Monday, January 28, 2013

Credit Card Fees

Starting yesterday, merchants have the option of passing the credit card fees they pay to people like Visa and Mastercharge, on to the customer except in the 10 states which prohibit the practice.

The fee ranges from 1.5% to 3% with the larger stores, like Wal-Mart, able to negotiate the lower fees while small merchants are usually stuck paying more.

Merchants don't have to add the charge. It's purely optional like some gas stations charging different prices for cash and credit.

The fact that a fee is going to be charged is supposed to be clearly posted near the checkout and also on the receipt. These fees do not apply to debit cards and obviously not to cash.

I use charge cards for convenience and to collect the cash back points. If stores start charging me extra, I'll simply stop using them. I'll also stop shopping where the charges are being assassed if I have an option.  If I go to a gas station that charges different prices for cash and credit, I pay in cash. If I have to shop at a store that charges to use a charge card, I'll either use cash or my debit card.

Expect to see this being phased in gradually to let you get used to it. The bigger stores, that compete on price, will be the last to institute the charge but I'm betting within 10 years every store will be hitting you with the extra fee and most people will simply pay it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why do people vote Republican?

In particular, why do working class and rural people vote for the pro-business Republican Party when their interests seem better served by the Democratic Party agenda?

Jonathan Haidt is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he does research on morality, and he has a hypothesis.

According to Haidt in an article I read on, his research has led him to two conclusions. “First, when gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare.”

Haidt believes that many people are more likely to try and come up with reasons to justify their gut feelings than allow reasons to adjust what they “know” to be true. From this conclusion Haidt concludes that the first rule of moral psychology is “feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete.”

I’m not going to argue with Haidt’s point but I do think a lot depends upon the individual, his education and his training.

His second conclusion is that “the moral domain varies across cultures” and his second rule of moral psychology is that “morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way.”

Based upon these conclusions Haidt defines five “Foundations of Morality.” These are "1) harm/care, 2) fairness/reciprocity (including issues of rights), 3) ingroup/loyalty, 4) authority/respect, and 5) purity/sanctity.”

Haidt’s hypothesis states that while liberals and Democrats tend to focus on harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, conservatives and Republicans tend to consider all foundations about equally.

The article then pointed me to a little test to measure my “reliance on and endorsement of” the five moral foundations. Here was the result.

So some things that conservatives think are important are something of a “meh “ to liberals. I'm the green so I'm even a bit more extreme than most liberals.

In some cases I can hold an opinion without feeling it’s necessary to project that opinion onto everyone else. I find mayonnaise disgusting but I’m not trying to outlaw mayonnaise or restrict its use. I don’t like the idea of abortion but I don’t think that gives me the right to restrict anyone else’s access to an abortion. From my viewpoint this is not a concept that conservatives understand.

They tend to be self righteous assholes that think their morality should be everyone’s morality. I tend to go with the Wiccan Creed, “An it harm none, then do as you will” which is of course a focus on "harm."

I’m shaky on abortion because I don’t entirely buy into the premise that it harms none.

Anyway, I certainly agree with Haidt, and my test results, that I’m heavily focused on harm and fairness. I consider myself loyal up to a point. My loyalty ends where my ethics get violated.

As a child of the sixties respect for authority isn’t really in my vocabulary. You have to earn my respect . Simply having a fancy title or powerful position doesn’t automatically get you more than a nominal amount and I tend to take pronouncement from authorities with more skepticism than I take pronouncements from just plain folks.

As for purity, I’m a little on the squeamish side when it comes to certain things but, again, I don’t feel any compulsion to project that onto anyone else. Just because I find it yucky doesn’t mean I think society will come crumbling down if someone else does it, whatever it may be. Now what do you suppose I could be alluding to here?

Where I will attempt to project my opinion onto everyone else or society as a whole is when harm or fairness is involved. That being the case, I guess I sort of think Haidt is onto something.

Poll on Roe v. Wade

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey 54% polled said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases (31%-all, 23%-most) while 35% said it should be illegal with exceptions and only 9% that it should be illegal in all cases.

