest, and we only use cards with no fee.

Bank of America Platinum Check Card (Visa Debit) – This is my ATM card which I never use except when I sign in at the bank. I’ve never used an ATM machine and I use credit cards rather than a debit card because I pay them off every month anyway.

Starbuck’s Gold Card –Yes, I’m a Starbuck’s Gold Card holder. I get my cup of Decaf Black just about every morning on the way to work.

Chase Visa Card – This used to be my main credit card until I got annoyed with them a couple of years ago. This card is now relegated to Internet use only. All my auto-payments are on this card and it’s what I use for all Internet purchases so they don’t do so bad.

Friday’s More Stripes Card – I got talked into signing up for this at Friday’s. I think I get free stuff and discounts when I go to the restaurant but I don’t really remember. If nothing else they won’t bug me to sign up any more.

US Bank Corporate Visa Card – My corporate charge card which I use when on company business.

Verizon Corporate Calling Card – A phone calling card which I can use either on company business or in an emergency. Cell phones have sort of made the emergency part of this overtaken by events and since I rarely make business calls other than from a hotel room, I rarely use this card. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall ever using it.

Macy’s Visa Charge Card – I never use this card. I only opened the charge account to help my daughter meet a quota for opening charge accounts when she started working at Macy’s. Come to think of it, they sent me a new card so this one is expired. I never even activated that one.

Democratic National Committee Membership Card – You were expecting a Republican National Committee card?

ACLU Membership Card – Yes, I’m a card carrying member of the ACLU.

Prescription Drug Plan Card – Just in case but I’m pretty sure it’s already on file at my local pharmacy.

Medical Insurance Card – Just in case.

Sears Mastercard – Another card I never use. I don’t even think this one has been activated. They also have sent me a new card so it’s also probably expired.

Allstate Motor Club Card – Also just in case. I’ve used this on a number of occasions.

Doctor’s Business Card – Not terribly useful and not really necessary either. I don't carry my cardiologist's card and that might make more sense.

Limo Service Business Card – Just in case also.

Foxwoods Dream Card – Left over from my last vacation.

MetLife Central Countdown Card – Used to win stuff at Giants games. So far I’ve won two stuffed Snoopys and a soft Giants hat.

Now we move to the inside compartment.

New Jersey Driver’s License – Since my passport expired this is the only official photo ID that I have. I think I should really go get a new passport.

Military Driver’s License (expired) – More of a souvenir than anything else. It’s been expired for 12 years.

Social Security Card – Wow. This one surprised me. I didn’t know I was carrying this around.

1986 Giants vs. Redskins Championship Game Ticket Stub – I laminated the puppy and then a few years later got it signed by Harry Carson. That thing is 24 years old. Would you like to know how things have changed? First of all it’s literally a stub. It’s half of the ticket torn when I entered and, second, the price on it is $29.

Draft Card – Yes, I still carry my draft card. I’ve been carrying it around for 44 years. I don’t have any of my classification cards though.

I also found an expired ACLU membership card, an expired insurance card, an expired Allstate Motor Club card, an expired Avis Wizard card, a key to a long gone Chrysler I used to own and a $1 coin. I really need to do a better job of cleaning out my wallet.

What’s that? What about cash? I have $397, a 5 pound note and an old $5 bill. So if you add everything up, including the $1 coin, at the current exchange rate, I’m carrying $406.15.

Ok, that was fun, sort of. Clearly I’m starting to be one of those folks with too much time on my hands.

Gay Marriage 2010

Recent polls by CNN and the Associated Press now indicate that support for same sex marriage in the United States has a small majority. These are the first two polls showing a majority of Americans supporting Gay Marriage.

A statistical analysis, done by two Columbia University professors, indicates that support has increased in all states, including conservative states with anti-gay marriage constitutional amendments.

I have some problems with the analysis however as it claims 56% approval in California and 55% in Maine, two states which rather recently voted against Gay Marriage.

For whatever reason, polls and media analysis always seem to overestimate Gay Marriage support. I suspect there might be a bit of a Bradley Effect here with some respondents saying what they think they should say rather than what they really think.

The page is not going to ultimately turn until the first state ratifies Gay Marriage in a referendum that has been openly opposed by religion.

I continue to be amazed at the reasons given for opposing Gay Marriage especially from people that will most likely never encounter a gay couple. I stand by my position that this should be a big don’t care to the heterosexual community. I don’t know why some small percentage of the population has its sexual wires crossed, but they deserve the same protections under the law as the rest of us.

Liking what they do is not a prerequisite for equal protection under the law.

Friday, October 01, 2010

A Suicide at Rutgers

Tyler Clementi, a Freshman at Rutgers University, apparently committed suicide by jumping off of the George Washington bridge after a video of him in a homosexual encounter was uploaded to the internet.

