Wednesday, October 16, 2013

But He Said He'd Stop Drinking.....

There are very few editorials funnier than this one.

In it, the Houston Chronicle "regrets" its endorsement of Ted Cruz for Senate. Here's the money quote:

When we endorsed Ted Cruz in last November's general election, we did so with many reservations and at least one specific recommendation - that he follow Hutchison's example in his conduct as a senator.
 Making a statement like this is akin to marrying an alcoholic and then being shocked he didn't quit drinking. There was more than ample evidence that Ted Cruz was a moron. The Chronicle either didn't do its research prior to the endorsement, or is just trying to cover its ass before its readers.

Either way, no sale. When you lie down with dogs, you get to scratch at the fleas. You own it, Chronicle. Good luck with that.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rick Perry - hypocrite!

Yes! I said it! Governor Rick Perry of Texas is the biggest piece of shit hypocrite there is! His stance of pro-life but executed Kimberly McCarthy on the same day? This guy is the biggest piece of crap. He knows you can't be pro-life and pro-death penalty at the same time. That is why his is a scumbag... Rot in hell Rick Perry!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Demand Economy, or Lack Thereof

Supply side economics. Austerity. Cutting our way to prosperity. The perpetual application of the Laffer Curve.

All bullshit.

But you knew that already, right?

Corporate America may finally be catching up to this novel idea. One that was so novel that it dates back at least as far as Henry Ford.

The money quote, if you find this article too long to read:

Freeze says that revenue presents a more accurate picture of Corporate America's health. "You can play with the earnings numbers and have them skewed," he says. "But you can't mess with the revenue numbers - they are what they are. If people are not coming in droves to buy your products, your revenue's going to miss even if your earnings beat projections."

Demand based economies. How do they work again?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cleaning the Santorum from Our Schools

Since this seems to be a bit of a hot button issue in the Detroit area, let's have an adult discussion about what it's like when a right wing sugar daddy decides he's going to use his kids to shotgun one of modern society's most delusional speakers/politicians into a local high school.

First, it's important to ask, what are the core issues here? The first issue is that no district, regardless of the speaker, whether it's the valedictorian speech, the speech of district officials or the speech of the featured speaker at a graduation ceremony, allows that speaker to speak in front of the group of students without that speech being vetted. At a minimum, administrations do this to create plausible deniability in the event the speaker deviates from their script and does something offensive. (Do a quick Google search on Bradlee Dean to see how it works out for districts when they don't do this). Santorum wanted to do so without providing the district a speech and, within that context, I would have cancelled his appearance also. You do not have the right to walk in off the street and scream fire, shout obscinities, or tell students they're going to hell if they have pre-marital sex in a crowded school unvetted. Neither does Rick Santorum. This is why speeches from outside participants or at formal ceremonies are vetted to begin with.

88 years ago, people flocked in droves to Dayton, TN to see the Scopes trial. The majority of that audience were adamantly opposed to the teaching of evolution, but they actively embraced the idea that they should engage in semi-respectful intellectual discourse with those they disagreed. They actively sought out ideas in opposition to their own. We are four generations removed from that time, and we live firmly in an era of obsessive confirmation bias. Any district, it would seem to me, would need to acknowledge this fact and treat a controversial speaker such as Santorum accordingly, by issuing opt in/opt out forms.

Because it's a pre-requisite for sustaining their belief system, the Republican true believers crying foul once again exhibit short memories. 3.5 years ago, the "liberal" President made a speech available to schools nationwide, the prepared remarks for which were made available a week in advance. Let's take a look at their reactions to this,shall we?:

A strong educational system, in an ideal world, would present a disparate set of views that challenged their students to consider the points being made. An accommodating school district that strives to be inclusive would find a corresponding speaker, Keith Ellison, an elected Muslim liberal who is originally from Detroit comes to mind, to offer a counterweight of ideas, and plan out both, well in advance of an event like this.

Would I let my child see Santorum speak? A responsible parent probably would. Even if he's the intellectual equivalent of the mangled cars they put on the school lawn during MADD awareness week. Every bit of exposure helps to help a child grow intellectually.

But this has not been handled well by anyone.

Santorum doesn't know that you can't make a speech in front of a school district without it being vetted.

The district should know better than to think it can present a person on one side of the political spectrum in this day and age without offering an alternative point of view, and should have planned accordingly before approving the speech, if for no other reason than to mitigate some pretty significant blowback from parents.

The district should know better than to think it can compel students in this day and age to view a speech from a politically charged speaker on one side of the spectrum without offering an opt-in choice for their students.

Everyone has handled this poorly except for the people fronting Santorum's appearance fee (and why is he charging $18k for an appearance in front of a high school when the travel expenses for the trip can't run more than $2k), who thrive on this type of publicity.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Justice Scalia is a douchebag

Okay. My beef is with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His outburst today concerning gay rights just makes me sick. How is this guy still on the court?