As for Roe v. Wade, 70% said it should not be overturned compared to only 24% who said it should be overturned.

According to analysts this survey marks the latest in a trend of abortion becoming more accepted by groups who traditionally opposed it such as women without degrees, Blacks and Latinos.

In the meantime conservative leaning or Republican controlled states continue to erect barriers between women and an abortion.

As I’ve said before I’m shaky on the concept of abortion but I understand that I have no right to decide for someone else. That being the case I support abortion being legal in all cases but believe we should work towards eliminating the need for abortion through sex education and birth control as much as feasible.

No one has the right to decide such a life significant event for someone else.

Monday, January 21, 2013

On to the Super Bowl

If I'd always taken the Ravens instead of always going against them, I'd look like a genius. Of course that would have been terribly misleading.

So I was 1-1 yesterday. The 49ers didn't disappoint but Tom Brady looked like he was lost in Framingham. That puts me 6-4 going into the big one.

So what do I think? I can guarantee you if I pick the Ravens they'll lose so I have to go with the Niners. I picked them to win this year after they lost to the Giants last year and that was with Alex Smith at QB. I like this kid Kaepernick a lot more so how could I not go with them? David Akers salvages his season with a late game winner and the 49ers are champs for the 6th time 20-17.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gun Law Recommendations

Well, Obama has put his gun law recommendations on the table. They include three legislative initiatives.

Universal Background Checks
The objective here is to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Certainly this makes sense and even the NRA, home of some of the craziest people on earth, agree with this one. The weak point is "legitimate guns" can be stolen. The shooter at Sandy Hook stole the guns from his mother.

Ban on Assault Weapons
No one needs an assault weapon for hunting, skeet shooting or target shooting. A shotgun is more effective for home protection. So why the hell would anyone need an assault weapon? The simple answer is they don't. The complicated answer is no matter how you spin it, an assault weapon ban is an infringement on the right to bear arms. I think it's crazy but I don't see this garnering anywhere near the support required.

Ban on Large Capacity Magazines
Again, no one NEEDS a high capacity magazine for normal weapons related activities. But, again, this is technically an infringement on the right to bear arms, so, again, I don't see it passing unless there is some sort of unexpected outpouring of public support.

I don't see the public support thing working. The American public has too short of an attention span. I'm expecting this whole effort to pretty much go no where  except, maybe, for the universal background checks.

Still, like the man said, you have to try. We owe it to the Sandy Hook children to at least try but I'm not terribly confident the effort will succeed and that's a goddamned disgrace.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The NFL Championships

Jeez, I was within 31 seconds times 2 of being 4-0 in the Divisional Play-offs. Instead I end up a lackluster 2-2. How do you give up a 70 yard touchdown with 31 seconds left and the other guys have no timeouts? At least I'm not a Broncos fan because that one hurts.

Almost as bad was Seattle. You come all the way back from 20-0 and take the lead only to cough up a last second field goal.

Dear Pete Carrol, I want you to spend all winter thinking about two things. First, the chip shot field goal you didn't go for AND didn't give it to Marshawn Lynch on 3rd and 1 AND didn't give it to Marshawn Lynch on 4th and 1. Pete, when you have a Marshawn Lynch you give him the freaking ball when you desperately need a yard. If you weren't making the calls, you should have been. Second, that laughable clock management at the end of the 1st half. What the hell was that?

As for John Fox...John, you have Peyton Manning at QB and the best short passing game in the league. You THROW the freaking ball on 3rd and 7 instead of running into a nine man box. You get the first down and the Ravens are in a world of hurt. And if you weren't making that play call, you should have been.

Bah, enough with the sour grapes. So I'm 5-3 going into the Championship games.

49ers at Falcons
Like I said, Colin Kaepernick is a real wild card. He was great against the Packers. Can he pull a repeat performance against the Falcons? I should probably go with the Falcons but screw it, I'm going with Colin and the 49ers.

Ravens at Patriots
I'm 0-2 with the Ravens this year and I really don't care for the Patriots but I'm going to go with Tom Brady at home to disappoint the Ravens for the second year in a row.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Should Redskins Change their Name?