The two students, including Clementi’s roommate, that allegedly secretly created the video and then uploaded it, have been charged with invasion of privacy which carries a maximum jail term of 5 years. If New Jersey officials decide to prosecute the case as a hate crime, that would double the maximum jail term to 10 years.

People are questioning the role of the university and wringing their hands over the potential for broad mischief inherent in the Internet but I don’t hear anyone criticizing the Christian churches and Conservative organizations that have done their best to demonize homosexuality. Do you suppose Clementi would have chosen the same route if he had been filmed in a heterosexual encounter?

I suspect that answer to that is no.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Atheists know more about religion

Everyone appears to be having a good time with the latest Pew Forum survey where Atheists and Agnostics scored the highest on questions about religion.

I took an abbreviated form of the survey and got 15 out of 15 correct. It’s not exactly rocket science just basic common knowledge. My perfect score was better than 99% of the population which only averaged 50% right. Jews did the best on the 15 question survey getting 65% right. Atheists/Agnostics were next with 64% right.

In the actual survey, Atheists/Agnostics scored the highest getting an average of 20.9 out of 32 questions correct; Jews were next at 20.5 and then Mormons at 20.3. I’m not sure I would consider those differences significant.

The overall average was 16. White Evangelical Christians got an average of 17.6 correct and White Catholics 16.0. At the bottom of the list were Hispanic Catholics at 11.6 and Black Protestants at 13.4.

The two most difficult questions on the survey were related to Maimonides and the First Great Awakening. Only 8% knew Maimonides was Jewish and only 11% could identify Jonathan Edwards as a figure in the First Great Awakening.

Which sort of indicates something wrong with the quiz. There were only 5 and 3 choices respectively, so unless some folks didn’t even guess, one would have expected numbers closer to 20% and 33%. As it turns out, “I don’t know” was always an option and 71% had never heard of Maimonides and 50% answered “I don’t know” to the Edwards question.

The only question that gave me some pause was the Jonathan Edwards one. The three choices were Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney or Billy Graham. I knew it wasn’t Billy Graham and Charles Finney didn’t sound like a Puritan name so I figured it had to be Jonathan Edwards.

In questions specific to Christianity, Mormons did the best with 7.9 out of 12 correct, followed by White Evangelical Protestants with 7.3 out of 12. Atheist/Agnostics were third with 6.7 out of 12.
Some of the results were almost unbelievable. Supposedly only 16% of Christians knew that Protestants, but not Catholics, taught that salvation was through faith alone.

Any reasonably educated person should have been able to answer an overwhelming majority of the questions. There were a few that I wouldn’t expect most people to know, and we all have areas of ignorance that would surprise our friends, but most of the questions were pretty simple.

I’m not at all sure this means anything significant beyond Americans are a hell of a lot more ignorant than they should be.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Scalia and Virginia

The best thing for the United States would be if Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas would decide that their true calling in life is to open a bait and tackle shop in Cape Cod.

The latest from Scalia is that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment doesn’t protect women’s rights. It’s not that papa Antonio is opposed to women’s rights, or so he claims, he simply claims that wasn’t the original intent of those who wrote the 14th Amendment in the mid-nineteenth century.

Uh-huh, yet he believes that the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, written in the eighteenth century, somehow allows corporations to spend as much money as they want to influence elections.

Basically Scalia retreats to a doctrine of “originalism” when it suits his purpose but he’s quite happy to allow the Constitution to grow and be interpreted broadly when that suits his purpose.

In other words, he’s a hypocrite that’s only interested in his personal right wing opinions. He doesn’t have an objective bone in his body. Everything is viewed through a lens of personal subjectivity. He’s a small man in a job that requires someone who can see beyond himself and small men can’t do that.

As for Virginia, they are on the verge there of executing a woman for the first time in 98 years. Forty-one year old Teresa Lewis was convicted of hiring two men to kill her husband in 2002 so she could collect a $250,000 insurance policy. The two men that actually did the killing got life without parole. Lewis would be the twelfth woman executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

This is one of those cases that make it hard upon death penalty opponents. Lewis is clearly guilty. There is absolutely no chance of a mistake so how, ethically, can one argue that she doesn’t deserve to pay with her own life for the life she took?

The answer is that the argument against capital punishment is not based upon specific cases but upon the totality of the institution. I do not deny that some people absolutely deserve to be executed. But I would prefer a thousand murderers that deserve execution end up with life without parole rather than one innocent person die.

Teresa Lewis is not an argument against capital punishment. The very real certainty of errors is.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Problem with Obama

President Obama has done some good things, and he’s done some not so good things. I don’t agree with the man on everything, but I’m willing to accept that he might know better than I do if for no other reason than he has better information.

Back in November of 2008 we were all congratulating ourselves on electing a black man to the presidency. The media was already preparing an obituary for racism. Unfortunately the election has had the effect of bringing racism out of the closet and into the main stream once again.

