Monday, February 22, 2010

The Great Derangement Part 2

I’ve gotten deeper into Matt Taibi’s book and finished chapters related to the ways things really work in Congress, a religious retreat for a fundamentalist Christian Church and his stint as an embedded reported in Iraq.

The chapters on Congress and Iraq are guaranteed to piss you off. The first takes you through the process of a bill working its way through the House of Representatives. No, not how you and I think it works, but how it really works.

According to Matt, nothing happens in the open on the House floor; rather everything occurs behind closed doors and after hours in the committee meetings where the primary objective is to insure that the corporate sponsors get what they paid for.

The bill Taibbi uses as his example is a bill put together in the wake of Hurricane Katrina supposedly to help insure adequate supplies of gasoline by enabling the building of new refineries. The only problem being there is already a surplus of refinery capacity in the U.S. and most of the gas companies believe money could be saved by shutting some down.

So what’s the point you ask? Apparently the point was to sneak through additional exemptions to environmental controls and establish a legal mechanism for turning government land, free of charge, over to the gas companies. To make matters worse the bill was touted as an “emergency measure” in the wake of Katrina to guarantee it an express route through Congress.

In Taibbi’s example it was the Republicans forcing a bill through despite the helpless protestations of the minority Democrats but I’m sure it works both ways.

According to Matt, under the Republicans bills went from the Rules Committee to the floor for a vote, usually in a completely rewritten state and, by being tagged as an emergency measure, with not nearly enough time for evaluation. If this is true, then I have to correct myself with respect to the Tea Party idea of all bills made public for 7 days before a vote. I agreed with the idea anyway but didn’t think it was such a big deal. If Taibbi is right, then it is a big deal.

The Iraq segment will get your blood boiling with Taibbi’s description of soldiers having to buy their own equipment because politicians like to raid the military equipment budgets for their earmarks while leaving the big military spending contracts untouched.

I believe this has sort of been addressed. By law the army MUST repay soldiers for equipment they had to purchase. A law, I might point out, sponsored and pushed through by DEMOCRATS.

Of course the shortages were a disgrace to begin with. If it wasn’t criminal to send troops into an unnecessary war, if it wasn’t criminal to send them in insufficient numbers, then it certainly was criminal to send them without the necessary equipment.

Unfortunately neither of these two chapters surprised me.

The chapter on the church group however shocked the hell out of me. I’m now about halfway through the second chapter on the group and its getting worse.

I understand that there is a range but Taibbi’s descriptions scare the hell out of me. He is describing people who live in a demon haunted world of superstition and have long ago lost, assuming they ever had it, any ability to apply critical thinking to the crap coming at them from the pulpit.

These are people who have serious discussions about what is, and is not, idol worship and how to prevent opening the door for demons to take possession of you or your family. A world where Harry Potter books in your house can lead to demons taking possession of your children.

In other words, these people are as crazy as loons.

That such idiocy can be taken seriously in a country that possesses the largest thermonuclear arsenal in the word is truly frightening.

Hopefully we’re talking about a really small percentage of the population here but I can’t help getting the feeling that I’m in a fortress and outside the darkness is spreading and, slowly but surely, closing in upon me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Trip Through my Inbox

It’s a typical day at the old inbox. There’s always a lot of junk that I usually toss, some stuff that I typically file away for future reference and e-mail comments and complaints that I typically respond to and sometimes make me update a post.

Often what’s left are the “pitches” associated with some cause; someone looking for me to either do something, send money or buy something. Here are today’s pitches, in order of arrival, identified by e-mail title and pseudo-author. I say “pseudo-author” because these are mass e-mails distributions and I doubt the “pseudo-author” actually wrote the e-mail although he may have approved it.

A death in Homer – Morris Dees
Morris Dees is the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the e-mail addresses the shooting death of a 73 year old black man named Bernard Monroe at a family gathering in Homer, Louisiana. The SPLC has filed suit against the town for the benefit of the man’s widow and five children claiming a history of racial profiling and police harassment of African-Americans.

The SPLC description is long on outrage but a tad short on details other than it all started with the police chasing an adult son of Monroe’s into his house. It doesn’t present any reason for the police to have opened fire and that’s a bit strange even for Jim Crow era wannabes.

A quick check for news reports about the incident reveled that the police claimed to have chased the son from a suspected drug deal and that he had two prior convictions for assault and battery. The police also claim that Monroe advanced upon them with a drawn pistol. Neighbors and family at the gathering say Monroe was carrying a bottle of water and that the police planted the gun. However the gun was in fact owned by Monroe.