The mayor of Washington DC, Vincent Gray, says that if the Skins move back within the DC limits, they should consider changing the team's nickname.

According to Gray, Redskins is an offensive term for Native Americans.

I’m not a Native American so I don’t know. I’ve read that polls among Native Americans show that the majority don’t find it offensive but I don’t know how true that is. I know St. John’s University changed their name from Redmen to Red Storm a few years ago even though the Redmen name referred to their uniform color.

As a Giants fan I’ve hated the Redskins for over 50 years. The only team I hate more is the Eagles. Any year we beat the Eagles 42-7, at home, is a good year. Who cares about the Super Bowl? Beating the Eagles is what’s important! I refuse to see the movie “Silver Linings Playbook” because it’s about an Eagles fan. Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro have been dropped from my “favorite actors” list for playing Eagles fans. I’ve burned my copy of “The Hangover” because Bradley Cooper is in it.

But I digress.

I can’t imagine an NFL without the Redskins any more than I can imagine it without the Giants, Eagles, Steelers, Bears or Packers. It just wouldn’t be the same.

So, from a selfish viewpoint, I say let the Redskins name be.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

National Cathedral to Start Performing Same Sex Marriages

The 106-year old Washington National Cathedral, where Ronald Reagan had his funeral, has announced that it will start performing same sex marriages.

Reverend Gary Hall, the cathedral's dean, said performing same-sex marriages is an opportunity to break down barriers and build a more inclusive community.

Given the cathedral’s heavy schedule, it will probably be six months to a year before the first ceremony is performed.

Given the howls of indignation from the Religious Right over the first gay marriage at West Point’s Cadet Chapel last month this one should be lots of fun.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Piers Morgan, Alex Jones and Gun Control

Anyone, after watching Alex Jones, that isn't concerned that man has guns isn't paying attention. He's a certifiable lunatic. New World Order? Give me a break. Maybe he should watch out for the Illuminati while he's at it?

No government can institute a tyranny without support of the armed forces. Do you really think the US armed forces would support a dictatorship or a suspension of the rule of law?

If you do think so, then WHY year in and year out does the US Military rank as the most trusted organization among American citizens?

It takes a mind boggling degree of compartmentalization to place trust in the organization you also think you need a gun to protect yourself against.

I also checked Jones' statistics. Yes the UK has a MUCH higher violent crime rate than the US (about 2,000 vs 460 crimes per 100,000 population) but, and this is a very big but, violent crime rates are dominated by assault and the definition of assault is radically different in different jurisdictions and so are the reporting requirements.

The FBI constantly warns against using violent crime statistics alone to compare jurisdictions.

Arguably, a more consistent statistic is Murder Rate which includes involuntary manslaughter as the definition is virtually identical everywhere. The US Murder Rate is 4.8. The UK Murder Rate is 1.2. So with all our guns, we still have four times the number of homicides.

The Murder Rate in Germany (no guns) is 0.8 and in Japan (no guns) 0.4. The simple conclusion is if there are no guns, it's harder to kill someone. I'm NOT saying these numbers are conclusive, but they cannot simply be ignored.

We need to seriously discuss guns in this country but Alex Jones and Wayne LaPierre probably shouldn't be part of the conversation.

As for the 2nd Amendment, if you want to get all Strict Interpretation of the Constitution about it, the only gun anyone has the right to bear is a smooth bore musket or a primitive 18th century rifle.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Oliver Stone’s “The Bomb”

The third installment in Stone’s “Untold History of the United States” focuses on the decision to drop the atomic bomb first on Hiroshima and then on Nagasaki.

Stone makes, or a least strongly implies, a number of points.

1. The Japanese were willing to surrender before the bomb if the safety of the emperor was assured
2. Truman was more interested in a show of force for the Soviet Union
3. The Japanese were more concerned about the Soviet invasion than the atomic bomb
4. The casualty estimates for the invasion of Japan were originally modest and have grown over time

Let’s take Stone’s points one by one.

The Japanese were willing to surrender before the bomb if the safety of the emperor was assured
More accurately, the Japanese indicated that they were willing to do so. As to whether they would actually have followed through, and what exact terms they were looking for, is debatable.