However, instead of the Ku Klux Klan, we have the Tea Party.

Republicans, Conservatives in general and white Evangelical Christians will never forgive Barack for being young, black, progressive and not fundie enough.

I don’t believe he’s a Muslim. My guess is he’s most likely an agnostic or an atheist. Heaven help the country if the wing nuts ever get hold of that one.

So what has this got to do with the problem with him? Absolutely nothing, I just felt I needed to say it. Now, the problem with Obama is, has been, and, unfortunately, probably always will be, that he thinks Americans are smart enough to understand what makes sense and what doesn’t without having to be constantly banged over the head with a two-by-four.

What he needed to do, and didn’t, was wage a constant publicity campaign to keep the American public from being hoodwinked on a regular basis. Actually, let’s be honest, he needed a minister of propaganda. Basically he has been out propagandized and now we’re all probably going to pay for it.

Of course for some Americans, nothing could have helped as they no grip upon reality whatsoever and feeding them facts would just make them hold on tighter to their prejudices.

As far as civilized western populations are concerned, Americans are, on average, the dumbest and the sorriest SOBs I’ve ever had the misfortune to run into. As a result the country has fallen behind western Europe in things that really matter starting with the levels of political freedom, religious freedom and overall tolerance. Other countries have taken our principals and out paced us on them.

The United States has abdicated its position as the flag bearer for Western Democracy. Even Argentina and South Africa extend to gays more rights than we do.

And it’s only going to get worse. The Republican Party has discarded all semblance of decency as long as it thinks it can get people elected. Racists have found an “acceptable” target in Muslims and have discovered they can disguise themselves as Tea Party supporters.

The Republicans no longer even pretend to care about the principles upon which this country was built. Hell, they have the solution; they’ll just change the history books to make it obvious that the rights and liberties in the Constitution only apply to straight white Protestants who dress the right way, think the right way and pray the right way. They won’t be happy until they turn the country into 1950s Mississippi.

I am utterly appalled that the country with the largest thermonuclear arsenal in the world has people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Sharon Angle as prominent political figures.

Pastor John Hagee and his empty headed congregation REALLY scare me.

Then there is Faux News. The fact that they haven’t been laughed out of business yet should give anyone a pretty good idea of how screwed-up we are. How any so-called news organization, that has been caught manipulating the "news" on numerous occasions, can be held is such high regard by a large segment of the population is beyond my comprehension. I believe this demonstrates that Americans are not interested in what is true, only in what they want to be true.

I have two choices. Choice number one is to say to hell with it and head for Denmark or Holland. The problem with that idea is those damned nukes.

My other choice is to fight. The slide into fascism isn’t inevitable. There may well be enough people in this country that, once they realize the implications of the right wing agenda, will stand up and say “hell no.”

There may be. To be honest with you though, I’m not all that optimistic.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Education as a Cure for Christianity

The percentage of college graduates from Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

Atheist & Agnostic – 42%
Mainline Protestant – 34%
Mormon – 28%
Catholic – 26%
Evangelical Christians – 20%

Enough said?

It’s hard to swallow stuff like Creationism and Biblical Literacy if you’re intelligent enough to get through college.

Of course Jews boast 59% college graduates. But I’m always hesitant to quote statistics about Jews because of the ethnic and cultural aspects. I know a lot of Jews who look upon their Jewishness as more of a nationality than a religion.

Then one has to consider the age situation. The percentage under 50 years of age from the same survey was:

Atheist & Agnostic – 70%
Mormon – 66%
Catholic – 59%
Evangelical Christians – 56%
Mainline Protestant – 50%

I also always find the gender distribution of some interest. The percentage of males from the same survey was:

Atheist & Agnostic – 66%
Evangelical Christians – 47%
Catholic – 46%
Mainline Protestant – 46%
Mormon – 44%

Then there is the political spectrum distribution. No real surprise there.

Mormon – 60% Conservative, 10% Liberal
Evangelical Christians – 52% Conservative, 11% Liberal
Catholic – 36% Conservative, 18% Liberal
Mainline Protestant – 36% Conservative, 18% Liberal
Atheist & Agnostic – 15% Conservative, 46% Liberal

Of course there is no guarantee that everyone is interpreting Conservative and Liberal in the same way.

As for income level, the percentage making $75,000 a year or greater are:

Atheist & Agnostic – 42%
Mainline Protestant – 36%
Catholic – 33%
Mormon – 32%
Evangelical Christians – 24%

So Atheists & Agnostic tend to be better educated, more affluent, younger, more liberal and more male than Christians. There are no real surprises here. This survey just reinforces what other surveys have said consistently.

Maybe if we started teaching reality earlier we could get high school students to stop relying upon imaginary friends.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Viva Fidel?

It takes an interesting man to accept that either your ideology no longer works or perhaps it never worked to begin with.