Hmmm. This one wouldn’t surprise me either way. I think I’ll let the law run its course without expressing any opinion.

Have you seen this? – David Plouffe
This one contains a graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing how the stimulus package has apparently slowed down the loss of jobs.

My question is why are you telling ME this? Why isn’t this plastered all over every front page in the U.S.?

Tell Google: No Deal with the NSA – Anthony D. Romano
This is the ACLU complaining about the potential implications of Google approaching the NSA for help in investigating the recent cyber attacks it experienced, which may have originated in China, and to help them protect its confidential files from compromise.

The ACLU is concerned this would give the NSA access to confidential information about individuals possessed by Google despite assurances that this would not be the case.

The ACLU believes “If Google can't adequately protect its customers' personal information, it is obligated to notify them so these consumers can make informed choices about what information they provide, or the company must minimize the risk by reducing the amount and type of information it collects and retains about its customers.”

Well consider this the notification that it can’t do so without help. Personally I would never divulge information to any Internet source that I felt was sensitive. I have one credit card that I use for Internet purchases and I carefully restrict and monitor its use.

I think the ACLU is being overly paranoid here and Google is doing the right thing by asking for help.

Earn your Masters in Diplomacy – Norwich University
Diplomacy? They’ve got to be kidding.

Breathtaking Hypocrisy – Tim Kaine
The Democratic National Chairman complaining about Republican congressmen and senators who attack the stimulus package publically yet take credit for the positive effects of the package in their home districts and states.

Let’s see, politicians are hypocrites; not much of a news flash there. Again, I have to ask, why are you telling ME.

Tim is talking about a “rapid-response program to fact check every lie” and is of course asking for money to support it. You will excuse me but given the total ineptitude of the Democrats in countering Republican propaganda this would be like dropping money down a well.

First show me you’ve even vaguely capable of mounting an effective campaign and then maybe.

Dick Cheney Confessed – Becky Bond
This is Credo Action screaming that Dick Cheney admitted to being an advocate of waterboarding on ABC news and, since waterboarding is torture and a war crime, he should therefore be prosecuted.

I seem to remember saying with some regularity that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice should probably all be prosecuted, given a fair trial and then strung up from any convenient tree.

The Democrats don’t have the balls to do anything of the sort.

Well, that’s about it this time around. Not nearly as entertaining a post as I thought it might be. Maybe I’ll go work some more on that “If I were elected President idea?”

A Death in Austin

Joe Stack flew his aircraft into the IRS building in Austin, Texas. His suicide manifesto has been published on the internet and is something of an eye opener to read.

The right is calling him a socialist and just about everyone else a Tea Party type. Some Tea Party supporters are even claiming it’s all a government plot to discredit the party.

I call him paranoid.

That he got screwed on a number of occasions by the bureaucracy I have no doubt. I’d say welcome to the club. Was he right about the cozy relationships between the corporate and banking fat cats and the government? Probably, but not for the reason he thinks.

Like the Tea Party types he’s looking around for someone to blame for his hard times. The government is to blame; the politicians are to blame; the IRS is to blame. It’s everyone’s fault but his own.

In his litany of woes I see at least four catastrophic errors that he made himself.

-- He tried to “work the system” by getting some of the same tax benefits built into the code specifically for organized religion.

-- Rather than adjust to the realities of the 1986 tax code update, he tried to buck the system which is usually an effort in futility

-- He moved to Austin despite it being a poor area for the type of work he wanted to do.

-- He assumed he didn’t have to file a tax return because he felt he had no income.

Note that I say “the type of work he wanted to do.” He doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy that understood the meaning of the word “compromise.” He clearly wanted things to be his way or no way at all.

Clearly some professional help was in order to help him cope. By the way, where did he get the plane?

Bailouts are a tough nut to swallow. One wants to take the position “you screwed up” so “you pay the piper.” The problem is it’s usually NOT the people who actually screwed up that pay for it.

Trust me, the CEO and CFO have their asses covered and even if a relatively high placed executive here or there gets the ax, they’re just the current sacrificial lamb and probably have enough of a severance package that the pain gets dulled.

The folks who pay the penalty are the rank and file workers as the company makes “painful cuts” in order to “get costs under control.” So, saving the neck of the fat cat executives is usually a side effect of a bailout. The real objective is to protect the jobs of the rank and file employees.