Even if total surrender other than the sole condition of the safety of the emperor was on the table, it would have taken someone with significantly greater political stature than Harry Truman to accept the offer.

This was the enemy that attacked Pearl Harbor, the enemy that perpetrated the horrors of Bataan and Corregidor, the enemy that American soldiers had been fighting for four years bloody inch by bloody inch across jungle islands that no one had ever heard of. Franklyn Delano Roosevelt had declared that only Unconditional Surrender was acceptable; Unconditional Surrender has been wrested from the Germans and the American public damn well expected Unconditional Surrender from the Japanese.

Roosevelt had the stature to settle for less, but not Truman. I don’t see any way that this was politically possible given the limitations of the man in the White House.

Truman was more interested in a show of force for the Soviet Union
I agree that this was a secondary factor. As Stone points out Truman was terribly naïve scientifically and appears to have actually thought that the US could maintain a monopoly on the atomic bomb. Learning that the Americans had the bomb, and were willing to use it, certainly concerned Stalin. It concerned him so much that he accelerated Soviet efforts toward developing the bomb themselves.

The use of the bomb probably ended any hope for an agreement to ban the weapons or at least made it obvious that it wasn’t going to happen. I doubt it could have happened anyway. Of course Wallace, if he had become president, might have been stupid enough to trust Stalin but not anyone else.

So, like I said, this was a secondary motive but I doubt it was anything close to the primary reason. Truman probably considered it “icing on the cake.” The real issue was ending the war with Japan.

The Japanese were more concerned about the Soviet invasion than the Atomic Bomb
This was one I hadn’t heard before and I hadn’t realized how extensive the fighting had been in Manchuria nor how many casualties had been suffered. I was under the impression that the fighting had been token as best.

Ok, so I learned something but I still don’t buy Stone’s premise.

Again this was undoubtedly a factor, but was it the primary driving factor toward Japan finally accepting Unconditional Surrender?

I have to believe the answer is no and here’s why. Ultimately it was the emperor himself that made the decision and ordered surrender. The Japanese high command might have been willing to fight to the last drop of blood of the last soldier and maybe even the last civilian but the emperor wasn’t.

For the emperor to have intervened and to have actually addressed the Japanese people over the radio was staggeringly unprecedented. Like extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, extraordinary actions usually require extraordinary reasons.

The Soviet invasion wasn’t extraordinary. The Japanese weren’t stupid. They probably realized from D-Day on that the participation of the Russians was just a matter of time. A long anticipated event wouldn’t have caused the emperor to act.

The Atomic Bomb would have been not only unanticipated but inconceivable to the Japanese prior to Hiroshima. The second bomb demonstrated that it wasn’t a one and done thing. This WAS extraordinary enough to get the emperor to act. Stone is wrong. It was the bomb that forced the issue.

The casualty estimates for the invasion of Japan were originally modest and have grown over time
The implication being that the casualty estimates in 1945 weren’t large enough to be the driving factor in the decision to drop the bomb.

Stone backs up this claim by quoting the ever growing numbers expressed by Truman over the years and quotes General George Marshall as estimating 31,000 casualties.

While Stone is right about Truman’s ever growing numbers, he’s being very dishonest with Marshall’s quote. Marshall did indeed, by using the Battle of Luzon as a model, estimate 31,000 casualties but within the first 30 days with a total of 70,000 overall. Fleet Admiral William Leahy thought Okinawa was a better model (and I have to agree with him on that one) and estimated 268,000 casualties.

These estimates were only for Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushsu, did not include naval casulaties and did not take into account Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu and the capture of Tokyo. They also were fairly early and didn’t take into account the ever increasing discovery of Japanese reserve forces by Allied Intelligence including some 8,000 suicide aircraft.

Let’s look at some other estimates, courtesy of Richard B. Frank in Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. New York: Random House, 1999.

A study done by the Joint Chiefs of Staff implied that a 90-day Olympic campaign would cost 456,000 American casualties, including 109,000 dead or missing. If Coronet took another 90 days, the combined cost would be 1,200,000 casualties, with 267,000 fatalities. Imagine what the Japanese total, military and civilian, would have been.