Reuters reports that Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic monthly, asked Castro whether the Cuban Model, based upon Soviet style Communism, was still worth exporting to other countries and Castro replied, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

I guess I would have asked at that point whether it ever worked.

According to Goldberg, he was summoned to Cuba by Castro to discuss the possibility of an Israeli-Iran conflict because of Iran’s growing nuclear program.

Goldberg also reports that Castro criticized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for anti-Semitism and denying the Holocaust as well as his own role in the Cuban missile crisis.

Reuters claims that Castro has become an “anti-nuclear weapon crusader expressing concern about the future of the world.”

I guess at some point in time we all need to get some things off our chest as the lights begin to dim. I’m sure Castro has blood on his hands but what world leader doesn’t? I’m willing to consider what he says as a sort of Statesman Emeritus.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dennis Prager's Principal Speech

Dennis Prager had an article on his web site about a speech he believes “If every school principal gave this speech at the beginning of the next school year, America would be a better place.”

I doubt it. As a matter of fact one has to wonder what Prager’s idea of a “better place” would be? Sounds to me it’s a place where everyone looks the same, acts the same and thinks the same. You will excuse me but that’s a horrible idea.

Anyway, here’s Prager’s speech, with commentary.
To the students and faculty of our high school:

I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach young people.

I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers and against our country.

Really? And what evidence do you have to justify this statement? I’m not saying you are wrong, but you are making a totally unsupported assertion. Do you have any evidence to support what you are saying?

First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships.

The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity -- your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American. This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans.

Define “better American.” Who decides who is a “better American?” Do you decide? The segregationist racists in the 1960s, wearing their sheets and hoods, considered themselves “better Americans” than blacks and what they called outside agitators.

If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through school, you will have to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity-, race- and non-American nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values -- e pluribus unum, "from many, one." And this school will be guided by America's values.

You are misinterpreting the meaning of “e pluribus unum.” The motto does not require the homogenization of everyone. It doesn’t require everyone to look the same, act the same and think the same. The motto simply means that while we are different, there are certain fundamental goals, freedom, democracy and equality, which we can all agree upon.

Again you use a term, “American values,” which you do not define. I defined what I consider to be three "American values" above which do not require us to submerge our individuality nor require us to not celebrate our unique heritages. Personally I don’t feel threatened by a Cinco de Mayo or an Eid ul-Fitr celebration.

This includes all after-school clubs. I will not authorize clubs that divide students based on any identities. This includes race, language, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else may become in vogue in a society divided by political correctness.

Your clubs will be based on interests and passions, not blood, ethnic, racial or other physically defined ties. Those clubs just cultivate narcissism -- an unhealthy preoccupation with the self -- while the purpose of education is to get you to think beyond yourself. So we will have clubs that transport you to the wonders and glories of art, music, astronomy, languages you do not already speak, carpentry and more. If the only extracurricular activities you can imagine being interesting in are those based on ethnic, racial or sexual identity, that means that little outside of yourself really interests you.

Who cares? Why do you find this an issue? Do you deny that certain ethnic groups have special problems or interests? What would be wrong with groups that want to explore their unique cultural history? You seem to look upon diversity as a weakness. It’s not. It’s a strength.

Second, I am uninterested in whether English is your native language. My only interest in terms of language is that you leave this school speaking and writing English as fluently as possible. The English language has united America's citizens for over 200 years, and it will unite us at this school. It is one of the indispensable reasons this country of immigrants has always come to be one country. And if you leave this school without excellent English language skills, I would be remiss in my duty to ensure that you will be prepared to successfully compete in the American job market. We will learn other languages here -- it is deplorable that most Americans only speak English -- but if you want classes taught in your native language rather than in English, this is not your school.

Actually, I happen to agree with this 100%. A proficiency in English, speaking it, reading it and writing it, is an absolute necessity for many reasons.

Third, because I regard learning as a sacred endeavor, everything in this school will reflect learning's elevated status. This means, among other things, that you and your teachers will dress accordingly. Many people in our society dress more formally for Hollywood events than for church or school. These people have their priorities backward. Therefore, there will be a formal dress code at this school.

Granted there should be some minimal dress code but it should be precisely that, minimal. Even work dress codes are slowly fading away. Safety and comfort contribute more to creativity and productivity than so-called formal dress. Besides, whose definition of “elevated status” are you using?

Here’s an idea for you. When I was in high school we had a uniform. It was khaki trousers and shirt with shoulder patches, brown belt and tie for lower classmen and blue belt and tie for seniors. Honor students wore pins on their chest over the wings which were the school emblem and seniors wore wings on their collars. The uniform was worn on special occasions such as assemblies, but never less than once a month. This accomplished what I think you’re aiming for here without making it a daily chore which had no meaning whatsoever. It wouldn’t take a “formal uniform,” just special dress code days of some sort.