Today he said... "O.K., could we just stop talking about this stuff now? I've told you all how I feel about this topic, and I don't understand why we're going on and on about it unless you all hate me."

He continues... "For two days, it's been gay this, gay that. You're all just talking about this stuff as if it's normal thing in the world. Well, it's not, O.K.? It's weird and it's wrong. And just talking about it like it's O.K. and whatnot is making me angry."

Do I sense a lack of professionalism from Justice Scalia? Why, as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, would you say such hateful comments? Should Justice Scalia resign over these insesnstive comments? Yes, I agree so. He is a douchebag and not a Justice of the Supreme Court...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Instant Karma's Gonna Sequester Ya

I have a friend of a friend. Let's call her Jenny. Jenny is a school teacher, who has worked in a district without a contract for the last two plus years.  Jenny is a Republican, both in an economic and religious sense of the word. And a union member. So right away, the cognitive dissonance she has to use to get through the day leads her to the more than occasional migraine.

 If you put two people that make the same amount of money in the same room, one a Republican, and one a Democrat, odds are very good you'll be able to unearth that one understands that their actions, for better or for worse, impact those of others, and so they should use the spirit of cooperation to help build the infrastructure of support to help the less fortunate and others around them, and that they understand that without the hard work and sacrifices made by those before them, some of whom earned more, some of whom earned less, they wouldn't be where they are, and that the other feels that people are trying to steal from them or are free riders. You can sort out who ideologically falls on which side of the aisle.

I tried to politely engage Jenny once on the subject of what Planned Parenthood means to women's health for rural residents. That turned out to be a mistake, as that conversation quickly turned into nonsensical vitriol on lobbyists and abortion, facts be damned. I mean, why should a woman who lives in a rural area care about the reproductive health of other women who live in rural areas, right?

On the subject of the cognitive dissonance it takes to be a Republican union member, through this article we come across this gem of a quote, uttered by someone so utterly confused it will make your head hurt, just so you're warned (sourced from here):

In the smoky bar, ideological lines get blurred. Somers is a union guy but not an Obama fan. He wants cash to keep flowing to the large military contractor that employs him, but he opposed the auto bailout. He needs Washington but feels manipulated by it.
“They spend our money like a drunk sailor. . . . ‘We’ll give you a little bit of something, a little piece of cheese.’ Dangle that cheese. We’re pawns, that’s what we are,” he said.
But Somers has four kids and ultimately, he said: “I’m willing to accept anything to turn the country around. If it takes me getting laid off, so be it.”
At least this guy is willing to put his money, and his kids health and well being, apparently, where his mouth is, I'll give him that much. But this idea that "I'm essential, but you aren't", (better expressed as 'I should get mine and Fuck You') this idea that the pie is limited and we have to fight with each other over the scraps, autoworkers versus shipbuilders, and that people like the person above should hate themselves for being on the government teat, even though they earn the same living essentially the same way as an autoworker does (only, it should be noted, for higher pay and with better benefits), and that they should then wish ill upon others, is utterly asinine.

On the heels of the passing of Senate Bill 5 in Ohio, another one of my friends, a police officer, remarked at how unjust it was. Then, in the next breath, he said "man, I hate spending tax dollars on government programs." At which point, I rather bluntly reminded him that he was a government program.

The school district in which Jennifer works is part of a community of people with her attitude toward teaching and teachers. They make too much money. They work 7 hours per day and have summers off. The school system is poor. The people are "overtaxed". That school district is facing what is likely to be a long strike beginning Monday.  The gentleman at the center of the Washington Post story is facing a layoff, and the police officer I mentioned above is facing a furlough.

All three of these people, along with tens of millions of others, are learning a hard lesson. We are all interconnected. We all need each other, and need to support each other. We all rely on each other. The roads don't pave themselves, the streets don't clean or patrol themselves, the kids don't teach themselves, the ships don't build themselves. And until these people experience an adequate amount of pain and suffering at the hands of others with the same attitudes as them, they, unfortunately, are never going to learn.

It's a basic lesson of life, shared across nearly all of the world's religions. Do good to others, and they do good to you. Do bad to others, and bad things happen to you. It's karma. And it's a bitch.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Let's Talk About Guns

Have you ever shot a gun?

No, seriously. Did you ever go out to the gun range, rent a handgun, take it out and just start shooting at a target? Perhaps you had relatives that lived on a farm and had guns and, on a holiday visit, took you out back to shoot at empty bottles.

I'm not going to lie. There is a visceral thrill to picking up, handling and shooting a gun. It has an excitement that very few things can match.

But guns, as we all know, are serious business, and as we've learned recently, if not managed responsibly, or even if they are managed responsibly, the sole purpose of a gun is to be used as a tool of destruction, regardless of the motivation of the person using it.