A study by Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s staff estimated that conquering Japan would cost 1.7-4 million American casualties, including 400,000–800,000 fatalities, and five to ten million Japanese fatalities. The key assumption was large-scale participation by civilians in the defense of Japan; an assumption not included in any of the military estimates but certainly part of the Japanese Ketsugo defense plan.

Herbert Hoover estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 deaths and may have discussed these numbers with Truman during their meetings in 1945.

D.M Giangreco and Kathryn Moore at History News Network, writing about Purple Heart production, indicate that approximately 500,000 Purple Hearts were manufactured in preparation for the invasion of Japan. They were expected to last until 1947.

There are still 120,000 of those medals available. Young soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are being awarded medals originally made for their grandfathers.

Stone's claim is total nonsense. Clearly there were concerns in 1945 that the number of casualties during the invasion of Japan was going to be horrendous.

Even simple actions by simple men have multiple and complex motives. Often we can't say ourselves with any certainty what the primary reason for an action was. Life is just too complicated to break it down into simple one on one cause and effect relationships.   One can always look at history and find "other considerations" or "other factors." Things that have not been highlighted or even mentioned in the summary of events that history becomes. There is always a simplification process. That doesn't mean what becomes known as "history" is wrong, just incomplete. It always has been, and it always will be.   At least for this episode Stone strikes me as confusing mountains and molehills.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States

I switched my cable contract to an updated package which cost less and gave me more channels. As part of the change I got access to Showtime which has an associated video streaming service called Showtime Anytime very similar to HBO Go.

Anyway, I was exploring the Showtime stuff and was intrigued to find a Showtime series directed and narrated by Oliver Stone called “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.”

Now my warning radar went up immediately. I mean, we’re talking about Oliver Stone here of the movie “JFK” infamy. I saw JFK and it was total nonsense. Still, I couldn’t resist.

The show is comprised of Stone narrating over vintage newsreel footage and is intriguing to say the least. It begins with World War II and, so far, appears to extend through the Reagan era with a promise I believe of two more shows to come.

Stone’s main premise is “what you know to be true ain’t necessarily so.” It also has a secondary premise of “there’s a lot of stuff you don’t know that maybe you should.”

I would never argue with either premise and especially not with the second one. The problem with the first one is often it’s a matter of opinion rather than one of fact. The same events can be interpreted different ways by different people. I might also point out that the same two premises apply to people doing documentaries on Showtime.

The first premise is also subject to the level of education of the individual. I’ve watched two episodes so far and there was nothing in Episode 1 that I didn’t know. Stone’s big revelation was that it was the Soviet Union that defeated Hitler and not the Western Allies. Anyone with a decent knowledge of World War II understands that.

The second episode was a bit trickier and focused upon the relationships between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill and the internal politics of the Democratic Party approaching the 1944 convention.

It’s hard to believe today but in 1944 the most Right Wing elements in the country were Democratic Party stalwarts from the so-called solid south. The political landscape consisted of Democrats to the Left, Republicans in the Center and more Democrats to the Right as opposed to today’s landscape of Democrats to the Left and Republicans to the Right with a growing gap between them.

Stone’s basic premise is that Truman was a political hack of limited imagination and intelligence that didn’t follow through on the agreements between Roosevelt and Stalin. Stone paints Roosevelt and Stalin as seeing eye to eye on the emerging future while Churchill held onto obsolete visions of colonial empire. He implies that Wallace, quite possibly the closest thing to a Socialist the country has ever had in high public office, would have followed through.

Stone then implies that history would have been drastically different if the reactionary and big business elements of the Democratic Party hadn’t managed to get Henry Wallace replaced on the ticket by Truman and Wallace, rather than Truman, had become president.

Yeah, I agree things would have been different but I’m not sure they would have been better.

Wallace strikes me as a terribly naïve and trusting sort and I suspect Stalin would have wrapped him around his little finger. Things would probably have gone along to Papa Stalin’s satisfaction until Wallace realized that he’d been had as he did shortly after the invasion of South Korea.