Even with all that being said, it can be hard to watch your hard earned tax dollars being used for the bailout while you’re getting the shaft yourself.

For all those idiots on the internet praising Stack as a hero, I say grow up already. Stack’s suicide isn’t going to change anything.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fundies say the Darndest Things

Fundies say the Darndest Things (FSTDT) is a web site. On it you can find a compilation of statements made by fundamentalist Christians. It has two companion sites called Racists say the Darndest Things (RSTDT) and Conspiracy theorists say the Darndest Things (CSTDT) but FSTDT is the money site.

Some of the stuff that pops up there is frightening. All the quotes have citations so you can go back and check the original. Some of the quotes are from well known people. Quotes from Andy Schafly and his mom, Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, Ray Comfort and Pat Robertson appear with some regularity. But most of the quotes come from people that frequent the forums around the Internet.

Some of the people quoted I actually know from my days at the now defunct General Apologetics on Christian Forums and that’s really scary.

The themes repeat themselves in various forms and various degrees of absurdity and ignorance. If you explore the archives you will find rants associated with the following topics.

Evolution is clearly the #1 fundy demon. You can find a constant stream of assertions to the effect that evolution is false, evolution hasn’t been proven, all the physical evidence contradicts evolution and evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

All of the assertions are of course incorrect and most demonstrate not only an ignorance of evolution but of the facts, science, logic and history. What is clear is that these people will accept and repeat the most inane statements as long as those statements support their preconceived truth.

One of the problems is that most of them appear incapable of differentiating between evolution, abiogenesis, cosmology and atheism.

Abortion is clearly their #2 demon. The big problem here is they don’t seem to understand the issue. The accuse people of being “in favor” of abortion.

No one is “in favor” of abortion.

The primary question is whether abortion can ever be justified. Depending upon how you answer that question determines where the conversation goes. Some fundies actually will answer “No, abortion is never justified.” This strikes me as an irrational position.

I would say that abortion MAY be justified in cases of rape, incest, where the mother’s life or health is endangered by the pregnancy and when the fetus is genetically or physically flawed to the point where any rational quality of life is impossible.

Please notice that I said MAY. The fact of the matter is that it’s not my decision. If the mother chooses to risk her life in order to bring a fetus to term, decides to keep the child of her rapist or accepts having to care for a genetically flawed offspring, then she is entitled to make that decision.

Pam Tebow chose to risk her health and life in order to carry Tim Tebow to term; Sarah Palin chose to carry a Down’s syndrome child to term and I respect those decisions.

I would not presume to dictate that any woman, under any circumstances, must abort a pregnancy and neither should anyone else.

However, the reverse must also be recognized. Just as no one can dictate that an abortion must occur, neither can anyone dictate that a woman must take a fetus to term if she feels there are good and valid reasons not to.

Despite the right wing crap flying around, abortions aren’t done on a whim. It’s a soul wrenching decision that is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, taken only as an absolute last resort.

Are many abortion decisions based upon economic reasons rather than health reasons? Yes, I’m sure they are. Is that the wrong thing to do? Perhaps, but I don’t have the right to enforce my view upon someone else. It’s not my decision.

And that’s where the battle lines are drawn. It’s just simply not someone else’s decision when an abortion is necessary. It is solely the decision of the woman involved. As for the rights of the husband, if the woman is married, or the parents, if the woman is a minor, those are conversations for another time.

This one seems to be the #3 demon. As far as your average neighborhood fundy is concerned homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that God hates.

Occasionally you will encounter a fundy that might almost accept that it’s not a choice, but then their position is that it must be suppressed. It’s ok to have homosexual desires as long as you don’t give in to them.

They are also totally convinced that one can be “cured” of homosexuality through what is known as “Reparative Therapy” despite the opinion of most psychiatric and psychology experts.

Let’s not even talk about gay marriage. Fundies think homosexuality should be outlawed with penalties ranging from forced reparative therapy to summary execution.

Other Religions
Fundies appear to despise and will disparage virtually every other religion but recently Islam has become their main target.

I assume this is because most fundies are of the American right wing airhead variety and view Islam as “the enemy.”

The fact that most of them know absolutely nothing about Islam and can’t differentiate between religious and cultural aspects doesn’t keep them from criticizing Islam in general, all Muslims and the prophet Muhammad with the most vile and ignorant accusations you can imagine.