The tragic events in Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO and suburban Portland, OR, along with the exceedingly violent series of deaths that are plaguing inner city Chicago, may have finally tipped the scales of civil discourse in the United States in the favor of those who seek to impose some degree of limits on the process of acquiring a gun, what types of guns people really need to own and how they should be permitted to use guns in defensive situations.

As with the voting rights issue, discussing Gun Control is a complex and multi-layered issue. So my hope here is to start to peel back the onion on the issue and provide a framework for discussion.

Gun Control

What does this mean? Well, whatever you want it to mean, by and large.So let's start with guns.

By some estimates, there are 280,000,000 guns in private ownership in the United States. At the current rate of gun acquisition, there will be one gun for every person in the U.S. by the year 2020. We are already approaching an era where, statistically, every American is armed. From this, I think we can conclude the Swiss solution isn't practical.

When we talk of guns, we really need to approach guns in three different categories. There are tactical/assault weapons a ban upon which expired in 2004. There are handguns, which these rulings more or less permitted people to own, and there are hunting rifles.


If you have a liberal friend who thinks we're going to gather 280 million guns up and melt them down, thus solving our gun violence problem, ask him why he left Rhea Pearlman. Certainly, governments at all levels can create incentives for people to voluntarily do so, in the form of tax credits, and this is a worthwhile course to pursue. But the idea that we can eliminate guns by melting them all is silly.

By the same token, the idea that arming everyone will solve our gun violence problem is equally absurd. Beyond the anecdotal evidence that armed people panic in live fire situations, the limits of this situation can be expressed by the story of what happened earlier this summer when all nine bystanders in a shooting near the Empire State Building were wounded by the NYPD. And these are officers trained in the most dense urban area of the United States. Not random CCW license holders.

Let's express, and dismiss, the foolishness of arming everyone with a cost-benefit analysis. The NYPD estimates it's hit rate, the rate at which officers who use their firearm to hit an intended target, as 34%. Which means that, 66% of the time, they miss. But for argument sake, let's assume that everyone is as good as the NYPD, and none of the bullets that miss their intended target cause any collateral damage whatsoever.

The UK ban on handguns administered after the 1997 Dunblane shootings resulted in a 40% decline in the number of handgun related homicides over the subsequent 10 year period.

So even an equally absurd, best case scenario can't top the effects of a simple ban, where none of the existing weaponry was taken from the population at large.

Hunting Rifles, and Bridging the Urban/Rural Divide

The trick to winning support from conservatives and responsible gun owners, in my opinion, is to make clear up front that hunters are not the problem. There's a story that says that while the President and First Lady were campaigning in one of the Dakotas, Michelle remarked to the President "You know, I could understand why you'd want a gun if you lived out here."

And there is a fundamental lack of communication between Gun Control advocates, who tend to be urban, and view gun violence as urban, and the rural audience of gun owners who, due to their isolation or lifestyle, have a reasonable and respectable right to own a gun that facilitates their hunting related hobbies and self defense.

Bridging this communications gap is the key to enacting common sense gun ownership regulation. Neither a group that is commonly engaged in the purchase and stockpiling of tactical assault weapons, and neither group supports it. But seeing the perspective of both sides, and avoiding regulatory limitations on weapons that are reasonably classified as hunting weapons, is important. This is the role that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin needs to play in this debate.

Tactical Weapons/Assault Rifles

The first order of the new Congress will be to propose and pass a ban on weapons similar to the original 1994 ban. With Newtown fresh in the minds of most Americans, and broad support for such a measure, there is no reason this shouldn't be done by the time you're finished reading this sentence.


But passing a Tactical Weapons ban is the easy part. The hard work comes with handguns. Cheap and easy handgun access, legal or otherwise, plagues violence in urban areas. DC v. Heller and Chicago v. McDonald put an end to outright handgun bans in the U.S., although Heller, in particular, left open state and local municipalities rights to place restrictions on gun acquisition and ownership. This is a hard question with no easy answers, and would force the Democratic Party to expend considerably political capital it may not have to address.

Still, there are loopholes that can be closed. The federal government could actually enforce and prosecute Brady Bill violators. The Gun Show Loophole in particular needs to be addressed and closed. In a society with mobile communications and tablet PCs, there is no reason Gun Show dealers and organizers shouldn't be able to perform background checks onsite.

Finally, there's always the Chris Rock Rule. In one of his routines, Chris Rock suggested that guns should remain legal, but bullets should cost $5,000 apiece. And while he was joking, he has a point. The federal government could, in theory, do nothing on guns themselves, but ban ammunition, or make it cost prohibitive. It's a difficult parsing of the law, but a smart way to pursue addressing this issue.

My own personal opinion is this. We will never rid our country of the gun. It is engrained in our culture, the one English speaking culture that was not raised on the British tradition. The political will doesn't exist to do so, and the paranoia inherent in a significant swath of our political sub-culture will never allow it. Regardless, we still need to address the issue proactively around the edges, and the political will exists to do at least this much. Tactically speaking, the issue is a winner for the Democratic Party. So address it.