That day did come and, like all naïve and trusting types, Wallace appears to have had a penchant for turning viciously upon those he felt betrayed by. It’s not at all clear to me that Wallace would have been a better choice regardless of any shortcomings that Truman may have had. When Wallace did realize he’d been had all he could do was write about it in his book “Where I was Wrong.” As president he would have had other options.

Wallace was a left wing nutcase. I don’t think he would have been good for the country in 1945 or anytime shortly thereafter. Hell, I don’t think he’d be good for the country now.

The next episode is entitled “The Bomb” and Stone has hinted at “other reasons” beyond the fear of massive casualties resulting from an invasion of Japan for dropping the A-Bomb.

Yeah, I don’t doubt there were; the question is what were their relative importance? If they didn’t exist, would the A-Bomb still have been dropped?

The Divisional Round

Hey, I got three out of four right in the Wild Card round. I thought I was going to pull another both right on Saturday and both wrong on Sunday when the Skins started out ahead 14-0. Guess I should have stayed conventional and taken the Ravens.

So now on to the Divisional Round.

Ravens at Broncos
I’m taking Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Packers at San Francisco
Blah, this is a tough one. If Alex Smith was still at QB for SF I wouldn’t be hesitant, I'd take Green Bay. Kaepernick is a lot more of an unknown quantity. Still, I really like that San Francisco defense. But can I go against Aaron Rogers? Yes I can, San Francisco it is.

Seahawks at Falcons
Oh this is a interesting one. Logic says I should take the Falcons. Screw logic. I like the Seahawks.

Texans at Patriots
I’m taking Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Elsewhere Chip Kelly of the University of Oregon has decided to stay there and, at least for now, pass up an NFL opportunity disappointing both the Browns and the Eagles. Good move Chip. You do not need the grief. Besides, why the hell would you want to live in Cleveland or Philadelphia? Hold out for New York and either the Giants or the Jets.

Tom Coughlin has to retire sometime and how long can Rex Ryan continue to screw the pooch?

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Crazies

When NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre declared that the solution to tragedies like Sandy Hook Elementary school is to put armed guards in all the schools the New York Daily News declared him the “Craziest Man on Earth.”

That might be a bit strong. Granted, LaPierre is bat-shit crazy but the Craziest Man on Earth? Hell, he’s got some tough competition for even the craziest man in America. Here are some quotes from some of LaPierre’s competition courtesy of Right Wing Watch.

Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS)
In case you’ve missed it representatives, both Democrat and Republican, from New York and New Jersey are furious over the House not voting on a Sandy relief bill. This moron has said that he’s not convinced a relief bill is necessary because “FEMA can’t spend the money quick enough.”

This despite FEMA reporting that the flood insurance program is about to run out of money. Huelskamp appears dumbfounded that people want the aid.

Pastor Kevin Swanson on Generations Radio
On Barack Obama, “…Barack Obama and the North Korean president, they’re both committed to Marx.”

One has to wonder if Swanson has ever read Marx.

On the Egyptian election, “The Egyptians placed a Muslim into the presidency, which does not bode well for freedom in America” and “It’s a sad, sad day in Egypt.”

Am I missing something here? Somehow democracy in Egypt is a bad thing simply because you don’t like the choices that the people of Egypt are making? That’s the thing about democracy. YOU don’t get to choose the government that other people select. As for it being a Muslim that was elected, WTF were you expecting?

Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation
“If you want to pin blame on Sandy Hook, blame the Teachers Unions that have championed schools being gun free zones.”

Let me put this in perspective. I work for a military contractor. We have more than our share of ex-military types and many of us have been embedded with military units during training exercises in the past few years. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of ducking tanks at Ft. Hood and watching artillery explosions from a helicopter airfield at White Sands Missile Range.

We’re a gun free zone. You CANNOT bring a firearm into the building. So why the hell would anyone think it’s a good idea to bring one into a school?

Gordon Klingenschmitt of the Pray In Jesus Name Project
“Federal bureaucrats will enforce Obamacare to exterminate the elderly, systematically.”