I’ll admit that I have my problems with the Islamic culture and Islam itself but these yokels are way over the top. They also have no understanding of history. I’ve seen more than one accusation thrown against Saladin who was probably, making allowances for the barbarity of his times, the most chivalrous Paladin that ever existed.

Global Warming
They hate the whole idea of Global Warming and consider it a big hoax. Exactly why this is the case is unclear. Possibilities include this is what the fat cat Republicans say so it must be true, Al Gore thinks it’s true so it must be false and God is in charge not man so it can’t be true.

They don’t know what it is, but they know they hate it.

I got something of a new insight from a recent post. Someone pointed out that public schools were actually “Socialism” and the fundy replied that they couldn’t be because they weren’t persecuting her.

WTF? Has someone been telling fundies that Socialism = Christian persecution? It wouldn’t surprise me since most of them think they're being persecuted whenever they’re not allowed to shove their religion and their idea of morality down everyone else’s throat.

Certain People
In general fundies hate anyone who disagrees with them but certain individuals and groups come in for special attention.

Barack Obama heads the list. They hate him with a venom that is shocking at times. Fundies have called him a closet Muslim, a foreigner, someone who hates America, someone who is planning to destroy the American economy and the anti-christ.

Following not far behind poor Barack are atheists, liberals, scientists and the ACLU. I’m proud of the fact that I’m a member of all of those four groups they hate and I voted for Obama and will most likely vote for him again.

Those are the biggies. It is absolutely amazing the amount of pure ignorance contained in these posts but perhaps the biggest eye opener is the “facts” they make up. Everything from “the bible has been demonstrated to be 97% accurate” to “liberals tend to be fatter than conservatives.”

Needless to say there is never any citation to back up their assertions because the assertions are invariably flat out not true. I have no idea what the hell “97% accurate” means but it’s easy enough to verify that the liberal Blue States have a significantly lower obesity rate than the conservative Red States as well as lower crime rates and murder rates.

If I had to generalize I would say that these people have no idea of the difference between opinion and fact, have no particular problem with making things up to meet their needs and no particular problem with redefining history to meet their needs.

The crusades are an embarrassment? No problem, convert it into Christians helping the Jews defend their lands against Muslim invaders.

The founding fathers devised a secular constitution? No problem, assert that, despite all of the writings to the contrary, they based it upon “Christian principles” whatever the hell they are.

If something supports their opinion, they accept it as true without any need for verification. If it contradicts their opinion, they will rationalize it away or simply reject it out of hand.

These people call themselves patriots yet would gleefully scrap the most fundamental principles of American Democracy.

If they had their way the Separation of Church and State, which they claim is a hoax foisted upon the country by liberals, religious freedom and equal protection under the law would all be suppressed in favor of their theocratic authoritarianism.

Christian prayer would return to the schools, Christianity would be the official religion, homosexuals would go back in the closet, atheists denied fundamental political rights and women would again be forced to rely upon back ally quacks when an abortion was necessary. Or at least poor women would; rich ones could always take a short vacation to Canada.

These people would just be ludicrous clowns if one of our major political parties wasn’t bending over backwards to gain their support. That makes them potentially dangerous. The Republicans are playing a risky game. They think they can control these fruitcakes and exploit them for their votes.

Well, perhaps they can, but the German industrialists thought the same thing about Hitler. The one thing the fundies lack, the one thing that could make them a serious threat to American Democracy is a charismatic leader. This leader wouldn’t have to be a fundy, just be able to convince them he was.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Winter Olympics

I would say *yawn* except for Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian Lugar killed in a practice run on Friday. To my mind the condition of that track, despite protests by Olympic officials to the contrary, was utterly unacceptable.

The officials have claimed that Nodar was “too inexperienced.” Well, if that’s the case, you should have some sort of qualifying trial before allowing someone onto a potentially deadly course.

No matter how you spin it, the Olympic and Luge officials, who should have been the older and wiser heads, failed in their responsibility. The fact that changes have in fact been made to the track speaks for itself. This should have been a great time in Nodar’s life. His death saddens me beyond any ability of mine to express.

As for the Olympics themselves, I’m not much of a fan. I never cared much for the Winter Olympics, perhaps because I never participated in any of the sports being played. I used to like the Summer Olympics more than I do now. I guess I’ve just gotten bored with the whole thing.