Fourth, no obscene language will be tolerated anywhere on this school's property -- whether in class, in the hallways or at athletic events. If you can't speak without using the f-word, you can't speak. By obscene language I mean the words banned by the Federal Communications Commission, plus epithets such as "Nigger," even when used by one black student to address another black, or "bitch," even when addressed by a girl to a girlfriend. It is my intent that by the time you leave this school, you will be among the few your age to instinctively distinguish between the elevated and the degraded, the holy and the obscene.

I agree with you here. Obscenities, even when used in a so-called friendly manner, are indications of disrespect and the single most important thing we need to teach students is to respect each other and themselves.

Fifth, we will end all self-esteem programs. In this school, self-esteem will be attained in only one way -- the way people attained it until decided otherwise a generation ago -- by earning it. One immediate consequence is that there will be one valedictorian, not eight.

I agree with you here as well. What is important is to appreciate ourselves for what we are and what we can contribute rather than to foster some imaginary inflated illusion that’s going to come crashing down sooner or later.

Sixth, and last, I am reorienting the school toward academics and away from politics and propaganda. No more time will devoted to scaring you about smoking and caffeine, or terrifying you about sexual harassment or global warming. No more semesters will be devoted to condom wearing and teaching you to regard sexual relations as only or primarily a health issue. There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian. We will have failed if any one of you graduates this school and does not consider him or herself inordinately lucky -- to be alive and to be an American.

Then you would be ignoring a critical part of what young adults must understand. Do you deny that smoking is bad for everyone? I smoked for 40 years. Take my word for it that it’s a REALLY bad idea. Global Warming is a scientific reality. By not informing students about it you are doing them a great disservice. Do you deny that racism, sexism, homophobia and religious discrimination exist? If you do, then you are either a fool or a liar.

I agree we all should be thankful that we’re alive and living in the USA. However that doesn’t mean we should be complacent or ignore the fact that many Americans are homeless, go hungry and don’t have access to adequate health care. Until every American has the basic necessities of life, America is still a work in progress. You seem to think it’s a finished product.

I might also point out that much of our affluence is built upon the poverty of others elsewhere in the world. Do you consider fairness an "American value?" If so, isn't this something that should concern us?

Now, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. As many of you do not know the words, your teachers will hand them out to you.

I can do that but you will excuse me if I exercise my right of free speech and omit the words “under God.” I consider these words to be unconstitutional and I stand by the Constitution. Do you stand by the Constitution?

Quran Burning

Pastor Terry Jones is an idiot. His plan to burn Qurans on 9/11 is the idea of an idiot.

This is NOT free speech. Free speech does not entitle you to engage in speech that risks the safety of others. You cannot yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater and call it free speech.

General Petraeus’ warning that this will give terrorists a propaganda and recruitment boost which will endanger the lives of American soldiers makes it evident that this is a reckless action that will accomplish nothing good.

And before you say it, allow me to point out that this is fundamentally different from the Vietnam and Iraq anti-war protests. Those were a policy disagreement and had as an objective saving lives. If there is any policy issues here its Pastor Jones opposition to the 1st Amendment of the Constitution.

This is a prime example of fundamentalist Christianity thinking it has special privileges. Pastor Jones has also been denied a permit by the local fire department so I’d arrest the son of a bitch as soon as he tries to burn anything.

I find it amazing that those that wave the flag the most, and pound their chest the hardest about being patriotic Americans, are the one who understand the principles upon which this country has been built the least.

These are the psychological descendents of the people that waved confederate flags and chanted segregationist slogans in the 1960s. They’re the ones always telling everyone else “if you don’t like this country then leave.”

Allow me to suggest that Pastor Jones and his congregation should find themselves another country to be a part of because they sure as hell don’t belong here. I’ve been fighting these right wing morons for 45 years and I’m not about to stop now.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A Slow August?

Was it a slow August? I don’t know, perhaps, perhaps not. I suspect the low number of posts has more to do with my growing pessimism on the state of affairs and potential survival of civilization.

I’m seriously concerned that my generation will be the last to live out their lives in relative peace and prosperity.

At the root of it all is ignorance. I never cease to be amazed at the number of people that are so certain about the solution when they don’t even have an understanding of the problem.

The first rule is to realize that if the problems facing the nation weren’t so complicated, they would have been solved already. So what do I see as the major problems?

Problem #1 – Income Inequity

To my mind the Income Inequity that has developed over the past 30 years is at the root of the current economic weakness. After consuming based upon credit, the American economy has finally gotten to the point where we can no longer afford to deny the endemic weaknesses that have been created over the past three decades.

I’m not about to pontificate a solution because the causes aren’t all that clear, but the first problem is to get this recognized as an issue. Increasing the real buying power of the working and middle classes would strengthen the foundation of the economy and feed needed funds into local small businesses and industries.