Huh? Have any of these people actually READ the Health Care Law? I might point out that the same people that criticize Health Care want to scuttle Medicare but it’s the Health Care Law that’s threatening seniors.

The Health Care Law tries to make health care insurance accessible to people that wouldn’t normally be able to afford it. It also regulates what is an acceptable plan for participation in the health care exchanges to be established to help people find plans they can afford.

Does it tax or raise the cost of coverage for those that can afford health care? Yes it does. But so does my health care plan at work. Everyone gets the same coverage but the premiums are based upon your salary. For those making up to $75k, the cost of family coverage is $102 every two week pay period. For those making $200k and above, it’s $297 every two week pay period.

Pamela Geller of Freedom Defense Initiative
“How long do Jews have in Obama’s America? How long before we can’t walk down the street with a kippah or a Star of David? This is already reality for Belgium Jews, Swedish Jews and French Jews. Large portions of Norway are already Judenrein.”

What planet do you suppose Geller lives on? Large portions of Norway are “Judenrein?” WTF is she smoking? I suppose the 70% of Jews that voted for Obama are just plain stupid?

Bradlee Dean at World Net Daily
Dean suggests that the Newtown and other killing sprees are actually a government plot to drum up support for the UN Small Arms Treaty.

“The Sandy Hook shooting occurred just days after Sen. Rand Paul sent out an alert that the U.N. was set to pass the final version of the Small Arms Treaty, supported by Obama.”

It also happened “just days” after millions of other events. Simple proximity in time does not imply a relationship other than pure coincidence.

“Part of the treaty bans the trade, sale and ownership of all semi-automatic weapons … like the one Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children and 6 adults.”

Maybe that’s because these type of weapons are freaking dangerous to have around? Even legal weapons too often fall into the wrong hands as at Sandy Hook. Why can’t gun nuts get this simple fact into their skulls. The simple availability of weapons is a proven danger.

“As we reflect upon massacres such as Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, Tuscon, Ariz., and Columbine, we cannot help but see the similarities: conflicting news reports on what happened, who did the killing and the number of shooters. Eyewitnesses in all of these massacres said there were more shooters than the media maintain, indicating the shootings were coordinated and planned.”

Right, because eye witnesses are never wrong and during chaotic situations there are never conflicting or wrong reports about what happened. You are one really dumb asshole aren’t you?

I could go on and on but why bother, you get the picture. I’d like to say that we can laugh this sort of nonsense off but the problem is a lot of people accept this sort of crap at face value. The under 80 IQ Republican base eats this sort of stuff up because they’re scared of the world to begin with and this sort of paranoia feeds that fear.

Demagogues and petty tyrants maintain influence by keeping the population in a state of fear. The surest way to peace and freedom is to spit in their eye when they start mouthing this sort of nonsense.

Who Ivy League Staff Supported

96% of the donations from Ivy League faculty and staff went to Barack Obama. The conservative website provides the breakdown.

Brown University: Obama donors: 129 giving $67,728 Romney donors: 1 giving $500

Columbia University: Obama donors: 652 giving $361,754 Romney donors: 21 giving $34,250

Cornell University: Obama donors: 282 giving $141,731 Romney donors: 11 giving $8,610

Dartmouth College: Obama donors: 90 giving $51,018 Romney donors: 6 giving $2,850

Harvard University: Obama donors: 555 giving $373,556 Romney donors: 30 giving $34,500

Princeton University: Obama donors: 277 giving $155,008 Romney donors: 4 giving $1,901

University of Pennsylvania: Obama donors: 376 giving $209,839 Romney donors: 26 giving $22,900

Yale University: Obama donors: 399 giving $186,834 Romney donors: 13 giving $8,655

That adds up to 2,560 donations (96%) and $1,547,568 (93%) going to Obama as opposed to 112 donations $114,166 for Romney.

So what’s the Right Wing take on this? That’s it’s evidence of Liberal “bias” in academia. The idea that it might be because smart people tend to make smart decisions never enters their heads.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Only in Kansas

You know the old saying about no good deed goes unpunished?