This is not to say they aren’t a great event, laden with the potential for great drama, they’re just not my cup of tea I guess.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Great Derangement

I finished “Idiot America” and now I’m reading Matt Taibbi’s “The Great Derangement.” It’s a tad dated but I think it will be an interesting read.

One point that Taibbi makes early on is that the various factions in the American political landscape don’t have a common set of facts to work from.

The implication is if we disagree on the simplest thing, the fundamental facts, how are we ever going to agree on complex issues like policies?

While I agree that working from a different understanding of the facts makes things difficult, I’m not sure this is a change. Did Americans ever agree on a common set of facts?

Somehow I doubt it.

I think I’ll wait and see how Taibbi develops this theme before commenting further.

Super Bowl XLIV

Of course I picked the Colts. I guess that’s why I’m not working as a football analyst.

I was riding high in the first quarter with the Colts up 10-0. The onside kick at the start of the 2nd half fooled me as well as everyone else. If the Colts had recovered and scored to make it 17-6, I’m convinced they would have won. Instead it was the Saints that recovered and made it 13-10.

The fact that Manning managed a drive to temporarily retake the lead 17-13 was irrelevant. That onside kick won the game.

When it works you’re a genius. If it hadn’t worked, Shawn Peyton would have been crucified by the sports pundits.

Anyway, final score Saints 31, Colts 17 so I end up with a losing record this year in NFL playoff predictions 5-6. Guess I’ll keep my day job.

As for the Pam and Tim Tebow commercial, it didn't even make a whole lot of sense to me. If I didn't know the story ahead of time, I wouldn't know what the hell they were talking about. When it started, I actually thought at first it was a continuation of the commercial with Betty White and Abe Vigoda that had preceded it.

I doubt too many of the NFL fans rushed to the Focus on the Family web site, as they were invited to, in order to get the whole Pam and Tim Tebow story.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Department of Education

I had a bit of a shock the other day while considering the issues being highlighted by the Tea Party that I couldn’t really say what the hell the Department of Education, an agency some Tea Party supporters are proposing we abolish, actually did.

The good news is that this is the Age of the Internet so I surfed on over to the DOE website. There I read the Mission Statement, the “What we Do” page, the “What we don’t Do” page and perused the list of assorted programs.

As far as I can tell the DOE does three primary things. It provides money in the form of grants and loans for education, it enforces laws against discrimination in programs that receive federal funds and it measures the performance of schools through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Overall it sounds like it’s primarily in the business of taking money from John and Paul and giving it to Jim. One has to wonder how one can do that when the money from John and Paul has already been spoken for. So perhaps more accurately, the DOE borrows money from China and lends it to American students and school districts while eating some of it for providing the service.

The DOE claims its mission is:

“The mission of the Department of Education is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

Well, I’d say based upon where American students stack up against students from other countries and the typical disparities between whites and blacks in the U.S. they’re not exactly doing a bang up job now are they?

They also apparently run the federal college student loan program. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) form so that’s not going win any sympathy from me.

The discretionary budget for the DOE is around $50 billion. A mere drop in the bucket these days perhaps but it still represents about $166 from each of us. I’m sort of wondering whether I could do something better with that $166?

That would cover 92% of my World of Warcraft subscription.

They also administer Pell Grants which are outright gifts to college students to cover tuition and other expenses rather than loans. Pell Grants do not have to be paid back.

Some of the appropriations read like a satire. Check this one out.

$3.5 billion over 7 years for a College Access and Completion Fund, which would make grants to States, institutions of higher education, and other organizations to support innovative strategies to increase the number and percentage of students entering and completing college.

What’s wrong with this picture? Here I always thought that college was something just about everyone wanted to enter and complete, if they were capable of doing so, and that usually it was MONEY that was standing in the way. How about using this money to REDUCE TUITION COSTS! That would work.

I also notice funding appropriated for simplifying the FAFSA. NOW you’re going to simplify it?

I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that the DOE probably hasn’t come close to providing me adequate value for the money it has cost me in taxes over the years. More than likely it has siphoned money away from myself, my town and my family and spent it on maintaining itself and on other people, towns and families.

I suspect we can do without most of what this agency does. The more I read about this place the more a picture forms in my mind of self important political appointees leading a bunch of know nothing bureaucrats around and not accomplishing a whole lot other than killing trees and spending money.

Of course, I could be wrong.

I must be in a bad mood. I mean, I work for a living. I’m not sure why I should be contributing to a program like the “College Access and Completion Fund.” Hell, if you don’t want to go, or can’t cut it, go flip burgers at Mickey D’s.