Notice that I said “real buying power.” What I mean by this is buying power based upon increasing the income available to be spent and not a buying power based upon credit. Substituting credit based buying power for income based buying power is one of the reasons we’re in the economic mess we’re currently in.

Problem #2 – The National Debt

This is closely related to the first problem. Things simply cannot continue the way they are. The budget deficit has to be addressed by resolving the raising health care costs and then the deficit needs to be brought down to a more manageable level. I am absolutely NOT in favor of a balanced budget amendment. There are times when deficit spending is necessary.

I suspect that the solution to this issue lies in tax code reform. I think, I’m not certain, but I think, we should be taxing consumption more than income. Income taxes should perhaps be restricted to the higher income brackets and a progressive consumption tax, where the tax rate increases with the expense of the item should be instituted.

A sweeping tax code reform would also help to address the first problem.

Problem #3 – Immigration Reform

For both economic and security reasons we need to get control of our borders. I’m not in favor of kicking out all of the hard working illegal immigrants nor am I in favor of a blanket amnesty.

I think a set of qualifications should be established for gaining resident status. These would include no criminal record, gainful employment, a permanent residence, English proficiency and a limited time frame to obtain U.S. citizenship.

Problem #4 – Education Reform

There is something fundamentally wrong with our educational infrastructure when so many people are so ignorant about so many things.

You should NOT be allowed to vote without demonstrating a reasonable level of general knowledge. I would have a mandatory High School course called “Stuff You Really Need to Know” and not give anyone a diploma or voting rights that didn’t pass a final standardized test.

I suspect part of the problem is the “one size fits all mentality” of our educational system. Let me tell you a secret. Not everyone is intellectually and physically equal nor is there anything wrong with that. We need to get back to High School graduates being armed with the knowledge and training they need to make a decent living without the necessity of getting an undergraduate degree.

If college is your thing, great, if it’s not, also great. There’s nothing wrong with a good technical or administrative education. The Liberal Arts aren’t for everyone.

Problem #5 – Social Values

We spend far too much time and energy sticking our noses into other peoples business and trying to restrict the rights of people we happen to not like. It’s a waste of time and energy.

Abortion is a medical issue and is no one’s business other than the people directly involved. Gays are citizens of the United States and entitled to equal rights and that includes the right to marry.

If you believe abortion is murder, don’t get an abortion. If you believe homosexuality is immoral, don’t participate in homosexual acts. Why do people have this need to enforce their opinion on everyone else? Where I come from “keep your nose out of other people’s business” was a survival imperative and that’s the way it should be.

Ok, so much for venting. It’s not going to accomplish anything but its fun.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Glenn Beck’s Rally

Depending upon who you listen to, between 75,000 and 300,000 people showed up to hear Glenn Beck speak.

I interpret the message as let’s go back to the good old days of Jim Crow and women in the kitchen. I’m not sure why they just don’t dress in KKK sheets and hoods. Come to think of it, they might as well just put swastikas on their banners.

Make no mistake about it, this is American Fascism. Sinclair Lewis warned that when fascism came to America it would be wrapped in a flag and carrying a bible. For these people freedom means making certain that everyone looks like them, thinks like them and lives like them. If you’re not white Protestant Christian then, as far as they’re concerned, you should be respectful of your betters and do what they tell you, when they tell you.

Any Blacks, Hispanics or Catholics that support this idiocy might as well start digging their own graves. I needn’t worry about Liberals or Atheists; we’re smart enough to see the specters of the Fuehrer and the Grand Wizard peering down upon this with approval.

This is the result of fear. The world is changing, has been changing and will continue to change. The current generation in the United States is caught up in one of those great evolutions of society that sort of creep up on people from time to time.

The American dominance in the world is fading. The U.S. has not kept up with social, educational and industrial developments elsewhere in the western world. We have fallen behind in a number of areas and the working and middle classes are feeling the effects.

People are afraid. They have a right to be afraid. Unfortunately rather than face the issues realistically, people tend to look for someone, or something, to blame and a fast easy solution.

The demagogues offer both. In Germany in the 1930’s it was all the fault of the Jews and Hitler promised to restore Germany to her rightful place by promising everything to everybody. The unemployed would have jobs, the Capitalists profits and the army a return to former glory.

In the U.S. in the 2000’s it’s all the fault of turning our backs on “traditional American values” and Right Wing Conservatives, with the help of Jesus, will make it all better. Notice that they never tell you how other than somehow they’re going to reduce government size and power. They’ll also probably reduce taxes on the rich so you sorry SOBs can someday have some prosperity trickle down. Of course I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The fact of the matter is the last thing Right Wing Conservatives in power can afford is a government reduced in size and power because they are dependent upon authoritarian control to make certain that everyone looks like them, thinks like them and lives like them.

I find it amusing that these are the very people that are most willing to scrap the Liberal Democracy that is at the foundation of “traditional American values.”