A mechanic in Kansas saw an ad for a sperm donor which offered $50 for viable sperm. The ad had been placed by a lesbian couple looking to have a child.

Being a good guy, and after consulting with his wife, he donated the sperm for free. The designated mom became pregnant and the happy couple had a bouncing baby something or other (I don’t know the sex of the baby but it doesn’t matter).

Unfortunately the couple split a few years later but they still shared support for the child. Then the non-biological parent fell ill and could no longer afford to provide support.

The biological mother then applied to the state of Kansas for financial aid. Now Kansas doesn’t recognize same sex marriage and has a perfectly reasonable law on the books which requires it to attempt to recoup child support money from anyone who may be obligated to provide it.

So the state of Kansas decided to go after the sperm donor despite a contract he had signed with the biological mother relinquishing all parental rights in exchange for protection from claims of child support.

Of course that was protection from the mother and not from the state of Kansas.

The guy’s lawyer has filed for a dismissal of the case but even if that happens, and it’s not at all clear that it will, he’s already got thousands in legal fees.

This is one of those “you’ve got to be kidding me” deals. Why do I suspect that if it had been a heterosexual couple receiving the sperm donation no one in Kansas would even consider doing such a thing?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The NFL Playoffs

Ok, it’s time for Alencon to make himself look like a complete idiot and proceed to “predict” the NFL playoff games. My pet goat Frankie, picking winners randomly by stomping on cards with his hooves, usually does better but I can’t resist.

Bengals at Texans
I’m seriously tempted to go with the Bengals after the Texans ended up dropping to 3rd seed but I’m going to resist that and go with the Texans.

Vikings at Packers
Another tricky one but I’m figuring Aaron Rodgers pulls this one out. I like the Packers.

Colts at Ravens
I’ve become a believer in Luck. Andrew Luck that is, so I’m going to go with the Colts.

Seahawks at Redskins
The Skins have had an amazing run but it stops next Sunday. I’m going with the Seahawks.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A Fiscal Cliff Solution...Maybe

The Senate passed a Fiscal Cliff avoidance bill by an overwhelming 89-8 vote but Republicans in the House, led by Eric Cantor, appear ready to balk.

They're talking about amending the measure and sending it back to the Senate which could result in an extension of the stalemate. The other thing I'm a little confused about is how what appears to be a revenue bill can originate in the Senate in the face of Section 7 of the Constitution which states "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills."

Anyway, Eric Cantor and constitutional violations aside, what exactly is the supposed solution?

It extends the Bush era tax cuts for individuals up to $400,000 and couples up to $450,000. For those over the limit the tax rate will go to 39.6% up from 35%. The bill also extends the cap on itemized deductions from the Clinton era. This is less than Obama wanted but a lot more than the Republicans originally said they would allow. If it passes Grover Norquist can go suck a lemon.

Taxes on Capital Gains and Dividends exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples will go up from 15% to 20%.

It permanently indexes the Alternative Minimum Tax for inflation thus eliminatong the need for yearly bandaids.

It extends for five years expansions of the child tax credit, earned income tax credit, and an up to $2,500 tax credit for college tuition. It also extends for one year accelerated "bonus" depreciation of business investments in new property and equipment, a tax credit for research and development costs and a tax credit for renewable energy such as wind-generated electricity.

It extends jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for one year.

It blocks a 27% cut in Medicare payments to doctors for one year. This cut was the product of an obsolete 1997 budget formula.

It allows a 2% cut in the payroll tax first enacted two years ago to lapse, which restores the payroll tax to 6.2 percent but doesn't address the issue of raising the salary cap which I think is necessary to insure the solvency of Social Security. That would have been a progressive adjustment this is a regressive one that hits low income wage earners harder than high earners.

It Delays for two months $109 billion worth of across-the-board spending cuts set to start striking the Pentagon and domestic agencies this week.

Overall it's not a solution. It's a bandaid because it doesn't fully resolve the spending side of the issue. It just kicks the spending problem down the road again.

Still, it's better than nothing (I think) and should calm the jitters in the stock market until the spending ceiling debate starts. That should be another fiasco.