Here’s another one.

$123.3 million for Developing Hispanic-serving Institutions, an increase of 5 percent, to help ensure that Hispanic students, half of whom enroll in Hispanic-serving institutions, have access to high quality postsecondary education.

WTF is a “Hispanic-serving Institution” and why do we need to develop them? Can’t they just attend the same old local colleges that everyone else attends? Why do they need “Hispanic-serving Institutions?” Whatever the f--k they are.

I sort of sympathize with blacks because (1) most of their ancestors got dragged over here against their will and (2) I remember segregation and the 1950’s. I don’t have that same kind of empathy for Hispanics. I’m not even sure why Hispanics are a “minority” and Italians, Irish, Germans and god damned Danes aren’t. I’m an Austrian-Italian mutt. Where do I go and apply for my minority benefits?

Wow, here I am, racist in training.

I’m really not. I just don’t understand how it’s decided who needs special help, who doesn’t and what that special help is. Who is reviewing the effectiveness and benefits of these kinds of programs? I sort of get the feeling that once a program gets going, it becomes increasing hard to shut it down as time goes by regardless of whether or not it’s accomplishing anything that justifies the money being spent.

I think if I was ever elected president (heaven forbid), the first thing I would do is have a team of people review the value of every ongoing program in any agency and shut down the ones that weren’t returning an adequate return for the investment.

Luckily I’m not about to be elected president anytime soon but it does give me an idea for an interesting post entitled “If I were Elected President.” Think I’ll go work on that one.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Contract from America

The Tea Party types are putting together what they call a “Contract from America” which strikes me very much like a party platform. I think it is essentially sending the message “these are the things we’d like done.”

They are currently in the process of winnowing down the ideas submitted into a more focused list. I’ve listed the 20 highest rated ideas, with commentary, below. I have corrected the spelling and English usage errors in the list.

Implement the Fair Tax 8692 rating
This idea has a lot of attractive elements to it. If nothing else it would significantly simplify taxes. The problem is there are lots of question about both the impact and the effectiveness of this type of tax.

Basically this idea eliminates the income tax in favor of what amounts to a tax upon consumption. It’s not a true sales tax because it includes an ongoing rebate (or prebate as proponents call it) that would effectively eliminate any taxes on people spending under the poverty level. As a matter of fact, in some cases, it could even be a negative tax where poor families would receive more in rebate payments than they paid in taxes.

The problem is that not everyone agrees the tax would work as advertised and there is concern that it may be vulnerable to fraud. Taxing would occur only once at the final sale for consumption, therefore the fear is that it might be possible to side step tax payments by disguising the purchase as an intermediary one. Also, can you spell Black Market? Think about the cross state trafficking in cigarettes.

I think this is a very complicated area and, while the Fair Tax is attractive for a number of reasons, it’s unclear to me whether it’s a good idea. - Uncertain

Legislation shall contain no unrelated amendments 4411 rating
No more “riders” tacked onto bills spending money on questionable or favorite causes. I agree with this 100%. - Agree

Congressional Term Limits 3906 rating
Absolutely agree with this 100%. - Agree

Abolish the Department of Education 3466 rating
Since I’m not 100% certain what the Department of Education does I’m at something of a loss to decide whether or not this is a good witch or a bad witch. I noticed that some of the morons commenting on this idea seem to think it would allow the states to re-institute school prayers. Clearly they don’t understand how things work.

The bottom line is I’m uncertain about this one. - Uncertain

Pass Nationwide Medical Malpractice Tort Reform 3081 rating
I absolutely agree with this 100%. - Agree

Congress shall not exempt themselves 2908 rating
I absolutely agree with this 100%. If it’s good enough for the meandering herd, then it’s good enough for those bozos as well - Agree

No lifetime salary or benefits for Congress 2876 rating
Basically you get paid for the time you serve and that’s it. This works very well in conjunction with term limits. – Agree

An Official Language of the United States 2856 rating
I agree. English should the official language. I grind my teeth every time I’m told to “press 1 for English.” - Agree

Drill Here, Drill Now 2828 rating
It’s highly debatable that this is going to solve anything. The guy that submitted this seems to think we have massive untapped oil reserves. This just flat out isn’t true. Better would be to find alternative and renewable sources. - Oppose

Interstate Health Insurance Competition 2732 rating
Why the hell not is what I say. Competition invariable leads to benefits for the consumer. – Agree