So what happens now? I would like to think that the vast majority of Americans aren’t being taken in by these assholes but I know better than that. The average American is an idiot and would quite happily give away his political freedom to a Fascist Demagogue as long as it doesn’t appear to immediately inconvenience him.

Crap, that means stepping up the workouts in preparation for the civil war that is sure to come. I wish I was a bit younger.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Mosque at Ground Zero

First of all it’s not really a Mosque it’s a community center with a prayer area and, second, it’s not really at ground zero but it is near it. The site is only about two blocks away.

Ok, so much for picking nits. The issue is should an Islamic anything be built anyway near ground zero?

To be honest with you, I don’t like the idea at all. On the other hand, I understand that preserving and protecting the Constitution of the United States may well involve doing things, or accepting things, I don’t particularly like.

I don’t like Neo-Nazi speeches. I don’t like Christian Fundamentalist Creation “Science” museums. I don’t like Holocaust Denial. I don’t like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter or Fox News.

But to deny them their right to express their views simply because I know I’m not going to like what I’m about to hear would be to deny the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

Since 911 I'm not that sure I like Muslims either but to deny them their right to worship as they see fit, and to be able to live their lives as they see fit, would also be to deny the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

I think building a Muslim structure so near to ground zero is a bit on the insensitive side, and perhaps even a tad unwise, but it is their right to do so.

The measure of a democracy is not in its ability to do what the majority wants. The measure of a democracy is in its ability to protect the rights of the minority even in the face of resistance from the majority.

I stand by the Constitution. They have every right to build their Mosque and we shouldn't let fear or prejudice make us violate the principles that this country is built upon. If we do that then we're no better than the fanatics that flew the planes into the towers. We owe it to those that died to be better than that.

Friday, August 13, 2010

More on the Prop 8 Decision

The fallout is still coming down and I am appalled at the amount of ignorance associated with the diatribes.

Courts are said to issue “opinions” but what it is critical to understand is that those opinions must be backed by facts. Regardless of what Rush Limbaugh and other Right Wing assholes say, Judges cannot make declarations simply based upon their personal opinion. They must document the “facts” and points of law they have determined that justify that opinion.

Now here comes the good part. Appellate courts are generally bound by any findings of fact. Appellate courts rule on law and not fact. So essentially, assuming no fraud, they are bound by the lower court’s findings of fact and their judgments must align with those facts. Atlantic magazine extracted the findings of fact that Judge Walker articulated in the Prop 8 case.

1. Marriage is and has been a civil matter, subject to religious intervention only when requested by the intervenors.
Ignore the Religious Right when they claim that marriage is a Christian institution. It’s most certainly not. It is a state institution that religions sanction but the religious aspects are purely voluntary. Marriage was originally instituted to figure out which son inherited the father’s land and title since it was almost guaranteed that males would father children by many women.

2. California, like every other state, doesn't require that couples wanting to marry be able to procreate.
The “but gay couples can’t reproduce” argument killer. I’ve pointed out many times that couples that medically can’t have children, are too old to have children or don’t care to have children can still legally marry.

3. Marriage as an institution has changed overtime; women were given equal status; interracial marriage was formally legalized; no-fault divorce made it easier to dissolve marriages.
This is an important point. Allowing gay marriage would be just one more evolution in an institution that has evolved in the past.

4. California has eliminated marital obligations based on gender.
Legally, there is no difference between married males and married females so, as far as marriage law is concerned, the two sexes are interchangeable. This sounds weird but, from a purely legal standpoint, it makes sense.

5. Same-sex love and intimacy "are well-documented in human history."
Regardless of what some might wish, it’s always been there and probably always will be there. Therefore the time has come to recognize that simple fact.

6. Sexual orientation is a fundamental characteristic of a human being.
It’s just like being blue eyed or left handed.

7. Prop 8 proponents' "assertion that sexual orientation cannot be defined is contrary to the weight of the evidence."
The idea that “sexual orientation cannot be defined” is total right wing horseshit.

8. There is no evidence that sexual orientation is chosen, nor that it can be changed.
BINGO! This is the big one folks. It’s not a choice so Christians are wrong again and, if your God claims it’s a choice, he’s not a God is he?

9. California has no interest in reducing the number of gays and lesbians in its population.
Ok, I would venture to say that given the movie industry and fashion industry are big in California this is probably a no brainer.

10. "Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital union."
This is a big one. This squashes all the arguments related to how gays can’t form the same kind of marital bond that heterosexuals can.

11. "Marrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for gay and lesbian individuals."
The corollary to this is that everyone should have the right to marry or it’s not equal protection under the law.

12. "Domestic partnerships lack the social meaning associated with marriage, and marriage is widely regarded as the definitive expression of love and commitment in the United States.
Separate is not equal and different is not equal. The state of New Jersey should take note.