Cite Constitutional authority for creating laws 2207 rating
Anyone can rationalize anything. This wouldn’t accomplish anything. Someone can always come up with a creative explanation. If you doubt that, just check out Christian Apologetics. So this isn’t a bad idea, it’s just worthless. - Oppose

Nuclear Energy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil 1690 rating
Assuming the appropriate safeguards are in place and we have a way to dispose of all that nuclear waste, maybe. I’d like to understand a little more about the implications of this. - Uncertain

More Drilling for Natural Gas and Oil, Increase Nuclear Energy, and eliminate federal regulation and give power back to the states 1075 rating
This is sort of a combination of the two previous ideas. I seriously doubt we currently have the oil reserves to resolve the issue and I find nuclear energy questionable as a solution. - Uncertain

Federal Spending Limitations - Budget Cap 942 rating
It’s probably not a good idea to try and see too far into the future and I get the feeling this is what this idea is trying to do. On the other hand, as long as there is adequate leeway for addressing emergencies then this might be a good idea. I think it’s more complicated than it sounds however and I’d need more details. – Uncertain

2nd Amendment Rights 938 rating
I’ll let you have all the guns you want as long as bullets are restricted to target ranges and hunting preserves. – Opposed

Presidential advisers (czars) shall have no regulatory authority 899 rating
I agree with this. Advisors should be just that, advisors. Only elected officials should have regulatory power. – Agree

Bills from the House or Senate are to be Made Public 7 Days Before any Vote 836 rating
All bills are already posted and can be accessed easily from the Internet. The problem is you have to know the bill exists and its designation. I think we need a more streamlined and easy to access system. If that’s what this means, then I’m all for it. – Agree

Post all government expenditures on the Internet 575 rating
Some government expenditures are classified and have to be classified. Besides, if you post all the bills, which would include appropriations bills, this sort of becomes redundant. – Oppose

Hands OFF the Internet 472 rating
I agree 100%. – Agree

Abolish the Department of Energy. 439 rating
Like the Department of Education, I’m not certain what this department does so it’s hard for me to judge. – Uncertain

So I agree with 10, disagree with 4 and I’m uncertain about 6. In general I think all of these ideas are underestimating the complexity associated with the issue. They’re ideas that would like to grow up to be concepts that can then be matured into plans. The devil is in the details and there is usually a lot of work to be done between the idea phase and when implementation begins.

I also think some of the support is based upon unrealistic expectations as well as a misunderstanding of who controls what in some cases. Eliminating the Department of Education isn’t going to allow restoring school prayer, teaching creationism or resurrecting segregation. The Constitution isn’t going away.

I think the general consensus is if it isn’t effective, then eliminate it. However one needs to be careful that one doesn’t get a totally unexpected and unpleasant result. Just because you’re not aware of it doesn’t mean an agency isn’t performing some vital service. Often the quietest agencies are the most effective.

Still, at least 10, and possibly 16, of the ideas strike me as having merit and I’m willing to be convinced on 3 of the 4 I opposed. No one is ever going to convince me that we need unrestricted gun ownership or any gun ownership at all for that matter.

The real danger here is having a group of people, who don’t understand the complexities of the situation, trying to dictate simple minded solutions and then becoming enraged when things get bogged down due to the complexities they overlooked. On the other hand, maybe some of these things are in fact as simple as they look.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Paper Linking Vaccine and Autism Retracted

The major British medical journal, the Lancet, has officially issued a retraction of the Andrew Wakefield paper which claimed a possible link between autism and the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

The action came after an ethic judgment against Wakefield was issued last week by the British General Medical council.

For years other experts and researchers have been arguing that Wakefield’s claim was totally without merit and now the Lancet apparently agrees.

Unfortunately the damage has pretty much already been done. Based upon Wakefield’s apparently spurious claims, a whole anti-vaccination culture has evolved complete with its own celebrities.

This is a perfect example of Idiot America which unfortunately has also taken hold in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. One “celebrity component” of the anti-vaccine says her “mommy sense” knows that vaccines cause autism despite what all those silly scientists and medical experts say.

Heaven help us from ourselves.

I agree with the criticism that the Lancet should have taken some sort of official action, if only to declare the paper’s result in serious doubt, long before this.

Now we’ll see how the “mommy sense” advocates react. I’m betting there will be loud denunciations of the Lancet’s actions and cries of a witch hunt before the whole controversy slowly fades away.

Unfortunately that’s not going to bring back any of the children who have died because their parents were falsely frightened into not getting them vaccinated.

The Budget

The budget projections coming out of the White House aren’t terribly encouraging except for one solid fact that I’m sure won’t be given the publicity and credit it deserves.

The one solid fact is that they are honest.

During the eight years of the Bush administration we got vague assurances that the budget would ultimately be balanced while the Bush tax cuts and the ill advised adventure in Iraq guaranteed they couldn’t be.

Obama is taking the position that job growth and economic stimulus take precedent over a balanced budget. I’m not 100% certain I feel comfortable with that conclusion. I would seriously like to see the justification, the projections and the math associated with it. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not one to take anybody’s word for anything without seeing the evidence for myself.

Obama should get praise; what he’ll probably get is vilification from the Republicans for a situation that is mostly their fault. However, I’m not letting the Democrats off the hook. Clearly the administration should have been singing this tune for the last year and making the point that controlling health care costs is necessary for getting the deficit under control.

I’m in favor of the proposed tax increases (although I’m sure I will find them painful), but I’m not sure they go far enough. I think the domestic budget freeze is a good idea and actually thought it was the primary good idea McCain had during the campaign.

It’s going to be painful folks. We’ve all been enjoying the party and now it’s time to pay the band.

The difficulty will be the pundits and soft shoe politicians who will lie to you and claim it isn’t necessary or that raising taxes is going to lead to a new recession. I can guarantee it’s necessary and I think it’s more likely that not taking steps to correct the deficit will lead to, not only a new recession, but a potential economic catastrophe that would make the upheaval of the Great Depression look like boom times.

The time has come to face reality, consider the facts and ignore the Right Wing morons who are about to spin up another load of nonsense for political benefit.

The president is doing what is right. The Republicans will undoubtedly react with what they think will be popular regardless of whether or not that means the country will burn.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Accuracy of Pam Tebow’s Abortion Tale

Some people are challenging the accuracy of Pam Tebow’s story that, after falling ill in the Philippines, she chose not to follow a doctor’s recommendation to abort the pregnancy which ultimately led to the birth of Tim.

Apparently the fly in the ointment is the fact that abortion is now, and was then, illegal in the Philippines.

Well, that may be, but the fact of the matter is that the abortion rate in the Philippines is higher than that in the U.S. and, apparently, is one of those things where the well to do can get it done safely under a doctor’s care and the not so well to do have to settle for, shall we say, a far less safe approach.

So I don’t find it at all surprising that the doctors caring for an American missionary lady could, would, and did recommend an abortion. I believe Mrs. Tebow.

Another point being made is that the commercial would be misleading if it didn’t at least include the information that abortion was illegal in the Philippines. I doubt they’ll bother since that would introduce a second rationale for the decision (fear of getting thrown in the hoosegow) in addition to pure religious fervor. Which is, I’m fairly certain, the reason the opposition wants it brought up.

I think the ad is inappropriate and CBS shouldn’t air it but I’d like to keep the argument focused on that question. I don’t think personal attacks on Tim or Pam have any place in the discussion and clearly questioning the veracity of the story is a personal attack.

Besides, as I’ve said about David and Jesus and the adulteress, even if the story isn’t true, it should be. I don’t have a problem with the story; it raises questions that we all need to consider as part of the abortion question. I just don’t think the Super Bowl is the right venue for raising those questions.

Abducting Haitian Children

Well, I guess they weren’t really abducting them or so they claim. Ten certifiable American morons were arrested while trying to bus children out of Haiti without any of the necessary legal forms and permissions.

The latest “Ugly American” poster children are members of the Southern Baptist Convention from Idaho and, according to their spokesman, were “just trying to do the right thing.”

Needless to say the Haitian government is furious and insisting that the Ugly Ten be prosecuted in order to send a strong message against trafficking in children.

Haitian and U.S. official are considering a trial in the U.S. since Haiti has a few more important things to worry about than these idiots. If that’s the case, I’ll be surprised if they get more than a slap on the wrist. What they should be sentenced to do is clean out the latrines in the disaster area for about six months.

I have no sympathy for these people but they probably don’t deserve jail time for stupidity. I would like to see a hefty community service sentence that will help them to develop a little cultural sensitivity.

What am I kidding? Fundy airheads develop cultural sensitivity? I might as well ask for hell to freeze over.