13. "Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages."
The argument that somehow allowing gays to marry will negatively affect heterosexual marriage is total, complete and utter horseshit.

Therefore, given these facts, any restriction on the rights of gays to marry has no justification outside a simple dislike of gays for who they are. This is precisely equivalent to a restriction saying left handed can't get married, a restriction that blue-eyed people can't get married or that black people can't get married.

Therefore it is an arbitrary restriction that violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Allow me to quote the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Federal Judge Overturns Prop 8

A Federal Judge has declared California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

Well, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

Now it's on to the next round. Opponents of Gay Marriage have threatened to appeal while Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California who declined to defend Prop 8, has called it a victory for justice and freedom.

I agree with Arnie. When the hell are people in this country going to understand that the rights guaranteed under the Constitution don’t only apply to people that look like them, act like them and think like them.

I’m sure this battle is far from over but I’ll take one victory at a time.

Here is an interesting quote from the decision. "The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples."

In other words there is no danger to heterosexual marriage, no negative impact on responsible child bearing and all the kiddies aren’t going to suddenly get turned into homosexuals or bisexuals.

As I’ve said before, I don’t know why some small percentage of the population has its sexual wires crossed nor do I particularly care. I do accept the scientific and psychological conclusion that it is beyond their control.

I’m as homophobic as the next guy and get squeamish just thinking about homosexual sex, but I’m not ready to demand that homosexuals have to “resist their sinful urges” just because I don’t understand them.

So, at least for the moment, freedom and justice have triumphed.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Fox News Promoted but Denied Helen Thomas’ Seat

The White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) promoted Fox News to the front row in the White House briefing room. However the WHCA denied Fox Helen Thomas’ center seat which Fox had heavily campaigned for. The coveted center seat went to the AP.

Even granting Fox News, a right wing propaganda machine that has been caught red handed on numerous occasions manipulating news content, a move to the front row alongside legitimate journalists strikes me as an affront to the integrity of the press.

It is the responsibility of a Free Press to report the news as accurately as possible while clearly identifying opinions as editorials. This is a responsibility that Fox News has repeatedly, and willfully, ignored.

The WHCA should be congratulated on not giving Fox Helen Thomas’ prestigious center seat, but they should be ashamed of themselves for promoting Fox given the network's total lack of journalistic integrity.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Warmest Decade on Record

Well, it's official. The 2000s were the warmest decade on record since records started being kept in 1870.

To make matters worse, the report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which declared the decade the warmest ever recorded, said its analysis of 10 indicators that are "clearly and directly related to surface temperatures, all tell the same story: Global warming is undeniable."

The report was compiled by 300 scientists from 48 countries.

Would the Right Wing demagogues and fundamentalist airheadss that continue to deny Global Warming please take note. Not that I expect this to have any impact upon what you already know is true because...err, why exactly do you think that you already know what is true again?

I guess this is just another left wing atheist science conspiracy to rob patriotic Christian America of its prosperity and rightful place in the world.

Federal Judge blocks some of the Arizona Immigration Law

Apparently a federal judge has blocked the more controversial parts of the Arizona Immigration Law. So at least the initial pass at legal evaluation has concluded that the law is at least partially wrong.

Again, I understand the frustration, but two wrongs do not make a right. We need to get control of the borders and then work on real immigration reform. These piece meal profiling sort of approaches aren't going to cut it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Return of the Public Option

The CBO has analyzed a proposal forwarded by Representative Fortney Pete Stark (D-Cal), the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee's Health Subcommittee.

To quote the CBO report:

“Under the proposal, a public health insurance plan would be established and administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), and it would have to charge premiums that fully cover its costs for benefit payments and administrative expenses. The plan’s payment rates for physicians and other practitioners would be based on Medicare’s current rates but would not be subject to the future reductions required by Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula; instead, those rates would initially increase by 5 percent and then would rise annually to reflect estimated increases in physicians’ costs. The plan would pay hospitals and other providers the same amounts that would be paid under Medicare, on average, and would establish payment rates for prescription drugs through negotiation. Health care providers would not be required to participate in the public plan in order to participate in Medicare.”

The CBO has estimated that the plan’s premiums would be 5% to 7% lower than private plans offered in the exchanges but some providers might decide not to participate in this plan due to its payment rates being lower than the private plans payment rates.

However, the CBO also believes that many providers would participate due to the expectation that a plan administered by HHS would have a very large number of participants.

The CBO estimates that the plan would REDUCE the federal deficit by $68 billion through 2020. Notice that’s “REDUCE.” There would be no need to raise taxes or cut other programs. So please ignore Rush Limbaugh when he starts telling you how this is going to raise your taxes.

What I don’t understand here is if the premiums are lower, and large numbers of providers choose to participate, why would this public option not tend to drive private insurers out of the health insurance exchange market? One has to believe that cost is going to be a critical consideration in that market.